Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 28 September 2015

Little Cressingham, Norfolk

Due to my workload coupled with my just finishing the first of three 'weekends on' I feel that much will be sadly missed on the patch, although I do have a nice nine day stretch off in the second half of October, the month of all months which sees vast numbers of Thrushes and Finches on the move from Europe.  Despite this, I still have add days and afternoons off to check on things on the patch.  The beauty of my job however is that I travel around a good part of rural Norfolk between Wymondham, Hethersett, and many lovely villages in between, therefore my breaks should bring interest.
This afternoon I had a shortish walk along Fairstead Lane and Green Lane at Little Cressingham.  Although not the best time of day to observe movements of birds I did locate at least 6 Chiffchaffs, 4 of which were part of a mobile Tit flock on Green Lane. This Tit flock comprised Long-tailed, Blue, and Great Tits, also Treecreeper was heard. A couple of Siskins were disturbed from thistle and other weed seeds where they would have been feeding.  A number of Bullfinches were heard.
It was clear from this afternoons walk that most Whitethroats have now departed for their African wintering grounds.
I took a moment to overview a vast area of open, rolling farmland and considered what I could expect to see here in the coming months.  Most likely would be Peregrine which will winter here, an abundant supply of Pigeons should keep this species satiated.  Also, Merlin is a possibility, chasing low and fast after Pipits.  Hen Harrier is also a scarce winter visitor to the patch, the early months of this year saw a female on the patch.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

I arrived at this site at just after sunrise, the skies were clear, wind was a light westerly, and the dawn temperature was an autumnal 8 degrees celsius.
Reed Bunting at Houghton 25/09/15
Little evidence seen or heard this morning, presumably due to the wind direction, however, a very light overhead passage of Siskins was heard (not seen).
Overhead at the church, 4 Swallows passed over high in a north-easterly heading.  I believe these Swallows are flying north-east where they will head for the Norfolk Coast, and then follow the coastline south before departing our shores.  

A slow walk along the double hedgerows east of the church produced a respectable 15+ Blackcaps and around 6 Chiffchaffs, although I did not locate a single Whitethroat.
Also within this habitat, Yellowhammers were seen with this Reed Bunting.  The latter species has now long abandoned their breeding sites and have wandered away to joing other Buntings, especially Yellowhammers, to spend the autumn and winter in the hedgerows, field edges, stubble, and farmyards in their collective search for weedseeds and grain spillages.
Blue and Great Tits, along with a single Marsh Tit was seen, and Goldcrests heard.
Linnets were present in variable, but small numbers, the largest gathering seen numbering about 20 birds.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Little Cressingham, Norfolk (Peddars Way north of village to the Watton Road and back)

Mid-afternoon: Parked at the north end of School Road and walked north through the village, along the Peddars Way, over Watton Brook, and onto the Watton Road, and back.  The weather was dire with wall to wall cloud and persistent rain.
As expected in these conditions, not too much seen or heard, although the area around North Bridge held most activity.
As I approached North Bridge, Siskins were heard overhead and a couple of Chiffchaffs were heard.
Walking north of North Bridge, the road climbs up to eventually meet the Watton Road, I checked the ploughed fields for signs of Wheatear, but none seen.
At the Watton Road junction a flock of about 20 Linnets passed overhead.
With the rain getting heavier I decided to stop briefly at North Bridge on the way back.  A mobile flock of Long-tailed Tits comprised Goldcrests and Chiffchaff.  A Lesser Whitethroat was heard, as was Treecreeper and Bullfinch.
Finally, a walk back through the village produced a single Swallow.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Ashill (Common Road and Common), Norfolk

Another beautiful dawn this morning, calm with clear skies and a light west-south-westerly.  Dawn temperature was 9 degrees celsius.
I arrived at Ashill Common just prior to sunrise and walked the length of Common Road before turning back and doing a circuit of the common.
A good range of species was seen, this included evidence of passage and visible migration, and recent arrivals/winter visitors.
Visible Migration (including birds heard)
1 Snipe (high west)
Meadow Pipits - light passage (most heard) heading south
Siskin - mostly heard but flock of c.10 south seen over Ashill Common

