Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 16 November 2018

Ducks brighten a dull November day (Sunrise 0720)

A very typical November day with conditions I love, dank, grey, drizzle, calm, and misty.
I set off for a walk on the patch in Thetford Forest at 0640, the woodland and clearings was shrouded in grey with trees silhouetted against the dull sky.
Although early, Redwings were heard in woodland along with a close calling Tawny Owl which attracted angry, chattering Blackbirds.  A couple of Bullfinches gave their 'piping' calls in the dark woodland.
Suddenly, I stopped, movement ahead on the trail, a small heard of Red Deer hinds froze to look in my direction, they then continued slowly into a clearing.
A second Red Deer herd seen a short time later, a magnificent stag, a couple of young stags, and hinds slowly moved through a clearing occasionally stopping and looking my way.
With increasing light I visited a local mere where many wildfowl were present including Greylag and Canada Geese, Mute Swans, lots of Mallard, a male Wigeon, 3 Gadwall, and later, 7 Mandarins (4 males) flew in and offered reasonable views despite the poor light and conditions.
1 Grey Heron, 1 Cormorant, and at least 5 Little Grebes seen.
In dense reeds and Sallow habitat Water Rails called and singing Cetti's Warbler heard.
Mandarins should be easily picked out in this picture 16th November.
Gorgeous Mandarins 16th November
Note the bespectacled appearance of the grey looking female Mandarins
7 Mandarins (4 males) present.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

'Suspect' Redpoll on the patch 14th November.

For the last hour so of daylight yesterday afternoon (14th November), I decided to visit my patch within Thetford Forest to check for signs of Finch activity, which, in recent times, has been quite productive, including Crossbills, a species which has been scarce in recent years.
This is certainly turning into a 'Redpoll winter', and today was no exception with good numbers of these and Siskins about.
A small flock of Redwings alighted in a treetop above me, and although high, the strong, late afternoon sunlight did these gorgeous Thrushes justice.  I decided to photograph the Redwings, in doing so I captured, unintentionally, a very pale looking Redpoll.  My thoughts did jump to Arctic Redpoll, however, important identification features are not visible i.e. the rump and undertail coverts. Clearly, I shall be checking the site for this bird to try and secure an identification.
The 'suspect' Redpoll with Redwings on the patch 14th November.
The only certain thing about this Redpoll is the very pale appearance which highlights the black bib and darker fore-crown, and the pale and unmarked breast, flanks, and underparts.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Hockham, Norfolk 0745-0845

A mild start to the day at 10 degrees Celsius. A light mist, high cloud, then sunny and mild by day with a high of 16 degrees Celsius.
What a great start to the day with an hours static watch of several species of birds undertaking early morning movements overhead.  Mostly common species were flying in various directions and there was always something to see, however, some notable species seen too.  This visit was essentially a Thrush and Finch fest.

2 Blackbirds
5 Woodlark high south 0812
Long-tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Redpoll - numerous
1 Brambling over
8 Crossbill 0800
3 Yellowhammer

A number of Redwings (30+) departed a Holly tree which has been used by this species for years as a roost site.  Fieldfares were also present.  Thrush species then became a frequent site as they either passed over, or spent time high in trees.
It became apparent that a number of Redpolls were present, these were passing over in singles, or two's, however, the best count was of 20+ birds in scattered Birch trees within a large clearing in the forest.  At the same time a flock of 50+ Redwings passed over.
A welcome addition to the days list of birds was a small flock of 8 Crossbills passing in front of me and calling (0800).  Crossbills have been very scarce in recent years, therefore, this is a great record.
Whilst watching Thrushes and Finches, I thought I heard a calling Woodlark, then, a small flock of 5 Woodlarks passed high overhead in a southerly direction (0812).
One flock of Starlings (60+) passed over in a westerly heading.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Annoyed at destruction of habitat at Deopham, Norfolk.

Recently, whilst driving to work along the course of the former runway at the disused WW2 airfield at RAF Deopham, I was very annoyed at the removal of ALL of the bramble scrub and the uprooting and destruction of a large Sallow and some fine old Hawthorn trees/bushes.  These formerly beautiful habitats were the homes to breeding Yellowhammers, Linnets, and Whitethroats.  This 'criminal' act was wholly unnecessary, especially in an area which has a vast, exposed landscape with little cover for wildlife.
All I can say is WHY?

