Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 29 June 2015

Little Cressingham, Norfolk

Today is the beginning of a very warm spell of weather.  Sunny and very warm all day with highs of 25 degrees celsius, however, temperatures are expected to rise to 33 degrees in some parts by Wednesday.
This afternoon I walked along the Great Cressingham Road to as far as the Watton Brook valley and back, with most effort given to the valley itself.  As with this location, the valley is full of very dense herbage along its length and intention of mine was to see how my Whitethroats are doing.
Watton Brook Valley at Little Cressingham 29/06/15.  Whitethroats bred this year in the habitat in the foreground, today both male and female birds were seen food-carrying for young.
 Just before reaching Watton Brook I saw a Harrier species drifting slowly north-west, a noisy Curlew flew up to intercept the raptor.  Interestingly, the Harrier presented problems for me, firstly, it was seen with the light and appeared silhouetted, secondly, it appeared smaller than Marsh and structurally slighter in build.  Was this a possible Montagu's Harrier?
At Watton Brook it didn't take long to connect with the Whitethroats.  Both male and female birds were seen food carrying, including the bird pictured here.
Also noted was a distant pair of Oystercatchers appearing to be nesting on top of a large bowser of water used presumably for sheep to drink at.
The walk back was interesting.  Several juvenile Tits were moving through a small Pine wood, the interesting bit was trying to negotiate two large plumes of irrigation water from pipes which were placed close to the road.  Well, it was very warm, and the brief shower was somewhat cooling.
Whitethroat (one of a pair) food carrying at Little Cressingham 29/06/15

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Little Cressingham, Norfolk

As soon as I arrived at the Watton Brook valley along Fairstead Lane it was evident that there was much activity here, this being due to the beautiful wide ranging lush plantlife which adorn the valley.  The insect life here in turn attracts birds, and indeed, this morning numerous Hirundines, mostly House Martins, and smaller numbers of Swallows, flew over the water and lush herbage in their hunt for insect food.

Watton Brook valley at Little Cressingham 27/06/15
The above photograph shows Watton Brook valley from Fairstead Lane.  Most of my birding this morning was centred at this location and the immediate surrounds.  
Swallows and House Martins formed the majority species as they hunted for insect life along the valley.  A Kestrel hunted over the valley in this picture, and indeed, a further 2+ birds were seen further along the lane where they bred.  A Little Owl was seen flying in its typical undulating flight along fence lines.
Blackcap (male) Little Cressingham 27/06/15
It is always great to report on a formerly common species doing well, this is the case with House Sparrows in the Watton Brook valley.  I always encountered House Sparrows in the valley and this morning good numbers of both adults and juvenile birds were seen, in addition to this, a couple of adults were seen carrying nesting materials.
Also in the immediate area here was Whitethroat skulking in a hedgerow, 2 singing Lesser Whitethroats, Chiffchaff, and singing Blackcap.  The pictured Blackcap was heard on a few occasions singing, here it was seen in an Elder.  A number of pairs of Goldfinches were seen along the lane along with juvenile Blue Tits.
House Sparrow (female) at Little Cressingham 27/06/15
I love House Sparrows, sadly however, this beautiful bird is generally overlooked due to its relative abundance.  Will this delightful bird one way go the same way as Tree Sparrow and become a sought after species by the twitching fraternity.  In my opinion, this lovely species should be appreciated as much as any scarce species.
With breeding and feeding being a priority for birds at this time, some may consider it too early to think of autumn migrants, I did however find today a useful to predict where migrant Warblers may occur, to this end, I noticed today that Elder bushes are heavily in flower, such habitats will of course provide good feeding for migrants in Autumn, when they will use these food sources to fuel up for their southbound migration.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Houghton-on-the-Hill and Little Cressingham, Norfolk

Houghton-on-the-Hill
The day dawned bright and more June-like following what was a pretty dismal weekend of weather.
Female Chaffinch on nest 15/06/15
The peaceful, tranquil setting of Houghton-on-the-Hill is where I spent an hour this morning watching the comings and goings of a pair of Chaffinches.  The nest is located on a horizontal branch secured against a fork within an old Hawthorn.  It was evident that young were in the nest as both parents were making frequent flights away from the nest to collect food.  The female as seen here spent some time brooding her young family.
A Sparrowhawk took me by surprise by shooting through trees just in front of me, appearing almost as a blur. 
2 male Blackcaps sang in the immediate area as well as Chiffchaff.  Shortly before leaving I saw a Buzzard carrying prey into nearby woodland, also an indication of breeding success.

Little Cressingham (mid-afternoon)
A very pleasant afternoon with sunny weather and a high of 19 degrees.  This afternoon I walked along the Great Cressingham Road north of The Arms to Watton Brook and back.

