Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 31 October 2016

High count of Grey Partridges

A real pea-souper this morning with thick fog from dawn clearing slowly to bring a sunny afternoon.
An early morning dog walk around the forest near Hilborough produced calling Brambling in the fog, although I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of 10+ Bramblings just over the tree canopy.
Back at home and with the fog slowly clearing I saw some Fieldfares very high flying west, despite the height the early morning sun really highlighted the white underparts of the birds as they passed overhead.  Bramblings were also heard high above the garden.

Great Cressingham
A mid afternoon dog walk produced a very healthy covey of 22 Grey Partridges on farmland close to the village.  As written in an earlier post, this area is good for this species and this count represents my best ever for this now scarce species.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Thompson, Norfolk (with Leigh Gallant) 0600-1145

It was a mild, calm, and foggy morning when I met my very good friend Leigh Gallant for a walk around the Thompson area.  We arrived at our destination in darkness, however, light improved quickly and we set off along the Peddars Way. 
Fog was initially quite thick, although it did lift a little allowing slightly better visibility.  The general trend for the whole day was persistent fog.
The first bird of note was a close, calling female Tawny Owl.
Coal Tit Thompson 30th October
Despite poor visibility this was to be a good gentle wander around taking in some wonderful habitats which allowed some good views of common species including winter Thrushes.  Some fine old Hawthorns held several Redwings, some of which were seen reasonably well and offering great views of the striking head pattern.  A number of Blackbirds were seen in association with the Redwings.  Both Thrush species were enjoying their feed upon Hawthorn berries.  Also along the Peddars Way a few Goldcrests moved through the Sycamores and Hawthorn, often hovering under leaves whilst searching for insect/spider prey.  Also noted in this area was a few Yellowhammers, a female Reed Bunting, whilst overhead in the mist Bramblings were heard.  A party of Long-tailed Tits were typically mobile.
A check of dense woodland habitat revealed a mixed flock of 40+ Redpolls and Siskins feeding mostly in Silver Birch canopy.
Marsh Tit Thompson 30th October

A walk around damp woodland habitat produced good numbers of Tit species, most being Blue and Great Tits, but also a single Marsh and Coal Tit seen.  Also present although unseen was calling Bramblings, mostly in Silver Birch woodland.  A striking male Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch were seen frequently, and a single Treecreeper was seen.   Above the woodland canopy Fieldfares were heard passing over.  Several Chaffinches, both male and females were seen, mostly feeding on the woodland floor, sadly some birds were suffering from viral papilloma, a rather unsightly encrustation of the legs and feet on the bird.  It would appear from what I read that although unsightly, the condition is not fatal to Chaffinches.
Around the periphery of the water, Cetti's Warbler occasionally sang, also at least 3 Water Rails gave their highly distinctive squealing call, one of which was very close to us, but as the case with this species, was elusive visually.
I really don't know where the time went this morning, Leigh and myself spent 6 hours together, we had a great time chatting and birding.  Thanks very much Leigh for your great company as always.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Hockham, Norfolk (Ladybirds and Redpolls)

I visited Hockham around mid-afternoon today (my birthday) and was extremely delighted to see a very large flock of 250+ Redpolls, a spectacular sight, and sound.  These birds were attracted to a number of Birch trees within which they feed.  It has been a while since I saw this number of these small Finches...what a birthday treat.
Also seen was a couple of Grey Herons, 2 Mute Swans, and winter Thrushes.  Several Goldcrests were seen including a small flock moving through mixed woodland, one of these diminutive birds was seen foraging and hanging Tit-like on the finest outermost growths of twigs.

I am sure that many of my followers have noticed the large numbers of Ladybirds about at the moment, yes, there is an abundance, but who remembers the summer of 1976 when huge numbers carpeted window sills and cars, sometimes two or three Ladybirds deep in places.  This was certainly the case in my birth town of Beccles in Suffolk.
I am trying to improve upon my knowledge of the insect world, and indeed, at Hockham this afternoon, I saw a large insect which at that time I was unsure of its identity, however, research at home revealed this to be a Sabre Wasp - Rhyssa persuasoria.  I am sure I have the correct species here, but please correct me if I am wrong.  UPDATE 13/11/16: One of my followers has recently contacted me and corrected my original thoughts on this insect and advised me this is a Lissonota species, an insect I have not seen before.
Lissonota species at Hockham 28th October 2016
Ladybird species at Hockham 28th October 2016 (Unsure of its correct identity)

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Hockham and Grimes Graves, Norfolk

Hockham 0630
I arrived just over an hour prior to sunrise, the forest at this time was almost in complete darkness, despite this it was a good opportunity to listen for Owls, and my route to my intended destination produced 12+ male Tawny Owls calling, often three or four in quick succession.   Throughout this visit light remained poor with leaden skies.
This mornings visit was most notable for the movement of Finches with Siskins in variable numbers long before sunrise.