The first noteable observation was of 1000+ 'large Gulls' mostly Lesser Black-backed Gulls and smaller numbers of Great Black-backed Gull over farmland.  These birds have been seen on recent visits following farm machinery turning the land.  Machinery soon started working the land early morning which attracted the Gulls, however, many were also just 'loafing' in fields of stubble.
As I continued my walk east I was soon alerted to calling Golden Plovers (200+) wheeling high above.

Meadow Pipit Ashill 20/09/15
At 0700, whilst watching the Golden Plovers, a single Snipe was seen high above me, it was watched heading purposefully west.  I wonder where it was heading, the Wash, or Ireland perhaps, and what of its origins, Britain or Northern Europe?
Throughout the walk this morning, a light passage of Meadow Pipits was heard overhead, also, good numbers were seen in stubble and roadside wires.  Were these migrating birds stopping off to feed and rest, or possibly wintering birds.
A light passage of Siskins was evident, none were actually seen, too high perhaps.

Ashill Common
My final stop of the morning was on Ashill Common, in particular, the tall hedging and scrub along Devil's Dyke where I hope for more migrants.

Whitethroat (juvenile) Ashill Common 20/09/15

The first bird seen in the hedge was this juvenile Whitethroat, however, the most abundant species here this morning was Greenfinch (about 20), also a couple of Bullfinches were seen here.
Overhead passage continued with small numbers of Meadow Pipits mostly heard, but the most significant visble migrant was a flock of about 10 Siskins which passed directly over me in a southerly heading

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Houghton-on-the Hill, Norfolk

I was up at 0400 this morning and took my Toby for an early morning walk down to Merton.  What a beautiful time this was with starlit skies and the very bright Venus rising in the eastern sky.
Following our walk, I prepared a flask of Tomato soup, packed up the car, and headed off for Houghton-on-the-Hill, some 5 miles from home.
I arrived at Houghton at 0630, there was a gentle Northerly wind and clear skies.  Mist was soon burnt off by the rising sun.  By about 0930, a weak front moved in bringing cloud.
The purpose of my visit to Houghton was to check for newly arrived migrant birds and witness migration/passage.
I intially walked the double hedgerow east of the church to get to the western end as the rising sun was blinding, then I walked back slowly with the sun behind me checking for movement.

It became quite clear that the most abundant migrant in the hedgerows east of the church was Blackcap (20+), with quite a few Chiffchaffs (6+) also.  Most of the Blackcaps were undoubtedly recent arrivals given their need to feed upon Elderberries.  Most Blackcaps were heard (including sub-song), those seen were immaculate looking males.  

A light passage of Meadow Pipits was both seen and heard with birds seen flying in variable directions, however, several others were heard passing overhead in a southerly heading, many were unseen.
Hirundines included a single Swallow heading north and a couple of House Martins high west.
Visible migration by Redpolls was observed.  A single Redpoll passed directly overhead in a southerly heading at 0721, this was followed by calling Redpolls (unseen), heading south at 0805.
A light overhead movement of Siskins (unseen) was heard, again, appearing to be heading south.
I expected to see movement by raptor species, however, I did not locate any in the time I was there.

Local birds included a large female Sparrowhawk being mobbed by Corvid species, initially Rooks, then Magpies and a couple of Jays moving in to join the assault.  The Sparrowhawk clearly had enough when she attempted to turn the table on the Crows by performing mock attacks, she then departed and drifted east.
Local raptors also included a couple of Buzzards.
The thick hedgerows also held many common species, Dunnock, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Robin, and Goldcrest.
A few Yellowhammers were seen, also several small flocks of Linnets, although one flock numbering 30+ birds.

