Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Hawfinches (30+) at Marlingford, Norfolk

Another full day of work today.  Following on from yesterdays Hawfinch record at Marlingford, I decided for my afternoon break from work to revisit the area.  I soon relocated Hawfinches, however, I did not expect to see 30+ birds, an incredible sight.
Hawfinch in Yew at Marlingford, Norfolk 14/01/18
Given the shy nature of this species, I decided to sit under a large tree to watch the Hawfinches, the very poor light resulted in poor shots, therefore, I was content just to sit and watch the birds as any movement on my part would have disturbed the birds.
Hawfinch high in tree canopy at Marlingford 14/01/18.
Most of the time, the Hawfinches were either seen flying between trees and sitting quietly high in the canopy, however, on one occasion, most of these birds descended into a nearby Yew where they consumed berries. 
Hawfinch at Marlingford, Norfolk, 14/01/18
The light here was very poor resulting in poor photographs.  Despite the poor light, watching the Hawfinches through binoculars saw the following salient features:
A large, bull-necked Finch with an overall Pinkish-chestnut colour, a huge pale bill and thumb-nail shaped Black bib patch. Grey nape. White wing-bar, especially noticeable in flight, and a bold white tip to the tail.
This was my first observation of witnessing several Hawfinches feeding together, at times they demonstrated excellent acrobatic skills as they reached for berries.

In addition to the Hawfinches, the following was seen/heard, Stock Dove, 150+ Fieldfare, a few Redwings, 1 Goldcrest, Coal Tit (heard), Blue Tit, Jackdaw, Chaffinch, 10+ Greenfinches, and a single Siskin over.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Hawfinches at Marlingford, Norfolk

Today was the first day of three consecutive weekends of working with little time for any good birding, therefore it is my intention of putting my afternoon breaks to good use by visiting a variety of random sites for an hour or so of short bursts of serious birding.
This afternoon I parked up in the beautiful village of Marlingford.  Following lunch and a coffee, I decided to check an area of parkland trees.  Movement was detected high in the canopy of a few trees, I trained my binoculars and found a Hawfinch, this eventually increased to four birds, however, the true number became apparent when a flock of 8 Hawfinches flew almost directly above me and then off west.
The individuals seen high in the canopy showed off their pinkish colour, strong, pale bill, and the neat black chin patch.  In flight, the magnificent white wing-bar was clearly seen on the outstretched wings.  When all 8 Hawfinches flew off west the 'top-heavy' (head area), and large white wing-bar was seen.  The flight was powerful, direct, although slightly undulating.  Light was always poor throughout this special find.

Also noted in the area was Stock Dove (pair), Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Jay, Blackbird, and a small flock of Redwings.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Thompson Water, Norfolk

Poor visibility greeted me upon my arrival at Thompson Water.  Low cloud, mist descending into thick fog, and a dawn temperature of 4 degrees Celsius.
As with any season, and any conditions, Thompson Water still had beauty, and a mysterious feel to it, the sounds of calling Ducks reassuring you that life goes on, albeit out of sight in the fog.
I was rewarded upon my arrival by the beautiful whistling calls of Wigeon, the 'kleeps' of Teal, the slapping of Mute Swans wings upon the surface of the water, and the occasional burst of song from a nearby Cetti's Warbler.

23+ Mute Swans
Pink-footed Geese
Water Rail
1 Black-headed Gull
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Marsh Tit
Long-tailed Tit
2 Cetti's Warblers (singing males)
3 Reed Buntings (inc. pair)

A male Cetti's Warbler was seen reasonably well and close to within thick reed cover.  As is typical with this species, this particular bird rarely ventured from cover.  Although seen quite well, I never had prolonged views of the bird, the poor light allowed mostly darkened views of the bird as it moved between thick clumps of reed, often entering the habitat and being temporarily lost to view, and then being picked up again as it moved between cover in fast, direct flight.  The Cetti's Warbler usually kept low within cover, being close to the surface of the water.  On one occasion the bird appeared to pick something from the waters' surface, or possibly took a drink.
This Cetti's Warbler was a typically rounded looking bird with a wide, square-ended tail.  The upperparts were dark (brownish) and the underparts appeared whitish, however, the light was so poor that good detail was not seen.  The bird often gave bursts of its explosive song as it moved around.  This was one of two singing Cetti's Warblers at Thompson Water this morning.

Having left Thompson Water, |I was walking back towards the village of Thompson when I heard many Pink-footed Geese flying over, but were unseen due to the fog.  I have previously encountered this species over Watton during poor visibility.

A late afternoon/dusk walk near Bodney was quite productive despite the rapidly failing light with the following seen.

1 Barn Owl hunting over marsh habitat
1 Woodcock
1 Song Thrush
200+ Fieldfare

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Little Cressingham (Finches and Buntings)

I decided on a late afternoon visit to a large maize/weedy strip along the Great Cressingham Road to check on Finch activity.  There was total cloud cover, mist, poor visibility, and of course, low light.  Despite these conditions there was plenty to see with Finch and Buntings dominating.
Poor light and dull conditions probably dampen many a spirit, however, birds always raise my spirits, even in the poorest conditions.
It was clearly evident that may Finches and Buntings were present both on the hedgerows, trees, and nearby maize strip.  The most abundant species seen today was Chaffinches, Greenfinches, and several Bramblings, with a flock of Linnets often wheeling above patches of weeds.  Also present here was several Yellowhammers and the odd Reed Bunting.
A small flock of Fieldfares were nervously moving through tops of Larch trees, even in poor light their grey heads, nape, ochre breasts, and streaking and spots were clearly seen on the birds breast and flanks.  Flying from tree to tree the Fieldfares gave their familiar, hard "shak shak" calls.
With daylight fading quickly, Finches began leaving the maize strip and flew south to their roost sites, probably in thick conifer plantations.  At the same time, small flocks of Starlings flew over south to their communal roost site.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Merton, Norfolk

A day of rain and snow showers with light covering of the latter.  A grey day with a high of +1 degrees Celsius.
Following my return from work there was little daylight left, so I headed to Merton Church and nearby woodland.  At first glance, the winter woodland may appear devoid of life, however, life is always present, after all, cold winter days sees birds and mammals making the best of the short daylight hours in order to search for food to keep them energised for the night ahead.
Merton Church

I parked by the beautiful Saxon church at Merton where a service was ongoing.  I listened for a while whilst the organ was being played, a beautiful sound emanating from this quiet woodland location.
This late afternoon walk produced typical woodland species expected at this time of year.
Two Green Woodpeckers were seen flying over one of the paddocks, whilst a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard calling.  At least 3 Nuthatches were heard, one in the woodland by the church in this picture.  Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tits, and Marsh Tit, were seen in the top of a tall Silver Birch where they searched the finer outer twigs for food.
Winter Thrush species both seen and heard in woodland included Blackbird and Redwings.
A couple of Goldcrests were heard, one of which was seen vigorously searching for food, behaviour seen included the Goldcrest hovering close to finer twigs and leaves in order to search for a small invertebrate/spider etc. to eat.
A woodland scene at Merton where Goldcrest, Coal Tit,  and Nuthatch were present, 10th December
 An ancient Horse Chestnut at Merton, Norfolk.