Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

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.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Notes from my Garden

A beautiful clear night produced a moderate frost which remained for much of the day.  Bright, sunny morning, but with cloud increasing during the afternoon.  Temperature extremes -1 degrees to +3 Celsius.
Today was the first day I have seen my garden in daylight for a number of days due to long hours at work.  Some regular visitors remained faithful to my garden taking food from feeders and apples provided on the lawn.
House Sparrow in the garden 9th December.
House Sparrows are all to often overlooked due to their abundance and familiarity.  Close inspection shows these birds as having beautiful plumages with quite intricate feathers, especially on the mantle area.  The species also has great comical value too.
Starlings were present throughout the day, their squabbles always raises a smile.
Good numbers of Collared Doves visited along with their larger cousins, Wood Pigeons.
Blackbirds as always, were regular visitors, and were attracted to the soil under my hedge as well as apples which I have provided.
A male Green Woodpecker visited the garden irregularly throughout the day, his last visit being after sunset when he had his last feed of the day upon apples on the lawn.
3+ Coal Tits came to the garden, usually as singletons and pairs, however, what is the true numbers of these dainty Tits visiting.  Blue Tits were also noted.
Brief visitors included Goldfinch and Pied Wagtail, but a single Robin remained all day, this bird was aggressive to all-comers, especially Sparrows and Tits which were vigorously chased away from his claimed patch.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Colourful garden visitor.

I was working today between 0600 and 1300, by the time I got home there was not too much of daylight hours left, I had to have food before taking Toby for his walk.
Whilst preparing a light lunch, I looked outside to see a male Pied Wagtail, Blackbirds, and Starlings in the garden, also a beautiful male Green Woodpecker fed on apples I had put out for the birds.


Friday, 1 December 2017

Thompson Water, Norfolk, 27th November.

The day dawned wet with spells of rain.  Light was poor due to thick cloud cover, however, it remained quite mild.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust has bought land immediately adjacent to the eastern side of Thompson Water, what an excellent acquisition to add to this fantastic Breckland site.  In time the land will provide habitat for notable Breckland species.

A good species list was gathered as follows:

Mute Swan
32+ Greylag Geese
20+ Shoveler
Mallard
12+ Wigeon
Coot
1 Grey Heron
4 Water Rails
3 Kingfisher
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Nuthatch
Treecreeper
Blackbird
Redwing
Marsh Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
2 Cetti's Warblers (singing birds)
Goldcrest
Dunnock
Wren

All too often in recent winters I have visited Thompson Water to check on Duck numbers, sometimes, the water is devoid of birds whilst other times sees good numbers.  No Teal were seen on this visit, however, harsh weather in Europe could see three-figure numbers of this small Duck.
Today, I had some good views of Shoveler, the males bottle green heads, spatulate bills, and large chestnut flank patch renders this species identifiable at range.
Shoveler on Thompson Water 27th November
For me, one of our most attractive Dusk species is the Wigeon, (of which 12+ seen today) the male has a beautiful chestnut head with a golden stripe on its fore-crown.  The call of Wigeon is beautiful, a whistling "weeeeooo", this was heard often today.
The fantastic, thick, swampy, Sallow/Reed fringes along the west side of the water held at least 4 Water Rails, a couple of birds were very close, their squealing calls with elements of grunting, was clearly heard.   Partial views of two Water Rails were had when they had a bit of a bust up.
Two male Cetti's Warblers gave their explosive songs from dense water-side habitat.



Saturday, 25 November 2017

Grimes Graves and Little Cressingham, Norfolk

A moderate frost greeted me when I stepped out of my home this morning.  Starlit skies promised a bright, white, morning.  0 degrees Celsius at dawn.
This morning I started with a visit to Grimes Graves.  The habitat here is one of open heathland, mixed forest, and of course, the ancient flint mining shafts which attracts so many visitors each year.
I arrived at Grimes Graves at about 0715, some 20 minutes prior to sunrise.  The ground beneath my feet was frozen, and white with frost.
I initially walked some of the forest rides within this undulating landscape before arriving at the heathland/grassland/scrub, a habitat which attracts Great Grey Shrike annually.
Grimes Graves at dawn on 25th November.
Some of the best views of birds were in fact quite close to me in the dense, low Hawthorn, bracken, and grass habitat.  
A mixed flock of small birds comprising mostly Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Great Tit, and many Goldcrests, were roving fore their first food of the day.  One particular Goldcrest was seen on the outer branches of a small frost-covered Hawthorn, its dark greens and the yellow crown stripe really stood out against the white background.
Also present was a small flock of about 12 Redwings, whilst a couple of Fieldfare passed over.
One Green Woodpecker flew past and was later heard calling, and distantly on the heath a Mistle Thrush was singing

Little Cressingham (Great Cressingham Road)
Having left Grimes Graves, I decided to stop off close to 'The Arms' to check a large weedy strip for Finches and Buntings.
Light was still excellent and a short overview of this area produced mostly Chaffinches, Bullfinch and Yellowhammers, also, at least 4 Redpolls were seen.  Farmland adjacent to the weedy strip produced a few Fieldfares searching the ground for food.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Hockham, Norfolk. Creation of habitat for scarce breeding birds by harvesting woodland.


This morning dawned with a moderate frost and clear blue skies with hardly any wind.  The temperature at dawn was 0 degrees Celsius.
In recent weeks the above area was cleared of its Pine woodland.  Compartments of Pines in  Thetford Forest are harvested on a rotational basis, therefore, varying ages of Pine compartments are found throughout the Breckland area.  In time, this area will be replanted with sapling Pines.
This cleared area will now benefit various wildlife species.  Bird species which will benefit from this newly created habitat are Tree Pipit, Woodlark, and eventually, Nightjar.  Hopefully by next February, this area will support singing Woodlark, and I expect to see Tree Pipit here by mid to late April.  Tree Pipits are ground nesters, the trees seen in this picture will serve as song-posts for this beautiful migrant.
This morning, whilst overviewing the above area, a few Redwings visited the tree tops.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Controlling Dogs.....rather controlling twitchers

I notice a recent post by a Norfolk twitcher quite rightly stating that Dogs need controlling wherever they are taken out, and indeed the vast majority of Dog owners (I own one myself) are responsible people.
A recent 'youtube' post regarding a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler at Burnham Overy Dunes attracted wholesale criticism of Twitcher idiots who engaged in what can only be described as criminal behaviour after damaging fencing used to contain cattle.  Fifty or more twitchers trespassed on private land, and one idiot even wanted to have an 'organised flush'.  This behaviour clearly shows these people have no concern for the welfare of the bird whatsoever.  The poor bird will have been flushed to death if it had not been stopped by Holkham wardens.  
The Holkham wardens who confronted these twitchers acted in a totally professional manner and the arguments spouted off by the twitchers were as weak as gnats pee. 
The sad thing is that this has not been, and will not be, the last occasion we see such pathetic behaviour by twitchers who I my opinion are not needed in the birding world.
I am not a twitcher, I have never, and will never share, rare bird finds on my patch, these idiots are not welcome.  I only share finds with trusted friends....and they are welcome to bring their dogs along too.