Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Probable 'fall' of Thrushes at Great Cressingham

Today was a day of fresh northerly winds and frequent, occasionally heavy showers from early morning.  These conditions continued throughout the whole day.
At about 1500hrs, I set off for a 5 mile circular walk starting at Little Cressingham Mill, eventually meeting up with the Peddars Way footpath at Great Cressingham.  The heavy rain in recent days continues to see Watton Brook water levels rising to the point where some surrounding areas of land are under significant amounts of water.
Although birding was generally quiet, the final part of this walk along the Peddars Way saw most activity, especially as dusk approached.  A particular well-hedged 250 meter section of the Peddars Way held good numbers of Thrush species.  It was of note that the majority species seen was 50+ Blackbirds, I am sure that many others were present.  Redwings and Fieldfares were also noted in good numbers.
Given the weather conditions of the day and the relatively small area within which these Thrushes were seen, it was likely that this was a localised 'fall' of birds.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Little Cressingham.

Dawn was still very stormy, although the heavy overnight rain started to move off, however, the very strong wind remained a feature of the weather until the afternoon as wind speed decreased.
The heavy overnight rain left Watton Brook swollen with some of the lower lying valleys in flood.

The strong wind throughout the morning produced little due to the conditions, however, North Bridge with its dense cover, produced a number of Bullfinches and Chaffinches.
A walk later along Green Lane saw a large female Sparrowhawk disturbed from a possible kill in one of the ditches.  Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests, a few Fieldfare were all seen. A single Common Buzzard at Shorten's Covert attracted the attention of a few Crow species and 2 Kestrels were seen nearby.  A thousand plus Wood Pigeons and small roving flocks of Yellowhammer (10+), Chaffinches (30+), and Linnets (20+) were present.    
Low lying land adjacent to Prince's Covert was under flood water and attracted hundreds of Gulls .

Hockham Fen at dawn and notes from the garden 24/11/12

The first bird of the day was a calling Chiffchaff in a garden adjoining mine, a somewhat unexpected bird on a foggy, frosty, late November morning.

A thickish fog at Hockham Fen and the surrounding woodland greeted me on my arrival. Little was seen on the fen due to the conditions, however, the woodland typically held common and expected species including parties of Long-tailed TitsGoldcrests and Treecreepers were heard at a number of localities.


An hour spent in the garden mid-morning produced a number of Blackbirds including this first year male which was feeding upon Ivy and Blackberries.  A party of Long-tailed Tits passed through and Robin, Chaffinches, Greenfinch, Blue, Great, and Coal Tits were noted.  There was no sight or sound of the early morning Chiffchaff, although it is likely to still be in the area.

Monday, 12 November 2012

A good day despite deteriorating conditions

An early morning walk north of Little Cressingham along the Peddars Way to as far as South Pickenham produced some good numbers of Fieldfare, Redwings, Song Thrushes, and Blackbirds in the hedgerows and adjoining fields.  Close to the Priory Road junction, a pair of Marsh Tits and a mobile flock of Long-tailed Tits were seen.  A few Bramblings passed overhead giving their nasally "zweeeup" call. 
At Little Cressingham wind and water mill about 60 Mallard were on the mill-pond and a Kingfisher flew along the brook.  A few Redwings, 2 Jay, and a small flock of Goldfinches were seen.

THOMPSON WATER (early to mid p.m.)
Light deteriorated from early afternoon with low cloud and rain moving in, despite these conditions, some good birds were present.
On the water, a few Shoveler, GadwallMallard, and Teal were 'put up' by a circling Apache helicopter which was on exercise within the adjoining army training ground.  It must be noted that despite the noise from the battle area, wildlife thrives both within the area and around adjoining areas.
Also on the water was 2 Little Grebe, Cormorant, a few argumentative Mute Swans, and a single Kingfisher flew low close to the waters' surface.

A very impressive mixed flock of 300+ Siskins and Redpolls wandered around the tree-tops along the eastern side of the water. These small Finches were seen to alight in Alders where they would have fed from the cones, however, these birds were generally very restless and rarely settled for any long periods in the trees.
I left Thompson Water at about 1450 with light continuing to deteriorate fast.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Dawn at Hockham Fen

I arrived at Hockham Fen well before sunrise, the morning was cold with a moderate frost, and a slight mist hung over the fen, however, this was soon burnt off by the rising sun.
Prior to sunrise, Siskins, Redpolls, and Bramblings were heard overhead and it was evident that with improving light that Siskins was the most numerous species.
A mixed Tit flock passed by, this included Goldcrests and Treecreeper, however, it was very pleasing to see a single Willow Tit, a very scarce species these days.
2 Sparrowhawks (singles) passed over the fen, the latter, a large female, attracted the attention of a number of Siskins until the raptor went out of sight over the surrounding forest.
A small flock of Redwings rose up from a patch of Holly where they probably fed upon the wealth of red berries.  It is worth noting here that much of the woodland under-storey in the Brecks hold some fine specimens of Holly, some of which have attained huge sizes.

