Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Water Rail at Thompson Water, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 19 December 2016

Hockham, Norfolk

An afternoon visit produced many hundreds of Teal, many Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, and a single, very handsome male Pintail.
Apologies for lack of notes lately, although I have seen plenty of birds, I appear to have some kind of writers block and have been unable to focus.  Must try harder.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Hilborough, Norfolk

Following on from yesterdays good numbers of winter Thrushes seen, a visit to some forest walks and heathland again saw plenty of winter Thrushes, this included many Song Thrushes, including 3 together in a Hawthorn on heathland.  Perhaps the recent sightings of what appears to be newly arrived birds is as a result of hard weather movements from Europe.
Both Siskins and Redpolls were seen and heard this morning and at the other end of the size spectrum was 5 overflying Whooper Swans.
Song Thrush at Hilborough 10/12/16 (Note the pale tips to the coverts - ages this as 1st winter bird)

Great Cressingham, Norfolk 9th December

I had a nice early morning walk starting at the church in Great Cressingham, taking in the Peddars Way path and the Watton Road.
What struck me this morning was the frequently encountered winter Thrushes in hedges along the route.  I saw good numbers of Redwings, Fieldfares, and many Blackbirds, most of which were behaving as if they were recent overnight arrivals, flying from hedge to hedge and consuming berries, mostly those of the Hawthorn in a hurried, urgent fashion.
Also of great interest is that over this 3 mile walk I encountered 20+ Bullfinches in roadside hedges and trees.  The vast rolling farmland here with its miles of unchecked quality hedgerows will hold many more of this beautiful species.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Waxwings

On Tuesday 29th November I was working in Costessey just west of the city of Norwich in Norfolk. 
During my morning break I decided to stop to have a look at the Waxwings which had been in the area for a few days.  In fact I have been watching the area for a few weeks as I considered this a good area for the birds to turn up.  The habitat is residential with a small park lined with a few Rowan trees, both red berries and yellow.
I arrived with no birds seen initially but soon I heard their call and a flock circled above before alighting in the yellow-berried Rowan.  I noticed that a few of the red-berried trees had already been stripped, however, a further tree still had all its berries as did one of the 'yellow' trees.  The reason soon became clear why the Waxwings had not touched these two trees yet, they were being defended by a single Mistle Thrush which drove all other birds away, not only the Waxwings, but also Blackbirds and Wood Pigeons.
Waxwing in Costessey 29th Nov.
Waxwing 29th Nov.
Waxwing Costessey 29th Nov.
Waxwing 29th Nov.
In total there was probably 30 to 40 Waxwings involved in this observation.  As well as watching their typical feeding behaviour in the Rowans, a single Waxwing was seen to fly to just above where I was standing to expertly catch a small insect species in 'flycatcher' style.
Also in the immediate area was a single very territorial Mistle Thrush, Jay, a Blackbird feeding upon red berries, and Wood Pigeons.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

East Wretham and Croxton Heaths, Norfolk 0730-1130

A walk along Harling Drove at dawn eventually led to Croxton Heath.  This location is dominated by Pine woodland compartments of varying ages from saplings to mature trees.  My aim this morning was to first check a number of 19th century marl-pits which have now been colonised by some very fine looking Hawthorn and Blackthorn thickets.  These habitats provide a welcome relief to the seemingly endless Pine woodland, they also offer good feeding and roosting sites for passerine species.
Good numbers of Bullfinches were  seen and heard this morning with an estimated 20+ birds involved including 12+ in one large thicket around a large marl-pit.  On one occasion 5 male Bullfinches were seen together, a stunning sight.  Redwings, Song Thrush, Blackbirds, a female Brambling, and many Yellowhammers also made use of this thick cover.
Walking along a forest ride I came across lots of feathers on the ground, these were sadly from a Barn Owl and Wood Pigeon.  Looking up, a large Scots Pine bough had clearly been used as a plucking post, no doubt by a Goshawk.
3 Goosander (females, or red-heads') on Langmere 27/11/16
Finally, I spent some quality time overlooking Langmere where a variety of Duck species and a few Mute Swans congregated.  20+ Shoveler were seen, some swimming, others roosting on the shore. Teal were also quite plentiful and a few Gadwall and a single, fine looking male Pochard was seen.  Of particular interest was the presence of 3 Goosander (females or 'red-heads') on Langmere.  Goosanders are winter visitors, often encountered during particularly cold spells.  These ducks are known as 'sawbills' this is due to their serrated mandibles which efficiently catch fish underwater.
A single Little Grebe, some Coot and Moorhen was also seen on Langmere, whilst around the fringes of the water, 6 Snipe probed the mud for food. 

SPECIES LIST: Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, Egyptian Goose (pair), 20+ Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal, 1 Pochard (male), Mallard, 3 Goosander (females), Moorhen, Coot, 6 Snipe, 1 Little Grebe, Black-headed Gull, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Rook, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Jay, Brambling, Chaffinch, 20+ Bullfinch, Redpoll, Siskin, Yellowhammer.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Lynford Water, Norfolk 0715-0930

A beautiful dawn at Lynford Water with a slight frost and light mist giving a great atmosphere.
I was not feeling too good today with a heavy head cold and sore throat, therefore, this early visit was used to collect as many species as possible whilst on the move.
I did a complete circuit of the site taking in Pine woodland, deciduous and mixed woodland, open grassland, and of course, the two large lakes also.

Tufted Duck on Lynford Water 26/11/16.  (50+ seen today)
My list is as follows:

20+ Cormorant, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3+ Grey Heron, Mute Swan, 2 Egyptian Geese (pair), Greylag Geese, 50+ Tufted Duck, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, 3+ Water Rail, Pheasant, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 Buzzard, 1 Redshank, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, 1 Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker (drumming heard), Green Woodpecker, Magpie, Rook, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Mistle Thrush (inc. singing male),
Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Starling, Pied Wagtail, 2 Marsh Tit (pair), Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Brambling, Siskin, 1 Redpoll, Bullfinch, 1 Crossbill
Reed Bunting (50 species)

Friday, 25 November 2016

Titchwell Marsh 23rd November (with Leigh Gallant)