Irresponsible comments by a female 'Twit'cher

I was recently reading a blog entry by a certain female North Norfolk twitcher, in it she states 'bombing along in her car' and being held up by 'Sunday drivers' to get to a particular site/bird.
These are clearly irresponsible comments, and indeed behaviour, and people such as this have the potential to endanger themselves, and more importantly, other road users.
Birding has been my lifetime passion, however, no bird is worth the risk of endangering others whilst in pursuit of our hobby.
I have strong opinions about poor driving skills and it is my belief that people who make such comments as seen here do not belong on the road.

Friday, 18 September 2015

A new Garden record and a visit to Carleton Forehoe, Norfolk

Garden 0730-0745 (New Garden Record)
I sat in the garden enjoying a coffee before going out for the morning, I wanted to check for any overhead passage...fairly quiet at this time.  60+ Goldfinches gathered in a neighbours tree "tinkering' away.  Collared Doves and Starlings were present and a couple of Coal Tits passed through.
At 0745, a panic ensued and birds scattered everywhere, clearly, a raptor, possibly Sparrowhawk was hunting, but no, I didn't expect to see a GOSHAWK pass through at roof-top height and at speed, an awesome raptor.  I suspect this was a wandering juvenile bird.  

Carleton Forehoe 0900-1045
Having dropped the wife off at her little cleaning job in Kimberley, I decided to have a walk along Low Road in Carleton Forehoe, again checking for migrant birds.
I found a calling Chiffchaff in a Oak-lined hedgerow, but could see nor hear anything else.  I walked back along Low Road and checked a small area of woodland scrub.  Checking an Elder, I could see branches moving, a closer look revealed 2 Blackcaps (male and female) and a single Lesser Whitethroat, all were feeding upon the rich supply of Elderberries.  Within range of this I could hear a Chiffchaff singing.
Nuthatch at Kimberley 18/09/15
I stopped at a beautiful Hawthorn hedge and watched birds moving through the hedge to a lovely cottage garden   Numerous Blue and Great Tits constantly moved back and forth, as did Marsh and Coal Tits, a single Chiffchaff was also seen briefly in Hawthorn.
Back at Kimberley, I was given permission to walk around the lovely cottage garden.  Feeders attracted numerous Blue Tits and Great Tits, again, with a few Coal Tits dropping in to feed.  At least a couple of Nuthatches came to feed.  A Goldcrest passed through the garden 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Houghton-on-the-Hill and Lynford Water, Norfolk

It started raining shortly after dark last night, this was persistent and heavy through to dawn when clear, sunny weather brought a pleasant day.  The wind was a moderate to fresh west-north-westerly.

Double hedgerow at Houghton 17/09/15
In autumn I can think of no better place to be than at Houghton (North Pickenham Parish).  The habitat here and topography assures it as a migrant hotspot.  The double hedgerow east of St Mary's Church runs east to west for some 400 yards, and is virtually unbroken with the exception of a couple of gaps for tractors to access fields.  The whole length of the hedgerows is on an elevated ridge and is a significant visual feature from some 5 miles from the north and about 3 miles from the south.  The topographical characteristics of this superb habitat will ensure that migrating birds will aim for this feature as a valuable staging post to feed, refuel, and rest, before continuing their journeys south.  All these characteristics leads me to say that this is one of the most important migrant staging posts on my Breckland patch.
Migrant Whitethroat at Houghton 17/09/15
The overnight persistent and heavy rain was surely going to ground passage migrants, therefore, I wanted to check this migrant magnet for evidence of overnight arrivals.
It was clear that several Whitethroats and Blackcaps were present in good numbers (both species in double figures), and judging be their behaviour, they were arrivals given their need to feed.
A few Chiffchaffs were present also, but Whitethroats and Blackcaps were the more numerous species. 
Common species seen in the hedgerow included many Dunnocks, Wrens, lots of Blue Tits, and Coal Tits.
Overhead, small numbers of Meadow Pipits passed over and Siskins were also on the move but in lesser numbers.  A small party of Siskins arrived in the churchyard and remained for a while before continuing their journey.

