Saturday 20 December 2014

Santon Downham

Today I decided to head over to Santon Downham and see if I could pick up Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Probably not the best time of year to look for them and easier once they start drumming in the spring, but there isn't much else around to tempt me. And if that plan failed then I could at least try for the Great Grey Shrike at Santon Downham, although they do seem to have large winter territories and if this was the Grime's Graves bird then there was no guarantee that I would find it on Saturday morning. The 'gen' I had said half a mile from the bridge, but there is more than one bridge and half a mile in which direction?
Anyway, at the St. Helen's carpark, there was plenty of bird activity, a good sized Tit flock (which included several Marsh Tits), several Nuthatches, Robins, Dunnocks, Chaffinches and a flock of at least thirty Brambling.
I walked along the bank of the Little Ouse river and while I didn't see or hear any Lesser Spots, I did have great views of Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker. Just before reaching the B1107 bridge I meet another birder who kindly gave me directions for the shrike and some info on the best places and times to look for Lesser Spots. I crossed the B1107 and continued along the river bank, after half a mile or so I met two more birders who showed me the shrike sitting atop a distant tree near the railway line. Given the proximity of Grime's Graves I imagine it must be the same bird. I continued a little further along to look for Lesser Spots amongst the poplars but as expected I drew a blank. On the way back the shrike had relocated and flew over my head before perching at the top of a tall hawthorn bush, pity my camera was still in the car back at St. Helen's.
So I trotted quickly back to the car, I would park near the bridge and return to the same spot and try for a photo.
However back at the car I decided I'd better eat. But first I moved my car close to the beech trees and switched the engine off. While I had my sandwiches I watched the Bramblings and Chaffinches feeding on the beech mast, cars are great hides and although the light was poor I was able to get some decent shots of the Bramblings.

Bramblings - Santon Downham, Suffolk
With sustenance taken I drove back towards the direction of the village. This time the shrike had relocated back to the trees by the train line. The distance was too great for any shots. But then a train whizzed past and the noise seemed to spook the shrike. It flew across the field and landed back at the top of the very Hawthorn bush where I had seen it earlier. Although it was against the light I fired off a few frames, not exactly magazine cover quality but better than any previous shots I've taken of this species.

Great Grey Shrike, Santon Downham, Suffolk

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