Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Cley Marshes, Norfolk (with Richard Farrow and Mick Colman) Friday 27th May 2016

I was up at 0330 this morning to take Toby for his walk down to the village of Merton, and back, before preparing for a visit to Cley Marshes, where I planned to meet my very good friend Richard Farrow.  Packed and ready to go, I left my home in Watton at about 0400, arriving at Cley at 0450. The outbound journey was foggy for the first twenty miles or so before entering clear conditions.
I was first to arrive at the NWT car park at Cley.  What a lovely sound it was to hear cattle lowing on the marsh, in a couple of hours this would be drowned out by the sound of passing traffic.  Whilst waiting for Richard I did a little exploring of the immediate area and was entertained by a lovely male Whitethroat, he had chosen the topmost part of a Hawthorn to sing from.    Also noted was both Reed and Sedge Warblers singing from the nearby marsh.
Whitethroat (male) at Cley 27/05/16

Richard arrived at about 0530, and after a nice chat we opted to do an anti-clockwise walk around the marshes.  Setting off along the path adjacent to the road we encountered typical species including Sedge Warblers and a single calling Cetti's Warbler.  A pair of Marsh Harriers were seen to perform a food pass, a sure sign of successful breeding.  We decided to visit a hide where we had close views of Avocet, few other waders were seen.  A pair of Shelduck were accompanied by 5 small fluffy young ducklings.  It was whilst in the hide that we were joined by Mick Colman, a friend of Richards.  Mick remained with us for the day, what a lovely man he is.
Walking along East Bank we encountered Reed Warblers which often showed well clinging onto reeds.  Probably the greatest numbers of Sedge Warblers were seen from East Bank with males often performing their conspicuous song-flight.  On the east side of East Bank, a Redshank was accompanied by 3 chicks, the parent bird often calling the young to join her.  She was also seen to brood her young on one occasion.  Lapwing also seen here.  As we continued n north along East Bank a number of Meadow Pipits collected food from the path and nearby grasses and weeds and eventually flew off to feed young birds.  At the north end of East Bank, an interesting observation of a single female Whitethroat in an out-of-breeding habitat, given the distance from breeding habitat, was this lovely Whitethroat a very late migrant brought here by the moderate north-easterly wind?
A check of the dykes and pools alongside East bank produced 2 Pochard (pair), 4 Tufted Duck, Gadwall, and Mallard.
Sedge Warbler at Cley - many singing and displaying birds seen
We now walked west along the northern boundary of the marsh where a single Curlew and a Ringed Plover was noted.  Reaching the hide we had a good views over the North scrape where further Avocets and Redshanks were seen.  Also very close was Meadow Pipits which were dropping down into long grass with food for young.  Whilst overviewing the scrape a single Hobby passed over east to west in a somewhat leisurely flight.
Continuing along the boundary fence we reached the Eye field where 2 superb summer plumaged Golden Plovers dropped in.  Skylarks and Meadow Pipits continued to be seen.
A short break for a bite to eat then we continued south along the West bank.  Once again, Meadow Pipits dominated with birds carrying food for young.  Reed Buntings were seen.  At the southern end of West bank Reed Warblers were seen in a traditional area of reeds near the turret.
The path adjacent to the coast road attracted many House Sparrows to the umbellifer species where I assumed they were collected food for young birds.  Blue Tits and several House Martins were seen here.
Kestrel at Cley 27/05/16

Richard and Mick decided to visit the hides whilst I put my feet up for a while.  They saw a Spoonbill and a couple of Ruff from the hide.  The reeds in this area held a fine, and close singing Reed Bunting, also Reed Warblers sang in tall reeds out of view.  A single Wren entertained by singing for some while on a post by the hide.  Overhead, a gathering of 30+ Swifts were probably attracted to a food source.
We finally arrived back at the NWT car park some 7 hours after setting off and to greet our return was the beautiful male Whitethroat singing from various bushes around his territory where we had left him on the start of our walk at 0530.
Also seen/heard around the car park was Blackbirds, Blackcap, and a fine looking Kestrel hovering overhead.
I will finish this account by thanking my good friend Richard Farrow and Mick Colman for joining me on this fantastic days birding.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Norfolk Wildlife Trust Breckland Local Group

It is an honour for me to have been asked to join the committee of the newly reformed NWT Breckland Group, I gladly accepted this.  Below is a notice regarding the first talks by our group.  Please read on for all details, and we hope that you can attend.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Response to my post dated 06/05/16 (Inexcusable behaviour).