My good friend Leigh Gallant arrived at my home in Watton at 0630 for a planned trip to Titchwell.  On the whole I had a good drive up to Titchwell with the exception of a diversion at Gayton which meant following the A149 to Hunstanton and onto our destination, arriving at 0800.
This was to be Leigh's first visit to Titchwell and I am very pleased to write that he saw many new species at this superb reserve.
It was quite clear upon arrival, however, dense fog rolled in over the marsh reducing visibility somewhat until the sun eventually burnt the fog away to give a very pleasant day.
Whilst preparing for our walk we set ourselves a target of 70 species, we eventually accrued 68 species, however, had we brought a 'scope I think distant birds on the sea would have lifted our list to beyond 70 species.
The car park area always gets a days birding off to a good start and expected species seen included Robin, Blackbirds, Wren, and Chaffinches, whilst in a Sycamore above us a single Goldcrest foraged amongst leaves.  Overhead, the first waders of the day came in the form of a flock of Lapwings heading west.
Having left the car park area we headed North along the west bank where a mobile flock of Long-tailed Tits were seen along with a single ChiffchaffGoldfinches were seen in the Alders.  Reed Buntings appeared plentiful moving amongst reeds.  It was whilst Leigh and myself were walking along west bank that thick fog appeared over Thornham Marsh to eventually move in and affect visibility considerably.  The loud song of Cetti's Warbler was heard typically from dense cover, several of these resident Warblers would eventually be heard by the end of the day.   Also typically heard only within reed cover was the distinctive call of Water Rail.
Thornham Marsh held a couple of Buzzards, and in total some 3 Marsh Harriers were seen during the day.
Wader species dominated the Freshwater Marsh and Brackish lagoons with largish numbers of Golden Plover, Lapwings, and Dunlin present, with a few fly-over Snipe.  Small numbers of Avocet were seen.  A couple of Black-tailed Godwits were present, this included a close to feeding bird on the Brackish lagoon.  Little Grebes were often seen in channels where they frequently dived for food.
Approaching the dunes, a small flock of Goldfinches and Linnets sat silhouetted in a bush, and only just visible in the fog.
Although we could hear the sea, we couldn't see it due to the thick fog, we concentrated our efforts in the dunes hoping for Snow Buntings.  A small flock of Finches did arrive and settled out of sight in the dunes, careful searching soon saw a small party of Goldfinches feeding within weed debris.
The sun was beginning to burn the fog away, we then decided to walk down to the shore where lots of Oystercatchers were initially out of sight but heard.  Once at the beach, good numbers of Oystercatchers were seen, also a few Sanderling turned the odd piece of weed or small stone in search for food.  Several Turnstones frequented the remains of the concrete and brick control tower on the beach.
Stonechat at Titchwell 23/11/16 (one of a pair on the west bank)
Looking out to sea, a single Red-throated Diver was seen close to some sea-Duck species, one of which at least was an Eider
The walk back along west bank produced two beautiful Stonechats (male and female), these birds typically flew onto prominent perches such as a tall weed or reed, which was used as a look-out for spotting food.  The lovely, quiet, rapidly given clicking call was heard.
Following a nice lunch in the restaurant, Leigh and myself walked a small section of the wonderful Meadow trail where once again Cetti's Warbler made its presence known.  Two Marsh Harriers were seen again low over the marsh whilst overhead a small party of Fieldfares passed over us.
Finally, with light quickly fading we checked the feeding station close to the visitor centre, here we saw a female Brambling, Chaffinches, and Tit species coming to feed.  A few Redwings were seen leaving the taller trees.  The ubiquitous Robin was seen in the wooded area around the car park area, one often came within reach of us, a lovely ending to the day.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable day and I will end by thanking my very good friend Leigh Gallant for his company on this trip.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Thrushes at Morley St Botolph, Norfolk, 19th November

For my work break on 19th November I visited the beautiful small church in the village of Morley St Botolph near Wymondham.  The dominant tree species in the churchyard is the Yew and it was here that good numbers of Thrushes were seen, the most numerous being Fieldfare, with smaller numbers of Redwings, two or three Mistle Thrushes, and a few Blackbirds, all were attracted to the berries of the Yew.
Fieldfare in Yew at Morley St Botolph, 19th November

Fieldfare in Yew at Morley St Botolph, 19th November
Fieldfare at Morley St Botolph, 19th November
Redwing (Juvenile) at Morley St Botolph, 19th November

Friday, 11 November 2016

Great Grey Shrike

Following near freezing temperatures at dawn today, mid afternoon was quite balmy in the November sunshine.
A very good friend of mine, Leigh Gallant texted me to say he was watching a Great Grey Shrike, this bird has been present on private land since being found by another birding friend, Mick Saunt, some three weeks or so ago.
I made my way to the given location where I met another good birding friend, Peter Dolton, we walked to the site where we met Leigh and enjoyed some birding in very bright and quite warm conditions.
A distant Great Grey Shrike on private land 11th November 2016

We had privileged views of a pair of Stonechats until after a longish wait, the Great Grey Shrike came into view, typically perched on elevated branches from where it surveyed its surroundings.  Although always distant the Shrike showed its typical features which were conspicuous at range.  A very smart black, white, and grey bird which flew between exposed perches. The grey crown and mantle was separated from the black wings by a white bar. The black mask through the eyes was distinctive and the throat, breast, and underparts were pure white, this feature was especially noticeable when the bird turned to face the light source.
Stonechat (female) 11th November
 
Stonechat (female) 11th November
We were constantly entertained by a lovely pair of Stonechats throughout this visit, also Redwing, and a roving flock of Long-tailed Tits passed through.
In addition to the wonderful birdlife, a number of Common Darter Dragonflies were seen, also, a Tortoiseshell butterfly was seen.
Peter pointed out a lovely Red Fox in long grass.
Finally, I want to wish Leigh a happy fortieth birthday for today.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Stunning Autumn.

An early start this morning for a visit close to Thompson, Norfolk.  I arrived just prior to sunrise to the call of a Tawny Owl.  Brief early morning sunshine was soon replaced by cloud and rain showers, some heavy and prolonged.
Walking close to some heathland I was totally amazed by the colours presented to me in the early morning light, most especially the exquisite bronzes of Beech trees.  Varying cloud and some rain soon passed over and light faded somewhat, despite this the majesty of the Beech trees brightened the dullest of conditions.
With these stunning Beech trees came some wonderful birds.  Bramblings arrived in the canopy where I watched them expertly, and quite acrobatically, extract seeds from their husks.  In total, some 40+ Bramblings were present and I was lucky enough to get a photograph of a stunning male sitting exposed in the treetop in full, early morning sunlight.
Stunning Beech trees near Thompson, Norfolk 4th Nov.
As well as Bramblings, this area of Beech and surrounding mixed woodland hosted both Redwings and Fieldfares, both species typically mobile, although one flock of 100+ Fieldfare included some Redwings, plundered fruits on a lone Hawthorn.
Brambling in top of one of the many Beech trees
Common species featured also in this area, these included several Chaffinches feeding amongst leaf litter, also Coal, Blue, and Great Tits were seen.
Redwing (juvenile) at Thompson 4th Nov.
What a stunning bird the Redwing is with its striking head pattern, this feature alone separates this Thrush from any other seen in the British Isles.  Many Redwings were present today, sometimes mixed with Fieldfares, where they fed upon mostly Hawthorn berries.
The Redwing pictured here is a juvenile, this bird is aged by the pale tips to the greater coverts which appear to form a broken white bar on the wing.
Fieldfares in a Hawthorn...can you see the Redwings
Walking back following my visit to the wonderful Beech woodland, a flock of 100+ Fieldfares emerged with many alighting in a lone Hawthorn to plunder berries.  With them was a few Redwings.
Finally, a distant male Stonechat launched itself from its perch, climbed to gather a fly presumably, and then returned to more or less the same perch.
What a magical morning for autumn colours and birds this was.

