I have finished my Whitlingham Bird Report for 2013, and you can download it here. It is stored on google drive, which sometimes condenses the photos if you view it online, so it is better to download it and then view.

You may also be interested in the 2013 Thorpe Marsh NWT Wildlife Report, compiled by Chris Durdin and available here.

NORTH-WEST NORFOLK: Holme fungi extravaganza

26th October 2014

At the start of the year when I was coming up with my target species for the year there were quite a few fungi, and in the end I settled up with a few either/or species. Several of the ones that I hadn't seen can be found at Holme Dunes NWT reserve, where this year Rob Smith and a group of local naturalists have been putting in a concerted recording effort. So far they have recorded over 2000 species between them, and the blog of their exploits is well worth a read - it can be found here. Anyway, Rob had very kindly offered to show me some of the dune specialties that I hadn't seen, and in return I hoped to identify some new species for their list.

I arrived at Holme just before 10:30 to find Rob, Andy and Adrian waiting for me at the visitors centre. After introductions we headed off for the pines to see what we could find. My first target was Scaly Stalkball, a relative of the Winter Stalkball that I had seen in February. On the way we stopped to admire an array of Collared Earthstars (Geastrum triplex), lots of Milky Bonnets (Hemimycena lactea) and a Hare's Ear (Otidea onotica). Emerging from the pines we puzzled over a couple of interesting bracket fungi and saw Snowy, Dune and Blackening Waxcaps (Hygrocybe virginea, conicoides and conica). Before moving on we inspected some Rabbit pellets for nail fungi without success, before arriving at the Scaly Stalkballs (Tulostoma melanocyclum).

Now into the dunes, we were looking for Dune Stinkhorn (Phallus hadriani). A stick marked the spot, but where was the fungus? It was still there, but it had been completely dessicated ("well it is a cold day" was muttered!) We carried on, seeing many more Dune Waxcaps and then another couple of sand specialists, Dune Cavalier (Melanoleuca cinerifolia) and Dune Brittlestem (Psathyrella ammophila) before heading back to the pines. Here we met Karla, who had just photographed a coral fungus. She offered to show us, and we went and had a look. It was small and beige, beneath the pines and the tips discoloured a blue/green, which I believe makes it Ramaria abietina. Nearby we also saw a few Sessile Earthstars and some Liver Milkcaps (Lactarius hepaticus), the milk of which discoloured bright yellow on white tissue.

After a quick bite to eat we went out into the west dunes, walking past a clump of Inocybe sp. We soon located the other species I had particularly wanted to see, Sea Buckthorn Bracket (Phellinus hippophaeicola). Several other species were seen along the path, including a rather out-of-place Collared Earthstar, before I spotted another species of Coral sp. growing amongst the short-cut grass. There were no nearby trees, and this one had brown tips to the branches. A couple of Blackening Waxcaps that were completely black were nice to see, and we also saw a numerous yellowy 'toadstool' type growing in marshy grassland that we couldn't identify. The last fungus of the day was a new one for me - Field Bird's Nest (Cyathus olla) - previously I had only seen Common Bird's Nest.

Many thanks to Rob, Andy, Adrian and Karla for the time, company and local knowledge, which contributed to an excellent days mycology.

NORTH WALSHAM: A bit of lawn fungi

25th October 2014

Having gone back to North Walsham to see friends, I was delayed a few minutes before going inside as I poked about on their lawn looking at the birch fungi present. There was a good crop of Brown Birch Boletes (Leccinum scabrum), some Brown Roll-rims (Paxillus involutus) and some Russula sp that I still haven't identified to my satisfaction, despite them coming up last year as well.

 Brown Birch Bolete
Brown Roll-rim
Russula sp.

SUFFOLK: Minsmere fungi

19th October 2014

On Sunday Cathy, Margaret & I had a leisurely look around Minsmere and Westleton heath. Birds of the day were probably a pair of Stonechats on the heath, but we did see some impressive-sized fungi, including Fly Agaric and some Parasols. There were also loads of Common Darters resting along the path edges.

