Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 17 November 2017

Hockham, Norfolk. Creation of habitat for scarce breeding birds by harvesting woodland.

This morning dawned with a moderate frost and clear blue skies with hardly any wind.  The temperature at dawn was 0 degrees Celsius.
In recent weeks the above area was cleared of its Pine woodland.  Compartments of Pines in  Thetford Forest are harvested on a rotational basis, therefore, varying ages of Pine compartments are found throughout the Breckland area.  In time, this area will be replanted with sapling Pines.
This cleared area will now benefit various wildlife species.  Bird species which will benefit from this newly created habitat are Tree Pipit, Woodlark, and eventually, Nightjar.  Hopefully by next February, this area will support singing Woodlark, and I expect to see Tree Pipit here by mid to late April.  Tree Pipits are ground nesters, the trees seen in this picture will serve as song-posts for this beautiful migrant.
This morning, whilst overviewing the above area, a few Redwings visited the tree tops.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Controlling Dogs.....rather controlling twitchers

I notice a recent post by a Norfolk twitcher quite rightly stating that Dogs need controlling wherever they are taken out, and indeed the vast majority of Dog owners (I own one myself) are responsible people.
A recent 'youtube' post regarding a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler at Burnham Overy Dunes attracted wholesale criticism of Twitcher idiots who engaged in what can only be described as criminal behaviour after damaging fencing used to contain cattle.  Fifty or more twitchers trespassed on private land, and one idiot even wanted to have an 'organised flush'.  This behaviour clearly shows these people have no concern for the welfare of the bird whatsoever.  The poor bird will have been flushed to death if it had not been stopped by Holkham wardens.  
The Holkham wardens who confronted these twitchers acted in a totally professional manner and the arguments spouted off by the twitchers were as weak as gnats pee. 
The sad thing is that this has not been, and will not be, the last occasion we see such pathetic behaviour by twitchers who I my opinion are not needed in the birding world.
I am not a twitcher, I have never, and will never share, rare bird finds on my patch, these idiots are not welcome.  I only share finds with trusted friends....and they are welcome to bring their dogs along too.  

Friday, 10 November 2017

East Wretham and Croxton Heaths (morning), and Little Cressingham (at dusk), Norfolk

A lovely bright morning with no evidence of the rain which was forecast for this morning some 24 hours ago.
Setting off from the East Wretham Heath NWT car park, I crossed the open heath to meet the Harling Drove, I then walked west along the path before turning off onto a ride for Croxton Heath.
Although my goal was to explore a variety of habitats, my main aim was to make for a large marlpit covered in thick Hawthorn and Blackthorn, this precious habitat provides a welcome relief for me from the regimented stands of pines, and also for the birds, a wonderful habitat for which to feed and rest.

I returned along various rides back to Ringmere, one of two lovely Breckland Meres whose water levels are governed by the underground water table.  Ringmere, a natural and circular body of water was the location of a battle between the Saxons and Danes on 5th May 1010.  The landscape here at Wretham I feel, probably hasn't changed too much seen then.
Colours were a feature of this mornings walk with Silver Birches looking stunning in their late autumn glory.  Equally, Beech trees looked gorgeous in their bronzed finery, and an avenue of old Hornbeams had large limbs reaching out at ground level.

Several small flocks of Redwings were seen this morning, most in Blackthorn where a good supply of sloes still hang.  The overgrown Blackthorn covered marlpit held Redwing, Goldcrests, and a single Redpoll arrival.  Two flypast Bullfinches showed their bright white rump and vent, conspicuous and useful identification features of this stunning bird, also, their soft "peu" call was heard   Within a large clearing, a couple of Meadow Pipits rose up.  Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers crossed a clearing together.
Whilst overviewing Ringmere, I watched a Blackbird plummet from height into cover, probably a migrant bird.  On Ringmere, several Mallards, Mute Swan, a pair of Egyptian Geese, and Shoveler were seen.
The walk back to the car park saw hundreds of Rooks on the heath, a regular, and familiar species here.

Little Cressingham (Dusk)
The sun had already set when I arrived to take my Toby for his walk.  Of interest, close to 'The Arms' was a single in-flight Woodcock silhouetted against the darkening sky...a very mysterious, but beautiful bird.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Deopham Green, Norfolk, 8th November

