Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Marsh Harrier breeding success on the patch.

We recently passed St. Swithan's day, and it is said that if it rains on that day, it will continue to do so for 40 days and 40 nights.  Well it did rain on St Swithan's day, and it continues to do with some extreme totals seen in just one night in Norfolk.  In fact it started raining last Friday afternoon at about 1400hrs and in continued to rain heavily until mid-day Saturday.

Great Spotted Woodpecker 28/07/15
Today I visited a local site a few miles from my home town of Watton, Norfolk, and it wasn't too long before I heard a thin "pseee" call above me.  Checking the source of the call I was pleased to see 3 Marsh Harriers together (pair and juvenile), appearing to just enjoy flight with acrobatic tumbles seen.  Often, this raptor is seen flying leisurely over reeds, however, they can show great manouverability and agility with fast twists and turns, and spectacular diving displays.

Water Rails, typically, were heard only in reeds with one bird appearing to be involved in a squabble close to well within the cover of reeds.  A variety of calls were heard including a couple of "kip kip" calls and a half-hearted attempt at squealing.
Reed Warblers were still feeding young with at least one bird being seen in flight carrying food in its bill.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker (male) was seen within the woodland carr habitat along with Nuthatches and lots of Chaffinches.  A number of Chiffchaffs were heard in woodland as was Blackcap.

I have noticed in the hedgerows that many Warblers have now departed their territories where they nested and raised their young.  Young Warblers such as Whitethroats will have dispersed into the wider countryside, and in doing so, may turn up anywhere.  Although hedgerows may seem eerily quiet with the song of Warblers a distant memory, the following 2 to 3 months will see these same habitats beginning to fill with migrant Warblers from other parts of the UK and Northern Europe as they search and feed upon natures fruits as they take their fill prior to making their long migrations to Southern Europe and Africa.
During the breeding season, Warblers held territories and defended them from rival males, however, during the autumn months there is a clear relaxation of defensive behaviour as Warblers readily exhibit gregarious behaviour in their common aim, to feed and fuel up for passage.  An exciting few months to come.

Friday, 17 July 2015

North Pickenham (Houghton), Norfolk (and thoughts on forthcoming migration)

Despite overnight thunderstorms the morning dawned muggy and warm at 16 degrees celsius. 
Now that we have passed mid-July, thoughts are now with forthcoming migration, the most fascinating aspect of birding in my opinion.  Wading birds should be found now around muck heaps where they rest and feed upon midges and insects within these micro-habitats.
August will see the first evidence of passerine passage with the first Warblers stopping off at the numerous staging posts on my patch to feed up.
Although Swifts are still present over our towns and villages in good numbers, passage involving this species has already been seen at coastal localities.
Cuckoo behaviour as everyone knows is fascinating.  The tracking of some adult Cuckoos has shown that our birds are now back in Africa, whilst young birds will still appear over-sized in a small Warbler, Pipit, or Dunnocks nest.  The young birds will then fledge and will eventually make their own way back to Africa unassisted, truly fascinating behaviour.

July has often been cited as being a quiet month for birding, on the contrary in my opinion.  This morning I saw several young Blackcaps moving between hedges, presumably to follow their parents for food.  A few Blackcaps were also heard in song.
Several young Blue Tits were seen foraging for food, their pale yellow faces indicating their young age.
Thrushes were well represented this morning at Houghton with at least 6 Song Thrushes together (family party), and some Blackbirds, however, I had a good record of 48+ Mistle Thrushes in a large loose gathering.  Post breeding flocks of Mistle Thrushes can reach impressive numbers, my best count was 80+ some years ago in nearby Saham Toney.
Other species recorded this morning included singing Wren, Robin, and Dunnock, however, just as I was about to leave the distinctive call of a Crossbill was heard passing overhead.  The winter of 2014/15 has lacked any good numbers of this stunning Finch, but recently a passage of irruptive Crossbills has been witnessed along the east coast of Britain.  These migrants will be from Northern Europe and will migrate to Britain when their normal food supply in Europe has either failed or is not sufficient to support them.  The Crossbill heard today would have undoubtedly been a migrant from Northern Europe.  Here's hoping to a great Crossbill winter this year.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Wayland Wood, Norfolk. Another proposed development in Watton which will impact negatively on this nationally important site.