Speckled Wood at Little Cressingham, 15/06/15
As well as my birding passion, I am also trying to learn more about insects, the roadside verges here are quite wide on both sides and clearly hold much botanical interest, this in turn supports wonderful insect life.
The verges here today held Moth species (not identified), Speckled WoodRed Admiral and Common Blue Butterflies, and Cinnabar moth.
Woodland near Hopton Farm held a wandering party of Blue Tits, including yellow-faced juvenile birds.
Further along the walk I saw a Buzzard, this was then followed by a Hobby emerging from woodland.  I watched the Hobby soar and gain altitude, it gained several hundred feet, then, amazingly, the Falcon plummeted almost vertically for a considerable drop, and at tremendous speed before disappearing out of sight behind woodland.
Walking back to my start point I was very impressed by the fantastic display of flowering Dog Rose within the roadside hedgerows...a wonderful sight.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Natural England...showing their true colours

I was reminded today by a friend about an article in the Guardian Newspaper relating to Natural England issuing licences for the secret destruction of Buzzard eggs in order to protect Pheasants for the shoot. 
Why is it that as soon as a species such as the beautiful Buzzard enjoys success by moving into areas where previously persecuted, that someone wants to reverse the trend in the name of hunting.
Buzzards are now enjoying success on my Breckland patch and their numbers can only reach a sustainable level and then plateau.
Buzzards and other raptors have been the subject of persecution historically and indeed at the current time.  I am sure that some gamekeepers will not be happy with this arrangement and that illegal persecution will continue.
Natural England will clearly not be receiving support from me.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Little Cressingham (Great Cressingham Road)

A sunny and quite warm day, especially in sheltered areas, however, the wing continues from a Northerly quarter which gives a call edge to temperatures.
1530-1630 I walked from 'The Arms' to the Watton Brook Valley along the Great Cressingham road, and back.  A brief check of the Watton Brook Valley produced a pair of Pied Wagtails, a distant single Mistle Thrush giving long hops on grazing, a singing Reed Bunting east of the bridge in dense herbage, and a singing Whitethroat briefly.
Spotted Flycatcher at Little Cressingham 10/06/15
Walking back towards 'The Arms' it was clear that there was activity along the woodland/roadside edge at Hopton Farm.  Clearly, this warm, sunny, sheltered side of the wood was attractive to birds.
A single Spotted Flycatcher flew from the roadside hedge into pines where its conspicuous white underparts proved no problem for quickly relocating this bird.  A noticeable feature of this species is just seen in this photograph, the broad base to that slender bill, which presumably assists the bird in catching insect prey when snapping shut its bill during 'flycatching' sallies.
Spotted Flycatchers are true long-distant migrants with birds from Britain being recorded as far south as South Africa.
Also present along the sheltered side of the wood was a pair of Chaffinches (with young present), a singing male Blackcap, a number of Coal Tits searching the pine needles for spiders etc.
Along the roadside verge a single Painted Lady Butterfly was seen...a good year so far for this migratory species.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Little Cressingham, Norfolk

According to the weather forecast we were to have some slow moving thunderstorms passing over today.  It was darkish for a time with rumbles of thunder but then it cleared up to give a sunny, very warm, and very humid day.
I visited Little Cressingham between 1030 and 1130 this morning to check the Great Cressingham road from 'The Arms' to the Watton Brook valley.
As I was driving along the Great Cressingham road towards 'The Arms' a Cuckoo flew just in front of me over the road.  Having parked up I walked north towards the valley and saw the Cuckoo on at least a further 3 occasions close to the roadside hedges, Last saw it descending somewhere into the valley.  I suspect this was a female Cuckoo searching for foster birds nests in which to lay her own eggs.
Whitethroat with Mayfly for young at Lt Cressingham 05/06/15
Once I reached the valley I checked a known habitat for breeding Whitethroat and saw this bird carrying a Mayfly for its young in a nest located in a dense Dog Rose in the valley.
Other passerine species species in the valley included a singing male Reed Bunting in dense herbage in the valley and a Wren.
On grazing land adjacent to the valley was a single Egyptian Goose and a single Oystercatcher.
Walking back along the Great Cressingham road towards 'The Arms' I once again saw the Cuckoo in the roadside hedgerows.  Getting closer to the area where I saw the Cuckoo many Blackbirds were noisily 'pinking' in a small dense woodland habitat, perhaps these birds were angry at the presence of the Cuckoo.  At least 3 male Blackbirds were seen in this area, also a male Blackcap and Chiffchaff were singing.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Deopham, Norfolk

Although now returned mostly to arable, this former site of a WW2 USAF Heavy Bomber Group still has much evidence of the airfield in existence, most notably, the straight road between Deopham and Little Ellingham, which sits on the course of the main runway.  Much of the concrete runway runs parrallel with the road.
Whenever I visit this location I try to imagine what it would have been like here 70 years ago when the airfield was the home to 4000 men.  In fact my work as a carer sees me visit some lovely people who lived through the war years. These wonderful people have shed much light on Deopham airfield and I have learnt much of the activities which went on during those war years.
The area is now arable farmland, however, the wide open spaces and topography would certainly have contributed towards Deopham being identified for an airfield.  I think it has an atmosphere and I always remember those who gave their lives to secure our freedom.
Deopham 01/06/16.  This wonderful habitat of Bramble, Dog Rose, Hawthorn, Sallow, and Gorse, today supported Blackbirds (carrying food), Linnets (2 pairs), Yellowhammer, and Wren.  I am sure Whitethroats are present also.
This wonderful habitat seen here has taken hold along the edge of what was the main runway of the airfield.  Although looking quite extensive in this picture it is really quite an isolated habitat lying within vast arable farmland.  Perhaps this habitat will attract a Shrike species...it looks right.
I noted many Skylarks both singing overhead as well as individuals feeding on the concrete.  I was thinking during my visit that 70 years ago, quite spells on the airfield must have seen USAF personnel looking up and listening to the wonderful Skylark.  Perhaps the Skylarks seen today were descended from birds seen by those personnel all those years ago.
Ahead of this picture lies a muck heap, I always check this for passage Waders, today however, I saw a single Pied Wagtail.  A little further along from there a singing Lesser Whitethroat sang from another length of relatively isolated wooded hedgerow.