The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2016 is now available to download here.

The previous reports are also availble: 2015 here,
2014 report here and the 2013 report here. Thanks to everyone who has contributed sightings, information and photos to these reports.

You may also be interested in Chris Durdin's Thorpe Marsh Wildlife Report for 2016, which is available here.

WHITLINGHAM: January wildfowl count

14th January 2017

With a spell of cold weather, including actual snow, combined with strong winds at the coast, I was optimistic that the WeBS count this weekend would turn up something good, like a Smew or rare grebe. The weather forecast for Sunday was rain, so I opted to get the count done on Saturday afternoon.

Turning off onto Whitlingham Lane I noticed that Trowse Meadow was completed flooded, the worst I had ever seen it. I thought that I’d check it for waders if I got time, but in the end it was after sunset by the time I had finished at Whitlingham. Donning wellies just to be on the safe side (they weren’t actually needed in the end) I headed back along Whitlingham Lane, counting the flock of Greylag Geese on the meadow (these don’t go on the main WeBS count, but I do put them on mine).

There was a scattering of birds on the Little Broad, the best of which was a Kingfisher seen a couple of times. Moving across to the Great Broad the Coot and ducks looked well spread out over the broad, so I set about counting them in groups. Whilst on the slipway a Mute Swan decided I must have food and ran at me. Once it got to me it wasn’t aggressive, but it did decided to try to eat the bottom of my boots, the top of my boots, and then try to get its head in my bag.

Once the swan realised that it couldn’t find any food, it decided to just wait beside me. I had just finished counting the ducks on the far shore, when a boy came up to me and asked if I was using my telescope to look at the ducks. I was so pleased that someone knew that it was a telescope and not a camera that I wanted to do one of those jumps on the spot where you click your heals to the side, but resisted the urge on account of the lack of gymnastic ability, the fact it would have looked really weird and also that I would have probably ended up kicking my Swanny friend in the head. I lowered it down and let him have a look through, and when his family came over it turned out that his dad was Martin Rejzek, formerly the Longhorn Beetle recording scheme coordinator who has lived in Norwich for many years now.

After chatting to Martin I carried on, thinking that duck numbers actually looked quite low, only to find that about 180 Tufted Duck and associated hangers-on were at the far end of the broad. The Pochard x Ferruginous Duck was also still present, as were all 11 Little Grebes that arrived several months ago.

Key combined counts across Whitlingham and Thorpe were:

  • Tufted Duck 391 (2016: 175, 2015: 220)
  • Pochard 26 (2016: 70, 2015: 80)
  • Gadwall 240 (2016: 213, 2015: 209)
  • Shoveler 8 (2016: 20, 2015: 8)
  • Coot 336 (2016: 205, 2015: 232)

Thorpe Broad had a scattering of ducks and a flock of loafing gulls, mostly Herring Gulls. Six Shoveler were present, which were of note for the site. The river level was very high, almost right up to the riverside footpath. By now the light was beginning to fade, so after a quick check of the conservation area bay, where 40-odd Cormorants were already roosting, I headed back. A flock of around 35 Greenfinches were flying around their roost trees, but there was no sign of any Water Rails along the shore of the Little Broad.

Wildlife Targets 2017

As in the past few years, I have come up with a list of target species that I would like to see in 2017. I’ve found that this is a good way of making sure that I visit some new places, and of course it hopefully means seeing some new and interesting wildlife in Norfolk and beyond. This year the list is mainly a combination of of species I have attempted to see previously and failed, and of species that others have seen recently and I’ve liked the look of. As always if you can help with sites or information regarding species where my information is vague then please get in touch (I can be contacted via email, blog comments, Twitter, BirdForum, Facebook etc). 

 Please also note that I don’t blog about every trip I make – if you are happy to suggest a site but want it to remain anonymous or unmentioned online then I am happy to respect this. 

1) Having not got round to re-visiting the Paston area in 2016 I’ve still not seen Barbastelle bat, nor several other Norfolk species (Serotine, Leislers or Whiskered/Brandts), so target number is to see a new species of bat in 2017 

2) I saw Edible Frogs in 2016 (in the grounds of Mannington Hall) so this year I hope to see some Marsh Frogs in Norfolk, which I have unsuccessfully searched for previously in the Tas valley. 