Monday, 31 October 2016

High count of Grey Partridges

A real pea-souper this morning with thick fog from dawn clearing slowly to bring a sunny afternoon.
An early morning dog walk around the forest near Hilborough produced calling Brambling in the fog, although I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of 10+ Bramblings just over the tree canopy.
Back at home and with the fog slowly clearing I saw some Fieldfares very high flying west, despite the height the early morning sun really highlighted the white underparts of the birds as they passed overhead.  Bramblings were also heard high above the garden.

Great Cressingham
A mid afternoon dog walk produced a very healthy covey of 22 Grey Partridges on farmland close to the village.  As written in an earlier post, this area is good for this species and this count represents my best ever for this now scarce species.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Thompson, Norfolk (with Leigh Gallant) 0600-1145

It was a mild, calm, and foggy morning when I met my very good friend Leigh Gallant for a walk around the Thompson area.  We arrived at our destination in darkness, however, light improved quickly and we set off along the Peddars Way. 
Fog was initially quite thick, although it did lift a little allowing slightly better visibility.  The general trend for the whole day was persistent fog.
The first bird of note was a close, calling female Tawny Owl.
Coal Tit Thompson 30th October
Despite poor visibility this was to be a good gentle wander around taking in some wonderful habitats which allowed some good views of common species including winter Thrushes.  Some fine old Hawthorns held several Redwings, some of which were seen reasonably well and offering great views of the striking head pattern.  A number of Blackbirds were seen in association with the Redwings.  Both Thrush species were enjoying their feed upon Hawthorn berries.  Also along the Peddars Way a few Goldcrests moved through the Sycamores and Hawthorn, often hovering under leaves whilst searching for insect/spider prey.  Also noted in this area was a few Yellowhammers, a female Reed Bunting, whilst overhead in the mist Bramblings were heard.  A party of Long-tailed Tits were typically mobile.
A check of dense woodland habitat revealed a mixed flock of 40+ Redpolls and Siskins feeding mostly in Silver Birch canopy.
Marsh Tit Thompson 30th October

A walk around damp woodland habitat produced good numbers of Tit species, most being Blue and Great Tits, but also a single Marsh and Coal Tit seen.  Also present although unseen was calling Bramblings, mostly in Silver Birch woodland.  A striking male Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch were seen frequently, and a single Treecreeper was seen.   Above the woodland canopy Fieldfares were heard passing over.  Several Chaffinches, both male and females were seen, mostly feeding on the woodland floor, sadly some birds were suffering from viral papilloma, a rather unsightly encrustation of the legs and feet on the bird.  It would appear from what I read that although unsightly, the condition is not fatal to Chaffinches.
Around the periphery of the water, Cetti's Warbler occasionally sang, also at least 3 Water Rails gave their highly distinctive squealing call, one of which was very close to us, but as the case with this species, was elusive visually.
I really don't know where the time went this morning, Leigh and myself spent 6 hours together, we had a great time chatting and birding.  Thanks very much Leigh for your great company as always.


Friday, 28 October 2016

Hockham, Norfolk (Ladybirds and Redpolls)

I visited Hockham around mid-afternoon today (my birthday) and was extremely delighted to see a very large flock of 250+ Redpolls, a spectacular sight, and sound.  These birds were attracted to a number of Birch trees within which they feed.  It has been a while since I saw this number of these small Finches...what a birthday treat.
Also seen was a couple of Grey Herons, 2 Mute Swans, and winter Thrushes.  Several Goldcrests were seen including a small flock moving through mixed woodland, one of these diminutive birds was seen foraging and hanging Tit-like on the finest outermost growths of twigs.
Goldcrest

I am sure that many of my followers have noticed the large numbers of Ladybirds about at the moment, yes, there is an abundance, but who remembers the summer of 1976 when huge numbers carpeted window sills and cars, sometimes two or three Ladybirds deep in places.  This was certainly the case in my birth town of Beccles in Suffolk.
I am trying to improve upon my knowledge of the insect world, and indeed, at Hockham this afternoon, I saw a large insect which at that time I was unsure of its identity, however, research at home revealed this to be a Sabre Wasp - Rhyssa persuasoria.  I am sure I have the correct species here, but please correct me if I am wrong.  UPDATE 13/11/16: One of my followers has recently contacted me and corrected my original thoughts on this insect and advised me this is a Lissonota species, an insect I have not seen before.
Lissonota species at Hockham 28th October 2016
Ladybird species at Hockham 28th October 2016 (Unsure of its correct identity)

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Hockham and Grimes Graves, Norfolk

Hockham 0630
I arrived just over an hour prior to sunrise, the forest at this time was almost in complete darkness, despite this it was a good opportunity to listen for Owls, and my route to my intended destination produced 12+ male Tawny Owls calling, often three or four in quick succession.   Throughout this visit light remained poor with leaden skies.
This mornings visit was most notable for the movement of Finches with Siskins in variable numbers long before sunrise.

Teal (heard)
4+ Water Rail
12+ Tawny Owls
Redwing
Fieldfare
2 Marsh Tit
75+ Redpoll
Siskins
Reed Bunting

Of particular interest was the post-roost movement of 75+ Redpolls (20+15+40+) overhead, all three flocks passed directly above me in a southerly heading.  I was initially alerted to the presence of Redpolls by their approaching "djit djit" calls, a call which I love to hear.   Approximately half a mile south of my position stands some fine old Silver Birches, perhaps these trees were the intended destination, given their propensity for this species to feed in. 
Redpolls are scarce breeding birds now, the birds seen today will be winter visitors from the upland Birch forests of Britain or Northern Europe.  

Grimes Graves
The purpose of this mid-afternoon visit was to check suitable habitat for Great Grey Shrike.  This area is a regular wintering site for this spectacular predator.  Although not seen today, I am confident that this site will eventually produce a bird in the coming months.
Wintering habitat of Great Grey Shrike at Grimes Graves 27th October 2016


Stonechat at Grimes Graves 27th October (One of 4+ seen today)
 At least 4 Stonechats were seen at Grimes Graves today, two seen on open heathland, and two seen in a mixed young open conifer/grassland habitat.  The above Stonechat is seen here in typical pose, on top of a young conifer from where it utters its soft tongue clicking call.
Also seen here today was single Redpolls, a single Mistle Thrush, small numbers of Redwings, Jays and a couple of Magpies.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Dereham, Norfolk