It may appear bleak, grey, isolated, and uninviting, and this is how many people may view the conditions at Deopham Green during my work-break during the afternoon of 8th November, however, there is always something of interest to find and watch which will brighten the dullest of days.
Kestrel at Deopham Green 8th November
As I was driving along the road which was the former main runway of RAF Deopham (USAF WW2 station), a female Kestrel perched sentinel-like, overseeing its territory of wide open expanses of farmland.  This Falcon is often seen hunting roadsides and headlands in the Deopham Green area.
With this part Deopham Green being very exposed, wind is often a feature of the weather here and I am always amazed how Kestrels hold their positions when hovering by tilting their wings and adjusting their tails in order to watch for prey below.
The wind was moderate, occasionally fresh in strength, I therefore decided to park where I could see along the sheltered lengths of one of the most important hedgerows in the area.  Several Blackbirds (some were probably migrants) fed along the sheltered edge, these were joined by a few Fieldfare and small numbers of Redwings.
Fieldfare at Deopham Green 8th November
Redwing at Deopham Green 8th November
On a dull, grey day with failing light, who cannot appreciate the beauty of winter Thrushes like this Fieldfare and Redwing at Deopham Green.  The multi-coloured Fieldfare seen here often dropped to the ground to drink from a small puddle.  Without the use of optics, this Redwing was sometimes difficult to see unless it moved.  The Redwing is smaller than Fieldfare, the head of Redwing is strongly marked with the pale supercillium being a conspicuous feature, and of course, the Red flanks gives the bird its name.  This particular Redwing is an adult, juvenile birds wing-coverts are pale edged.
On a dull day, birds are always to be found and will lift your spirits and brighten your day.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Thompson, Norfolk

A mid-afternoon to sunset circular walk starting at the church in the beautiful Breckland village of Thompson in Norfolk.  Most activity as you would expect came as the sun was going down with various species flying in different directions to their respective roost-sites.
Early during the walk along Drove Lane, several Redwings seen flying into bushes and trees either side of the track, although 2 Redwings flew from low down in a thick Bramble patch.  A single Mistle Thrush was seen, also Jay, and a few Goldfinches with a Siskin with them.
Most interest came prior to and immediately after sunset near the church.  Overhead, 2 Lapwings west, and a flock of Starlings also west making for their roost-site.  High-flying flocks of Gulls headed NW to their roost-sites.
Some 30 minutes prior to sunset I was watching a flock of 40+ Greenfinches wheeling above me and alighting in various trees.  As sunset approached this flock was joined by other mostly smaller flocks of Greenfinches (largest flock 20+), and pairs and singletons.  A tall tree was a favoured arrival location before it was safe for the birds to descend to their roost-site.  There was in excess of 110 Greenfinches in total and all entered their roost-site in thick Laurel.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Hawfinch at Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

Summary:  We are currently in the midst of an unprecedented invasion of Hawfinches in the UK.  Between last Monday and next Friday the 10th November, today, the 3rd, is my only day off, and before I set off for my destination I wanted to make it my goal to see if my patch has any evidence of the Hawfinch invasion.  I was not to be disappointed. 
Of course, the main aim of the day was to witness migration and this was evidenced by good movements of mostly Thrush species.
The skies were leaden grey with cloud, light was poor, and visibility can be described as fair.  There was a light southerly wind, and the dawn had the feel of migration about it.
Light was very poor at dawn due to the full cloud cover, however, birds were on the move from my arrival at Houghton at 0655.

200+ Golden Plover (high) West
500+ Starlings East
250+ (total) Fieldfare
2 Mistle Thrush
1 Hawfinch
Bramblings - unseen overhead migrants (heard)

One Hawfinch was found in the churchyard of St. Mary's at Houghton-on-the-Hill at 0806.  I was some distance east of the church when I checked bird movements high in the trees in the churchyard, these were a small flock of Goldfinches.  I continued to scan the treetops and saw a Hawfinch in the top of a Sycamore. 
Hawfinch at Houghton-on-the-Hill 3rd November.  Rear views showed the 'bullish' neck and large grey nape.

Hawfinch at Houghton-on-the-Hill 3rd November. Large head and strong bill seen when head was turned.
First views was of the rear of the bird and was straight away struck by the large 'bullish' head and neck, and despite the poor light I could make out the chestnut crown and obvious large grey nape.  I watched the bird for a while and the occasional head turn revealed the large, strong bill.
The Hawfinch flew down into the yard but careful searching did not reveal the bird.  Later, presumably the same Hawfinch flew over me calling in a west heading.
I managed a couple of poor record shots of the Hawfinch.
We are currently in the midst of an unprecedented invasion of Hawfinches in the UK with most birds seen at coastal locations, although numbers have been seen passing through various watch-points around the country. It is most likely that this Hawfinch at Houghton is a migrant bird involved in the current invasion.
The Hawfinch was the obvious highlight of this visit to Houghton, but also seen was a steady westerly passage of both Fieldfares and Redwings.  Fieldfares totalled 250+ birds.
Bramblings were also on the move, however, these were just heard, not seen.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Deopham, Norfolk

A visit to farmland close to Deopham Green early afternoon produced 500+ Golden Plover.  The wide open expanses of arable here appears to favour this beautiful wader most winters.
A mid-afternoon check of the churchyard in Deopham saw many Blackbirds, Song Thrush, and Redwings favouring the Yew trees where berries were eaten.  A male Sparrowhawk flew a tight circuit of a Yew intent on surprising a small bird.