Sunday, 20 May 2012

Scanning for gold at Lakenheath

Bird Carving along the entrance track
It's 5.30am and we meet Brian at the usual spot and set off for Lakenheath. A little over an hour later and we are pulling into the car park. Normally the car park at this time of day is empty, But today it has over twenty cars already parked and the second and third parking areas both have reserved signs around them.
The weather is not ideal, It's overcast with a slight drizzle in the air, We walk along the path towards the view point overlooking Hockwold Washes. There's no sign of the Garganey that has been reported from here, But there is a pair of Great crested Grebes displaying to each other. A Barn Owl is spotted flying low over the fields behind Hockwold Washes, It drops to the ground and then reappears to continue it's hunt for prey.
Walking the public footpath along the edge of the River Little Ouse we hear plenty of Sedge and Reed Warblers singing from the reedbeds and there's Common Terns hawking along the river.
We are hoping for a sight of Grasshopper Warbler, but our luck is not as good as Chelsea's last night so we move on.
Reaching the front edge of the 3rd poplar plantation Brian spots two Common Cranes moving through the taller grass on New Fen. We get some great views through the scope as they move around. It's a year tick for me, But Brian has already got them on his list from an earlier trip to Horsey. Making our way towards the Joist Fen viewpoint Brian calls me to say there's a Hobby sitting on the old brick building. It allows us to get quite close and we get super views through the scope. The bird fills the scope and it has to be the best views I have ever had of hobby.
Taking the grass path we head for the 3rd plantation there's calling Sedge and Reed Warblers present and a booming Bittern is near by. Bearded Tit's start to "ping" around us and it's not long before we catch sight of them as they climb the reeds at the edge of the water.
Another carving 
There's a small group of birders present in front of the poplar plantation, But they haven't had any luck spotting an Oriole. We decide to walk further down the track and use the bench to sit and wait. After a short time the Oriole is heard calling from the second plantation. It flies from here and heads towards us, flying through the trees it start's calling again from the far end. So we make our way back up the track and try to locate the bird. Another birder shouts "got it" and with some rough directions I have my bins trained on the bird for a second year tick of the morning.
It's a bright yellow bird sitting among a tree of green leaves but it's frustratingly difficult to pick out. I grab the scope and find the bird surprisingly quickly. Brian hasn't picked it up with his bins, So he's pleased when he gets a view through the scope. Dad's next and he's quickly followed by a small group of eager birders wanting a look.
Just as we reach the edge of the 2nd plantation we get close views of a Bittern as it flies across the path in front of us, followed by a female Marsh Harrier heading for the Joist Fen reedbeds.
At the New Fen viewpoint we hear the Oriole calling again and then watch it fly high up and over the reedbed into the poplars of the 2nd plantation.
Cuckoo's start calling and we spot three birds flying around the trees in front of us. One or two of these birds start to make a strange "popping" sound before resuming their normal cuckoo calls. It's the first time I have ever heard them make this sound. Back at the reserve centre we have a quick chat with the friendly staff and after Brian gets himself a coffee and dad a tea we head for the car.
Barn Owl, Hobby, Bearded Tit, Golden Oriole, Bittern, Marsh Harrier and three Cuckoo's, along with plenty of commoner species. It's been a good morning at Lakenheath.

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