Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 28 December 2015

Stonechat at Bodney, Norfolk

Better light than yesterday although high cloud eventually blocked out the sunlight.  It remains mild with a fresh south-easterly wind.
The purpose of this visit was to relocate the Stonechats which I found yesterday.  Success seen with the male bird showing quite well.
The following is a series of photographs of the male Stonechat.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Stonechats at Bodney, Norfolk

A day of incessant rain and drizzle with full cloud cover giving very poor lighting conditions. It remains very mild at 10 degrees Celsius.
A late afternoon walk close to STANTA (Stanford Training Area) at Bodney saw the vast landscape shrouded in grey, miserable to some, but to me just another mood of the Breckland beauty.
My walk appeared bird-less initially, however, as I walked along what may appear featureless roadside verges, I detected movement amongst some taller weeds and I thought Stonechat, inspection through my binoculars revealed a male Stonechat clinging to the weed.  A female or 1st winter bird was seen a short while later close to the male.
The male Stonechat flew into a Hawthorn where he remained for a while offering good views despite the appalling light.  I was fortunately close to the Stonechat and made the following notes:

A small Chat with an all-dark head and chin clearly demarcated along the neck-line.  The dark head contrasts strongly with the white neck patch and brown upperparts.  The breast and underparts appeared a peachy colour. The upperparts and upper-tail were brown, the mantle was streaked.  The greater coverts and tertials were pale brown fringed.  The primaries were pale fringed and at distance gave the appearance of a pale wing-bar.  In flight, both birds showed a white patch on the inner wing 'braces'.  The tail was constantly flicked.

As is typical with Chat species, the Stonechats always remained close to the ground but often perching on a taller weed stem.
Stonechats are mostly short distance migrants and it is highly likely that these birds originate from a territory within STANTA.
I have provided this small account of the Stonechat encounter just to show that despite the dismal conditions, very poor light, and what may appear to be a life-less day, that there is always something to find and observe as with my beautiful Stonechats.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Little Cressingham (Great Cressingham Road)

Once again I walked one of my favourite local sites this afternoon from just north-west of 'The Arms' along the Great Cressingham Road, over Watton Brook, and towards 'The Fairstead'.
The unseasonably mild weather continues with a high today of 14 degrees celsius.  The wind was a fresh south-westerly.
Siskin (male)
Good numbers of Finches and Buntings were seen including Linnets, Chaffinches, Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, and Redpolls.  The very high numbers of Linnets seen yesterday was not repeated today, although in their place was a couple of flocks of Fieldfares (100+ each flock) wandering the fields and hedgerows.
Continuing along the road I reached Watton Brook where a flock of 50+ Siskins were seen in the tops of Alders where they were seen to feed upon cones.
I checked the Watton Brook Valley for signs of Stonechat, a species sometimes seen here, however, not today.
Ahead of me high over fields a raptor species was seen, it was a single Red Kite being mobbed by a Corvid species. A Buzzard was seen and calling over nearby woodland.
Further along Great Cressingham Road, yet another flock of 100+ Fieldfare wandering the fields and hedgerow trees, giving their familiar shack shack call as they flew off.
Back at the car with the sun setting fast, 3 Roe Deer emerged from woodland to feed in a nearby field.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Little Cressingham (Great Cressingham Road)

At about mid-day I took a short walk along the Great Cressingham Road just north-west of 'The Arms'. My aim was to check the mixed Finch/Bunting flock which is a regular feature of this walk, I was impressed with my largest count of birds here this winter.
An initial estimate of birds present here was in excess of 500+ and by far the most numerous species seen today was Linnet with an estimated 250-300 birds present.  Other birds seen here included many Bramblings, Chaffinches, Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, and a few Redpolls.
These birds are attracted to this area because of the large maize strip and adjacent, wide weedy strip.  The high numbers of Linnets seen today would I suggest be a notable count for the county of Norfolk.
Whilst watching these birds a couple of Redpolls remained close to me in a roadside hedge and offered good views.  The head detail was seen well, one bird had a red fore-crown and a small neat Black bib.  The overall body colour was tinged brown with notable streaking on the breast sides and along the flanks, the other Redpoll had more red on its cap and a slightly bigger, neat black bib. Bother were Lesser Redpoll, the sub-species Western Europe and British form Cabaret.

Happy Christmas

A very happy Christmas to all the followers of my blog.  
I wish you all a wonderful time for the festive season and for good birding in 2016
Best wishes from Paul 'The Breckland Birder'

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Brandon Parva, Norfolk

My afternoon break from work started very wet and windy, although I knew it would pass fairly readily. Clear and bright conditions followed with an often strong South-South-Westerly wind.
I didn't bother to wander from the car, preferring to stay close to the church where some cover would shelter birds from the wind.  A couple of male Robins squared up to each other in a hedge with one conceding rather than duel.  A few Chaffinches were seen.
Raptors featured nicely on this visit with the first being a Buzzard riding the strong wind, this was shortly followed by a Red Kite which demonstrated it excellent ability of being able to adjust its wings and tail in order to master the strong wind.
Just prior to 1400 hours I looked up to see a fine looking adult Peregrine Falcon fly directly above me and then off south-west. This impressive bird was low enough for me to see the barring on the underparts and the black hood.
The final raptor seen this afternoon was a Kestrel which passed the car very close to me.  It was at this time I took a moment to appreciate the slender looking Kestrel from the more powerfully built and much larger Peregrine.  

