Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

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

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.

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.

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