The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2015 is now available to download here. If you are interested in reports from previous years you can still download the 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 2015, which is available here.

WHITLINGHAM: South Yare Wildlife Group fungus foray report

25th September 2016

This morning the South Yare Wildlife Group held a fungus foray at Whitlingham Country Park. It was well attended, with a mixture of members and non-members of all ages. Anne Crotty, Neil Mahler & I were present to attempt to put names to the finds, and despite the recent dry weather we did find a range of specimens. This is an account of the walk - we took a few specimens away to look at microscopically so I shall post the full list for any participants to download once we have looked at those.

Having congregated in the car park we set off along Whitlingham Lane, stopping to look at our first fungus of the day, a Common Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum). A little bit further along some very blackened remains of a small bracket fungus were visible on a nearby log, almost certainly old specimens of Yellowing Curtain Crust (Stereum subtomentosum).

Common Earthball

We turned right onto the picnic meadow and followed the path around the edge. Neil saw the remains of an old Dryad's Saddle bracket (Polyporus squamosus), but deemed it not worth looking at. This is a common species at Whitlingham, although as it happened we didn't see another one on our walk round. Near a locked gate Anne spotted a Copper Spike fungus (Chroogomphus rutilus), a distinctive species associated with pine that neither of us had seen here before.

Copper Spike

We found quite a few specimens as we went round, much of the either Yellow Fieldcaps (Bolbitius titubans) at various stages, or Turf Mottlegills (Panaeolus fimicola). There were several other species that couldn't be identified in the field, including a Brittlestem (Psathyrella sp.), whilst a small grey-capped species nearby was probably Willow Shield (Pluteus salicilis), a species that grows with Willow but might have been associated with wood brought in from elsewhere for den building. Some earthballs covered in a pinky-orange mould were also of interest.


Willow Shield

Heading into the woodland edge we soon came across a Beech stump surrounded by fungi. The large brackets surrounding the base and on the top of the stump were Giant Polypore (Meripilus giganteus), whilst Turkeytail (Trametes versicolor) was growing on top, and Lumpy Bracket (Trametes gibbosa) was growing from the top and partway down. A fourth species, an easily overlooked black fungus called Brittle Cinder (Kretzschmaria deusta) was also growing on the stump.


Other species from this section of the walk included several Boletes, probably from the genus Xerocomus or Xerocomellus, that we couldn't identify to species. Dead Moll's Fingers (Xylaria longipes) and Dead Man's Fingers (Xylaria hypoxylon) were both seen, along with Small Stagshorn (Calocera cornea) and Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus). Several slime moulds were present, including Wolf's Milk (Lycogala terrestre) and Flowers of Tan (Fuligo septica). High up on a Beech tree some Ganoderma brackets were growing.

Small Stagshorn
 Wolf's Milk slime mould

Emerging from the woodland we looked out over the Great Broad, and whilst looking at the blue-green algae along the water edge Dan pointed out some Nuttall's Waterweed, a new species for me here. Under some Alders there was some large fungi that at first look appeared to be Brown Roll Rims. This species is however associated with birch, so it is likely that this is the closely related and fairly recently described Alder Roll Rim (Paxillus rubicundulus). This is a species I've never recorded before, so I hope to check the spore size and confirm this one.

 Alder Roll Rim (subject to checking the spore size)

We made one last detour, to a woodchip pile nearby where some Wrinkled Fieldcaps (Agrocybe rivulosa) were growing. This is a recent colonist to the UK, having only been recorded here since 2004, but it is now fairly widespread. We then headed back to the visitors centre for a cup of tea and to sort out who was going to look at a few of the trickier species we found. There was a bonus on the way back to the car when I spotted some Yellow Sorrel growing in the car park. There are several similar species so I'll need to go back and have another look to confirm which one it is, but I've not seen any of them here before.

Wrinkled Fieldcap

Thanks to Dan for arranging the walk, and to everyone who came. If you are interested in a complete list of our finds then please check back here later in the week, when we will have compiled the final list.

WHITLINGHAM: Fungus foray on Sunday

This Sunday the South Yare Wildlife Group are visiting Whitlingham for a fungus foray. Non-members are welcome (members are free, non-members £2). For full details, see the poster below.


WHITLINGHAM: September WeBS count

18th September 2016

Whilst I had been at Hickling looking at fungi there had been a very good passage of seabirds, so on Sunday morning I got up early and went to the coast hopeing to catch the tail end of it. As is often the case Sunday didn't match up to the previous day, with Arctic Skua, Great Skua and lots of Red-throated Divers the highlights. Eventually I gave up and headed home for lunch, before then heading to Whitlingham to carry out the WeBS count.