3) Starlet Sea Anemone – this sea anemone famously used to be present in a coastal pool at Cley, but I never saw it there. I believe that some were successfully translocated to other coastal pools, and saw a photo of one taken in 2016, but I don’t know exactly where it was taken. 

4) Black Hairstreak and 5) Wood White – Two potentially new butterfly species found in the East Midlands. Following our successful Purple Emperor trip in 2016, Cathy & I have arranged to go looking for these in June with Carl Chapman. 
6) Brown Hairstreak – There is a colony in Lincolnshire, but with several also recently found near Ipswich I will try to make time to see them this year. 

7) Red-barred Gold moth (Micropterix tunbergella) – Moths are rather hard to target because I am largely dependent on organised moth events to see species at specialist locations, however this is a day-flying species. It is moth number 001 in the moth numbering system, and also the only one of the four members of this family that I haven’t seen in Norfolk. I believe it has been seen at Beeston Common and Strumpshaw in recent years, but would welcome any tips on how to find it. 
8) Currant Clearwing moth – having now seen three Clearwing moth species (plus Hornet moth), I would like to see what is meant to be the commonest member of the family. It has been found on allotmens around Norwich, although not having an allotment I may have to go to a pick-your-own farm to search (or buy James Lowen some currant bushes for his garden!) 

I’d also like to see some Breckland moths, as I’ve not been involved in any trapping there. There were Butterfly Conservation events at Lynford and East Harling in 2016, but both mid-week.

Dragonflies &damselflies 
No specific targets this year, although I would very much like to see Scarce Blue-tailed damselflies in Norfolk. In recent years a small population established itself on private land in East Norfolk – if this colony expands into public areas or if access becomes possible I would like to know! 

9) My fledgeling hoverfly list currently sits around the 45 mark, so rather than target any one particular species, I would like to see at least another five species of hoverfly (preferrably many more!) 

Bees & wasps  
10) Sea Aster Bee – present along the edge of the saltmarsh in North Norfolk. I was kindly given some directions last year but didn’t have time to go and have a look. 
11) Fen Mason Wasp – Something of a Broadland speciality, I’ve never seen any of this family. 

12) Dune Tiger Beetle – Present along the edge of the dunes at Titchwell, I was thwarted by bad weather when there in 2016. 

13) Violet Helleborine – Grows in several ancient woods in south Suffolk, I may try to combine this with looking for Brown Hairstreaks. Time permitting I also hope to go to Kent in May with dad to look for orchids – depending on flowering times there are about eight possible species I’ve never seen before! 

Other plants 
14) Yellow Bird’s-nest – I looked for this in 2016 and despite some directions failed to find it, so hopefully I’ll do better this year! 
15) Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem – Most of the species on the list can be seen in late spring or summer, so it is prudent to put on this early spring species, a rare flower found at Wayland Wood that grows in March. 
16) Breckland Speedwell – A visit to Thetford with Ian Senior meant I finally saw Fingered Speedwell in 2016, but we were too early to see this species that grows alongside it. More Breckland plants would be nice – I still have yet to see either Knawel, Early Speedwell etc. I was also unable to attend a plant walk at Weeting Heath to see the specialties there, so I hope that the Breckland NWT local group run a similar event this year (Stone Curlews permitting!) 
17) Marsh Gentian – I think I’ve seen the leaves of Marsh Gentian in an enclosure at Buxton Heath years ago, but I’ve not seen the flower itself. 
18) May Lily – After years of wanting to go to Swanton Novers woods I finally did last year, and found out the the May Lilies there had died out. I know there is a second colony in North Norfolk, but I searched unsuccessfully for it last year so I would appreciate directions if any readers have been to see them. 
19) Round-leaved Fluellen – A rare arable weed.Note that I originally wrote Sharp-leaved Fluellen, but I have seen that.

