Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Hockham, Norfolk 21st May

A morning walk around a clearing in the forest this morning produced a pair of Spotted Flycatchers in mature Oak woodland close to the clearing.  A rare bird now sadly.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Hockham, Norfolk

At last, a pleasant day of weather to look forward to.  The day dawned misty at 2 degrees Celsius, later in the day a high of 17 degrees Celsius was reached.
The site visited this morning is very much undisturbed and probably as natural habitat that you can get.
The morning dawned with patchy mist, and a lasting memory of this visit was seeing Red Deer silhouetted against a pale golden mist.  With this tranquil scene was the irrepressible sound of bird song, most notable was that of Blackcap, of which I eventually counted at least 20 singing males in a variety of habitats from mature woodland to Gorse and Birch scrub.  But for me this morning, it was Garden Warbler which held my attention most, I located at least 4 pairs, and on one occasion whilst standing within scrub habitat, I had 3 Garden Warblers singing around me, it was magical.  The Garden Warblers were always present in mostly low cover, although when singing, they had an affinity for tall Silver Birch.
Red Deer in dawn mist at Hockham, 12th May
Located within Pingo's with reeds and Hawthorn and Sallow habitat was 3 Reed Warblers in song, whilst other typical migrants seen included 7+ Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Whitethroats, and 1 Cuckoo singing.
Grey Heron at Hockham 12th May
Resident species included Grey Heron (1), Little Grebe (2), Treecreeper (2 singing), Goldcrest
A pair of Siskins were seen in Scots Pines, an indication of probable local breeding.  Also, a pair of Bullfinches, 10+ Song Thrushes, two Reed Bunting territories, and Yellowhammer, several Linnets in Gorse habitat, Coal Tits carrying food for young (2).

Tuesday, 30 April 2019


The Starling is such an underrated species, however, I love their beauty, their comical behaviour, and of course for their spectacular murmurations.  This afternoon (30th April) I was watching this pair in my garden collecting Leatherjackets for young in the nest.

Monday, 29 April 2019


I made a short mid-afternoon visit to the Watton Brook Valley, hopefully with the intention of finding Whinchat, and other migrants, although none were seen I did locate both Blackcap and Whitethroat at a traditional site in the valley.
The Whitethroat, a male, occasionally sang and gave its alarm call which was probably directed at me.  In the same Briar patch, a male Blackcap briefly visited and gave its repeated "tek" agitation call.   The following are pictures of that Blackcap.
Blackcap (male at Little Cressingham 29th April

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Burnham Overy Dunes, North Norfolk Coast, 26th April 2019 (with Jez Wood and Richard Farrow)

Highlights of the day
Heron species featured with 1st summer Purple Heron seen on marsh west of the path leading to the dunes, and1 Great White Egret on marsh. 1 Bittern was 'booming' on and off throughout the day.
Overhead bird movements included 2 Whimbrel east, 1 Greenshank east, 2 Mediterranean Gulls west, 2 Cuckoos west, including 1 calling on marsh.
Migrant arrivals included 40+ Wheatear, 2 Whinchat, and a very handsome male Redstart, 2 Willow Warblers, and Blackcap.  2 Lesser Whitethroats in song.

Weather conditions
A beautiful day starting at 6 degrees Celsius and rising to a pleasant 18 degrees Celsius. The wind was at first a light to moderate SE, increasing later to fresh in strength.  Cloud increased as the day progressed.

This was to be an excellent days birding at this wonderful location with over 70 species accrued, including a rarity, and evidence of passage and arrivals.  I arrived at the car park on the A149 coast road at about 0645 with Jez having already arrived and along the path for an initial early walk.  Richard arrived a short while later, it was great to be in their company once again.
On my arrival I enjoyed my first coffee of the day in the company of a singing Whitethroat.  A pair of Goldfinches seen, also a lovely male Blackcap (a probable passage bird) was seen off by the Whitethroat as it moved through a hedge.
Walking north between the fine hedgerows, the first Lesser Whitethroat of the day was singing east of the path and a Sedge Warbler was singing in Bramble.  A little further along Jez picked up a Heron in flight, it was the 1st summer Purple Heron which has been present for a few days now.
The first Wheatear of the day, a female, was seen on the marsh west of the path, also, Oystercatcher, and a single Snipe huddled up in a creek.
Sedge Warbler in a bramble by a drain 26th April.
By the time we reached the raised bank we decided on walking west to try and relocate the Purple Heron, on route we encountered singing and displaying Sedge Warblers, singing Reed Warbler, and a single Great White Egret overflew east.  Richard decided on walking a little further along the path alone, and found the Purple Heron quite close too near a creek.  Both Jez and myself also saw this rare Heron as it stride across the ground.

