Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Merlin at Deopham, Norfolk

During my break from work I visited the vast expanses of arable land on which the former WW11 USAF airfield of Deopham Green stood.  Although nearly 70 years have passed since the end of the war, evidence still exists of an airfield formerly here with several concrete hardstands and pieces of runway running alongside the roads which connect the various parishes.
Merlin (juvenile) Deopham, Norfolk 30/09/14 
I was overviewing the land with thoughts of a Harrier species passing through, and indeed, earlier in the day I was thinking of raptors I have already seen at this site.
At 1430, I saw a number of Wood Pigeons departing very hurriedly, I immediately though a Sparrowhawk was approaching, however, within seconds, a Merlin approached from the right very fast and low, and despite its small size, this Falcon did not hesitate to chase Wood Pigeons and Corvid species.  The Merlin was seen to twist and plummet to the ground, however, it soon emerged again without prey.  This dashing Falcon then passed low over farmland passing a small group of Golden Plovers which had been put up.
Merlins are scarce migrants and winter visitors to my Breckland patch.  An excellent record.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Probable irruptive Jays

Great Hockham (at dawn)
The fog was quite thick at dawn, therefore this early morning walk around the pine forest at Hockham was to be more of a case of what I could hear rather than see.
The most numerous species heard was Goldcrest with birds calling everywhere as you would expect in this habitat type.
I could see in a clearing some evidence of Thrush species present.  The odd Blackbird was seen flying between cover, but also Song Thrushes were heard giving their "tick" calls.

Watton (from garden)
Greenfinch (female) from Garden 29/09/14
This morning when I got back from my walk I planted a lovely weeping Cotoneaster and Rowan in my new garden, my first 'bird-friendly' trees.
Regular species seen included several Goldfinches, one of which was a juvenile and seen to have the beginning of the red 'facial' area.  Greenfinch was also seen and a Yellowhammer and Skylarks passed overhead.
The peace was shattered by the panic of Collared Doves and Wood Pigeons scattering everywhere, I knew a raptor was present and then a female Sparrowhawk passed directly over the garden.

At 1130 I checked for overhead movements and saw at least 7 Jays flying over at height from the north north-east.  One Jay was particularly high and all were watched heading off more or less south-west.  Jays are irruptive species from Scandinavia in late September and October, their southerly movement into Britain being an indication that acorns within their normal range have not been plentiful enough to sustain their dietary needs, therefore forcing them to seek good feeding elsewhere in Europe.  A good inland record

Marlingford Church, Norfolk 27th Sept. 2014

During my afternoon breaks from work I like to visit Churchyards, mills, farmland, or rivers, in my search for birds.  On Saturday 27th I decided to visit the beautiful churchyard at Marlingford with its beautiful old church and fine, old Yews and Oaks.  I find that churchyards have so much to offer as they often hold old tree species and are rarely affected by pesticides or insecticides, additionally, it is fair to say that these locations are indeed valuable nature reserves.  I often think what a great place to spend eternity once life is over, sharing it with so many wonderful species.
What was particularly evident on this visit was the frequent "tick" call of Song Thrushes, I didn't have to wait too long before around 10 Song Thrushes broke cover to fly to other trees in the area.  This number of Song Thrushes clearly shows these as being continental birds which have sought refuge in the thick cover in the yard.
Mistle Thrushes were also present, announcing themselves with their harsh rattle-like call.
2 Nuthatches were busily flying to and from collecting nuts from a fine Beech tree and taking them to a stash in nearby parkland.
Goldcrests were present as one would expect in this type of habitat, also Coal Tits and Chiffchaff were seen and Treecreepers heard.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk

