Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Water Rail at Thompson Water, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Watton (my garden)

I felt very tired today, I even had a couple of hours sleep in bed this afternoon.  I didn't go anywhere or do anything.  On the plus side a Blackcap visited our garden at 1000hrs this morning.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Houghton-on-the-Hill (Visible Migration) 0730-0900

A morning of full cloud cover with a moderate SW wind.  Light was poor. Visibility was reasonable. Occasional rainfall. 12 degrees at dawn.
No significant movements of Thrushes as seen yesterday over Hethersett, however, at least seven species were seen on overhead passage.  The following is my list of species seen at Houghton this morning with migrants highlighted in bold type.

1 Goshawk NE 0820
2 Golden Plover SE
6 Skylarks S
6+ Meadow Pipits (high) W 0815
70+ Starlings (40+30) W
Song Thrush
12+ Redwings
1 Blackbird (high) S then SE 0830
1 Chiffchaff
6+ Goldcrest
Treecreeper
1 Brambling S
1 Redpoll S

As soon as I arrived at Houghton 12+ Redwings 'fell' into Hawthorns in rain.  The rain persisted for a while but then cleared for a while before returning later.  It was during this drier interlude when I witnessed visible migration.  Seven plus species were involved in these movements.
A Goshawk was seen drifting NE in a leisurely flight, it then turned more or less W and stooped into woodland scattering Wood Pigeons.
Two flocks of Starlings (40+30) passed over in a westerly heading.  Interestingly, two years ago today, 20th October 2015, I was at Burnham Overy Dunes on the North Norfolk coast and witnessed a heavy westerly passage of thousands of Starlings all of that morning.  Records today indicate high numbers of coastal movements of Starlings.  Could my Starlings seen this morning at Houghton be of Baltic states origin.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Hethersett, Norfolk (Redwings - visual migration)

An early start for me this morning in Hethersett.  Mist and fog was slow to clear, probably not lifting until about 1000hrs.
This morning I witnessed the first significant movement of Thrushes this autumn with many flocks of Redwings, including some large flocks approaching from the north-east, with most ongoing with their passage, and some dropping into berry-laden trees.
I am always excited to find something unusual or rare on the patch such as my recent Yellow-browed Warbler, however, watching commoner species such as todays Redwing passage is equally as thrilling.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk 1445-1620

Following a very long weekend at work, I decided on a visit to Houghton to check the wooded areas and hedgerows for evidence of migrants.  The first thing I noticed was the double hedgerow east of the church has been cut since my visit on Friday last.
The recent visit to this site of the Yellow-browed Warbler got me thinking of where the bird was roosting.  Two of my early morning visits saw the YB Warbler initially in the hedgerow east of the church, checking this habitat this afternoon saw lots of dense Ivy, a possible roost-site maybe.
There was no sight or sound of the Yellow-browed Warbler today, indeed, I have received no feedback from friends over the weekend to suggest the bird was still in the area.
A mobile flock comprising mostly Blue Tits, also included Marsh Tit, 3+ Goldcrests, and Long-tailed Tits.  Both Blue Tit and Goldcrest visited the pond to drink.  Coal Tit, Blackbirds and Robins were seen in the churchyard.
Of passage interest, unseen but calling Redpoll was heard overhead.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Thrush passage.

Today was a full day of work mostly in the Costessey (pronounced Cossey) area of Norwich.  One of the most awaited for events in the birding calendar for me is the witnessing of Thrush migration in autumn.  This morning I saw the first Thrushes of the autumn passing over Costessey early morning.
Firstly, I saw 7+ Blackbirds fly from a residential garden together and climb away south-west.  Shortly afterwards a few Redwings passed over calling.
The Dereham road leading into Norwich gets very busy and of course the volume of traffic you would think would drown out bird calls, despite this, a small party of Song Thrushes passed overhead south, I was initially alerted by their "tic" flight call.
My final few calls at around sunset was in Hethersett, I was again alerted by calls overhead given by a couple of high-flying Redwings.
These Thrushes, including Fieldfare (not seen today) originate from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.  They abandon these areas of Europe for the winter, to either winter with us,  or to migrate further south to the Iberian Peninsula.  The Blackbirds and Song Thrushes which breed with us are generally sedentary, however, some interesting movements of Blackbirds within the UK have been recorded, including a bird which summered in Norfolk but migrated south-west to spend the winter in the same Cornish garden for a few years.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

The weather was wild at dawn with a strong NW wind and spells of driving rain.  The rain cleared to give a bright morning, however, the strong wind remained a feature of the weather.

2 Buzzards
2 Kestrel
1 Yellow-browed Warbler
4 Swallows
Blackcap
Chiffchaff
Goldcrests
5+ Coal Tits
4+ Marsh Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Treecreeper
300+ Goldfinches Little Cressingham mid-afternoon

The drive to Houghton-on-the-Hill early this morning saw lots of leaf and large twig debris on the roads as a result of the somewhat wet and windy weather at sunrise.
The weather conditions made my decision about where to search for Warblers quite easy as most activity would be on the sheltered sides of wooded areas and hedgerows.
Trees were bending in the wind at Houghton, however, a quiet south-east facing woodland edge was productive almost straight away with Marsh Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tit, a male Blackcap, and Goldcrests moving along the woodland edge.  I spent some time here to watch small bird activity, but after some 30 minutes I entered the churchyard to see what was present there.  Again, Marsh Tits, Coal Tit, and Goldcrests featured.  Looking above the churchyard, a single Swallow passed over east being driven along by the strong wind.
From the churchyard I then decided to walk the hedgerow corridor running east of the church, here, it was reasonably well sheltered from the wind.

For some reason I felt hopeful about what I might find in the hedgerow, instinct I suppose, anyway, only a short time passed when at about 0805 I heard the highly distinctive, piercing, high-pitched "tseweest" call of the Yellow-browed Warbler.  I walked a short distance along the hedge, towards the sun sadly, with the call being repeated several times.  I then saw a small bird through the hedge, somewhat concealed by twigs.  The Yellow-browed Warbler then came into view (head area only) in very good light, but only for a matter of a couple of seconds before it flew high into trees in the churchyard.  I was completely in awe of the birds very striking head pattern, a bright, broad, and long yellowish supercillium, greenish above and a dark eye-stripe which enhanced the supercillium.  
I called Peter Dolton who promptly arrived, a thorough search produced roving Tit flocks and Chiffchaffs, however, after a while we did hear the Yellow-browed Warbler calling along the south facing hedgerow, although we did not visually locate it.
During our search for the YB Warbler, we saw 3 Swallows overhead, their directional heading having a north-east to east bias.
Sheltered, sun-bathed edges of woodland habitat also produced Red Admiral and Comma butterflies.