I sincerely apologise for causing offence to the individual in question here, however, my post does not contain expletives, nor is it threatening. I am a sensible, level-headed person, who is able to confront issues in a mature, professional manner, and any 'language' used to show my annoyance at wrongdoing would be forthright and again, without the need for using inappropriate language. Reading back through my much earlier posts I write that I have challenged someone for trespassing on my patch to see a rare bird, I am not afraid to do this. I don't want irresponsible people on my patch, or anywhere else for that matter, lowering the tone of birding. I also do not believe that the countryside is the sole domain for birders, I welcome families and their dogs, and love to share my passion with them, especially if a child sees something that sparks an interest, after all they are the future custodians of our countryside and its wildlife and any interest seen should be encouraged.
Finally, the 'about me' column shows 'MY CODE', a simple message which is not too difficult to follow.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Lolly Moor, Norfolk

I visited this small NWT reserve this afternoon, my timing would indicate that many more species will be present than those I actually saw and heard.  Despite this, I must say that this is a very rich site for the botanist, however, my knowledge of plants and flowers is sadly limited.  I plan to visit Lolly Moor soon for an early morning survey of bird species here.
Lolly Moor 15th May 2016
The first bird noted here was a calling Tawny Owl within woodland in the background of the above picture.
Summer migrants present was a singing male Blackcap and Chiffchaff.  I expect an early morning visit would produce Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler given the habitat available.
One singing Blackbird was seen, also a pair of Wrens seen in the foreground.  Finally, Bullfinch were present in roadside woodland with the male singing his strangely discordant, quiet song.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Ashill, Norfolk

Every year in May I visit a site outside of the village of Ashill for the purpose of locating one of our sadly, most severely declining summer migrants, the Turtle Dove.  For many years now the site in question has produced singing and displaying birds, and this morning this was my intended target species.
Yellowhammer at Ashill 09/05/16
It was pleasing this morning to see good numbers of singing and displaying Whitethroats with 6+ birds noted.  One Lesser Whitethroat was heard and it was interesting to see the differing habitat requirements of the two species. Whitethroats are happy with low hedges with nettle and other long cover to nest in, whereas Lesser Whitethroats choose taller 'untidy' hedges with more mature tree species within.
Yellowhammers were well represented with several pairs seen, also seen was a female bird carrying a beak full of dried grasses for nesting materials.

Several Collared Doves were calling, lots of Wood Pigeons about, and a pair of Stock Doves were seen at my intended destination, I stood and waited.  The wind was stronger than recent days, and although very warm, I had to listen carefully.  A couple of Willow Warblers also sang.  Then, at 0700, I raised a smile when I heard within this bird song the familiar "turrr turrr" song of Turtle Dove.  This beautiful and extremely welcome song was heard on a number of occasions, I was also treated to a brief view of a Turtle Dove in flight.  
My walk back continued with thoughts of this Turtle Dove and what this bird has overcome to reach our shores.  As well as natural obstacles, this species is a favourite quarry of hunters around much of the Mediterranean, and I have read very sad accounts of millions of these gorgeous birds being killed each year.
Much literature is written about the plight of this, the worlds only migratory Pigeon/Dove species.  It is sadly a rare bird in Britain now.  I hope their fortunes change.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Thompson, Norfolk (0630-1015)

The day dawned dry and bright.  It quickly became warm with an eventual high today of 22 degrees Celsius.
This morning I parked in the beautiful village of Thompson and walked towards STANTA, visiting Thompson Water, the Peddars Way LDP and nearby woodland clearings.
This was a productive visit with a good range of species seen and heard, this included birds holding territory, and evidence of successful breeding.
The highlights of the morning was:

Little Grebe + young
2 Tree Pipit - male singing/displaying
1 Marsh Harrier - male
Reed Warbler (pair seen close to)
6+ Garden Warblers holding territory
1 Cuckoo
1 Hobby over Watton late morning

I have provided highlights above, but what really constitutes 'a highlight' when all birds are essentially highlights. 
As soon as I was out of the car a calling, distant Cuckoo was heard.  Walking along the narrow road towards Thompson Water, 3 Garden Warblers were located in song as well as a nearby Willow Warbler.
Reed Warbler habitat at Thompson Water 6th May
A quick check of Thompson Water produced 3 calling Little Grebes.
Walking along the Peddars Way 2 singing Garden Warblers, 1 Whitethroat, and a single Willow Warbler were heard.
My intention of the morning was to check a clearing for evidence of Pipits and Woodlarks.  Upon my arrival it wasn't long before I heard a singing male Tree Pipit in a line of Ash trees, also present was a singing Woodlark, Yellowhammer, and another Garden Warbler.  I spent some time here watching and listening to the Tree Pipit (read on for notes)
Walking back along the Peddars Way a male Marsh Harrier was readily identified from the female by his tri-colour appearance.
At Thompson Water a Little Grebe was seen with the tiniest, single youngster.  This only youngster was black in appearance and clearly recently hatched.  I was unable to see any head stripes due to its silhouetted appearance against the morning sun.
A least 3 Reed Warblers were singing. A pair was watched very close to as they moved about thick reed cover.
Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs are clearly widespread and common in the area now.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Tree Pipit (male) Thompson 6th May

I made my way to a location which since being cleared has been a good area for both Woodlark and Tree Pipit, and this was my first check of the site for Tree Pipit this year.
It wasn't too long after my arrival that I could hear the distinctive song of a Tree Pipit.  A search of some Ash trees soon saw this migrant species singing high in trees.  It became evident that a second bird, undoubtedly a female, was seen in and out of rank vegetation and grasses.
I sat and watched the Tree Pipit for some time as he delivered his song from several trees in his territory, also seen was the highly distinctive 'parachute' song-flight.
Also noted within this clearing was a singing Woodlark, Yellowhammer, and another Garden Warbler.

Shortly after arriving back home in Watton I saw my first Hobby of the year pass over the town.


Inexcusable behaviour by a known female North Norfolk Twitcher which puts a blemish on REAL birders' passion.

I was made aware by a very good friend of mine that a female North Norfolk Twitcher writes in her blog dated 5th May 2016, an admission that she trespassed onto land to see if it held a Bobolink...she writes Bobalink, she can't even spell the birds name correctly.
I am to say the least disgusted at this behaviour and it is a blemish on the character of REAL birders who enjoy their passion without the need for breaking laws or trespassing.
There is no point me writing a comment on this 'twit'chers post as she vets them so that only positive comments are shown.
If I ever see this person in the field, or indeed any other person, committing wrongdoing, I will make them aware of their irresponsibility in language I am sure they would understand.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Barford and Hardingham, Norfolk

0830: During a break from work I decided to pay a visit to the River Yare valley just west of the village.  A path descends from the Barnham Broom road with the golf course one side of the path and damp woodland the other.  The River Yare passes through lovely marshy habitat.  I will say that I was very angry when I saw a large pile of rubble, plaster, and other building materials dumped on the path by some moronic single celled entity.  As always, I did a bit of rooting about to see if I could find a name and address, or some other clue that may indicate to me who the culprit was.