20) Magpie Inkcap – I’ve wanted to see this fungus for years. It was seen at Sheringham Park this year, so I will search for it there, although alternate sites or directions would be welcome. 

NORTH NORFOLK: A January bird race

7th January 2017 

On Saturday Cathy & I joined Gary and Alysia for an early-January bird race day. We departed from Norwich at about 05:50, and arrived at Titchwell at 07:00, still in darkness. As we walked carefully down the main path we saw our first birds of the year, Woodpigeons roosting near the café. A Robin ran along the path and was confirmed after some squinting through binoculars. 

We made our way to the Parrinder Hide and settled in to wait for the light to improve. The most obvious birds were those that were large, close, noisy or pale-coloured, which accounted for things like Greylag, Teal and Shelduck. We were surprised by the large numbers of Goldeneye, and also saw a few Pintail further back. In terms of waders there was a Knot, some Ruff, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit, whilst some Curlew flew over. Starlings began to leave their roost amongst the reeds, and a Marsh Harrier flew into view. 

Once the light was good enough to confirm that we had seen as much as possible we checked the mud on the other side, adding Grey Plover and Redshank. Walking down the path to the tidal area of marsh we got close views of some Little Grebes, plus a Spotted Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwit. Cathy pointed out a Water Rail, which worked its way aloing the edge of a muddy island before swimming to the near bank. 

The tide was out, so we walked towards the shoreline, stopping to watch a Glaucous Gull flying west towards Thornham. A moribund Pink-footed Goose was a sad sight, but enabled us to get a close up view of the serated mandibles – not far off those toothed birds that used to be on Rhubard & Custard. There were lots of Oystercatchers and Brent Geese about, with Sanderlings, Turnstones and Ringed Plovers thrown in. The seaduck numbers off Titchwell have been impressive this winter, and we were not disappointed here. Several flocks of Long-tailed Ducks were present, including one close flock, plus lots of Common Scoters, a scattering of Velvet Scoter, an Eider and a few Red-breasted Mergansers. It was too foggy to see to the horizon, but we did manage to see a Red-throated Diver going eastwards. 

Heading back towards the meadow trail Alysia noticed a Stonechat on some fenceposts and Cathy found a Cetti’s Warbler working its way along the base of some reeds. After hearing them earlier we saw Reed Buntings and Snipe, and Gary picked out a Water Pipit on the drained pool to the west of the path. Patsys Pool held Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Coot, and a female Bullfinch showed nearby. We stopped at the feeders to look for some passerines, the highlights of which were Brambling, Greenfinch and Lesser Redpoll, Gary hearing the latter fly into the tops of the trees, where they showed briefly before flying across towards the car park. A Feral Pigeon was the last bird before we left, having seen a respectable 70 species. 

Next up was a trip to Thornham harbour, where a group of birders were watching the Twite flock. About 25 birds were present and showing quite close, before flying up to the coal barn. We also saw a Rock Pipit before heading off to have a look around the Choseley area. There wasn’t much around the barns except Red-legged Partridges, but we did see a Yellowhammer and Stock Dove at a farm nearby. Further along the coast we stopped for another scan, and I spotted my highlight of the day, a hunting Short-eared Owl. It worked its way back and forth over some rough grass, before dropping down on some prey. It immediately lowered its wings over it in a threat posture, which seemed an over-reaction up until the point a Kestrel flew in and stole the prey. 

Next up were two stops to look over the coastal strip between Gun Hill and Holkham. Egyptian Geese and Grey Partridges were close by, whilst four Lapland Buntings flew over heading towards the dunes. A Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush called from hedgerows, and a flock of Golden Plover flew up. Closer to Holkham a Great White Egret showed from the neck up, whilst White-fronted Goose and Grey Heron were also added. We were short of woodland birds, so a walk in Holkham Park was in order, and Great-spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Treecreeper were duly noted. By now Cathy wasn’t feeling well, and it was already apparent that we would struggle to fulfill our intended route.