Little Cressingham (NW of The Arms)
A mid-afternoon walk along the Great Cressingham Road produced a very notable flock of some 300+ Goldfinches in and around a large area of weed and maize. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Yellow-browed Warbler at Houghton-on-the-Hill, Norfolk

On Monday 2nd October I started five days holiday from work and I told myself that the week ahead would be used to find a Yellow-browed Warbler on my patch.  I did not consider this an unrealistic target given the numbers of this bird now occurring in inland Norfolk.
I arrived at Houghton-on-the-Hill at around 0700 on Tuesday 3rd October, initially to walk a circuit with my dog Toby to check the area for migrant species and straight away heard two Chiffchaffs, one a singing bird.  Also on route, at least 3 Blackcaps were encountered.  Overhead, a very light southerly passage of Meadow Pipits was seen.
Blackcap (male) Houghton-on-the=Hill 3rd October.  6+ seen in the area.
Chiffchaff at Houghton-on-the-Hill 3rd October.  Several seen.
 I arrived back at St Mary's Church on Houghton-on-the-Hill at around 0800, and as I always do I sat and waited to see what would pass through.  A male Blackcap was seen as was a couple of Chiffchaffs, also, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, and Blue Tits passed through.  A small flock of Long-tailed Tits passed through, some almost within arms reach, then at 0835, something small dropped almost vertically into a lovely patch of Ivy, Hawthorn, and Sycamore, I immediately raised my binoculars and was amazed to see a gorgeous Yellow-browed Warbler, yes, I was excited but not a totally unexpected species to see.  I did not bother with trying to photograph the bird as I knew I would lose it, therefore I just continued to watch it to pick up the salient features of this Siberian jewel.
I was initially struck by the size of the Yellow-browed Warbler, smaller than the other Warblers, Chiffchaff and Blackcap, which were present.  I was struck by the long, yellow, and very conspicuous supercillium, this was accentuated by the dark eye stripe and green head and upperparts. "Quick, check for wing-bars" I thought to myself, with the bird seen through light cover I did manage to see the most prominent wing-bar, again, this feature accentuated by the darker wing.  This was to be the best sighting of this gem before the bird continued through the churchyard and away.  A call was heard at least once, this was a thin, very sweet and strident, "tseweest"
I called birding friends Peter Dolton and Micky Stainthorpe and told them both about this find, they both arrived and we started our search over roughly a two hour period, however, we did not relocate the bird on this occasion.  Whilst searching for the Yellow-browed Warbler we saw a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps (male and female), Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, and Coal Tit.
This was my first inland record of Yellow-browed Warbler, and given the numbers turning up away from coastal locations, I doubt this will be the last.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Hockham, Norfolk

A generally dry day but with almost full cloud cover.  Quite mild with a moderate, occasionally fresh southerly wind.
I arrived at Hockham Heath at dawn and saw that a large area of mature Pine woodland has been clear-felled for the commercial market.  This carefully managed crop rotation may initially appear harsh, however, it is for the benefit not only for those who use the crop/wood, it also gives birth to a new site which will be utilised for some specialist Breckland bird species.  Woodlarks will soon move in next spring as the areas of bare land, low ground cover, and isolated trees will become good breeding habitat for this species.  Another migrant which will use the site is Tree Pipit, isolated trees will become song-posts for this scarce Pipit.  Thirdly, as newly planted Saplings grow, and lines of dead wood called windrows are laid down, Nightjars will move in.  Clearly we see benefit all round.

Observations
A walk around many of the forest rides saw lots of Goldcrests moving about the canopy of tall Pines. Approaching Cranberry Rough I heard the familiar harsh "chip" call of Crossbill, however, the bird(s) remained out of sight.
Cranberry Rough held Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, and Blue Tits.  Also, a single male Chiffchaff was singing.  No sign of winter Thrushes on this visit.
Looking to my distant right several Crow species scattered from the woodland, my suspicions for this behaviour was confirmed when I looked through my binoculars and saw a juvenile Goshawk soaring low, the Crows were clearly watching and keeping their distance from the large predator. I then watched the Goshawk as it glided just above the tree canopy before going out of sight.
Three Grey Herons were seen.  Small numbers of Siskins were overhead in variable directions.
Red Deer Stag at Hockham 2nd October.  A fine looking animal.
A fine looking Red Deer stag wandered in front of me, its behaviour clearly indicating it sensed my presence as it turned towards me to smell the air.  This Red Deer appeared in great condition, a lovely red coat and strongly built.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Little Cressingham (Notable counts of Finches)

A morning of poor light with a moderate westerly wind greeted me for a walk along the Great Cressingham Road between The Arms and Fairstead.  Occasional showers but with a high of 15 degrees at dawn.
A good variety of species seen with the most notable being good counts of Finch species. No passage noted owing to the wind direction, however, an interesting local movement of Grey Heron.

1 Grey Heron - high east
2 Red Kite
5 Buzzards
1 Kestrel
1 Hobby - chasing Finches
21+ Skylarks (flock)
Meadow Pipit
Mistle Thrush
1 Song Thrush
Goldcrest - 2 sites
200+ Goldfinches
250+ Linnets
Chaffinch
1 Siskin south
1 Reed Bunting

The species seen in the above list were noted along the route taken this morning, however, most interest was where a large area of farmland is annually sown with weeds, wild flowers and maize.
Close to bridge crossing over Watton Brook a flock of about 30 Linnets was seen along with a single Siskin overhead flying south.
Approaching the large weedy/maize area, the first birds which held my attention was a small flock of 21+ Skylarks.  This flock is probably a gathering of local birds which will roam the countryside, possibly joining other local birds.  Hard weather on the continent may force Skylarks to join our local birds for the winter, equally, hard weather here may force our birds to warmer areas.
I positioned myself at the end of the weedy area and watched a fantastic gathering of 200+ Goldfinches.  Often, these colourful birds would fly when startled before settling back onto or within the weed.  Memorable observations of this large flock was seeing them against the dark background of distant trees when their diagnostic yellow wing patches flashed in front of me.
Equally amazing at this locality was a large flock of 250+ Linnets, again, quite flighty at times.
Of course, where you have large numbers of small birds such as these Finches, raptor species will be attracted for the opportunity of taking potential prey.  A Blue Tit gave an alarm call, I looked around me straight away saw a Hobby chasing Finches.  The Hobby was powering towards the Finches at an amazing speed and with stunning agility, surely, it must have caught something, but I could not confirm this.
For what was a dull morning on the patch it turned out to be very rewarding.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Little Cressingham, Norfolk (Watton Brook)

With just a couple of juvenile Chiffchaffs calling in hedgerows close to 'The Arms' at Little Cressingham, it is now clear that the majority of Sylvia Warblers have now departed the patch, however, I am sure lingering birds will still be present, most of all, Blackcaps.
A check of Watton Brook valley on the Great Cressingham Road produced no migrant species.  A small charm of Goldfinches wandered the valley and small numbers of Meadow Pipits passed overhead.


Friday, 22 September 2017

Autumn Equinox

The morning started very autumnal with thick fog and a cool 7 degrees Celsius.  The fog was stubborn to clear, however, by 1000hrs, most had been burnt off and the day was then sunny and warm.

Houghton-on-the-Hill 0700-0930
Thick fog greeted me on my arrival along with various bird calls which gave a very typical autumnal feel.  Although hidden in the fog, Robins gave their familiar "tick" calls and Goldcrests a thinner "see-see-see".  A Chiffchaff sang, but what else was moving about within the fog.  Blackbirds gave their "chuck chuck" calls.  The only evidence of passage was calling Meadow Pipit, again hidden in fog.
Conditions slowly improved and it became clear to me that Chiffchaffs were present in good numbers, both adults and juveniles, but strangely, I never saw or heard a single Sylvia species.
A check of the churchyard at St Mary's produced more Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrests, Blue and Great Tits, a pair of Marsh Tits, and a Treecreeper.

