Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Hilborough, Norfolk

Woodlark at Hilborough 30/06/16
Not a bad day today with warm sunshine and a moderate SW wind.  Cloud increased by the afternoon.
This afternoon I visited Pine forest of  varying ages of trees from mature to young 5 year old compartments.
A couple of Siskins were heard in the taller Pines, an indication of probable local breeding.  Also a couple of Goldcrests sang.
Whilst overviewing a lovely clearing covered in pink Foxgloves a Hobby was calling behind me high in a Scots Pine. A visit to suitable habitat produced at least 3 Woodlarks, of these, one was a male bird which was perched on a dead branch within one of the several windrows.  This bird then flew up and performed song-flight for about 10 minutes until descending rapidly to alight close to where I first saw him.  Looking at the wing in this photograph of the male Woodlark, it is possible to see the distinctive black and white marking which is always is a useful identification feature of this species.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Runhall, Norfolk

Today was a workday for me, however, I had very few calls and plenty of spare time to explore some of the areas I work in.
A lovely warm, sunny morning, however, cloud was increasing from about midday, and by late afternoon some heavy rain had moved in.

Driving along a single track road near Runhall an adult Little Owl was seen in open country sitting on overhead wires.
Large Skipper at Runhall, Norfolk 28/06/16.

I arrived in this lovely little village at about 0930 in warm and bright conditions, and the first bird I heard was the beautiful soft purring song of a male Turtle Dove, a song which for me is the epitome of a warm English summers day.
Also present was a fine looking male Whitethroat flying from perch to perch to give song.
The hedgerows and Bramble scrub held a vast array of insect species including Meadow Brown, Large Skippers, Damselflies, Bees and Hoverfly species.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Southburgh, Norfolk

This morning I walked from the Church at Southburgh and east along Church Lane leading onto Southburgh Lane at Reymerston. This walk is gently undulating through well-wooded and arable habitat.
Always being good for Bullfinch around the church and indeed this was the first species heard upon my arrival.  A Song Thrush also sang.
As I continued through mature wooded habitat I saw a fine looking Roe Deer between trees, whilst nearby a beautiful Red Fox was skulking in undergrowth.
Whitethroat at Reymerston 27/06/16
Approaching the Blackwater valley things began to pick up with a family party of Whitethroats moving about in Hawthorn, Dog Rose, and Elder habitat.  I followed one bird as it chose elevated perches to watch me from.  Two Song Thrushes gave "tic" calls, another Bullfinch called and a distant male Reed Bunting was singing in damp habitat in the Blackwater valley.  A Swallow darted in and around hedgerow species in its search for insect prey.
Making  my way back via the same route both Blackcap and Chiffchaff were heard in song.
Close to the church a Lesser Whitethroat sang as did another Whitethroat.
Finally, a check of the churchyard and its wonderful old hedge habitats, a single Bullfinch called before revealing itself as a female bird.  A number of Blackbirds were nosily calling within woodland suggesting they had found a roosting Owl.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Lynford Water, Norfolk

The evening of 23rd June saw very heavy thunderstorms  passing over Watton and surrounding areas resulting in significant amounts of rainwater causing severe flooding.  I returned that evening from a day spent at the Polling Station in Thompson (about 3 miles from home) in my role as Polling Clerk for the EU vote.  Leaving Thompson at 2215, it became clear that there was only one way in and out of the village due to flooding and fallen trees.
This morning I was up early and drove out of Watton along the B1108, it was evident that severe flooding occurred along the Watton Brook valley.  A Little Cressingham villager told me today that she had never seen water levels that high before.

I arrived at Lynford Water just after 0500 to bright conditions, although a veil of mist hung over areas of water, this however was soon burnt off by the increasingly warm sunshine.
My main effort this morning was given to the woodland and underlying scrub along the higher ground to the south of the water, although nice views were had of the lake below.
Pleasingly, several Song Thrushes were in good voice, in addition, it was good to see evidence of successful breeding with juveniles being seen.  A Blackbird was seen at the very top of a tall conifer where he was singing.
The woodland was particularly good for Warbler species with 3 singing Garden Warblers, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, 3 singing Willow Warblers, and Whitethroats at two sites, one a family party, and a singing male in a recent area of clear-fell.    
Warbler habitat at Lynford Water 25/06/16.  Here, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, and Whitethroat were all seen and heard.  A  Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler were singing close together in the tall Birch pictured here.
Also present was Yellowhammer and a pair of Linnets, whilst down by the waters edge, Reed Bunting was heard and seen.  About 10 Swifts were flying over the water.
Finally, on the water was a pair of Mute Swans and about 30 Greylag Geese.

