top of page

The Birds of Brands Wood and Leziate Fen



I cycled to the fen after the storms intending to clean out the nest boxes. Not expecting to see much as my garden has been devoid of all but the hardiest and habitual Robin. Blackbird and Woodpigeon. I was prepared however for the wet. Waterproof sockets and wellies.
Leziate fen surprised me on both counts. Despite December's rains which still leave standing water in many higher lying fields, the level in the fen was not far off summer levels. Water is just not reaching the fen.
But the birds!
It was teeming with life in Brands wood as Redwings scattered oak leaves on the floor looking for morsels underneath. Miniature windblowers each of them. When disturbed by my nest box cleaning they flew to the Brand's wood and newly fenced fen border and joined tits, treecreeper Blackbirds and Chaffinches all in the sheltered band of habitat.
A charm of Goldfinches joined in the throng, I think to dip down to some ditch water to drink and bathe.
I hope they came out smelling better than my wellies as I plunged through the wet bits.

It was encouraging to hear that my cleaning operations weren't going un noticed. Even today, January 24th it was evident that Blue tits and Great tits had already staked out this seasons nest sites and gave stern alarm calls as I tended the mossy dank messes that I threw out.
They will suffer my little intervention all the healthier-some boxes I didn't get the chance to clear out before 2023 breeding season had terrible flea infestations. So bad that birds didn't use them and I couldn't go near them until now when the pests are hidden in the old nest material and torpid with the cold. Even so I wear gloves and use a long pair of BBQ tongues so I keep as far away as possible.
I hope as a result there will be fewer rings of black fleas lining the nest holes this spring and I and the birds won't feel so itchy just at the thought.

There were some further nice surprises as I covered just a third of the fen today. A good squabble of House sparrows in the corner nearest the houses. Well fed in the gardens (thanks to those people).
And finally 5 Woodcock about the walk. I ll be back next week for another drive.




Wings over Leziate & Ashwicken 2023


Some sad news to start with. The Barn owl female on the fen has died. She was found and her ring number was reported back to me. Thank you for reporting it to the interested party. Something ate her and Jackdaws now reside in her box.

But the other boxes are doing well. A sweep around last week saw good-sized broods of Blue and great tits. Centre of the wood was a Sparrowhawk nest to take advantage of lots of fledglings in a week or so.

Of particular interest, was a Curlew calling over the rear of the fen but I haven't proved breeding yet.

If you walk over the fen be mindful of ticks.


Birds of the Parish 2022

Leziate Fen nest boxes and bird survey highlights 2022

(all photographs are taken off site)

There were thirty-two boxes in the 2022 breeding season.

Blue tit was the pre dominant species.


The three chicks above are just waiting for the moment to fledge.
Existing boxes are being cleared out and will be checked again prior to the 2023 breeding season. No maintenance is needed at present.

22 nest record cards were completed detailing:
74 Blue tit chicks and 33 Great tit chicks. Nest building had already begun on the 31st of March.
An additional 6 barn owl eggs were recorded on the boundary, resulting in three chicks.
HP Avian Influenza, or Bird flu as it is commonly known, is still prevalent in the county and the studies provide a measure of how the bird population is responding. Rigorous sanitization and mitigation was introduced to help the birds in line with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) mandatory requirements.
All equipment is sanitized with Safe4 before and after operations and kit is restricted to each site. Including footwear.
Unexplained bird casualties and ringed birds’ conditions are monitored to provide regular traffic light alerts for each farm. Sugar fen has a green light at present.
Green Light – no bird casualties observed. Weights and conditions of birds handled giving no cause for concern

Amber Light- unexplained casualty or live birds exhibiting weight/condition or brood loss.
Red light – three or more unexplained casualties, birds exhibiting symptoms.
This is intended to assist landowners mitigate on site operations with an early warning system.
Leziate fen has a green light at present
Much like Covid, I believe HPAI is here to stay and I’m grateful to you for in supporting the projects
to enhance local bird populations for the future.

Chiffchaff  - Were present in good numbers and evidence of nests was found. Territories could be found every 20 metres at the Southern end.


Woodcock  - the site was popular with wintering birds again in 2022. Some birds had habitual daytime roost sites tucked under brambles.