Watton Brook Valley (Little Cressingham)
By the time I reached the valley the fog had just about all burnt off, conditions were then bright with very good visibility.
Watton Brook Valley 22nd September 
 Rather disappointingly, the valley appeared quiet with just Robin and a single Meadow Pipit being seen. An in-flight and calling Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen.  A check of nearby Bramble scrub and other potential 'migrant' habitat seemed quiet.  I bet there was something hidden, watching me and ready to pop up once I had gone.
A Small Copper Butterfly landed in front of me giving a lovely show.
Small Copper Watton Brook Valley 22nd Sept.
Little Cressingham (Great Cressingham Road)
Warm, sunny conditions on this mid-afternoon visit to high ground north of Watton Brook valley produced a nice showing of four raptor species.
A small flock of 30+ Goldfinches were tinkering away in small roadside tree.  Juvenile birds are now starting to develop their familiar red faces.  Both adult and juvenile Goldfinches show the beautiful gold wing-bar, always a good identification feature in both age groups of this species.  
A single male Kestrel was seen in a roadside tree and above me, 4+ Buzzards, 2 Red Kites, and a Sparrowhawk, were all soaring against the beautiful blue sky.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Watton Brook Valley (Enjoying the last light of the day)

With a late afternoon finish at work I decided to take Toby for an early evening walk to the Watton Brook Valley at Little Cressingham.
This was a beautiful sunset, clear skies, little wind, and good visibility.  Few birds were seen on this visit, 3 Meadow Pipits overhead and some Corvid species heading for their roost sites.
Despite the lack of bird seen, it was just great to be at this locality and enjoy the last vestiges of light before darkness sets in.
Looking west along the valley, I could see millions of midges swarming against the light over the Brook, what a magnificent sight this was, I wish I could photograph this remarkable scene.
Walking back to my car, light was now fading fast and I could see two groups of Roe Deer emerging from their daytime woodland retreat to feed in the open fields.
Finally, as I was about to set off, I watched a Noctule Bat flying north over fields towards the valley.
A wonderful end of daylight experience.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Bad Practice

I heard through the grapevine that a rare bird turned up on the North Norfolk Coast over the weekend, a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler I believe.
Sadly, I learnt that someone attempted to tape lure the bird.....bad practice in birding. If the bird shows, then great, if it doesn't, then leave it.......it remains concealed for a reason.  There is no room in my book for people who do not put the birds welfare first. 
So glad I am not a 'TWIT'cher.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Little Cressingham (The Arms)

  • 250+ Goldfinches
  • 1 Yellow Wagtail flying west 
I paid a late afternoon visit along the Great Cressingham road near 'The Arms' for a dog walk and immediately upon my arrival a flock of 250+ Goldfinches rose up from a wide weedy strip, over me and into nearby trees.  This very wide strip comprising maize, a mixed wildflower strip now going to seed, and large amounts of Fat-hen, would have attracted the Goldfinches to this mixed seed-fest.
It is worth mentioning here that this same area will be very good for large numbers of mixed Finch flocks in the next few weeks, namely, Bramblings, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Redpoll, Linnets, and of course, Goldfinches.  Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings will also be present here.
A single Yellow Wagtail overflew in a westerly heading.  This beautiful bird is a frequent bird of passage along the Watton Brook Valley.
Also seen in this area was a single Kestrel, Carrion Crow, and Wood Pigeons.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Little Cressingham, Watton, and Deopham, Norfolk

The day started cool and misty with a low of 4 degrees Celsius.  The morning was bright, however, by mid-afternoon heavy rain moved in.

Little Cressingham (Fairstead Lane and Watton Brook)
The most numerous Warbler present in the area this morning was Chiffchaff, with both juveniles and adults being seen and heard from several sites along this walk.  An old, mixed hedgerow off Fairstead Lane has always produced good birds, this morning Chaffinches dominated although one male Blackcap was seen emerging from what might have been his overnight roost.  The occasional Meadow Pipit was heard passing overhead.
A check of Watton Brook valley produced another single Chiffchaff in a large Sallow.  No other migrants seen along the valley.
                                                                                                   
Watton (Garden)
Several House Sparrows watched feeding upon blackberries.  These beautiful birds are often overlooked due to their abundance, familiarity, and by birders who are bent upon searching for rarities.  House Sparrows are highly social birds, their squabbles and chases through a hedge gives great comedy value.
3 Swallows flew north and a very high Sparrowhawk was being pursued by a Corvid species.  Once again, Meadow Pipit was heard overhead.
House Sparrow (male) 15th Sept. (Eating blackberries)
Deopham (mid-afternoon)
This visit saw some very threatening cloud and rain moving in from the west.  This short visit started dry but ended very wet with heavy and persistent rain.
A check of the regularly visited muckheap did not produce anything other than a few Wood Pigeons.
Walking along the road/former runway was generally quiet although over the road on a large field 200+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls were standing around.  Wood Pigeons and 20+ Starlings roamed.
Plentiful habitat of mostly Bramble, Gorse, and Dog Rose, line the edge of the former runway, this habitat was very good for Whitethroat, but now stood quiet for now, until winter Thrushes arrive to feed on the good stock of blackberries.
The only evidence of visible migration was of a single Meadow Pipit watched flying south until lost to view.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Houghton-on-the-Hill (St Mary's Church) 0630-0800

At dawn it was very briefly dry, however, cloud very soon moved in bringing frequent showers.  The wind was a moderate to fresh NW.
I didn't walk too far this morning, instead I decided to sit and watch what was going on around me in the small, beautiful churchyard at St. Mary's.  The habitat of Hawthorn, Elder, Sycamore, and Ash, along with Ivy cover, provided shelter and feeding for birds from the cold, wet weather.
I didn't have to move too much as a good part of habitat was viewable from my seated position.

Wood Pigeon
1 Swallow - high SE
2 Song Thrush
Blackbird (juvenile)
Robin
Blue Tit
Great Tit
2 Coal Tit
Long-tailed Tit
2+ Goldcrest
Wren
Dunnock
Treecreeper
10+ Chiffchaff
2+ Blackcap
30+ Chaffinch
Goldfinch

There appeared to be little evidence during my visit of visible migration other than a single high-flying Swallow heading in a SE direction.
The churchyard was the place to be as birds sought shelter here from the poor conditions.  Migrants seen were in the form of 10+ Chiffchaff, of these some were adults in their fine looking fresh plumage.  Song was heard from one individual.  Most observations of the Chiffchaffs were of birds in bushes and shrubs where they searched for food.
2+ Blackcaps were seen, this included a male in an Elder bush where it took berries for eating.
The most numerous species seen this morning was 30+ Chaffinches, also many Blue Tits were roving about with smaller numbers of Great Tits and a 2 Coal Tits included.

Watton
With light fading fast, 10 Golden Plovers seen flying high NW.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Great Cressingham (Watton Brook valley)

A dry bright dawn with light winds and a temperature of 9 degrees Celsius. The SW wind picked up to a moderate SW by mid-morning.
  • Early Song Thrush arrival 
  • Single Lesser Whitethroat seen on the move
Song Thrush in Watton Brook valley 12th Sept. (One of 17+ seen)
An interesting record this morning of 17+ Song Thrushes seen along the valley all within a relatively small area of mixed woodland habitat.  A flock of 5 birds overhead gave their familiar "tic" call.  The numbers of Song Thrushes seen clearly indicates they are of continental origin and constitutes an early record.  Continental Song Thrushes are said to appear greyer on the upperparts; close inspection of this photographed bird shows this bird as having a grey nape.
Also seen in this same area was 30+ Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds which were attracted to Hawthorn and Dog Rose fruits.
Overhead a small count of 5 Meadow Pipits seen.
A Kingfisher was seen flying along the course of the brook.
A single Lesser Whitethroat was seen flying into cover alongside the brook, it was soon relocated in a Sallow, showing off its bright white underparts.  The stunning grey head and ear coverts strongly contrasted with the white-throat and brown-grey upperparts.  This passage Lesser Whitethroat shared the Sallow with Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits, and a small flock of Goldfinches.
Nearby woodland held 1 Willow Warbler, Chiffchaffs, 3+ Goldcrests, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Jay, and a male Sparrowhawk flying through. 


