Breckland Birder

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

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Woodlarks near Hilborough, Norfolk

Although the night was cold and clear, at dawn, thick fog descended with some icy patches underfoot. The rising sun burnt off the fog quickly to give a mostly bright morning with quite mild temperatures.
My intention this morning was to visit pine woodland and clearings for Woodlark, the conditions indicated that the species would be displaying.
As I approached the clearing I could hear Woodlark singing, therefore I decided to find a suitable spot to sit and wait.
After a lengthy wait I could once again hear calling Woodlark, a sweet "toolueet" was often heard.
Woodlarks then started to appear very close in front of me, in total, 4 birds (2 pairs) were present.
Typical Woodlark breeding habitat near Hilborough, Norfolk
Throughout my stay the Woodlarks were quite restless, they never stayed in one place for long.
The picture to the left shows typical Woodlark habitat. Formerly, this was a commercial pine crop, this has obviously been felled and planted with a new crop on pine saplings.  At the current time the saplings stand at about 18 inches tall, with these saplings being quite young the rows between the trees are quite wide with short cropped vegetation which Woodlarks need for feeding. As these Saplings grow to probably about 6 to 8 feet in height, the rows between the trees will fill in and will thus become unsuitable for Woodlark.  The birds will therefore need to move on for freshly clearfelled areas of forest in the Brecks.  The long rows of dead wood within the areas of clearfell serve as song-posts for the Woodlark.  Breeding occurs on the ground in a suitable well vegetated grassy tuft close to the base of a tree.
Woodlark near Hilborough, Norfolk 04/03/14
Woodlarks can be quite conspicuous when performing their song-flights above their breeding territory, however, song can be delivered from a conspicuous perch.  It becomes difficult sometimes to see Woodlarks when they are on the ground shuffling along in search for food, this difficulty in seeing the bird is made more harder as the bird blends in very well with its surrounds.  Sitting and watching the ground for movement is probably the best way to see the bird as it disappear inyo a rut only to reappear on a raised tuft.
Woodlark near Hilborough, Norfolk 04/03/14.
The Woodlark pictured above was mobile and soon went out of sight behind saplings.  I could not see it again until it flew up over a woodpile. 
The left picture shows a Woodlark on a typical perch within a dead woodpile in the clearing.  The conspicuous perch seen here will serve as a song-post as well as to observe its surrounding from.
The plumage of the Woodlark is such that it may sometimes take some searching to find the bird hidden within the woodpiles, especially if the bird is silent.

This post has been dedicated to Woodlark, other birds seen in the area included 1 Common Buzzard, a number of Siskins.  Within the woodpiles both Wren and Dunnock skulked, and a Robin often popped up to show himself.
A constant stream of Gulls low overhead may have been making to nearby pig fields to feed. 

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