Lynford Water (mid-afternoon)
Lynford Water 17/09/15
Lynford Water is the site of former gravel extraction but is now a wonderful place for families to walk and enjoy this beautiful part of Breckland.  It was whilst gravel was extracted that Britains biggest ever haul of Mammoth, Rhinocerous, and Hyena remains were made, also, evidence of Neolithic man was found here.
The first birds seen on todays visit was 12+ Crossbills flying around the treetops nearby.
The most abundant Warbler species present was Chiffchaff with many calling birds around the periphery of the lake.
On the water was a pair of Mute Swans with 2 young, a Great Crested Grebe, and small numbers of Gadwall.
An area of scrub habitat held Song Thrush and Blackbird.

Saturday 19th September looks like a settled day with fine conditions and light Northerly winds.  I will be visiting my migration watchpoint at Houghton before sunrise until lunchtime.  I am predicting significant movements of Pipits and Finches.  The hedgerows will probably hold good numbers of migrant Warbler species.  Later in the morning Raptors may well be on the move.  Also, Wader species may be heading west, hopefully this may include Whimbrel.
This could well be a good day.
Pressure chart for 0100 on Saturday 19th September

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Little Cressingham (Great Cressingham Road) Norfolk

Early morning, and and walk from 'The Arms' and north along the Great Cressingham road to 'The Fairstead' and back revealed little summer migrant activity other than an odd Blackcap and Chiffchaff calling.  The Watton Brook Valley appeared quiet, although I am sure that within the dense vegetation migrants skulked.  Several Wood Pigeons were seen in the valley and I did see a passerine drop very fast into the valley before I was able to identify it.
Despite the lack of Warbler activity there was overhead passage of both Siskins (small numbers) and several parties of Meadow Pipits in a north to south heading.  The best Meadow Pipit count was 25+ birds over.
Turning onto Fairstead Lane I checked the old hedgerow which forms a field/ditch boundary south of the road, here, a nice 20+ Greenfinches was present.
My walk back south along the Great Cressingham Road brought a very close encounter with a juvenile Goshawk.  I found a break in the hedge and scanned the sloping field where a few Skylarks were seen, moments later, a Goshawk appeared, hugging the ground about 50 yards south of me.  Thinking that this bird was going to fly over the hedge and road and over the next field, I adjusted my position, but where did the raptor go.  I returned to my original position in the gap in the hedge, when the Goshawk silently passed by within about 5 feet of me at waist top height, an incredible experience.
Having caught my breath following the Goshawk experience, I continued my walk back down the hill and into the valley where 15+ Yellowhammers were seen in the hedgerows and fencing.  A short distance further on a Chiffchaff called and a charm of about 10 Goldfinches were seen. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Ashill Common, Norfolk

It has been a while since I visited this lovely common, I should in fact do so more often than I do as there are some great habitats there, especially along a feature known as 'Devil's Dyke', a very ancient ditch with very dense scrub comprising Elder, Bramble, Hawthorn, Dog Rose, and Gorse.  Clearly, my aim today was to check for migrants.

500+ Gulls (mostly Lesser/Great Black-backed Gulls) following the plough
2 Buzzards
1 Sparrowhawk (female)
2+ Meadow Pipits
5+ Whitethroats
2+ Blackcap
1 Chiffchaff
Blue Tits
Great Tit
4 Bullfinch
4 Greenfinch
200+ Linnets
Reed Bunting

