Trip Report: Santon Downham and Lynford Arboretum 10 March

Hawfinches

Four intrepid members battled their way through flooded roads and persistent rain for the 0700 start at Santon Downham. The river towpath was heavy going and your leader found out the hard way that his boots were not in fact waterproof. Big flocks of redwing were noted in the forest along with redpoll and siskin, whilst mandarin duck and mute swan were present on the river itself along with a pair of grey wagtail. Also notable were large numbers of marsh tits. The target bird for the first part of the trip, lesser spotted woodpecker, was heard drumming but only its larger, more common cousin great spotted woodpecker actually put in an appearance.

It was decided once we’d given up on the lesser spotted woodpecker that we would head to Lynford Arboretum, and en route a large flock of about fifty brambling were disturbed from their feeding on the road on the Norfolk side of the level crossing, their white rumps brightening the still gloomy day. On arrival at the arboretum, we made for the gate leading to a ride full of feeders that is known to attract many species. Amongst the blue and great titsnuthatches and chaffinches were some more exotic fare; yellowhammers, more bramblings, and right at the far end of the ride the star species of the day, a pair of hawfinches. The sheer number of birds was breathtaking, until two errant dogs and their irresponsible owners (ignoring the signs to keep their dogs on leads) spoilt the scene. 

A walk around the arboretum produced fieldfare and green woodpecker with a pair of gadwall on the lake. One of our number had requested firecrest and to the leader’s astonishment he heard one singing near the paddock. After some time the bird was located, giving fleeting views to two of us, a good view to one, and unfortunately it was missed by the fourth member of our quartet. A second bird was heard singing elsewhere on the arboretum but not seen.

By this time the cold and damp were getting to us all and after a restorative coffee and lunch at the new hut they have set up at Lynford these days, it was decided that we would call it a day. Despite the early start and wet weather, all went home happy, especially with the hawfinch.

(Tim Kenny)