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.

THORPE MARSH: Black-necked Grebe

4th February 2017

The news that a Black-necked Grebe had been found on the broad at Thorpe led to that familiar winter feeling of wishing there was more daylight in the evenings and hoping that it would stay until the weekend. Previous birds, and there haven't been very many, were short-staying, so I was pleased to find that it was still present on Saturday. As I headed towards Thorpe Marsh I was met by James Lowen, who along with several other local birders were also keen to see the grebe. We located it fairly quickly, although closer views were typically obscurred by the vegetation. After a while I went further round the path and enjoyed unobscurred although more distant views. This was only my second patch Black-necked Grebe, and my first since 2010. It then began to hail, so I completed a hasty lap before heading to Thorpe Green to check the gulls. The green-ringed Norwegian bird J6U2 was present, as was the local Muscovy. It continued to rain, so I decided against staying out any longer and headed home.

 Out in the open for a few seconds before diving
 Trying to spend most of that time facing away
Typical views, complete with vegetation in front
 Fast moving colour-ringed Black-headed Gull
Slower moving Muscovy Duck

NORWICH: Train Wood birds & fungi

28th January 2017

I had to drop the car in for some new tyres on Saturday morning, so took the opportunity to have an hour or so in Train Wood, the start of the Marriott's Way off Barn Road in Norwich. After a slow start it turned out to be quite a productive visit.

After listening to some common woodland birds I followed a rough path close to the river and noticed that Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage was growing on the wet woodland floor. This unassuming, largely green plant is fairly scarce, I had only seen it previously at Wheatfen so was pleased to find it so close to the city centre.

Further along I stopped opposite Wensum Park. Around 70 Black-headed Gulls were loafing, and depsite the relatively small size of the park there were at least four pairs of Egyptian Geese! A Treecreeper called nearby, and further along a Great-spotted Woodpecker was in a riverside tree. Whilst searching for the woodpecker a Water Rail flew out from the bank and into a small reedy area near the metal bridge. Despite knowing that they had been seen here before, this was a new 'outer ring road' bird for me. On my way back I saw a couple of Little Grebes on the river, which were also of note this close to the city centre.

I was also paying attention to the fungi in the woodland area, and my eye was caught by some Scarlet Elf Cups, another species I've not seen here before. Whilst looking through a nearby log pile I noticed a tiny yellowy-cream fungus growing from a decaying Alder leaf. I recognised it as a member of the genus Typhula, but wasn't sure which one. After a closer look under the microscope and some guidance from county recorder Tony Leech I was able to confirm that it was Typhula setipes, a species only recorded in Norfolk nine times previously (because of the difficulty in seeing it rather than any great rarity I would suggest).

NORTH NORFOLK: Poronia at Holme

22nd January 2017

Last week I had received an email from Mark Joy, a wildlife enthusiast and photographer from Lincolnshire. He has been putting a lot of time and effort into photographing fungi recently, and had spent a couple of days at Holme Dunes checking rabbit droppings for Poronia erici, the fungus that Cathy & searched for after Christmas. All of his hard work had paid off when he found pellets with the fungus on in three locations along the dunes, and he very kindly sent me directions on how to find them.

When I left Norwich it was a bright sunny day, although the frost was harsh and reminded me of our earlier trip. Arriving at the visitors centre I had a chat with Gary and Rob, who had both seen the Poronia at two of Mark’s locations, so Rob headed off with me to speed up the finding process. He soon located a lone rabbit pellet with two Poronia erici fruiting bodies by the side of the path, along with some Winter Stalkballs. I diverted up to look over the Broadwater for the Ferruginous Duck that is present at the moment, but it was out of sight and the bright sunlight meant checking the ducks was almost impossible.

We moved on to the second area, where a location photo and some marker sticks from Mark helped locate the pellet in question. Nearby Andy Brown was seawatching, and came over to have a look at the Poronia. Before heading back I returned to the Broadwater, and despite Andy bringing his ‘scope over there was still no sign of the Ferruginous Duck. There was still one site left to check out, and Gary & Rob hadn’t managed to locate this one. Looking around I eventually figured out that it was left of the path from the car park, and found Mark’s pine cone markers. This pellet was the most impressive of the three, with multiple fruiting bodies on it.

I’m particularly grateful to Mark for his hard work and directions, and also to Rob for speeding up the hunt by showing me two of the locations.

NORWICH: Catton Park fungi

15th January 2017

Sunday was another grey and drizzly day, but I decided to head out for a walk in the afternoon. Whitlingham is now out of reasonable walking distance, so I decided to give Catton Park a look, mainly just to check how long it would take to get there.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Catton Park is less than 15 minutes away, so I dare say I shall be making fairly regular visits once the days lengthen. The main area of parkland was fairly busy with joggers and dog walkers, so I kept mainly to the woodland fringe along the south-eastern edge. I saw a range of common woodland species, whilst a Treecreeper and a Nuthatch both called unseen. Equally pleasing was the look of some horse paddocks between the woodland and road, which will hopefully tempt Yellow Wagtails or Wheatear on passage (although probably won’t).

Despite a few hard frosts there was quite a bit of fungi about in the woods, with 16 species recorded. Of these two were of particular interest, Common Bird’s-nest, reasonably common but a nice species to see, and Fenugreek Stalkball, which I had only seen once previously. A ten minute wander across the parkland highlighted a promising woodland edge area (8 Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrushes feeding) and reminded me of some of the big old trees that may hold some good insects.
I returned home satisfied that I had a good local area for wildlife walks, even though the number of bird species is likely to be rather modest.

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.