I first of all decided to make my way to where the Gulls were present in high numbers, I must admit to not being too over-excited about Gulls, however, the numbers indicated a visit was in order.  Overviewing the field being ploughed, I could see that the vast majority of Gulls were both Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls of varying age groups from juvenile birds to adults.
Ashill Common 15/09/15. A staging post today for Whitethroats 
It was at this locality that a flock of 200+ Linnets frequently flew around an adjoining field of Sugar Beet, an impressive count.
I couldn't resist a slow walk alongside a large, inviting area of dense scrub habitat, there must be migrants making use of this rich habitat.  With the westerly wind blowing moderate to fresh, I stayed along the sheltered side to watch for movement.  As expected, I did find migrants along 'Devil's Dyke', at least 5 Whitethroats were found moving quickly between cover. These birds were looking quite immaculate in their fresh plumages.  Also within this habitat was Blackcap, Chiffchaff, at least 4 Greenfinches dropped in and calling Bullfinches were seen. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Great Cressingham (Priory Road, Peddars Way, and Watton Road), Norfolk

This afternoon I had a 3 mile walk starting in the beautiful village of Great Cressingham.  The habitat comprises vast expanses of rolling arable with fine, fruit laden hedgerows lining the route.  The large fields in the Great Cressingham area today undoubtedly held migrants, namely Wheatears, but the moderate to fresh southerly wind with occasional showers would probably keep any Warbler species within cover.
As I walked along the Priory Road I could see nor hear evidence of migrants in the thick hedgerows, but a male Sparrowhawk flew at speed from a large Oak, the slaty-grey upperparts and reddish upper-breast seen despite very brief views.
I was very saddened to see the wonderful old barn along Priory Road has been demolished.  As far as I know a residential property is to be built in its place, clearly my written objections was not listened to.  Notable species which bred in this barn included Barn and Little Owl, Stock Dove, and Tree Sparrows.  Bats also used this site as a roost.  Clearly, the greed of humans appears to have had a significant impact upon species which used this formerly beautiful site as home.  I can only hope that provision has been made to safeguard the birds and mammals which inhabited the barn by providing alternative nest/roost sites.
I continued my walk uphill to eventually meet the Peddars Way footpath, along the way Kestrel and Jay were both seen.
Pied Wagtail at Great Cressingham with Cranefly 14/09/15

Walking back along the Watton Road towards Great Cressingham, the wonderful old hedgerows lining the road were heavy in Blackberries, a wonderful larder for both us humans as well as migrant birds.  The occasional fresh southerly wind didn't help with trying to listen for migrants, however, I did hear Blackcap and Chiffchaff calling from within cover of Bramble.
Back in Great Cressingham, I had a walk around the lovely churchyard checking for migrants, I did hear Chiffchaff and Goldcrest, also, a mixed party of Tit species, mostly Blue Tits, passed through the wooded canopy.
Finally, a check of the village football field produced 7+ Pied Wagtails chasing insect prey, including one bird chasing and catching a Cranefly.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Wicklewood (Milestone Lane) Norfolk

At about 1500 today, I was about mid-way through my afternoon work-break.  While driving along Milestone Lane between Wicklewood and Deopham, I decided to check a recently ploughed field for migrants with Wheatear particularly in mind.  This area is very open and exposed and is dominated by arable land.  During the latter part of August I have also seen a small number of Golden Plovers (100+), and I wanted to check if the numbers are building.
Almost immediately, I could see Golden Plovers above the field, the numbers had indeed built to 350+ birds, many of these were males still wearing much of their breeding plumage.

Wheatear (male) at Wicklewood 13/09/15
My thoughts of migrants were fulfilled when I found at least 3 Wheatears running and flying over the field, exposing their bright white rumps.  Conditions were deteriorating during this short visit with a spell of persistent rain moving in, however, I was able to get a decent(ish) shot of the male Wheatear, despite hand-holding the camera....good old Canon technology.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Little Cressingham and Bodney (Watton Brook Valley)

The day dawned beautiful with cloudless skies and some thick mist hanging low over low lying areas of the Watton Brook Valley, this however, was soon burnt away by the warming sun.
I started my walk this morning close to 'The Arms' and headed north to check various parts of the valley for migrant activity.