Early afternoon I visited a Private site at Watton, a location which I have been given permission to visit.  The following was seen/heard:

2 Buzzards
1 Sparrowhawk
1 Kestrel
Mute Swan (pair and 5 young)
4 Little Grebes (2 adult and 2 young)
3 Stock Doves (pair + singing bird)
1 Reed Warbler
1 Willow Warbler
1 Whitethroat
1 Lesser Whitethroat
Great Tit (adults and juveniles)

I arrived home mid-afternoon with skies beginning to blacken again.  By later afternoon a prolonged and heavy thunderstorm brought some flooding to the back garden, but not thankfully, the repeat of the 23rd when the garden resembled a large pond.

Letter to the Watton and Swaffham Times regarding a non-compliance matter on the Peddars Way public footpath.

I have attached a copy of a letter to the Watton and Swaffham Times regarding a non-compliance matter on the Peddars Way's basics really.  The letter reads:

I am writing concerning a non-compliance matter along the Peddars footpath on the Merton Estate near Watton. The precise location is along the western periphery of the estate between Millhill Covert and Gosling Plantation south of Home Farm Lane.
The course of the Peddars Way has at the current time Sheep grazing right up to the path boundary and along this boundary an electrified fence has been put up to control the sheep. I became aware that this fence was electrified when my dog let out a loud yelp, he looked up to me for comfort as he was clearly distressed. Upon checking the fence it was evident that no signage was in place to warn the public that the fence was indeed electrified. Given the location of the electrified fence I would have thought that signage was a basic requirement when the public, their dogs, or indeed children are at risk.
I will be contacting the relevant agencies regarding this matter, which, as I have written, is such a basic requirement which should not have needed too much thought when installing an electrified fence along a public right of way.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Watton and surrounds

This afternoon I enjoyed a short walk close to my home in Watton, Norfolk.  A pleasant afternoon with warm sunny spells.
I visited another beautiful area where planning permission has been given for more homes. The site in question is an ill-conceived idea with no thought given to the range of species living within this valuable area designated as a Special Protected Area.  Without going into great detail on my site, it is felt that a poor ecological assessment was conducted which missed or deliberately left out a range of important species in order to get this application approved.  I intend to get the appropriate agencies involved to conduct a proper survey with a view to presenting a detailed report showing what has been missed.  Approval may have been given for this development, however, the relevant council and landowner needs to be shamed into not following correct procedures.
Tree Sparrow 17/06/16

I have gone on long enough, now to the afternoon walk.  Tree Sparrows are doing well at the site visited.  This delightful species is sadly a rare bird nationally, however, good numbers were seen today.
4+ Swallows were seen in flight around buildings where this species is known to breed.  One Swallow showed great agility when taking an insect on the wing.
Bullfinches were nearby and gave their piping "pew". A Green Woodpecker flew off over a nearby field and Great Spotted Woodpecker  was heard to call.
Yellowhammer (male) 17/06/16
A single male Whitethroat was seen and singing in hedgerow habitat.  Close by a male Blackcap occasionally sang.
Yellowhammer song was heard, shortly after this a lovely male bird dropped down to bathe in one of the many puddles, when finished he flew into a nearby small tree where he preened and freshened up. 
A pair of Goldfinches were seen in roadside hedgerow giving their sweet tinkering call.  Known in Norfolk as 'King Harry' Goldfinches are always very pleasing birds to see, their range of colours in their plumage down to the stunning gold wing-bar makes for a gem of a bird.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Little Cressingham (The Arms to Watton Brook)

Plenty of evidence seen today of breeding successes including recently fledged Blue Tits in the garden being tended to and fed by parent birds.  The same goes for Blackbirds and the very quick learning Starling.
Whitethroat at Little Cressingham 16/06/16.
Away from the garden I decided upon an early morning visit to Little Cressingham.  Having parked near 'The Arms' I walked to the Watton Brook valley and upon arrival I found a family party of 5+ Whitethroats, all in an Osier.  Standing and watching I could see the parent Whitethroats collecting insect food from within the tree and being taken to the young birds.  The young Whitethroats remained generally within the same area in the Osier, these were much paler than the adults with pale fawn heads, a typical gape flange, and under-developed tail feathers. 
In all, Whitethroats were found at 4+ sites along the route with a couple of singing males and a second family party in a roadside hedge.
2 Blackcaps were in song and further breeding successes seen with juvenile Blue and Great Tits in the Watton Brook valley.  A Coal Tit was also heard here.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust Breckland Local Group (Evening of talks)

