Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Acorn Fair at Queens Hall, Watton, Norfolk

This morning I attended the first ever Acorn Fair at Queens Hall, Watton, a conservation themed event with representatives from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Master Composters, Master Gardeners etc.
What a fantastic community-based event this was, the aim of which was to promote conservation of wildlife, encourage an awareness of what wonders exist on our own doorstep, and advice on how to create your own green space.
How refreshing also it was to see so many people, both young and old, attending this first event, it was very encouraging, and given the enthusiasm in which contributors presented their respective passions I can only predict this event going from strength to strength.
A big WELL DONE to all those involved in making the Acorn Fair a great success.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Foulden, Norfolk

A clear night was followed by a bright morning and a moderate frost.  The temperature at dawn was minus 4 degrees Celsius.
This morning I decided to check an area of Pine forest compartments for early evidence of Woodlarks, especially given that this wonderful songster should very soon be singing and displaying over breeding territory.
The first birds of note was a party of uncounted Siskins which were wandering the forest, also lesser numbers of Redpolls were on the move.  As predicted, Bullfinches were heard within mixed Birch/Pine woodland where they would have roosted overnight.  Other songsters included Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush whilst a single Fieldfare overflew calling.
I passed through a couple of potential Woodlark sites with no luck, however, checking a regularly used breeding site for this species, I waited for a while until I heard the beautiful song of a Woodlark. As I stood and watched, 4 Woodlarks were seen overhead including 2 singing males.  I am not sure if the display seen was a serious defence of territory as the birds for the time being avoided usual song-posts, in fact one male dropped to the ground within a large weedy field where it undoubtedly fed.  Also seen here was 6+ Yellowhammers flying away from me.
Woodlark at Foulden, Norfolk

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Welborne, Norfolk

My job takes me to many beautiful villages and towns, and of course some wonderful lanes and their variety of habitats.  On the 18th January I was working in Wymondham and nearby villages, and for my afternoon break I stopped in a remote area near the village of Welborne, near Brandon Parva.

I had finished a call in Morley and drove through the village of Wicklewood, it was here that I saw a single Stonechat in roadside ditch habitat.

For my afternoon break I parked up south of Welborne on School Lane by the Candlestick junction to overview the fields there.   Visibility was very good, however, light was poor due to full cloud cover.
Several species were seen from my position with the greatest number being lots of Fieldfares (uncounted).  These beautiful Thrushes were seen on both bare land as well as stubble where they hunted for food. Several earthworms were being pulled from the ground by the birds.  A few Blackbirds were seen as well, some with the Fieldfares, some singly along field edges.  Other species seen on or close to the fields included a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, Robin, Dunnock, and Goldfinches, which were seen in weedy roadside habitat
Fieldfare near Welborne, Norfolk 18th Jan.

Fieldfare near Welborne 18th Jan
Fieldfare near Welborne 18th Jan

Monday, 16 January 2017

Thompson Water

An afternoon visit to Thompson Water saw the best light conditions for some days now, this significantly highlighted the beautiful plumages of various species of Ducks on the water.  Good numbers of Teal were seen, mostly close to, or in the floating vegetation, however, the best vocalist for me on the visit was the gorgeous whistle of Wigeon, of which several were present.  Gadwall and Mallard were present in smaller numbers and a single male Shoveler was seen.
Coal Tit at Thompson Water 16/01/17
I found a place to sit for a while and watch an area of waterside, rank, vegetation, whilst there I was treated to some good views of a single Cetti's Warbler silently moving through cover, often very close to water.
Tit species were well represented including many Marsh Tits, Coal Tits, Blue and Great TitsNuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, and Goldcrest noted.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Hockham, Norfolk

A very mild start to the day at 8 degrees Celsius. Dull, misty, and a day of very poor light, whatever the weather, available light, and atmospheric moods, beauty is always to be appreciated.
And indeed at Hockham this morning, light was very poor with varying amounts of mist, however, I could just make out Teal through the 'scope, a great insight into their swamp-like world.
A Grey Heron stands motionless by a ditch at Hockham 08/01/17
Teal were obvious long before I arrived at my location and despite the mist, along with birds hidden in the swampy habitat, the birds must have numbered in their hundreds.  Occasionally, the incessant calling Teal was interrupted by the beautiful whistle call of WigeonShoveler and Mallard, along with a male Pintail were seen.
More obvious was a single Little Egret hunting in the shallows, the left foot being used to stir up the silt in search for food items.  A couple of Grey Herons were also seen.
The rich woodland periphery held at least 4 'drumming' Great Spotted Woodpeckers.  A single male Tawny Owl called from nearby Oak woodland.  Two male Stock Doves sang.
Thrush species were represented by 30+ Redwings, a few Blackbirds, and a single Mistle Thrush.
An early morning overhead movement of 50+ Siskins was seen, presumably these birds had left their roost for their feeding grounds.  In a tall Birch 30+ Goldfinches held onto the finest outer branches picking at seeds. 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Merton, Norfolk