Singing Sedge Warbler 26th April
1st summer Purple Heron at Burnham Overy 26th April
Continuing our walk along the path to the dunes, we began to encounter Wheatears on the marsh, also we had a very close Reed Bunting singing in Sea Blight, the female bird was also present.
With the tide being out we were treated to a pair of Black-tailed Godwits feeding in the mud, the male looking particularly handsome in his summer plumage.  It was about this time that a single Grey Plover in summer plumage passed over east.
It was whilst approaching the dunes that overhead movements were seen in the form of 2 Whimbrel and a calling Greenshank east.
Male Reed Bunting singing in Sea Blight 26th April
Once at the dunes we decided on firstly visiting Gun Hill, a promising area for migrants, especially Wheatear on the short turf, however, the dominant species here was to be Linnet.
Passage seen here included 2 Cuckoos together heading west, whilst a further bird was heard on the marsh.
Whilst walking along the dunes, 2 Mediterranean Gulls passed directly overhead in a westerly heading.  The gorgeous black head and blood red bill particularly outstanding against the bright blue sky.
Wheatear occurred on almost any area of short turf and indeed, we were confident that by the end of the day we had seen 40+ Wheatear, a very respectable number.
Linnet - a common bird in the dunes.
Wheatear (male).  At least 40 birds seen today
Wheatear (female) in the dunes
The dunes closest to Holkham Pines holds more in the way of scrub habitats which would very inviting to migrant birds, and indeed it was a lovely patch of Elder, Bramble, Hawthorn etc. which held a number of species.  Richard and Jez went to explore habitat-filled dunes whilst I decided to sit and check this habitat.  Firstly, a stunning male Redstart was seen in the lower, more woody part of some Elder, however, once Richard and Jez returned we could not locate the bird.  Other species noted here was singing Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, and a female Whinchat, whilst nearby a pair of Stonechats were nesting.
The return walk saw Jez leave us for Kelling Heath, whilst Richard and myself had a slow amble back to the boardwalk.  Wheatear continued to be the dominant migrant, although a fine male Whinchat was seen along with a passage Willow Warbler.
A rather pale looking Willow Warbler
A slow walk south along the path produced 3 Little Egrets and a single summer-plumaged Golden Plover, a very beautiful looking bird.  Continuing our return walk along the path we saw a single Red Kite, a single Marsh Harrier hunting over reeds, and a single Hobby overhead.
The Purple Heron was again seen, this time close to a ditch west of the path.  Finally, Richard and I reached our finish point at the car park where once again we were greeted by the singing Whitethroat, the same bird which we first saw upon our arrival some 10 hours earlier.

Day List for Burnham Overy Dunes
Brent Goose, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan (3), Egyptian Goose (pair), Shelduck, Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe (1), Bittern (booming), Grey Heron, Purple Heron (1st summer bird), Great White Egret (1), Little Egret (3), Cormorant, Marsh Harrier (1), Red Kite, Buzzard, Hobby (1), Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Lapwing, Golden Plover (1), Grey Plover (1 in summer plumage), Whimbrel (2 east), Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit (3), Snipe (1), Green Sandpiper (1), Redshank, Greenshank (1 east), Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull (2 west), Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo (3 inc. 1 calling/2passage birds west), Kestrel, Hobby (1), Magpie, Jackdaw, Blue Tit, Skylark, Swallow, Cetti's Warbler (1 singing), Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat (2+), Whitethroat, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush (2), Robin, Redstart (1 male), Whinchat (2), Stonechat (pair), Wheatear (40+), Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting  (72 species)

Monday, 22 April 2019

Ashill, Norfolk

A productive early morning walk near Ashill through mostly arable habitat with some fine hedgerows and enclosures for grazing.  Good numbers of singing Sylvia Warblers and equally good numbers of Finches and Buntings seen in breeding habitat.
26 species recorded along my route with the following highlights:

6 Whitethroat (singing males)
An excellent 5 singing Lesser Whitethroats
In excess of 7 pairs of Yellowhammers in breeding habitat
6+ pairs of Linnets (including a female with nesting material) in breeding habitat
4 Tree Sparrows in breeding habitat

No sign this morning of Turtle Dove at a traditional site, hopefully, I was just too early and there is time for these gorgeous Doves to return.
Yellowhammer near Ashill 22nd April
It was great to see and hear good numbers of Warblers this morning, but it was equally wonderful to record several pairs of Yellowhammers and Linnets along my route, this included a female Linnet carrying grasses for its nest.
Other species seen this morning included a couple of pairs of Bullfinches, a pair of Greenfinches, Chiffchaff, 3 singing Blackcaps, Blackbirds, and Song Thrush, all in suitable breeding habitat.
No visual passage seen and no sign of passage birds (checked for Ring Ouzel) this morning.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Little Cressingham and the Watton Brook Valley (Nettlecreeper back)

A beautiful day today with full sunshine, a high of 23 degrees, and a moderate easterly wind.
A walk this morning taking in habitat where I hoped I would find Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat.

1 Red Kite
1 Sparrowhawk
1 Goshawk (heard only)
2 Kingfisher
2 Mistle Thrush (both singing males)
3 Blackcap
2 Whitethroat (pair)
1 Chiffchaff
2 Goldcrest
Blue Tit
Great Tit (pair)
Dunnock (2 pairs)

It is now 50 years since the catastrophic population crash of Whitethroats.  In 1968, Whitethroats were very abundant birds, they departed for their wintering grounds in Africa, however, the following spring in 1969 found that hardly any had returned, in fact there was an 85% of crash in numbers of Whitethroats. The reason for this decline was a drought in the Sahel, a 200 mile wide region along the southern boundary of the Sahar Desert.  Since this time, Whitethroats have been rebuilding their numbers, however, even 50 years on, they have not reached the numbers seen prior to the population crash.
Whitethroat (male), one of a pair at Little Cressingham 19th April.
Now, Whitethroats hold a special place in my heart and when I see my first birds of the year I have a smile and tell them "welcome back".
This morning I found a pair of Whitethroats at a traditional breeding locality for this species, a lovely Briar patch.  Both birds were watched for an hour or so moving about together, prospecting for suitable nest-sites.
A wonderful hour spent in the company of these beautiful Warblers.