Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 10 August 2018

Migrants at Bodney, Norfolk

What a beautifully comfortable morning this was with much cooler conditions with a cool breeze. Sunny at first with cloud increasing to bring heavy rain by early afternoon.
Early August is when passerine migration really gets started and choosing the correct habitats will see evidence of this phenomena.  Rivers, streams, and brooks provide essential highways for migrants, and along with the lush waterside vegetation for food and cover, who knows what will turn up.
Watton Brook Valley is one such important highway for migrants at which I find such an important location for witnessing migration.
The previous couple of days have seen Reed Warblers in the Watton Brook Valley, using Reeds and Great Willowherb for cover.  Today I chose a different location in the valley to see what I could find today, and indeed, the small site I watched produced.  Most of my efforts were given to rough grassland with some lovely Elders, a shrub/tree I always target at this time of year.
Specifically, my highlights for this visit with regard to migrants were:

1 Sedge Warbler
3 Reed Warblers
Blackcaps (males/female/juvs)

Blackcap in Elder
Elder habitat.
These four Warbler species were all seen to visit one particular Elder where ripe berries were consumed.  I find it such a great pleasure to see a number of species, often together, sharing the same bush/food source, all with the same aim in mind, to build fat reserves in readiness for their continuing passage
Along with the above migrants, other species seen visiting the Elder for food was Dunnock, Blue Tit, Robin, Song Thrush, and Goldfinch.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Watton Brook Valley (Little Cressingham/Threxton)

A dry start to the day but with the promise of very welcome rain late morning and throughout the rest of the day.
I decided to check the Watton Brook Valley for evidence of migrant birds.  At about 0900 a few Whitethroats chatted in the Great Willowherb, as they moved along the Brook into a dense Bramble I briefly saw a Reed Warbler disappearing into cover.  Checking the Bur Reeds, Whitethroats flew into the Willowherb and a Reed Warbler was seen again flying into the base of the reed habitat, it too, made brief visits to the Willowherb, presumably for food.
A few Swallows passed through including a party of 5 birds.
Further along the valley at Threxton a single Grey Wagtail was seen and both Chiffchaff and Goldcrests were present.
Now is the expected time to see Reed Warblers on passage, the thick Bur Reed growth along Watton Brook Valley must hold many of these lovely Warblers on the move.
Watton Brook Valley 9th August - How many migrants were really here today?

Reed Warbler migration 8th August

So many different habitats to check for migrants that we are in August.  This morning I visited the Watton Brook Valley at Great Cressingham for evidence of Reed Warblers passing through as it is now I expect to see them.
The brook is now full of lush Bur Reeds and Great Willowherb, attractive cover for my quarry species.
Watton Brook Valley 8th August (Check reeds for passage Reed Warblers)
At 0925, I spotted movement at the base of a clump of reeds where it meets water, this was a brief view, but a short while later, a bird appeared, a lovely Reed Warbler.  This bird was quite rather mouse-like as it moved through the dense habitat.  It did fly up once to pass through a large Blackthorn, but was then lost to view..
Reed Warblers depart their reedbed breeding grounds from late July and then use water courses as highways for migration, it is at these habitats during early August when I search for this unobtrusive migrant.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Migrant Warblers

A search for migrants this morning was productive with an obvious increase in Sylvia Warblers on the patch compared to a visit to the same site on 4th August.  Most notably, Lesser Whitethroats were present in good numbers, however, Blackcaps formed the majority of migrants with many female/juvenile birds and some male birds being seen.
Elder bushes/small trees were checked as these are especially attractive to migrant Warblers, and indeed, both Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcaps were seen eating elderberries.  Several Whitethroats were present but appeared to be in lesser numbers.
Whitethroat in bramble
Lesser Whitethroats occasionally passed over me revealing their contrasting dark upperparts and gorgeous silky white underparts, also, a bird seen quite close to feeding upon elderberries revealed the stunning lead-grey head, and with this bird, a full white eye-ring.
I noticed this morning that most elderberries have yet to ripen, however, some solitary ripe black berries and some full clusters of ripe berries were good feeding for migrant Warblers.  The vast majority of berries are yet to ripen to provide good feeding for forthcoming migrants.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Watton Brook Valley

Another very warm day today with highs expected of 27 degrees Celsius, in fact the weekend has been sandwiched between some very hot weather with the heat of last week continuing into the coming week with temperatures in the low 30 degrees Celsius.  This walk this morning was comfortable to start with but soon warmed up by around 1000hrs.
Migrants were once again my target birds for this morning, and it turned out to be a great visit to Watton Brook Valley with the highlight being 4+ Redstarts and several Blackcaps, the latter favouring Elder bushes where some clusters of berries are now ripe for the taking.

