Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 21 September 2018

Little Evidence of passage but conditions may be more favourable soon.

A very stormy night with heavy rain and very strong westerlies.  At dawn it was dry, however, the westerly airflow continued to be strong.  11 degrees Celsius at dawn.
I went out prior to sunrise and it was evident that the wind had taken its toll with lots of tree debris on the roads, beyond my patch, weather reports indicated many large trees were felled during the night in the stormy conditions.
Now is the time that thoughts turn to Thrush passage, however, the recent mild weather coupled with the SW airflow would prevent this, with maybe just the odd pioneer bird making landfall.
My early morning walk through vast open country at Bodney was probably not the best place to be searching for migrants, although I did see a single Meadow Pipit rise up calling from a field, perhaps a recently arrived bird from the north.
Crows featured as the most abundant species, the harsh call of one bird raising suspicions of a nearby Goshawk, not this time however.  With raptors in mind I checked an area of the Wissey valley I consider a possible roost for raptors, again, nothing seen.
A few Lesser Black-backed Gulls were seen in a large field and an adult was seen heading SW.
We have now been stuck with SW and W winds for some time now, however, by Monday the winds turn NW, then, by Friday 28th the wind direction at the current time is forecast as N, I will be with my good friend Jez Wood for a birding trip to Burnham Overy Dunes, by which time hopefully we will witness both Thrush and Finch passage.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Bodney, Norfolk

A late afternoon walk along exposed farmland this afternoon produced evidence of visual migration with 3+ Swallows seen flying low and purposefully south.  Large numbers of expected Corvid species seen on farmland was typical for this area whilst on the ground good  numbers of Pied Wagtails wandering over recently turned land.  A small flock of c.20 Linnets wandered along field margins.  Just a single Buzzard seen.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

North Pickenham, Norfolk 0630-0900

High cloud at dawn, mild at 12 degrees Celsius, with a moderate to fresh Southerly wind.  The wind increased to fresh to strong Southerly by the afternoon.  High of 24 degrees Celsius. 

2 Buzzards
1 Tawny Owl
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
2+ Stock Dove
c.30 Swallows (including 7+ south)
2 Meadow Pipit
Pied Wagtail
Long-tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
7+ Chiffchaff
7+ Bullfinch

This morning my aim was to visit high ground near North Pickenham in order to witness signs of visible migration.  The moderate to fresh southerly wind kept most birds low.  There was no raptor passage seen during my visit although conditions later in the day may have seen been conducive to passage.
Chiffchaff - the most abundant migrant Warbler seen today
The wind direction appeared to affect arrivals of migrants on the patch with only Chiffchaffs representing Warbler species, however, other species were undoubtedly present within cover.  Evidence of visible migration was seen with 7+ Swallows south at 0830.  A further 20+ Hirundines were distantly seen in the valley below.  Just a couple of Meadow Pipits passed overhead.
Sheltered woodland edge held a mixed roving flock of Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tit, Chiffchaff, and Goldcrest.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Visible migration and recent arrivals.

