Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Little Cressingham and Merton, Norfolk.

With summer drawing on, Watton Brook is starting to look very lush with tall, dense stands of freshwater plants, grasses, and weeds almost rendering the water difficult to see.  Some magnificent Thistles and Rose-bay Willowherb are looking very impressive and it is this weed-filled habitat in the forthcoming weeks will play host to passage Chat and Warbler species...exciting times ahead.

A visit to the mill and Watton Brook Valley this morning brought plenty of evidence of successful breeding by a number of common species.
I was watching a Wren skulking mouse-like on the ground within a nettlebed where it was collecting food and flying back to a hole in the wall of the mill where it was feeding young.  A juvenile Robin was seen in the dark recess of an outflow from the mill, this bird typically appeared very mottled and scaly, quite different from the red-breasted adult bird.
Juvenile Blue Tits were sharpening their acrobatic skills whilst hanging from the outer branches of trees in their search for food.
A female Blackcap was seen in an apple tree where she would have been tending to her young, she was looking quite smart, however, a Whitethroat looked quite worn, clear evidence of its intense breeding activity, however, following the post-breeding moult this warbler will once again assume a very smart appearance.
High in an Ash tree by the mill, several young Chaffinches were being attended to by their parents and some young Goldfinches were preening following a bath in the nearby brook.
House Martins were present in good numbers, these were often seen skimming low over the ground and around the treetops for food, on one occasion, a good 20-30 House Martins gathered high above giving their panic alarm and in turn telling me a raptor was in the area.
As I was preparing to leave a Goshawk drifted across the valley close to the ground in a slow and menacing flight.

MERTON PARK(mid-late afternoon)
I took an afternoon walk along the Peddars Way from the village hall in Merton to beyond Home Farm.  Despite being a large agricultural estate, there are many fine pockets of mature deciduous woodland habitats here.  A patch of woodland on the Peddars Way south of Home Farm includes a couple of magnificent Copper Beeches and huge examples of Cypress.
As expected at this time of day, little was seen other than 3 Mistle Thrushes in the top of a Larch and calling Common Buzzards.  A Blackcap and Chiffchaff briefly gave a snippet of song.
Back in the village, I decided to check on the Tree Sparrows and without fail, I saw a few at a traditional site including a pair which were clearly feeding young, probably their second, or maybe, third brood of the year.
Tree Sparrow (with food for young) Merton 21/07/13
Tree Sparrows occur in reasonably good numbers in the Breckland area and it is fair to say that they appear to remain faithful to sites within my patch. To the untrained eye, Tree and House Sparrows may appear just as 'Sparrows', however, a reliable identification feature on the Tree Sparrow is the chestnut crown and white cheek with a large black spot within.  Tree Sparrows however may be more difficult to sex as both male and female birds are similar in appearance, male House Sparrows with their Black bib and grey crown are quite different from the more plain appearance of the female bird.

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