North Pickenham, Norfolk

A gorgeous day beginning with a slight ground frost and a low of 1 degree Celsius.  The day remained bright with a high of 10 degrees Celsius.
At first light it was evident that migrant Thrush species were present with Fieldfare, Redwings, and Song Thrushes present.  With improving light it was clear that Fieldfare was the most abundant Thrush with numbers later around 100-150 birds. A mobile Tit flock comprised mostly Long-tailed Tits with Marsh Tit and Coal Tit seen.  2+ Bullfinches were present.  A stunning female Sparrowhawk passed over the woodland canopy showing off her heavily barred underparts.
Fieldfare at North Pickenham 2nd November
Fieldfare was the bird of the day today, their harsh vocalisation always betrayed their presence.  The nicest gathering was when these stunning Thrushes occasionally swarmed upon a Hawthorn bush to feed upon hips along with smaller numbers of Redwings and a single Blackbird.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Lapwing movements and further Thrush arrivals

The movements of Lapwings in autumn and early winter are governed by just how cold the winter weather becomes.  Birds from Europe will move west to seek warmth, particularly in the west side of Britain and Ireland.  If the weather becomes particularly cold, Lapwings will migrate to France or the Iberian Peninsula.
Locally, on my patch, there has been a couple of small westerly movements of Lapwings:

1 Lapwing west 28th October
40+ Lapwings west over Watton, Norfolk 29th October

Recent cold weather with easterly winds in the low countries of Europe may have triggered the movements of these Lapwings.

Thrush arrivals

I visited the Peddars Way long distance footpath at Great Cressingham this morning to check the lovely old hedges there for evidence of migrant Thrushes.
Firstly, small numbers of Redwings were watched flying into the hedgerow, often turning to show their Orangey axillaries.  Soon afterwards, many Fieldfares arrived (50+) and alighted in either hedgerow trees or lower down in the hedge.  Recently turned field margins were an attraction to these birds where they would have searched for invertebrates to feed upon.
Fieldfare at Great Cressingham 29th October
Starlings associated with the winter Thrushes whilst also present was a few Yellowhammers and a mobile flock of 50+ Linnets.  A number of Blackbirds also seen in the hedgerows here probably comprised migrant birds.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Passage and arrivals

A day of quite volatile weather with a moderate to fresh North-Easterly bringing frequent and at times heavy showers.  Some impressive cloud formations with distant showers and heavy rain seen.
A low of 4 degrees Celsius and high of 10 degrees Celsius, however, the temperature was clearly much lower in the wind.

With the weather and wind direction being favourable for watching passage Thrushes I decided to visit Houghton for a spell of visible migration.  The majority passage was that of Fieldfare with lesser numbers of Redwings, whilst present was a few already arrived Blackbirds feeding upon Hawthorn berries.

1 Lapwing high west
Fieldfare - largest flock 200+
Redwing - 10's and 20's+
Starling - a number of west bound flocks
1 Brambling over calling

Overnight, and sometimes heavy overnight rain, cleared to give a day of frequent showers with some impressive cloud formations, and it was against the backdrop of this cloud that I witnessed visible migration by many mostly double figure counts of Fieldfare, although the largest flock was of 200+ birds arriving from the north and alighting in tall trees, thus offering great but distant views of these beauties along with a few Redwing as well.
One of the many Fieldfare which arrived early morning 28/10/18
Having relocated to mixed woodland and hedgerow habitat, it appeared that the largest flock of Fieldfares seen earlier were present and feeding upon Hawthorn berries, their harsh "shack shack" calls were heard.  At times brighter conditions offered great views of these stunning Thrushes.
Nearby I located several Blackbirds, with one watched feeding voraciously upon Hawthorn berries, these were probably overnight/early morning arrivals.
One of a number of Blackbirds seen.  This probable migrant was feeding voraciously upon Hawthorn berries.
Also of interest was a number of Starling flocks flying west, an overhead Brambling seen and heard, and a single Lapwing (high) being driven along on the NE wind.