30 THINGS: 11/30 Parrot Waxcap + Earlham Cemetery fungi

18th October 2014

Every month the Friends of Earlham Cemetery hold a walk around the cemetery to look for whatever the season has to offer. This one was led by Ian and focussed on fungi. Ian knew that I wanted to see Parrot Waxcap this autumn, and had kindly done a recce in the morning and located a couple of specimens. When I saw them I appreciated the effort - locating a small green fungus amongst the grass is no mean feat! The group spent around 2 hours walking on our tour, and despite the relatively dry autumn we still saw over 40 species. Some of the more interesting species included Striated Earthstar, Sessile Earthstar, Parrot Waxcap, Meadow Waxcap, Meadow Coral, Earthtongues and Sulphur Knight. There were also large amounts of the coral fungus Ramaria flaccida and Dog Stinkhorn.

Striated Earthstar
Sessile Earthstar
Parrot Waxcap
Meadow Coral
Earthtongue sp.
Sulphur Knight
Ramaria flaccida

WHITLINGHAM: October bird count

11th October 2014

On Saturday evening I carried out Octobers WeBS counts at Whitlingham, narrowly avoiding getting caught in the heavy rain and storms. Incidentally if you are an infrequent visitor to Whitlingham you may be interested to know that several extra bits of Whitlingham Lane have been double yellow lined, so double-check before parking (or if you're a regular buy a season ticket for the car parks - £35 or £30 direct debit).

Pleasingly duck numbers had increased from last month. The Little Broad held an eclipse male Shoveler, a female Teal and 23 Gadwall. These were split between the weedy areas at either end of the broad. On the Great Broad there were 102 Greylag Geese, 94 Mallard, 118 Coot and around 200 Black-headed Gulls. 10 Gadwall, 5 Tufted Ducks and a Little Grebe were also of note. Across the river at Thorpe a Green Sandpiper was on the end of the spit, particularly pleasing as I hadn't seen any on spring passage.

NORTH NORFOLK: Obligatory Shrike post

11th October 2014

Having not been to see Norfolk's first Steppe Grey Shrike* last Sunday, I had been admiring the many photos of it to hit the web. Thankfully it did the decent thing and stayed until the weekend, so Cathy & I headed to Burnham Norton to have a look. Luckily for us the forecast storms didn't happen until the evening and we got excellent views of the Steppe Grey Shrike with just a little bit of rain. This also allowed us to bust the myth that cows lay down when it's going to rain, as only one cow was laying down before and during the rain. The moral of the story? Don't trust cows. Oh, and take a waterproof coat with you when you go out in the autumn.

"Rain? We only sit down for hail or earthquakes"

* The name 'Steppe Grey Shrike' is a bit of a misnomer and may be changed in the future, along with much of the Grey Shrike taxonomy. Currently it is treated as a subspecies of Southern Grey Shrike.

THORPE MARSH: Buzzard but no Emeralds

5th October 2014

I made a brief visit to Thorpe Marsh to see if anything new had turned up. I scrutinised the trees that line the ditches in the hope of seeing my first patch Willow Emerald damselfly, without success. Most of the scrape was hidden from view by the vegetation, so I carried on along the path where I met another birder and we stopped to scan the marsh. A Common Buzzard flew in and landed on one of the dead trees, probably the first time I have actually seen one perched up here. It was mobbed by several Magpies, before they went and got some Carrion Crow backup to eventually shift the Buzzard. Whilst watching a Grey Heron fly over a Hobby flew past, but I missed it (well I saw it, but as an unidentified black dot, so I'm not counting it). I continued my lap, but the broad was almost devoid of birds and nothing much else was around.

