Breckland Birder

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

Friday, 22 September 2017

Autumn Equinox

The morning started very autumnal with thick fog and a cool 7 degrees Celsius.  The fog was stubborn to clear, however, by 1000hrs, most had been burnt off and the day was then sunny and warm.

Houghton-on-the-Hill 0700-0930
Thick fog greeted me on my arrival along with various bird calls which gave a very typical autumnal feel.  Although hidden in the fog, Robins gave their familiar "tick" calls and Goldcrests a thinner "see-see-see".  A Chiffchaff sang, but what else was moving about within the fog.  Blackbirds gave their "chuck chuck" calls.  The only evidence of passage was calling Meadow Pipit, again hidden in fog.
Conditions slowly improved and it became clear to me that Chiffchaffs were present in good numbers, both adults and juveniles, but strangely, I never saw or heard a single Sylvia species.
A check of the churchyard at St Mary's produced more Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrests, Blue and Great Tits, a pair of Marsh Tits, and a Treecreeper.

Watton Brook Valley (Little Cressingham)
By the time I reached the valley the fog had just about all burnt off, conditions were then bright with very good visibility.
Watton Brook Valley 22nd September 
 Rather disappointingly, the valley appeared quiet with just Robin and a single Meadow Pipit being seen. An in-flight and calling Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen.  A check of nearby Bramble scrub and other potential 'migrant' habitat seemed quiet.  I bet there was something hidden, watching me and ready to pop up once I had gone.
A Small Copper Butterfly landed in front of me giving a lovely show.
Small Copper Watton Brook Valley 22nd Sept.
Little Cressingham (Great Cressingham Road)
Warm, sunny conditions on this mid-afternoon visit to high ground north of Watton Brook valley produced a nice showing of four raptor species.
A small flock of 30+ Goldfinches were tinkering away in small roadside tree.  Juvenile birds are now starting to develop their familiar red faces.  Both adult and juvenile Goldfinches show the beautiful gold wing-bar, always a good identification feature in both age groups of this species.  
A single male Kestrel was seen in a roadside tree and above me, 4+ Buzzards, 2 Red Kites, and a Sparrowhawk, were all soaring against the beautiful blue sky.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Watton Brook Valley (Enjoying the last light of the day)

With a late afternoon finish at work I decided to take Toby for an early evening walk to the Watton Brook Valley at Little Cressingham.
This was a beautiful sunset, clear skies, little wind, and good visibility.  Few birds were seen on this visit, 3 Meadow Pipits overhead and some Corvid species heading for their roost sites.
Despite the lack of bird seen, it was just great to be at this locality and enjoy the last vestiges of light before darkness sets in.
Looking west along the valley, I could see millions of midges swarming against the light over the Brook, what a magnificent sight this was, I wish I could photograph this remarkable scene.
Walking back to my car, light was now fading fast and I could see two groups of Roe Deer emerging from their daytime woodland retreat to feed in the open fields.
Finally, as I was about to set off, I watched a Noctule Bat flying north over fields towards the valley.
A wonderful end of daylight experience.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Bad Practice

I heard through the grapevine that a rare bird turned up on the North Norfolk Coast over the weekend, a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler I believe.
Sadly, I learnt that someone attempted to tape lure the bird.....bad practice in birding. If the bird shows, then great, if it doesn't, then leave remains concealed for a reason.  There is no room in my book for people who do not put the birds welfare first. 
So glad I am not a 'TWIT'cher.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Little Cressingham (The Arms)

  • 250+ Goldfinches
  • 1 Yellow Wagtail flying west 
I paid a late afternoon visit along the Great Cressingham road near 'The Arms' for a dog walk and immediately upon my arrival a flock of 250+ Goldfinches rose up from a wide weedy strip, over me and into nearby trees.  This very wide strip comprising maize, a mixed wildflower strip now going to seed, and large amounts of Fat-hen, would have attracted the Goldfinches to this mixed seed-fest.
It is worth mentioning here that this same area will be very good for large numbers of mixed Finch flocks in the next few weeks, namely, Bramblings, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Redpoll, Linnets, and of course, Goldfinches.  Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings will also be present here.
A single Yellow Wagtail overflew in a westerly heading.  This beautiful bird is a frequent bird of passage along the Watton Brook Valley.
Also seen in this area was a single Kestrel, Carrion Crow, and Wood Pigeons.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Little Cressingham, Watton, and Deopham, Norfolk

The day started cool and misty with a low of 4 degrees Celsius.  The morning was bright, however, by mid-afternoon heavy rain moved in.

