Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Red Deer in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Some Breckland Habitats and their birds

It is sad to say that in the current climate of development, comes habitat destruction, and although promises are made to restore habitats by planting a few ornamental trees, losses of habitats, their eco-systems, along with connectivity between important such sites through wildlife corridors, severely impacts upon bird populations.  Along with this destruction comes the problem of 'tidying up' the  countryside by uneducated people who think that cutting a hedge to ground level looks pretty.

Despite my ramblings, there is much good going on in the countryside too with restoring hedges, areas being subject to special protection status, good interaction with landowners, and the growing force of nature conservation organisations.

I love to identify habitat rich areas and seeing what is attracted to them, and some areas I have seen this spring have indeed benefitted birds, especially visiting Warblers.

Field margins such as this site near Great Cressingham has a beautiful, large patch of Bramble, a fantastic habitat for several species of birds. 

Watching this habitat on 10th May 2021, the following species were seen: Singing Whitethroat, Goldfinch (pair), a beautiful male Yellowhammer on territory, and a Blackbird.

I must say that these patches of ground cover are some of my favourite habitats.

Garden Warblers favour more open wooded habitats and I have found young Silver Birch plantations suitable for this Sylvia. Woodland edge habitats are also chosen by Garden Warblers, especially where low cover and scrub habitats exists.

This Garden Warbler was one of a pair present in prime breeding habitat near Hockham Norfolk on 12th May.
Woodland edge with lots of low bushes and ground cover was used by this male as he flew around his territory.  Both he, and the female bird were seen flying together into the probable nest-site in low ground cover with this tree used as a song-post.

 This habitat near Great Hockham held 3 singing Garden Warblers on 30th April, along with a pair of Blackcaps.

This Birch woodland comprised trees of about twenty feet tall with ground cover and some beautiful Bird Cherry at the woodland edge. 

I find the song of Garden Warbler easily distinguishable from that of Blackcap.  The song delivery is of an even flow, sometimes with the tonal quality of Blackbird, it is generally prolonged and does not have the fluty peaks of Blackcap.

This next habitat near Watton, Norfolk, is prime Whitethroat habitat, and indeed, on the day of this visit on 9th May, a male Whitethroat was singing, performing its conspicuous song-flight, and sometimes uttering its alarm and agitated notes. The female was present and gave its "churr" agitation call.  The male bird sand from several song-posts including small trees, Hawthorn and Elder. The nest is located in the foreground amongst low, tangled ground cover and nettles.

Of all the Warblers, I must say that Whitethroat hold a very special place in my heart.  This beautiful Sylvia suffered a very major population crash on their wintering grounds in the Sahel when a severe drought struck that region in 1968/69.  The following spring a very high percentage of this species failed to return to their habitats in Britain.
The population of Whitethroat has recovered but not to the pre 68/69 levels.
Needless to say when this bird returns with us, it really does raise a smile.

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