Next up was Salthouse, and after a walk out to Gramborough Hill we saw a flock of around 30 Snow Buntings, along with several Guillemots offshore. We had just arrived back at the car when the Wigeon near the roadside flew up. Gary said “Peregrine”, but for some reason we all ignored him, thinking it was just a sort of “a Peregrine might have put those up” sort of comment. A moment later he asked why none of us were watching the Peregrine that was powering through the flock, and luckily there was enough time for us to get on it before it flew west towards Cley. 

Along the coast we arrived at Sheringham, and set off to look for Purple Sandpipers. Unfortunately it was high tide and they were out of sight. We enjoyed watching the Turnstones, and added Pied Wagtail and House Sparrow, but by now there wasn’t much time or light left. On the way back we saw Red Kite, my 107th and final bird of the day.


I have finished compiling the 2016 Whitlingham Bird Report, and you can now download it here. Many thanks to everyone who either sent me records or put them on Twitter, BirdForum etc. I am also grateful to those birders who allowed me to use their photos - not only does it break up the text of the report but it also acts as supporting evidence for the scarcer species.

After a slow start 2016 turned out to be a good year locally for me - I saw 109 species, only one short of my highest total (missing a few relatively common species too), and pleasingly added four species to my Whitlingham area life list, as opposed to the usual one per year.


2nd January 2017 

I had to nip out to get some shopping, and decided to visit Whitlingham first. The Scaup had been reported from the south-eastern corner of the broad earlier in the day, so I decided to concentrate my time on the area east of the broad. After a bit of scanning I picked out the Scaup, looking a bit further along in moult than when I’d first found it (it now has a much reduced amount of white around the bill, plus a couple of pale areas on the back). Whilst waiting for it to resurface I noticed another Scaup! It took a moment to sink in, but this bird was clearly much further along, with a greenish tinge and over half the back now grey. It also had a big white patch on the flanks. 

At this point Gary walked up from the eastern end of the broad and asked what I was looking at. I said Scaup, but that there was two. He said that there must be, because he had been watching one at the east end. I hadn’t noticed any birds flying in from that part of the broad, and having showed him ‘my’ two, Gary said that the bird he had seen was at a different stage of moult to these ones, so there must have been three separate 1st-winter Scaup present! I didn’t have time to go and look for the third bird, but was quite happy with two. 

 I have put photos up of the two birds I saw – I would be interested to see any photos that people have taken of the Scaup at Whitlingham since Christmas to see whether either of the further along birds were present earlier but mistaken for the original bird. The most likely option would seem to be that the others arrived with the bad weather on 1st Jan or overnight. 

WHITLINGHAM: A rainy start to 2017

1st January 2017 

The first day of the year was a rainy one, which wasn’t very conducive to birding. Blue Tit was my first bird of the year, seen from the window of our friends in Badersfield where we had stayed the night. We saw another ten species before arriving home, the best of which was a Jay. Despite the weather I wanted to get down to Whitlingham for a look around, and as expected we picked up a range of common wildfowl. I looked for the Scaup without success, but given the combination of rain-lashed glasses and optics and spread-out ducks, that didn’t come as a great surprise. A metal-ringed Black-headed Gull was on the jetty, but reading it proved impossible. So a low-key start to the Whitlingham year, with 26 species noted before heading off. 

NORTH NORFOLK: Holme & Titchwell fungi

28th December 2016 

After my successful pre-Christmas jaunt to see Poronia punctata at Holt, I hoped to see the related species Poronia erici at Holme before going back to work after the Christmas break. Poronia erici is a rare, tiny species that grows on rabbit dung, making it particularly hard to find, even where it does occur. I had heard that it had been seen this winter, so thought it worth a go. 

We woke to a hard frost, given the estate a rather belatedly Christmassy feel, but by the time we came to leave the ice had melted and been replaced by a dense fog. At the back of my mind was the risk that the hunt for rabbit pellets could descend into a foggy farce, but confident that it would be clearer at the coast we carried on. By the time we reached Brancaster there was no trace of the fog. At Holme we drove carefully down the bumpy track (we later saw Rob attending to the thankless task of patching up some of the potholes) and parked up at the end. The hut, visitors centre and café were all shut, although there were few cars so they weren’t missing out. In contrast the coast footpath was busy, albeit with some rather well-dressed walkers. 