WAYLAND WOOD  (The impact of  further development of the Thetford Road (Gladmans) upon Wayland Wood and its wildlife).
With exception of Sherwood Forest and Selwood, Wayland Wood is the oldest wood in England, it is one of the largest broad-leaved woods in Norfolk, and is county-wide, and nationally important for its flora and fauna. 
Wayland Wood was formerly in the ownership of the De Grey family, however, in 1975 the wood was sold to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
Although there are many fine ‘standard’ trees in Wayland Wood such as Oak and Ash, few are of considerable age as many were felled for use in various wartime efforts.  The oldest trees are in fact the coppiced Hazel and Ash, the root systems of which are many centuries old.
Wayland Wood is also vitally important for ground covering plants such as Anemones, Bluebells, and Orchids, however, it is also home to the very rare Yellow Star of Bethlehem and Wayland Wood is the only known site in Norfolk where this species grows.  

Wayland Wood is the home to a year-round variety of bird species.  Spring and Summer sees Warblers, Tits, Finches, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Treecreepers, and Tawny Owls all breeding.  The woodland floor is the home to breeding Woodcock, a declining species, also Nightingales visit in some years.  Perhaps the rarest of all species which occurs in the wood is the Willow Tit, now a very rare bird in the UK.
During the winter months the woodland floor sees an increase in Woodcock numbers with birds from Europe staying to seek shelter and feeding.  Being a woodland floor specialist, the Woodcock is very susceptible to disturbance.
Thrush, Tit, and Finch numbers increase in the winter months with birds visiting to seek warmth, shelter, and feeding.   

Mammals which live in Wayland Wood include Roe Deer, Muntjac, Red Fox, Voles and Mice, and Long-eared and Pipistrelle Bats.  Grass Snakes are also regularly seen in the wood.  The ground living requirements of most of these species once again highlights their susceptibility to disturbance.

I am a member and volunteer with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and over the years I have seen how the increased population in Watton has significantly and negatively impacted upon Wayland Wood, and indeed, other nearby sites of interest.
I have been previously been responsible for rubbish clearing at Wayland Wood, I would often leave with a black bin bag of rubbish from the car park area.  The increased population has seen an increase in fly-tipping with items discarded becoming larger, a poor reflection upon the human species in the area.
The main points to be raised of how further development on the Thetford Road site will impact on Wayland Wood and its wildlife are as follows:

  • Noise
  • Light pollution
  • Increase in fly-tipping
  • Increase in dog walking (not allowed in Wayland Wood due to the sensitivity to disturbance of ground-dwelling species)
  • Negative aesthetic impact upon Wayland Wood
  • Disturbance to Wildlife (especially ground dwelling and nesting species)
Wayland Wood has been in existence for some 10,000 years, it is a tiny fragment of what was formerly known as the ‘Wildewood’,  woodland so vast that it covered the whole of the UK.  The wood has been the home to numerous woodland species over the millennia with only recent times seeing undo pressures being placed upon the wood and the species therein.
Wayland Wood and its wildlife hosts must remain free from further pressures, including building on the Thetford Road site, as it is clear that any further development will have an irreversible impact upon this nationally important site.

I have included two photographs of illegal fly-tipping at Wayland Wood, both from February 2015.  Such illegal activity will be an ongoing concern if Watton continues to development at this unprecedented pace.
Wayland Wood (Feb 2015) An example discarded matresses.  Such unacceptable behaviour will increase with increasing population.

An unwanted fridge-freezer in Wayland Wood (Feb 2015)  Sickening behaviour by mindless idiots.


Monday, 6 July 2015

MERTON, NORFOLK (Housing application at a vitally important wildlife location)

MERTON, NORFOLK: This afternoon I visited a favourite site of mine at Merton, Norfolk. The site visited is nationally important for Tree Sparrows, a rare bird in Britain now.
I was extremely angered at learning that a Merton-based developer has applied to build 3 properties at this site, such as plan is beyond belief, given that the habitat here is ancient and a home to a very varied selection of flora and fauna.
Tree Sparrow at Merton (at site where a planning application for 3 houses has been made.)

 There are some very old stands of mature, protected trees, as ...well as very fine examples of Hawthorn and Bramble scrub.
The developer in question cleared some hedging in late May, during the height of the nesting season citing the area needed clearing (to a local resident), clearly, the developer did not have the bottle to really say what his plans are.
This developer has a large estate less than 200 meters from the site...perhaps he should have applied to have houses built on his large lawn.
What angers me so much is that this is a very small site, a site which is so valuable to wildlife and rare birds. I will be forwarding my objections to this poorly thought application. 

I ask that my followers visit the Breckland Planning site and voice their objections to this poorly thought out application.