Santon Downham

*** 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!

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  • Stephen

    Very late as has become usual (sorry) but here is the list of species seen and heard during this event. There are a few at the end with questions marks which I am not sure about, but which I either vaguely remember seeing/hearing or think it quite likely that we saw/heard, but which I don't definitely remember or have a note of. As always corrections and additions are welcome.

    Siskin (heard calling)
    Carrion Crow (heard calling)
    Chaffinch
    Woodpigeon
    Wren
    Herring Gull
    Great Tit
    Blackbird
    Blue Tit
    Dunnock (heard calling)
    Greenfinch (heard calling)
    Robin
    Nuthatch
    Goldfinch
    Brambling
    Coal Tit
    Jay
    Moorhen
    Little Grebe
    Water Rail
    Redpoll
    Great Spotted Woodpecker
    Lesser Black-backed Gull
    Sparrowhawk
    Mallard?
    Black-headed Gull?
    Linnet (heard calling)?
    Goldcrest (heard calling)?
    Long-tailed Tit?

    February 18, 2014

  • Michael

    I'm glad those that went had a good time. Thanks, Stephen, for uploading the photos. I don't know Thetford at all. If the weather looks good I might head there this coming Sunday.

    January 28, 2014

  • Rachel

    yeah thanks Ste ... awesome bramblings! and Redpolls!! FYI didn't spot any otters in Thetford, this time! Suggest for another meetup perhaps .... ?

    1 · January 27, 2014

    • Susie

      That's a great idea, last year I went a couple of times after the initial rush of people but never got to see any!!

      January 28, 2014

  • Susie

    Your photos really capture the atmosphere of the landscape Stephen. Sounds like you spotted some good birds esp the shy water rail. Bramblings & red poll too...wow! So sorry I missed through working but not sure I wouldn't have wimped out with that forecast...just shows you should sometimes persevere as long as you dress for the weather! Looking forward to catching up with you when I get back in March from my Oz trip. I have been given a copy of an Australian bird book but not sure I will see many in the shopping malls & beaches :-))

    January 28, 2014

  • Stephen

    Thanks for the comments everyone (and for the 5-star ratings, if you gave one :) Also thanks to Jen for spotting most of the birds during this event, especially the unexpected Water Rail! (In defence of the fact that I didn't spot much, I was carrying my 'scope in one hand throughout this event so it was easier for me to settle for using my ears rather than try to raise my binoculars.)


    To everyone who didn't fancy being out in the rain, the forecast wasn't wrong, it was raining for much of this event, although it was mainly quite light and fortunately we didn't have the torrential downpours we had had in Cambridge the afternoon before. Not much mud though as we were mainly on gravelly or grassy paths. The light was not great for photography though as you will see!

    I was going to type up my list of species this evening but I have left the bit of paper at work. I have however offloaded my photos from my camera and will upload them in a few minutes, Internet connection permitting.

    January 27, 2014

  • Les B.

    Well done Stephen for standing firm - and to everyone else who went. We are really pleased that you had a good day. See you next time I hope. Looking forward to some photos.

    2 · January 27, 2014

  • Pete

    Wish I'd gone after all. Sounds like it wasn't too bad and my alternative plans for the day backfired somewhat!

    January 27, 2014

  • Jen T.

    Brill day out! Thanks folks!

    1 · January 26, 2014

  • Jacqui S.

    Thanks for a lovely day Steven and for my first Bramblings. I loved the venue and will go back. Nice to meet Jenny and Rachel and a shame to miss so many of you- the weather wasn't,t too bad and the sunset was fabulous.

    1 · January 26, 2014

  • Becky

    Hi, likewise Stephen....I'm going to give it a miss due to the weather. I was looking forward to it...roll on spring.

    January 26, 2014

  • Rachel

    Hi, am really sorry but I have reluctantly decided to pull out. I waited to check the forecast this morning in the hope that it would change slightly but it looks like heavy rain and strong winds for most of the day. Was looking forward to meeting you all and hope that you have a good walk and see lots of bramblings!

    January 26, 2014

  • Rado

    Hi Stephen - having just looked at the weather forecast I have decided to wimp out. Hope you have a good day whatever the weather and I will be looking out for the next meet. Regards - Rado

    January 26, 2014

  • Jen T.

    Hi Steven,
    Sorry for the late reply - hope it's not too late. Sounds good even in the rain!
    See you tomorrow!

    January 26, 2014

    • Stephen

      Hi Jen, good to see you signed up, let's hope your first event is not a complete washout!