Teal (heard)
4+ Water Rail
12+ Tawny Owls
2 Marsh Tit
75+ Redpoll
Reed Bunting

Of particular interest was the post-roost movement of 75+ Redpolls (20+15+40+) overhead, all three flocks passed directly above me in a southerly heading.  I was initially alerted to the presence of Redpolls by their approaching "djit djit" calls, a call which I love to hear.   Approximately half a mile south of my position stands some fine old Silver Birches, perhaps these trees were the intended destination, given their propensity for this species to feed in. 
Redpolls are scarce breeding birds now, the birds seen today will be winter visitors from the upland Birch forests of Britain or Northern Europe.  

Grimes Graves
The purpose of this mid-afternoon visit was to check suitable habitat for Great Grey Shrike.  This area is a regular wintering site for this spectacular predator.  Although not seen today, I am confident that this site will eventually produce a bird in the coming months.
Wintering habitat of Great Grey Shrike at Grimes Graves 27th October 2016

Stonechat at Grimes Graves 27th October (One of 4+ seen today)
 At least 4 Stonechats were seen at Grimes Graves today, two seen on open heathland, and two seen in a mixed young open conifer/grassland habitat.  The above Stonechat is seen here in typical pose, on top of a young conifer from where it utters its soft tongue clicking call.
Also seen here today was single Redpolls, a single Mistle Thrush, small numbers of Redwings, Jays and a couple of Magpies.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Dereham, Norfolk

A morning of moderately thick fog which was slow to clear, such conditions conjure thoughts of local falls of winter Thrushes.
I took my wife to Dereham for a few hours of shopping whilst I decided to wander down to the church close to the town centre.  On route to the church I stopped off for a coffee and despite the traffic and everyday noises of people going about their business, I could hear Fieldfares passing high overhead, only the odd one was visible due to the foggy conditions.
Blackbird in Yew at Dereham churchyard 26th Oct. (Perhaps a migrant bird)
A variety of beautiful tree specimens grow in the churchyard from a large Sycamore, an old Yew, and colourful Birch trees.
It soon became apparent that many Blackbirds and several Song Thrushes visited the churchyard from nearby wooded areas, many of which flew into the single Yew to feed upon its berries.  Perhaps these Thrushes were recently arrived migrants, the numbers of Song Thrushes present certainly indicated these were of continental origin.
Also seen in the churchyard was a single Coal Tit, Great Tit, and both Nuthatch and Treecreeper was heard.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Houghton-on-the-Hill (migration watch) and Great Cressingham/South Pickenham, Norfolk

This morning dawned clear and cool with very little wind and patchy mist.  3 degrees Celsius at dawn rising to a high of 12 degrees by the afternoon.  It remained very bright and sunny throughout the day.
At Houghton this morning there was evidence of passage again with birds being seen and heard as they moved over.  A light but frequent movement of Bramblings seen and heard, also small number of Siskins passed over from pre-sunrise.
An afternoon visit along the Peddars Way at Great Cressingham produced a small covey of Grey Partridges at one of their regular open arable haunts.

Houghton-on-the-Hill 0645-0900 (sunrise 0741)
I arrived at Houghton almost an hour prior to sunrise.  With its isolation, lack of light pollution, and cool temperature, this was simply a wonderful time to be here.
An initial walk around the area produced 3 calling Tawny Owls (2 males), calling Redwings and Blackbirds, and eventually, the now familiar pale Buzzard with the Osprey head markings.
My aim was to conduct a static check for passage migrants, this I started at 0800 and finished at 0900.  The following was seen/heard:

3 Cormorants south
50+ Golden Plover high south
Fieldfare west
Redwings arrivals + light west movement
Bramblings (5+7 seen) west (light passage)
Siskins light passage from dawn  

As with previous recent visits, Brambling passage was witnessed either as high-flying, unseen calling birds, or as visible migrants, including a party of 7 which stopped off close to the church.  Another small flock of 5 was seen heading high north-west, calling heard again.
A light passage of Fieldfare witnessed from before sunrise with small numbers high west.  A small flock of 10 also seen west.  Siskins were also heard long before sunrise passing overhead. 

