Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Wednesday, 30 November 2016


On Tuesday 29th November I was working in Costessey just west of the city of Norwich in Norfolk. 
During my morning break I decided to stop to have a look at the Waxwings which had been in the area for a few days.  In fact I have been watching the area for a few weeks as I considered this a good area for the birds to turn up.  The habitat is residential with a small park lined with a few Rowan trees, both red berries and yellow.
I arrived with no birds seen initially but soon I heard their call and a flock circled above before alighting in the yellow-berried Rowan.  I noticed that a few of the red-berried trees had already been stripped, however, a further tree still had all its berries as did one of the 'yellow' trees.  The reason soon became clear why the Waxwings had not touched these two trees yet, they were being defended by a single Mistle Thrush which drove all other birds away, not only the Waxwings, but also Blackbirds and Wood Pigeons.
Waxwing in Costessey 29th Nov.
Waxwing 29th Nov.
Waxwing Costessey 29th Nov.
Waxwing 29th Nov.
In total there was probably 30 to 40 Waxwings involved in this observation.  As well as watching their typical feeding behaviour in the Rowans, a single Waxwing was seen to fly to just above where I was standing to expertly catch a small insect species in 'flycatcher' style.
Also in the immediate area was a single very territorial Mistle Thrush, Jay, a Blackbird feeding upon red berries, and Wood Pigeons.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

East Wretham and Croxton Heaths, Norfolk 0730-1130

A walk along Harling Drove at dawn eventually led to Croxton Heath.  This location is dominated by Pine woodland compartments of varying ages from saplings to mature trees.  My aim this morning was to first check a number of 19th century marl-pits which have now been colonised by some very fine looking Hawthorn and Blackthorn thickets.  These habitats provide a welcome relief to the seemingly endless Pine woodland, they also offer good feeding and roosting sites for passerine species.
Good numbers of Bullfinches were  seen and heard this morning with an estimated 20+ birds involved including 12+ in one large thicket around a large marl-pit.  On one occasion 5 male Bullfinches were seen together, a stunning sight.  Redwings, Song Thrush, Blackbirds, a female Brambling, and many Yellowhammers also made use of this thick cover.
Walking along a forest ride I came across lots of feathers on the ground, these were sadly from a Barn Owl and Wood Pigeon.  Looking up, a large Scots Pine bough had clearly been used as a plucking post, no doubt by a Goshawk.
3 Goosander (females, or red-heads') on Langmere 27/11/16
Finally, I spent some quality time overlooking Langmere where a variety of Duck species and a few Mute Swans congregated.  20+ Shoveler were seen, some swimming, others roosting on the shore. Teal were also quite plentiful and a few Gadwall and a single, fine looking male Pochard was seen.  Of particular interest was the presence of 3 Goosander (females or 'red-heads') on Langmere.  Goosanders are winter visitors, often encountered during particularly cold spells.  These ducks are known as 'sawbills' this is due to their serrated mandibles which efficiently catch fish underwater.
A single Little Grebe, some Coot and Moorhen was also seen on Langmere, whilst around the fringes of the water, 6 Snipe probed the mud for food. 

SPECIES LIST: Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, Egyptian Goose (pair), 20+ Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal, 1 Pochard (male), Mallard, 3 Goosander (females), Moorhen, Coot, 6 Snipe, 1 Little Grebe, Black-headed Gull, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Rook, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Jay, Brambling, Chaffinch, 20+ Bullfinch, Redpoll, Siskin, Yellowhammer.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Lynford Water, Norfolk 0715-0930

A beautiful dawn at Lynford Water with a slight frost and light mist giving a great atmosphere.
I was not feeling too good today with a heavy head cold and sore throat, therefore, this early visit was used to collect as many species as possible whilst on the move.
I did a complete circuit of the site taking in Pine woodland, deciduous and mixed woodland, open grassland, and of course, the two large lakes also.

