Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 17 February 2020


The creation of Pingo's began some 20,000 years ago during the last Ice Age.  In the UK these are a rare feature in the landscape, but here in the Breckland area of Norfolk, we boast the greatest density with some 700+ Pingo's.
These special and ancient features appeared as you see this one here about 11,500 years ago.  Len's of Ice formed some 20,000 years ago by pressing into the earth, soil covered these formations to create a small hillock.  When the Ice from the Ice Age retreated the lens of ice melted and the hillock collapsed, thus forming the Pingo as you see here.
It is indeed wonderful to see these ancient features survive the onslaught of the human race, it is also wondrous to see these features in the Breckland landscape remain unchanged for 11,500 years.
A Pingo near Thompson, Norfolk
Pingo - unchanged in 11,500 years

Monday, 27 January 2020

Little Cressingham, Norfolk

An hour long visit this afternoon to a location traditionally productive for winter Finches and Buntings didn't disappoint today.
400+ Linnets, 150+ Yellowhammers, 200+ Chaffinches, 10+ Bramblings, and 100+ Skylarks were seen, despite the very poor light.
10+ Bramblings was undoubtedly a low estimate, these included some very handsome males beginning to moult into breeding plumage, and the paler, but still beautiful female birds.
Brambling (female) 27th January
Despite the very poor light, I managed this shot of a female Brambling.  The pale head, pale orange breast and scapulars, separates this species from the more familiar Chaffinch.

Marlingford, Norfolk, 26th January

A short stop whilst at work produced a Great White Egret in the Yare Valley, stealthily hunting along the fringes of a small lake.

Thompson Water, Norfolk

Recent visits to the Thompson Water has been productive for common species, notably, the declining Marsh Tit, a species I regularly record here.  Numbers of wildfowl have been quite low with small numbers of Teal, Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler and Mallard being seen.
Around the weedy fringes of the water, Cetti's Warbler occasionally sings, and at the current time, Reed Buntings are showing nicely, often on the tops of reeds nipping at seeds.
Reed Bunting (male) slowly developing breeding plumage 24th Jan

Reed Bunting (female) 24th Jan.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Thompson Common, Norfolk

A stunning morning with a moderate frost at dawn then bright, sunny conditions throughout the day.
The winter woodland is now dominated by mobile flocks of Tit species in their never-ending search for food, this morning was no exception with good numbers of Blue Tits (20+), Marsh Tits, Coal Tits, and Great Tits frequently seen this morning.  Nuthatch (2+) also seen.
Damp Birch woodland on Thompson Common 2nd December
A stunning Nuthatch at Thompson Common 2nd December
There appeared to be little Finch movement during my visit other than the odd Siskin passing over and calling.
A single Goshawk was seen flying into a tree canopy, its presence scattering Wood Pigeons.
Thompson Water 2nd December
My visit took in Thompson Water where a variety of Duck species were seen, these included Wigeon (20+), Mallard (40+), Shoveler, and Gadwall.  3+ Grey Herons, a single Grey Wagtail, and one Little Grebe were seen.
As expected within the dense reeds, a Water Rail gave its eerie squealing call.
Within mature woodland on the common a single Tawny Owl briefly called from its daytime roost site.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Marsh Harrier at Hockham, Norfolk

Whilst birding at Hockham on a glorious late autumn morning, I became aware of a distant raptor species being mobbed by a Crow.  I was confident that this was a Marsh Harrier, given the size and lack of any white rump, and as it eventually got closer I could clearly see this was a female bird.
The Crow broke off its attack and the Harrier turned its attention to a perched Buzzard which it mobbed.
The Marsh Harrier soared above woodland for a while before slowly flying off in various directions. The Harrier was seen on a number of occasions, sometimes quite low, when it 'put up' many Teal and Shoveler.
I was able to photograph the Marsh Harrier with the following results

This Marsh Harrier exhibits typical features which aids identification, the large size for example, the beautiful yellow-creamy crown and throat broken by the dark band through the eye.  The lack of yellow-cream on the inner forewing, along with the pale tips to the upper wing coverts, shows this as a juvenile female Marsh Harrier.

Hockham, Norfolk

Finally, following many days of greyness, the sun put in an appearance.  The day dawned with a slight frost and little wind.  Light was very good and visibility was also very good.
With today being my only day off this week, I intended to use the fine weather to my advantage and check on a site at Hockham, Norfolk.
This mornings visit to Hockham accrued a reasonable list of 25 species:

2 Mute Swan
Marsh Harrier (juvenile female)
1 Buzzard
Water Rail
3 Pheasant
2 Carrion Crow
2 Jay
Wood Pigeon
2 Stock Dove
2 Great Spotted Woodpecker
3 Blackbird
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
1 Cetti's Warbler
2 Bullfinch

I love the sight and sound of wintering duck species and this morning was particularly good for Teal, some were seen when put up by a female Marsh Harrier, however, the true numbers were clearly high given the calls of birds heard within marsh habitat.  Wigeon, Shoveler, and Mallard were also present.
A distant raptor was being mobbed by a Crow species, it certainly looked liked at Harrier, and as it neared, it was clearly a Marsh Harrier, a female bird.  The Crow broke off its attack and the Harrier then itself mobbed a perched Buzzard.  Later, the Marsh Harrier spooked several Duck species, including many Teal and a few Shoveler.
Marsh Harrier at Hockham 29th November