Great Cressingham/South Pickenham (Peddars Way)
A late afternoon visit to the Peddars Way saw continued bright conditions, however, with the sun low in the sky and temperatures dropping, mist began to form in low lying areas.
Grey Partridges (7) at Great Cressingham 25th October 

Starting at Great Cressingham, I found 7 Grey Partridges together in vast open arable country.  This is as good area for this now scarce species.
Further along the Peddars Way at South Pickenham, hedgerows appeared to hold good numbers of Redwings.  With light fading fast, about 30 Redwings flew from the hedgerows and headed off high west.
A single Goldcrest was seen moving along a hedgerow.
As I was preparing to leave a Sparrowhawk shot along roadside hedges in search of a late meal.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Houghton-on-the-Hill (Migration watch) and Little Cressingham, Norfolk

A day of frequent showers, some heavy, being driven along on a moderate, occasionally fresh north-easterly wind.  Quite cool.
My day started at Houghton-on-the-Hill where a number of species seen on passage, or indeed, as overnight arrivals.  Later in the day at Little Cressingham,  a very impressive count of Goldfinches seen. Also, single Chiffchaffs noted at two localities.

Houghton-on-the-Hill 0715-0900
This morning I did my usual circular walk at Houghton.  As soon as I arrived 2 Kestrels were calling to each other in the half-light of dawn.  It was evident that there had been recent Thrush arrivals with both Redwings and Blackbirds calling in the woodland.
A single Chiffchaff was heard in a mature hedgerow.  Many Song Thrushes and Redwings (probable overnight arrivals) were seen in the hedgerows close to the church.

2 Kestrel
Starling (c. 50+ c.35 west)
Wood Pigeon - (3+11) probable migrants at Houghton
Redwing  (max flock 200+ birds south)
Song Thrush
40+ Fieldfare
1 Chiffchaff
6 Bramblings (2+4) west

Spot Check at Houghton(Visible Migration)
For some 45 minutes I carried out a spot check of bird movements with some interesting results.
Redwings were clearly on the move with several flocks totalling double figures heading mostly west or south-west, however, the largest movement occurred at about 0820 when 200+ birds were seen high overhead flying south.
A flock of 40+ Fieldfares passed over in a westerly heading, this flock also contained a few Redwings.
Of interest was a small passage of Wood Pigeons when a total of 14 birds (3+11) were seen flying high and very purposefully in a southerly heading.
6 Bramblings were seen flying west (2+4), also, single, or small numbers of Linnets were moving through.

Little Cressingham (mid-afternoon)
A short but productive visit close to 'The Arms'.  This area has always been good for winter flocks of Finch and Buntings and this afternoon a very respectable count of 250+ Goldfinches wandered around weedy margins of fields.
30+ Redwings and a number of Blackbirds were present in the hedgerows and trees.  Also in a hedge a single Chiffchaff was calling. 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Bodney, Norfolk 1545-1600

A brief, fortuitous stop to overlook a large field of maize stubble produced a wandering flock of 200+ Skylarks, large numbers of Crows, Linnets, and a distant hunting Kestrel.  The Crows then lifted off quickly from the field, this alerted me to an approaching raptor species, then, a large Goshawk drifted over the woodland and field and appeared to alight in a belt of Scots Pines, this of course attracted a few bold Crows to launch a frenzied mobbing attack on the raptor.  Moments later the Goshawk reappeared and soon drifted away behind a belt of Scots Pines.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Hockham and Little Cressingham, Norfolk

Beautiful autumn conditions at dawn with very little wind and quite mild.  Low light due to leaden skies and mist throughout the morning.  Light improved by afternoon with some sunny spells and a high of 15 degrees Celsius.