0600 I arrived at the off-road parking area on the A149 south of Burnham Overy.  I was the first birder to arrive, but I was soon joined by a visiting birder, Dave from Leicester.  We readily began to discuss recent arrivals in the area and it was obvious that the previous nights conditions would not have benefitted any migrants which have been waiting to continue their passage.
The previous evening saw at least a 3 hour period of heavy, violent thunderstorms over my home area of Watton, however, other reasonably local areas missed these altogether.  Despite this grey and misty conditions were met with at the coast and it remained dry with a light northerly wind.
Dave and myself then walked the path north for about a mile and a half until we reached the dunes.  On route we saw a splendid Barn Owl on one of the fence posts beside the path.  A little further along a Grey Wagtail was heard to be followed shortly after by the first migrant, a Wheatear.
Having arrived at dunes it was clear that the first small patch of dense Bramble/Hawthorn scrub was playing host to a calling Yellow-browed Warbler.
My intention this morning was to sit and wait at this fantastic area of scrub to watch what it had on offer, especially as this sheltered area appeared to have all the right qualities for tired, hungry migrant birds.  It transpired that I had actually been sitting on a slight slope, overlooking the area for some 3 hours or so, but it was worth it.

The following is a list of the bird species seen within this small area of Bramble, Hawthorn, Dog Rose, and Elder habitat:

1 Sparrowhawk over east
Meadow Pipits over
Dunnock
Wren
6+ Swallows over east
1 Redstart (male)
1 Whinchat
Robin
2 Yellow-browed Warblers
4+ Garden Warblers
3+ Blackcaps
1 Willow Warbler
Chiffchaff
Whitethroat
1 Lesser Whitethroat
Goldcrest
1 Red-breasted Flycatcher
Blue Tit
Chaffinches
Linnet
Reed Bunting

Yellow-browed Warbler at Burnham Overy Dunes 20/09/14
A calling Yellow-browed Warbler was the first bird heard at this scrub habitat.  The call for me is not too unlike that of Coal Tit, however, it is thinner, higher pitched, and a sweet "seweeest".  As the morning progressed it was apparent that 2 Yellow-browed Warblers were present.  The small size of this bird does not present problems with finding it at range as the bright yellow supercillium, yellow wing-bars are conspicuous in cover, and the fast actions and behaviour i.e. hovering under leaves, make this a bird a distinctive character.


Red-breasted Flycatcher at Burnham Overy Dunes 20/09/14
I didn't have to wait too long before this Red-breasted Flycatcher appeared.  This beautiful, small Flycatcher species flew from bush to bush in typical, fast Flycatcher behaviour, occasionally to alight against a bush and revealing its pale, and what I thought appeared to be a very pale peachy breast.  The eye appeared large on a plain facial area.  In good light when perched, and when in flight, the distinctive white pattern on the tail was visible.  As shown in this picture, the tail was often cocked.  Ususally, the Red-breasted Flycatcher was seen perched on the edges of bushes from where fast 'sallies' were launched from.  A call was often heard from the bird, it sounded similar to that of a Wren, a "trrrrr", however, this was usualy barely audible.  
Garden Warbler (one of 4) Burnham Overy Dunes 20/09/14

 At least 4 Garden Warblers were seen in this small area, often seen in Hawthorn and Bramble, they also were frequently seen hanging on tall weeds jus above ground level, to feed.  This behaviour and habitat choice is somewhat different from it very arboreal needs during the breeding season. Often described if field guides as somewhat non-descript, a tell-tale feature which is useful when comparing to other similarly marked Warblers is the pale grey patch on the neck-sides.




Also seen in close association with the Garden Warblers was at least 3 Blackcaps, a stunning Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, and on the periphery, a single male Redstart. A single Whinchat made a brief appearance on a bush top before moving off again.
Although the Yellow-browed Warblers and Red-breasted Flycatchers were the highlights at this patch of habitat, these and the commoner species here, all more or less sociable and with one aim, all provided a very memorable event, an event which is what bird migration is all about.

I had to drag myself away at some point to make my way back to the parking area, although hard to do, the memory of this morning will stay with me.
On the walk back the highlight was 3 Spoonbills which flew together west.
At the time of my arrival at the parking area first thing at 0600, I was the only car there, however, when I got back, the parking area was full and cars lined the lane leading north to Burnham Thorpe.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Merton and Threxton, Norfolk 18th Sept. 2014

Following an early morning of thick fog, the sun burnt through leaving a very warm day with highs of about 23 degrees.

