Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 4 March 2019

Corn Bunting at Hingham, Norfolk

The Corn Bunting is now a very rare bird in Breckland, therefore, imagine my surprise when birding near Hingham, Norfolk, and found a single Corn Bunting in association with other Finches and Buntings on winter feed 29th January.  I was quite amazed to find a Corn Bunting again, perched on the same bush nearly a month later on 23rd February.
Yellowhammer, Reed Buntings, Chaffinches, and Linnets were all present in good numbers close to the field of winter feed, a vital habitat during especially hard weather.
Corn Bunting at Hingham 23rd February
Noticeably different in appearance than commoner Buntings by its thickset size, heavy bill, all brownish plumage with streaks on the breast meeting to form a dark spot, a classic feature of this species.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019


Today I found my first Woodlark of the year displaying song-flight at Bodney, Norfolk.  I occasionally feel down, but this beautiful bird always lifts ones spirit.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

January 2019 (highlights)

Bird populations have seen significant changes in my lifetime, most birders will know that most changes are for the negative, however, we have seen some successes.  Common birds have suffered the most with huge declines in numbers, declines which have been significant.  David Attenborough recently announced that since 1970, we have lost 60% of all life on earth, these losses are directly attributed to the actions of us, the Human race, I personally feel ashamed that we could let this happen.
This leads me onto writing about BTO's Birdtrack survey, an extremely important survey which monitors bird populations, movements, breeding successes, and habitat needs etc., these scientific surveys, which are open to anyone with good Bird identification skills, are used by researchers, policy makers, and Conservationists.  I would urge all birders to use Birdtrack because in these days of Urbanisation, Industrialisation, Intensive farming practices, and environmental vandalism, maintaining and monitoring birds is more vital now than ever before.

Winter is an exciting time of year for wildfowl in Norfolk, therefore, on the 5th I paid my first visit of the year to Lynford Water where 3 Goosander (2 males) were present along with good counts of wildfowl including 80+ Tufted Duck and a few Gadwall.  A single Little Egret was present, also a couple of Crossbills were seen, a reliable site for this beautiful Finch.

On the 6th at Hockham 200+ Siskins were seen in an Alder belt, typical habitat for this species to be found in.  Crossbills passed over and 3 Marsh Tits were seen together.
I visited the Watton Brook Valley at Great Cressingham on the 11th where 9+ Snipe were seen in flood plain whilst on close by farmland 300+ Lapwings.  100 Siskins were seen in Alders and 3 Mistle Thrushes were singing in the valley.

A very early start at Hockham on the 18th produced 4 Tawny Owls calling in the forest around me.  10 Crossbills gathered in traditionally used trees where they preened before setting off for the day to feed.  A single female Stonechat was seen on prominent posts and weeds.

My second visit of the month to Lynford Water was again productive with 41 species recorded on an early morning walk. Wildfowl of course featured with 60+ Tufted Duck being the most numerous Duck species, also present was 2 male Goosander.  At least 3 calling Water Rails heard and 4 Little Egrets were roosting together in lake-sides trees.  Probably the highlight species today was the presence of a Green Sandpiper.

Female Stonechat near Bodney 20th January

The morning of the 20th started very cold with a temperature at sunrise of (minus) -7 degrees Celsius. At Hollow Heath near Bodney a pair of Stonechat were seen on the roadside verge using posts and tall weeds to watch the ground below for food.  Nearby on open farmland a single Woodlark was both seen and heard.
The morning of the 21st once again saw the pair of Stonechat on heathland/roadside verge near Bodney.

Great White Egret
During a morning work break on 22nd I visited Hingham and found a Great White Egret perched high in trees, later, this elegant, stately looking bird flew to the ground and stealthily began to search a ditch for food.  This elegant bird was as large as a nearby Grey Heron.  The Egret was clearly a very conspicuous bird on the ground in its all-white plumage, long and slender neck, long dagger, orange-yellow bill and all dark legs.
Also seen was a hunting Barn Owl which attracted a number of Reed Buntings, also when hunting the Owl 'put up' a Snipe.

