Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Ashill, Thompson, and Little Cressingham

ASHILL (Common Lane to Quidney Farm) 0540-0700
Dawn was quite misty, however, it was relatively mild at about 5 degrees.  The morning sun eventually began to burn off mist from about 0700 although pockets of thicker mist was encountered on the drive back to Watton.
The morning started well with my first ever observation of a pair of Common Buzzards mating in a tree to the north of the lane.
At least 4 singing Chiffchaffs were heard along the route with 2 of these at Quidney Farm, also, notable counts of Linnets were seen with two groups numbering 10+ and 20+ in either hedgerows or in trees where several males sang.
The fields east of the old rail cutting held displaying Lapwing, occasionally the male bird came close enough for me to hear the humming of the wings as he passed by.
This wonderful site this morning was bathed in fairly warm sunshine as I arrived and straight away following my arrival several species were encountered in the damp woodland.  Treecreeper was singing as was Nuthatch, and a pair of Long-tailed Tits foraged close by in low branches.  Higher up a Song Thrush was in Ivy feeding upon berries and just above this bird was a stunning Redwing with a very strongly detailed head pattern.  A beautiful male Coal Tit passed through singing.
Most notable on the common this morning was the finding of at least 10 Chiffchaffs in song, however, only a single Blackcap was heard in song.
By the time I had left this wonderful site I had encountered 3 Nuthatches, Goldcrest, 2 Coal Tits, 2 Song Thrush, Wrens, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker (one 'drumming'), and 2 singing Stock Doves.
Chiffchaff at Thompson Water 29/03/14
As soon as I made my way along the Peddars Way to make for Thompson Water the first bird heard was a calling male Golden Pheasant. a bit further along the path numerous Redwings were in treetops chattering away and singing.
Chiffchaffs were once again present in good numbers at Thompson Water.  It is generally typical for this species to be well established on territory before other Warbler species arrive from the south.  A single Blackcap was in song, again, it is typical for this species to be encountered in late March, however, the vast majority of Blackcaps will arrive in early to mid April.
An overview of the water to check for early Hirundines was fruitless.
On the water a few Tufted Duck were seen and a Great Crested Grebe nearly went un-noticed within surface weed.  2 Cormorants were perched at the usual site.
One, possibly 2 Cetti's Warblers delivered their explosive song from dense cover along the eastern fringes of the water.

Siskin at Thompson Water 29/03/14
At the hide, a good range of species were seen including 2 pairs of Reed Buntings, several Siskins, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, and Robin.
A number of Siskins were both seen and heard above the woodland around Thompson Water.  The flight call is quite easy to identify and remember, it is a rather mournful "tsu". 
This is a male Siskin, he can be identified by his black crown and bib, and brighter greens and yellows.
Most Siskins seen in the woodlands at this time of year will be winter visitors from Scandinavia, however, smaller numbers will remain in the brecks to breed. 

Reeve's Pheasant Little Cressingham 29/03/14
An afternoon walk along Fairstead Lane and Green Lane produced this single male Reeve's Pheasant.  This is a larger bird than the more familiar Common Pheasant.
Note from this photograph the size difference between the species, the Reeve's is a much stockier bird with a world-beating tail which appears in the Guinness book of records as having the longest tail feather of any astonishing 8 feet.
A couple of Chiffchaffs were singing along the route.
Finally, it was encouraging to see a number of Lapwings on arable land adjacent to Fairstead Lane.




  1. Hi Paul
    Hope you are well? I have been really enjoying reading your blogs. Having lived in Watton for 20+ years many of the places that you bird used to be my local patches to, so it’s great to hear what birds are being seen and accompanied by some great pictures.
    I read with interest that you had a Golden Pheasant calling at Thompson was this from the woods around the water or was it towards Thompson Water Farm? Thompson used to be a reliable site to see these fantastic birds, but my last record of seeing one was back in January 2011. This was shortly before some major clearing of the dense cover and Rhododendron was carried out and I had assumed the small population there had moved on or had perished. It’s funny that one introduced species (Golden Pheasant) was happiest in the cover of another introduced species (Rhododendron)
    Have you had any other records from either around Thompson Water or around Thompson Water Farm since2011? I should be up in Norfolk seeing my parents (David and Christine) in the next couple of weeks so I may see you on your wanderings. Keep up with blogging and best of luck.
    Chris White

    1. Hello Chris, I am fine thank you and how great to get your lovely comments...thank you very much. I hope you, Sandra, and please forgive me...I can't remember the names of your children (is Caroline one of your daughters....sorry for not remembering)..but I hope you are all also very well.
      The Golden Pheasant was calling in cover (within dense Holly understorey) at the bottom of the metalled road where the Peddars Way passes by at the battle area gate. I also occasionally hear and see Golden Pheasant along the path that leads around the back of Thompson Water towards Thompson Common (Butters Hall Lane end).
      I have also heard Golden Pheasant occasionally along forest trails around Great Hockham and Merton, however, I think this species has now gone from Wayland Wood...probably due to disturbance due to much woodland management there, however, to be fair I have not been in Wayland Wood for a while so there may be a few there.
      Chris, please e-mail me at and we can meet up if you like when you visit your parents.