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.

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


27th August 2014

This evening I joined members of the Norwich Bat Group for a walk around Whitlingham Great Broad. We met in the car park at eight, and after a brief talk we set off in a clockwise direction. In addition to the standard heterodyne bat detectors Sam (leading the walk) had an Anabat Recorder capable of making recordings, whilst two other members had detectors that plugged into iPads, allowing us to see real-time sonograms of the bats we were detecting. This technology was not only visually interesting, but also allowed the bat species to be identified with more certainty than using the standard detectors.

The first bat of the evening was a Noctule, Britain's largest bat. It is often easy to see Noctules at Whitlingham just after dusk, but this one only showed in brief glimpses as it hunted near the river. Our second bat showed much better, a Soprano Pipistrelle hunting under a Horse Chestnut tree on the riverbank. As we continued round we detected many more Soprano Pipistrelles and Noctules, and also a scattering of Common Pipistrelles

As we walked back along the south shore we stopped at regular intervals to look and listen for Daubenton's Bats hunting low over the water. We didn't find any, but we did find a scarcer species, Nathusius' Pipistrelle. This species is also associated with water, and up until recently was considered to be rather rare. Having detected one, we then found another when we were almost back to the car park. The light coming from the watersports centre and the city were enough to allow us to get good views of the bat as it flew close to us along the waters edge.

Nathusius' Pipistrelle is a new species for me, and my 7th bat (I have managed to see all seven at Whitlingham too). Norfolk has 12 regular bat species - of the remaining five there are two that I hope to see at some point, Barbastelle and Serotine. Leisler's Bat is mostly restricted to occasional sightings near Thetford Forest (although there is a record on the Norwich Bat Group website for Whitlingham), whilst Whiskered and Brandt's Bats are rare and very difficult to separate.

Thanks to Sam and the Norwich Bat Group for leading the walk and for helping me add another species to my patch list!

You can find out more about the Norwich Bat Group via their website: http://www.norwichbatgroup.co.uk/ and you may be interested in finding out what bats are present in your area by taking part in the Norfolk Bat Survey, details here: http://www.batsurvey.org/

YARE VALLEY: Great Green Bush Crickets & Willow Emeralds

24th August 2014

Today we took advantage of the sunny weather to look for another one of this years target species, Great Green Bush Cricket. This species is scarce in Norfolk, only being found in the Reedham area and an area close to the border with Suffolk in the Brecks. Great Green Bush Crickets can be easy to locate in the right areas because they make a loud stridulating sound a bit like a sowing machine, however despite their large size they can be hard to find when they stop making a noise. We had previously tried to find them in 2012, and had located several crickets without managing to see them. This time we tried the area near Petitts (animal adventure park) on the recommendation of Ben, and straight away I heard a Great Green Bush Cricket in a patch of brambles. After a few minutes of searching I found it and managed to get some photos before crawling deeper into the bush. Cathy & Margaret came over a short while later and it steadfastly refused to show again.

After the crickets we called in at Strumpshaw Fen, where I was hoping to photograph the Willow Emerald damselflies, as the first time I saw them here I had forgotten my camera. We walked around the back entrance to the reserve, stopping to scan into the ditch at regular intervals. It didn't take long to locate a Willow Emerald, which perched up within photographic range. However on our way back another visitor had found one on a dead thistle stem that allowed very close views, which was excellent. Strumpshaw was teaming with insects - we saw Short-winged Coneheads, loads of Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters, lots of Dock Bugs, Green Shieldbugs and a Snout (moth).

WHITLINGHAM: Thinking smaller

On my last visit to Whitlingham I was rather dispirited by the lack of birds, and was checking the vegetation in the hope of a new invertebrate to enliven the visit. I stopped at a patch of Burdock near the slipway and immediately noticed a ladybird. It was an Orange Ladybird, quite common around here. I kept looking, and found three 22-spot Ladybirds, also quite common. I was about to walk on when I noticed that many of the burdock leaves were a whitish colour. This was Burdock Mildew. I double-checked with the county fungus recorder in case there were other species of mildew growing on Burdock, but none have been recorded. Burdock Mildew is probably very common, but so few people are interested in mildews that this was only the fourth county record! Having finally sorted out my lists this was my 749th species at Whitlingham and my 1006th in the Norwich area.

