Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 28 August 2015

Little Cressingham, Norfolk

A very interesting walk this morning through wide open arable habitat outside Little Cressingham.  Yes, migrants were my main target, however, I had an unexpected visitor in a very old hedgerow of a species I was formerly very familiar with when living in south-west Suffolk, but is now sadly rare in Norfolk.

Swallows (including a gathering of 216+ birds)
1 Whitethroat
2 Blackcaps
1 Willow Warbler (moving along hedge)
Goldfinches (adults/juveniles on weeds in ditch)
Yellowhammer (including male feeding young)

My first check of the morning was along a heavily vegetated ditch where almost straight away I saw a single Whitethroat moving through umbellifer habitat and other weed species.  My first migrant of the morning was soon upstaged by a gathering of 216+ Swallows on overhead wires, additional birds were hunting low over nearby pasture, the true numbers of Swallows clearly much higher.
Most of my time was spent watching this old section of an old hedgerow in Little Cressingham
I then made a prolonged stay at the old hedgerow pictured above with the first species of note being a Hummingbird Hawkmoth which was working the right side of the hedge in this picture.  A lovely Hornet was also seen here.
A couple of Blackcaps (male and female) were seen here, however, the most numerous species here was Yellowhammer.  It was while watching the Yellowhammers that single, and very unexpected CORN BUNTING  dropped in and sat beside a Yellowhammer, this was immediately useful in giving a comparison between the species.  Corn Buntings are restricted to just a few area of Norfolk now, mostly in the north, but here in the Brecks they are indeed rare.  Perhaps this is a wandering bird from its usual range in Norfolk.
Yellowhammer at Little Cressingham 28/08/15

Having left this lovely old hedgerow I continued along the lane and saw a small Warbler darting between cover, very shortly after I heard the familiar "hooweet" call of a Willow Warbler, quite different from the "hweet" call of the Chiffchaff.
Finally, I made my way to the Watton Brook Valley to check for migrant activity, nothing seen, however, the recently impaled beetle was gone....the Shrike plot thickens.
This male Yellowhammer was frequently seen carrying bills full of grain, and occasionally insects.  This species may rear up to three broods in the year and are known to breed late in the season.
I am returning to work tomorrow now that the dental pain has almost gone.  Hopefully I will get some birding done in my break.   


  1. Noted from Penny's blog that she saw a juv. RBS up at Kelling Heath....
    I wonder if they are around in the Brecks... but...
    because 'everybirder' heads for the coast in Norfolk....
    they are being missed.
    Like you, we seem to be almost alone in our neck of the woods, as wildlife watchers....
    our nearest companion is twenty kilometres away...
    and then they all flock to the Loire!
    Sixty plus kilometres away... there is a lot of unobserved territory inbetween...
    regulars do make excursions further south...
    but not to a clear "patch"...
    except for a couple of lakes....
    what, I ask, is wrong with a nice bit of scrub...
    there are all sorts flitting around in scrub!

  2. Hi Tim
    You and myself have very similar mindsets with regard to where to watch birds. Many birders head to the coast where various habitats will be sure to hold migrant birds. I will make perhaps one visit in autumn to the North Norfolk Coast to look for migrants, however, I find watching my inland patch a much greater challenge as it is such areas that are very much under-watched and the finding of something scarce or rare is much more exciting I think.
    I never got to the bottom of the Watton Brook Shrike. I am sure that either a Red-backed or possibly Woodchat spent some days on the patch given the evidence found in the form of impaled beetles on fencing in the valley. I say Woodchat as one of these beauties spent a few days on the patch back in July 1995.
    You mention scrub Tim, my favourite habitat. Searching such areas on my patch does turn up good migrants. If I was in the fortunate position of being able to spend every day throughout September and October along the Watton Brook valley, I bet I could challenge the North Norfolk Coast for species variety and scarcity, but that would be my secret that I would share with responsible birders only.
    Take care for now Tim.