Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 23 August 2019

Bodney, Norfolk

An early pre-dawn walk around Merton produced 2 Tawny Owls, a calling female, and a calling male too.
A check of field edges and ditches in the Bodney area early morning produced a few Blackcaps (4+), including a male and female seen in an Elder, 1 Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Blue, Great, and Coal Tits, and along one ditch, 3 Stonechats (male, female, and a juvenile).
Insect species seen this morning included Large Skipper, Emperor Dragonfly, and Banded Demoiselle.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Bodney, Norfolk

A pleasant afternoons walk at Bodney in warm sunshine and a temperature of 21 degrees Celsius. The wind was a moderate south-westerly.
My aim this afternoon was to check weedy ditches for signs of migrant activity, and one particular ditch with lots of weed cover such as Rosebay Willowherb, reeds, and Sallow, is always worth checking.
Ditch at Bodney.  Always worth checking for migrants.
A few Swallows and House Martins were seen overhead, however, checking the above ditch soon provided me with 3 Stonechats, one of which was a well marked juvenile bird.  Their behaviour was typical of this species, they used the posts and fence to watch from, and would often fly into open grassland to pick up food.  They also visited a large Bramble bush, the only one nearby.
Stonechat (juvenile) at Bodney 20th August.  A strongly marked bird.
Stonechat in Bramble at Bodney 20th August.
Stonechats are short distant migrants and without doubt these birds originated from a nearby Breckland heath.  This delightful species is a regularly seen bird in ditches and field edges on my patch at this time of year.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Bodney, Norfolk

Rain in the night cleared early morning to warm sunny spells, however, a few light showers passed through later in the morning.
I like to make several visits to my area in Bodney in the Watton Brook Valley where a variety of habitats converge to give a great location for resting and feeding migrants.
A small area of unused rough grassland provides good breeding grounds for insect species.  A few old Elders are a good source of food for migrant Warblers, whilst the surrounding tall grass is this populated by lots of Ragwort and Nettles.
As soon as I arrived at this location this morning it was evident that Sylvia Warblers were in the largest Elder, whilst the old Hawthorn attracted good numbers of Hirundines, with possibly 100+ Swallows forming the majority species.
The Sylvia Warbler species were dominated by Whitethroats and Blackcap, there was no sign however of Garden Warbler or Lesser Whitethroat on this particular visit.  A couple of Stonechats arrived, I suspect these were the same birds I saw earlier in a weedy ditch to the east.
I saw no evidence on this visit of overhead passage.
My visited location today at Bodney
The above area of rough grassland attracted many species today, for migrant activity I paid a lot of attention to the lovely Elder in the far left middle of this shot.  Migrants, and resident species seen in this single Elder were: Robin, Song Thrush, Stonechat (2), Dunnock, Wren, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Marsh Tit (1), Greenfinch, and Goldfinch (14 species)
Male, female, and juvenile Blackcaps were seen here today along with a low estimate of 10+ Whitethroats, the now ripened and palatable Elderberries providing a good food source for these birds.
An initial gathering of 30+ Swallows eventually built to over 100+ birds, along with several House Martins.  A large Hawthorn saw gathering of juvenile and adult Swallows preening.
Swallows gathered in a large Hawthorn to preen

Also attracted to the Elders was a couple of Stonechats, one a moulting male, the other a strongly marked juvenile.  This is the first time I have witnessed Stonechats feeding upon Elderberries.
Stonechat feeding upon Elderberry at Bodney 18th August
Stonechat - a strongly marked juvenile at Bodney 18th August
 The wonderful thing about this mornings visit was that activity never stopped, Swallows and House Martins gathering, sometimes close above me, a couple of lovely Stonechats, and passage Warblers often revealing themselves from within Elder Bushes to either preen, sun themselves, and to feed upon fruits.
Whitethroat at Bodney 18th August
The above Whitethroat was seen in one of the Elder bushes, this was one of many seen here taking advantage of the offerings prior to their long journey south.

Species seen/heard: Wood Pigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit (1), Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Swallow (100+), House Martin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat (10+), Wren, Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, Stonechat (2), Pied Wagtail, Goldfinch, Greenfinch. 