Orange Ladybird
22-spot Ladybird
Burdock Mildew

MID-NORFOLK: Crayfish bonanza

14th August 2014

With only a few days holiday left, Cathy, Margaret & I went to Pensthorpe for a look round. Luckily we were on a covered trailer ride when the heaviest rain was falling, and after lunch the weather cleared up. We had a look around the wildfowl collection, but the highlight of the day came at the river, where we found loads of White-clawed Crayfish. The River Wensum is one of very few Norfolk rivers that still hold this species, and I had only previously seen one on a river survey for my Aquatic Ecology studies at UEA ten years ago. Having got our eye in they were easy to pick out as they lumbered along the bottom of the river.

Another highlight was a Clouded Yellow butterfly spotted by Cathy as it flew over an area of wildflowers. Unlike the ones we saw on Tuesday this one regularly stopped to nectar (mostly on Black Knapweed). Always fairly distant, I at least managed to get a record shot of it. On the bird front we got good views of a Coal Tit from the cafe and Goldcrests near the Red Squirrel enclosure. As we headed back I noticed a new hoverfly for me, Myathropa florea.

NORTH NORFOLK: Great Hautbois church

13th August 2014

A visit to North Walsham to see friends gave us an opportunity to call in to another picturesque ruin, this time Great Hautbois church. The church is unusual in that the majority of it is still standing but the roof is missing. The inside of the church is now grassed over, with headstones in too. The path down to it along a meadow was full of Speckled Wood butterflies, along with Brown & Migrant Hawkers. Back at the car I noticed some interesting galls on what I think is Salix, which I am still trying to identify.

NORTH NORFOLK: Creake Abbey & butterflies

12th August 2014

Today we headed out to North Norfolk to visit an English Heritage site, Creake Abbey. On wires nearby Swallows and House Martins were gathering, and a few Swifts were still around nearby. The abbey was nice, if rather small. The wildlife highlight was a Wall butterfly.

Wall butterfly and Pellitory-of-the-Wall, on a wall.

After visiting the abbey we had a look in the nearby courtyard cafe, but it looked a bit posh (12 Quail's eggs anyone?), so we headed to Titchwell for lunch. Afterwards we stopped briefly at Choseley where at least three Clouded Yellows were flying over a field of Lucerne and leguminous plants (a fodder crop maybe?). They didn't settle whilst we were there, but it was still nice to see them as I failed to see any in 2013 despite the influx.

WHITLINGHAM: August count & Egyptian goslings

8th August 2014

With inclement weather forecast for the weekend I decided to get this months wildfowl count done early. The rain was holding off, but it was humid and the smell of the sewage works lingered in the air. A Grey Heron was the pick of the birds on the Little Broad. Counting the birds near the slipway had been made more difficult by a visitor who had emptied a bin-bag worth of bread chunks out, whipping the ducks and swans into a frenzy. I doubt this applies to many readers of my blog, but if you do want to feed the ducks (and it is a good way of engaging young children with birds) then please use seed. The bread doesn't have much nutritional value for the birds, but makes them feel full so they end up malnourished - for example the Canada Geese currently at Whitlingham with 'angel wings'.

Carrying on around the broad two Common Terns, an adult and a juvenile, where on one of the platforms until they were scared off by a Cormorant. Large gulls were beginning to gather for a pre-roost bathe, but there was no sign of any scarcer species. Looking across to Thorpe Broad a pair of Oystercatchers were on the shingle spit. I scanned the river at regular intervals, hoping to see the ringed Cormorant, but it wasn't a great surprise not to see it as a number of boats had gone past. Back on the great broad four Tufted Ducks were the highlight in the conservation area bay. Just past the outdoor education centre a pair of Egyptian Geese had eight young goslings, which was nice to see.

In non avian sightings there were  couple of different Ichneumon wasps about, which I don't hold out much hope of identifying. More 22-spot Ladybirds were present, this time on a burdock plant. I did add a new species to my patch list, the common but unobtrusive plant Spear-leaved Orache.

Ichneumon Wasp sp.
Spear-leaved Orache