Monday, 11 September 2017

Lucky Blue Tit

        An early morning visit to Hilborough (mixed woodland habitat), followed by a short visit to the Watton Brook valley at Little Cressingham to check for evidence of migrants.  The strong westerly wind did not bode well for migrants in the valley, however, I did have a very close encounter with a hunting Hobby.
        • Woodlark at Hilborough
        • Hobby at Little Cressingham 
        A dawn visit to young Pine woodland compartments at Hilborough produced a constantly calling juvenile Buzzard perched in one of the windrows, whilst overhead a single Red Kite soared.
        Between the lines of Pine trees a single Woodlark flew up announcing itself with a sweet "tooloeet" call.

        Little Cressingham (Watton Brook valley)
        In the Watton Brook valley at Little Cressingham, the mostly exposed landscape offered little shelter from the strong westerly wind.  A flock of around 12 Goldfinches were seen in the weedy banks of the brook with many birds on teasel from which they were seen to extract seeds from the prickly heads.  A single Swallow was seen nearby perched for sometime on wire fencing, a resting passage bird perhaps..
        A Blue Tit was watched crossing the Brook in front of me when in a flash a Hobby stooped on it but just missed the lucky Tit by inches.  This all happened no more than 15 feet from me, the Hobby passed like lightning and produced a sound similar to a stick being swiped fast through the air.  The Hobby continued east along the valley.  The attack by the Hobby was so quick that I feel certain the Blue Tit was not aware of what was happening.

        Sunday, 10 September 2017

        Marlingford, Norfolk 9th September

        This was a long working weekend for me and on Saturday, for my afternoon break I visited the lovely old churchyard of St. Mary's in Marlingford.  The church sits adjacent to well wooded parkland whilst the churchyard itself has several fine old Yew trees, as well as Beech and Oak.
        This is not a particularly large churchyard, therefore, full coverage of its habitats is easy and rewarding.
        The most obvious vocal species seen and heard was calling Nuthatches, a species frequently encountered in this locality. 
        Nuthatch at Marlingford 9th September.  A common species here.
        Good, but brief views were had of a beautiful Goldcrest foraging amongst the branches and fine leaves of a couple of large Yews.  A family party of Blue Tits passed through the churchyard and into nearby parkland.  A juvenile Buzzard incessantly called.
        Nearing the end of this short visit I was rewarded by a mobile flock of 38+ Mistle Thrushes passing through the churchyard.  A wonderful sight to see, however, nowhere near my record post-breeding gathering of 90+ Mistle Thrushes some years ago at Saham Toney.

        Thursday, 7 September 2017

        Goshawk at Little Cressingham

        Other than the months of March and April, when Goshawks can be seen displaying, for me, September is the next best time to see this powerful raptor on my patch.  Most are juvenile birds wandering from their natal areas to hunt for themselves.  I have seen young juveniles in many different locations and habitats, including one last autumn passing low over our garden in the small town of Watton.
        This afternoon I was checking a ditch for migrants in Little Cressingham, none were seen, therefore I turned my attention to the large rolling fields of arable and wide strips of grass and weeds through the fields and along the weedy edges.
        I soon noticed a large raptor species flying back and forth over the long grass strip in a hope to flush prey, I could see straight away that this was a juvenile Goshawk.  I was able to get this shot of the bird, note the streaked breast on this bird, this clearly ages this bird as a juvenile, adult Goshawks have neat barring on the underparts.
        Goshawk (juvenile) at Little Cressingham 7th Sept.  Note the streaks on this birds breast, this feature is only seen on juveniles.  Adults have neatly barred underparts. 
         A few minutes later the Goshawk was seen over nearby woodland and arable where it was seen to follow and 'mock attack' a Common Buzzard, the Buzzard reacted by rolling over and showing its outstretched legs and talons to the Goshawk.

        Tuesday, 5 September 2017

        Autumn arrivals

        This morning I was working in the Wymondham area of Norfolk.  The conditions were grey with some light rain showers.
        At one of my calls within a residential area of the town a young Chiffchaff was passing through gardens giving a "seeeo" or "cheeeo" call.  A short time later on Morley Road (heading towards Morley), a good sized flock of 200+ Starlings were seen in arable habitat.  A total of 3 Kestrels were seen on my journey home.

        Watton Brook Valley at Little Cressingham (late afternoon)
        Parking north of the Watton Brook on the hill which rises to The Fairstead, I initially walked back down the hill to overview the valley for migrants.  Whilst walking downhill a small gathering of House Martins passed over.  A Kingfisher flew upstream and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was also seen.  No migrants were visible at this time along the valley.
        Looking back towards the high ground, specifically over a woodland canopy, 60+ Hirundines (a mixture of both Swallows and House Martins) swept back and forth over the treetops, their directional flight appeared to have a westerly bias.
        Walking back up the hill and to my starting point, a small flock of 12+ Meadow Pipits flew over, then circled as if to settle in stubble.  These are my first autumn arrivals/passage Meadow Pipits I have seen on my patch, and are quite early too.

        Sunday, 3 September 2017

        Watton Brook Valley at Little Cressingham, Norfolk 1715-1745

        A short, pre-evening meal visit was made to the valley to check for migrants.  Full, dark cloud cover resulted in low light conditions, but it was a mild 19 degrees Celsius.
        A scan of fence-posts and fencing either side of Watton Brook eventually produced a distant Stonechat.  This bird always remained distant, however, typical behaviour was seen including the bird on posts and wiring from where it launched sallies to the grass below for insect prey.
        Much closer to me was an overflying Grey Wagtail giving its sharp "stit" call.  Also close to was a number of Blue Tits, Great Tits, and Marsh Tit flying up from thick vegetation along the banks of the brook from where a plentiful supply of invertebrate food can be taken.
        As is always the case, hundreds of Rooks and Jackdaws flocked along the valley.

        Saturday, 2 September 2017

        Watton Brook Valley, Norfolk (Little Cressingham to Bodney)

        A starlit night was followed by fog descending prior to sunrise.  Fog, some thick patches, with a cool 8 degrees Celsius, gave a real autumnal feel to the start of the day.  The rising sun burnt off the fog at around 0800.  Blue skies and warming temperatures followed.
        My walk this morning more or less followed the meandering Watton Brook between Little Cressingham and Bodney.  Much of the outgoing walk was in thick fog and the brook and adjoining ditches were not seen too well.  Thoughts of Chat species, such as Whinchat, passed through my mind, however, none were to be seen on this visit.
        Watton Brook Valley 2nd September.  Looking west from Little Cressingham. Following the lifting of the fog, a single PIPIT species flew over quite high in a SW headingNo call heard, however, the strong flight suggested this was probably a Tree Pipit.  13 Mistle Thrushes, 3 Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, and 2 Whitethroats seen in the above habitat.
        There was little to see initially other than a few Great Tits leaving their roost for a day of foraging but as the fog cleared, evidence of passage was seen.

        1 Hobby (0834)
        1 Sparrowhawk
        Buzzard
        1 Kestrel
        1 Great Spotted Woodpecker
        Pied Wagtail
        1 PIPIT species 0820 over SW (Prob. Tree Pipit)
        3 Song Thrush
        13 Mistle Thrush
        3 Blackbird
        2 Whitethroat
        1 Chiffchaff
        Chaffinches
        12+ Goldfinch

        Tree Pipit (Probable)
        The majority of my time was spent sitting in an area of rough grassland, arriving in thick fog and leaving with blue skies and warmth.
        The fog cleared quite readily at around 0800.  With bright blue skies above me, a single Pipit species flew over quite high in a SW heading.  No call was given, however, the strong flight of this bird suggested this was a Tree Pipit, the commoner Meadow Pipit is a weaker flying bird.
        Tree Pipits are scarce birds of passage through the Brecks, however, I do encounter them, usually as singletons, as they migrate through.




