Breckland Birder

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

Friday, 15 August 2014

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

There was a feel of autumn this morning with a moderate to fresh north-westerly wind which eventually brought frequent and often heavy showers. 
I arrived at Houghton-on-the-Hill at about 0630 and it was my intention to search for newly arrived migrant in the well stocked hedgerows and thick cover of Elder, Hawthorn, and Bramble.
There was an abundance of Elder fruits at this location, fruits which would attract migrant Warblers to feed and rest whilst on their late summer/autumn passage.
Chiffchaffs were the first species to be heard with some 5 or 6 birds at least present.  Approaching one of favourite late summer/autumn watchpoints, a Whitethroat was seen in a hedge, this was the first of a couple seen.
Juvenile Whitethroat at Houghton, Norfolk 15/08/14.  In typical habitat of Elder where it fed upon berries.
It was whilst overviewing a Hawthorn and Elder that an immaculate looking Lesser Whitethroat came into full view.  Clearly different from the slightly larger Whitethroat, this stunning bird had the uniform brownish-grey upperparts, grey head with darker ear-coverts and a slight hint of a white stripe between the bill and the front of the eye, however, the most stunning feature was the bright white underparts which strongly contrasted with the upperparts, and indeed, the dark colours of the habitat in which it frequented.  This must rate as one of my most sought after migrant Warblers.
There was one or two quiter moments, however, Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs would soon reappear including the above juvenile Whitethroat which fed upon Elder berries.
Another quiet moment was interrupted by a fairly close juvenile Goshawk which glided low above crops before sweeping up into a branch of an Oak, it stayed all to briefly before flying off low along a hedgeline.
Evidence of passage was seen overhead when a small flock of 7 Golden Plovers (high) headed off in a westerly direction.
Having left this wonderful migrant magnet, I retraced my steps back towards St Mary's Church, very soon I heard then saw Blackcap in the hedge, this was seen at the same time as a rapidly moving party of Tit species.
Walking along a beautiful corridor sided by thick hedgerows, it was clear that many Warbler species were present with birds ahead of me flying between each hedge, most appeared to be Blackcaps, ehowever, I did have good views of another probable overnight arrival, a Garden Warbler.  This bird was flying ahead of me but I eventually caught up with it feeding upon Elder berries.
This is a wonderful time of year with all sorts of bird species mixing together, some residents, many migrants with the sole purpose of feeding up on fruits and building energy reserves for their long migration south.

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