I decided this morning to visit high ground near North Pickenham to check hedgerow habitats for migrant species and to watch for any overhead passage.  Upon my arrival at about 0635, full cloud and mild conditions greeted me, the wind was a moderate SW.
Clear mornings at my site at this time of year would see the blinding sun preventing evidence of movement in the hedgerows, however, this morning was a little better with the cloud cover.  Despite this, not too much seen initially but as the morning wore on and light improved, several Warbler species were seen although not in the numbers of my previous visit, perhaps the wind direction was to blame.
I arrived at a natural spring which is surrounded by heavy Elder, Bramble, Sallow growth, and other shrubs and small trees, a magnet for migrants.
The first migrant heard was a calling Chiffchaff, this was followed by a singing male Blackcap, he was eventually found in a small Sallow.  A single Whitethroat was seen.  Given the amount of habitat here I was sure that more birds were present, especially in the inaccessible leeward side of the spring.
I then walked back on myself to find a gap in the hedge so that I could 'scope the southern edge of the a spring, I was hoping for Lesser Whitethroat, and within seconds a stunning looking bird popped up in an Elder bush covered in Bramble.  I watched this bird for a while from a distance as it picked at blackberries.  I never tire of this beautiful species.  This bird had the typical grey head (darker lores and slightly darker lower ear covert surrounds), the grey contrasted beautifully with the silky white throat.  The upperparts were concolourous brown (lacking any rusty tones of Whitethroat) and the underparts white.
Whilst overviewing the spring I heard a "krrrr" call very close to me in the hedge, then, a Reed Warbler popped up on an Elder branch, it seemed to remain in this area for the rest of my visit.
Shortly after seeing the Reed Warbler, my first passage Meadow Pipit of the autumn passed directly overhead and off in a southerly heading.
In addition to these wonderful migrants, a flock of c.25 Goldfinches roamed hedges and Yellowhammer was also seen.
A single Kestrel was seen on an Oak limb where it preened and a Buzzard called.

Friday, 7 September 2018

North Pickenham, Norfolk

Conditions:  A lovely early autumn morning, bright with a temperature of 6 degrees Celsius at dawn.  The wind was a light to moderate NW, increasing to moderate to fresh, occasionally strong NW by the afternoon.

Once again my focus this morning was for a search for migrant bird arrivals and to see, or hear, of evidence of visible migration.
I visited one of my regular sites on my patch with habitats comprising of well-stocked hedgerow corridor and a natural spring surrounded by lots of Elder and Hawthorn.
The only evidence of migration this morning was of a presumed passage Curlew heard calling (not seen) but on the move.
As expected for this date in September I was rewarded with some good numbers of Warbler species, most notably Blackcaps (12+), Whitethroats (8+), Lesser Whitethroat (1), and Chiffchaffs.  Non-migrants included Bullfinch (juvenile), Yellowhammer, Linnets, and Goldfinch
One particular Hawthorn was briefly rich in birds with 5 Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Robin, and Chaffinch.
Blackcaps (adult male and female) 7th Sept.
The true number of migrants present was surely much greater than the numbers provided here, for example, I was only able to see a small fraction of the habitat around the spring, therefore numbers of migrants were undoubtedly greater than shown here, especially given the wealth of fruiting Elder.
The Blackcaps seen today comprised all age groups from adult male (1) and female birds, and juveniles.  
As is always the case, the single Lesser Whitethroat seen this morning was a stunner with the dark grey head and ear-coverts strongly contrasting with the silky white throat.  This bird also had a hint of a white supercillium.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Watton Brook Valley, Norfolk

A beautiful early autumn morning began with 9 degrees Celsius, early mist, patchy fog, and stillness with virtually no wind.  The day was very warm with cloudless skies and variable wind.
There was little evidence of migrants in the valley during my visit save for a few Swallows overhead and a calling Chiffchaff in a Sallow.  The high numbers of Swallows seen a couple of weeks ago have now moved on.  With no migrants evident in the valley I decided to look skyward for high migrants, once again nothing seen on this occasion.
I was expecting to see Goshawk this morning as I find September the most productive month for seeing this magnificent raptor, especially wandering juvenile birds.
Four Buzzards appeared over nearby woodland, soaring and chasing behaviour seen, and frequently calling too.
At 1000hrs whilst looking west along the valley, a juvenile Goshawk appeared, soaring, and being mobbed by a single brave Rook which in comparison was smaller than the raptor.  Leisurely soaring continued over open farmland for some five minutes or so before it plummeted into woodland, presumably after a Pigeon or Crow species.  The Goshawk re-appeared at 1030hrs, soaring low over woodland before going out of view.
Goshawk in the Watton Brook Valley, Norfolk 2nd September
A single Kingfisher flew upstream along the valley and the most abundant species on the valley sides was Goldfinch with birds feeding upon teasel and thistle-like plants.