        Friday, 1 September 2017

        North Pickenham, Norfolk, 1st September

        With emphasis now well and truly on migration, I decided to make an early morning visit to High ground at Houghton-on-the-Hill to check for migrant activity.  I arrived at about 0630 to a cool autumnal feel, the temperature was 7 degrees Celsius and cloudless skies brought a very bright dawn.
        My main focus was on a patch of mostly Elder, Hawthorn, and Sallow habitat, as well as well stocked, long hedgerow corridor on a high ridge which is visible for miles, certainly an attractive staging post for passage birds.  Birds seen today in this area as follows:

        1 Hobby drifted overhead, 10+ Swallows, 1 Sparrowhawk, 15+ Whitethroats, 10+ Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs (numerous), 1 Goldcrest, 2 Song Thrushes, Blackbird, 12+ Greenfinches, 30+ Chaffinches, 25+ Goldfinches, 6+ Bullfinches.

        Some time was spent watching Elder habitat which was bathed in early morning, warm sunshine, it was here that most Warblers were seen feeding upon elderberries, and on occasions, Blackcaps and Whitethroats shared the same small patch of elder to take their fill.  The true numbers of Warblers in the area would have far exceeded the number I have reported here.
        One Song Thrush and a couple of Blackbirds also fed upon elderberries and in nearby taller Sallows,  Bullfinches (juveniles), Chaffinches, Goldfinches, and Yellowhammers were seen.
        A check of a small pond near the church produced a good count of 30+ Chaffinches (visiting the pond to drink), 12 Greenfinches, Bullfinch, a few Chiffchaffs, Whitethroat, Blue and Great Tits, and Long-tailed Tits.

        Saturday, 26 August 2017

        25th August - A morning searching for migrants

        My day started long before sunrise with a four mile dog walk around the roads and lanes of Merton and Thompson.  Tawny Owls were encountered at three localities, 2 calling males, and a bird seen flying across a road in front of me.
        Today, I visited a number of local sites on my patch with a view to finding migrant birds.  The sites were high ground near North Pickenham, and a couple of locations along the Watton Brook Valley.

        North Pickenham
        My arrival on high ground near North Pickenham coincided with a small westerly movement of 3 Cormorants.
        A particularly good area for finding migrant Warblers is at a large patch of Elders, Hawthorn, and Sallow around a natural spring, as well as a long hedgerow corridor. Watching this area produced the following migrants;  4+ Blackcap, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 4+ Whitethroats, several Chiffchaffs, and a Willow Warbler.  Numbers of Warblers were quite low this morning, however, large numbers of migrants will soon be passing through this rich staging post.
        Whitethroat (juvenile).  Whitethroats, and other Warbler species can now be found in good numbers in berry-rich habitats, especially Elder and Bramble, where fruits will be consumed to provide energy for autumn migration.
        Also seen was a Red Kite low over woodland, a couple of Song Thrushes, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinches, Linnets, Yellowhammers, and at least 5 Bullfinches (all juveniles).
        This time of years has always produced young Bullfinches at this locality.  These youngsters are clearly different from their parents in that they lack the black cap of the adult bird.  They appear brown-grey with a black tail, however, as with the adult Bullfinch, youngsters have the familiar and diagnostic white rump.
        Bullfinch - all age groups show the diagnostic white rump.
        Watton Brook Valley
        I stopped off at two sites along the valley, Little Cressingham and Threxton.  Checking the fences and posts for migrant Chat species did not produce, however, I am sure somewhere in the valley, there will be a lovely Whinchat, or two.
        My first stop was at Little Cressingham, here, a single male Whitethroat was seen flying between rank vegetation in the valley, whilst a little further along, a Buzzard sat proudly on a fence post.
        My arrival at Threxton produced at least 50 Swallows overhead, whilst a check of the valley at Threxton produced a fine female Blackcap consuming Elderberries.  Chiffchaffs were also seen and Goldcrest and Coal Tit were present.

        Thursday, 24 August 2017

        OPEN COUNTRY - BBC RADIO 4 (The Brecks East Anglia's -Secret). 


        Some weeks ago I was interviewed for this programme, I just wanted to let you know that this will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 31st August at 1500hrs. This will be repeated on 2nd September at 0607hrs.
        My input will only be a part of the broadcast as the team visited other sites in the Brecks and interviewed other people in the process.
        This programme focusses on the Breckland landscape, how it was formed, the wildlife which calls it home, and those who live and work in this unique part of the country.

        Tuesday, 22 August 2017

        Common Sandpiper (juvenile) at Deopham, Norfolk

        Following the end of my shift just after midday today I decided to stop off at the muck heap and surrounding water to check for evidence of Wader passage.
        I was expecting if anything to find Green Sandpiper as this is the most likely species to be found at the habitat, however, I was more than pleased to find a beautiful Common Sandpiper feeding around the fringes of the water.
        Common Sandpiper at Deopham, 22nd August.  Alert carriage.  Note the buff barring on the wing coverts which ages this as a juvenile bird.
        This Common Sandpiper had a more horizontal carriage than Green Sandpiper, although when alert it would appear a more upright, slender bird.  Typical behaviour observed included a constant bobbing, or 'teetering' action of the rear end of the bird, the head was also bobbed.  A very nervous bird which was ready to fly when a Pied Wagtail landed nearby, or when the odd car passed by.
        Common Sandpiper at Deopham 22nd August.  Note the brownish upperparts and the distinctive white 'hook' at the breast side which wraps around the folded wing.  The buff barring is still visible at some distance.
        Compared to the similar Green Sandpiper, the Common Sandpiper appears browner, has a more hunched carriage, and has a distinctive area of white hooked around the folder wing.  The legs are pale green.  Delicate buff barring on the secondaries of this wader shows this is a juvenile bird.
        Common Sandpiper at Deopham 22nd August.  Green and Common Sandpipers are the most likely 'similar looking' passage wader species to be encountered inland.  To eliminate confusion between the two species the Common Sandpiper has this very distinctive white wing-bar, the Green has an unmarked, dark upperwing.
        In flight, the most distinctive feature separating this species from Green Sandpiper was seen, this was the very distinctive white wing bar.  The flight call is a sweet "swee wee wee".
        Also seen at the muckheap was a couple of juvenile Pied Wagtails, also, pairs of Linnets occasionally visited to drink.

        Monday, 21 August 2017

        Watton Brook Valley at Little Cressingham, Norfolk

        A drive home from work produced a couple of Swifts at Wicklewood, now becoming scarce as most have now departed for Africa.
        Following work I made a visit to the Watton Brook Valley near Little Cressingham.  The time is approaching when the fencing, posts, and thick cover alongside the brook will hold migrant Chats, Flycatchers, Warblers, and Wagtails.
        My visit this afternoon was fairly quiet with the exception of a very distant female Stonechat on fencing and posts.  Typical behaviour observed included the bird flying to the ground for a few seconds and then flying back to the fence/post to probably eat a small invertebrate it had caught in the grass.  Frequent wing-flicking was seen.  Although distant the bird appeared dull orangey brown on its breast with darker head and upperparts.  There was a hint of a small white patch on its secondaries.
        Stonechats are short distant migrants with birds not wandering too far from their summer breeding haunts.  This bird was undoubtedly a breeder on a local Breckland heath.
        Also seen was a single Song Thrush which flew directly overhead giving its distinctive "tic" call.
        Back at home in Watton and another single Swift seen overhead late afternoon.

