Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Garden Observations

I planted my hedge some six years ago in the garden with of course, bird friendly, native species being chosen. A variety of species were planted including Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Dogwood, Dog Rose, and Elder.  The hedge has grown well and now supports many species which use it for cover, nesting, and feeding.
Today, the most frequent species in the garden, as it often always is, was good numbers of Starlings, the vast majority of which are juvenile birds which are now acquiring adult plumage.  As well as food which I provide, Starlings are now attracted to my Dogwood where they are taking the ripening berries, or Dogberries.
Juvenile female Starling 2nd August
Also present in good numbers at this current time are House Sparrows, and today I saw recently fledged young birds being fed by a male parent.  The bill colour variations was seen today, particularly in the males, the adult having a black bill, whilst juvenile males have some yellow in the bill.
House Sparrow 2nd August. A beautiful and overlooked species.
A regular visit over the past couple of days is a juvenile Robin, a very alert, and sometimes alert little character.
Overhead, at least 3 Swifts seen, soon, these most aerial of birds will be heading south  , until their return next April.
Robin (juvenile) in garden 2nd August

Bodney, Norfolk

A beautiful, very bright morning in the Brecks, and time to start thinking about searching for migrants on the patch.  This morning I spent about an hour or so watching a beautiful area of rough grassland with scattered Elder, an area I have associated with resting and feeding passage birds over the years.
Out of three of the past 10 years I have found evidence of a Shrike species in this area in August, with impaled beetles being found on barbed wire, but I have yet to find the Shrike responsible, was it Red-backed, or possibly, Woodchat Shrike.  Fantastic, suitable habitat for Shrike will surely see a representative of this species here soon.
One of the first birds seen this morning was a single juvenile Stonechat in an Elder, a species I expected to see here.  A very distinctive juvenile with lots of white mottling on its mantle and head and with a little red on its flanks.
Stonechat (juvenile) Bodney, Norfolk 2nd August
Several Whitethroats (8+) were seen, this included an adult and several juvenile birds, also 4+ Blackcaps present (males, female, and juvenile birds).
Several Linnets (7+) seen, these comprised an adult male and juvenile birds.
Also of note here was at least 8 Stock Doves and 1 Swallow

Friday, 24 July 2020

List of Shame (Letter in 'Birdwatch Magazine' August 2020

An excellent and very timely letter to August 2020 edition of Birdwatch magazine highlighted the disrespect a 'well known Twitcher' and the lengths this idiot went to during 'Covid Lock-Down' to break the simple rules the government laid down to keep us all safe.  I have responded to that letter in the hope it gets published in order to shame this twitcher type.
My letter reads as follows: 

I am responding to Adrian Halliday's excellent and very timely letter regarding certain elements of the twitching fraternity who feel that 'Covid Lock Down' rules do not apply to them.

The vast majority of birders adapted their birding during lock-down to Garden birding and watching the sky from their gardens for migrants, and this produced interesting results.

However, those twitchers who disregard the simple rules of lock-down in pursuit of a tick, clearly lack the respect for others in the community and are putting people and potentially the emergency services and NHS at risk.

As a response to the disregard towards others and lack of respect for important rules laid down during lock-down, those twitchers who breached those requirements should be banned from public events in future and not given any form of media publicity.

It would be interesting to hear from those twitchers who could not comply with lock-down rules for their side of the story?

Sunday, 19 July 2020


Most of todays birding was done at various times from the garden.  The day started grey with rain but by the afternoon it was warm and sunny.
Sparrowhawk featured numerous times today, twice, I saw a bird high drifting slowly before plummeting groundward.  The same, or another bird passed through the garden late afternoon.  The occasional Buzzard was seen gliding/soaring overhead.
In the garden, Starlings dominated with 100+ often in the hedge, but departing swiftly to watch threatening Sparrowhawks.  Why do Starlings expend energy to shadow Sparrowhawks, when they could just remain in the safety of our thick hedge.
Swift 19th July
Juvenile Swift 19th July.  Note the light scaling on the underparts which ages this bird as a juvenile.
Swifts were numerous overhead with screaming parties and family groups seen throughout the day. Today I saw juvenile Swifts on the wing.  Look at the photo of the well lit bird, the light scaling on the underparts ages this as a juvenile bird.  These enigmatic birds will soon be leaving our shores for South Africa, in fact, I have already seen evidence of passage Swift this month.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

