Sunday, 22 February 2015

Otters, Hawfinches and Shrikes

With no Six Nations to distract me and Polina still away, I managed to get out twice this weekend. I visited Santon Downham, Suffolk both today and yesterday with the sole objective being to see Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - I failed on that score yet again. Today I also took a few hours in at Lynford Arboretum hoping to see and even photograph Hawfinch. I managed great scope views but only distant cropped images.
Still, at Santon Downham yesterday I was fortunate to see this very handsome and relatively confiding Otter along the river Little Ouse.

Otter, Little Ouse, Santon Downham, Suffolk

He was quite happily catching small fish on the opposite side of the river from where I was, each time I pressed the shutter he (or she?) would stop and quizzically stare over at me before returning to munch on his fish supper. Very cute, only my third ever Otter and first one in Britain.
I checked also for the Great Grey Shrike without success, which seemed odd as up until now it had been fairly straight-forward to locate. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker(s) had been reported earlier in the week but they've become like hen's teeth now and the species continues to elude me.
Today (Sunday), I spent several hours at the feeders at Lynford Arboretum where two Hawfinches had been showing well on and off during the week. A single male gave great scope views but was too distant for decent photos. Still my best views of what is a truly stunning finch. I spent several hours there until the cold really got too much.

Male Hawfinch, Lynford Arboretum, Norfolk
I headed back to Santon Downham, once more in pursuit of the diminutive woodpecker but as usual I was out of luck. The weather didn't help though, the rain had begun and the wind was picking up. I couldn't even see the Shrike. However, as I reached the very far end of the reedbed I turned right off the bridle path and walked towards the railway line. Just then the Shrike broke cover from one of the pine trees and flew to the top of another tree, where I watched it rip the head off a poor unfortunate Blue Tit that it had caught. Nature really is brutal but what a simply superb bird Great Grey Shrike is!
At this point the weather was really turning foul. I decided enough was enough and set forth for home.