Merton
I decided to visit a beautiful area of Merton, about a mile from home, to check the very dense Bramble/Hawthorn scrub and ancient hedgerows.  This one small area produced:

1 Kestrel
30+ Tree Sparrows
Nuthatch
3 Song Thrush (one departed high south-west)
Mistle Thrush
Blackbird
Blackcap (male)
Chiffchaff

Merton has always been a traditional site for Tree Sparrows and breeding does occur at the location visited today.  Nationally, this is now a rare bird, therefore, I feel honoured to have this beautiful bird on the patch.
Of interest was the presence of 3 Song Thrushes, one of which departed at height to the south-west, undoubtedly a migrant bird.

Cormorants at height heading south over Watton

Around about mid-day I was in the garden, looking up I saw these 4 very high Cormorants flying in a southerly heading.
British Cormorants tend to disperse locally, however, Northern European birds do migrate.  Given the height of these Cormorants I think it is very likely that these were Northern birds on passage.




Threxton (late afternoon/sunset)
On this visit I walked the ancient lane between the church and Woodcock Hall with the purpose of finding migrants along the various ditches, however, I could not see any on this occasion.
The sewage treatment works at Threxton is where I decided to spend some time.  These wonderful habitats offer food and shelter to resident and migrant birds and today the following was of interest:

1 Snipe
10+ Stock Doves
Wood Pigeons
30+ Collared Doves
Sparrowhawk (female) upsetting the Stock Doves
Jackdaws
Grey Wagtail
Pied Wagtail
20+ Blackbirds
Song Thrush
Robin
Chiffchaffs
Goldcrests
Blue Tit
20+ Long-tailed Tits

With the sun setting fast, many Blackbirds (20+) started to arrive at the sewage works, some flew circuits, others called from the tops of the Leylandii shelter belt.  European Blackbirds are seen in sometimes vast numbers passing over, however, this generally occurs in November.  I think these are local birds that were arriving at the works to roost in the dense cover of the Leylandii.
Also as light began to fade a flock of 20+ Long-tailed Tits flew directly into the thick Leylandii cover to roost.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Save Lodge Hill

The following is my facebook post which I have shared in order to raise awareness and get as many signatures as possible on a Petition in order to stop the destruction of this vitally important Nightingale habitat.
I would urge my followers to search 'Save Lodge Hill' on facebook and sign the petition.  Developers must not be allowed to build on this site, a site which will ensure to significantly impact on Nightingale numbers in the UK.
 
Thank you all in advance.
 
My post reads as follows: 
 
SAVE LODGE HILL: This shared post relates to the proposed development of land in North Kent on land which holds the UK's largest concentration of Nightingales. Yet another development which if given the go ahead would singularly impact si...gnificantly on the UK's remaining population of Nightingales.
The developers have said they will create new habitat for Nightingales, this is extremely short sighted and aimed at people who know little about birds, the developers probably want the public to fall into the trap and say "well, that's OK then".
Nightingale habitats are old, well established sites which may take decades to become suitable for occupation, by which time the developers have done their bit to ensure the extinxtion of this bird from the UK.
Please sign this on-line petition in order to save this site, and then share with your friends....Thank you very much my friends.

Yellow-browed Warbler at Burnham Overy Dunes 16/09/14 (photographed by Richard Farrow)

Following on from our superb days birding at Burnham Overy Dunes on 16/09/14, my good friend Richard Farrow has sent me his picture of the Yellow-browed Warbler which dropped into scrub within the dunes system.  This is an excllent picture given that this tiny 'sibe' was constantly on the go.
Yellow-browed Warbler at Burnham Overy Dunes 16/09/14 (photographed by Richard Farrow)
This little gem of a Warbler literally dropped from the sky into the tree where it is seen in this picture.  Yellow-browed Warblers breed in Siberia.  This bird should have been migrating to south-east Asia.
Yellow-browed Warblers have been seen with increasing frequency in recent years, the question is, is this due to a shift in the birds migrational habits, or is it down to better observer coverage.  Formerly a bird of eastern coastal areas, Yellow-browed Warblers are now being recorded well inland.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Burnham Overy Dunes, North Norfolk Coast (0600-1445) with Richard Farrow

