The Whitlingham Bird Report 2017 can be viewed or downloaded here. For previous years (2012-2016) see the links on the Whitlingham Bird List page.

You may also be interested in Chris Durdin's Thorpe Marsh Wildlife Report for 2017, which is available


29th September 2018

Autumn is the time to look out for the recently colonised Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae), which emerges to feed on ivy blossom. Some people are lucky enough to have them in their lawns, where they form mating balls as the males try to mate with newly emerged females, but more oftenly they are just seen at Ivy flowers. Although a similar size to honeybees, Ivy Bees can be identified from the noticeable bands of buff hairs running across the abdomen. I'm yet to record them from Whitlingham (there is some good looking ivy along Whitlingham Lane at both the Trowse and CP ends) but they have been seen around west and south Norwich. My first sighting of the year was whilst visiting relatives in Edingthorpe.

NORWICH: Earlham Cemetery galls walk

23rd September 2018

On Sunday I was due to lead a walk for the Friends of Earlham Cemetery looking at leaf miners and plant galls. Heavy rain was forecast and we thought would put everyone off, but in the end a core of hardy participants braved the weather and gathered at the cemetery gates. Vanna had been looking at galls here recently and so was able to direct us to several interesting finds, whilst we also found a good range of leaf mines.

Gall highlights included:
 Eupontania pedunculi
 Artichoke Gall (Andricus foecundatrix)
 Andricus gemmeus
Neuroterus anthracinus

Of the leaf mines, Nemorimyza posticata was a good one, and Phyllonorcyter schreberella appears to be new for me.

As well as the leaf mines and galls we also saw a Juniper Shieldbug, late instar Megacoelum infusum, lots of Ant Woodlice and a Spotted Snake Millipede. Thanks to everyone that did make it and found enough to keep us interested despite the rain.

WHITLINGHAM: Bat evening

20th September 2018

On Thursday evening there was a bat evening at Whitlingham, organised by the Norwich Bat Group and Broads Authority. This was intended to be the 'adults' version following a childrens one in August, but as it happened a group of children were accommodated on this walk too. After an introductory talk we were shown some rescue bats that are being kept by a licenced bat worker for educational purposes.

 Common Pipistrelle
 Brown Long-eared Bat
 Noctule Bat

We left the barn a bit too late to see Noctules, but there was a lot of Soprano Pipistrelles about. The main reason for attending the event was the opportunity to see Nathusius's Pipistrelles being caught and ringed as part of a national project, so despite slightly inclement weather I was keen to visit the harp traps. Fortunately some other attendees also wanted to have a look, and we arrived just as two bats were ready to be processed. I had seen Nathusius's Pipistrelles here in fight before, but it was very interesting to see them in the hand and the various checks to make sure the in-hand ID was correct.

Thanks to all those involved with an interesting evening.

NORWICH: Stigmella aceris - new to East Norfolk

20th September 2018

The moth-trapping community are generally rather good at flagging up potential new county species that are spreading towards Norfolk. One such moth, the Scarce Maple Pigmy (Stigmella aceris) was moving northwards in Suffolk, and Andy Musgrove claimed the first Norfolk record at the BTO's Nunnery Lakes last October. Despite quite a few more west Norfolk records, it remaimed undetected in VC27 (East Norfolk) until 20th September, when I found some Stigmella aceris mines in Norway Maple (one of two foodplants along with Field Maple) on my way home from work. I only narrowly claimed the vice-county first, as Stewart Wright found some five days later, and Graham Moates the day after that!

NORWICH: Last of the garden moths?

16th September 2018

As expected my moth trapping catches have tailed off quickly now we are in autumn, with no autumn specialties either. What might therefore by my last new garden macro moth was a Pine Carpet, and after checking the trap I found our first garden Corizus hyoscyami bug, which was nice.

BRECKLAND: Grimes Graves fungi

15th September 2018

When the Norfolk Fungus Study Group programme for the year had been finalised, the foray at Grimes Graves had stood out as one that I wanted to attend. Despite the name this pitted chalky grassland was originally formed by chalk mining rather than ancient burials (although there were some burials later on I believe), and I had hoped for lots of interesting grassland fungi. It was probably the hot summer that kiboshed this, with a rather disappointing tally of mostly weedy specimens found. The exception being a 'fairy ring' of massive Giant Funnels. In fact the group did find a few rare Parasola spp too, but I didn't see them as I did fancy forcing my way through some (possibly) tick-infested Bracken.