We walked along the edge of the pines, stopping briefly to look at some Collared Earthstars. Reaching the area where the Poronia had been seen a few years ago we set about checking the rabbit pellets, and immediately found a problem. The grassy areas were still frosted over, creating a threefold problem – many of the pellets were frozen to the ground, some were covered in ice and the white ice grains meant much more checking than in normal conditions. Cathy found an interesting small brown circle that could have been an old fruiting body, but having never seen pictures of anything other than pristine ones I couldn’t be sure. I’ve got used to getting funny looks from passers-by over the years, but Cathy was drawing funny looks as she turned rabbit droppings over with a stick, so after having a look at some Scaly Stalkballs we took that as a sign to cut our losses and head for Titchwell and a warm drink. 

 Collared Earthstar
 Bit of different-coloured vegetation or possibly old Poronia fruiting body
 Ear Pick fungus
 Scaly Stalkball

We didn’t spend long at Titchwell, but there was quite a bit of fungi on the path between the car park and the café, in particular a sizeable clump of Candlesnuff Fungus, a newly emerging Common Inkcap and some very early Scarlet Elf Cups. We then drove home through some of the worst fog I've had to drive through, which wasn't very pleasant.

NORTH NORFOLK: Pony poo and geese

21st December 2016 

Having dropped Cathy off in the city, I had a few hours to spare. I decided to head to Holt Lowes, where Andy Musgrove had recently seen Poronia punctata, a scarce nail fungus sp. that grows on pony dung. I had previously looked for this species unsuccessfully at Roydon Common and equally unsuccessfully for the related species Poronia erici on rabbit droppings at Holme Dunes. Whilst there is no shortage of horse dung in Norfolk, the medication given to horses tend to kill off many of the fungi that may otherwise grow, so this species only occurs where the wilder breeds of pony are used for conservation grazing. 

After heading out on to the heathland I had located some pony dung, but no nail fungus. Eventually I found some covered in small toadstools, probably Conocybe sp. Clearly this was a good age for fungal fruiting, and so it proved to be, with my first Poronia fruiting body. It hadn’t got as large as some of the ones that Andy had seen, but there we are. I considered whether to spend more time looking, but at the back of my mind there was a desire to go and look for the Todd’s Canada Goose* near Docking, which Gary had kindly texted me to say had been seen again this morning. In the end the goose won, and I headed back to the car. 

I headed past Holt and Fakenham before turning off to Docking. Out on the road to Brancaster I saw a couple of cars pulled over, so parked nearby and went to join them. There was a large flock of Pink-footed Geese, with many more behind them in fields further over, but upon scanning them I couldn’t see the Todd’s Canada Goose. The birders already present confirmed as much, several White-fronted Geese but nothing else so far. I waited whilst another large flock arrived, bringing with it several Barnacle Geese. A newly arrived birder then told us he had seen the Canada Goose in a field from the next road over, so I decided to head round that way in the hope it was still present. And it was! I was able to pull off the road and ‘scope the flock from the car, picking out the Todd’s Canada Goose without much trouble. Full of festive cheer I drove back to Norwich, arriving just in time to pick Cathy up from the city. 

* Todd’s Canada Goose is the vernacular name for Canada Geese of the subspecies ‘interior’. There are a number of subspecies of Canada Goose, of which the smaller ones now form part of a separate species, Cackling Goose – BirdGuides did a useful article on which subspecies are ascribed to which parent species. Subspecies of both Canada Goose and Cackling Goose occasionally arrive in Norfolk with wild goose flocks, and as such are ‘category A’ birds rather than the resident feral flocks, which are on category C of the British list.

WHITLINGHAM: December wildfowl count & Scaup

18th December 2016 

Justin had texted me on Saturday to wish me good luck with the final WeBS count of the year, a reference to the heavy fog that would have made counting the far edges impossible. Fortunately for me, Sunday was clear and there were no issues with the count. That said, with handover of our rented house looming and Cathy’s sister visiting from Germany, I had set myself a two-hour limit to get the count completed in. 