2 Grey Herons
1 Little Egret
5+ Water Rails Hockham
2 Sparrowhawk
30+ Starlings
c. 4000 Jackdaws/Rooks at Little Cressingham
4 Fieldfare Hockham
Song Thrush
1 Chiffchaff at Little Cressingham
c. 20 Siskins 

Red Deer Roaring at Hockham

Hockham Fen
What a fantastic autumnal feel this morning, low light, mist hanging over the fen and an out of sight Red Deer roaring frequently, a landscape with a very primeval glory.
Hockham 15th October
My aim was to try and photograph a rutting Red Deer stag, however, despite his obvious moving around, he remained out of sight during my visit.
Local movements at sunrise included a small party of 20+ Siskins, and an overflying flock of about 30 Starlings.  A few Fieldfares passed over very high, their "shack shack" call distinctive.  A single Little Egret arrived from the east and alighted out of sight on the distant fen.  2 Grey Herons were seen.
At least 5 Water Rails were heard calling, given the suitable habitat which I did not check this morning, the true number of these secretive birds will be higher no doubt.
Finally, a check of another part of the fen produced 2 Sparrowhawks soaring low over woodland.

Little Cressingham
A very brief visit to the Great Cressingham road north-west of 'The Arms' produced an estimated 4000+ mixed Rook and Jackdaw flock, a very impressive sight, whilst in the roadside hedgerow a single Chiffchaff called a few times.  Also, Goldcrests heard and Redwings seen and heard in wooded areas.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk 0715-0930

Dry at dawn and through the day although there was full cloud cover.  The wind was a cool, moderate easterly.  Today sees the last of these long-lasting easterlies with a swing to a milder south-westerly tomorrow.

4 Buzzards (including the beautifully marked juvenile)
1 Sparrowhawk
Redwings (arrivals and light passage)
Song Thrush - numerous
Blackbird (including migrant birds)
7 Long-tailed Tits
Brambling - light westerly passage with an arrival of migrants in churchyard
Reed Bunting

From the start of my walk it was evident that the hedgerows held many Redwings, Song Thrushes, and a few Blackbirds. As I walked on, Thrushes were passing from one hedge to another where just a month ago, several species of Warblers were doing the same.  A line of trees held many Song Thrushes, their 'tik' calls being heard everywhere.
As I scoped a distant hedge-line, I could see 2 Buzzards, one on the hedge, one walking on the ground beneath, probably searching for invertebrates.  The hedge also held Blackbird (2+), Dunnock, and Robin.
At 0800 the first evidence of Bramblings on the move with birds heard initially in Woodland, then bird(s) heading west.
A passage Brambling at Houghton 14th October

Once again, I spent some time watching the stunning juvenile Buzzard, this beautifully marked bird was sitting in a distant Oak.  The head-markings on this Buzzard are highly distinctive and contrasting, the crown being lightly streaked brown, and pure white above and below the eye, and fore-crown.  The dark band through the eye gives a masked appearance..  For a short while the Buzzard sat facing me, and what stunning plumage it had with its white throat, breast (brown mottling on breast sides), underparts, and under-tail coverts.  Some brown mottling on the flanks extended and became lighter as it met on the under-parts.  A highly distinctive bird indeed.
A few small flocks of Redwing continued overhead in a westerly heading, also, 2 Redwings and 2 Blackbirds seen flying high east.
Back at my start point by the church an arrival of Bramblings present in nearby woodland, their distinctive, nasally "zweeeeu" call being repeated.  One probable female was seen in a Hawthorn where I obtained a record shot.   4 Bramblings then departed north-west.  As I was preparing to leave this site, a further 2 Bramblings arrived/passed overhead. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Migration watch at Houghton-on-the-Hill 0650-0900

Some overnight rain was followed by a clear morning with cloud moving in from the north-east.  Increasing cloud eventually produced some rain at 0845.  The wind was a light to moderate north-easterly, increasing in strength to fresh with the arrival of rain.

I arrived at Houghton at 0650 for a circular walk starting at St Mary's Church.  It was evident from the outset that recently arrived Thrushes, mostly Song Thrushes and Redwings occupied the hedgerows along the route.

Of interest was a late, calling Willow Warbler east of the church.

Also noted was Goldcrests at 3 sites, Bullfinches at 3 sites, and single Chiffchaffs, also at 3 sites.  A single juvenile Green Woodpecker was seen climbing a telegraph pole where it searched for food.

