Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk (Thoughts on forthcoming migration)

With July drawing to a close, thoughts are now turning to forthcoming migration.  August through to November are undoubtedly my best months for birding as almost anything can turn up anywhere.
Visiting Houghton this morning I noticed how full Elder bushes are with fruit, most are green and unripened, however, within the cluster of green fruits an odd ripened black fruit sits alone.
The fruits of Elder, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Dog Rose, Guelder Rose, and Bramble will in Autumn provide an important energy-rich diet for migrant Warblers, these birds will consume these fruits in order to build energy reserves for their long journey to their wintering grounds, sometimes, for some species, to as far south as South Africa.

Blackcap. Photographed at Little Cressingham, Norfolk Sept. 2013.  Just one species which will benefit from late Summer/Autumn fruits 
My walk this morning along one particular very rich hedgerow at Houghton provided me with some excitement as this habitat will soon play host to large numbers of migrants stopping off to refuel whilst on route from either Britain or Northern Europe, before continuing south.
I saw several Warblers flitting quickly over the corridor formed by two long hedgerows, most of these were Blackcaps , probably locally raised young and their parents, along with Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs.  Within the next couple of months I will walk along this corridor with birds passing in front of, and behind me as they flit between fruit laden bushes. Birds which are normally territorial during their breeding season will in Autumn share the same bush to feed, this may be several Blackcaps together, or even four or five different species, all coming together for one purpose, to refuel before continuing their passage.  Even isolated trees and bushes will hold migrants in Autumn, check these and other valuable staging posts for migrant birds, this is all part of that miracle that is bird migration.
Lesser Whitethroat at Houghton.  Another sought after migrant which could turn up in good numbers.  Many will be Northern European birds stopping to refuel before continung on their south-east passage through Europe to Turkey and Israel and into their wintering areas in North-East Africa.  This species very specific migration route means it is a rarity in Spain and Portugal.  We in Britain are at the North-Western limits of the Lesser Whitethroats range in Europe. 

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