The Little Broad was still tricky to view because of the vegetation that has grown up around it, but it didn’t seem as busy as it has on previous occasions, 50 Gadwall being the only count of note. Moving to the Great Broad it was immediately obvious where most of the birds were! Huge numbers of Tufted Ducks and Coot in particular were spread out over the whole broad. Scanning from the west end I was mid-way through counting Tufted Ducks when I spotted a female duck that had more white on around the bill than the rest of the Tufties. A closer look revealed that the white didn’t quite meet in the middle above the bill, so when I went round and looked from a different angle the seed of doubt had been put in my mind. Side-on it looked good for Scaup, but didn’t seem noticeably larger than the Tufted Ducks in front of it. Knowing that I had a big job on to count everything I digiscoped some shots, recorded it as Scaup-like Aythya sp and carried on. At my in-laws I uploaded a photo to Twitter to ask hybird guru Dave Appleton his opinion, and having reviewed my photos and seen feedback from others it was clear that the bird was a ‘pure’ Scaup, presumably a first-winter, hence the brown centre above the bill. So a bit of a cock-up, but a reminder that this was only my third Scaup here in 10 years and fortunately it was still present by the time news went out. 

I carried on around the broad, tallying up the ducks. I don’t actually add up the final number until I get home, so whilst I knew it would be a big number (I had to go onto the next page for both Tufted Ducks and Coot), I hadn’t realised that the Tufted Duck count actually appears to be a new high count for Whitlingham – 384 birds, whilst the 371 Coot is the highest since 2010 as far as I know. It is interesting that despite the winter not being a harsh one, several species are present in markedly higher numbers than in 2015. 

December comparison figures below (2015 in brackets)
  • Gadwall 252 (106) 
  • Pochard 31 (48) 
  • Tufted Duck 384 (198) 
  • Coot 371 (261) 
Other birds of note included a drake Wigeon in the conservation area bay but only visible from the south shore, and the female Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid.

WEST NORFOLK: Last fungus foray of the year

17th December 2016 

A mixture of packing, decorating, moving house and cleaning meant that I had little time for nature-related activities during late November and early December, but by mid month things had settled down. Unfortunately there have been delays in sorting out internet access to our new house, so I’m taking the opportunity to chronicle my pre-Christmas trips in a multi-post extravaganza. 

On Saturday I was invited to lunch at Sandringham, albeit at the country park café rather than the royal house. The purpose was mainly to plan next years Fungus Study Group programme, but also to have a short foray beforehand. I set out early, partly because of the dense fog, but also because I wanted to make a diversion in west Norfolk to a site where I had been told that the recently named earthstar Geastrum britannicum grows. This species had been recorded in Norfolk for several years but thought to be merely a variety of Geastrum quadrificatum until morphological and genetic studies showed it to be a distinct species. You can read more about the discovery should you choose in the paper Geastrum britannicum – a surprisingly common new species in Britain, published in Field Mycology but available through ResearchGate. I managed to see it, which was pleasing as it had been one of my target species. Although unlikely, Earthstars have in the past been taken by collectors, so I’m not naming the site on here lest you wonder about my vagueness around the location. 

Setting off back into the fog I arrived at Sandringham, and it became clear that there was a good turnout (12 people). It also became obvious that despite our scepticism about the amount of fungi at the time of year, there was lots about – we could have easily kept going for longer than the 90 minutes we had before our meal was booked. Without seeing the final species list I know that I saw at least five new species, including the Mycena adonis var coccinea, coral Ramaria decurrens, Blue-leg Brownie and a white ‘snow-ice’ like species. I found a spikey mould growing from bird poo that Tony later confirmed as a third for Norfolk, the first two records being from Ted Ellis in the 1950s! Other commoner but interesting species were Collared Earthstar, Sessile Earthstar, Common Bird’s-nest and Pipe Club. 

