Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Friday, 12 February 2016

Hilborough and Little Cressingham, Norfolk

A beautiful start to the day with a moderate frost.  Cloud soon moved in following sunrise, however, this dispersed to give bright, calm conditions throughout the afternoon.
This turned out to be an excellent days local birding for typical Breckland species, a scarce Falcon, and a now rare Tit species.
The following highlights were seen:

Shelduck (pair)
2 Barn Owls
2 Buzzard
1 Red Kite
2 Kestrel
3 Woodlarks
200+ Fieldfare
Song Thrushes
2 Willow Tit (pair)
Marsh Tit
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
50+ Linnets
Reed Bunting

My drive to Hilborough this morning took me along some wonderful frost covered rolling countryside close to the Watton brook Valley.  The first of 2 Barn Owls seen today was sitting on a fence post close to Bodney Camp.
Woodlark at Hilborough.  3 singing males today

Barn Owl at Hilborough 12/02/16
I arrived at my destination at one of the many forest rides which criss-cross through the tall pine woodland.  The first thing I was aware of was the number of Song Thrushes in song, probably six or more heard.  A single Woodlark was high overhead.
Having reached an open area of newly planted pines (about 5 years old), I settled down to watch 2 male Woodlarks singing above me.  Occasionally a bird descended into one of the 'windrows' where he continued to sing.  I noticed plenty of short-cropped grass and bare patches for Woodlarks to feed within the rows of young pines.  This Within the next two years or so this habitat will become unsuitable for breeding Woodlarks as the trees would have grown to cover the ground and reduce light, new areas of clearfell will then be found to set up new territories.
Whilst watching the Woodlarks I could see a small wandering flock of about 50+ Linnets to my left, I though to myself "this may attract a raptor species", before too long a Merlin passed almost right through the flock and continued off north-east in a leisurely flight.
A recently arrived pair of Shelduck circled overhead.
The minor road away from this site produced a beautiful Barn Owl close to Hollow Heath, it was using fence posts to watch the ground below.

Little Cressingham (The Arms to the Watton brook valley)
This turned out to be a productive visit.   My walk started alongside mostly Larch woodland close to 'The Arms' where I located a pair of Willow Tits feeding from cones and often calling.  Willow Tits are now rare birds in Britain and I must say I get quite excited at such a find.  Also noted in the woodland was Treecreeper and Blue Tit.
On the way to the Watton Brook valley a couple of Buzzards were seen, and once by the Brook a fine looking Red Kite circled directly above me.
Fieldfare high in an Ash at Little Cressingham 12/02/16
I retraced my steps back to the car and decided to check the hedgerows and adjoining maize crop for Finches and Buntings. A good variety of birds seen here included a few Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Brambling, a few Redpoll, and Reed Buntings.
As I approached 'The Arms' a few Fieldfare alighted in a large Ash tree, however, something disturbed birds in an adjoining field and 200+ Fieldfares were 'put up'.
The drive home between 'The Arms' and Watton produced 2 Kestrels on roadside posts.


  1. Really enjoy your Blogs.I went to The Arms this lunchtime having never found reliable Redpoll areas and within minutes i saw one at that Pit by the Road.Minutes later a Peregrine flew across. The Brecks are truly a special place..Thanks for the information

  2. Thanks David, I am glad you enjoy my blog, I am also pleased with your Peregrine and Redpoll finds. Well done.

  3. That is a lovely Barn Owl shot, Paul.... I am just a "jelly, biscuit, custard and cream with sprinkled almonds" envious!!

    I currently have one of the infra-red "game" cameras set up looking at the Barn Owl box.... to see if the Tawnies are busy yet... I'll be checking it on Sunday...

    It was only today that I realized just how agressive Siskins could be... they've taken to using the feeders by the house... closest we've ever had them.
    If they're on the peanut feeder it is most certainly "their territory".... Goldies, Greenies, both Blue and Great Tits.... all get seen off!!
    Wonderful to watch.

  4. Hi Tim
    I had a massive grin on my face at your desription of the Barn Owl shot...excellent.
    Good luck today with your checks of the Tawnies, I will be interested to learn if they are now active.

    I am also interested in the species visiting your feeder, especially Greenfinch. I mention Greenfinch, as you will know their numbers plummeted due to......pardon my spelling....Trichonomosis disease, however, I am happy to say that I have seen good numbers about this winter...better than in recent years....perhaps they are recovering...I hope so.


  5. Paul..I am planning on a walk to Hockham Fen today if not tomorrow.Looks a really interesting place.

  6. Hi Dave, thanks for your message. I have been working all day today and will be tomorrow. Did you visit Hockham today, if so, how did you get on?