Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 24 October 2014

Grey Wagtail at Bawburgh, Norfolk 22/10/14

During an afternoon break from work I decided to visit the fast flowing section of the River Yare just downstream from the mill at Bawburgh.
I found a single Grey Wagtail at a traditional site for this species where I was entertained by it bathing in the shallows of the river.  As well as giving itself a good wash, I had to smile when it allowed itself to drift backwards by the river current.
Grey Wagtail bathing in the River Yare at Bawburgh, Norfolk 22/10/14 

Little Cressingham, Norfolk

Movements of winter Thrushes appear to be on hold at the current time with the continuing south-westerly winds blocking any significant passage from Northern Europe.  Despite this, birds will continue to battle though in smaller numbers, and indeed, any previously arrived birds will make local movements.
At about 1400, I got out of the car on Fairstead Lane and almost straight away saw a single Fieldfare pass over before dropping in the Watton Brook valley.
Redwing - a recent arrival at Little Cressingham 24/10/14 
Very soon after the Fieldfare went out of sight, 2 Redwings approached from the North at height and then dropped into the tree (seen here).  After resting for a while this Redwing then flew into a Hawthorn and joined a number of Blackbirds where they fed upon berries.  The numbers of Blackbirds seen here also indicates these are probably recently arrived migrants.
A short walk along Fairstead Lane produced a number of Skylarks, again, possibly continental birds present, also Yellowhammers and a small Long-tailed Tit flock seen.
A single, pale looking Buzzard was seen from Fairstead Lane moving between a number of trees along Green Lane.  

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Lynford Arboretum, Norfolk

Another very windy day with strong south-westerlies.  Despite this the weather remains unseasonally mild and sunny.
Lynford Arboretum 19/10/14
Lynford Arboretum is a truly beautiful location with its wide variety of tree species.  Numerous Pine species include very large Corsican, Maritime, and Scots Pines, Larch and Spruce.  Several deciduous species occur including Hornbeam, Oak, and Birch species.  The fringes of the lake has Alders, a species which attracts small Finches like Siskin and Redpoll.
Lynford Arboretum, from a birders perspective, is probably the best site in Norfolk for seeing the elusive and magnificent Hawfinch.  It is also very reliable for the stunning Firecrest, however, both of these species eluded me today. 
Crossbills are another sought after species by birders visiting the Arboretum.  Sometimes, this enigmatic bird occurs here in good numbers.
My route this morning took me through the park to the lake, it is from here that Hawfinch can be seen in the paddocks, however, today I only saw Wood Pigeons and Jays here.  I heard Siskins in the Alders, and hidden in thick cover, a Water Rail called.  A few Redwings were heard.
Walking back through the Arboretum, the most numerous species seen and heard was Goldcrest and Coal Tit.  High in the trees, Mistle Thrushes gave their harsh rattle call.
For several minutes I stood and watched good numbers of Hornets, some came close and I could hear the deep hum of these beautiful insects.
Back in the car park, and I was preparing to leave, Goldcrests were heard and an overhead Redpoll gave its familiar "djit djit" flight call.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Hockham, Norfolk

A blustery day but very mild in the current south-westerly airflow.  Such winds have for the time being put Thrush migration from Northern Europe on hold.
I paid a fairly short visit to a wonderful location in Hockham Forest where a real diverse range of species can, and have, been seen.
Initially, overviewing the site was quiet, however, after a short wait I heard a number of calling Crow species which were out of view to the distant right.  These calls clearly told me they were not happy and that a raptor was in the area.  Not the usual call from these birds but far more strained as if really screaming at something.  This is a call I have become familiar with, such a call tells me to be ready for a raptor to appear.  Along with these calls, several Wood Pigeons flew rapidly away from right to left and assorted small birds scattered.  Moments later, the culprit appeared from right to left, an adult Goshawk slowly drifting past and then turning north in a relatively leisurely flight. 
Goshawk at Hockham 18/10/14 - Feared and respected by Crow species
I was hoping for Harrier species on this visit, however, none were seen.  A hunting Kestrel and calling Buzzards were the only other raptors present.
At least 3 Grey Herons were seen as well as a few Teal being seen and heard.
I was surprised not to hear or see any Crossbills on this short visit, however, a smaller Finch species, the Siskin was heard on occasion.
A few Redwings were heard and a Mistle Thrush appeared alarmed by giving its harsh rattle-like call.
Other than this, typical species for this habitat were seen and heard, these included Long-tailed Tits, Coal TitsGoldcrests, and Treecreepers in roving flocks.
To conclude, begin to learn the signs given by various species, both visual and audible, of raptors being in the area, this will give you some preparation for when a hunter appears.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bawburgh, Norfolk