Selected counts (2015 totals in brackets) were:
Mute Swan 21(61)
Greylag Goose 10 (163)
Canada Goose 4(3)
Egyptian Goose 10 (4)
Mallard 74(63)
Gadwall 0 (1)
Tufted Duck 7 (3)
Pochard 2 (0)
Coot 97 (45)

There wasn't anything particularly unusual for the time of year, although both Mute Swan and Greylag numbers are well down on last year. Coot numbers jumped from 47 in August (similar to 2015 when 44) to 97. Last years October count was 103, so it will be interesting to see if this is just an early arrival or whether numbers will be higher this winter. Two Buzzards were seen over the thin strip of woodland between the lime tree avenue and the ski slope.

Despite keeping my head down and concentrating on birds I did add three patch species, Marsh Cudweed (which seems to be having a good year, I've seen lots of it elsewhere), the hoverfly Rhingia campestris and a powdery mildew on Water Mint. Parent Bug and 22-spot Ladybirds were also noted. Once again several people thought my telescope was a camera - this happens on every count and I'm becoming very weary - if you don't know the difference between them please google it and pass on the knowledge.

 22-spot ladybirds (they feed on mildew)
 Marsh Cudweed
Parent Bug

BROADS: Hickling fungus foray

17th September 2016

Saturday turned out to be a great day to be seawatching, but as often happens in autumn, I already had plans. I headed to Hickling Broad, where along with seven other members of the Norfolk Fungus Study Group we had arranged to be taken by boat across to the south of the reserve to survey some of the areas usually off limits. Meeting in the main car park, we transferred into two cars then headed to the boathouse at Whiteslea Lodge. As we got out of the cars I found some Alder Tongues - the second time I've seen them in the past few weeks having never seen any previously.

Donning life jackets we got on the boat and were whisked across to the staith near Rush Hills (ee could have walked from Potter Heigham, but this way was more time efficient). From here we crossed into the tower hide woodland, pausing on the way to look at some weird ridged jelly-like blobs. We figured that they were eggs of something, but had no idea what. Tony Irwin has since identified them as the eggs of a Caddisfly.

Mycologists on a boat (photo: Neil Mahler)

To begin with we weren't finding many larger fungi, but a large patch of Leopard Earthballs were of interest. Better was to come, with two new species for me - some small white spindles growing from a dead fly (the exact species still to be determined) and some Parasitic Boletes, growing up from the mycelium of Common Earthballs.




Walking along the edge of a ditch we saw more Parasitic Boletes, along with lots of Crested Coral. Some red-capped boletes with bright yellow pores were probably Ruby Boletes, subject to checking. Emerging out of the woods and into a paddock we indulged in the glamorous work of checking the animal dung for fungi. There were several smaller species, but also the impressive Snowy Ink Cap.




Exiting the field we stopped for lunch, and I found a branch covered in one of the toothed crusts - probably Radulomyces molaris. I noticed a Common Darter resting on the fence, even more obliging than usual. 



On our way back to the boat Neil found two False Ladybird beetles, another new species for me. As we rejoined the main path a Knot Grass caterpillar was on some vegetation, and after getting the boat back we found another interesting caterpillar, this time a Reed Dagger. Before heading back to the car park we saw two interesting plants, the non-native Buttonweed and the rare broadland speciality Holly-leaved Naiad.




Before leaving we had a quick look in an area of reeds, mostly for Reed Bonnets. We didn't find this particular species, but did find another interesting one, some fuzzy white growths froma dead spider. I checked Milk Parsley leaves for late Swallowtail caterpillars, and in doing so noticed a leaf miner in several plants. Subject to confirmation this is quite a rare fly, only described in 1985, and only recorded on NBN from two 10km squares nationally! Before heading home we had a look at a specimen of Black Tooth, a first for Norfolk found by Anne Crotty.



WHITLINGHAM: Clouded Yellow search

11th September 2016

During the afternoon Ben Lewis had seen a Clouded Yellow butterfly at Whitlingham, so I headed down early evening just in case it was still around. Despite the warmth the shadows were beginning to fall, and there were very few butterflies of any colour. I spent some time watching a Robberfly (a female Kite-tailed Robberfly I think) some Lasioglossum bees on Canadian Goldenrod. 



With the South Yare Wildlife Group fungus foray coming up at the end of the month I also had a quick look for some fungi. The dry conditions meant there wasn't much about, but the Giant Polypore was impressive as ever.





