Breckland Birder

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

Monday, 31 March 2014

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Houghton Springs, and Houghton Common.
0705 I arrived at this beautiful, peaceful locality to the song of 3 Chiffchaffs, one Blackcap, a singing Song Thrush, and a calling Coal Tit in the churchyard.  A single Common Buzzard was seen.
Walking down the track west of the church I checked the bare land for signs of Wheatear, however, none were seen.
I followed the Peddars Way to make for Houghton Springs (0725), this was my first visit to this rich, damp habitat for some time.  This area is centred around a streamand the surrounds comprise damp grassland with patches of Phragmite reedbeds, Juncus rushes, and some fine looking Sallows.  Damp woodland also features here as well as a couple of mature Scots Pine belts.
Houghton Springs has been a reliable site for displaying/singing Snipe, however, on this visit I saw none.  Expected species associated with this kind of habitat were seen, these were 2 pairs of Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, 2 singing Chiffchaffs, 2 singing Song Thrushes, Wrens, and Goldfinch.  Overflying birds included a pair of noisy Oystercatchers and a pair of Shelduck.  An area of cleared land north of the stream held at least 2 pairs of Lapwings.
The rich hedgerow habitat along Common Lane held 3 singing Chiffchaffs and Chaffinches whilst on the Common itself a further 3 singing Chiffchaffs were heard.  The hedgerow habitat between the Common and the church held 2 singing Blackcaps, of these, one was watched moving along the hedgerow thus indicating a possible recent arrival/passage bird.  Long-tailed Tit (pair) Yellowhammers, and Linnets were all seen along this hedgerow.
Dunnock - one of a pair watched at Houghton-on-the-Hill 31/03/14
St Mary's Church 0825
For the next hour or so I sat with Toby on one of the benches within the beautiful surroundings of the churchyard. 
My immediate surrounds in the churchyard saw varying blossoms, Daffodils, and other pink and white flowers providing stunning colours.  There has been winter felling of some trees in the churchyard, however, mature Hawthorn amd thick Ivy cover will provide good breeding and feeding habitat for birds.
As with my arrival at dawn, Chiffchaff and Blackcap continued to sing.
One Blackcap was singing in woodland west of the churchyard, this particular bird later came quite close to sing before flying back to the woodland.  An interesting sighting came at 0910 when 2 male Blackcaps visited the same corner of the churchyard, both were seen in Ivy where they may have come to feed upon berries.  Were these Blackcaps those on territory or recent arrivals/passage birds?
The Dunnock pictured above was one of a pair watched for some time in front of me on the lawned area and in shrubs within the yard.  One of these birds was seen collecting beak-fulls of grasses and mosses for nest construction.
To the north of the churchyard I could hear a Little Owl calling, also Long-tailed Tit and Robin was seen.
This beautiful, isolated locality is one of my favourite places to "get away from it all" and enjoy the tranquility of this very rural part of Breckland Norfolk.

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