We had a nice lunch and managed to come up with a draft programme for next year that covered the different corners of Norfolk and a mixture of well and lesser-known sites. Thanks must go to Steve and Yvonne for their organising of the Norfolk Fungus Study Group activities, the forays this year have been excelllent. Incidentally one of the species from this foray is provisionally my 600th fungus species – provisional because taxonomic shuffling means that undoubtedly some of the species on my list can now only be regarded as senus lato (‘in the broadest sense’) when they have been split afterwards.

WHITLINGHAM: Pochard x Ferruginous Duck

26th November 2016

A lovely bright morning, so I nipped down to Whitlingham for a quick walk along the southern shore of the Great Broad. Arriving in the middle car park I could immediately hear Siskins, and there was a large flock of them in the willows and Alders between here and the Little Broad. Moving along I heard a Mistle Thrush singing, followed by several others calling. There were a few Black-headed Gulls on the slipway, but no ringed ones whilst I was there.

It was evident that both Coot and Tufted Duck numbers have built up nicely - I didn't have the time to attempt proper counts but at an estimate there was a minimum of 200 of each. There were still eleven Little Grebes, but they had split up, with two on the Little Broad, two near the observation screen and a group of seven in the bay. The Pochard x Ferruginous Duck was still present, accompanying the Pochard just west of the main island. A Brambling called from somewhere behind me. All too soon it was time to head back home.

CENTRAL NORFOLK: Fungi on the Lizard

19th November 2016

My weekends are currently being mostly spent decorating, but I did head out on Saturday morning to attend a fungus study group foray at The Lizard on the outskirts of Wymondham (not to be confused with the more scenic and wildlife-filled Lizard peninsula in Cornwall). As it was for the couple of hours I was there we spent most of the time in an area of pools and wet woodland alongside the A47, which I don't think is technically part of the Lizard, but I don't know if it has a 'proper' name.

A quick look along the lane leading to the parking area had turned up zero fungi, so as we met my expectations had been tuned down a notch. This was soon dismiseed however, as a short way in we found a clearing covered in Jellybabies (the fungus not the sweet). Wrinkled Club was also numerous, and several other species were seen including a new one for me, Scurfy Deceiver.

 Wrinkled Club - not usually as branched as this

Clambering over some wood we reached a pool, and found one species of Tricholoma to be particularly common. The combination of brownish scaly cap, a small ring and growing with Willows identified it as Girdled Knight, another new one, so the trip was already worth making.

Emerging into an open grassy area, we saw Silky Pinkgill and Galerina laevis, the latter confirmed at home by Yvonne. It had been a cold night previously, and out of the sun more Girdled Knights were covered in frost. Heading through some scrub Alex noticed some small Scaly Fibrecaps growing along the path edge, whilst Neil found a huge Earthball. Also in this area I found some Toad's Ear and a Hawthorn Shieldbug.

Scaly Fibercaps

We took a path into an area of thorny trees, and I was excited to see a large purple trumpet-like fungus, only to find that it was actually a very large and deformed Amethyst Deceiver. After looking at a few Mycena it was time for me to head off and do some painting, but I was buoyed by the knowledge that I'd seen at least five new species - quite a productive morning.

It was more purple in real life!

NORWICH: Waxwings

15th November 2016

In good Waxwing years I usually bump into some around the outskirts of Norwich, but given that there was a flock at Jenny Lind Park, about 10 minutes from the city centre, I decided to pop and have a look on my lunch break. Unfortunately it was raining when I went, but I definitely saw the silhouettes of at least 30 Waxwings perched up in trees in the park. Hopefully I'll get better views of some in the weeks to come.

WHITLINGHAM: November WeBS, Velvet Scoter & Brent Goose

13th November 2016

After a busy week I was looking forward to getting to Whitlingham to carry out the November WeBS count. The Velvet Scoter found mid-week was still present on Saturday at dusk, and various other winter birds had been seen in the past few days, including flyover Bewick's Swans, Goosander, Brambling and Redpoll.

I arrived early, aiming to maximise flyover bird potential and hopefully beat any boating activity. The Little Broad is rather grown up around the edges, so it took multiple viewpoints to count the Gadwall and Shoveler amassed at the western end. Whilst counting a Lesser Redpoll flew over, my first of the year here after a mild winter period. Whilst stood at the east end I met Steve and Jo, and a Siskin called in the distance as we had a brief chat before carrying on.

