Breckland Birder

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

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.