1 Hobby
1 Sparrowhawk (male)
1 Kestrel (female)
2 Meadow Pipits (first of autumn)
4 Robin (seen during spot count)
5 Pied Wagtails (spot count)
7+ Blue Tits (spot count)
3+ Whitehroats
3+ Blackcaps
2 Chiffchaff

Walking north from 'The Arms' the hedgerows either side of the road held Whitethroat, Blackcap, and Chiffchaff,were heard only.

Bodney (spot check/count)
Walking west along the B1108 road, I encountered another calling Chiffchaff, this bird was moving through thick bracken habitat, a probable overnight arrival finding somewhere to settle for the day.
I arrived at my intended destination at Bodney, an area of scrub and dense weedy growth close to the Brook, and which for years has been a favourite locality of mine for watching migrants.  Recently, I found a Redstart at this site.  I spent about an hour watching and listening for migrants, and it was indeed, quite productive.
A female Kestrel came very close and alighted in a tree, it moved off before I could ready the camera.
Whitethroat - a common autumn migrant on the patch
The first migrant seen was a single Whitethroat in Elder, a typical habitat for this species as it will feed upon the soft fruits.  A single Swallow was on fencing and Dunnock and Wren was also seen.
A familiar "tak" call was heard from two different birds, I located one visually, a male Blackcap, again, in an Elder bush.
Overhead, a single Hobby passed over in a leisurely flight, circled a couple of times, and headed east.
Moments later, 2 Meadow Pipits passed over west to east, my first of this species for autumn.  Later in the month, if the conditions are favourable, significant numbers of Meadow Pipits will pass through the patch as they move from their northern breeding grounds to wintering grounds either in southern Britain or Europe.
The most numerous species see during this check was 7+ Blue Tits, although, just prior to leaving, a party of 5 Pied Wagtails dropped in.

My walk back south along the Great Cressingham road to 'The Arms' once again produced 2 Chiffchaffs, a calling Blackcap, and a smart looking female/1st winter Whitethroat having a preen in a patch of Ivy.  Seconds later, a male Sparrowhawk turned up, initially to sit on a post before entering the Ivy where there was no apparent hole, he forced himself through and emerged from a hole further along the Ivy, he was probably looking for a small passerine which may have taken shelter upon his earlier arrival.  Seen in bright sunlight, the Sparrowhawk showed off his lovely reddish tones on his breast.
A Coal Tit was seen in the canopy of a tall Scots Pine, this bird was searching the upper branches for spiders and tiny insect prey.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Threxton (Watton Brook Valley)

A short visit this morning to a very short length of Watton Brook where a wealth of beautiful mixed scrub/hedgerow habitat comprising dense Blackthorn, Hawthorn, thick Bramble, and Dog Rose, was investigated.  Initially quiet, some movement was soon detected, a Dunnock within Blackthorn.  A few Goldfinches, both adults and juveniles, fed upon weed seeds by the Brook.  A short while later I heard what I hoped to hear, a short "stit" call, then a Lesser Whitethroat appeared on the edge of Blackthorn.  A single Whitethroat was also seen disappearing quickly into cover.
Other than species seen included Blue Tit and Great Tit moving through scrub, and two Grey Herons (adult and juvenile) standing on grazing pasture close to a ditch.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Barnham Broom, Norfolk

I paid a short visit to the churchyard today during a break from work.  This beautiful churchyard hosts some wonderful tree specimens including Beech, Scots Pines, Yew, and other very mature conifer species, the names of which I have yet to learn.
It was generally cloudy during my visit with spells of drizzle and brightness, although cloud was the dominant feature today.
My main aim of this visit was to locate migrant birds, I eventually had 2, possibly 3 Chiffchaffs calling around the churchyard.  In a large unidentifiable pine, I found two Goldcrests foraging amongst needles low down in the tree.
Common species seen and heard around the churchyard was two or three Coal Tits, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, and two Jays.  A couple of Buzzards passed overhead.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Little Cressingham (The Arms to Watton Brook)