The walk began with a delightful male Whitethroat singing from a low hedge, he lead the way for me it seemed as he made a number of stops in the hedge in front of me as I descended down towards the valley.
Linnet (male) one of a pair in Gorse habitat at Barford 03/05/16
The woodland, which included Alder and Sallow, held singing Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, and Blackcap.  By the time I reached the end of the wood I located the male Willow Warbler singing in a Sallow, and at times from overhead wires, as I waited, I saw the female Willow Warbler, she was mostly close to the ground in Brambles, with a ground covering of nettles and long grasses, she was clearly within her nesting area.
A second Whitethroat was seen alongside the river in rank vegetation, sidling down dead umbellifer stalks and picking invertebrates from the tops of nettles.  
Back to where the Willow Warblers had established a territory, a pair of Linnets, Goldfinch, and a male Chaffinch were in a dense patch of gorse habitat.  I was able to get some nice views of a male Linnet as he sat within cover within gorse, his crimson fore-crown, breast, and flanks showed nicely in the sun.  The duller, and more striped female Linnet was always close to the male bird.
A male Kestrel flew over.

I stopped for lunch close to the beautiful church and woodland.  It was now quite warm with a high of 17 degrees.
A Red Kite overhead initially caught my attention as it cast a shadow over me as it passed under the sun.
A Blackcap was singing in woodland and a male Chaffinch and a pair of Goldfinches were seen in one of the Yew trees. One Mistle Thrush few by calling.
A pair of Stock Doves frequented the church tower with the male often singing.
Finally, a superb Barn Owl was hunting close by. 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Hockham and Stow Bedon, Norfolk

A much improved day with lighter winds and warmer conditions.  Overnight was cool and the day dawned with a slight frost.  It was sunny from the start of the day and despite some high cloud, afternoon temperatures rose to a high of 18 degrees, a real taste of spring.

Hockham Forest and Fen 0830-1045
I was undecided as to where to visit this morning, however, my choice of destination was to prove productive with the finding of a singing Firecrest.
I parked up and walked paths through the forest (found Firecrest) and continued on to the fen before returning to watch the Firecrest.

Greylag Geese (10+ including pair with 6 young)
1 Shoveler
Little Grebe
6+ Grey Heron
FIRECREST (singing male and probable female present)
1 Cuckoo
Sedge Warbler
Blackcap - several singing birds

Having left the car, I walked a path leading to the fen and within minutes heard a Firecrest singing. A search of sun dappled woodland eventually found this incredible little bird mostly quite high in trees.  The habitat here was mixed deciduous and conifer woodland.  Having located the bird, I wanted to check out the fen, and then return to watch the Firecrest.
Firecrest (singing male) at Hockham 01/05/16
Having spent a short time at the fen I then walked back to where the Firecrest was singing, it didn't take long to relocate it, but by this time the light was improved a little upon earlier.
The bird was frustratingly mobile and I was always changing position to follow the bird.  There were brief spells when it showed reasonably well.
Song: Somewhat different from its close relative the Goldcrest.  A variation of this piercing song was heard.  Song varied between "si-si-si-si-si-si-si-si", also heard was "si-si-si-si-si-su-su-su-su", and another variation which ended in a little flourish "si-si-si-si-si-si-si-si-srll"
Firecrest at Hockham 01/05/16 (showing its striped head and bronze shoulder)
The habitat the Firecrest sang in was of mixed woodland habitat i.e. deciduous and conifer with plentiful Ivy present.  The dominant deciduous tree species is Sycamore, the large leaves looking particularly bright in the dappled sunlight.  It was within the Sycamores here that the Firecrest appeared to frequent most when both singing and especially feeding, although other habitat such as Holly, and deep, dark Ivy was visited often.
Although I was concentrating on the singing male, my photographic evidence indicates a female was also present.
I am not entirely surprised by the presence of Firecrest at this locality as I have seen the species in this area before, however, that was in winter.

Stow Bedon (afternoon)
Much warmer now with a high of 18 degrees Celsius, and it felt warmer out of the cool, but lighter wind.
My walk this afternoon took me along Gravelpit Hill, Rocklands Road, and Mere Road (about 3 miles).
Most notable was the increase in Whitethroat territories with at least 5 located.  Also noted was singing Blackcap and Greenfinch.
A female Sparrowhawk passed over the Rocklands Road, also a Buzzard with particularly pale underparts was seen.