        Saturday, 19 August 2017

        Bodney, Norfolk

        A small patch of rough ground beside the Watton Brook Valley was my destination early this morning.  My intention was to find migrants, witness passage, and observe behaviour indicative of birds preparing for migration.
        Whitethroat in typical late summer habitat at Bodney 19th August
        The habitat visited on my patch this morning is a small area of permanent rough ground comprising of long grass, nettles, Ragwort, Umbellifer, and Elder, one of which is older and very heavily in fruit.
        This part of my patch is usually productive for migrant birds, last August I had Redstart there.
        I naturally focussed on the Elder bushes in this area and found 3 Whitethroats in this habitat, this included seeing the birds feeding upon Elderberries.  Also seen was 2 Chiffchaffs, again, seen in Elder, sometimes in close association with Whitethroat.  Whitethroats, as with other Warbler species have now changed their dietary requirements.  Insect prey was the main diet for Warblers throughout spring and summer, such food ensures a good nutritional value for young in the nest, now however, their diet has changed to soft fruits such as Elderberries, these high energy foods will ensure the birds have a good body weight for their forthcoming southerly bound migration.
        Whitethroat in Elder at Bodney 19th August
        The rough land with its variety of weeds attracted several Goldfinches, both adults and juveniles seen here.  Other common species seen included several Pied Wagtails, Dunnock, Wren, and Robins (2).
        A number of Swallows seen low over the valley and surrounding areas searching for food, whilst 9+ birds heading purposefully south may have been passage birds.

        Friday, 18 August 2017

        Deopham Green, Norfolk

        I arrived at Deopham Green with warm sunny spells and a fresh southerly wind, however, very threatening skies eventually brought driving rain.
        A check of the muckheap which has recently produced a few Green Sandpipers today produced something different, a single, beautiful Snipe.  This very attractive wader fed in soft mud around water by probing with its long straight bill 'sewing machine' style, for invertebrate food.  The bird also spent time preening and resting by the water edge. 
        Snipe at Deopham Green 18th August

        Snipe at Deopham Green 18th August
        Often seen in very good light between rain, the stunning head pattern was revealed, a pale crown stripe bordered either side by black lateral crown stripes, a broad buff supercillium, black lores, darkish eye stripe, which all gave a very conspicuous head pattern.  The upper parts are cryptic brown, and without optics blended very well against its background.  The underparts are white with flank barring.
        This Snipe is undoubtedly a passage bird which has stopped off at this rich feeding ground in order to refuel before continuing its journey.
        Also seen at this location today was 3+ Pied Wagtails (juveniles), a couple of visiting SwallowsWood Pigeons, and occasional pairs of Linnets.

        Watton Brook Valley (early afternoon)

        A fairly quiet visit with few migrants in the valley, however, an overhead westerly passage of 10+ Swallows is a typical movement for this date.
        Hundreds of Crows roamed large fields of stubble, and in the valley, Wood Pigeons and 30+ Stock Doves were present.
        A single Whitethroat was seen moving between thick waterside cover, sensibly keeping low in the moderate to fresh south-westerly wind.

        Friday, 11 August 2017

        Watton Brook Valley, Norfolk

        What a cracking morning with a real autumnal feel to it, bright and cool (7 degrees at dawn), and a mist hanging over the valley.  Morning like this give a feel of expectation, especially as we now progress towards autumn migration.
        This morning I spent just a short time visiting the valley as I had a midday appointment in Norwich, despite this it was quite a productive morning as the following list shows:

        25+ Stock Doves
        Wood Pigeon
        1 Buzzard
        1 Kingfisher
        1 Stonechat (juvenile)
        2 Whitethroats
        Blackcap
        1 Willow Warbler
        Coal Tit (family party)
        Great Tit
        Goldcrest
        40+ Linnets

        Watton Brook
        A short, static count at the Brook produced a single juvenile Stonechat.  Although quite close this young bird was almost always against the light, thus appearing in silhouetted form.  Despite this, the bird appeared typically dumpy with a short tail.  The plumage appeared dark and speckled with the feint hint of a small white wedged shaped patch on its secondaries.
        Also here was 2 Whitethroats, one of which frequented a Bramble patch and attempted to feed upon a ripe berry.  The other was in bankside herbage.
        A single Kingfisher flew along the valley and a single Wren was seen also.

        A single Willow Warbler was in a roadside hedge at a locality where the species bred this year. The distinctive "hooweet" call frequently given.

        Wooded Pit close to 'The Arms'.
        Another short, static check of this small, mixed woodland habitat, which included some fine, mature Scots Pine specimens, produced a mobile family party of Coal Tits with Great Tit present also.
        Blackcap was also heard here.
        The adjacent field edges with an abundance of weedy strips held 40+ Linnets, good feeding here.
        Coal Tit at Little Cressingham 11th August

        Wednesday, 9 August 2017

        Deopham, Norfolk 1300-1330

        A day of thick, low cloud with heavy persistent rain and pro-longed showers, and a fresh northerly wind.
        A short check of a regularly visited muck-heap early afternoon produced a single Green Sandpiper by the waters edge, however, it flew off at 1324, climbing high and heading more or less south.  The distinctive dark wings contrasting strongly with the bright-white rump.
        The poor conditions forced 3+ Swallows down low, making sweeps around the muck-heap and water for insect prey.
        3 Pied Wagtails (juveniles) seen around the waters edge.  A small flock of 12+ Linnets visited the area.

        Saturday, 5 August 2017

        North Pickenham, Norfolk (Evidence of passage picking up)

        This morning I visited Houghton-on-the-Hill, my migration watch-point.  My previous visit was on 28th July when there was little evidence of passage, however, this morning saw an increase in numbers of Warblers, most notably Whitethroats, which were found at various habitats in the area.  Although no great numbers of Whitethroats were seen, numbers are an increase on my most previous visit.  Numbers will become significantly greater as we progress through August.
        The mornings first Whitethroat was found in Elder scrub where it was seen taking berries, another bird was seen searching a hedgerow nearby.  One was also seen skulking in cover in a churchyard.
        Blackcaps were also seen and heard including a lovely male taking Elderberries.  Female and juvenile Blackcaps were also seen.  Also seen in the same Elder was a single Lesser Whitethroat, also feeding upon berries.
        Red Kite near North Pickenham 5th August
        Other species seen in the churchyard included a number of Blue Tits passing through, Coal Tit, 2 Nuthatches, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, and Bullfinch.  Overhead, a single Red Kite soared just above the tree canopy.
        Interestingly, a single, small shrub bathed in early morning, warm sunshine held a single Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Blue and Great Tit, Chaffinch, a single Greenfinch, Robin (adult and juvenile), and Dunnock.  The Lesser Whitethroat sat preening for a while, the bright white underparts particularly conspicuous in the sunshine.
        During the breeding season, Warblers are insectivorous birds, however, their diet changes now very much to various soft fruits which will become abundant in the next few weeks.  These fruits are taken in order to build energy reserves in readiness for their long migration south.

        Friday, 28 July 2017

        Litter Pick

        As a great lover of the countryside, I am disgusted at the unnecessary dumping of rubbish on our roadside verges.  I feel sorry for those who dump rubbish in our countryside, I think there is something defective in their brain development that causes them to not lock into single syllable words such as "Bin" and take their litter home.
        Much of my walking is done either side of the Watton Brook Valley around Threxton, Little Cressingham, Great Cressingham, and Bodney, and I get very annoyed at the rubbish left by idiots who are incapable of taking their litter home.

