*** Update (25-Jan[masked]:30): The weather forecast is still for rain but I still want to go because (a) the weather might not be so bad, for example we have had some heavy rain here this afternoon but for most of the day it was not raining; (b) even if it is raining I will enjoy being outdoors and going for a walk in the forest; and (c) according to reports there have now been 150+ Brambling at Santon Downham, and they are being regularly seen in the same place, so I still think there is a good chance of seeing this species whatever the weather.
So I will still be there at 11:15 tomorrow morning and it would be nice to see you there but, as I wrote in yesterday's update, I will not blame you if you decide to pull out because of the weather forecast. Please consider not just whether you will enjoy being outdoors in the weather, but also the driving conditions, and if you decide to come please drive carefully.
If you are coming I look forward to seeing you, if not then hopefully you will be able to see some photos here soon so that you can see what it was like. ***
*** Update (24-Jan-2014): the weather forecast for Sunday is currently looking very bad so I may feel obliged to postpone this event. I will be very reluctant to do so as I don't like to disrupt people's plans, and because weather forecasts can turn out to be wrong - indeed the forecast *was* wrong the last time I postponed an event. On this occasion however the forecasts seem quite adamant that it is not just going to be raining but raining heavily at the time of the event. I will have another look at the forecasts on Saturday evening and update again, and e-mail everyone who has RSVP'd. If it looks like it might not be so bad I might decide to go ahead with the event, but in the meantime I won't hold it against anyone who decides for themselves that they don't like the look of the forecast and pulls out. :( ***
*** End of updates ***
Santon Downham is a small settlement in the heart of Thetford Forest which is known for the birdlife in the surrounding area, more precisely in the area of mixed heath and woodland on the north side of the river Little Ouse known as Santon Warren. In the summer this is one of the best places in the UK to see Tree Pipits, and it is also a good place to see Woodlarks. It also hosts other woodland species - woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, etc.
The Tree Pipits will not be attending this event, as they are summer visitors to this country, but by way of compensation there should be some winter visitors present. In particular, recently there has been a flock of up to about 100 Bramblings at Santon Warren, so there is a good chance that we might see this attractive species. I don't promise that we will however, and I will expect all attendees to give this event a 5-star rating regardless :)
Regarding the Woodlarks, this is a resident species so there is no reason (that I know of) why they should not be present. That does not however mean that we will see them. I did see Woodlarks here on two or three occasions last year (2013), but I have not looked for them in the middle of winter and on all of the occasions when I saw them they did take some finding.
Whether or not we see these species, and whatever else we see (or don't see), we should still be able to enjoy some exercise, each other's company, and of course the suspense of not knowing what we might see.
The meeting point for this event is the small car park at grid reference TL820881. Click on the following link to see this location pinpointed on a map: http://www.streetmap.co.uk/ids.srf?name=TL821882&z=120 (you can zoom out on that page to see more context). Note that we are not meeting at the larger and better-signposted St. Helen's car park, which lies half a mile to the south-east, although we will probably visit that car park during our walk. To find the meeting point car park, drive to Santon Downham then take the minor road north through the village, including passing through the narrow choke point between two walls. Continue over the river and the level crossing. The car park is immediately after the level crossing on the left-hand side of the road.
Note that the meeting time for this event is 11:15, if you arrive at the usual meeting time of 11:00 you will have a longer wait for everyone to arrive.
The idea for this event, as usual, is to go for a walk of about three miles, taking three hours or so because of stops, and looking for the species mentioned above, plus any others that we can spot. We will then retreat to a cafe or possibly a pub for refreshments and a chat. I haven't identified a venue for this second part of the event yet, but I will do so before the date.
As always, anyone who has not yet attended one of these events is welcome to come along. I have two spare pairs of binoculars which I am happy to lend out to the first two people who ask.
For anyone who needs help getting to this event, I am able to offer lifts from the Ely area, including Ely railway station if you can get there by about 10:20. If anyone is able to offer lifts from Cambridge I would be grateful if they could comment to this effect below.
I think that's everything, I hope you can join me and RSVP 'yes' for this event!