At 0500 I was picked up by my good friend Richard Farrow for a days birding at Burnham Overy Dunes on the North Norfolk Coast.  A fairly thick blanket of fog covered the county.
Upon our arrival at a parking area on the A149 coast road, low cloud, fog, drizzle, and an easterly wind combined to give an air of real the expectation of finding a good variety of grounded migrant birds.
The route today would take us from the A149 north along the track to the sea wall and then east through the superb dunes systems to the western end of Holkham Pines.  By the time we made our way back by early afternoon, warm sunshine had dispersed the fog, however, as we headed back along the track to our starting point, misty conditions returned.

The following is a list of migrant species seen today.

2 Greenshank east
40+ Wheatears
10+ Whinchat
20+ Redstart
Several Song Thrush
4+ Willow Warbler
Chiffchaff
1 Blackcap (male)
1 Barred Warbler
4+ Garden Warblers
1 Yellow-browed Warbler
Meadow Pipits - very numerous

The start of the day along the track north of the A149 presented us with a good sized flock of Long-tailed Tits, clearly, given the conditions, careful scrutiny was needed to see what was with this flock, and indeed, a singing Chiffchaff was within.  Also breaking cover was a number of Starlings,  recent arrivals from Russia perhaps.
Continuing north I heard the familiar "tew-tew-tew" call of Greenshank, then 2 of these birds were seen passing through in an easterly heading.
The first migrant passerine species of the day were seen when at least 4 Whinchats and a Wheatear were seen close to the path.
It became quite evident as we continued along the path and into the dunes that a large fall of migrants had occured.  Wheatears appeared on many fence posts and short turf in the dunes along with large numbers of Meadow Pipits.
We met another birder and briefly chatted about the high expectations for the day, he headed off only to get our attention and pointing out that a Barred Warbler was in a dense patch of Elder and Bramble habitat.  We watched this area for some time and the bird appeared all to briefly, however, from the same small area a Redstart flew out later followed by a Garden Warbler.  After some time waiting, Richard and I headed off through the dunes with the plan to re-visit this area on our return walk.
Continuing east along the dunes, further evidence of a 'fall' was seen with several Redstarts and more Wheatears being seen, however, the dominant species was Meadow Pipit.
Wheatear at Burnham Overy Dunes 16/09/14
As we approached the east end of the dunes system, where it meets the west end of Holkham Pines, the sun was beginning to burn the mist away, eventually giving quite warm temperatures.  We had also arrived at this time at a deep depression with very dense scrub habitat.  Watching from a high vantage point looking down into the depression, it was clear that there was much activity there.  Garden Warblers fed in Elder, 2 or 3 Willow Warblers were moving around, and Redstart were present.
Interestingly, several 'ticking' Song Thrushes were both seen and heard, thus indicating the presence of the first arrivals from Northern Europe.  Walking back later I heard a number of further 'tick' calls which confirmed these early autumn arrivals.
Redstart (female) Burnham Overy Dunes 16/09/14
Immediately south of the boundary fence between the dunes and the marsh, Blackcap (male), Chiffchaff, and more Redstarts were seen in Bramble/Hawthorn scrub.
More distantly over the marsh, a single Marsh Harrier hunted and Little Egret was seen.  Without doubt, one of the most familiar sights and sounds of North Norfolk in autumn and winter, is the magnificent sight of vast skeins of Pink-footed Geese, such a sight was seen today with many hundreds arriving from the south to settle for the day on the marsh.