On the slipway I scanned the Black-headed Gulls to look for ringed ones (in addition to our Norwegian returner, a 'new' German-ringed bird was seen in the week). None of the gulls on the pontoon were ringed, so I turned back to the broad and began counting the Coot and Tufted Ducks. I got a text from Gary to say that he was further along the broad shore and there was still some Bramblings around. Before leaving the slipway Steve pointed out that a 1st-year swan was rather late in moulting. I agreed, then noticed it had a ring on. The swan was very tame, but if anything that hindered viewing it side on. The ring was on upside down, so I gave up trying to read it in the field and just photographed it instead.

I had to leave the shore of the broad temporarily as the model yachters had closed off a small section. I had just set up my telescope to make sure I hadn't missed anything when a small dark goose flew past heading westwards. I raised my binoculars and saw that it was a Brent Goose! Looking ahead I noticed that Steve and Jo hadn't seen it, but at that point the Brent swung round and headed back east. I called Gary, hoping he would see it flying past, only to find out that he had seen it on the Great Broad initially, before it had flown up. He had texted me but I hadn't noticed the beep. Steve & Jo did see it as it flew back (Steve kindly came running back pointing in case I hadn't noticed it), so we all got to see this rare inland bird. This is my second patch record, after the February 2012 bird found by Cathy & I.

Whitlingham Brent Goose - photo courtesy of Gary White

Further along I met up with Gary, and Rob & Jill Wilson overtook us looking for the Velvet Scoter. After counting another section of the broad we reached them, and scanning across towards the island we saw the Velvet Scoter, an excellent addition to the local WeBS list. In a flurry of activity we concentrated on some Brambling close by in Willow scrub (crazily my first here since 2008!). About five flew out, there were at least another five left, when two more large flocks flew up and combined. Gary counted around 90 in the combined super-flock, but whilst he was counting them I turned back and watched the Otter that had swam in front of the scoter! Unsurprisingly the Velvet Scoter flew off, but after a similar lap to the Brent Goose it headed to the east end of the broad and landed there.

Walking further along the Great Broad we drew up level with a big Aythya and Coot flock, which contained the Velvet Scoter. The sun was out and we got good views as it swam about, diving occasionally. I had plans for the afternoon, so I had to leave the scoter and carry on around the broad. There was very little on Thorpe Broad, but quite a few birds in the conservation area bay, including 40+ Teal and a group of 11 Little Grebes, my highest count here and quite impressive all together, bobbing around a swan.

With all this excitement the actual counts were something of a secondary consideration, but here are some of the main counts, compared against last year (brackets = Nov 2015):

Gadwall 112 (29) - Dec 2015 (106)
Mallard 64 (67)
Teal 45 (2) - Dec 2015 (42)
Tufted Duck 194 (141) - Dec 2015 (198)
Pochard 7 (18)
Great-crested Grebe 9 (4) - Dec 2015 (8)
Little Grebe 11 (0)
Cormorant 30 (65) - Dec 2015 (37)
Coot 254 (157) - Dec 2015 (264)
Black-headed Gull 96 (300)

With the exception of Mallards, the November counts seem completely different to the equivalent 2015 data. However, looking at the whole of last years data, six of the ten here actually have similar numbers to the December 2015 counts, so anecdotally it looks like winter has arrived one month earlier than last year!

WHITLINGHAM: Velvet Scoter on Great Broad

8th November 2016

This afternoon I received a phone call from Justin to tell me that he had found a Velvet Scoter at Whitlingham. Whilst Common Scoters turn up fairly regularly inland, Velvets are much less frequent away from the coast, and I'm not aware of any previous Whitlingham records. Unfortunately for me I was still at work, but once I had finished I was kindly allowed to go a bit early, and as a result I go to Whitlingham just after sunset. Luckily the Velvet Scoter was still present, and there was still enough light to see it just to the west of the island, swimming about and doing the distinctive diving action that they are known for. Hopefully it will still be present tomorrow to give more people the chance to see it.