A morning of moderately thick fog which was slow to clear, such conditions conjure thoughts of local falls of winter Thrushes.
I took my wife to Dereham for a few hours of shopping whilst I decided to wander down to the church close to the town centre.  On route to the church I stopped off for a coffee and despite the traffic and everyday noises of people going about their business, I could hear Fieldfares passing high overhead, only the odd one was visible due to the foggy conditions.
Blackbird in Yew at Dereham churchyard 26th Oct. (Perhaps a migrant bird)
A variety of beautiful tree specimens grow in the churchyard from a large Sycamore, an old Yew, and colourful Birch trees.
It soon became apparent that many Blackbirds and several Song Thrushes visited the churchyard from nearby wooded areas, many of which flew into the single Yew to feed upon its berries.  Perhaps these Thrushes were recently arrived migrants, the numbers of Song Thrushes present certainly indicated these were of continental origin.
Also seen in the churchyard was a single Coal Tit, Great Tit, and both Nuthatch and Treecreeper was heard.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Houghton-on-the-Hill (migration watch) and Great Cressingham/South Pickenham, Norfolk

This morning dawned clear and cool with very little wind and patchy mist.  3 degrees Celsius at dawn rising to a high of 12 degrees by the afternoon.  It remained very bright and sunny throughout the day.
At Houghton this morning there was evidence of passage again with birds being seen and heard as they moved over.  A light but frequent movement of Bramblings seen and heard, also small number of Siskins passed over from pre-sunrise.
An afternoon visit along the Peddars Way at Great Cressingham produced a small covey of Grey Partridges at one of their regular open arable haunts.

Houghton-on-the-Hill 0645-0900 (sunrise 0741)
I arrived at Houghton almost an hour prior to sunrise.  With its isolation, lack of light pollution, and cool temperature, this was simply a wonderful time to be here.
An initial walk around the area produced 3 calling Tawny Owls (2 males), calling Redwings and Blackbirds, and eventually, the now familiar pale Buzzard with the Osprey head markings.
My aim was to conduct a static check for passage migrants, this I started at 0800 and finished at 0900.  The following was seen/heard:

3 Cormorants south
50+ Golden Plover high south
Fieldfare west
Redwings arrivals + light west movement
Bramblings (5+7 seen) west (light passage)
Siskins light passage from dawn  

As with previous recent visits, Brambling passage was witnessed either as high-flying, unseen calling birds, or as visible migrants, including a party of 7 which stopped off close to the church.  Another small flock of 5 was seen heading high north-west, calling heard again.
A light passage of Fieldfare witnessed from before sunrise with small numbers high west.  A small flock of 10 also seen west.  Siskins were also heard long before sunrise passing overhead. 

Great Cressingham/South Pickenham (Peddars Way)
A late afternoon visit to the Peddars Way saw continued bright conditions, however, with the sun low in the sky and temperatures dropping, mist began to form in low lying areas.
Grey Partridges (7) at Great Cressingham 25th October 

Starting at Great Cressingham, I found 7 Grey Partridges together in vast open arable country.  This is as good area for this now scarce species.
Further along the Peddars Way at South Pickenham, hedgerows appeared to hold good numbers of Redwings.  With light fading fast, about 30 Redwings flew from the hedgerows and headed off high west.
A single Goldcrest was seen moving along a hedgerow.
As I was preparing to leave a Sparrowhawk shot along roadside hedges in search of a late meal.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Houghton-on-the-Hill (Migration watch) and Little Cressingham, Norfolk

A day of frequent showers, some heavy, being driven along on a moderate, occasionally fresh north-easterly wind.  Quite cool.
My day started at Houghton-on-the-Hill where a number of species seen on passage, or indeed, as overnight arrivals.  Later in the day at Little Cressingham,  a very impressive count of Goldfinches seen. Also, single Chiffchaffs noted at two localities.

Houghton-on-the-Hill 0715-0900
This morning I did my usual circular walk at Houghton.  As soon as I arrived 2 Kestrels were calling to each other in the half-light of dawn.  It was evident that there had been recent Thrush arrivals with both Redwings and Blackbirds calling in the woodland.
A single Chiffchaff was heard in a mature hedgerow.  Many Song Thrushes and Redwings (probable overnight arrivals) were seen in the hedgerows close to the church.

2 Kestrel
Starling (c. 50+ c.35 west)
Wood Pigeon - (3+11) probable migrants at Houghton
Redwing  (max flock 200+ birds south)
Song Thrush
40+ Fieldfare
Blackbirds
1 Chiffchaff
6 Bramblings (2+4) west
Linnets

Spot Check at Houghton(Visible Migration)
For some 45 minutes I carried out a spot check of bird movements with some interesting results.
Redwings were clearly on the move with several flocks totalling double figures heading mostly west or south-west, however, the largest movement occurred at about 0820 when 200+ birds were seen high overhead flying south.
A flock of 40+ Fieldfares passed over in a westerly heading, this flock also contained a few Redwings.
Of interest was a small passage of Wood Pigeons when a total of 14 birds (3+11) were seen flying high and very purposefully in a southerly heading.
6 Bramblings were seen flying west (2+4), also, single, or small numbers of Linnets were moving through.

Little Cressingham (mid-afternoon)
A short but productive visit close to 'The Arms'.  This area has always been good for winter flocks of Finch and Buntings and this afternoon a very respectable count of 250+ Goldfinches wandered around weedy margins of fields.
30+ Redwings and a number of Blackbirds were present in the hedgerows and trees.  Also in a hedge a single Chiffchaff was calling. 


Sunday, 16 October 2016

Bodney, Norfolk 1545-1600

A brief, fortuitous stop to overlook a large field of maize stubble produced a wandering flock of 200+ Skylarks, large numbers of Crows, Linnets, and a distant hunting Kestrel.  The Crows then lifted off quickly from the field, this alerted me to an approaching raptor species, then, a large Goshawk drifted over the woodland and field and appeared to alight in a belt of Scots Pines, this of course attracted a few bold Crows to launch a frenzied mobbing attack on the raptor.  Moments later the Goshawk reappeared and soon drifted away behind a belt of Scots Pines.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Hockham and Little Cressingham, Norfolk

Beautiful autumn conditions at dawn with very little wind and quite mild.  Low light due to leaden skies and mist throughout the morning.  Light improved by afternoon with some sunny spells and a high of 15 degrees Celsius.

2 Grey Herons
1 Little Egret
5+ Water Rails Hockham
2 Sparrowhawk
30+ Starlings
c. 4000 Jackdaws/Rooks at Little Cressingham
4 Fieldfare Hockham
Redwings
Song Thrush
1 Chiffchaff at Little Cressingham
c. 20 Siskins 

Red Deer Roaring at Hockham

Hockham Fen
What a fantastic autumnal feel this morning, low light, mist hanging over the fen and an out of sight Red Deer roaring frequently, a landscape with a very primeval glory.
Hockham 15th October
My aim was to try and photograph a rutting Red Deer stag, however, despite his obvious moving around, he remained out of sight during my visit.
Local movements at sunrise included a small party of 20+ Siskins, and an overflying flock of about 30 Starlings.  A few Fieldfares passed over very high, their "shack shack" call distinctive.  A single Little Egret arrived from the east and alighted out of sight on the distant fen.  2 Grey Herons were seen.
At least 5 Water Rails were heard calling, given the suitable habitat which I did not check this morning, the true number of these secretive birds will be higher no doubt.
Finally, a check of another part of the fen produced 2 Sparrowhawks soaring low over woodland.