Once again, I didn't want to stay out too long because of this sometimes unbearable dental pain, however, I wanted to check the valley for signs of migrants.
Having left the car near 'The Arms' I was greeted by a small party of Long-tailed Tits passing between hedgerows in front of me, whilst overhead a Buzzard drifted north.
A quick search for migrants in the valley produced a single male Blackcap moving through a Bramble patch, vegetation alongside the Brook, and then a nearby hedgerow where a single Chiffchaff was seen calling.  I could not see any other visible evidence of migrants along the valley, but I am sure birds would have been skulking in the lush vegetation either side of the Brook.  Several Blue Tits, a male Yellowhammer, and juvenile Goldfinch were seen here.  A Buzzard passed over with a deep crop, thus indicating it had recently eaten.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Threxton (Watton Brook Valley)

Once again, a very short visit to the patch due to continuing dental pain, nevertheless, the very bright, almost cloudless skies and a late afternoon temperature helped raise spirits a little.

Since my last visit to this locality, when it was pretty quiet, it seemed evident that there has been an arrival of Chiffchaffs with a number of calling birds in the peripheral bushes and trees around the Sewage Treatment works.
I did not see any other Warbler species, however, there was good numbers of Goldcrests calling from within the conifer screen.
Swallows and House Martins were conspicuous by their absence on this visit.
A couple of young Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail were seen.  At least 5 Stock Doves were present in the area.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Little Cressingham (The Arms/Watton Brook Valley)

A mid afternoon walk to the Watton Brook Valley firstly produced a very brief of a large raptor, so brief that I did not identify it.  I made for open ground, however, the mystery bird was gone, despite this a very large and spectacular 2000+ Corvids (mostly Jackdaws and smaller numbers of Rooks) went airborne, perhaps 'put-up' by the raptor.
Having reached Watton Brook I checked the fences and herbage for migrants, none were seen, although several Swallows and House Martins skimmed over the fields and Brook for insect prey. The N wind blew moderate to occasionally fresh, perhaps the conditions had forced any migrants to cover.   The fence-posts held many Wood Pigeons.
On my walk back I checked sheltered area of hedgerows and woodlands for any movements, all I could muster was a single calling Chiffchaff and a calling Bullfinch.
Sloe Berries
Looking ahead towards the last week of September and into October, and in the right conditions, eyes and ears will be trained skyward as winter Thrushes arrive, possibly in their thousands from Scandinavia. 
Redwings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, and Fieldfares really do provide a spectacle to behold as the first light of dawn sees these birds possibly making first landfall since leaving Scandinavia the night before.
Thrushes will seek a variety of fruits to feed upon in the lanes and hedgerows, one of these fruits is that of Blackthorn, the beautiful Sloe.  This year has seen a bumper crop of these delightful fruits, these and other fruits will form a wonderful larder for hungry migrants.   

Friday, 4 September 2015

Threxton (Watton Brook Valley)

With winds from WNW this afternoon, I didn't expect to see too many passage birds on the patch, however, I decided to pay a short visit to the Threxton area, specifically, the Sewage treatment works and the beautiful, and very lush looking Watton Brook Valley.
The current wind direction has probably put on hold any major movements of passerine species, nevertheless, the following species were seen/heard on this short visit:

1 Grey Heron
6 Greylag Geese
1 Hobby
Grey Wagtail
2+ Pied Wagtail (juvenile)
50+ Hirundines (mostly Swallows)
1 Whitethroat
1 Chiffchaff 

I was overviewing from the exposed, windy western edge of the STW, therefore, it was highly likely that more migrants were present in other sheltered areas.
Much of the time at the STW I spent watching Swallows swooping over the ponds and flying at speed and with agility around and between trees and bushes around the periphery of the plant, I suspected that it would be just a matter of time before a Hobby would appear.  Suddenly, I was alerted by alarm calling Hirundines, at the same time all 50+ birds climbed above the area, and as suspected, a Hobby passed through quite leisurely.  After a short while the Swallows settled and the Hobby soared and climbed away to the south.....perhaps with an eye on the Swallows for a surprise attack.