Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Song Thrushes at Marlingford, Norfolk

For my work break this afternoon I visited the lovely churchyard at Marlingford.  A beautiful setting with a wonderful selection of mature trees within the yard and nearby parkland.  Beech, Oak Yew, Sycamore, and Hazel tree species surround the beautiful church.
As I strolled around the churchyard I noticed a couple of birds fly into a Hazel together, these were  juvenile Song Thrushes.  Both birds sat quietly for several minutes allowing lovely views of them both within the sun-dappled woodland.
Song Thrush (juvenile) Marlingford 26/07/16
Song Thrush (juvenile) Marlingford 26/07/16
The mottled head, speckled mantle, pale tips to the wing coverts, and pale gape flanges on both birds ages them as juveniles.  A further Song Thrush was heard to give an alarm call and another flew out of a Yew and into nearby parkland.  A great breeding record.
Little else seen or heard on this visit other than Coal Tits passing through and Wood Pigeons.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

North Pickenham and Stow Bedon, Norfolk

North Pickenham 0530-0700
A great morning for Bullfinches starting with a single male near St Mary's Church at Houghton.  This bird was seen flying up from a weedy field margin where it would have taken seed.  A further pair was found along a leafy lane, however, the most memorable sighting for me this morning was
Bullfinch (juvenile) photographed Sept 2011.  Lacks the adult birds black cap.

watching 5 juvenile Bullfinches together, initially in thick Elder, Sallow, and Hawthorn, and then altogether on wires, undoubtedly siblings and evidence of a brood well tended to.  From my angle, the young Bullfinches all appeared to a mousey brown-grey upperparts, the typical thick neck small bill appearance, and the lack of the black caps of adult Bullfinches.  A memorable observation.
Also seen was a Sparrowhawk, a few Whitethroats and Yellowhammers, including a juvenile bird.

Stow Bedon (midday)
I visited a traditional site for evidence of migrant waders and was pleased to see 4+ Green Sandpipers around a mud-fringed pool.  Despite trying to be as quiet as possible, all four birds flew up revealing their stunning dark, unmarked upperwing and highly contrasting snowy-white rump.
Two Oystercatchers overflew.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Lakenheath Fen, Norfolk/Suffolk border, 21st July (with Bob Wright)

Gone are the recent temperature highs of 33 degrees Celsius and high humidity to be replaced by a pleasant 23 degrees and a refreshing northerly wind.
During the evening of 20th July my cousin, Bob Wright, who lives in Southern Spain, stayed with us for the night in readiness for a days birding together at RSPB Lakenheath Fen. 
We departed my home at 0800 and duly arrived at Lakenheath for 0830.  Our plan was to initially check the area close to the car park before making off to do a large circuit of the reserve, this would take in a walk along the bank overlooking the Washland, the River Little Ouse (Norfolk/Suffolk county boundary), and the vast wetland habitats.

