Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Water Rail at Thompson Water, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Watton (my garden)

I felt very tired today, I even had a couple of hours sleep in bed this afternoon.  I didn't go anywhere or do anything.  On the plus side a Blackcap visited our garden at 1000hrs this morning.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Houghton-on-the-Hill (Visible Migration) 0730-0900

A morning of full cloud cover with a moderate SW wind.  Light was poor. Visibility was reasonable. Occasional rainfall. 12 degrees at dawn.
No significant movements of Thrushes as seen yesterday over Hethersett, however, at least seven species were seen on overhead passage.  The following is my list of species seen at Houghton this morning with migrants highlighted in bold type.

1 Goshawk NE 0820
2 Golden Plover SE
6 Skylarks S
6+ Meadow Pipits (high) W 0815
70+ Starlings (40+30) W
Song Thrush
12+ Redwings
1 Blackbird (high) S then SE 0830
1 Chiffchaff
6+ Goldcrest
Treecreeper
1 Brambling S
1 Redpoll S

As soon as I arrived at Houghton 12+ Redwings 'fell' into Hawthorns in rain.  The rain persisted for a while but then cleared for a while before returning later.  It was during this drier interlude when I witnessed visible migration.  Seven plus species were involved in these movements.
A Goshawk was seen drifting NE in a leisurely flight, it then turned more or less W and stooped into woodland scattering Wood Pigeons.
Two flocks of Starlings (40+30) passed over in a westerly heading.  Interestingly, two years ago today, 20th October 2015, I was at Burnham Overy Dunes on the North Norfolk coast and witnessed a heavy westerly passage of thousands of Starlings all of that morning.  Records today indicate high numbers of coastal movements of Starlings.  Could my Starlings seen this morning at Houghton be of Baltic states origin.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Hethersett, Norfolk (Redwings - visual migration)

An early start for me this morning in Hethersett.  Mist and fog was slow to clear, probably not lifting until about 1000hrs.
This morning I witnessed the first significant movement of Thrushes this autumn with many flocks of Redwings, including some large flocks approaching from the north-east, with most ongoing with their passage, and some dropping into berry-laden trees.
I am always excited to find something unusual or rare on the patch such as my recent Yellow-browed Warbler, however, watching commoner species such as todays Redwing passage is equally as thrilling.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk 1445-1620

Following a very long weekend at work, I decided on a visit to Houghton to check the wooded areas and hedgerows for evidence of migrants.  The first thing I noticed was the double hedgerow east of the church has been cut since my visit on Friday last.
The recent visit to this site of the Yellow-browed Warbler got me thinking of where the bird was roosting.  Two of my early morning visits saw the YB Warbler initially in the hedgerow east of the church, checking this habitat this afternoon saw lots of dense Ivy, a possible roost-site maybe.
There was no sight or sound of the Yellow-browed Warbler today, indeed, I have received no feedback from friends over the weekend to suggest the bird was still in the area.
A mobile flock comprising mostly Blue Tits, also included Marsh Tit, 3+ Goldcrests, and Long-tailed Tits.  Both Blue Tit and Goldcrest visited the pond to drink.  Coal Tit, Blackbirds and Robins were seen in the churchyard.
Of passage interest, unseen but calling Redpoll was heard overhead.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Thrush passage.

Today was a full day of work mostly in the Costessey (pronounced Cossey) area of Norwich.  One of the most awaited for events in the birding calendar for me is the witnessing of Thrush migration in autumn.  This morning I saw the first Thrushes of the autumn passing over Costessey early morning.
Firstly, I saw 7+ Blackbirds fly from a residential garden together and climb away south-west.  Shortly afterwards a few Redwings passed over calling.
The Dereham road leading into Norwich gets very busy and of course the volume of traffic you would think would drown out bird calls, despite this, a small party of Song Thrushes passed overhead south, I was initially alerted by their "tic" flight call.
My final few calls at around sunset was in Hethersett, I was again alerted by calls overhead given by a couple of high-flying Redwings.
These Thrushes, including Fieldfare (not seen today) originate from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.  They abandon these areas of Europe for the winter, to either winter with us,  or to migrate further south to the Iberian Peninsula.  The Blackbirds and Song Thrushes which breed with us are generally sedentary, however, some interesting movements of Blackbirds within the UK have been recorded, including a bird which summered in Norfolk but migrated south-west to spend the winter in the same Cornish garden for a few years.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

The weather was wild at dawn with a strong NW wind and spells of driving rain.  The rain cleared to give a bright morning, however, the strong wind remained a feature of the weather.

