Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

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.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Visible Migration from the Garden 0720-0900

With a busy day ahead of me, I conducted a brief early morning watch of the sky above my garden for evidence of visible migration.
As expected, both Song Thrush and Redwings were seen overhead in a SW or S heading, most were single figure movements although one flock of Redwings numbered 30+ birds.
Also of note was One Swallow over in a SE heading.
Later in the morning whilst in Watton, further Thrushes were overhead in a SW heading.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Threxton (Watton Brook Valley) 1320-1500

1 Woodlark
1 Grey Wagtail
1 Blackcap (female)
4 Sand Martins (Visible Migration) west during heavy shower

An interesting visit to the valley, this time at Threxton, frequent and often heavy showers moved through on a moderate west wind.  One or two brighter spells.
This was an interesting visit for not only evidence of passage Warbler species, but notably for witnessing visible migration along the valley.
Threxton (Watton Brook Valley) 4th October
 The landscape and variety of habitat in this part of the valley is a good recipe for finding many bird species.  The Watton Brook meanders through floodplain and grazing land, the farmland is quite rolling, fine woodlands and roadside trees of considerable age, old Hawthorn, Alder, Elder, and Guelder Rose, along with the nearby Sewage Treatment works, all exist here and present the needs for birds, be they resident, or passage species.
An immaculate female Blackcap was seen in Hawthorn, and later in a dark conifer, which, enhanced the lovely fresh plumage of this bird, she had the typical brown cap, white half-ring around the lower part of the eye, brown wings, and off-white underparts.
When a flock of Long-tailed Tits moved through a hedge, thoughts of something unusual with them came to mind, this time Blue Tits and Goldcrest were in this mixed-species flock.
Whilst watching the mixed flock of Tits, I became aware of an approaching "toolu toolu" call, a short while later a single Woodlark passed low, directly over me.  
Several Pied Wagtails were present, these were joined by a single Grey Wagtail.
At about 1430, another area of dark cloud and heavy showers passed through, it was in the rain when I noticed Hirundine passage, checking them, it was 4 Sand Martins passing through west along the valley.
A check along the valley in one of the rare brighter spells I saw a distant male Kestrel sitting on the topmost dead branch of a tall Oak.  I managed to scope this handsome bird at x60.  He had the light grey head and nape, yellow cere, chestnut mantle with black spotting, dark pointed primaries, grey tail with black terminal band, and I could just see his buff underparts.  His head was bobbing as he focussed upon his surroundings.  The Kestrels presence eventually attracted a few Jackdaws which eventually drove him off.
A very pleasing visit with evidence of migration being witnessed, an aspect of birding which never ceases to amaze.

Visible Migration 3rd October

The night was clear and starlit and as I readied myself for work I was greeted by a thin film of ice on the car windscreen.  The air temperature was +4 degrees Celsius. The day dawned bright but as the morning wore on high cloud moved in giving milky skies, a very autumnal feel.

Hethersett and Great Melton 
At just after 0900 I started my morning work-break and at the same time a flock of 50+ Redwings passed over Hethersett in a westerly heading.  From here I moved onto Great Melton churchyard to survey bird numbers there.

Great Melton (Churchyard) 0920-1035
As soon as I arrived at the church I was greeted by several "tik" calls around me in the trees and woodland, these were continental Song Thrushes which had arrived during the night following their passage from Scandinavia.  A number of Song Thrushes were seen, often entering the old Yew trees, where they would feed upon berries.
Throughout my visit varying numbers of Redwings passed overhead in a westerly heading, again, these were birds would have departed Northern Europe last night.  The largest flock was 60+ birds with numbers totalling 200+ passing over.
Both Song Thrushes and Redwings breed in Scandinavia, however, this range is abandoned in the winter months for warmer areas, many will winter with us, although many will also migrate to as far as the Iberian Peninsula.
In addition to Thrush passage/arrivals, other species noted included 6 Jays, 6 Mistle Thrushes, Goldcrest (3), a pair of Marsh Tits, and I was getting ready to leave, a single House Martin overhead west.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Visible Migration - House Martins

A day of almost full cloud with frequent rain showers.  The occasional brighter spell threatened, only to cloud over again.  The wind was a fresh westerly.
Whilst birding near Hockham I became aware of House Martins appearing in the gloomy sky, with some birds clearly taking insects whilst others passed through south.  Eventually, all House Martins (40+) seen moved on south leaving empty skies (0900).  

Friday, 20 September 2019

Watton Brook Valley 0750-0920

What a fantastic start to the day with fog, mist, virtually no wind and about 6 degrees Celsius at dawn, very autumnal and atmospheric.
I visited one of my sites along the Watton Brook Valley early morning to check for evidence of passage or arrivals by summer migrants, in fact, all I could muster was a single female Blackcap.  There was no signs of Hirundine movement at all.
Despite the lack of summer migrants, this was a productive visit with 26 species recorded, this included Goshawk, one Kingfisher, and a male Stonechat.
Upon my arrival, many Jackdaws and Rooks were seen in nearby trees before descending into stubble to feed.  My first scan along the valley did not reveal anything, however, a further look a little later produced a lovely male Stonechat on fencing along the brook.
Checking a line of bushes and hedges alongside a track produced a single Blackcap (female), along with up to 20 Yellowhammers.
Blue Tit (juvenile) Watton Brook Valley 20th Sept.
Distant and agitated Crows and Pigeons exploded from a woodland, I had my suspicions, and these were well founded, a Goshawk flying along a hedge low, before entering woodland.  I am always amazed by the effect these awesome raptor has upon other species when it makes an appearance.
I then heard a Kingfisher in the valley, a short wait, then an azure blue rump of a Kingfisher was watched flying upstream away from me.  Much of this part of the brook is choked with burr reed. despite this, the Kingfisher found a patch of clear water and hovered above it for a few seconds before alighting in weeds.
Just prior to my departure, two Meadow Pipits flew east along the valley, undoubtedly migrants from the north.

Birds recorded
Goshawk (1), Buzzard (2), Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher (1), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blackcap (1), Goldcrest, Wren, Starling, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Stonechat (1 male), Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit (2), Goldfinch, Yellowhammer (c.20)