Little Cressingham
A very brief visit to the Great Cressingham road north-west of 'The Arms' produced an estimated 4000+ mixed Rook and Jackdaw flock, a very impressive sight, whilst in the roadside hedgerow a single Chiffchaff called a few times.  Also, Goldcrests heard and Redwings seen and heard in wooded areas.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk 0715-0930

Dry at dawn and through the day although there was full cloud cover.  The wind was a cool, moderate easterly.  Today sees the last of these long-lasting easterlies with a swing to a milder south-westerly tomorrow.

4 Buzzards (including the beautifully marked juvenile)
1 Sparrowhawk
Redwings (arrivals and light passage)
Song Thrush - numerous
Blackbird (including migrant birds)
7 Long-tailed Tits
Goldcrests
Brambling - light westerly passage with an arrival of migrants in churchyard
Reed Bunting

From the start of my walk it was evident that the hedgerows held many Redwings, Song Thrushes, and a few Blackbirds. As I walked on, Thrushes were passing from one hedge to another where just a month ago, several species of Warblers were doing the same.  A line of trees held many Song Thrushes, their 'tik' calls being heard everywhere.
As I scoped a distant hedge-line, I could see 2 Buzzards, one on the hedge, one walking on the ground beneath, probably searching for invertebrates.  The hedge also held Blackbird (2+), Dunnock, and Robin.
At 0800 the first evidence of Bramblings on the move with birds heard initially in Woodland, then bird(s) heading west.
A passage Brambling at Houghton 14th October

Once again, I spent some time watching the stunning juvenile Buzzard, this beautifully marked bird was sitting in a distant Oak.  The head-markings on this Buzzard are highly distinctive and contrasting, the crown being lightly streaked brown, and pure white above and below the eye, and fore-crown.  The dark band through the eye gives a masked appearance..  For a short while the Buzzard sat facing me, and what stunning plumage it had with its white throat, breast (brown mottling on breast sides), underparts, and under-tail coverts.  Some brown mottling on the flanks extended and became lighter as it met on the under-parts.  A highly distinctive bird indeed.
A few small flocks of Redwing continued overhead in a westerly heading, also, 2 Redwings and 2 Blackbirds seen flying high east.
Back at my start point by the church an arrival of Bramblings present in nearby woodland, their distinctive, nasally "zweeeeu" call being repeated.  One probable female was seen in a Hawthorn where I obtained a record shot.   4 Bramblings then departed north-west.  As I was preparing to leave this site, a further 2 Bramblings arrived/passed overhead. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Migration watch at Houghton-on-the-Hill 0650-0900

Some overnight rain was followed by a clear morning with cloud moving in from the north-east.  Increasing cloud eventually produced some rain at 0845.  The wind was a light to moderate north-easterly, increasing in strength to fresh with the arrival of rain.

I arrived at Houghton at 0650 for a circular walk starting at St Mary's Church.  It was evident from the outset that recently arrived Thrushes, mostly Song Thrushes and Redwings occupied the hedgerows along the route.

Of interest was a late, calling Willow Warbler east of the church.

Also noted was Goldcrests at 3 sites, Bullfinches at 3 sites, and single Chiffchaffs, also at 3 sites.  A single juvenile Green Woodpecker was seen climbing a telegraph pole where it searched for food.

A stunningly marked Buzzard (juvenile) was seen perched in the upper dead limbs of an Oak.  Close observation through the 'scope revealed a very pale bird with light brown upperparts mottled white. The head of this bird was gorgeous, the crown was streaked light brown, the fore-crown and sides of the crown, cheeks and chin were pure white, a dark stripe passing through both eyes gave it a masked appearance, in fact whilst watching this bird the head markings really did recall those of an Osprey.  With the exception of light brown patches on the flanks, all underparts and under-tail coverts were pure white, a stunning individual.  

...................................................................................................................................................................

Visible migration 0800-0845.  A dedicated watch for passage species produced a light to moderate westerly movement of Thrushes, especially Redwings.

Redwing - A moderate westerly passage, largest flock 100+ birds.  Overnight arrivals also
Song Thrush - westerly passage, also overnight arrivals
2 Siskins south
8+ Bramblings west

A steady westerly passage of Redwings was seen throughout this watch, most flocks numbered 15, 20, or 30 birds, however, the largest numbered 100+ birds.
Small numbers of Redwings were also seen approaching high and dropping into the well-stocked hedgerows.

....................................................................................................................................................................

St Mary's Church at Houghton-on-the-Hill

St Mary's at Houghton
I never tire of visiting St Mary's Church at Houghton-on-the-Hill.  This is a peaceful, very isolate site, and a place to sit, think, and watch the bird-life which passes through or lives here.
The church in its current state dates to the 11th century, or probably earlier.  This beautiful place is run and maintained by dedicated volunteers.  The doors to the church are opened daily 1400-1600.  There is so much to see and learn from those who lovingly maintain the church, including fantastic murals depicting biblical scenes which date to the 11th century or earlier.
St Mary's site on the western end of a raised ridge of land (hill) with fine views down to the valley to the north-west and beyond where the land rises again, similarly, it is possible to see a distant horizon to the south, although this descent is gentler.

Birds
I have been visiting this locality for many years now, its elevated position allows for great migration watching, especially in the autumn. 
Todays visit to the churchyard produced a few common species passing through including Goldcrest and a pair of Coal Tits.  3 Great Tits, Dunnock, and Robin were all noted here today.


 

Friday, 7 October 2016

Thrush passage

Wall to wall cloud today with the exception of a very brief brighter spell.  Cool at dawn.  Light to moderate east north-easterly wind.

I started my day with a visit at dawn to Thompson Water.  It was great to see work has started with removing of the highly invasive Water Soldier, a spreading plant that has had a detrimental effect upon the life at this site.
Following the short visit to Thompson, I headed for Houghton-on-the-Hill to witness Thrush migration.

Mute Swan
4 Teal
Moorhen
Skylarks - movements seen
3 Chiffchaff
2 Cetti's Warblers
Light to moderate movement of Redwings and Song Thrushes
Blackbirds - female and two 1st winter males watched (poss. migrants)

Thompson Water
I arrived at Thompson at dawn in very poor light due to cloud cover, however, visibility was good.
It is very refreshing to some open water since work has started to clear the Water Soldier, let's hope this is a successful operation.  This picture shows the Water Soldier's impact on the water, just below the treeline it is possible to see the open water following removal of the weed. 
Cetti's Warbler habitat at Thompson Water
On the water was 6 adult Mute Swans and 5 full grown youngsters.  These poor birds must have had some difficulty in moving around the water in the thick Water Soldier.
2 Cetti's Warblers were heard in song, one of which was very close in the sallow in the right of this picture.  I detected some movement, however, the bird was never seen, which is often typical despite being so close to.
Also seen very close was a Chiffchaff which was clambering about the reeds in the foreground of this picture.  If we have another mild winter I suspect Chiffchaffs will remain here.
Common species seen/heard in the woodland surround included Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Blue, Coal, and Great Tits.
Overhead, a few single Thrush species seen and 10+ Siskins south.