Snipe - Present in April though no breeding was found.
Curlew - Again present in April but no breeding was proven.
Teal - 4 were present during the early breeding season

Red Kite - A red kite on the 31st of March followed a dog walker around the reserve and nesting looked possible.
Buzzard -There are several nests.

The objectives for 2023 are to:
Monitor the boxes looking for opportunities to cater to further species;
Retrap adults to monitor survival by mist-netting and nest box monitoring;
Survey and enhance the breeding success of other species;
Continue monitoring of all species to record change.



27th October 2022

Today I caught just 21 birds significantly down from 20th May. Of 43 Long-tailed tits in the flock back then, just one remained today.

A young male Great spotted woodpecker was ringed. I attach one of my library pictures for the website.

There were additional sightings of Green woodpecker, Redpoll and Siskin, Grey wagtail, Marsh tits, and a Barn owl returning to Pam's barn at dawn.

The cause of the change in bird population is perhaps speculative at the moment. There has been an incredibly dry summer to contend with and avian bird flu whilst distressingly visible amongst big birds may be having an untold and immeasurable toll on our tiny garden birds.

I'll keep you updated as the story unfolds!



July 2022

Very pleased to update you that Pam’s owl box has produced three healthy chicks. They have been ringed so we can gain information on where her birds go. Pam have have been delighted to also know that Swallows are on their second nest of the season. - Julian

26 July 2022 Owl in a nestbox

May 2022

Spring quickly advanced and many of the boxes were occupied. Some nests had already fledged and joined the multi-family flocks of Long-tailed tits. 42 Long-tailed tits were ringed on the 20th of May. Blue tits and Great tits crammed the boxes while summer visiting birds were still arriving. Overhead Swifts called at the same time as Swallows arrived. In the short heath grass, a lizard was spotted. - Julian

22 May 2022 Chicks in a nestbox
22 May 2022 Chicks in nestbox
Birdboxes in Brands Wood

April 2022

A quick check of some of the nest boxes revealed 12 already had nest building going on. Two nests were ready for eggs. Just in time for Easter!
There were 2 Snipe and a curlew which will be incredible of they attempt to breed. A Woodcock flushed from under a bramble. The floor was covered in leaf litter and looked good as a nesting site. Perhaps it was this same bird on the 3rd December 2021.


Four Teal may also be looking to nest while a fox was on the prowl and the Badgers had been changing the bedding in one of their setts.
No pictures are permitted by NE but what I will do is substitute photos from elsewhere as the season progresses.


Here is a picture of new blue tit eggs in a nestbox, Ashwicken - but just off the fen so we comply with NE.

Blue Tit nest

December 2021

On what at times felt like a spring day, I completed the first year tranch of nest boxes. There are now 41 across the woods and fen. Sometimes I find all the boxes get used and there is a need for more.


The fen is proving its value even in winter with at least three different Marsh harriers using it. Flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare roost and good numbers of Woodcock hide up during the day. The highest count so far is 5 on one visit. Little Egret and Water rail are using the wet ditches and Pink-footed geese in their hundreds skein overlooking for feeding places.


November 2021

This small piece of ancient fen has been designated a conservation area.

At dawn or dusk, you may be lucky enough to see some deer as they leave the woods to feed. That snuffling in the grass may well be a hedgehog but there are squirrels here too.

In the hedgerows, amongst the wild rose and honeysuckle are nesting birds and you will also see bird boxes placed here among the trees. These are monitored as part of a special project.

In the wood, you will see long-tailed tits, blue tits, robins, blackbirds, thrushes and hear the wrens chattering. That sound, like laughing, may well be a “yaffler”, the Norfolk name for a Green Woodpecker. There are also Great Spotted Woodpeckers to be seen.

We are also lucky to have barn owls locally and you may spot them as they hunt across the fields on their silent wings. On the fen, there are Kestrels and Sparrowhawks and on occasion Harriers.

Common blue butterflies can be seen in season as well as Speckled woods, Commas, and Gatekeepers.

When visiting the site please remember the country code. Leave gates and property as you find them. Protect plants and animals and take litter home.

Remember to keep dogs under control – there are deer and livestock hidden in the trees.

Julian Moulton

bottom of page