Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Thursday, 21 August 2014


At about 1430 on 21/08/14, I headed down to the Watton Brook valley at Little Cressingham.  Not long after arriving, I noticed a raptor to the north behaving very Harrier-like in that it was flying low and close to a crop of sugar beet, it was clearly not as bulky as a Buzzard and my suspicions were confirmed when I had good views of the bird, it was a female Marsh Harrier.
This migrant attracted the attention of the resident Buzzards who followed and attempted to mob it.
Most autumns I see Harriers pass through my patch, most are Marsh, however, occasionally Hen Harriers are seen with an odd bird wintering.
Peregrine Falcons have now become a regular winter visitor on my patch with most years seeing at least two birds present.  Occasionally, a very dashing Merlin may be seen in winter, this is our smallest raptor species.
Another increasingly common raptor is the Hobby. This master of the skies is now a regularly seen bird in the summer months on the patch with a few pairs breeding.  It is about now in August and September when the Hobby is most likely to be seen as they are later breeders and adults will be joined by young birds.  Check your local lake, marshy area, streams and rivers where both Hirundines amd dragonflies congregate, such areas should attract hunting Hobby.
The powerful Goshawk is a bird regularly encountered on my patch and it is about now, August and September, when adults are accompanied by juvenile birds.
Vulcan bomber over Little Cressingham 21/08/14.
It was whilst watching the Marsh Harrier on 21/08/14 that this only airworthy Vulcan flew over.  This magnificent aircraft joined the only two surviving Lancasters for a number of flypasts.
I have also over the years maintained an interest in aircraft and back in the 60's and 70's I regularly saw Vulcans, sometimes low over Beccles marshes doing their bit to maintain the deterrent during the cold war era.
I also like to visit the sites of WW11 airfields in the area, these often windswept, barren, and wide open spaces of arable are good for birds.  I also like to, in my own way, to think and pay tribute to all those brave airmen and airwomen, both air and groundcrew, who in their collective way helped to keep our country safe during the second world war.
The wide open spaces of former airfields attract both resident and passage raptor species and one very familiar species which can be found hunting along field edges and the well vegetated ditch sides is the Kestrel.  Sometimes this raptor may be the only bird seen as it hangs over the land, often battling a strong wind as it watches the ground below for any movement.
Kestrel (female) hunting along a ditch at the former USAF base at Deopham, Norfolk 13/08/14
This beautiful Kestrel was typically seen hovering the length of a ditch on arable land which is the site of the former RAF Deopham in Norfolk.  Often this bird dropped down if potential prey was seen, hover again, before plummeting either into cover or adjacent stubble.
Being reasonably common, the Kestrel is often overlooked, however, spending time watching this bird reveals its beauty as well as its unique behaviour. 


  1. Brilliant Kestrel pic, Paul. I've learnt more about Watton & the surrounding area since reading your blog. Great stuff.

    1. Very kind of you to say so Rob. Thank you.