By early afternoon, Richard and I decided to head back east through the dunes with the intention of spending some time looking for the Barred Warbler which eluded us earlier.  Having arrived at the site we settled down and watched.  I noticed a bird fly out and into a single patch of Bramble on a slope.  With the sun behind us, good light persisted and eventually the Barred Warbler appeared, always very briefly, before returning to cover
Barred Warbler at Burnham Overy Dunes 16/09/14
This large Warbler species appeared very pale with whitish underparts and blue-grey upperparts.  This was clearly a heavily built Warbler.
Also within this small patch of Bramble habitat was Redstart, Garden Warbler, and a Dunnock.
Time was marching on and Richard and myself made for the path south back to the A149, just as we reached the turning point, a single Yellow-browed Warbler literally dropped out of the sky into a dense area of scrub.  Occasionally, this Siberian species, which should be making for south-east Asia, gave a beautiful, thin, and sweet "seweeee" call.  Richard was able to take an excellent picture of this Sibe.
Continuing south along the track further Wheatears were seen on fence-posts, and in the hedgerows, Goldfinches were seen.  A few Swallows and House Martins passed over.
Although todays focus was on the recent arrivals of migrants, probably from the previous night, species considered resident to the area included Kingfisher in one of the channels (found by Richard), Blue Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, and Linnets.  A Water Rail was heard giving its pig-like squeal from within the cover of reeds.

Also of particular interest today was the finding of a beautiful Natterjack Toad in the dunes.

My visits to the North Norfolk Coast are not that frequent as I usually cover my Breckland patch, however, it was evident from the outset that the weather conditions were right for the arrivals of migrant birds.  This was a great days birding and I thank my good friend Richard Farrow for taking me to this special location, on this special day.


 




Sunday, 14 September 2014

'Annoying' twitcher.

Once again, I want to express my annoyance at a female North Norfolk-based twitcher who appears to complain about the presence of people enjoying the North Norfolk Coast unless they are twitchers.
I pride myself at not being a 'twitcher', but being a real birder who accepts anybody, whether they are birders or not, to our wonderful countryside.
This females 'Hot Birding' blogs most recent post once again decries the presence of "annoying dog owners and non birding/camera type people" to the North Norfolk Coast.  Who does she think she is complaining about people visiting the coast, these people have just as much right to visit and enjoy the coast, and any other part of that country for that matter, as does any birder or twitcher types.
Once again I say that people should be encouraged to visit our countryside as these people and possibly their children, may be the future custodians of our wildlife and landscape.
Some twitchers have brought the name of good birders and birding into question with their behaviour, such unwarranted behaviour has included trespassing, poor behaviour, and deliberate flushing of an exhausted bird in order to get their 'tick'.
I love birding on my Breckland patch and will share my knowledge and finds with anybody who listens and wants to learn, however, I have kept scarce and rare finds to just a few responsible friends.  Some may say I suppress my finds, I will respond by saying this is done for good reason. I highlight for example my Pied-billed Grebe I found at Thompson Water in 1999.  I know that irresponsible twitchers attempted to flush this bird from another site by throwing sticks at reeds in order to flush the bird.  More recently, I have found myself speaking to someone who trespassed to see Reeve's Pheasant, having warned him, he was seen again on a further occasion, once again trespassing.
This brings me back to my initial writing on this post and I end by saying that the North Norfolk Coast is not the sole domain of twtichers, after all, would these twitchers like to be described as annoying by the public when a rare bird turns up in a garden, Tesco's car park, or any other location in the public arena.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk.

A real feel of autumn at dawn today with temperatures at 7 degrees, however, with the rising sun, it gradually became warmer, reaching a maximum of about 21 degrees with a gentle north-westerly wind.

1 Redstart (1st winter male or adult male in moult) in Oaks just east of the track to the church at Houghton.
Light southerly passage of Meadow Pipits over Houghton-on-the-Hill
Light southerly passage of Swallows over Houghton-on-the-Hill

Despite being a cool start to the day, it had the feel of migrants being about.  Having parked at the church, I headed down the track to walk east along the road and back to Houghton Common.
1st winter male Redstart at Houghton-on-the-Hill 08/09/14
As I started my walk east, something different flew between Oaks, it appeared Orangey in colour, my first thoughts of this brief sighting was Nuthatch, however, the bird flew into an Oak directly above me, I saw an Orangey tail.  I soon located the bird high in the tree and saw it was a Redstart, close to it was a cousin of this bird, a Robin.  The Redstart flew strongly west in a more distant Oak where it sat for a couple of minutes close to the crown of the tree.  The bird then flew strongly south-west, presumably to trees along the track to the church.  As it flew away, I occasionally caught a glimpse of the beautiful Orangey tail.