Little Cressingham (Fairstead Lane and Watton Brook)
The most numerous Warbler present in the area this morning was Chiffchaff, with both juveniles and adults being seen and heard from several sites along this walk.  An old, mixed hedgerow off Fairstead Lane has always produced good birds, this morning Chaffinches dominated although one male Blackcap was seen emerging from what might have been his overnight roost.  The occasional Meadow Pipit was heard passing overhead.
A check of Watton Brook valley produced another single Chiffchaff in a large Sallow.  No other migrants seen along the valley.
Watton (Garden)
Several House Sparrows watched feeding upon blackberries.  These beautiful birds are often overlooked due to their abundance, familiarity, and by birders who are bent upon searching for rarities.  House Sparrows are highly social birds, their squabbles and chases through a hedge gives great comedy value.
3 Swallows flew north and a very high Sparrowhawk was being pursued by a Corvid species.  Once again, Meadow Pipit was heard overhead.
House Sparrow (male) 15th Sept. (Eating blackberries)
Deopham (mid-afternoon)
This visit saw some very threatening cloud and rain moving in from the west.  This short visit started dry but ended very wet with heavy and persistent rain.
A check of the regularly visited muckheap did not produce anything other than a few Wood Pigeons.
Walking along the road/former runway was generally quiet although over the road on a large field 200+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls were standing around.  Wood Pigeons and 20+ Starlings roamed.
Plentiful habitat of mostly Bramble, Gorse, and Dog Rose, line the edge of the former runway, this habitat was very good for Whitethroat, but now stood quiet for now, until winter Thrushes arrive to feed on the good stock of blackberries.
The only evidence of visible migration was of a single Meadow Pipit watched flying south until lost to view.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Houghton-on-the-Hill (St Mary's Church) 0630-0800

At dawn it was very briefly dry, however, cloud very soon moved in bringing frequent showers.  The wind was a moderate to fresh NW.
I didn't walk too far this morning, instead I decided to sit and watch what was going on around me in the small, beautiful churchyard at St. Mary's.  The habitat of Hawthorn, Elder, Sycamore, and Ash, along with Ivy cover, provided shelter and feeding for birds from the cold, wet weather.
I didn't have to move too much as a good part of habitat was viewable from my seated position.

Wood Pigeon
1 Swallow - high SE
2 Song Thrush
Blackbird (juvenile)
Blue Tit
Great Tit
2 Coal Tit
Long-tailed Tit
2+ Goldcrest
10+ Chiffchaff
2+ Blackcap
30+ Chaffinch

There appeared to be little evidence during my visit of visible migration other than a single high-flying Swallow heading in a SE direction.
The churchyard was the place to be as birds sought shelter here from the poor conditions.  Migrants seen were in the form of 10+ Chiffchaff, of these some were adults in their fine looking fresh plumage.  Song was heard from one individual.  Most observations of the Chiffchaffs were of birds in bushes and shrubs where they searched for food.
2+ Blackcaps were seen, this included a male in an Elder bush where it took berries for eating.
The most numerous species seen this morning was 30+ Chaffinches, also many Blue Tits were roving about with smaller numbers of Great Tits and a 2 Coal Tits included.

With light fading fast, 10 Golden Plovers seen flying high NW.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Great Cressingham (Watton Brook valley)

A dry bright dawn with light winds and a temperature of 9 degrees Celsius. The SW wind picked up to a moderate SW by mid-morning.
  • Early Song Thrush arrival 
  • Single Lesser Whitethroat seen on the move
Song Thrush in Watton Brook valley 12th Sept. (One of 17+ seen)
An interesting record this morning of 17+ Song Thrushes seen along the valley all within a relatively small area of mixed woodland habitat.  A flock of 5 birds overhead gave their familiar "tic" call.  The numbers of Song Thrushes seen clearly indicates they are of continental origin and constitutes an early record.  Continental Song Thrushes are said to appear greyer on the upperparts; close inspection of this photographed bird shows this bird as having a grey nape.
Also seen in this same area was 30+ Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds which were attracted to Hawthorn and Dog Rose fruits.
Overhead a small count of 5 Meadow Pipits seen.
A Kingfisher was seen flying along the course of the brook.
A single Lesser Whitethroat was seen flying into cover alongside the brook, it was soon relocated in a Sallow, showing off its bright white underparts.  The stunning grey head and ear coverts strongly contrasted with the white-throat and brown-grey upperparts.  This passage Lesser Whitethroat shared the Sallow with Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits, and a small flock of Goldfinches.
Nearby woodland held 1 Willow Warbler, Chiffchaffs, 3+ Goldcrests, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Jay, and a male Sparrowhawk flying through.