Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Didlington, Norfolk.

The recent north, and north-easterly winds has caused some stalling in the arrival of our summer visitors, namely Willow Warblers, a species I have not seen or heard this year yet.  I was determined to visit an area where I know suitable habitat comprising young conifer plantations could hold Willow Warblers.
A walk along a woodland ride produced a singing Woodlark within a large clearing and Blackcap and Chiffchaffs were present in fair numbers.
A poor picture of a Tree Pipit in an Oak tree. Watched pre-sunrise and in low light.
Walking along a belt of Oak trees I was pleased to find a singing Tree Pipit, a species which breeds on my patch.  This was my first Tree Pipit of this year.
I then entered a young conifer plantation and heard 2 singing Willow Warblers, my target species for the morning.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Grey Wagtail at Costessey, Norfolk

This was one of a pair of Grey Wagtails seen in the Wensum Valley at Costessey on 23rd March.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Corn Bunting at Hingham, Norfolk

The Corn Bunting is now a very rare bird in Breckland, therefore, imagine my surprise when birding near Hingham, Norfolk, and found a single Corn Bunting in association with other Finches and Buntings on winter feed 29th January.  I was quite amazed to find a Corn Bunting again, perched on the same bush nearly a month later on 23rd February.
Yellowhammer, Reed Buntings, Chaffinches, and Linnets were all present in good numbers close to the field of winter feed, a vital habitat during especially hard weather.
Corn Bunting at Hingham 23rd February
Noticeably different in appearance than commoner Buntings by its thickset size, heavy bill, all brownish plumage with streaks on the breast meeting to form a dark spot, a classic feature of this species.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019


Today I found my first Woodlark of the year displaying song-flight at Bodney, Norfolk.  I occasionally feel down, but this beautiful bird always lifts ones spirit.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

January 2019 (highlights)

Bird populations have seen significant changes in my lifetime, most birders will know that most changes are for the negative, however, we have seen some successes.  Common birds have suffered the most with huge declines in numbers, declines which have been significant.  David Attenborough recently announced that since 1970, we have lost 60% of all life on earth, these losses are directly attributed to the actions of us, the Human race, I personally feel ashamed that we could let this happen.
This leads me onto writing about BTO's Birdtrack survey, an extremely important survey which monitors bird populations, movements, breeding successes, and habitat needs etc., these scientific surveys, which are open to anyone with good Bird identification skills, are used by researchers, policy makers, and Conservationists.  I would urge all birders to use Birdtrack because in these days of Urbanisation, Industrialisation, Intensive farming practices, and environmental vandalism, maintaining and monitoring birds is more vital now than ever before.

Winter is an exciting time of year for wildfowl in Norfolk, therefore, on the 5th I paid my first visit of the year to Lynford Water where 3 Goosander (2 males) were present along with good counts of wildfowl including 80+ Tufted Duck and a few Gadwall.  A single Little Egret was present, also a couple of Crossbills were seen, a reliable site for this beautiful Finch.

On the 6th at Hockham 200+ Siskins were seen in an Alder belt, typical habitat for this species to be found in.  Crossbills passed over and 3 Marsh Tits were seen together.
I visited the Watton Brook Valley at Great Cressingham on the 11th where 9+ Snipe were seen in flood plain whilst on close by farmland 300+ Lapwings.  100 Siskins were seen in Alders and 3 Mistle Thrushes were singing in the valley.

A very early start at Hockham on the 18th produced 4 Tawny Owls calling in the forest around me.  10 Crossbills gathered in traditionally used trees where they preened before setting off for the day to feed.  A single female Stonechat was seen on prominent posts and weeds.

My second visit of the month to Lynford Water was again productive with 41 species recorded on an early morning walk. Wildfowl of course featured with 60+ Tufted Duck being the most numerous Duck species, also present was 2 male Goosander.  At least 3 calling Water Rails heard and 4 Little Egrets were roosting together in lake-sides trees.  Probably the highlight species today was the presence of a Green Sandpiper.

Female Stonechat near Bodney 20th January

The morning of the 20th started very cold with a temperature at sunrise of (minus) -7 degrees Celsius. At Hollow Heath near Bodney a pair of Stonechat were seen on the roadside verge using posts and tall weeds to watch the ground below for food.  Nearby on open farmland a single Woodlark was both seen and heard.
The morning of the 21st once again saw the pair of Stonechat on heathland/roadside verge near Bodney.

Great White Egret
During a morning work break on 22nd I visited Hingham and found a Great White Egret perched high in trees, later, this elegant, stately looking bird flew to the ground and stealthily began to search a ditch for food.  This elegant bird was as large as a nearby Grey Heron.  The Egret was clearly a very conspicuous bird on the ground in its all-white plumage, long and slender neck, long dagger, orange-yellow bill and all dark legs.
Also seen was a hunting Barn Owl which attracted a number of Reed Buntings, also when hunting the Owl 'put up' a Snipe.

A mid-afternoon visit to a large maize strip at Little Cressingham was particularly notable for its Finches.  A minimum of 100 Greenfinches was present around and in the maize, their numbers being seen when disturbed and flying into trees.  This was a pleasing count of Greenfinches, especially given their recent difficult times.
Also seen was 30+ Bramblings which readily mixed in with the Greenfinches.

On the 26th I returned to Hingham and readily located the Great White Egret, on this occasion a single Little Egret was present for comparison.  £ Grey Herons and a hunting Barn Owl seen.

At Hockham on the 28th, a pair of Stonechats were found along with at least 5 Crossbills.

My last visit to Hingham in January (29th), was particularly productive.  A count of 30 species was my highest species count for the month at this site and included within this count was once again, a Great White Egret, a hunting Barn Owl, and also a hunting Sparrowhawk, which as it shot passed me revealed its slate grey upperparts, and reddish facial and upper breast area.
The 29th however will be noted for its high number of Bunting and Finch species present.  A small field containing tall weeds and unharvested crop attracted Yellowhammer, Linnets, Reed Buntings, and Goldfinch, their numbers were revealed when 'put up' by the hunting Sparrowhawk.  Moments later, I saw a 'different' looking bird sitting on a hedge at about 100 feet from me, a prolonged view of this bird revealed a Corn Bunting, a very scarce bird in Norfolk now.  What a great bird to round January off with, I was very pleased.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Hockham and Little Cressingham, Norfolk

Hockham (early morning)
The night was very wet with a fresh north-westerly.  Rain continued early morning, however, this eventually cleared to give bright conditions, although the wind remained a fresh NW.  A high of 8 degrees Celsius.
The dominant species early morning was Redwing with many birds seen feeding upon Hawthorn berries along with a number of Blackbird too.  Smaller numbers of Fieldfares also seen.
Redwings are stunning birds if studied closely.  A small flock seen in conifers included one well seen bird briefly in the top of a pine, the striking facial pattern was seen well along with the red flanks.
Other early morning movements of birds included a few Crossbills, although only one was seen through trees.

Little Cressingham (mid-afternoon)
A check of a maize strip on the Great Cressingham Road held 50+ Greenfinches, an encouraging count given recent concerns regarding this lovely bird.  Chaffinches were also seen in smaller numbers.