Of the grassland fungi we did see, the highlights were probably Honey Waxcap and Common Bird's-nest Fungus.

I did see a few new bits, most noticeably a purplish flowered Eyebright, Euphrasia micrantha, identified by ace botanist Alex Prendergast, and a sort of horn-backed spider, Gibberanea gibbosa swept by Tim. A tent canopy under which some survivalist-types were skinning and cooking a deer added to the slightly surreal atmosphere as we ate our lunch.

WHITLINGHAM: September WeBS and a few fungi

9th September 2018

September is often a quiet month for wildfowl, as the aggregations of local species move away after their summer moult and the wintering birds are yet to arrive. A couple of House Martins flew over to signify the end of summer, and the 'hweeting' Chiffchaffs were a sign of autumn. A Green Sandpiper flew low over the broad into the conservation area.

Selected count species:
Mute Swan: 13 (2017: 30)
Greylag Goose: 0 (2017: 3)
Mallard: 63 (2017: 76)
Coot: 45 (2017: 22)
Little Grebe: 1 (2017: 0)
Cormorant: 25 (2017: 0)

Comparing against last year the differences in swans, geese and Mallard can probably be explained by birds on the river at Thorpe River Green. There does however seem to be a reasonable increase in both Coot and Cormorant numbers from the 2017 figures.

The insect highlight of my walk was the hoverfly Epistrophe grossulariae, a new Whitlingham species albeit a common one that will have just been overlooked.

I was almost back to the car park when I met Anne, Neil, Steve & Gill from the Norfolk Fungus Study Group. Back in 2009 Michelle Hoare had found the nationally rare fungus Allopsalliota geesterani at Whitlingham, but it had taken me until last year to refind it (see here). It was fruiting again this year and Anne had informed the group, some of whom were keen to see it. Nearby we also noticed Pavement Mushroom (Agaricus bitorquis) and Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea), whilst a Stubble Rosegill (Volvopluteus gloiocephalus) was a new species for my patch fungi list.

The final sighting of note was of one of the Ruby-tailed Wasps, probably Chrysis ignita agg.

NORWICH AREA: High Ash Farm moth survey event

8th September 2018

There are some rather common early spring, autumn and winter moths that I've never seen, mainly because all of my garden moth trapping has taken place in small urban gardens where there is a noticeable drop off in species caught outside of May-August. I was therefore pleased to see that a Norfolk Moth Survey event was taking place in September at High Ash Farm, just south of Norwich. I hoped to see any of the Sallows, having previously only seen Barred Sallow, and more speculatively Convulvulous Hawk Moth, which has so far failed to show up on my specially-planted Nicotiana plants.

The weather forecast was for some light drizzle, which might have deterred some attendees, but we did end up with two generators and four traps, which were spread out along the woodland edge. One of the traps was under a big Ash tree, and being the foodplant of Centre-barred Sallow it was pleasing to see one almost straight away. In fact over the course of the evening I probably saw about 20! By the time I left around 40 species of adult moth had been recorded, of which Tufted Button (Acleris cristana) was another new one.

There wasn't much time for looking around before the traps were set up, but we did see a Hummingbird Hawkmoth caterpillar, feeding signs of Elm Zigzag Sawfly, the leaf mine of Sloe Midget (Phyllonorycter spinicolella) and Stewart pointed out a mildew on Duke of Argyll's Teaplant, Arthrocladiella mougeotii that is probably very common but goes unrecorded. Thanks to Ken and the rest of the group for an interesting evening - hopefully I can get to a few more moth survey events in 2019.

NORWICH: Poplar leaf mines

6th September 2018

One thing to come out of my burgeoning interest in leaf mines is a habitat of trying to check different types of tree where possible. We have White/Grey Poplar Poplars at Whitlingham but I know of some hybrid Black Poplars closer to home, so I diverted after work for a quick look. Earlier in the year I saw Hornet moth and a gall, but on this occasion I managed two leaf mines. These were the 'snail-trail' mine of Poplar Bent-wing (Phyllocnistis unipunctella) and Black poplar Pigmy (Stigmella trimaculella), neither of which I see very often.

NORTH NORFOLK: Mini birding pub tour

31st August 2018

Having earmarked this day to go birding with Adam, Gary and Jim, it was somewhat typical that the winds were uncondusive to seawatching or migrant birds. We had initially been thinking of getting a lift up to the coast and then using the Coasthopper bus to move between sites as a nostalgic reminder of birding before I passed my driving test. Unfortunately the lift would have meant starting very early, so I decided to drive.

