Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Little Cressingham (Finches and Buntings)

I decided on a late afternoon visit to a large maize/weedy strip along the Great Cressingham Road to check on Finch activity.  There was total cloud cover, mist, poor visibility, and of course, low light.  Despite these conditions there was plenty to see with Finch and Buntings dominating.
Poor light and dull conditions probably dampen many a spirit, however, birds always raise my spirits, even in the poorest conditions.
It was clearly evident that may Finches and Buntings were present both on the hedgerows, trees, and nearby maize strip.  The most abundant species seen today was Chaffinches, Greenfinches, and several Bramblings, with a flock of Linnets often wheeling above patches of weeds.  Also present here was several Yellowhammers and the odd Reed Bunting.
A small flock of Fieldfares were nervously moving through tops of Larch trees, even in poor light their grey heads, nape, ochre breasts, and streaking and spots were clearly seen on the birds breast and flanks.  Flying from tree to tree the Fieldfares gave their familiar, hard "shak shak" calls.
With daylight fading quickly, Finches began leaving the maize strip and flew south to their roost sites, probably in thick conifer plantations.  At the same time, small flocks of Starlings flew over south to their communal roost site.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Merton, Norfolk

A day of rain and snow showers with light covering of the latter.  A grey day with a high of +1 degrees Celsius.
Following my return from work there was little daylight left, so I headed to Merton Church and nearby woodland.  At first glance, the winter woodland may appear devoid of life, however, life is always present, after all, cold winter days sees birds and mammals making the best of the short daylight hours in order to search for food to keep them energised for the night ahead.
Merton Church

I parked by the beautiful Saxon church at Merton where a service was ongoing.  I listened for a while whilst the organ was being played, a beautiful sound emanating from this quiet woodland location.
This late afternoon walk produced typical woodland species expected at this time of year.
Two Green Woodpeckers were seen flying over one of the paddocks, whilst a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard calling.  At least 3 Nuthatches were heard, one in the woodland by the church in this picture.  Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tits, and Marsh Tit, were seen in the top of a tall Silver Birch where they searched the finer outer twigs for food.
Winter Thrush species both seen and heard in woodland included Blackbird and Redwings.
A couple of Goldcrests were heard, one of which was seen vigorously searching for food, behaviour seen included the Goldcrest hovering close to finer twigs and leaves in order to search for a small invertebrate/spider etc. to eat.
A woodland scene at Merton where Goldcrest, Coal Tit,  and Nuthatch were present, 10th December
 An ancient Horse Chestnut at Merton, Norfolk.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Notes from my Garden

A beautiful clear night produced a moderate frost which remained for much of the day.  Bright, sunny morning, but with cloud increasing during the afternoon.  Temperature extremes -1 degrees to +3 Celsius.
Today was the first day I have seen my garden in daylight for a number of days due to long hours at work.  Some regular visitors remained faithful to my garden taking food from feeders and apples provided on the lawn.
House Sparrow in the garden 9th December.
House Sparrows are all to often overlooked due to their abundance and familiarity.  Close inspection shows these birds as having beautiful plumages with quite intricate feathers, especially on the mantle area.  The species also has great comical value too.
Starlings were present throughout the day, their squabbles always raises a smile.
Good numbers of Collared Doves visited along with their larger cousins, Wood Pigeons.
Blackbirds as always, were regular visitors, and were attracted to the soil under my hedge as well as apples which I have provided.
A male Green Woodpecker visited the garden irregularly throughout the day, his last visit being after sunset when he had his last feed of the day upon apples on the lawn.
3+ Coal Tits came to the garden, usually as singletons and pairs, however, what is the true numbers of these dainty Tits visiting.  Blue Tits were also noted.
Brief visitors included Goldfinch and Pied Wagtail, but a single Robin remained all day, this bird was aggressive to all-comers, especially Sparrows and Tits which were vigorously chased away from his claimed patch.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Colourful garden visitor.

I was working today between 0600 and 1300, by the time I got home there was not too much of daylight hours left, I had to have food before taking Toby for his walk.
Whilst preparing a light lunch, I looked outside to see a male Pied Wagtail, Blackbirds, and Starlings in the garden, also a beautiful male Green Woodpecker fed on apples I had put out for the birds.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Thompson Water, Norfolk, 27th November.

The day dawned wet with spells of rain.  Light was poor due to thick cloud cover, however, it remained quite mild.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust has bought land immediately adjacent to the eastern side of Thompson Water, what an excellent acquisition to add to this fantastic Breckland site.  In time the land will provide habitat for notable Breckland species.

A good species list was gathered as follows:

Mute Swan
32+ Greylag Geese
20+ Shoveler
12+ Wigeon
1 Grey Heron
4 Water Rails
3 Kingfisher
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Marsh Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
2 Cetti's Warblers (singing birds)

All too often in recent winters I have visited Thompson Water to check on Duck numbers, sometimes, the water is devoid of birds whilst other times sees good numbers.  No Teal were seen on this visit, however, harsh weather in Europe could see three-figure numbers of this small Duck.
Today, I had some good views of Shoveler, the males bottle green heads, spatulate bills, and large chestnut flank patch renders this species identifiable at range.
Shoveler on Thompson Water 27th November
For me, one of our most attractive Dusk species is the Wigeon, (of which 12+ seen today) the male has a beautiful chestnut head with a golden stripe on its fore-crown.  The call of Wigeon is beautiful, a whistling "weeeeooo", this was heard often today.
The fantastic, thick, swampy, Sallow/Reed fringes along the west side of the water held at least 4 Water Rails, a couple of birds were very close, their squealing calls with elements of grunting, was clearly heard.   Partial views of two Water Rails were had when they had a bit of a bust up.
Two male Cetti's Warblers gave their explosive songs from dense water-side habitat.