        With this in mind, I have been thinking about arranging a 'litter pick day', spending just an hour or two, once a month, collecting rubbish and litter from our verges and hedgerows.  I am therefore writing to ask if any of my friends would like to join me in this activity, all you would need is high visibility clothing, stout footwear, and a pair of heavy-duty gloves i.e. gardening gloves.  I would dispose of collected rubbish.

        This could easily be made into a nice social event/gathering, where we could stop for a flask of coffee or soup, and a good old natter.

        If interested, please e-mail me at paulnewport2810@gmail.com in order to register your interest and we could discuss initial arrangements.

        Many thanks

        Paul

        North Pickenham and Little Cressingham, Norfolk

        Early rain moved away to give sunny spells, the main feature of the weather being the fresh, occasionally strong, south-westerly wind which gave an autumnal feel to the morning.
        The main focus of the morning was to find evidence of passage, notably involving wader species, however, nothing seen or heard at these locations.

        North Pickenham
        My first stop this morning was on high ground which is my primary location on my patch for witnessing bird migration.  This relatively short visit was intended for witnessing wader passage as this location has previously produced passage species such as Snipe, Whimbrel, and Greenshank, this visit did not produce on this occasion.
        A walk between a wonderful, virtually unbroken hedgerow corridor produced Blackbird, a number of Linnets (adult male, female, and juveniles), and Goldfinch.  Little evidence of Warbler passage, other than Blackcap heard, however, as we progress into August, then September, this location will see high numbers of various Warbler species passing through as they stop to feed upon the rich supply of fruits in the hedgerow.  Annually, high numbers of Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, smaller numbers of Lesser Whitethroats, Garden Warbler, Reed Warbler, and very scarcely, Tree Pipit, all visit this prominent, elevated location to rest and feed as they journey south.  Daily counts of Whitethroats at this site, for example, has produced 30+ birds.
        A check this morning of thick cover around a natural spring produced a juvenile Whitethroat in Elder habitat, this bird was picking at unripe fruit.  This may have been an early migrant or evidence of post-breeding dispersal.  Also present here was Chiffchaff, Linnets, and Yellowhammer.
        Of mammalian interest, I watched a Hare with its suckling Leveret feeding.

        Little Cressingham (Watton Brook Valley)
        I left North Pickenham and arrived on the Great Cressingham road, north-west of 'The Arms', again, with the intention of witnessing evidence of migration.  By this time the south-westerly wind had at times reached fresh, to occasionally strong, and any small birds present would have probably kept low.
        A static watch along the Watton Brook valley produced a Kestrel on wires, and the only passerine of note was a single Song Thrush flying up from the valley, against the wind, and into nearby woodland.
        Another static watch, looking west over arable and into STANTA, produced a female Sparrowhawk flying close to the ground in the hope of surprising a small passerine species.  Also present was a hunting Kestrel.
        The only passerine of note was the occasional passing Linnet.

        Wednesday, 26 July 2017

        Deopham, Norfolk

        On my way home from work I stopped briefly at the muck heap to check for evidence of wader passage.  Nothing seen on my immediate arrival, however, at about 1500hrs, some 5 minutes following my arrival, 3 Green Sandpipers alighted in shallow water by the muck heap, seconds later, they flew off again, gaining height and heading off north.  I was setting up at the time, I think my movement probably caused the birds to fly.
        Green Sandpiper at Deopham
        Many Wood Pigeons dropped in as did a couple of Stock Doves.  A hunting Kestrel, Swift, a few Swallows, and the expected Pied Wagtails were present.  Linnet and Yellowhammer also passed through.

        Monday, 24 July 2017

        Deopham, Norfolk 1230-1300

        Following work I decided to visit the muck heap once again in the hope of finding passage wader species.  The sky was wall to wall grey with frequent rain and heavy drizzle showers, the light and visibility was poor, and wind was a northerly, moderate to fresh in strength.  It really did feel bleak in these conditions, however, the muck heap today proved to be a magnet for various species to drop in at.
        My intention on this visit was to find passage Waders and immediately upon my arrival, a familiar sight of a bird with all black wings and snowy white rump took to the wing, this told me that my visits to this wonderful sight paid off as this bird was a stunning juvenile Green Sandpiper.
        Eventually, the Green Sandpiper came back into view along the edge of stagnant water where it proceeded to feed in the shallows.  Whilst feeding, the bird was relaxed and adopted a horizontal carriage, however, when alarmed, it was quite alert and stretched its neck to appear a more elegant bird before adopting its more familiar carriage once again.
        A number of other species seen visiting the muck heap included the expected Pied Wagtails, Wood Pigeons, a pair of Stock Doves, and Linnet.
        Green Sandpiper at Deopham 24 July

        Green Sandpiper at Deopham 24th July
        Green Sandpiper at Deopham 24th July

        Wednesday, 19 July 2017

        Deopham, Norfolk

        I went out this morning just as the previous nights storms were moving off to give brighter conditions, the wind was a moderate easterly, and the expected high today is 30 degrees Celsius.
        Last night I heard a Green Sandpiper pass over Watton after 2200hrs, with this I decided to visit habitat near Deopham which should attract a passage Wader species.
        Last nights thunder storms resulted in plenty of surface water on the roads but most were passable with care.  I arrived at my destination near Deopham and firstly checked the muck heap where a Wader should drop in, however, this morning only a couple of Pied Wagtails were seen, an adult female and a juvenile bird.
        I then walked north-east along the road which is on the course of the former main runway of the second world war USAF airfield.  The country here is a vast expanse of arable with pockets of small woodland and some excellent Bramble cover.  This was a quiet morning with an occasional car passing by, whilst in a nearby field, farm machinery stand silent within a part harvested crop of Oilseed Rape.
        Reaching a wonderful habitat of Bramble cover within isolated, exposed country, a family party of Whitethroats were heard giving their agitated calls, the occasional bird briefly breaking cover to check me out. One adult bird carrying food looked a little scruffy in appearance, clearly a result of the birds busy lifestyle raising its young.
        Whitethroat near Deopham 19th July. One of a family party in a lovely patch of bramble within vast, open country.
        Many Whitethroat breeding habitats checked on my patch recently have now fallen silent as youngsters disperse from their natal sites, this results in young Whitethroats turning up anywhere as they follow good food sources.
        Close by to where I was watching the Whitethroat family, about 20 Swallows passed by low over a crop of corn, whilst a single Common Tern passed over in a northerly heading.
        A Finch species associated with open country is the Linnet, a number of these birds were flying about in variable directions, however, a small flock of about 6 birds alighted in a small Hawthorn, two of these birds were males and showed off their stunning rosy breast patches in the early light.
        A final check of the muck heap once again produced just Pied Wagtail.

        Tuesday, 18 July 2017

        Green Sandpiper

        Just heard a Green Sandpiper overflying the garden at 2217 hours on Tuesday 18th July.