Redwing passage Thompson (0840) 3 flocks passed overhead flying south, the first flock numbered 200+, the second 60+, and the third 50+ (310+ in total).

Houghton-on-the-Hill 0910-1030
I arrived at this site to watch for Thrush migration and immediately upon my arrival 60+ Redwings passed overhead south.
For the time I was at Houghton the Thrush movement would be described as light to moderate in numbers.  Both Song Thrushes and Redwings involved in this passage, all being south in direction.  The largest flocks of Redwings numbered 60+, 30+, and 20+, with smaller numbers on the move.
I watched 6 Song Thrushes approach from the north and plummet like stones into the thick hedges close to me.
I also 'scoped a distant Hawthorn which held 3 Blackbirds (female and 2 first winter males).  These birds were preening and feeding upon Hawthorn berries, possibly newly arrived migrants.  Also here a Song Thrush seen feeding upon berries.
Also of interest was the movement of small numbers of Skylarks, again, possible migrants.

Watton
I arrived home from my local birding trip to a further 40+ Redwings overhead south.  Also of interest was 4 Skylarks high south-east.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

House Sparrow (juvenile female) 6th October 2016

I never tire of House Sparrows.  Taking time to look closely at these familiar birds will reveal they are indeed stunning, beautiful birds.  Sadly, they are too often overlooked due to their abundance.  I love watching their squabbles, also they often provide great comical value in their antics.
House Sparrow (juvenile female) 6th October
House Sparrow (juvenile female) 6th October

Houghton-on-the-Hill 0640-0950

Another dry day, however, this morning was cooler than recent days.  Full cloud cover with a moderate east-north-easterly wind.

c.50 Golden Plover high south-west
Song Thrush - both arrivals and passage seen. Movements mostly west
Redwing - A few calling birds over west and south-west
3 Chiffchaffs heard
Goldcrests
1 Brambling south

I visited this locality today for observing bird migration.  Thrushes dominated although not in any great numbers so far.  Song Thrushes were the most numerous migrants with lesser numbers of Redwings.   Numbers of Thrushes varied, most were in single figures but one flock of 30+ Song Thrushes over west.  The hedgerows were occupied by many Song Thrushes giving their familiar "tik" calls.
A small flock of about 50 Golden Plover passed high overhead south-west.

Visible migration
I chose one of my regular watch-points for an hour or so overlooking the valley below and beyond.
Once again small numbers of Thrushes seen above me and also distant west of me.  The highlight for this watch was an overhead Brambling (calling) in a southerly heading.


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Hilborough, Norfolk

A generally bright day, some mist at dawn.  A shift in the wind direction to a moderate, later, fresh easterly.
At 0645 I parked on the Bodney to Didlington road to walk the various forest rides.  The habitat here as one would expect is commercial Pine crop of varying ages.  Silver Birch, Oak, and Larch are also present.
With a shift in wind direction to an easterly, Thrush species were noted this morning as either arrivals or passage birds.

2 Buzzards
1 Kestrel
3+ Woodlarks
Redwings
Song Thrush
1 Mistle Thrush
Treecreeper
2 Marsh Tits
1 Chiffchaff
5+ Bullfinches

From the outset it was obvious that Thrush species were present in the Hilborough area from dawn with many Song Thrushes heard in woodland giving their "tik" calls.  Redwings were also heard here.
My walk along one of the rides produced at least 5 Bullfinches leaving their Pine and Birch roost sites.
Despite the noise from a nearby tractor I could hear the song of Woodlark near to a traditional site for the species.  Eventually, 3 Woodlarks were seen above a clearing together of which 2 were singing male birds.  Whilst watching the Woodlarks a small flock of Thrushes passed overhead high in a westerly heading.

Watton
Shortly after arriving back from my walk a few small flocks of Redwings passed over including a party of c.25 in a westerly heading.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk 0700-1400 (with Richard Farrow)

The day dawned clear and cool with a minimum of 4 degrees, rising to a warm 18 degrees by the afternoon.  The wind was a moderate northerly.
I met my very good friend Richard Farrow at 0700 on the A149 coast road, our plan, to walk north along the track to Burnham Overy Dunes and then walk east through the dunes to as far as Holkham Pines.  A spot check, and food, at one of one of the many deep, habitat-filled depressions in the dunes was followed by a long walk west back to Gun Hill, before making our way back to the path which led back to our starting point. 
There was little evidence of passage seen today, however, migrant species were found, despite one other birder we met stating "Not much about, just Meadow Pipits", there was in fact plenty to see with notable species as follows:

Pink-footed Geese - thousands moving at dawn
Shelduck
Cormorant - hundreds west all morning
Little Egret
2 Marsh Harrier
1 Kestrel
4 Black-tailed Godwits
1 Bar-tailed Godwit
Redshank
Dunlin
Knot
5+ Snipe
34+ Golden Plover
Grey Partridge
10+ Swallows
400+ Starling flock (including an albino bird)
Meadow Pipit - very common
Skylark - including one south
Song Thrush - several migrants present
2 Redwings over south and heading inland
Blackbirds
Robin
6 Stonechat
Blackcap
Chiffchaff
Goldcrest
Reed Buntings

My arrival on the A149 coast road coincided with a truly fantastic Norfolk spectacular of thousands of Pink-footed Geese flying against the Orange dawn skies.  The sight and sound of this phenomena is one of the main Ornithological events which attracts so many to the North Norfolk Coast in autumn and winter.
Pink-footed Geese at dawn over Holkham, Norfolk 3rd October

Once we reached the north end of the path we entered the dunes where much cover exists for tired migrant birds, today, however, it appeared fairly quiet on the migrant front with the exception of a single Goldcrest, lots of Linnets and Reed Buntings, and up to 3 Stonechats on fencing.
High on one of the taller dunes sat a Kestrel surveying its surrounds, it attracted the attention of several mobbing Meadow Pipits.
Kestrel sitting on one of the taller dunes 3rd October
Dune spot check and food break
Probably one of my highlights of the day was sitting down and overlooking a deep depression with a variety of thick habitat for cover.  It was clearly evident that the number of Song Thrushes present were migrant birds, also, several Robins were seen here.  Late Warblers included small numbers of Blackcap and Chiffchaff.
It was here that 2 Redwings passed overhead calling and continuing their journey inland.
Overviewing a deep depression in the dunes.  Here, a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, several Robins, Song Thrushes, and 2 passage Redwings were seen.
Following our spot check, Richard and I then took the long walk west to Gun Hill.  The walk was dominated by Meadow Pipits, although checking the now distant shoreline, some wader and Gull species seen including Knot, Oystercatcher, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, and the huge Great Black-backed Gulls.
Gun Hill was fairly quiet although 3 Stonechats were found wandering around some low-growing cover.
Redshank 3rd October
The walk south along the path back towards our starting point produced 34+ Golden Plovers around a small patch of water.  With mud exposed following the receding tide, a number of Redshanks and about 4 Knot fed.
A large flock of 400+ Starlings wandering the dunes and nearby grazing included a highly conspicuous albino bird.
Finally, back at our cars, a lovely female Marsh Harrier showed well in good light above the marsh.
As always, my thank goes to Richard for his company  on our mornings/early afternoon birding.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Houghton ( 30+ Song Thrushes)

