Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Migrant Warblers at Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

A distinct change in the weather today and somewhat unseasonal.  The day dawned fine and bright and it remained sunny for some two hours following sunrise, however, cloud quickly moved in and by 0915 the first signs of rain came.  The wind was a fresh to strong south-westerly.

0554: The day certainly started well when a juvenile Goshawk was seen at Merton.  This very large raptor left its perch and swept up strongly through the trees ahead of me.  Overall brown upperparts seen well in the early light.

Houghton-on-the Hill 0730-0915
It was very bright upon my arrival, however, the wind was a very noticeable feature with an increase in strength from fresh to strong.  Passerine species were few and far between, clearly keeping to the shelter of hedgerow cover.  Despite the wind direction and strength I was confident of finding migrants and therefore chose to watch the sheltered northern edge of a wonderful habitat which I have observed for many years now.  This 'migrant magnet', a spring which is located on high ground and visible from distance, has undoubtedly been a staging post for birds for millennia.
Migrant Warblers were plentiful here with Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, and Whitethroats all sharing similar habitats, and indeed on occasions, several sharing the same Elder where berries were eaten.  The relative quiet on this side of this habitat allowed birds to feed without buffeting from the wind.  A couple of juvenile Blackbirds visited and other local residents seen included Goldfinches and Chaffinches.
Close by in a hedgerow Elder, a single Reed Warbler was found along with Chiffchaffs and another Blackcap.  The Reed Warbler appeared to be a juvenile bird.   I always think that this reed-bed specialist appears odd in a hedgerow, but then that is passage for you, birds turn up anywhere.
Blackcap at Houghton 20th August

Blackcap - A few present both at the staging post as well as nearby hedgerows.
This is a juvenile bird.

Blackcap (male) at Houghton 20th August

Blackcap - adult male.  All ages were seen at this site on this visit with 'red-headed' females and juveniles being most numerous.

Blackcap at Houghton 20th August

Blackcap - female seen here in typical late summer habitat of Elder.  The soft Elder fruits are consumed by Warblers in late summer/autumn in order to increase levels of energy for their southbound migration.

Willow Warbler at Houghton 20th August

Willow Warbler - Two or three Willow Warblers were seen today, including this delightful bird, which is some lights appeared to have a very yellow throat and breast.
The main differences seen here which helps separate from the similar Chiffchaff is the bold supercillium, quite intense yellow in plumage, long primary projection and pinkish legs.  The "hoo-weet" call and song was sometimes heard.
Reed Warbler (prob juvenile) at Houghton 20th August.

Reed Warbler (probable juvenile), always strange to see this reed-bed specialist in an autumn hedgerow.
This bird was skulking about in this Elder for several minutes, offering good views.
The beautiful warm-brown tones of this birds upperparts have a smooth silky appearance.  The buff flanks aged this bird as a juvenile.
This is the second migrant Reed Warbler at this locality this week.  

A short visit to this section of the Watton Brook valley this afternoon continued to see strong unseasonal wind.
Alarm calling House Martins was shortly followed by a single Hobby passing over before powering away out of sight.
A check of the ditches and posts in the valley did not produce any passage migrants, although I am sure birds would have been present and keeping low.
A single Grey Wagtail was seen in the valley.

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