WHITLINGHAM: Wrinkled Peach fungus

28th September 2014

A busy weekend, but I nipped out on Sunday afternoon to have a look for another interesting fungus. My target was Wrinkled Peach, an unusual looking species that grows on Elm. Michelle Hoare, a local mycologist, had found two in Trowse Woods on her way back from last weeks fungus foray and kindly given me directions. I failed to find the first one, but luckily the second was more obvious, growing on a log beside a footpath.

30 THINGS: 10/30 Earthstar sp.

23rd September 2014

Just over a week ago Ian Senior found some earthstars in Earlham Cemetery which looked different from the ones he had seen there previously. As I hadn't seen any earthstars around Norwich I was keen to have a look, particularly as they were one of my '30 things to look for'. Ian kindly emailed me directions, so after work Cathy & I went to have a look. They took some finding, as they were along the edge of a path and had been knocked over. Definitely a new species for me as I have only seen the larger Collared Earthstar, but the actual species is still being confirmed (they are probably Sessile Earthstars).

Earlham Cemetery also hosts the last remaining fungus on this years target list (Parrot Waxcap), but unfortunately the best areas for Waxcaps had recently been mown. Amongst the grassy debris I did find a couple of Blackening Waxcaps, which I haven't seen around Norwich before. There were a few other bits and bobs too - Cathy found lots of earthballs and one tree stump was surrounded by Giant Polypore.

THORPE MARSH: Patch tick - Whinchat

21st September 2014

This year so far has not been a classic for birds at Whitlingham, and it was more than a year since I had seen a new patch bird. Of the commoner species I am yet to see locally Whinchat seemed the most likely as there had been a large influx at the start of September. One had been seen at Thorpe on the 6th, and another one this Wednesday, so when a local birder asked if there was much about, I told him to keep an eye out in case. I thought no more about it until I got a message from Joe, telling me that he had just seen two Whinchats at Thorpe. Cathy supportively agreed to delay the shopping to allow me to go and have a look.

I arrived at Thorpe and met Joe coming back towards the railway. He kindly turned round and walked back along the footpath to the marsh to show me where he had seen the Whinchats. On the way we stopped and watched several Snipe flying low onto the scrape. When Joe had last seen the Whinchats they had gone into an area of scrub near the middle of the marsh, so we stood on the footpath nearby. There was no sign of anything perched up on the bushes, but then we noticed the two Whinchats fly up and then continue high over the railway line towards the paddock on Bungalow Lane. Having made sure they weren't just looping round we headed back, on the way getting a fleeting look at a damselfly that was probably (but not conclusively) a Willow Emerald, a species which has been seen here for the first time last week. Many thanks to Joe for passing on news of his sighting, my 141st patch bird and 802nd patch species in total.

NORTH-EAST NORFOLK: Happisburgh owl barn

20th September 2014

In the afternoon Cathy, Margaret & I went to Happisburgh Owl Barn. I only heard about the owl barn recently but as it only opens until the end of September we were keen to go before it shuts for the winter. The star attractions are two melanistic Barn Owls. These are very rare in general because of the mutation that causes the dark colouration, but are apparently almost unheard of in the wild because the parents don't recognise the dark chick as one of their own and eject it from the nest.

We spent a lovely couple of hours at the owl barn. The owner and staff were very friendly, making us a cup of tea when we arrived and answering questions. All of the owls have been hand-reared and can be held and observed close up. I know that captive birds aren't for everyone, but this collection are taken to events and used to get people who would otherwise have very little connection with the natural world to appreciate birds, so I think that's quite a worthy cause.

'Dusk' - one of two melanistic Barn Owls at Happisburgh

'Blizzard' (Photo Cathy Emerson)

[Postscript] After leaving the owls we headed on to Walcott for some chips on the seafront. As we left Happisburgh a flock of c30 Pink-footed Geese flew over, my first of the autumn. At least 12 Turnstones were on the seawall at Walcott, and scanning the sea we saw 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and 8 Brent Geese fly north. A distant Skua sp was probably an Arctic.

