Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Water Rail at Thompson Water, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Houghton-on-the-Hill for migrants.

In September, I make many trips to Houghton-on-the-Hill to either watch visible migration (vismig), or to check for newly arrived birds which stop at this elevated locality to rest and feed whilst on passage.  There are specific habitats which are excellent sites for attracting migrants, one of these, a very dense patch of Elder, Bramble, Hawthorn, and Sallow, is where I spent most of my time just following sunrise. Following this, I went back to St Mary's Church where further migrants were found:

5+ Swallows south
House Martin
30+ Chiffchaff
25+ Blackcap
3 Whitethroat
1 Lesser Whitethroat
Goldcrest
5 Greenfinch
c.20 Linnets
3+ Bullfinch (inc. juv male and female)
Chaffinches

I set up by a small spring which has always supported good numbers of migrants over the years, this being due to its wealth of dense Elder and other fruiting bushes which provides excellent cover and feeding for migrant birds.  These habitats will be replicated throughout Norfolk and beyond and will provide valuable resting and feeding staging posts for passage birds.
Although initially quiet, it soon became apparent that large numbers of migrants had dropped in probably during the previous night.  Large numbers of Chiffchaff and Blackcaps were concentrated within this small site and it became impossible at times to focus on particular birds due to their numbers.  Occasionally, Blackcaps flew a short distance between the Elder clump to a nearby hedge, they passed in front of me one at time forming a continuous flow of birds.  I estimated that in this one small site 25+ Chiffchaffs and 20+ Blackcaps were present.
Chiffchaff at Houghton 8th Sept. '13.  One of many seen in the area.
Both species frequented mostly Elder and it was of most interest that one Elder bush held several male Blackcaps.
A single Lesser Whitethroat was all too briefly seen, initially, the early morning sun caught its white underparts makiing it very conspicuous against the green foilage.  This is a very smart looking Warbler and the brief views I did have of it through binoculars saw the dark grey head and ear coverts contrast strongly with the brilliant white throat. 
3+ Whitethroats were also seen.
More sedentary birds seen included at least 3 Bullfinches, their numbers comprised a juvenile male and female.  The juvenile male Bullfinch was beginning to develop red on its underparts although the head and crown remained without any black appearing more mousey-brown at this stage.

At St Mary's Church, it was evident that several Chiffchaffs were moving through cover of trees and bushes, including Elder where 2 or 3 birds visited to feed.
Blackcaps were also present in the churchyard, often giving their presence away by their tonque-clicking like "tak" calls.
Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrest, Great Tits, and Blue Tits were seen and heard around the spring near the church as well as nearby woodland.

It was clearly evident that previous night saw a large collective passage of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, it would be interesting if the followers of my blog saw high numbers of these species in their areas.

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