THORPE MARSH: Knotgrass mildew & cattle removal

5th September 2016

Whilst at work I received a text telling me about a Ringed Plover at Thorpe Marsh. Not a species I've seen here before, so despite suspecting that it would have moved on, I headed down there after work for a quick look. There was no sign of it - a good look at the shingle edging produced one bouncing Common Sandpiper and that was it for waders. On the broad were four Tufted Ducks (possibly a female and three grown young), accompanied by a female Pochard.



The only other thing of note were several Hairy Shieldbug nymphs and a large patch of mildew-infested Knotgrass. I suspect the mildew will be Erysiphe polygoni, but I have sent a few leaves off to Oliver Ellingham's powdery mildew survey to confirm it. On a sad note there was a sign up saying that the cattle have been removed from the marsh as a calf was killed after being attacked by a dog. It should go without saying that if you are out with a dog around wildlife or livestock, please keep it under control.



NORWICH: UEA Wheatear

4th September 2016

On Sunday morning I noticed on Twitter that Nick Watmough had found a Wheatear at UEA. Having not seen one in the Norwich area I decided to go and have a look, and headed down after lunch. There had been no reports either way since it was first seen, around 8, so I wasn't particularly optimistic as the area is popular with walkers. I had drawn level with Suffolk Terrace when I spotted Drew watching something close by. Looking past him I saw the Wheatear on a small grassy mound. It was quite active, running along the ground then flying up onto the building.


Having got some good views (and not wanting to be staring through peoples' windows with binoculars!) I left the Wheatear and decided to walk back around the broad. I spent a bit of time looking for insects on Ragwort, and spotted a Roesel's Bush-cricket. At the end of the broad I checked for terrapins, and noticed that the yellow water-lilies were actually Fringed Water-lily, which clearly I had seen here before but not recorded. Further round there was a fallen willow with lots of Chicken-of-the-woods growing on it. Before leaving I checked the horse paddocks near Bluebell Road, but there weren't any migrant about.



BROADLAND: Calthorpe fungus foray

3rd September 2016

The first fungus foray of the autumn for the Norfolk Fungus Study Group was held at Calthorpe Broad, a national nature reserve that is usually off-limits to the public. Parking was limited, so we convened at Hickling and transferred into two cars for the final bit of the journey. As we walked along the track to the nature reserve we noticed lots of Marsh Cudweed and several Sericomyia silentis hoverflies, which seem to be doing well at the moment.

We had been warned that the site can be very wet, but in part due to the recent dry weather it wasn't too bad at all. We started in a wooded area, and soon found a couple of Russulas and some Tawny Grisettes. Burnt areas have their own fungal flora, and one here had lots of cup fungi growing on it, including Charcoal Cup (Peziza echinospora). Nearby was an unusual looking rush, which I identified at home as the viviparous form of Bulbous Rush. We also noted a couple of Sausage Ground Beetles near some decaying wood.


Charcoal Cup

Taking another path we headed through a birch clearing, which didn't have much fungi but did hold several Common Groundhoppers. Several people waded into a ditch to look for some of the specialist species that grow on reed stems, and the small Mycena bulbosa was found growing on Purple Small-reed. There was large stands of Royal Fern and a few insects were found nearby, including my first Golden-haired Robberfly.


We stopped for lunch before heading further onto the reserve. In an area of Alder carr we saw my first Cinnamon Bracket and some small Milkcaps growing under Alder. A Kingfisher flew past us and lots of Ruddy Darters were seen. It began to rain lightly, and several of us had other plans for the afternoon, so we split in two, with several members staying to foray further and the rest of us heading back. It was interesting to get a look at this site, and hopefully once the determinations are done it will turn out that there were a few more new species from the visit.


WHITLINGHAM: Late summer insects

1st September 2016

I headed down to Whitlingham for an hour after work on Thursday, but with few birds about I ended up going as far as the island then looping back around the picnic meadow. A Holly Blue was of interest, as like Small Copper I tend to see them less than annually here. I noticed some leaf spots on the lime and went to have a look, and in doing so also found a soldier fly resting on one of them.


Twin-spotted Centurion and Mycosphaerella microsora leaf-spots on lime

Other interesting sightings on the meadow included a Robber fly with prey (not identified to species yet, hopefully I'll sort that out later) and a Common Darter on a dead umbellifer.

 Robber fly sp.