      January 26, 2014

  • Michael

    If anybody in the Cambridge area would like a lift I can comfortably accommodate about 2 passengers. I'm coming from a village north west of Cambridge. The Golden Hind car park might be a good meeting point - ideally to get going by 10:25. Let me know. Note that I've got to be in Harston (south of Cambridge) by 5pm so will need to get away from Thetford no later than 4pm. - Michael

    January 20, 2014

    • Pete

      Hi Michael. I've decided to give it a miss - I'm a member of a rambling group and we've already had a few walks in rain and mud this month, and l fancy a dry weekend this time :-)

      January 25, 2014

    • Stephen

      No problem Michael and Pete. Louise if you still want to go and can get to Ely station by about 10:15 a.m., text me before 10 on the number I e-mailed out and I will pick you up.

      January 26, 2014

  • Thuy B.

    Hi, Les and I are pulling out after seeing lighting and hearing a mighty crash, followed by torrential rain! We drove a week ago from Cambridge to London, under batting rain, and it was a horrendeous journey on the A10 (the M11 was even more dangeros) with almost no visibility and cars and lorries going too fast, every road seemed to be waterlogged! I was very keen on the meetup, and so was Les, but today, after checking the weather forecast, and hearing the thunder overhead, we decided - reluctantly - to throw the towel and to stay in London.

    January 25, 2014

  • Pete

    Staying home in the dry!

    January 25, 2014

  • Michael

    Apologies but I've decided to pull out. For those that decide to go I hope the forecast is wrong and you are able to enjoy some calmer weather.

    January 25, 2014

  • Les B.

    Greetings Stephen. Yes, it does look ominous. We'll wait on your decision after you review the situation on Saturday evening. No pressure from us, as while on the one hand it would be interesting to experience a forested site there would seem to be little point in doing so if the wildlife is in hiding with us huddled under umbrellas.

    January 24, 2014

  • Denise

    Hi Michael. I am unable to attend this Sunday, as there is a family gathering that I cannot miss. I was really looking forward to going.
    Thank you for the offer of a lift but I will not need it now. See you all next time, I know you will have a wonderful time.

    January 24, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    sorry something has cropped up. next time!

    January 23, 2014

  • Ava

    I'd like to go, but unfortunately have something else onthat day. Will keep an eye out for the next event

    January 23, 2014

  • Ali

    Looks good but unfortunately I'll be away. Have fun everyone!

    January 19, 2014

    • Stephen

      Sorry you can't make it Ali, see you next time.

      January 21, 2014

  • Denise

    Yes please Michael I would love a lift. I will be at Golden Hind at 10.25. Thank you.
    I did reply a few minutes ago but the reply missed off who I was, I think.

    January 20, 2014

    • Michael

      Hi Denise, see you on Sunday at the Golden Hind. - Michael

      January 21, 2014

  • Les B.

    This sounds like a very good choice Stephen. I've RSVP'd yes for me, and Thuy will do the same. We'll drive up. Looking forward to seeing everybody. Best to all.

    January 13, 2014

    • Stephen

      Great! I don't know if you noticed but I chose the start time to allow you to attend by getting the same train to Ely as last time, so you also have that as an option.

      January 14, 2014

    • Les B.

      That was really kind of you Stephen.

      January 14, 2014

  • Becky

    Hi, I've had to change the date of my walk so now I can attend.

    1 · January 12, 2014

  • Becky

    Unfortunately, I'm unable to make this one. I'm leading a walk in Long Melford....let's hope the sun shines!

    January 9, 2014

    • Stephen

      Sorry about the clash Becky, have a good walk!

      January 11, 2014

  • Pete

    I'd like a lift from Cambridge if possible, but otherwise can get the train to Ely.

    January 9, 2014

    • Stephen

      Hi Pete I suspect you will get an offer of a lift from Cambridge but if not I'd be happy to come down and get you since I know you live on my side of the city.

      1 · January 11, 2014

  • Susie

    Unfortunately I can't make this one as I will be working. Hope that you have a good time!

    January 8, 2014

    • Stephen

      Sorry you can't make it Susie, hopefully we will get some good photos for you to enjoy the event vicariously.

      January 8, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I might be doing something else that day....my birthday haha!!!! anyway let you know nearer the time.

    January 8, 2014

    • Stephen

      Hope you can make it Aileen, if not enjoy your birthday!

      1 · January 8, 2014

  • Rachel

    Oh wow, I've still never seen a brambling, fingers crossed!

    1 · January 8, 2014

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