Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 15 November 2019

Ravens at Little Cressingham

0720: I was on an early morning dog walk between Little and Great Cressingham when I heard the call of an approaching Raven, I eventually saw the bird approaching from the north-west and then realised there was two birds.  These impressive Crows passed either side of me and alighted in trees and offered good views, they dropped down into the field before flying off calling.  A memorable sighting of this huge Corvid species.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

'Phantom of the forest' in the mist

This morning was a typical November start to the day, fairly calm, a slight ground frost, and thick fog persisting until mid-morning.  The dawn temperature was +1 degree Celsius. By late morning brighter conditions with strong sunlight lasted into the afternoon.
I arrived in the forest near Hockham at about 0720 and remained until about 1030.  Despite poor visibility, Redwings, a few Fieldfare, and lots of Blackbirds, plundered Hawthorn bushes for their fruits.  Higher in trees both Goldfinches and Siskins were present in good numbers.
My frequent visits to this locality over the years has seen me identify specific trees where Goshawks like to perch and survey their surrounding, so, despite the poor light and visibility I positioned myself where I had good views of the said trees.  Time passed by and the fog was reluctant to move, short and promising glimpses of the sun through the fog was often frustratingly all too brief with thick fog covering the sun again.
Goshawk chasing Carrion Crow in fog near Hockham 9th November
I then noticed a tussle between a couple of birds ahead of me, one was a Goshawk literally on the tail of a Carrion Crow, this tussle developed into a chase, however, the Crow got away and the Goshawk alighted in one of its favourite trees just a hundred yards  or so ahead of me, its size indicated this was a male bird.  The Goshawk was aware of my presence and flew leisurely off into the fog.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Deopham, Norfolk, 3rd November

Once again, for my afternoon work break, I headed off to Deopham to check on the species present in the wide expanses of arable.  The habitat mostly watched was maize stubble and a wide weedy strip comprising mostly of fathen.
Golden Plover once again featured with high numbers on the ground with further decent sized flocks arriving.  They remained uncounted on this visit. One Lapwing was on the land.
An impressive 400+ Linnets wandered around the farmland with an emphasis on the birds visiting a weedy strip where they hung from the tall fathen to extract seeds.
Some of the 400+ Linnets wandering farmland at Deopham 3rd November
Also present was at least 100+ Skylarks, however, their movements made it difficult to assess their true numbers which were probably much greater.
Meadow Pipit at Deopham 3rd November
Meadow Pipits are now present in good numbers, their familiar "sip sip sip" calls often heard around me.
Small flocks of Starlings (30+) and Redwings (16) were seen.  Only two raptors seen, a single soaring Buzzard and a hunting Kestrel.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Deopham, Norfolk, 31st October

For my work break today I decided to check on the Golden Plovers on farmland at Deopham.  The following are photographs of that visit when an estimated 2500 birds were seen.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Deopham, Norfolk, 29th October

For my afternoon work break I decided to check the vast expanse of arable habitat on the former airfield location.  It was a beautiful afternoon with superb light and very good visibility.  The wind was a moderate, occasionally fresh easterly.
This location has always been reliable for Golden Plover, and indeed, upon my arrival, a few alighted on a field of maize stubble.  Once set up, it was clear that good number of Golden Plover (350+) were present.  Typically, some birds made short sprints over the land, but on occasions, when disturbed, they would all fly up and circle the area until alighting in the same area.  On one occasion this flock made fast passes low over the land twisting and turning, revealing their bright white underparts in unison before turning a second later to show dark underparts, I am sure the quick reveal of the white underparts and then the dark upperparts is a behaviour used to confuse potential predators.
Golden Plover at Deopham 29th October
Golden Plovers breed in upland Britain and in winter, they move to lowland farmland, sometimes in great numbers, I have seen winter flocks in Norfolk/Suffolk numbering 4000+ birds.
Stubble and weedy strips on arable land is generally a good place to search for mobile flocks of Finches, Buntings, and Larks, and in addition to the Golden Plovers today were 250+ Linnets, 70+ Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, and a Buzzard and one Kestrel.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Deopham, Norfolk

I had an hour long break from work this morning and decided on watching the vast expanse of arable farmland at the site of the former WW2 airfield at Deopham.  There has been a lot of devastating changes to this locality in the past year.  This land was purchased by a local businessman and one of the first actions seen was the digging up of the former runway, in my opinion this is an insult to the servicemen who served here during the war.  Further devastation saw the grubbing up of two very valuable hedgerows and scrub, habitats which were the summer home of migrant Warblers, and the autumn/winter staging post for migrant Thrush species.  Clearly, the scum who caused this devastation has no conscience and is driven by the need for greed.  His judgement day will come.
This location felt bleak and isolated, its very rural feel suiting me down to the ground.  From my 'point' watch the fields around me comprised Sugar Beet and large areas of maize stubble, suitable for Finches and Pipits.
Todays birds were:

3 Cormorant - south
15 Golden Plover - east
7 Stock Dove
Meadow Pipit
Pied Wagtails
300+ Linnets

Now is the time to see flocking Finches and Buntings on arable land, and the maize stubble here provides great feeding opportunities for these Finches.  300+ Linnets was a good count, and is an expected species in this habitat.  I have also recently seen three-figure numbers of Linnets in Sugar Beet crop, so check these habitat for these delightful Finches.
The Linnet is a common breeding bird in Norfolk, it is also a winter visitor from Europe.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Raven - a new personal patch record, 12th October

1 Hobby at Houghton-on-the-Hill
Small Thrush arrivals
Raven at Little Cressingham
250+ Linnets at Little Cressingham

My first stop of the day was at Houghton-on-the-Hill where I intended to search for late summer migrants.  The moderate SW wind was not conducive to good visual migration although I did find what was probably evidence of recent arrivals.
Checking hedgerows and trees my thoughts were with the Yellow-browed Warbler I found here two years ago, but the only Warbler species found was a single Chiffchaff.
At about 0813, a single Hobby passed over in a leisurely flight and continued off in a south-west heading, this late record was certainly of a passage bird.
I decided to check an old hedgerow for migrant Thrushes, hoping maybe for a Ring Ouzel, however, I did locate several Blackbirds, a few Redwings, and Song Thrush in Hawthorn, these were undoubtedly recently arrived hungry migrants.
A single Sparrowhawk was seen flying close to the ground and then hedge-hopping in an attempt to surprise potential prey.

Little Cressingham (late afternoon) 1630-1715
Late afternoon remained as grey as indeed the rest of the day had been, despite low light, visibility was quite good.
Checking suitable woodland habitat I found a few Redwings, Song Thrushes, and Blackbirds, these birds had a great fondness for a rich supply of dogberries, a soft palatable fruit which was also attractive to Blue, Great, and Coal Tits.
Overhead, a few Skylarks (8+) passed over, but over a large field of Sugar Beet, a very respectable flock of 250+ Linnets wandered over the crop, often settling within it.
Crow species always feature prominently in this area with some very sizable flocks of Rooks and Jackdaws always reliable.  This afternoon a flock of 2,000+ Rooks and Jackdaws were typically seen in a long, strung out flock.
Rooks and Carrion Crows were calling, and Jackdaws cackled as they always do, however, I did not expect to hear the distinctive call of a Raven.  This bird remained out of sight but the repeated "klonk klonk" or "klock klock" call was clearly that of this huge Corvid species.
This is my first 'patch' record of Raven, although I have read that this species has been recorded close by at Great Cressingham and at Thetford.