Friday, 18 December 2015

Little Cressingham (Great Cressingham Road)

I visited this beautiful location at dawn and dusk today with Finches and Thrushes featuring as the most frequently seen species.
The morning visit saw most activity near Watton Brook where a small flock of Siskins (10+) and Fieldfare were seen, although close to 'The Arms' several Finches and Buntings were seen close to the maize strip, notably, Bramblings, Chaffinches, and Reed Buntings.

Close to 'The Fairstead' Redwings were again seen in the lone large Hawthorn, also lots of Yellowhammers were seen, and a female Sparrowhawk appeared to give chase to a passerine species, the Hawk was unsuccessful.
The afternoon saw much more activity close to 'The Arms' where large numbers of Finches and Buntings were again assembled, on this occasion high numbers of Greenfinches were seen along with Chaffinches, Redpolls, and a few Bramblings.
A check of the Watton Brook area produced a mixed flock of Fieldfare and Starlings (totaling 50+ birds). A couple of singing male Mistle Thrushes was pleasing to the ear.
Sadly, this visit was somewhat annoying due to unforgivable human activity, the dumping of rubbish on the roadside verge.  This was a pile of burnt rubbish just left by some idiot, however, following a little detective work I found a partially burnt payslip with the name and address of a company and the employees name on it.  I have contacted the company concerned and await their response.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Birds brighten the dullest of days

It is dull, dreary, and damp today, and I have every sympathy with those who find such weather depressing, some of whom may suffer with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  If anybody following my blog is a sufferer then I hope that by reading this post may help you.
I am fortunate in that I can see beauty in the countryside whatever the conditions, be it bright or very bleak.

Little Cressingham (Great Cressingham Road)
I arrived at about 1330 just north-west of 'The Arms' for a walk to the Watton Brook valley and back. Conditions were grey with low light and poor visibility.  It was raining for the whole walk.
Despite the conditions, as soon as I got out of the car I could see lots of birds in the hedgerow and hedgerow trees to the north of me.  The habitat here is arable with patches of mature woodland habitat.  The immediate area visited has roadside hedgerows with a traditional stand of maize close to the hedge and field boundary, next to the maize is a wide weedy strip.
Brambling (female) at Little Cressingham
As I approached the area where I could see lots of Finches and Buntings, it became apparent that some 300+ birds of mixed species were present.  Studying the birds through binoculars I could see that the vast majority were Greenfinches, however, looking through the flock I could see several Chaffinches.  Redpolls were heard and one put in an appearance within its larger cousins.  A couple of Bramblings were seen here, however, a little further on a small tree held several Bramblings, these comprised a mixture of mostly females and one male at least.  A few Linnets were also seen along with numerous Yellowhammers
Bramblings breed in the Birch forests of Northern Europe.  In winter these breeding sites are abandoned and Bramblings move south into Europe and Britain.  Bramblings are regular winter visitors on my Breckland patch, and they are often encountered where seen today in Little Cressingham.  Search for these delightful Finch where maize belts attract these birds to feed on seeds and other weed-seeds.
Despite the poor conditions as seen today there is always something to see to lift the spirit and raise a smile.

Monday, 7 December 2015

6th and 7th December

6th December 2015
Morley St Botolph
My work as a carer takes me to some beautiful locations between Hingham and Hethersett in Norfolk.  This morning I was doing calls in the isolated village of Morley St Botolph, a wonderful parish of vast expanses of open rolling farmland, hedgerows, patches of woodland, and paddocks for horses.
It was whilst driving between a couple of paddocks at about 1045 that a very good sized flock of 300+ Fieldfare flew over in a tight flock. Presumably these gorgeous Thrushes were visiting the paddocks to feed.
A little later whilst approaching an area of Morley known as Highoak, a pair of Grey Partridges were seen in crops close to the road.

7th December 2015
Little Cressingham (Great Cressingham Road)
A late afternoon visit starting from just north of 'The Arms' produced a good mix of Finches, especially between 'The Arms' and Hopton Farm drying barns.
The beautiful hedgerows alongside the road with its traditional stand of maize produced lots of Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammers, and the odd Redpoll passing overhead.  The pines at Hopton Farm produced calling Goldcrest. A small flock of about 20+ Linnets roamed the field for weed-seeds.
I then continued along the Great Cressingham Road north of the B1108 where it climbs away to 'The Fairstead'.  Most activity was seen close to the top of the hill in a single large Holly tree in the hedge where several Redwings and Blackbirds left as I passed by.  This particular tree has been of particular attraction to winter Thrushes, this being due to its dense cover and plentiful supply of red berries for food.

Watton (garden)
I arrived back at home at sunset when a number of Blackbirds passed over the garden in a north-west heading.  Perhaps these are continental birds flying off to their communal roost site.