Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 13 April 2015

Houghton-on-the-Hill and Watton, Norfolk

Houghton 0600-0900
I arrived at St Mary's Church at Houghton-on-the-Hill to a fine pre-sunrise dawn and a temperature of 1 degree.  Some early morning mist in the valley was soon to burn off following sunrise.
My walk this morning would take me from St Mary's down to Houghton Springs and the paddocks, after this, I headed for Houghton Common and back to my start point.
Common, and expected birds were seen and heard from the outset.  Summer visitors included a number of singing Chiffchaffs and at least 6 Blackcap, of these 5 were males on territory. 
At Houghton Springs and paddocks I was hoping to see if Ring Ouzel was present given the recent significant passage into Norfolk, however, none seen today.  Birds seen and heard here was:

1 Barn Owl
1 Water Rail calling
Stock Dove
4 Chiffchaffs
4 Blackcaps
1 Song Thrush
1 Goldcrest singing
Reed Bunting (pair)

If I was to find Ring Ouzel, then the paddocks was the place to find one, however, a good search did not reveal this stunning migrant. 
At least 4 Blackbirds (pair + 2 males), 1 Mistle Thrush, singing Song Thrush, 5+ Blue Tits, and Chaffinch were seen on the big paddock.
As I was leaving the paddocks I stopped and chatted for a while to a lovely couple called Chris and Sue who live nearby.  Chris and Sue moved here from Cornwall a year ago and love the area.  Chris was telling me about a Great Grey Shrike he found nearby in February this year...a great find. 

The lane which leads to Houghton Common rises gently with lovely hedgerows and trees forming a narrow corridor before opening onto arable (Houghton Common).  The lane held Chiffchaff at 4 sites, including a pair just above me in Ivy, and singing Blackcap, Linnets, and a pair of Bullfinches over.
The wonderful corridor of thick hedgerows running from Houghton Common back to the church is always worth checking for migrants.  As I walked slowly along the path I heard a quiet sub-song of a male Blackcap, the bird appeared in front of me on Bramble.  As this bird was not holding territory and was skulking I would say this was a resting passage bird.

Watton (early afternoon)
Buzzard 'light phase' over Watton 13/04/15 
With warm sunny conditions I decided to spend a little time watching for raptors from the garden.  Several Buzzards were seen above the town/garden at varying heights, quite low to very high.
All Buzzards seen were typically marked dark birds, however, one beautifully marked 'light phase' juvenile Buzzard put in an appearance directly above the garden/estate.
I am sure you will agree this is a very attractive looking Buzzard.


  1. Hi Paul
    Had the same Buzzard over my parents house last week, a striking bird indeed. I had a good look at it what with reports of a Booted Eagle in the Cockley Cley area recently, but clearly a Buzzard. You can see why some people may make mistakes with the different variations of plumage. Apparently the Eagle was seen by a very competent birder so maybe there's an Eagle out there waiting for you to find.
    Good Luck

  2. Hi Chris
    I must admit that when I first saw the Buzzard approaching that Booted Eagle was on my day perhaps. Hope you and the family are all well Chris...please pass on my best thoughts and wishes to them.

  3. In France it is called the "Buze Variable"...
    and boy... it really is!

    This is "Osprey"... our name for our pale-morph local bird...
    the head markings are almost perfect Osprey... and when it is sitting horizontal on a wire...
    you do have to do a double-take and a check with the binos!!

    In the five kilometres into the village we have five pairs... one per kilometre...
    Osprey and Chocbar are our nearest...
    then the Twins... two absolutely identical dark birds...
    followed by two pairs of almost book-standard buzzards...
    and nearest the village a pale and a dark again.

    Our Blackcaps have now finished stripping the ivy...
    currently the max at any one time has been three males and two females...
    but no territorial singing...
    but we now have three Allday&nightingales fighting it out vocally.

    1. Hi Tim
      I can understand you naming the "Buze Variable" Osprey, and I am sure that non-birders could be confused by the markings and thinking it something else other than Buzzard. We had a fine day yesterday and it was good to drink a coffee and watch Buzzards soaring high above.
      Most Blackcaps seen/heard yesterday were holding territory, but there was a skulking male in a thick hedgerow base I suspect by its behaviour was a resting passage bird.
      Fantastic numbers of Chiffchaffs Tim, Blackcaps buiding in numbers, but still just the one Willow Warbler.
      Good to see your Nightingales back on territory, I am going to make it a mission this spring to see how this species fortunes are as it has declined locally somewhat significantly in recent years.
      Chat soon Tim and thank you.