Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

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 in order to register your interest and we could discuss initial arrangements.

Many thanks


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.