2 Buzzards
2 Kestrel
1 Yellow-browed Warbler
4 Swallows
Blackcap
Chiffchaff
Goldcrests
5+ Coal Tits
4+ Marsh Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Treecreeper
300+ Goldfinches Little Cressingham mid-afternoon

The drive to Houghton-on-the-Hill early this morning saw lots of leaf and large twig debris on the roads as a result of the somewhat wet and windy weather at sunrise.
The weather conditions made my decision about where to search for Warblers quite easy as most activity would be on the sheltered sides of wooded areas and hedgerows.
Trees were bending in the wind at Houghton, however, a quiet south-east facing woodland edge was productive almost straight away with Marsh Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tit, a male Blackcap, and Goldcrests moving along the woodland edge.  I spent some time here to watch small bird activity, but after some 30 minutes I entered the churchyard to see what was present there.  Again, Marsh Tits, Coal Tit, and Goldcrests featured.  Looking above the churchyard, a single Swallow passed over east being driven along by the strong wind.
From the churchyard I then decided to walk the hedgerow corridor running east of the church, here, it was reasonably well sheltered from the wind.

For some reason I felt hopeful about what I might find in the hedgerow, instinct I suppose, anyway, only a short time passed when at about 0805 I heard the highly distinctive, piercing, high-pitched "tseweest" call of the Yellow-browed Warbler.  I walked a short distance along the hedge, towards the sun sadly, with the call being repeated several times.  I then saw a small bird through the hedge, somewhat concealed by twigs.  The Yellow-browed Warbler then came into view (head area only) in very good light, but only for a matter of a couple of seconds before it flew high into trees in the churchyard.  I was completely in awe of the birds very striking head pattern, a bright, broad, and long yellowish supercillium, greenish above and a dark eye-stripe which enhanced the supercillium.  
I called Peter Dolton who promptly arrived, a thorough search produced roving Tit flocks and Chiffchaffs, however, after a while we did hear the Yellow-browed Warbler calling along the south facing hedgerow, although we did not visually locate it.
During our search for the YB Warbler, we saw 3 Swallows overhead, their directional heading having a north-east to east bias.
Sheltered, sun-bathed edges of woodland habitat also produced Red Admiral and Comma butterflies.

Little Cressingham (NW of The Arms)
A mid-afternoon walk along the Great Cressingham Road produced a very notable flock of some 300+ Goldfinches in and around a large area of weed and maize. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Yellow-browed Warbler at Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

On Monday 2nd October I started five days holiday from work and I told myself that the week ahead would be used to find a Yellow-browed Warbler on my patch.  I did not consider this an unrealistic target given the numbers of this bird now occurring in inland Norfolk.
I arrived at Houghton-on-the-Hill at around 0700 on Tuesday 3rd October, initially to walk a circuit with my dog Toby to check the area for migrant species and straight away heard two Chiffchaffs, one a singing bird.  Also on route, at least 3 Blackcaps were encountered.  Overhead, a very light southerly passage of Meadow Pipits was seen.
Blackcap (male) Houghton-on-the=Hill 3rd October.  6+ seen in the area.
Chiffchaff at Houghton-on-the-Hill 3rd October.  Several seen.
 I arrived back at St Mary's Church on Houghton-on-the-Hill at around 0800, and as I always do I sat and waited to see what would pass through.  A male Blackcap was seen as was a couple of Chiffchaffs, also, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, and Blue Tits passed through.  A small flock of Long-tailed Tits passed through, some almost within arms reach, then at 0835, something small dropped almost vertically into a lovely patch of Ivy, Hawthorn, and Sycamore, I immediately raised my binoculars and was amazed to see a gorgeous Yellow-browed Warbler, yes, I was excited but not a totally unexpected species to see.  I did not bother with trying to photograph the bird as I knew I would lose it, therefore I just continued to watch it to pick up the salient features of this Siberian jewel.
I was initially struck by the size of the Yellow-browed Warbler, smaller than the other Warblers, Chiffchaff and Blackcap, which were present.  I was struck by the long, yellow, and very conspicuous supercillium, this was accentuated by the dark eye stripe and green head and upperparts. "Quick, check for wing-bars" I thought to myself, with the bird seen through light cover I did manage to see the most prominent wing-bar, again, this feature accentuated by the darker wing.  This was to be the best sighting of this gem before the bird continued through the churchyard and away.  A call was heard at least once, this was a thin, very sweet and strident, "tseweest"
I called birding friends Peter Dolton and Micky Stainthorpe and told them both about this find, they both arrived and we started our search over roughly a two hour period, however, we did not relocate the bird on this occasion.  Whilst searching for the Yellow-browed Warbler we saw a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps (male and female), Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, and Coal Tit.
This was my first inland record of Yellow-browed Warbler, and given the numbers turning up away from coastal locations, I doubt this will be the last.