A stunningly marked Buzzard (juvenile) was seen perched in the upper dead limbs of an Oak.  Close observation through the 'scope revealed a very pale bird with light brown upperparts mottled white. The head of this bird was gorgeous, the crown was streaked light brown, the fore-crown and sides of the crown, cheeks and chin were pure white, a dark stripe passing through both eyes gave it a masked appearance, in fact whilst watching this bird the head markings really did recall those of an Osprey.  With the exception of light brown patches on the flanks, all underparts and under-tail coverts were pure white, a stunning individual.  


Visible migration 0800-0845.  A dedicated watch for passage species produced a light to moderate westerly movement of Thrushes, especially Redwings.

Redwing - A moderate westerly passage, largest flock 100+ birds.  Overnight arrivals also
Song Thrush - westerly passage, also overnight arrivals
2 Siskins south
8+ Bramblings west

A steady westerly passage of Redwings was seen throughout this watch, most flocks numbered 15, 20, or 30 birds, however, the largest numbered 100+ birds.
Small numbers of Redwings were also seen approaching high and dropping into the well-stocked hedgerows.


St Mary's Church at Houghton-on-the-Hill

St Mary's at Houghton
I never tire of visiting St Mary's Church at Houghton-on-the-Hill.  This is a peaceful, very isolate site, and a place to sit, think, and watch the bird-life which passes through or lives here.
The church in its current state dates to the 11th century, or probably earlier.  This beautiful place is run and maintained by dedicated volunteers.  The doors to the church are opened daily 1400-1600.  There is so much to see and learn from those who lovingly maintain the church, including fantastic murals depicting biblical scenes which date to the 11th century or earlier.
St Mary's site on the western end of a raised ridge of land (hill) with fine views down to the valley to the north-west and beyond where the land rises again, similarly, it is possible to see a distant horizon to the south, although this descent is gentler.

I have been visiting this locality for many years now, its elevated position allows for great migration watching, especially in the autumn. 
Todays visit to the churchyard produced a few common species passing through including Goldcrest and a pair of Coal Tits.  3 Great Tits, Dunnock, and Robin were all noted here today.


Friday, 7 October 2016

Thrush passage

Wall to wall cloud today with the exception of a very brief brighter spell.  Cool at dawn.  Light to moderate east north-easterly wind.

I started my day with a visit at dawn to Thompson Water.  It was great to see work has started with removing of the highly invasive Water Soldier, a spreading plant that has had a detrimental effect upon the life at this site.
Following the short visit to Thompson, I headed for Houghton-on-the-Hill to witness Thrush migration.

Mute Swan
4 Teal
Skylarks - movements seen
3 Chiffchaff
2 Cetti's Warblers
Light to moderate movement of Redwings and Song Thrushes
Blackbirds - female and two 1st winter males watched (poss. migrants)

Thompson Water
I arrived at Thompson at dawn in very poor light due to cloud cover, however, visibility was good.
It is very refreshing to some open water since work has started to clear the Water Soldier, let's hope this is a successful operation.  This picture shows the Water Soldier's impact on the water, just below the treeline it is possible to see the open water following removal of the weed. 
Cetti's Warbler habitat at Thompson Water
On the water was 6 adult Mute Swans and 5 full grown youngsters.  These poor birds must have had some difficulty in moving around the water in the thick Water Soldier.
2 Cetti's Warblers were heard in song, one of which was very close in the sallow in the right of this picture.  I detected some movement, however, the bird was never seen, which is often typical despite being so close to.
Also seen very close was a Chiffchaff which was clambering about the reeds in the foreground of this picture.  If we have another mild winter I suspect Chiffchaffs will remain here.
Common species seen/heard in the woodland surround included Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Blue, Coal, and Great Tits.
Overhead, a few single Thrush species seen and 10+ Siskins south.

Redwing passage Thompson (0840) 3 flocks passed overhead flying south, the first flock numbered 200+, the second 60+, and the third 50+ (310+ in total).

Houghton-on-the-Hill 0910-1030
I arrived at this site to watch for Thrush migration and immediately upon my arrival 60+ Redwings passed overhead south.
For the time I was at Houghton the Thrush movement would be described as light to moderate in numbers.  Both Song Thrushes and Redwings involved in this passage, all being south in direction.  The largest flocks of Redwings numbered 60+, 30+, and 20+, with smaller numbers on the move.
I watched 6 Song Thrushes approach from the north and plummet like stones into the thick hedges close to me.
I also 'scoped a distant Hawthorn which held 3 Blackbirds (female and 2 first winter males).  These birds were preening and feeding upon Hawthorn berries, possibly newly arrived migrants.  Also here a Song Thrush seen feeding upon berries.
Also of interest was the movement of small numbers of Skylarks, again, possible migrants.

