Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Wood Warbler at East Wretham Heath, Norfolk.

East Wretham Heath is managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.  This is a superb example of the real Breckland scene with its vast open sandy heathland, mature Pine forest, Birch and Oak woodland, Hawthorn scrub, and three meres, two of which have fluctuating levels of water.  
This site also holds a number of Breckland specialities including breeding Redstart.
The previous few days has seen East Wretham attract much attention following the finding of a singing male Wood Warbler, I don't know who found this bird, however, he/she must have felt very excited at the time.
Wood Warblers are very scarce birds in Norfolk, it is unlikely that the species actually breeds in the county, although the occasional singing bird, such as this individual, is encountered in some years. 

20 May
I had a spare couple of hours in the morning so I decided to pop down to East Wretham to see this bird.  Once in Waterloo Plantation, an area of fine old Scots Pines, I followed the 'loop trail' and could hear singing Redstart, then, I picked up an unusual song, a repeated "pew pew pew pew", I knew the Wood Warbler was still here.  As I approached the source of the song, I then heard the metallic trill which is often likened to a coin spinning to a stop on a hard surface.
It was not hard to locate the Wood Warbler visually.  This cracking bird was found in an area of Hawthorn and young Oak understorey within the Scots Pine woodland where it was most confiding as it sang its mixture of the beautiful silvery trill interspersed by the sad sounding "pew pew" song.  This bird often sang within just a few feet from me and usually low down in a tree or bush, although it would sometimes move up into the canopy to occasionally feed.
Wood Warbler 20/05/13 East Wretham Heath by Paul Newport
The song of this beautiful Warbler is very distinctive, as is the birds appearance.  The dark green upperparts contrasts with the broad yellow supercillium, cheeks and throat.  The dark eye stripe accentuates the bold supercillium. The underparts are silky white.  A very noticeable feature of the Wood Warbler is the very long primary projection, this gives the bird a short-tailed appearance.
Whilst watching this Wood Warbler singing it was clear to see how virtually the whole body of the bird shivered during the delivery of the song.
The chosen territory of this Wood Warbler was strongly defended against infiltrators, this was evidenced when a Treecreeper passed through and was chased vigourously by the visitor.  Despite going to alot of effort in securing its territory through song and behaviour, it is nevertheless rather sad that he is unlikely to attract a mate......hopefully I am proved wrong. 
Whilst watching this Wood Warbler, other species heard in the immediate area included 2 singing Redstarts, Blackcap, and a Garden Warbler.
21 May
I wanted to take my good friend and fellow birder, Gary Nutbourne, to East Wretham to see the Wood Warbler, as this would be a new species for him.
I had a couple of hours spare early in the morning, therefore I picked Gary up at 0545, arriving at East Wretham at 0600, on what what was a grey, miserable, windy, and cold morning.  We made are way to Waterloo Plantation and almost immediately located the Wood Warbler in song .  On this occasion, light was poor and the bird remained within the dark cover of a large Hawthorn, however, it regularly sang from an exposed perch and offered some good views.
We also locate visually one of 2 singing Redstarts in mixed Birch, Hawthorn, and Pine habitat, this was an awesome bird and for me, a lasting memory was seeing the bright orange tail of the bird as it flew between cover.
A brief view over Langmere from the hide produced a pair of Little Grebes, a pair of Tufted Duck, a noisy pair of Egyptian Geese, 6+ Shelduck, and a distant calling Cuckoo.

At Little Cressingham at 0945 a single Red Kite and one Common Buzzard seen above School Road.

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