        Thursday, 13 July 2017

        Deopham, Norfolk

        Another afternoon work break spent by a muck heap with lots of lovely stagnant water for various insect species to thrive in, and of course for attracting birds.  No sign of passage waders again on this visit, however, if the water remains it should attract a wader on passage.
        This afternoons visit saw some good birds visiting this small site, most notably, Pied Wagtails, including adult male, female, and juvenile birds constantly on the move picking off midges from the mud and surface of the water.
        Pied Wagtail (juvenile) at Deopham 13th July
        A few Swallows visited to drink from the water, however, a pair of Swifts displayed great agility and speed as they made a few circuits and low passes over the site to pick off insect prey.
        Single and pairs of Linnets were seen including a very handsome male displaying rosy breast patches.
        Pairs of Stock Doves dropped in as well as the ubiquitous Wood Pigeon.
        A very attractive female Kestrel was seen hunting the area.  Rodents, small birds, or possibly an invertebrate species, such as a beetle, would be possible prey items for the Kestrel.
        Kestrel (female) hunting at Deopham 13th July

        Tuesday, 11 July 2017

        Pied Wagtails at Deopham Green, Norfolk

        4 or 5 Pied Wagtails (adult female and juveniles) were seen around a muck heap and still, stagnant water at Deopham Green, Norfolk.
        This time of year I spend a lot of time around manure and muck heaps as they attract various midges and other insect species to the stands of still, stagnant water. Such habitats attract a wide variety of birds, especially wader species on passage. Recent rains will ensure stagnant water will remain for a while, increasing chances of a Wader dropping in. Today, swarms of flying midges as well as water borne insects were seen here, plenty of feeding for migrating and resident birds.
        As well as the adult female bird, much paler juvenile birds (3+) visited this site.
        Adult female Pied Wagtail at Deopham Green 1 July

        Juvenile Pied Wagtail at Deopham Green 11 July

        Adult female Pied Wagtail at Deopham Green 11 July

        Juvenile Pied Wagtail at Deopham Green 11 July


        Saturday, 8 July 2017

        Hockham, Norfolk 0615-0730

        Following a fairly quiet 20 minutes or so at Hockham, the silence was broken by the straining calls of a number of Crows, immediately I thought Goshawk.  Seconds later, a Wood Pigeon flew low in front of me closely followed by male Goshawk, the Pigeon turned and twisted in an attempt to evade the raptor, however, the Goshawk was determined and the chase ended in a puff of white feathers as the Goshawk caught its prey.
        Marsh Harrier (male) at Hockham 8th July.  Note the tri-coloured wing pattern.
        One other raptor was seen, a hunting male Marsh Harrier.  This bird is easily identifiable from the female from his smaller size and tri-coloured appearance.
        Commoner species seen and heard included Grey Heron, Stock Doves, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler, and a singing male Reed Bunting.

        Friday, 30 June 2017

        Tree Pipits near Bodney, Norfolk

        This morning I visited an area of Pine Forest close to Bodney where compartments of varying ages of trees are commercially grown.  Two particular compartments are quite young, around 4 years of age, and it was here this morning that I located 4 singing Tree Pipits, one at one site, and 3 singing males at another.  Tall stands of mature Pines and deciduous species surround the younger compartments.
        Two Tree Pipits were seen well whilst two further birds were heard only.
        Tree Pipit (male) photographed at Thompson, Norfolk May 2016.
        My observations this morning initially saw one male Tree Pipit singing high in tall trees around the periphery of its territory, whilst another male sang from lower perches within its range.  Both Tree Pipits performed their conspicuous 'parachute' display flight, descending slowly to a lower perch where singing continued.  Within these younger Pine plantations long grass provides good breeding habitat.
        Management of cleared woodland within the Pine forest sees the retention of a taller tree, such as an old Birch bole, these provide song-posts for both Tree Pipits and Woodlarks
        Tree Pipits are localised and scarce breeding species in Breckland, mostly occurring within young Pine compartments and heathland.  Their stronghold in Britain are the uplands of Britain.

        Wednesday, 21 June 2017

        East Wretham Heath, Norfolk

        This morning I visited East Wretham Heath to check for signs of Wader passage.  On my way to this wonderful Breckland site I stopped off to meet a very good friend, Leigh Gallant, who has been watching a pair of Spotted Flycatchers throughout their breeding process.
        Spotted Flycatcher 21st June

        I met up with Leigh at 0600 and straight away was rewarded by 2 Spotted Flycatchers collecting food for their young in a nest located in a climbing Rose.  I remained for a couple of hours  and was entertained throughout by these delightful birds as they tended to their young.
        Food items collected by the Spotted Flycatchers was a variety of winged insects, these included Moth species, Craneflies, Hoverflies, and other unidentified species.  Often several insects were held in the bill for each visit to the nest.  Insects were hunted with the Flycatchers performing a highly agile, acrobatic flight, food was caught and the bird returned to the same or nearby perch.
        Although initially wary of my presence, these birds soon appeared to accept me and carry on with feeding their young.  Alarm calls were given as a sharp "zee-tzuc-tzuc"
        Thanks go to my friend Leigh for sharing these Spotted Flycatchers with me.



        East Wretham Heath
        A check of Langmere for passage Wader species produced 2 Green Sandpipers wading in the shallows of these highly fluctuating bodies of water.  One bird seen quite well was up to its belly in water as it searched for prey items, whilst a more distant bird was best seen when being chased in flight by a Lapwing, the highly distinctive upperparts was seen as the bird twisted and turned in flight, revealing a dark, unmarked upperwing, dark tail, and stunning snow-white rump.
        Also present was a pair of Ringed Plovers, about 30 Lapwings, a pair of Egyptian Geese, Mallard, and Coot with small black young.
        The woodland and fine stands of old Hawthorn held several singing Blackcaps, 2 Garden Warblers, and Chiffchaff.
        Juvenile Woodlark at East Wretham Heath 21st June (Note the pale fringed brown feathers gives a scaly appearance)
        Heathland habitat held 2 Woodlarks, at least one of these birds was a juvenile, thus indicating local breeding success.  These birds were quite flighty, however, I eventually was able to track down a juvenile bird.  This Woodlark was easily aged by its somewhat scalloped, or scaly appearance, this feature highlighted by pale fringing to the brown upper feathers, these appear more streaked in the adult birds.  Other typical features of these Woodlarks was the obvious short-tailed appearance in flight, and on the ground, the bold pale supercillium, and the black and white marking on the closed wing.

        Friday, 9 June 2017

        Watton Brook Whitethroats

        My previous post related to a pair of Whitethroats in the Watton Brook Valley in Little Cressingham, well, today I revisited this location for the first time since 29th May to see how they are progressing.
        I get so much pleasure from experiencing intimate observations of birds by spending time to watch their behaviour, their coming and goings.
        Upon my arrival at this locality I was subjected to alarm and agitation calls from these beautiful Warblers, however, in time, they appeared to accept me as I sat and watched.
        Whitethroat at Little Cressingham 9th June.  (One of a pair feeding young)
        I am pleased to report that young Whitethroats were seen today in their natal area of a Bramble patch by the brook, and the adult birds were feeding them.  A young Whitethroat was seen flying upstream along the brook to visit rank vegetation where there would be a good food source for them.  Clearly, I think these young Whitethroats are able to feed themselves as well as receiving support from the parent birds.
        There is nothing like knowing your birds, their habits, habitats, and behaviour, and having intimate insights into their daily routines.

        Monday, 29 May 2017

        Little Cressingham, Norfolk 1015-1130

        It has been a few days since I visited this part of my patch close to 'The Arms'.  This was to be short late morning to visit to assess how the local Warblers are doing.  I especially wanted to see how my Whitethroats were doing, a beautiful and active Warbler species.
        Whitethroat in breeding habitat at Little Cressingham 29th May (one of a pair seen)
        Walking north-west of 'The Arms' to the Watton Brook Valley I encountered two Whitethroat territories, one pair in habitat which has been used for years by this species.
        Whitethroat (one of a pair) Little Cressingham 29th May.

        A male Blackcap and Chiffchaff were singing in a small patch of woodland whilst a little further along a male Willow Warbler sang from a roadside hedgerow.
        A check of the Watton Brook valley for late migrants produced a single, bright male Yellowhammer. This species I am sure breeds in nearby hedgerow and visits the lush banks of the brook to collect insect food.