WHITLINGHAM: Trowse fungus foray

20th September 2014

This morning I joined the Norfolk Fungus Study Group for a foray at Trowse Woods. Before most of the group had assembled I popped into the ski club car park to have a look at a clump of Bovine Boletes found by Andy Musgrove last week. We then had a look in the cemetery next-door, where we saw Lepiota aspera and a rust on spurge (hopefully exact ID to come).

Heading into the woods we saw a number of small agarics, including two Marasmius species that were new to me, M. rotula and M. wynnei. Probably the fungus of the day for me was a mycena that exuded orange latex called Mycena crocata. Some of the specimens had a type of mould on them (Spinellus fusiger) that made them hairy. We also saw Orange-peel Fungus, Stump Puffballs and many others. Andy joined us for a bit and was able to pot an interesting looking harvestman, which he later identified as Mitopus morio.

WHITLINGHAM: September counts & new Shieldbug

7th September 2014

Today was the monthly wildfowl count day, so I headed down to Whitlingham. The day was overcast to begin with, and there was a rather eerie silence, broken only by the monotonous droning of Roesel's Bush Crickets. Given the recent arrival of Whinchats along the coast I double checked all of the fenceposts, without success (later I found out that there had been a Whinchat at Thorpe marsh on Saturday - a shame I didn't know at the time).

The highlight of the counts was a 1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull on the Great Broad with the Lesser Black-backs. A flock of 22 Tufted Ducks had joined the existing four, and a pair of Gadwall had either returned or re-emerged. A Kingfisher was visible on the end of the island, whilst I also heard one zip downriver. Whilst scanning I noticed that a number of Migrant Hawkers were flying around clumps of Flag Iris, and I managed to photograph one as it stalled in mid-air. Walking along the north shore I noticed several unusual Shieldbug. At home I was able to identify them as Brassica Shieldbugs, a new species for me and one that seems to have only recently spread as far north as Norfolk.

Migrant Hawker

Brassica Shieldbug

NORTH NORFOLK: Bugs & beetles

30th August 2014

Saturday saw me heading to Sheringham Park for the first of two NNNS wildlife workshops that I have booked onto this autumn. The subject of this one was beetles and bugs, and it was lead by our county bug recorder Rob Coleman and British Bugs webmaster Dr Tristan Bantock. After an introductory talk about the differences between beetles, bugs and the families that make them up we headed out to look for beetles. Initially we checked under log piles, finding a range of Carabids, including a relative of the Violet Ground Beetle. We followed this by checking a number of pitfall traps that had been set two days ago.

The large ground beetle species, Carabus problematicus

After releasing the beetles we headed to an area of wildflower meadow to practice using sweep-nets. Using this technique we caught several different bugs (and lots of spiders!). After a break for lunch we returned to the field, this time using beating trays to sample bugs from trees and shrubs. I teamed up with Tim Hodge, our best find being the planthopper Issus coleoptratus. Before returning to the classroom we targeted a Silver Birch for Birch Catkin Bugs, finding some larvae but no adults. After our surveying we then spent 45 minutes with some set specimens and microscopes to try out some dichotomous keys.

This was a very interesting day, and I picked up some useful information on identification, sampling techniques and literature.

NORWICH: City centre Willow Emeralds

29th August 2014

Earlier in the year I had been contacted by a reader who told me about some newts and terrapins at Cow Tower pond in Norwich. I went and saw the newts one day after work, but I didn't see the terrapins and as I no longer go that way regularly had rather forgotten about them. That was until yesterday, when Steve on BirdForum commented that he had seen them, and also Willow Emerald damselflies, a rapidly spreading species that was only seen in Norfolk for the first time about five years ago. Interested to see the Willow Emeralds in the city I called in after work and despite the windy conditions found one on a reed stem. Incidentally I still didn't see the terrapins (although I heard one plop into the pond from the vegetation). Has anyone managed to photograph them to ascertain the ID?

Willow Emerald - a welcome addition to the city centre odonata