Visible migration was evident today with a light but continuous southerly passage of Meadow Pipits at varying heights.  Also, a small gathering of Swallows came into view in front of me to briefly sweep over the fields before heading off south.  A further 3+ Swallows were seen passing over south a little later.

Chiffchaffs appeared plentiful along todays route.  Walking west along the hedgerows towards the church, a few Whitethroats were again seen, however, the most numerous species seen today was Yellowhammer.  Many of these birds gathered at the west end of the track where they appeared to be attracted to an area of stubble where, presumably, they fed upon spilt grain.  Also here was Reed Bunting, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Blue, Great, and 1 Coal Tit.
The morning ended with thoughts of the passage Redstart, a lovely find on the patch.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Houghton-on-the-Hill and Deopham, Norfolk

The day dawned mild with some mist, however, this soon lifted to low cloud followed by a warm and sunny day.  The wind was a gentle north-westerly, but this did pick up for a time in the afternoon.
The main feature of the day was witnessing early autumnal passage with good numbers of summer migrants stopping at a number of localities.  This is indeed the pivotal month for migration.

1 Hobby (juvenile) at Houghton - heading west south west
Meadow Pipit  (15+) - passage at Houghton 8+ high south and 7+ Deopham
Lesser Whitethroat - 2, possibly 3 migrants in Sallow/Bramble at Deopham

Houghton-on-the-Hill
Having arrived at about 0800, I decided to take a slow walk east of the church with the intention of turning and walking back slowly with the rising sun behind me.  Once again, Whitethroats were seen where Elderberries occur, these soft fruits proving nutrition and energy for this migrant species.  Also seen and heard were Chiffchaffs, Yellowhammers, Dunnock, and several Wrens.
Looking North from Houghton-on-the-Hill.  An excellent visible migration watchpoint.
Juvenile Hobby over Houghton (probably on passage)
With warming temperatures, my thoughts turned to raptor passage, I therefore took up position to view the wide skies from the north to the north-west.  Initially, it appeared quiet, I therfore took a walk back east along the path when I saw a Hobby drifting slowly from the north-east to the west south-west.  The Hobby was a juvenile bird, the pale ventral area ages this bird clearly from the 'red trousers' of the adult birds.  It was around about this time when I heard the familiar flight call of overhead passage Meadow Pipits, a sure sign of autumn.
Further visible migration was seen at 1050 when 8+ Meadow Pipits passed high overhead in a north to south passage.

Deopham
The wide expanses of arable visited today now replaces what was formerly a WW11 USAF airfield, in fact, much of the old runway and hardstands still exist here.  Today, my sole intention was to visit some beautiful patches of Bramble scrub.  Close to, this area of scrub clearly covers a good area, however, from a distance it appears quite isolated within the vast open countryside...surely an attraction to passing migrants.
An area of stagnant water on hardstand near the road is always worth a check for passage wading birds, none were there, however, 7+ Meadow Pipits were seen.  With the Meadow Pipits seen earlier in the day at Houghton, it would appear that passage for this species is truly under way.  Also there was a preening Pied Wagtail.
Lesser Whitethroat at Deopham, Norfolk 07/09/14.  Two, possibly 3 were in this Sallow.
Further along the road I approached the fantastic area of Bramble scrub slowly and cautiously waiting for movement and almost immediately a Whitethroat broke cover.  Further along I could see further movement, something bright white passed between cover, as I approached my suspicions were confirmed when a stunning Lesser Whitethroat fed in Bramble.  I decided to sit and wait.  It would appear that at least 2, possibly 3 Lesser Whitethroats were at this locality, occasionally in Bramble, but mostly in a largish Sallow.
Checking long hedgerows for migrant birds can be a long process, especially when presented with a variety of habitats, but checking what appears to be from a distance, small areas of scrub can be very rewarding as seen today at Deopham.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Watton Brook Valley, Norfolk