I arrived home from my local birding trip to a further 40+ Redwings overhead south.  Also of interest was 4 Skylarks high south-east.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

House Sparrow (juvenile female) 6th October 2016

I never tire of House Sparrows.  Taking time to look closely at these familiar birds will reveal they are indeed stunning, beautiful birds.  Sadly, they are too often overlooked due to their abundance.  I love watching their squabbles, also they often provide great comical value in their antics.
House Sparrow (juvenile female) 6th October
House Sparrow (juvenile female) 6th October

Houghton-on-the-Hill 0640-0950

Another dry day, however, this morning was cooler than recent days.  Full cloud cover with a moderate east-north-easterly wind.

c.50 Golden Plover high south-west
Song Thrush - both arrivals and passage seen. Movements mostly west
Redwing - A few calling birds over west and south-west
3 Chiffchaffs heard
1 Brambling south

I visited this locality today for observing bird migration.  Thrushes dominated although not in any great numbers so far.  Song Thrushes were the most numerous migrants with lesser numbers of Redwings.   Numbers of Thrushes varied, most were in single figures but one flock of 30+ Song Thrushes over west.  The hedgerows were occupied by many Song Thrushes giving their familiar "tik" calls.
A small flock of about 50 Golden Plover passed high overhead south-west.

Visible migration
I chose one of my regular watch-points for an hour or so overlooking the valley below and beyond.
Once again small numbers of Thrushes seen above me and also distant west of me.  The highlight for this watch was an overhead Brambling (calling) in a southerly heading.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Hilborough, Norfolk

A generally bright day, some mist at dawn.  A shift in the wind direction to a moderate, later, fresh easterly.
At 0645 I parked on the Bodney to Didlington road to walk the various forest rides.  The habitat here as one would expect is commercial Pine crop of varying ages.  Silver Birch, Oak, and Larch are also present.
With a shift in wind direction to an easterly, Thrush species were noted this morning as either arrivals or passage birds.

2 Buzzards
1 Kestrel
3+ Woodlarks
Song Thrush
1 Mistle Thrush
2 Marsh Tits
1 Chiffchaff
5+ Bullfinches

From the outset it was obvious that Thrush species were present in the Hilborough area from dawn with many Song Thrushes heard in woodland giving their "tik" calls.  Redwings were also heard here.
My walk along one of the rides produced at least 5 Bullfinches leaving their Pine and Birch roost sites.
Despite the noise from a nearby tractor I could hear the song of Woodlark near to a traditional site for the species.  Eventually, 3 Woodlarks were seen above a clearing together of which 2 were singing male birds.  Whilst watching the Woodlarks a small flock of Thrushes passed overhead high in a westerly heading.

Shortly after arriving back from my walk a few small flocks of Redwings passed over including a party of c.25 in a westerly heading.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk 0700-1400 (with Richard Farrow)

The day dawned clear and cool with a minimum of 4 degrees, rising to a warm 18 degrees by the afternoon.  The wind was a moderate northerly.
I met my very good friend Richard Farrow at 0700 on the A149 coast road, our plan, to walk north along the track to Burnham Overy Dunes and then walk east through the dunes to as far as Holkham Pines.  A spot check, and food, at one of one of the many deep, habitat-filled depressions in the dunes was followed by a long walk west back to Gun Hill, before making our way back to the path which led back to our starting point. 
There was little evidence of passage seen today, however, migrant species were found, despite one other birder we met stating "Not much about, just Meadow Pipits", there was in fact plenty to see with notable species as follows:

Pink-footed Geese - thousands moving at dawn
Cormorant - hundreds west all morning
Little Egret
2 Marsh Harrier
1 Kestrel
4 Black-tailed Godwits
1 Bar-tailed Godwit
5+ Snipe
34+ Golden Plover
Grey Partridge
10+ Swallows
400+ Starling flock (including an albino bird)
Meadow Pipit - very common
Skylark - including one south
Song Thrush - several migrants present
2 Redwings over south and heading inland
6 Stonechat
Reed Buntings