Red Deer are a reliable sight at Hockham Fen, especially at dawn, and on this occasion, 2 hinds were seen including this fine animal.
The surrounding forest typically held plenty of Coal Tits, Nuthatches, and more Treecreepers.  A calling Tawny Owl in pine woodland could not be located visually.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Honey Buzzard - a great addition to my garden records

The 17th of September 2012 was the last day of my summer leave before returning to work, and being a warm sunny day, I decided to sit in the garden to watch for passing raptor species.
At 1345, I was about to pack up when a large, unusual looking bird of prey appeared in the north-west.  Immediately, I knew this was something different by the birds appearance. 
I raised the camera and started shooting, I could see through the lens that this was in fact a Honey Buzzard, later examination of the photograph showed this to be a dark juvenile bird.

The above shot shows the Honey Buzzard approaching the garden from the north-west.  A number of features of this bird separates it from Common Buzzard, this shot shows the yellow bill base, solid brown underparts, paddle-like tail, extensive black 'hands' and obvious head projection.

This shot of the Honey Buzzard was taken as it passed directly above my garden.  This silhouetted view shows the distinct head projection and the longer wings which separates this species from Common Buzzard.

The Honey Buzzard is a very scarce bird in the UK, so how lucky did I feel having this stunning raptor pass straight above me as I stood watching it from the garden.

This single Honey Buzzard would have eventually been one of several thousand Honey Buzzards and other raptor species flying south over Gibraltar in order to winter in Africa - a sight which I have yet to experience.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Close encounter with an Otter at Thompson Water 06/11/12.

This Otter at Thompson Water on 06/11/12 was porpoising through the water in its hunt for fish. When it eventually saw me I could actually hear it sniffing the air, it knew that something was wrong (not that I smell that bad).
This was a lovely encounter with this special mammal.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Thompson Water at dawn.

Thompson Water is a large Breckland mere lying about 4 miles south of my home in Watton, Norfolk.  This reserve is managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust an it forms a part of the more extensive Thompson Common reserve.
                                                      Thompson Water at sunrise 06/11/12

I arrived at Thompson Water prior to sunrise and thoughts were of possible winter duck species, therefore, it was a welcome find when a female 'redhead' Goosander was seen in the mist on the water.  This attractive Sawbill is generally a scarce winter visitor to Thompson Water with most birds being female, however, on occasions, the more attractive male visits.
Also on the water was 4 Shoveler, a family party of Mute Swans, a pair of Gadwall, and a Kingfisher flying low over the water.
Occasionally, the silence was broken by the sudden, explosive song of a Cetti's Warbler coming from within scrubby waterside Willow habitat.  The first pioneer Cetti's Warbler arrived at Thompson Water in the spring of 2007, since then 5 territories have been established around the site.
Overhead, Siskins and Redpolls passed by.

Goosander on Thompson Water 06/11/12
At sunrise, an Otter was seen porpoising through the water and scattering fish in all directions as it did so.  I have seen up to 3 Otters together at Thompson Water.
                                                          Otter - Thompson Water 06/11/12
In the forest and heathland habitats around the Thompson Water area, several good-sized flocks of both Redwings and Fieldfares passed overhead in an east to west heading.
I left Thompson Water at about 0900 happy with this productive visit.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

A treat before work.

It is always nice to have a little pick-me-up before having to start a days work, this morning it came in the form of 2 Green Sandpipers overflying Griston, Norfolk. 
Although generally a passage migrant, especially in Autumn, I am beginning to see Green Sandpipers as over-wintering birds in the Breckland area.  Although muck-heaps may not be pleasant to some, I find these great places to find Green Sandpipers and other bird species....check them out.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Little Cressingham (The Fairstead) and thoughts of wintering raptors.

Fairstead Lane is a  lovely hedgerow-lined route running from the village of Little Cressingham to 'The Fairstead'.  Adjacent to the south-side of this land lies vast tracts of arable and grazing land within M.O.D. ownership.  This is an outyling part of the much larger expanse of army training land in Breckland known as STANTA (Stanford Training Area).
This afternoon's short visit took in the large area of rolling grassland used for grazing sheep.  In the summer months this grassland supports a couple of pairs of breeding Common Curlew.
Todays visit produced a wandering flock of about 50 Fieldfare, a few Redwing, and single overhead Skylarks.
These vast open areas of Breckland always supports wintering raptor species, and this particular area along Fairstead Lane has seen both Hen Harrier and Peregrine within the previous 12 months.

Hen Harrier Little Cressingham November 2011
Hen Harriers are scarce winter visitors to Breckland with singletons, usually 'ringtail' females hunting over the vast open heath and  arable areas within my patch.

The Hen Harrier seen in this photograph was seen over the open grassland near Fairstead Lane in November 2011.  Here, it was seen hunting along the fringes of a stand of maize crop.

Peregrine Falcon Little Cressingham January 2012
On the 13th January 2012, I was overlooking the M.O.D. land adjacent to Fairstead Lane when to the distant east, large numbers of Golden Plover and Gulls were panicked and sent off in all directions, minutes later, a small flock of Lapwings were disturbed from a field adjacent to the lane.  I was aware that a raptor species was the probable culprit and then this Peregrine put in an appearance, it approached me and changed direction having seen me, it was then I took this shot.

Peregrine Falcons are regular but scarce wintering raptors in my part of Breckland with singles, or as in the case of the previous two winters, two birds present.  On these occasions, one was an adult, the other, a juvenile bird.