The departure from the car park started with a check of the wetland and woodland habitats close by, one of the first birds seen was a single Lesser Whitethroat moving between Hawthorn cover.  We then discovered a family party of Whitethroats with one of the adults giving an alarm call due to our presence.  Also within this immediate area was singing Blackcap, Sedge Warbler, and Reed Bunting.
Whitethroat in Hawthorn at Lakenheath Fen 21/07/16
We made to the bank to overlook the Washland (Norfolk) where both Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings were found.  The Washland held 30+ Mute Swans, a pair of Gadwall, Coot with young, Great Crested Grebe with young, a single Little Egret in the shallows, a couple of Black-headed Gulls, and a single hunting/hovering Common Tern.  A small flock of 30+ Lapwings approached and settled on the Washland.  On the far bank of the Washland a single adult and three juvenile Grey Herons were standing motionless.  A pair of Stock Doves flew past showing off their mostly grey plumage with black wing borders.
Whitethroat in Hawthorn at Lakenheath Fen 21/07/16
Continuing our walk along the bank Sedge and Reed Warblers were in song.  I then heard an attention-grabbing "swee-swee-swee" call, the caller was a single Common Sandpiper flying along the Little Ouse, it landed briefly before flying off with a second Common Sandpiper.
A long walk along the bank was then dominated again by Sedge, Reed Warbler, and Reed Bunting song.  On a sad note, what a pity that the Poplar woodlands we passed along the route no longer hold the stunning Golden Oriole.
Myself and Bob decided to sit and overview the reed-beds and wetland from Joist hide.  By now the sun was very warm but thankfully the north wind remained pleasantly refreshing.  We didn't have to wait too long before a Bittern rose up from the reeds just yards in front of us, it settled in reeds deeper into the marsh but later flew out again.  A second Bittern soon flew from the same marsh.  A Water Rail was heard to give its 'pig-like squealing call.  Bob called to me "Cranes Paul", we then watched for some time as four Cranes flew circuits over the marsh before settling to the ground.  Whilst watching the Cranes a high Marsh Harrier circled, whilst very distantly two Buzzards soared low over woodland.  A second distant flock of 60+ Lapwings arrived. A single Kestrel hunted nearby whilst a further 3 Common Terns were seen flying along the channels.
After our productive visit to this section of the reserve we then walked back along the track taking in visits to a couple of hides along the way.  The ubiquitous Reed and Sedge Warblers continued to be seen and heard and a darting Kingfisher provided glorious colour as it flew along a channel.  A single Blackcaps song echoed through a Poplar wood where once the fantastic fluty song of Golden Oriole used to be heard.  Also seen in the top of a dead Poplar branch was a singing Stock Dove, a small compact and well proportioned member of the Pigeon family.
We then stopped at a raised viewing point over another area of wetland where we saw several Bearded Tits flying between reed cover.  Even in flight the males distinctive black moustache is clearly visible.  Also at this location another Water Rail announced its presence on a couple of occasions with its strange call.  Bob and myself then headed back to the visitor centre following what was a great days birding.
Lakenheath Fen is a stunning RSPB reserve which will now forever be the home to an array of birdlife, mammals, reptiles, and insects.  I congratulate the RSPB for creating what is a beautiful site.
Bob and I met several members of RSPB staff today, all were very nice, pleasant people who always had time to stop and talk.  We also met some lovely people visiting Lakenheath today.
Finally, I offer my thanks to my cousin Bob for visiting and taking me to Lakenheath during what has been a busy schedule for him.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Hottest day of year so far (Waders on the move).

Before the predicted heat of the day I decided to take Toby for an early morning in the relative cool.  I drove out to Little Cressingham to check the Watton Brook valley for early signs of migrants.  A mist hung over the valley, however, the rising sun quickly burnt this off.
Arriving at 0500 close to 'The Arms' I walked along the Great Cressingham Road to Watton Brook where I was greeted by two singing Whitethroats, presumably these birds are now tending second broods.  Also seen was a pair of Yellowhammers, the female was carrying nesting material.
It is at this time of year when I am conscious of passage wader species and with low levels of water in the Brook, any exposed patch of mud could attract a Green Sandpiper.
Walking back towards my start point at 0550 and with temperatures already rising, two Greenshanks passed overhead giving their highly distinctive "tyew-tyew-tyew" flight call, a wonderful call of a cracking wader species.  

Every year I like to take my wife Pam to Wells where we act tourist like for a while before I leave her on the shove-halfpenny machines to walk along the harbour and its channels.  We arrived at 1030 with temperatures at 29 degrees Celsius and rising.
Wells-next-the-Sea 18/07/16. The distant trees is East Hills, a migrant trap only accessible at low tide. 
A very hot walk along the coast road this morning with few birds seen.  Black-headed and Herring Gulls were loafing on exposed sandbars along with Redshank and Oystercatcher, and along the channel pictured here a couple of Little Egrets stealthily hunted for prey in the shallows.
A single Reed Warbler was heard singing and a few House Sparrows frequented Sea Blite (Sueda) close to the town.
The most abundant species over the town was several screaming parties of Swifts, a quintessential sight and sound in summer over this beautiful North Norfolk town.
The drive home saw temperatures of 29 degrees with a promise tomorrow of 32, 33, or possibly 34 degrees Celsius.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Stow Bedon and Lower Stow Bedon (Bird Track survey)

Between 0635 and 0835 today I conducted a count for BTO's Bird Track and gathered some good counts of common species as follows:
20+ Swallows
12+ House Martins
8+ Swift
10+ Blackbird territories
6 Song Thrush territories (included food carrying)
2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers at 2 sites
30+ Starlings
2 Stock Doves (pair)
Wood Pigeons
12+ Skylarks (singing individuals)
8+ Blackcap territories
1 Lesser Whitethroat
16 Whitethroat at same number of sites (song and food carrying behaviour)
2 Chiffchaff at 2 sites
10+ Wren (including juveniles seen)
12 Yellowhammer at 12 sites
4 Bullfinch (pairs at 2 sites)
3 Linnets
8 Goldfinch (pairs at 4 sites)
4 Greenfinch
1 Reed Bunting (singing male)
Wren (juvenile) seen during my survey at Stow Bedon 01/07/16