A pretty grim and dismal day today with totally leaden skies and drizzle.  A much milder morning with no frost.  A dawn temperature of 7 degrees Celsius.
I arrived in Merton, about a mile from my home, in semi-darkness, and close to me at least 5 male Tawny Owls were calling in this well-wooded area. It was interesting to hear how the pitch of the calls varied between these birds with one being quite deep in tone, probably an older, wiser Owl.  I could also hear a female Tawny Owl calling and eventually watched her through binoculars, her silhouetted form on a high bough.
Much of this walk was fairly quiet given the dark conditions, until I came to a familiar site where Tree Sparrows are regular.  Once in position there was quite a variety of calls heard, most of which came from 40+ Goldfinches in thick cover, which were just seen preparing for the day with a communal preen.  The light remained very poor, even following sunrise, but there was plenty of activity involving Tree Sparrows in thick Hawthorn, with some House Sparrows, a couple of Greenfinches, Chaffinch, and Goldcrest.
I eventually arrived at Merton church where I checked the churchyard, parkland and paddocks for birds.  I stopped here for about 30 minutes or so with no sign of improvement in light. 
A small flock of about 20 Redwings were seen in parkland where they searched the ground amongst leaf litter for food.  Despite the poor light, I had some nice 'scoped views of these beautiful winter Thrushes.  Two pairs of Jackdaws were seen high in parkland trees, also here, a single Brambling briefly stopped high in a tree, called, and then moved on.  Also noted in this area was a singing Mistle Thrush, 'chinking' Blackbirds, Nuthatch, and nice 'scoped views of a single Goldcrest briefly perched on churchyard fencing.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Hilborough and Thompson Water, Norfolk

Hilborough 0710-0800
Overnight clear skies resulted in a moderate frost this morning, however, no real ice concerns as there was yesterday morning.
An early morning walk with Toby around compartments of pine plantations produced first of all, the wonderful call of a male Tawny Owl.
Overhead, Finch species were either seen or heard including Brambling, and my first Crossbill for some time.

Thompson Water (late afternoon)
Following the early crispness of dawn, the day became increasingly more cloudy, this resulted in very dull, gloomy conditions, however, it was slightly milder than of late at 7 degrees Celsius.
A check of the water produced 100+ Mallard, 40+ Teal (some roosting on thin ice), 30+ Wigeon, and a few Gadwall.  Around the swampy periphery of the water a Water Rail called and a nearby Cetti's Warbler gave a burst of its explosive song.
Thompson Water 06/01/17

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Waxwings in Costessey, near Norwich, Norfolk

Whilst on my rounds in Costessey, near Norwich in Norfolk, I stopped off for a look at the Waxwings which have been feeding from a line of Rowans since late November 2016.
Almost all of the many thousands of red and yellow berries have been removed, and with the reduction in fruit, the numbers of Waxwings are now greatly depleted from their high counts of 50+ birds.  These three remaining Waxwings were feeding upon yellow Rowan berries, once these have been consumed, the birds will move on to new areas to feed.
The following photographs are from Costessey, near Norwich today, the 4th January

Monday, 2 January 2017

Lynford Water and Hockham, Norfolk

Following the gloomy conditions of new years day, today dawned bright with a slight frost.  It remained bright throughout the day.
I decided to visit Lynford Water this morning in the knowledge that cold, bright conditions may produce winter duck species. 
Lynford Water at dawn on 2nd January 2017
This site, a former gravel extraction pit, is along with Thompson Water, probably on of the most important wetland sites on my patch for wildfowl and scarce and rare species.  A wide range of habitats seen here will serve to bring forth a delightful visit to birders of all levels.
An initial walk of woodland and woodland clearings produced not only a lovely wintry scene but also a lone singing Song Thrush, a wonderful sound to break the early morning silence.
My aim this morning was to check the large areas of water for winter duck species.  An initial scan produced lots of Tufted Duck with lesser numbers of Gadwall, about 10 Teal, a pair of Shoveler, and 5 Mute Swans.  A further 5 Mute Swans passed overhead.
Great White Egret at Lynford Water 2nd January
A single Great White Egret was seen on a distant shoreline, sometimes close to a Grey Heron which offered a good size comparison.  This tall, elegant Heron species is a very scarce bird, although it is being seen with increasing frequency throughout the country.  A  single Little Egret was seen, again offering an opportunity to appreciate the size and structural differences between these two closely related species.
Whilst watching the Great White Egret, 2 male Goosanders flew in and settled on the water.  A total of 3 of these sawbills would be seen here today.
Checking the larger of the two lakes, a raft of Tufted Duck included within their numbers 5 Goldeneye (3 males).  What a stunning duck the Goldeneye is, especially the male with his large dark head with conspicuous 'golden-eye' and white patch close to the base of the bill.
5 Goldeneye on Lynford Water with Tufted Duck
Goldeneye and Tufted Duck at Lynford Water 2nd Jan.
Also on the water was a single Great Crested Grebe whilst the woodland periphery held calling Egyptian Geese (3) and a few Cormorants.  A single Kingfisher typically shot low over the water and alighted in overhanging branches on the lake-side.
A few small numbers of Siskins overflew in variable directions. 2 Fieldfare passed over also.
A noisily calling Marsh Tit was heard along with Great and Blue Tits.  A mobile flock of Long-tailed Tits moved through waterside habitat.
This was my first field trip of the new year with a final total of 43 species present at this site.
Finally, as I approached home, my first Red Kite of the year was seen soaring overhead.

Hockham (approaching sunset)
A flock of 100+ Redwings was seen in mixed woodland habitat close to the Peddars Way footpath.