I often find myself down in here on what has become known locally as the ‘otter bridge’. The bridge was given this name back in the summer, when it became the vantage point from which to watch for the local Otters. One or more Otters are still seen along this stretch of the river, quite possibly the cubs from the Otter family that was present and which attracted so much attention, but I’ve not seen one from the bridge for many weeks.
The bridge makes a good vantage point more generally, both for watching the river and also the wet woodland and wet meadows that border its meandering course. From the bridge you may be treated to the sight of Water Rail or Moorhen foraging in the bankside vegetation, listen to the rich song of a Blackcap that holds a traditional territory on the corner or spook a Muntjac that suddenly becomes aware of your silent presence as it wanders onto the other end of the bridge.
One of the birds that I see and hear from the bridge fairly often is the Goldcrest, the large conifers towering over the bridge used for feeding and, at times, nesting. These delightful little birds flutter between the tips of the drooping branches, searching for tiny insects among the pine needles. I watched one just last week doing exactly this, a sparkling gem of a bird in a patch of springtime sunlight that lit up the tree.
It is really good to see a Goldcrest at this time of the year. Their small size – they weigh less than 7g – makes winter a very difficult time for them and populations may crash following a particularly severe spell of weather. Amazingly, some Goldcrest populations are migratory and it is astonishing to think that such a small and seemingly fragile scrap of life can undertake a significant flight that may see it depart breeding sites in northern Russia or Finland to reach Britain. Of course, we have our own breeding population and I suspect that Thetford Forest supports a sizeable number of these diminutive birds. The nest is a delicate construction suspended from the tip of a conifer branch, usually high up and very difficult to spot.
The song of the Goldcrest is very high-pitched and it is one of the first songs to be lost as you get older and the top end of your hearing begins to go. I can still hear the song well and it would be something that I would be sad to lose, not because it might indicate failing hearing but because it is one of my favourite sounds, a trilling, flourishing rhythmical note.