During my break from work today I had a very pleasant visit to the surroundings in the churchyard at Bawburgh.  This lovely location has some fine Yews and Beeches, with hedgerows at its boundaries.  The churchyard also manages conservation areas within.
Song Thrush at Bawburgh 16/10/14
The purpose of this visit was to check the area for migrant Thrush species and it was straight away evident that many Song Thrushes were present.
I settled down by the church tower with some Yew trees directly in front of me.
Many Song Thrushes, most, if not all, being migrant continental birds, were flying between Yews and nearby hedgerows, their "tick" calls a constant reminder of their presence.  Undoubtedly, the thick cover will provide good cover and roosting sites for this and other species.
Also present was a few Redwings, Blackbirds, and several Mistle Thrushes, the latter species often giving its harsh rattle-like call.
Other species seen here included a single Blackcap, Robin, Coal, Blue, and Great Tits, Wren, Goldcrest, and a single Little Owl which briefly called in response to another calling bird in nearby farmland.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Hethel Old Thorn, Norfolk

This is Hethel Old Thorn in Norfolk, it is the smallest nature reserve in the Great Britain.  This beautiful specimen is said to be at least 700 years of age with some estimates putting it at 1000 years of age.  In 1841, the Hawthorn's measurements were made, then, it had a 12 feet 1 inches circumference around the trunk with a spread of 30 yards.  This magnificent Hawthorn remains a very healthy specimen.
Hethel Old Thorn, Norfolk 14/10/14
Thrush Passage
With a deep area of low pressure and moderate North-Easterly winds, I was eager to get outside at first light to see if there was any Thrush passage in evidence and straight away there was several waves of calling Redwings and Song Thrushes passing high overhead from the north-east.
During my afternoon break from work, I visited Hethel where the churchyard and nearby woodlands held a few Redwings and Song Thrushes.  With similar winds overnight and into Wednesday morning, I expect further movements of Thrush species. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Song Thrush passage at Houghton, Norfolk

The morning dawned very bright with a temperature of 9 degrees celsius.  The wind was a moderate to fresh southwesterly.
I arrived at Houghton-on-the-Hill at about 0800 and took a short walk east along the corridor formed by dense hedgerows to Houghton Common.  The first section of hedgerow at the west end of the path held a number of Song Thrushes, all giving their presence away by their short "tick" call from within cover.  All along the length of the path to Houghton Common a number of Song Thrushes were heard as was Bullfinch and Goldcrest.  Good numbers of Yellowhammers flocked in the hedge and a Reed Bunting was heard.
Once on Houghton Common, and with the bright sun behind me, I looked back at the hedge and saw a fine looking Song Thrush on the hedge along with a Blackbird.  The Song Thrush then flew off, climbing as it went, and continued its passage south.
The numbers of Song Thrushes seen and heard, along with visual migration, clearly shows these are recently arrived continental birds.
Heading back along the path, a couple of Blackbirds were seen, and near the church, a flock of 18+ Long-tailed Tits passed through, and overhead, several single Song Thrushes continued to to be seen flying in variable directions.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Thompson Water/Peddars Way, Norfolk 05/10/14

A lovely morning with temperatures at dawn of 2 degress celsius.  Patchy, thickish fog, and clear skies gave the morning a very autumnal feel to it.
My intention this morning was to try and locate early migrant Thrush species, none were seen or heard, however, a walk along the Peddars Way produced my first Brambling of the Autumn.  Although not seen, the Bramblings call was very distinctive, a nasally "zweeeeu"

Great Spotted Woodpecker Thompson Water 05/10/14

A recent clearfelled area near Watering Farm was quiet with the exception of a passing Kestrel.
Several Goldcrests were both seen and heard as well as good numbers of Marsh, Coal, Great, and Blue Tits, and a Siskin.
There was very little evidence of any summer migrants other than a calling Chiffchaff.
Two Cetti's Warblers gave bursts of its explosive song from dense waterside scrub, an incredibly loud song for a small bird. 
At least 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers were either seen or heard, including the male photographed here.  Also, several Nuthatches were seen or heard as well as Treecreeper.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Hockham Fen, Norfolk

0800: I Parked in Hockham Forest close to the Picnic site and then walked the minor road to Galley Hill.  I have read accounts that it is at this junction where highwaymen were hanged in order to serve as a reminder to those who intended to hold up coaches.
This lovely walk passes through mostly commercial pine crop, although there is plentiful deciduous woodland of Oak and Birch.  It is at the bridge which passes over the track which was the former railway line where I once watched a Hawfinch fly into roost in the pines.
By far the most abundant bird heard along the walk was Goldcrest, a typical species found in this habitat.  I reached the path which leads to Cranberry Rough to encounter at least 4 Marsh Tits, Goldcrests, Wrens, Treecreeper, Great and Blue Tits.  Overhead in the trees was s mobile flock of 30+ Siskins, it is likely that these are Northern European migrants.
Walking along the boundary fence at Hockham Fen I could see lots of Crows noisily gathering in treetops and flocking over the fen.  Their straining voices suggested a raptor was in the area and it wasn't too long before a female Marsh Harrier appeared briefly.  I watched the fen for some while and again saw the Marsh Harrier being pursued by Crows.  A Chiffchaff was occasionally singing close by.
I walked back along the forest trails to the car to the calls of Goldcrests again, as well as Nuthatch.