Upon reaching North Walsham to pick up Adam we had a quick chat to plan the day, and decided to head for Blakeney. Adam suggested heading to the King's Arms, which seemed to be an odd place to start as it sits on the high street, but what we didn't realise is that the garden out the back is adjacent to a scrub-lined lane and National Trust owned meadow. Whilst having a drink we racked up around 20 species, including a Red Kite circling up with some Buzzards. The highlight was a presumably migrant Reed Warbler seen in the Hawthorn hedge.

The plan was to eat at the Dun Cow because of the marshland views, but it was still a bit early so we stopped off at the Three Swallows. A large group of House Martins were visible over the marshes, along with a few Swallows (some sort of pub-birding gold star here for seeing a species from a pub of the same name). Sparrowhawk, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit and Cormorant were also new here.

Moving on to the Dun Cow, seeing a Small Heath butterfly on the green, we got drinks and did an initial scan, picking up Mute Swan, Rook, Grey Heron etc. Looking back towards Cley we picked up Teal and Avocets in flight too. After looking at the menu we decided to head to Sheringham for some more basic food (I'm sure the food is still very nice, but it looked a bit posh for us. The website states that the aim is to be a pub that serves good food rather than a restaurant with a bar, but how many pubs offer Lobster Thermidor as an option?) The main reason we couldn't order though was the inclusion of Spam on the menu, making it impossible to actually say what we wanted (spam, spam, halloumi chips and spam...*)

Arriving in a rather busy Sheringham, we located ouselves at the Two Lifeboats where we had some bowls of topped chips and scanned out to sea. Jim picked out three Gannets moving east, then a Sandwich Tern flew west. A small flock of Ringed Plovers flew east, a new pub species for me.

After lunch we decided to call in at the Gunton Arms on the way back. This lovely country pub set just inside Gunton Park afforded lovely views, including of the Red and Fallow Deer herds kept in the park, but failed to turn up the hoped for Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush etc. We did add a few commoner birds to the daylist. A lacebug that landed on me turned out to be Physatocheila dumetorum, a new species for me.

I finished the day with a pub list of 42 - although some of the others had heard an extra species or two.

* If you don't understand this reference, please go and watch the entire Monty Python back catalogue

CENTRAL NORFOLK: Buxton gentians and bees

Late August 2018

Last year I visited Buxton Heath twice looking for Marsh Gentians, and despite being told what area to look in I failed both times. Having seen that Chris Lansdell had seen some in flower recently, I asked him for directions and took a long lunch break to pop down and have a look.

Partway along the path a local dogwalker stopped to talk to me, and it was soon evident that she was a rather knowledgeable botanist. After discussing some of the nearby plants (Eyebright, Marsh Lousewort, Common Centaury, Devil's Bit Scabious) I mentioned the Gentians, and she took me to an area nearby. She said that it wasn't sunny enough for the flowers to be open, and sure enough they were tightly closed - almost certainly why I missed them last year.

Parting company I carried on, as this wasn't the area that Chris had told me about. I found the right area, and to my delight found several Marsh Gentians that did have open flowers, hurrah! Checking in a small enclosure nearby I also found Marsh Clubmoss, another rare plant I'd never seen before.

With this double plant success I started paying a bit more attention to the insects, and soon noticed that there were two different stripy solitary bees taking pollen from the heather. These were Heather Mining Bee (Andrena fuscipes) and Heather Colletes (Colletes succinctus). Further round I found Nomada rufipes, a cleptoparasite of the Andrena, and also several Bee-wolves. It could have been even better, as I had largely ignored the bumblebees but Phil Saunders saw Heath Bumblebee here a few days later, a species I've not seen before.

Walking back to the car along the edge of the site I noted the leaves of Lily of the Valley and Aulagromyza tremulae mines on Aspen. I then found a beetle that depsite my Gentian success became my species of the day. The tiny, bird-dropping camouflaged longhorn beetle Pogonocherus hispidus (Lesser Thorn-tipped Longhorn Beetle) has been something I've wanted to see for a while, and despite the small size it is a really cool beetle.

There was time for one more species to be recorded. There is a common plant, related to Redshank (the flowering plant, not the bird or the moss of the same name) and Pale Persicaria called Water-pepper. Unfortunately, there is also one called Tasteless Water-pepper, which I haven't seen. This means that everytime I see a Water-pepper sp, I feel obliged to taste a small piece. It's always the peppery one.