Departures. It is just over a week ago now that I last checked the wonderful hedgerows in the Houghton area for passage migrant birds, then, good numbers of Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, and Lesser Whitethroats used the habitat here to fuel up for their long journeys to Southern Europe and Africa.  As I walked along the corridor of hedgerows, Warblers would be seen flying from one side to the other, between fruiting bushes, however, the area today was strangely quiet with most birds having departed south.  Although a sense of sadness comes with their departure, thoughts turn to the north with incoming Thrushes and Finches making full use of the heavy Blackberry and Hawthorn crop.

Pre-dawn to 0800:  I arrived at Houghton this morning in semi-darkness, it was dry although varying levels of cloud gave poor light.  The moderate southerly wind was not conducive to passage, despite this, it was clear there was some Thrush arrivals scattered over the area covered this morning.
My visit started with a Barn Owl hunting over an area of permanent grassland/grazing.  The silent ghostly image of the Owl reminded me of stories of apparitions seen at this locality.  A hunting Barn Owl in low light could certainly fit the bill for those inclined to believe.
The beautiful old hedgerow which hosted many Song Thrushes 1st October
There was virtually no evidence of any summer migrants today, however, walking along a narrow track it was clear that a number of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were present in the old, thick hedgerows.  A number of "tik" calls betrayed the presence of Song Thrushes, and indeed, as I entered a clearing, 2 Song Thrushes were seen quite high.
Walking along a corridor of hedgerows brought further Song Thrushes and my only Blackcap of the morning.  Overhead, a very light southerly passage of Meadow Pipits was noted.
Back at where I started the mornings walk, light had improved with a large break in the cloud and I decided to watch an old, well stocked hedge around the grassland where I had earlier seen the Barn Owl.  This beautiful thick hedgerow comprising very old Hawthorn, Elder, Ash, and a superb large bank of Bramble, played host to many Song Thrushes passing through it along with several Blackbirds, and a couple of Mistle Thrushes.  In an ancient Hawthorn 2 Goldcrests were seen.

30+ Song Thrushes in total were seen and heard in total this morning, clearly, these are recently arrived continental migrants.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Houghton, Watton Brook, and Hockham

400+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls
4 Grey Partridge
5+ Buzzards
1 Marsh Harrier (male)
3 Hobby
2 Kingfisher (singles 2 sites)
Meadow Pipit (very light southerly passage)
2 Blackcap
Chiffchaffs

What was particularly noticeable about today was the reduced numbers of Warbler species, especially at Houghton.  The vast amount of Sylvia Warblers have probably departed now for warmer climes, however, Chiffchaffs remained plentiful and a couple of Blackcaps were seen/heard.

Houghton
I started the day with an early morning visit to Houghton, arriving at 0645 and remained until about 0825.  The first obvious movement was of a southerly passage of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, although later 400+ birds were seen in stubble.
A check of hedgerows and other suitable habitats produced several Chiffchaffs and just a single Blackcap.  5+ Meadow Pipits passed overhead in a southerly direction.  Close to the church 5+ Blackbirds and a single Song Thrush were seen sharing the same small tree.  The churchyard itself held a few Chiffchaffs, including a singing bird.
On farmland, 4 Grey Partridges were seen together, an uncommon sight these days.
Grey Partridges at Houghton 26 Sept.  4 birds seen together.
Watton Brook (Little Cressingham)
A short visit today revealed little along the valley, however, a single Blackcap (female) was seen in Osiers before flying off north to hedgerows.  A single Kingfisher flew along the valley.

Hockham
Chiffchaff by Umbellifer at Hockham 26 Sept.

A short but productive visit started with a male Marsh Harrier hunting over reeds and Sallows, whilst  in the area at least 5 Buzzards were seen.  3 Hobby were seen together hunting above  woodland and fen habitat.  Insects was the main quarry with one bird seen feeding on the wing by passing food from talon to bill.
Two Grey Herons were seen.  A single Kingfisher passed by me calling.
In nearby woodland a mobile flock of Long-tailed Tits comprised other Tit species and Chiffchaffs.  One Chiffchaff was watched for some time picking for food from the underside of Umbellifer species.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Houghton and Watton Brook Valley

A distinctly autumnal feel at dawn today with a low of 6 degrees Celsius.  The day started bright and dry with mist hanging over low lying areas.  Pleasantly warm by the afternoon with a high of 21 degrees and a light to moderate south-westerly.

Houghton 0630-0800
A visit to Houghton this morning proved interesting with evidence of some early autumn Thrush movements.

1 Swallow south
Meadow Pipit - a very light overhead southerly passage
5 Skylarks south
1 Mistle Thrush
6+ Song Thrush (Inc. 3 arrivals from north)
Blackbirds
Chiffchaffs
Blackcap female eating Elderberries
Whitethroat
20+ Yellowhammers
15+ Chaffinches

Arrival of migrant Song Thrushes 
A spot check on the common produced lots of different bird species on the move, some undoubtedly were local movements as with the Finches and Buntings, however, of particular interest was 3+ Song Thrushes arriving from the north and then descending fast into the cover of hedgerow.  These Song Thrushes were undoubtedly continental birds which have abandoned their Scandinavian breeding grounds to winter in Britain or the Iberian Peninsula.  These must be some of the first migrant Song Thrushes to arrive in Norfolk this autumn.

Watton Brook Valley
A visit to a small section of the valley this afternoon produced 3 Stonechats, 2 Red Kites (pair), and 3 Buzzards.

Muntjac Deer at Houghton 23 Sept. '16.  A common and widespread deer throughout Norfolk 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Wramplingham (Skoyles Lane), Norfolk

During my afternoon break from work today (1345-1500) I chose a completely random location to take lunch and do some birding from my parking spot between a break in a hedge along Skoyles Lane.  The habitat here was arable with some fine hedgerow habitat to check, in particular a lovely area of tall Hawthorn with Elder and Bramble within.