KENT: Excellent Dungeness cricket trip

30th August 2016

Near the start of the year I put together a list of target species for 2016, and I wanted to include a grasshopper or bush-cricket. Having seen all of the regular Norfolk species I opted for one of the Suffolk ones, Woodland Grasshopper or Grey Bush-cricket as the next closest ones to look for. When discussing my list with James Lowen, he mentioned that in August he planned to go down to Dungeness to see colonies of Sickle-bearing Bush-crickets and Tree Crickets, both recent arrivals in the UK, and I would be welcome to join him. The chance to see these interesting species and visit Dungeness, a site I'd not been to before, were both good reasons for going, but there was a third reason - a trip there had been heartily recommended to me by popular 2000s guitar band Athlete*

Fast-forward seven months or so and the crickets had emerged, so it was then a case of finding an evening that James, Will Soar and myself could all go to Dungeness. We finally found one, and James used his extensive contacts to ensure that the warden of the bird observatory would be around to show us where to look. The three of us, along with UEA's Phil Saunders, headed down into Kent and arrived at Dungeness with a couple of hours until sunset. My initial impressions were akin to arriving on a wild-west film set, with the vast plain of partially vegetated shingle sparsely decorated with slightly ramshackle houses and a narrow-gauge railway line. The power station and thin lighthouses dominated the skyline.

When we arrived at Dungeness Bird Observatory we met Dave, the warden, and enquired about some moths that had been left in the fridge from the previous evening for us by Marcus, another friend of James's. The best of these was a Rest Harrow, but the micros were also scarce, including Evergestis limbata. It soon became apparent that a lot of the wildlife here was either rare or at least significantly different to Norfolk. We inspected the area that the moth traps had been near, and most of the moths were either new or of interest, including a couple of new grass veneers, Grass Emerald, Mullein Wave and Toadflax Pug.



There was a risk that we could have stayed around the observatory for ages, so Dave hurried us along so that we could see the crickets in daylight. On our way out we stopped to scan the post line, which was occupied by lots of Wheatears. Having been taken to the relatively small area occupied by the crickets we soon began to find our quarry. We found several bright green Sickle-bearing Bush-crickets, and lots of Tree Crickets, including a mating pair. There were also two more bonus species, Lesser Cockroach (my first native species of Cockroach) and also a Grey Bush-cricket, which briefly hopped on to an old bit of tin.





One of the most interesting things about them, and the way the Tree Crickets were first found, is by the noise they make at night. We decided to head across the reserve to the pub, stopping occasionally to look at other stuff, like the parasitic plant Dodder growing on Broom. At the Pilot we ordered fish and chips and a pint whilst darkness fell. A bonus bird here was a Curlew Sandpiper that flew over calling.


Torches out we returned to the wilderness between the pub and the obs, and as we approached we began to hear the Tree Crickets. It is a difficult noise to describe, but sounds a bit like an electronic bleeping car alarm. In chorus I thought there was a dash of Nightjar churr to it too. I didn't manage to get any video of it (the microphone on my camera didn't pick it up), but if you have five minute I heartily recommend this clip from the One Show, where George McGavin went to Dungeness to see the Tree Crickets.

The stridulating Tree Crickets were much harder to find than they had been during the day, but eventually we did see a few. We returned to the observatory, but on the way stopped at a row of wooden posts where we searched successfully for a scarce metallic blue beetle (Helops caeruleus) that lives here.


The moth traps had been left on for us, and there was a bit of exceitement when I noticed a shiny macro with a white streak down it. We caught it, but it turned out to be a Gold Spot, with one side 'normal' and one with a streak instead of spots. Not too many moths had arrived, but there were still some new ones for me, including Galium Carpet and Frosted Orange (I have no idea why I haven't seen the latter in Norfolk yet). There was another orthopteran bonus for us too, in the form of a Southern Oak Bush Cricket, which got away before being photographed. Aware that we should probably let Dave get some sleep, we returned to Norwich, getting back just after 2am.


Many thanks of course to James Lowen for organising the trip and to Dave Walker for his hospitality at Dungeness Bird Observatory. My photos don't really do the insects justice, so if you are interested I recommend you check out James's blog for some better ones here.


* In my uni days (and for a number of years afterwards) I was a bit of an indie scenester, attending lots of gigs and getting there early to see the support bands. One of my first gigs was Electric Soft Parade at the Waterfront, and Athlete were a support band, who had just released their first EP. They went down well with the crowd, playing a number of songs with rather similar melodies but different, catchy choruses. One of these songs was called "Dungeness", and the chorus, repeated over and over again was "Let's go-to-Dun-ge-nessss" I've remembered it ever since.