BRECKLAND BIRDS: Thetford Forest Walk – By Delia Cook
As bird-watching usually does not feature upon the writer’s weekend agenda it was with a few reservations that she substituted the Breckland Society’s lark spotting walk through the forest for her customary coffee and croissant on Saturday morning. But up with the lark it was on a dry but somewhat chilly morning to join other Society members and our mentors at an agreed location within the forest. The purpose of our walk? To become more familiar with a rather neglected member of the lark family, the woodlark.
Our experts, Neal Armour-Chelu and Ron Hoblyn provided vital statistics and information on the forest, the woodlark and other birdlife, before the walk commenced. Happily, rough heathland provides the woodlark with its preferred habitat where it exists relatively undisturbed in this unique landscape thus ensuring its survival. The surrounding agricultural land also provides a habitat for the woodlark’s more familiar relation the skylark and we were able to compare and contrast the two larks as they were both audible and visible. Nature, very generously, has ensured that these birds differ greatly in song, flight and size. Consequently, it will be impossible to confuse them in the future, one hopes!
During our walk we skirted newly planted and established forest including an area which has been returned to natural heathland. This latter area I believe being a result of a partnership between the Forestry Commission and the adjacent Brandon Country Park. This habitat preserves some unusual indigenous species, some barely visible and others of a rather invasive nature, as well as providing grazing for a shy flock of sheep! The leisurely pace of our walk afforded members some time to chat and enjoy the peace and tranquillity.
The morning passed exceptionally swiftly and members were able to learn much about this fascinating landscape from our expert guides. Many thanks to Neal and Ron for taking time out to share their limitless knowledge with us and also to Sue Whittley and Anne Mason for organising this interesting ‘field’ trip. The writer feels that she hasn’t got quite what it takes to become a twitcher, lacking patience and decent eyesight! However, as ever, she found the uniqueness of the Brecks landscape and its wildlife inspirational.