A mid-afternoon visit to a large maize strip at Little Cressingham was particularly notable for its Finches.  A minimum of 100 Greenfinches was present around and in the maize, their numbers being seen when disturbed and flying into trees.  This was a pleasing count of Greenfinches, especially given their recent difficult times.
Also seen was 30+ Bramblings which readily mixed in with the Greenfinches.

On the 26th I returned to Hingham and readily located the Great White Egret, on this occasion a single Little Egret was present for comparison.  £ Grey Herons and a hunting Barn Owl seen.

At Hockham on the 28th, a pair of Stonechats were found along with at least 5 Crossbills.

My last visit to Hingham in January (29th), was particularly productive.  A count of 30 species was my highest species count for the month at this site and included within this count was once again, a Great White Egret, a hunting Barn Owl, and also a hunting Sparrowhawk, which as it shot passed me revealed its slate grey upperparts, and reddish facial and upper breast area.
The 29th however will be noted for its high number of Bunting and Finch species present.  A small field containing tall weeds and unharvested crop attracted Yellowhammer, Linnets, Reed Buntings, and Goldfinch, their numbers were revealed when 'put up' by the hunting Sparrowhawk.  Moments later, I saw a 'different' looking bird sitting on a hedge at about 100 feet from me, a prolonged view of this bird revealed a Corn Bunting, a very scarce bird in Norfolk now.  What a great bird to round January off with, I was very pleased.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Hockham and Little Cressingham, Norfolk

Hockham (early morning)
The night was very wet with a fresh north-westerly.  Rain continued early morning, however, this eventually cleared to give bright conditions, although the wind remained a fresh NW.  A high of 8 degrees Celsius.
The dominant species early morning was Redwing with many birds seen feeding upon Hawthorn berries along with a number of Blackbird too.  Smaller numbers of Fieldfares also seen.
Redwings are stunning birds if studied closely.  A small flock seen in conifers included one well seen bird briefly in the top of a pine, the striking facial pattern was seen well along with the red flanks.
Other early morning movements of birds included a few Crossbills, although only one was seen through trees.

Little Cressingham (mid-afternoon)
A check of a maize strip on the Great Cressingham Road held 50+ Greenfinches, an encouraging count given recent concerns regarding this lovely bird.  Chaffinches were also seen in smaller numbers.

Lynford Water, Norfolk, 6th December

Goldeneye (male) on Lynford Water 6th December
An early morning walk around the water produced 50+ Tufted Duck, a few Gadwall, and this beautiful male Goldeneye. At least 4 Great Crested Grebes also seen.  A Water Rail called in dense reed habitat and along the waters edge was a single Woodcock.
Early morning overhead movements of birds included several Crossbills, Redpoll, and Siskins.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Lynford Water, Norfolk

An early morning visit to these wonderful site hoping to find Crossbills.  An initial walk to the lakes produced small numbers of Wildfowl including a pair of Mandarin.  I finished off with a short visit to the mainly Larch trees in the Arboretum where good numbers of Crossbills fed high in the trees.

21+ Cormorant
Grey Heron
2 Great Crested Grebes
Mute Swan
2 Egyptian Geese (pair)
Tufted Duck
3 Teal
2 Mandarin (pair)
Wood Pigeon (100's on the move at dawn)
Stock Dove (song heard)
Marsh Tit
Long-tailed Tit
40+ Siskins
30+ Crossbills
15+ Brambling
Lynford Water 25th November
Just after dawn (sunrise 0734) whilst walking around the lake, the familiar loud "chip chip" calls of Crossbills was heard, this was followed by 7+ birds directly overhead.  Later, further small numbers seen over Pine trees.
I finished with a visit to the tall Larches just inside the Arboretum where Crossbills were soon found feeding upon cones in the treetops along with Siskins and several Bramblings.  The true number of Crossbills was revealed when they were spooked and flew a circuit before flying back into trees, at this time 30+ birds were seen.
Male Crossbills were easily identified in flight by their distinctive reddish plumage.  Female Crossbills were seen well high in Larches, showing their greenish tones.