The Watton Brook Valley passes through my home town of Watton in Norfolk and meanders in a more or less westerly direction until it flows into one of the major Norfolk rivers, the Wissey.
I spend a lot of time birding along the valley, especially at this time of year when the lush habitats which follows the water margins, attract migrant birds to feed and rest.  Much of the valley is grazing for sheep and cattle, fencing and posts which border the fields and contain the livestock are always worth checking for migrant birds.
Today I visited the valley at Great Cressingham and Bodney in the morning, and Threxton mid/late afternoon.

Great Cressingham/Bodney
The lush valley initially appeared quiet, however, I was quite early and was optimistic that migrants would be found.
Whitethroat at Bodney 06/09/14
A small, damp woodland of Poplar and willow held several Chiffchaffs and Blackcap, however, the most numerous species was Long-tailed Tit.  A moving flock of Long-tailed Tits is always worth a check for other species, this flock contained Marsh and Blue Tits, Treecreeper, and Chiffchaffs.
I found a patch of rough ground with scattered Elders, I concentrated my efforts on one Elder where large clumps of black fruits were there for the taking.  Waiting paid off when a Whitethroat dropped in to feed.  Robin, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, and overhead, 50+ Swallows hunted.
Skulking Reed Warbler (immature) Great Cressingham 06/09/14
My walk back was to prove both rewarding and frustrating.  I caught a glimpse of something 'different' flying between dense herbage.  The bird was a warm brown colour and as soon as it entered cover it gave a harsh "chrrrr" call, this call was to be repeated.  My suspicions were confirmed when I saw a Reed Warbler skulking in cover of dense herbage.  This bird always remained elusive, however, enough views were had to confirm this as an immature bird.
This record shot shows the Reed Warbler in cover.


Threxton
I started this walk by checking the ever-productive habitat at the Sewage Treatment works.  Straight away it was evident that lots of birds were present, most notably, Chiffchaffs, however, a single juvenile Spotted Flycatcher was in the mix of other birds moving along dense roadside habitat
Juvenile Spotted Flycatcher at Threxton 06/09/14
This Spotted Flycatcher is aged by its pale fringed wing coverts and blotching on its back.  On adults, the upperparts sre uniformly grey-brown.
Other birds seen at this time was a number of Chiffhcaffs, a passing mixed flock of mostly Long-tailed TitsGoldcrest, and Blue Tits.
I paid a short visit further along the lane with little success, I therefore returned to the sewage treatment works.  Once again, Chiffchaff dominated, however, a splash of yellow was provided by a probable family party of 5 Grey Wagtails.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Nightingales on the Hoo Peninsula (North Kent coast, UK)

I am seriously disgusted at how developers have been given approval by council for the Hoo Peninsula for the building of 5000 homes, a project which will ensure the extinction of Nightingales from that area.
I have posted an article and 'facebook' about this and have also written to my local M.P., Elizabeth Truss (Environment Secretary) voicing my disgust at this.  I urge my followers of this blog to please do the same.
My 'facebook' post which forms the bulk of the email to my M.P., reads as follows:

FOR THE ATTENTION OF ELIZABETH TRUSS M.P. FOR MY CONSTITUENCY IN SOUTH-WEST NORFOLK.
As my local M.P. I ask you to take the opportunity to read the following 'facebook post' regarding plans to build 5000 homes on the Hoo Peninsula, this development which will significantly contribute to the extinction of Nightingales in Britain. My 'post' reads as follows:
DESTRUCTION OF NIGHTINGALE HABITAT ON THE HOO PENINSULA: Nightingales are under significant threat from developers who are aware of this site being the home to this highly sensitive site faithful species......and the council have approved this.
Here in the UK we are on the extreme north-west of the range for Nightingale in Europe. This migrant from Africa does not occur in the north of the country, in fact if you were to draw a line from the Humber to the Severn estuary, this species does not occur north of that line.
The developers in this case have said they will create a new site nearby for Nightingales. How short-sighted and ill-informed these people are. Habitats for this species take decades/centuries to develop, you can't just plant a bush and create a habitat for Nightingales, this species requires deep dark clumps of scrub/woodland habitat, these take as I say, a very long time to develop, by which time, this development company have done their bit to ensure the extinction of this beautiful bird from our shores.
I ask you to like and share this story of mine and show your annoyance at this greed. Once again, the human race thinks it can ride roughshod over other life, life which has very right to survive and thrive alongside us.
I shall be writing to our local MP and the Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss,voicing my at my disgust at this story, her eail address is: defra.helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk
Please write to Elizabeth Truss MP if you will in order to express your disgust at this...if you are digusted by this of course.
Please share this post.
M.P. Truss, I ask you to step in and voice your concerns about this development and the lack of knowledge the developers have regarding providing a new site for this species.
Paul Newport (Life-long Birder)
 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Golden Plover at Deopham, Norfolk

A regular feature of the wide expanses of open country in the Breckland area are the large flocks of Golden Plovers which following their breeding season in upland Britain, move south for the winter.
Golden Plover at Deopham, Norfolk 02/09/14
During my break from work during the afternoon of 02/09/14, I parked up in Deopham to see what was about in the large fields there.  I soon heard Golden Plovers and quickly located the birds flocking above the fields as they do when disturbed, possibly by the presence of a raptor species.
500+ Golden Plovers were present, however, flocks in the Breckland area can grow to four figures in size.
Following their breeding season in upland Britain, Golden Plovers move south to lowland areas for the winter.  This species is often encountered as a passage migrant, or as a winter visitor, and can be seen as early as late July.  My earliest birds this year were in fact in late July at Houghton, Norfolk.
Male Golden Plovers in their breeding plumage are very spectacular birds with Black faces, necks and underparts, this contrasting strongly with the beautiful spangled golden upperparts.  Looking closely at this photograph, it is possible to see some black on the underparts of the male birds, this plumage feature is lost entirely in the winter months.
Male Golden Plovers begin to moult into their breeding plumage in late winter, early spring, it is therefore worth checking through a late winter flock to observe this beautiful bird before it departs for its upland breeding grounds.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Houghton-on-the-Hill and Merton, Norfolk

Houghton-on-the-Hill
Most effort was given to the corridor formed by thick hedges east of St Mary’s Church.  Good light initially, however, duller conditions moved in with cloud.
A slow walk west along the corridor saw some movement, mostly Buntings, however, it was not until light rain that Whitethroats (10+) were seen at the western end of the corridor, most were seen crossing the gap in the hedge, or flitting between cover of Elder and Hawthorn.  Chiffchaffs were also noted as were a few Yellowhammers and a ♀ Reed Bunting.  One unlucky bird fell prey to a hunting Sparrowhawk.
As with my previous visit to this locality, the most vocal bird was an incessantly calling juvenile Buzzard.

Merton
A mid-afternoon visit to Merton was in order to check a traditional migrant locality.  As soon as I arrived it was clear that there was plenty of activity in this area of thick Elder, Hawthorn, and Bramble scrub.
Blackcap and Chiffchaff were both present and 10+ Tree Sparrows, an expected species here, were flying around the locality.
Lesser Whitethroat at Merton 01/09/14 (An expected bird here)
A single Lesser Whitethroat was seen in Hawthorn, in fact, it was quite mobile as it flew in various bushes of Elder and Hawthorn.  This bird frequently called its "stit" call, somewhat different to the Blackcaps "tak" note.
This is a species of tree-lined hedgerows during the breeding season but now in autumn it joins other Warblers in thick scrub habitat to feed and rest.
Also seen and heard in Merton was Blackbird, calling Nuthatch, Blue and Great Tits, 10+ Swallows overhead and 2 calling Little Owls.