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk, 17th August

This was to be my first proper day of searching for migrants on the patch this August.  The night was quite wet but the day dawned bright and sunny with a fresh south-westerly.
The habitat checked was a natural spring with heavy Elder, Hawthorn, and Bramble, and a fine, well stocked hedgerow corridor.
This search revealed Blackcaps as the majority species with 20+ birds seen and other heard, these comprised about 8 males, females, and juvenile birds.  A search of Elder bushes especially was to be the best habitat for finding Blackcaps, in which birds were seen to consume the now ripening Elderberry crop.
Also seen was 3+ Whitethroats and a couple of Chiffchaffs.  Juvenile Blue Tits also featured as a common species, especially along hedgerows.
Blackcap (female) in Elder 17th August
Blackcap 17th August
Blackcap (juvenile) in hedgerow 17th August

Monday, 12 August 2019

Hethersett and East Carleton, Norfolk, 11th August 2019

On the 11th August I was working in the Hethersett area.  During my breaks I visited a previously visited location of Hethersett Church, and later in the afternoon, I paid my first visit to the wonderful Ladybelt Country Park at East Carleton.
My visit to the church at Hethersett was dominated by insect life with Emperor and Migrant Hawker Dragonflies being seen, also several species of Butterfly present, these were Painted Lady, Peacock, Red Admiral, Large White, Comma, Gatekeeper, and a Blue species.
Migrant Hawker Dragonfly at Hethersett Church
Ladybelt Country Park (East Carleton)
I paid my first visit to this large park during my afternoon break from work.  What a lovely location with rolling grassland, woodland, and patches of scrub thickets to explore.
Time was limited on this visit, so I decided to stop at a large patch of Bramble within tall ground cover after hearing the contact calls of Blackcap.  I eventually did see a female Blackcap briefly put in an appearance before returning to cover, and at least another was present.  Whilst standing here watching this cover, I was very pleasantly surprised when a Spotted Flycatcher popped up, it was on the edge of cover from where it made a flycatching sally before returning to the same area, here it remained for a minute or two before flying strongly out of sight.
This is certainly a location I will visit again during my work breaks in future.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Early signs of migration (Houghton-on-the-Hill)

The previous night saw increased wind strength from the SW with spells of rain, the morning started cloudy with occasional spells of light rain, but the wind was the notable factor, and indeed, over the coming weekend it is set to be unseasonably stormy.  The morning certainly had a feel of early autumn, although it remained very warm.
Now that we are into the second week of August I decided to visit high ground near North Pickenham which has affectionately become known as my migration watch point.  There surely should be signs of passage birds now.
Hedgerow corridor at Houghton always produces migrant Warblers in autumn.
The hedgerow corridor pictured here has always produced good numbers of migrant Warblers in late summer and autumn.  Often, on an early, bright, late summer/autumn morning, I can stand at the point shown here and watch dozens of Warblers flying between the hedges in their search for food.  The main food sources here are Elderberry and Blackberry, soft fruits which are palatable to Warblers.
This mornings early search for migrants was quite productive, along with more resident species, as follows:

2 Kestrel
1 Hobby (hunting)
8+ House Martins (very high heading south into strong wind)
15+ Whitethroats
1 Lesser Whitethroat
5+ Blackcaps
2 Chiffchaff
Blue Tits - several juveniles
2 Bullfinch (juvs)
6+ Yellowhammers

Lesser Whitethroats are simply outstanding Warblers and at least one was seen this morning in a hedgerow Holly with Whitethroats.   Sometimes it is difficult to ascertain what are genuine migrants and what are post-breeding dispersed birds, however, given the time of year and numbers of birds involved, those seen this morning were certainly passage migrants.
The only evidence of visual passage this morning was of at least 8 House Martins flying very high and in a southerly heading, almost directly into the increasing wind.
Resident or local transient birds included several 'yellow faced' juvenile Blue Tits moving along the hedge searching for food.
Yellowhammer 9th August.  Often shuffled on ground amongst stubble.
A number of Yellowhammers were seen in hedgerows, often these birds flew down to stubble to feed.
At least 2 Bullfinches were seen, they initially betrayed their presence with their soft 'piping' call.  These birds were either seen flying away from me showing their distinctive white rumps, or briefly perched on an overhead wire, and appearing quite dull in appearance compared to their parents, and being young, they lack the black crown of the adult bird.
Bullfinch 9th August (lacks the Black cap of the adult bird.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Clouded Yellow Butterfly at Little Cressingham, Norfolk, 5th August

During the afternoon of 5th August I was checking habitat for signs of migrant birds near 'The Arms' at Little Cressingham.  A mixed habitat comprising mostly Bramble produced brief glimpses of expected species, Blackcap and Whitethroat.
Whilst checking the habitat I saw a bright Yellow Butterfly which showed all characteristics of Clouded Yellow.  This was typically for the species, a strong flying Butterfly which gave me the 'run around' until it settled on the ground.
Clouded Yellow Butterfly at Little Cressingham 5th August 2019

Clouded Yellow Butterflies are migrants from North Africa with the majority turning up along the south coast of England and with a few individuals being seen further north, like this particular insect.
There are occasionally 'Clouded Yellow' years when numbers turn up in the UK, otherwise it is quite scarce in other years.