Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Peddars Way north of Little Cressingham (Early morning walk)

OK, so Norfolk does not have too many hills, neither, as some will tell you, is it flat. Parts of Norfolk, including my patch on Breckland, is quite rolling and undulating, with some decent ‘hills’ to get the heart pumping.  This mornings birding took me along a 2 mile stretch of the Peddars Way footpath north of the village of Little Cressingham for about 2 miles or so.

Peddars Way north of Little Cressingham
North Bridge Little Cressingham
The habitat along this route is mostly arable with good roadside hedgerows and pockets of deciduous, coniferous, and mixed woodland, and it was interesting to note that this morning I found a reasonable stock of Sloes at North Bridge, Little Cressingham.  The Sloe crop has been conspicuous by its absence this year as blossoms were devastated by spring rains and wind.  North Bridge is a wonderful little area with Watton Brook meandering through grazing and arable habitat, the roadside here comprises various fruiting bushes, Birch, Alder, and mixed woodland.   

Birding along the Peddars Way over the years has always delivered, however, most notably, in early July 1995, a Balearic Woodchat Shrike stayed for a few days in the hedgerows of the road shown in the picture 'Peddars Way north of Little Cressingham'

Todays birding was most productive in the trees and bushes in the area of North Bridge.
Winter Thrushes included a number of Redwings, Fieldfares, and probable continental Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were seen in the dense bushy habitat where they fed upon Sloe berries and other fruits.
Also in this area was 2 Grey Herons, a pair of Egyptian Geese, 1 hunting Kestrel, a distant Common Buzzard watching from a dead tree branch, and a single Kingfisher flying along the Brook.

Grey Heron on grazing land at North Bridge

A wandering flock of Long-tailed Tits also included a couple of Goldcrests.  A flock of 50+ Goldfinches were seen in the tops of Alders at the bridge.
Common species also present in the area included Bullfinch, Robin, and Wren.

Away from the vicinity of North Bridge, a number of small flocks of Fieldfare (max 50+) passed by from east to west, and several Redwings and continental Song Thrushes flew up from hedgerows along the route.

A distant flock of 30+ Lapwings were wheeling about low over farmland west of the Peddars Way.

The wide expanses of farmland either side of the Peddars Way in the Little and Great Cressingham areas can appear wild and bleak.  These open areas provide good wintering habitat for visiting raptor species.  In recent years I have seen Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard, Goshawk, Peregrine, and Merlin.
Wintering Wader species are present in good numbers in this area, this includes Golden Plovers in their hundreds, and equally high numbers of Lapwings.     Paradise I say.. 



Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sunrise at Hockham Fen 28th October 2012

Hockham Fen abuts the little known Cranberry Rough Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve within Thetford forest close to the parish of Great Hockham.  Hockham Fen has in recent years been managed by the NWT as ancient grassland, part of this management sees Highland Cattle grazing the site - magnificent beasts.

This mornings visit to Hockham Fen saw my mind wander (as it often does) with potential future thoughts of Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl using this site for wintering at.

Back to reality, today's visit was productive in mammalian form with a magnificent Red Deer stag on the Fen. Although I was up-wind and relatively concealed, this animal eventually detected my presence and seemed somewhat edgy by looking my way.  It was sunrise, however, the light was poor, despite this I was able to take some poor quality shots of this animal.  Occasionally, the Red Deer gave a roar, this was incredibly loud and echoed around the adjoining forest.  A short while later a few Red Deer hinds entered the Fen from the nearby forest.

Some good sized flocks of Fieldfare passed above the Fen and nearby forest, some silent, others giving their familiar "shack shack" calls.
Also noted above the fen and forest was a number of Redpoll, clearly, these will be continental birds, however, a few Siskins may have been locally bred, although any great numbers will be of continental origin.

Common species seen and heard in the area included Nuthatch, several Goldcrests and Coal Tits.

Being something of a technophobe and therefore absent from blogging for some 3 years, I must thank my dear cousin Bob Wright (Birding Axarquia) for assisting me with being re-acquainted with blogging and setting this site up for me - Thank you Bob.

Winter Thrushes on the Move

Saturday 27 October 2012

After lying dormant for over three years readers will see that I have now been awoken.  It is now time to start recording, once again, my birding experiences in this most beautiful and birding attractive part of the country.  Not only the wildness and countryside that makes up the area known as "Breckland" but the nearby Norfolk coast which promises and delivers so much every year.  I now want to share my enjoyment of this birding paradise with others.

So, a short introduction to set the scene for autumn.  I was out with Toby earlier today and, joy of joys, above me passing at great height were the arriving flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares.  Early days but I am hoping also for a first Ring Ouzel as loads have been seen on the coast.

