Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Sunday, 10 November 2013


Fieldfares are one of the larger British Thrush species which visits us between October and early May from their summering grounds in Scandinavia.  Although many stay with us, others will pass through the UK to winter in France and the Iberian Peninsula.
When on passage, Fieldfares migrate in large loose flocks and can be identified by their "shack shack" flight call.  When seen on the ground, it is worth studying these spectacular Thrushes, their plumage is simply stunning, their grey heads and nape contrasts strongly with the brown mantle and pearl-grey rump and dark tail.  The breast is a beautiful ochre and spotted black along with the flanks.
Although sometimes seen singly, Fieldfares are generally seen in varying sized flocks numbering in double figures and occasionally three or four figure numbers.

9th and 10th November.
The night of the 8th/9th November was starlit and at dawn it was very bright with a slight frost in sheltered spots.
It was evident at dawn that there had been an overnight arrival of Fieldfares on my patch with some decent sized flocks seen, however, as I was walking along the Watton road east of Great Cressingham, many Fieldfares were gathered in hedgerows and trees and once on the move towards the village it was evident that 500+ Fieldfares were present, a very impressive gathering.  These birds stopped in a variety of habitats including the well-stocked hedgerows immediately east of Great Cressingham.
Mid to late afternoon on the 10th, I walked from the church at South Pickenham to Cockley Cley Warren. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon.  Settingout from South Pickenham, I walked west along the footpath which passes a 'Stanton-type' world war 2 air-raid shelter, a reminder of the former bomber base at North Pickenham airfield.
At Cockley Cley warren, I was surprised to see that the former heath was now being used to cultivate arable crops.  On the fields was 300+ Fieldfare wandering over the field in their search for food.  Also seen here was a couple of Mistle Thrushes and in the roadside Scots Pines, Coal Tits were present.
The walk back to South Pickenham was better with the sun behind me.  Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Linnets, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, and Chaffinches were encountered along the path.  With the setting sun, flocks of Chaffinches began arriving at their roost sites.
Sparrowhawk Watton, Norfolk 10/11/13.  A common Breckland species.


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Hockham Fen, Norfolk

Hockham Fen 01/11/13
I have recently had a lot of stress as we are currently house hunting, some people thrive on the experience but I just want it all sorted as soon as possible.  It is at times like this when getting out and about and enjoying the company of wildlife provides real therapy.
I had a late afternoon visit to Hockham Fen at a time when some light showers passed through, the low cloud brought low light and generally dull conditions, however, the sinking sun did show low in the western sky through a cloud break and cast some late light over the fen and showed just how weather moods can alter quickly from one moment to the next.
Not too many birds seen on this particular visit, it was just great being there.  Most notable species seen was a small flock of 15+ Teal which sprang from the fen, did a few circuits before settling down again.  5 Grey Herons also rose from the fen presumably to seek their roosting sites for the night in the trees at Cranberry Rough.  The only raptor seen on this visit was a calling Common Buzzard which overflew.
Small birds were represented by occasional Meadow Pipits rising from the fen.  Reed Bunting was also heard.
In the woodland periphery, a mobile flock of Long-tailed Tits also included Goldcrests.
The walk back to the car produced more calling Goldcrests, also a few Redwings and Blackbirds passed between trees along the forest rides.
This was a lovely short visit to one of my favourite local birding sites.