Tufted Duck on Lynford Water 26/11/16.  (50+ seen today)
My list is as follows:

20+ Cormorant, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3+ Grey Heron, Mute Swan, 2 Egyptian Geese (pair), Greylag Geese, 50+ Tufted Duck, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, 3+ Water Rail, Pheasant, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 Buzzard, 1 Redshank, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, 1 Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker (drumming heard), Green Woodpecker, Magpie, Rook, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Mistle Thrush (inc. singing male),
Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Starling, Pied Wagtail, 2 Marsh Tit (pair), Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Brambling, Siskin, 1 Redpoll, Bullfinch, 1 Crossbill
Reed Bunting (50 species)

Friday, 25 November 2016

Titchwell Marsh 23rd November (with Leigh Gallant)

My good friend Leigh Gallant arrived at my home in Watton at 0630 for a planned trip to Titchwell.  On the whole I had a good drive up to Titchwell with the exception of a diversion at Gayton which meant following the A149 to Hunstanton and onto our destination, arriving at 0800.
This was to be Leigh's first visit to Titchwell and I am very pleased to write that he saw many new species at this superb reserve.
It was quite clear upon arrival, however, dense fog rolled in over the marsh reducing visibility somewhat until the sun eventually burnt the fog away to give a very pleasant day.
Whilst preparing for our walk we set ourselves a target of 70 species, we eventually accrued 68 species, however, had we brought a 'scope I think distant birds on the sea would have lifted our list to beyond 70 species.
The car park area always gets a days birding off to a good start and expected species seen included Robin, Blackbirds, Wren, and Chaffinches, whilst in a Sycamore above us a single Goldcrest foraged amongst leaves.  Overhead, the first waders of the day came in the form of a flock of Lapwings heading west.
Having left the car park area we headed North along the west bank where a mobile flock of Long-tailed Tits were seen along with a single ChiffchaffGoldfinches were seen in the Alders.  Reed Buntings appeared plentiful moving amongst reeds.  It was whilst Leigh and myself were walking along west bank that thick fog appeared over Thornham Marsh to eventually move in and affect visibility considerably.  The loud song of Cetti's Warbler was heard typically from dense cover, several of these resident Warblers would eventually be heard by the end of the day.   Also typically heard only within reed cover was the distinctive call of Water Rail.
Thornham Marsh held a couple of Buzzards, and in total some 3 Marsh Harriers were seen during the day.
Wader species dominated the Freshwater Marsh and Brackish lagoons with largish numbers of Golden Plover, Lapwings, and Dunlin present, with a few fly-over Snipe.  Small numbers of Avocet were seen.  A couple of Black-tailed Godwits were present, this included a close to feeding bird on the Brackish lagoon.  Little Grebes were often seen in channels where they frequently dived for food.
Approaching the dunes, a small flock of Goldfinches and Linnets sat silhouetted in a bush, and only just visible in the fog.
Although we could hear the sea, we couldn't see it due to the thick fog, we concentrated our efforts in the dunes hoping for Snow Buntings.  A small flock of Finches did arrive and settled out of sight in the dunes, careful searching soon saw a small party of Goldfinches feeding within weed debris.
The sun was beginning to burn the fog away, we then decided to walk down to the shore where lots of Oystercatchers were initially out of sight but heard.  Once at the beach, good numbers of Oystercatchers were seen, also a few Sanderling turned the odd piece of weed or small stone in search for food.  Several Turnstones frequented the remains of the concrete and brick control tower on the beach.
Stonechat at Titchwell 23/11/16 (one of a pair on the west bank)
Looking out to sea, a single Red-throated Diver was seen close to some sea-Duck species, one of which at least was an Eider
The walk back along west bank produced two beautiful Stonechats (male and female), these birds typically flew onto prominent perches such as a tall weed or reed, which was used as a look-out for spotting food.  The lovely, quiet, rapidly given clicking call was heard.
Following a nice lunch in the restaurant, Leigh and myself walked a small section of the wonderful Meadow trail where once again Cetti's Warbler made its presence known.  Two Marsh Harriers were seen again low over the marsh whilst overhead a small party of Fieldfares passed over us.
Finally, with light quickly fading we checked the feeding station close to the visitor centre, here we saw a female Brambling, Chaffinches, and Tit species coming to feed.  A few Redwings were seen leaving the taller trees.  The ubiquitous Robin was seen in the wooded area around the car park area, one often came within reach of us, a lovely ending to the day.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable day and I will end by thanking my very good friend Leigh Gallant for his company on this trip.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Thrushes at Morley St Botolph, Norfolk, 19th November