Newly-arrived Fieldfare  Turdus pilaris

And what of the wintering Hen Harriers with that exquisite male, even if he is generally outnumbered 3 to 1 by the less flamboyant female?

Weeting Heath and Lakenheath Fen.

Monday, 21 June 2010


An early departure at 0500 with cousin Bob from Spain for a morning's birding at Lakenheath Fen.
First of all, we decided to stop of at Weeting Heath for typical Breckland species. A careful scan of the heath revealed a pair of Stone Curlews quite distantly on the heath. Nearby, a Little Owl was sitting on the ground. Other species seen on the heath included a number of Lapwings, including a single chick, Mistle Thrush, a pair of Stock Doves, and a single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.
In the roadside pine belt, Nuthatch, Blue, and Great Tits (both species with juveniles), Chiffchaff, and Blackcap were all noted.


Our arrival at this site at about 0630 coincided with increasing warmth, a weather feature which has been sadly lacking in recent days.

The out-walk along the raised bank produced good numbers of singing Sedge Warblers, Reed warblers, and a single 'reeling' Grasshopper Warbler. One Cetti' Warbler was in song. A very welcome sight was the presence of 3 juvenile Reed Warblers being fed by adult birds, at least this pair successfully raised a family without attracting the attention of ever-present Cuckoo's, of which, at least 4 birds were present. These Cuckoo's were certainly attracting attention to themselves with incessant calling, which included the frequent sound of the female birds' bubbling call.

As Bob and myself approached the first Poplar plantation, the distinct fluty song of a male Golden Oriole was heard. I was not expecting to see this stunning species, how wrong I was. A beautiful male Golden Oriole provided stunning views as it broke with tradition and came out onto an exposed branch. At least a further 2 male Golden Oriole's were heard on this visit - wonderful.
Also noted was a pair of Common Buzzards, a pair of kestrels, and a single Sparrowhawk.
Two parties of Bearded Tits were seen, their numbers probably totaling 20+ birds.

A visit to the Joist Fen hide was productive with Bittern giving a strange grunting call. Occasionally, a single Bittern was seen over-flying the reed-bed. Marsh Harriers were seen over the reeds and single Kingfisher provided close views.  Unfortunately, there was no sign of the Common Cranes which apparently occur at this locality.

First Birding Week-end with cousin Bob

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The arrival of cousin Bob from Stamford, Lincs (but who spends most of his time at his Spanish home in the mountains above Velez Malage in Andulcia) resulted in our first, short, birding expedition to East Wretham. After a dull start the weather soon perked up and we eventually recorded over 20 species before returning home for a great trout supper.

Perhaps the best bird of the afternoon was a singing male Tree Pipit which gave both of us some great photo opportunities. Even better, a few minutes later, when we saw a second specimen. However, the visit started with an unsuccessful visit to the Wellington Plantation in the hope of seeing the breeding Redstarts. Plenty of corvids about, mainly Crows and Jackdaws plus a smattering of Rooks, Wood Pigeons, the odd Collared Dove but none of these gorgeous summer visitors. So, "Plan B" and off to the hide overlooking the shallow waters of Langmere.

Whilst there were a few Swallows feeding over the water, most of the bird life was either on or resting at the water's edge. A family party of Little Grebe, good numbers of Coots and Moorhens plus plenty of Mallards immediately in view and then the sighting of a pair of Oystercatchers, at least 5 Lapwing including a brooding female and 3 newly-fledged chicks. The occasional Crow came seeking a feeding opportunity and on the far bank the Egytian Geese had 7 goslings whilst, resting within a few metres were a
handful of Shelduck. At least 4 Gadwall moved up and down the water. Not surprisingly, a pair of Mute Swans had also taken up residence on the far side of the mere. Before moving off to explore the heath, a fleet of Canada Geese appeared from under the bank.

A walk along the track p
roduced little in the way of small birds other than a Robin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and a pair of Goldfinch although both Willow Warbler and Whitethroat were heard. However, as above, the delight was to see 2 singing Tree Pipits. Returning on the same path we then headed off to Ringmere, passing Tim Burton from the nearby BTO on the way, and were greeted by more Canada Geese and Little Grebe plus a small party of Greylag Geese. Another pair of Oystercatchers and yet more Shelduck and then the arrival of 7 Gadwall to add to the 3 Tufted Duck on the water.

Leaving the water for the return walk to the car we then had a very clear view of a Muntjac Deer (
Muntiacus reevesi) followed by a Magpie that refused to depart until he had had his photograph taken. Green Woodpecker was heard and then a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over the warden's house where there were also at least 7 House Martins.

For a late afternoon visit, a very pleasing range of birds, totalling at least 30, which promises well for our (very) early morning departure to visit the RSPB's Lakentheath reserve.

Birds for the day:
Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Swallow, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Pipit, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Starling, Magpie, Jackdaw, Crow and Rook.