3 Buzzards
1 Red Kite
2 Kestrel including a fine 'scoped female
1 Kingfisher
2 Pied Wagtail
5+ Swallows
2 House Martins
4+ Redstarts (Female and juveniles seen)
2 Song Thrush
Blackcaps (many juveniles and females seen)
2+ Whitethroat (adult female and juvenile)
Coal Tit

The above species were seen in a relatively small area of rough grassland and old Elder bushes.  The Elders had some clusters of ripe fruits, although most were not quite ready for consumption.  The most abundant species seen in the Elders were Blackcaps, most appeared to be juveniles, but adult females were also present.
Elders in the Watton Brook Valley 5th August (particularly attractive to Blackcaps)
The highlight of the morning was the finding of at least 4 Redstarts (female and juvenile seen), I suspect these birds were local bred birds which have moved from the natal site to search for areas of good feeding in the valley.  A female Redstart remained still enough for a short while for me to appreciate the light brown tones and the gorgeous quivering Orange tail.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Migration is under way

Now we are in August the emphasis turns to searching for migrant passerine species.  Today is the first day of a week off and I intend to use it to look for passage birds on my patch.
I visited a particular site at which I go to regularly through to November which I have self-declared  my own inland migration watch-point.
Target species today was Sylvia Warblers, a group which turns up in sometimes remarkable in numbers here in August and September.
I arrived this morning to the monotonous call of a Chiffchaff, this bird was soon found in trees carrying food.
I followed the course of a well-stocked hedgerow corridor where I could see birds flying between hedges, however, most were silhouetted against the rising sun, I therefore intended to walk the entire length of the double hedgerow and walk back with the warming sun behind me.
Various calls emanated from the hedge  including "tics", "tacs", and "chits".  A number of Whitethroats were seen in mostly Bramble and Elder, although dead umbellifer heads were visited to presumably extract small insects or spiders from.  The Whitethroats seen were female/1st winter birds, very rufous and with a lovely fawn head plumage.
Whitethroat on umbellifer species 4th August
I intended to search for Lesser Whitethroats this morning and soon found 3 birds, absolutely stunning with their lead grey heads contrasting strongly with the white throat and mousey grey-brown uppers.  The Lesser Whitethroats were also seen clambering about in umbellifers showing off their gorgeous silky white underparts, a feature noticeable at range without binoculars.  Nearby, a stunning female Blackcap was seen entering a hedge whilst an unseen male briefly sang.
Aside from migrants, resident species seen included several Linnets, including males showing off their beautiful rosy pink breast sides.  Yellowhammers were also seen as well as several juvenile Blue Tits.

Friday, 1 June 2018

A morning with Whitethroats

The night was very warm at 15 degrees Celsius, the morning was misty and cloudy, however, the sun eventually broke through giving a high of 23 degrees Celsius.
I visited the Watton Brook Valley this morning primarily to check on a pair of Whitethroats which have a nest within a Dog Rose by the brook.
Initially, the Whitethroats were wary of me and gave the "churrrr" alarm call, eventually however, both male and female resumed feeding once they no longer considered me a threat, and indeed, whilst collecting food the birds came within feet of me, occasionally hidden except for a head which bobbed up and down from cover just to check on me.
Many visits were made to the nest-site during my stay, both parents assuming feeding responsibilities.  Food items collected included caterpillars, Flies, a moth species, and spiders, also, faecal sacs were occasionally taken away from the nest.
Whitethroat (male) with food for young in nest 1st June.
Whitethroat (male) with caterpillars 1st June.
Whitethroat (male) with a spider for the young 1st June
Whitethroat (female) with what appears to be a Common Garden Spider 1st June
Also noted from my position at the Whitethroat territory was a single Kingfisher flying along the valley carrying food.  A single Red Kite and Buzzard seen, and a Blackcap and Mistle Thrush heard singing.