For my work break on 19th November I visited the beautiful small church in the village of Morley St Botolph near Wymondham.  The dominant tree species in the churchyard is the Yew and it was here that good numbers of Thrushes were seen, the most numerous being Fieldfare, with smaller numbers of Redwings, two or three Mistle Thrushes, and a few Blackbirds, all were attracted to the berries of the Yew.
Fieldfare in Yew at Morley St Botolph, 19th November

Fieldfare in Yew at Morley St Botolph, 19th November
Fieldfare at Morley St Botolph, 19th November
Redwing (Juvenile) at Morley St Botolph, 19th November

Friday, 11 November 2016

Great Grey Shrike

Following near freezing temperatures at dawn today, mid afternoon was quite balmy in the November sunshine.
A very good friend of mine, Leigh Gallant texted me to say he was watching a Great Grey Shrike, this bird has been present on private land since being found by another birding friend, Mick Saunt, some three weeks or so ago.
I made my way to the given location where I met another good birding friend, Peter Dolton, we walked to the site where we met Leigh and enjoyed some birding in very bright and quite warm conditions.
A distant Great Grey Shrike on private land 11th November 2016

We had privileged views of a pair of Stonechats until after a longish wait, the Great Grey Shrike came into view, typically perched on elevated branches from where it surveyed its surroundings.  Although always distant the Shrike showed its typical features which were conspicuous at range.  A very smart black, white, and grey bird which flew between exposed perches. The grey crown and mantle was separated from the black wings by a white bar. The black mask through the eyes was distinctive and the throat, breast, and underparts were pure white, this feature was especially noticeable when the bird turned to face the light source.
Stonechat (female) 11th November
Stonechat (female) 11th November
We were constantly entertained by a lovely pair of Stonechats throughout this visit, also Redwing, and a roving flock of Long-tailed Tits passed through.
In addition to the wonderful birdlife, a number of Common Darter Dragonflies were seen, also, a Tortoiseshell butterfly was seen.
Peter pointed out a lovely Red Fox in long grass.
Finally, I want to wish Leigh a happy fortieth birthday for today.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Stunning Autumn.

An early start this morning for a visit close to Thompson, Norfolk.  I arrived just prior to sunrise to the call of a Tawny Owl.  Brief early morning sunshine was soon replaced by cloud and rain showers, some heavy and prolonged.
Walking close to some heathland I was totally amazed by the colours presented to me in the early morning light, most especially the exquisite bronzes of Beech trees.  Varying cloud and some rain soon passed over and light faded somewhat, despite this the majesty of the Beech trees brightened the dullest of conditions.
With these stunning Beech trees came some wonderful birds.  Bramblings arrived in the canopy where I watched them expertly, and quite acrobatically, extract seeds from their husks.  In total, some 40+ Bramblings were present and I was lucky enough to get a photograph of a stunning male sitting exposed in the treetop in full, early morning sunlight.
Stunning Beech trees near Thompson, Norfolk 4th Nov.
As well as Bramblings, this area of Beech and surrounding mixed woodland hosted both Redwings and Fieldfares, both species typically mobile, although one flock of 100+ Fieldfare included some Redwings, plundered fruits on a lone Hawthorn.
Brambling in top of one of the many Beech trees
Common species featured also in this area, these included several Chaffinches feeding amongst leaf litter, also Coal, Blue, and Great Tits were seen.
Redwing (juvenile) at Thompson 4th Nov.
What a stunning bird the Redwing is with its striking head pattern, this feature alone separates this Thrush from any other seen in the British Isles.  Many Redwings were present today, sometimes mixed with Fieldfares, where they fed upon mostly Hawthorn berries.
The Redwing pictured here is a juvenile, this bird is aged by the pale tips to the greater coverts which appear to form a broken white bar on the wing.
Fieldfares in a Hawthorn...can you see the Redwings
Walking back following my visit to the wonderful Beech woodland, a flock of 100+ Fieldfares emerged with many alighting in a lone Hawthorn to plunder berries.  With them was a few Redwings.
Finally, a distant male Stonechat launched itself from its perch, climbed to gather a fly presumably, and then returned to more or less the same perch.
What a magical morning for autumn colours and birds this was.