17th and 18th July

My plan for the weekend was to do some tidying up in the garden, mowing, cutting the Laurel and Privet back, but I love my weeds,  I have lots of Poppies with their heads about to crack, then I will harvest the seed and put them in a container for sowing elsewhere.  I have thistle in my front garden which has attracted Goldfinches, and in hedge in the back garden, our pair of Collared Doves are incubating again, having successfully fledged two young from an earlier nest.
At the end of the day on the 17th I relaxed for a while in the calm of the warm evening hoping for calls of overhead passage waders in the night sky.  At 2250 I was rewarded with an overhead, calling Green Sandpiper.  Waders are on the move.
Before starting my second day of gardening, I decided on visiting a location near North Pickenham, again, in the hope of seeing, or hearing passage waders, but nothing recorded.
Hedgerows were checked and I found 4 Blackcap (2 males and 2 juveniles), Whitethroat, several Chiffchaffs, 1 Swift, singing Yellowhammer, Linnet, and the highlight for me this morning, a pair of Bullfinches with the male looking spectacular as he gave his simple 'piping' call.
Starling in the garden. This juvenile is clearly beginning to acquire adult plumage.
I arrived back home mid morning and enjoyed a coffee before getting started on the garden.  Once again, Starlings featured as the most abundant species seen in the garden, the greatest numbers being juvenile birds.  Watching these Starlings I was able to appreciate how boisterous they have become, and indeed how comical they are too in their antics towards each other.  Of particular note, I also saw that these juvenile Starlings are beginning to acquire patches of adult feathering on their breast sides and flanks, along with the darkening of wing coverts.  Beautiful birds.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Merton, Norfolk 1500-1610

Merton is a wonderfully wooded parish, and this afternoon I took short walk through mature woodland and parkland, and gathered some notable observations.  It was lovely to see some Rowan trees within mostly Oak woodland showing off their vast clusters of beautiful red berries.  Also, Bird Cherry fruits are now ripened and were enjoyed by Blackcaps and Blackbird.
Highlighted counts/observations saw:

26+ House Martins feeding overhead
2 Swallows
1 Swift
8+ Blackcaps
1 Treecreeper
Wren (pair food carrying)

Of 8+ Blackcaps recorded, 5+ were watched in a small Bird Cherry where they were consuming ripened black berries, these comprised a male, female, and female/juvenile birds.  An adult female Blackbird also enjoyed the feast.  A further 3 singing Blackcaps were heard.
One of a pair of Wrens seen.  This bird is carrying food for its young nearby.
Also of interest was a pair of Wrens agitated at my presence, one of which was food-carrying, I love the way these lovely little birds bob up and down when checking me out.
House Martins are not as common as they used to be, therefore, it was pleasing to see 26+ birds feeding high above parkland.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Marlingford, Norfolk, 11th and 12th July

This was a working weekend in Norwich, I therefore chose Marlingford for my work break birding due to its close proximity for my return to work.
A productive visit to this beautiful area.  An overview of the floodplain in the Yare valley produced a single Grey HeronBlackcap, Whitethroat, 1 Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, and a singing Reed Bunting on the 11th.
Marsh Tit Marlingford 11th July
The highlight of this visit was initially heard, a familiar "eez tk tk", only one bird has this call, Spotted Flycatcher, and indeed after a short search I found a bird on a wire, with a second bird also present.  In fact, upon my arrival I thought of the possibility of this sadly declining species being here.
Spotted Flycatcher - One of a breeding pair at Marlingford
Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher showing the nicely streaked crown.
Visiting on the 12th, I concentrated my efforts on watching the Spotted Flycatchers again.  Both were always close to an Oak with very old, dead climbers around the trunk of the tree, I suspected this as the site for the nest.
Food carrying was noted by the parent birds.  I was amazed at the sheer speed of Spotted Flycatcher's flight through trees and its sweeps  and swoops as it hunts prey.
A great weekends watching these beautiful Spotted Flycatchers, a sadly declining species these days.