My arrival on the A149 coast road coincided with a truly fantastic Norfolk spectacular of thousands of Pink-footed Geese flying against the Orange dawn skies.  The sight and sound of this phenomena is one of the main Ornithological events which attracts so many to the North Norfolk Coast in autumn and winter.
Pink-footed Geese at dawn over Holkham, Norfolk 3rd October

Once we reached the north end of the path we entered the dunes where much cover exists for tired migrant birds, today, however, it appeared fairly quiet on the migrant front with the exception of a single Goldcrest, lots of Linnets and Reed Buntings, and up to 3 Stonechats on fencing.
High on one of the taller dunes sat a Kestrel surveying its surrounds, it attracted the attention of several mobbing Meadow Pipits.
Kestrel sitting on one of the taller dunes 3rd October
Dune spot check and food break
Probably one of my highlights of the day was sitting down and overlooking a deep depression with a variety of thick habitat for cover.  It was clearly evident that the number of Song Thrushes present were migrant birds, also, several Robins were seen here.  Late Warblers included small numbers of Blackcap and Chiffchaff.
It was here that 2 Redwings passed overhead calling and continuing their journey inland.
Overviewing a deep depression in the dunes.  Here, a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, several Robins, Song Thrushes, and 2 passage Redwings were seen.
Following our spot check, Richard and I then took the long walk west to Gun Hill.  The walk was dominated by Meadow Pipits, although checking the now distant shoreline, some wader and Gull species seen including Knot, Oystercatcher, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, and the huge Great Black-backed Gulls.
Gun Hill was fairly quiet although 3 Stonechats were found wandering around some low-growing cover.
Redshank 3rd October
The walk south along the path back towards our starting point produced 34+ Golden Plovers around a small patch of water.  With mud exposed following the receding tide, a number of Redshanks and about 4 Knot fed.
A large flock of 400+ Starlings wandering the dunes and nearby grazing included a highly conspicuous albino bird.
Finally, back at our cars, a lovely female Marsh Harrier showed well in good light above the marsh.
As always, my thank goes to Richard for his company  on our mornings/early afternoon birding.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Houghton ( 30+ Song Thrushes)

Departures. It is just over a week ago now that I last checked the wonderful hedgerows in the Houghton area for passage migrant birds, then, good numbers of Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, and Lesser Whitethroats used the habitat here to fuel up for their long journeys to Southern Europe and Africa.  As I walked along the corridor of hedgerows, Warblers would be seen flying from one side to the other, between fruiting bushes, however, the area today was strangely quiet with most birds having departed south.  Although a sense of sadness comes with their departure, thoughts turn to the north with incoming Thrushes and Finches making full use of the heavy Blackberry and Hawthorn crop.

Pre-dawn to 0800:  I arrived at Houghton this morning in semi-darkness, it was dry although varying levels of cloud gave poor light.  The moderate southerly wind was not conducive to passage, despite this, it was clear there was some Thrush arrivals scattered over the area covered this morning.
My visit started with a Barn Owl hunting over an area of permanent grassland/grazing.  The silent ghostly image of the Owl reminded me of stories of apparitions seen at this locality.  A hunting Barn Owl in low light could certainly fit the bill for those inclined to believe.
The beautiful old hedgerow which hosted many Song Thrushes 1st October
There was virtually no evidence of any summer migrants today, however, walking along a narrow track it was clear that a number of Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were present in the old, thick hedgerows.  A number of "tik" calls betrayed the presence of Song Thrushes, and indeed, as I entered a clearing, 2 Song Thrushes were seen quite high.
Walking along a corridor of hedgerows brought further Song Thrushes and my only Blackcap of the morning.  Overhead, a very light southerly passage of Meadow Pipits was noted.
Back at where I started the mornings walk, light had improved with a large break in the cloud and I decided to watch an old, well stocked hedge around the grassland where I had earlier seen the Barn Owl.  This beautiful thick hedgerow comprising very old Hawthorn, Elder, Ash, and a superb large bank of Bramble, played host to many Song Thrushes passing through it along with several Blackbirds, and a couple of Mistle Thrushes.  In an ancient Hawthorn 2 Goldcrests were seen.

30+ Song Thrushes in total were seen and heard in total this morning, clearly, these are recently arrived continental migrants.