2 Sparrowhawk
1 Kestrel
2 Red Kites
3 Buzzards
1 Marsh Harrier NW at 1430
2 Lesser Whitethroats

The first raptor was a soaring Sparrowhawk above me shortly followed by a hunting Kestrel to the north.  A pair of Red Kites showed well as they soared low over farmland.  At least 3 Buzzards were seen including two soaring directly above me and calling. At 1430 a Marsh Harrier passed over in an north-westerly heading and attracted the attention of a few mobbing Crows.  Another Sparrowhawk was later seen soaring low over woodland.
Well stocked hedgerow at Wramplingham 22 Sept where 2 Lesser Whitethroats seen 
As soon as I parked up for my break I took particular interest in this hedgerow which runs north to south at Skoyles Lane.  Some fine, tall Hawthorn are seen here along with Elder bushes and Brambles with a very heavy crop of Blackberries. 
I felt confident that passage Warblers would be present at this excellent feeding staging location and indeed at 1400 I detected movement, it was a superb looking Lesser Whitethroat, then close by a second Lesser Whitethroat joined it.  Initially I viewed these stunning Warblers at x8, however, having set the 'scope up I had some excellent views at x25 to x30.
These Lesser Whitethroats were typically stunning birds with their grey heads and darker ear-coverts contrasting strongly with the white throat.  The mantle and wings were a uniform brownish and the underparts very white.  Calls were frequently given, this was a sharp "stit", sometimes given once, sometimes given in rapid succession.  Close views of these beautiful Warblers showed them feeding upon Blackberries.
I finally departed this location to return to work just after 1500.   

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Houghton-on-the-Hill and Watton Brook Valley

The day dawned with low cloud, mist, and low light conditions. By mid-morning there was cloud of varying height with occasional brighter spells. Temperature at dawn was 15 degrees Celsius rising to a high of 19 degrees.  The wind was a light to moderate NNW.

Houghton-on-the-Hill
I arrived at this locality at 0715, remaining until 1045.  I allowed an hour of visible migration between 0935 until 1035 with little evidence of passage.
Migrant habitat at Houghton
Once again my focus was on finding migrants.  I positioned myself close to the habitat pictured here for some time and saw many Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps moving through Elder and Bramble habitat.  The Elder crop appears to have been mostly consumed by migrants now, however, heavy crops of Blackberries will now be the main food source for Warbler species.  Also seen here was a number of Whitethroats.
Following my visit to this staging post, I investigated the nearby hedgerows which are always good for migrant species.  Once again, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, and Whitethroats were present in good numbers.  One Whitethroat was observed eating Blackberries. 3 Meadow Pipits directly above would have been recently arrived migrants, perhaps from upland Britain.
At 0935 I set up for a migrant watch, however, I didn't witness any movement at this time, nevertheless, a nice flock of 70+ Lapwings was seen to the distant NW.  Closer to my position I saw a pale phase Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, and a single Mistle Thrush over.  10+ House Martins passed overhead in a northerly heading.

Watton Brook Valley (Little Cressingham)
I arrived at the WB Valley at about 1530 to the noise and sight of hundreds of Corvids on grassland to the west along the valley, surely, a Goshawk took interest in this gathering.
Stonechat in the Watton Brook Valley 18 Sept
An initial check of the posts along the brook produced a single Stonechat, this is undoubtedly the same bird I have seen here for some time now.  Typically, the Stonechat used posts and fencing to watch the ground below, from here it would launch sallies to the ground to collect invertebrates.
Also, close by, 2 juvenile Blackbirds fed upon blackberries and a mobile Tit flock comprising Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tits, and Chiffchaff, moved through Sallows.
Finally, a single Snipe was seen flying west along the valley. 

Friday, 16 September 2016

On this day....

Honey Buzzard over Watton, Norfolk 17th September 2012.
I remember this day clearly, I was sitting in the garden with both my binoculars and camera at the ready because conditions felt right for raptor passage.  The sky viewable from my garden is but a minute fraction of the total skies over the large county of Norfolk, nevertheless, my then garden species record stood at just over 100 species (birds seen both in and from garden) with raptors featuring as regular birds of passage.
It was early afternoon when I saw a large raptor approaching from the north-west, it looked different.  Quickly I picked up the bird in my binoculars and saw it was a Honey Buzzard, it continued to approach and then passed directly above me at probably no more than 100 feet.  I picked up the camera and managed a few shots of this very scarce raptor, further investigation showed this to be a dark phase juvenile Honey Buzzard. 
My belief is that it pays to watch the skies this time of year wherever you are as scarce and rare birds do pass overhead during peak times of migration.
Honey Buzzard (dark phase juvenile) over Watton 17th September 2012

Honey Buzzard (dark phase juvenile) directly overhead at Watton, Norfolk 17th September 2012.  Note the small protruding head on this bird, a classic feature of this species.

One very lucky Tawny Owl....thank god.

At 0600 I was heading for Houghton.  Driving through the village of Saham Toney I passed over the bridge over Watton Brook and immediately in front of me in the middle of my lane a Tawny Owl was sitting on prey, I braked but couldn't stop in time and I felt a very sickening feeling as I heard noise under the car, I stopped and went back to check the road and all I found was a freshly dead Wood Pigeon squab.  A driver who was behind me but stopped in front of me said "It's ok, it flew off", I thanked him for this and felt very relieved.

Houghton
I arrived at Houghton to dismal, misty, drizzle conditions, and very poor light.  The continuing period of 30+ degrees has been replaced by fresher, more autumnal conditions.  This was a fairly short visit as the drizzle was beginning to turn to rain, and in fact, continuous heavy rain with early thunder and lightning was to follow for the day ahead.
Light was poor, however, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were heard in the hedgerows, also, my second Tawny Owl of the day was seen flying between woodland, and then calling. 

Surface pressure charts for the coming weekend suggests good conditions for migrating raptors, and possibly movements of passerines, including Pipit species.  I have seen Honey Buzzard and Osprey in similar conditions.

Deopham Green, Norfolk, 13th September

1400-1500 With temperatures again in excess of 30 degrees I decided for my work break to visit the wide open expanses of the disused WW2 airfield at Deopham to look for raptors.
This was a productive but short visit with a single Buzzard, soaring Sparrowhawk, hunting Kestrel, and 2 Hobby passing over.

12th September - a notable day for Chiffchaffs

I visited a number of sites on the patch on 12 September with the emphasis once again on finding migrants and indeed, Chiffchaffs featured with high numbers seen and heard.

Houghton
A circular walk at Houghton was productive with my staging post holding good numbers of migrants. At dawn a flock of 10+ Mistle Thrushes moved through Oaks and in the hedgerows the "hweet" calls of Chiffchaffs was heard.
I checked my regular patch of dense Elder, Hawthorn, and Sallow habitat and located many Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, and at least 2 Lesser Whitethroats.  The hedgerow corridor produced Whitethroat and further Chiffchaffs.

Watton Brook Valley
Following on from Houghton I checked a small section of the valley which was surprisingly quiet, however, a single Chiffchaff was heard singing and calling to the north, I watched and heard this individual make its way closer to me, entering a Bramble patch in front of me before flying into a group of Sallows.

Threxton
A late afternoon visit to the sewage treatment works produced high numbers of Chiffchaffs in front of me in one small area of Elder and conifer screen.  Also noted here was a number of Goldcrests and a Grey Wagtail.