Last evening (15th June) the newly re-formed NWT Breckland Local Group held an evening of talks at the Watton Christian Community Centre.  This was the first event by the newly formed group, whose Chairman, John Davies, must be congratulated for on getting the group up and running again.
Matt Blissett (NWT Reserves Manager) gave an excellent talk and presentation on the Trust's reserves and work in Breckland.  Matt has only been in the Brecks since February 2016, however, his knowledge and enthusiasm of Breckland accrued within this time was outstanding.
Sam Neal (Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service) gave a talk and presentation on the work of Norfolk's environmental record centre.  The aim of his talk was to show how and what to record, and to encourage people to record species and habitats.
I was totally impressed by the number of people who attended the talk, I am not sure how many came, it must have exceeded 40, and extra chairs had to be provided.  To all who attended these talks I extend a very big THANK YOU.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Little Cressingham, Norfolk 11th June 2016

Watton Brook Valley passes through several Parishes on my patch and is viewable from many public highways.  This beautiful meandering waterway is of great interest throughout the year, for me I always look forward to the autumn months when many migrants use this natural feature to navigate by, just as they probably have for millennia.
Watton Brook Valley at Little Cressingham 11/06/16.  The habitat in this picture held Whitethroat (bushes left of Brook in foreground), Goldfinches feeding on Teasel, and a singing Reed Bunting.  Swallows and House Martins constantly flew up and down the valley to collect insect prey.  
This time of year of course sees the banks of Watton Brook heavy in lush waterside foliage comprising reeds, grasses, sedges, and taller weeds such as some wonderful Teasel specimens.
Today, the most obvious species seen was Swallows and House Martins, many of which alighted on the ground near me to collect dried grasses for the nest.  Also, many of these Hirundines flew up and down the valley to collect insect prey.
3 adult Little Grebes were seen, one of which had built a simple reed platform for a nest within tall standing reeds.  4 female Mallards were present, one of these was accompanied by tiny young.
A single Little Owl was sitting hunched on a fence post with a second calling from a nearby Sycamore.  2 Kestrels also present here.
The area also held at least 6 singing Whitethroats, 5+ singing Blackcaps, 1 singing Willow Warbler, and 3+ singing Chiffchaffs.
Goldfinches were present in good numbers with birds attracted to some fine stands of Teasel in the valley.  Also in this area a male Reed Bunting sang. 

Ashill, Norfolk 10th June 2016

Setting off from home at 0415, my intention this morning was to check on Turtle Doves near Ashill.  The site in question is on a farm where the owners appear to have a real feel for managing their land for the benefit of wildlife as well as producing a range of crops for marketing.  I do not know the landowners and I wonder if they are aware of the rarity which occurs on their land.  Not only are crops grown, but cattle are raised within large paddocks which have boundaries comprising fantastic lines of old and very large Hawthorns and dense banks of bramble spreading from their bases.  The view appears reminiscent of what is often seen in old pictures of how the English countryside used to look like.  
Good numbers of Whitethroats (6+), a Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, a calling Cuckoo, a hunting Barn Owl, and calling Little Owl were all present.
At the site in question, a pair of Collared Doves were seen with one bird flying to the ground to collect material for the nest.  A pair of Stock Doves were seen along with a number of Wood Pigeons. After a short wait I then heard the distinctive and beautiful song of a Turtle Dove.  I soon found this bird perched on the top most branch of a tall Ash from where it continues to sing with the inflated throat giving this slim-line bird a somewhat odd appearance.  Display-flight was also seen.
Whenever I find Turtle Doves my sighting is brings a sigh of relief that they have made it back safely, however, I always think ahead of what problems they may encounter of their journeys back to Africa.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Thompson, Norfolk

Reed Warbler at Thompson 03/06/16
This morning I enjoyed an close and intimate encounter with a pair of Reed Warblers on territory. Brief song was given by the male bird, however, the observations today saw both birds engaging in behaviour clearly indicative of successful breeding.  Both Reed Warblers kept together for much of the time as they flew from the nest site and back again with food, on one occasion a faecal sac was carried from the nest.  A strand of dried reed was carried to the nest to presumably reinforce its structure.
When away from the nest the parent Reed Warbler was seen in a nearby Sallow where it reached from a branch to delicately pick food items from then downy growths at the end of twigs.  Food searches were also done deep down in reeds close to the waters edge.
Although generally seen moving about within cover, these beautiful Reed Warblers would occasionally sidle up a stem to show themselves quite well.

Also present was 1 Grey Heron, a pair of Mute Swans with young, Coot (2 attending nests), Moorhen, and a calling Little Grebe.
A pair of Common Terns flew in to collect food from what water remains free from the dreadful Water Soldier which is rapidly taking over the whole of the water once again.
3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen, one of which was seen in flight a few times carrying food in its beak, evidence of successful breeding by this species.
Song birds were well represented on my walk with at least 10 singing Blackcaps in the area, 4 singing Whitethroats, a singing Willow Warbler, 6+ Song Thrush territories, several singing Goldcrests, and at least 1 singing Cetti's Warbler.