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: 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

WHITLINGHAM: Ringed Cormorant

1st August 2014

Yesterday I received an email to say that a local birder had seen a Cormorant with a metal ring on one of the legs along the river at Whitlingham. Unlike coloured rings, which are designed to be read in the field, metal rings are usually only read if a bird is re-trapped, found dead or very close to the observer. If we could trace the origins of this bird it would allow us to find out where it comes from - currently I have no idea where the Cormorants that winter at Whitlingham spend the summer. I'll be keeping an eye out for this bird, but if anyone reading this is a photographer, next time you are at Whitlingham please have a look at the Cormorants, and if you see one with a ring, see if you can get some photos.  I would be very grateful for any information on this bird (or indeed any other ringed/wing-tagged birds seen in the area).

NORTH NORFOLK: Moths & Butterflies

30th July 2014

Cathy, Margaret & I began the day at Titchwell to see the opening of the moth traps. Just over 30 species had been caught, most of them fairly common stuff, but there was a new moth for me in the form of Sharp-angled Peacock, along with my second Chinese Character.

After the moth trapping we walked down to Island Hide to look for the Spotted Crake. On the way Cathy noticed the constant buzzing sound of a Roesel's Bush Cricket, which we found at the edge of the path. We waited a little while for the Crake without success, and on our way back we saw two Wall butterflies. My infrequent coastal visits mean that I don't often see Walls anymore (when I was growing up we used to get them in the garden in North Walsham!) so it was a nice butterfly to see.

Blue-tailed Damselfly at Titchwell

After Titchwell we headed along to Cley visitors centre for lunch, noting the flock of Spoonbills on North Scrape. We then carried on to Holt Country Park, where I was hoping to photograph White Admirals and Silver Washed Fritillaries. When I had last came looking for the Fritillaries they had only just begun to establish themselves here and I got a couple of very brief views, so I was delighted to see that around 10 were on Buddleia in the car park. Photographing them proved a bit harder, as they seemed to prefer the higher buddleia flowers and some of them were rather tatty. We watched as one Silver-washed Fritillary flew across the car park being constantly orbited by another (presumably a male around a female?) - very interesting behaviour to watch. I didn't see the brassy variation valezina, although one of the females showed a decent green tinge.

Male Silver-washed Fritillary (deep orange colour)

Whilst watching the Fritillaries a White Admiral flew in. Probably my favourite butterfly, partly because of how exotic it looks despite the monochrome, but also for the stately manner that it flies, gliding sedately over the flapping masses of other butterflies. We saw three in the end, and I did get my photos. Cathy had brought a backpack with butterflies on it, which attracted a Comma in for close views. Walking over to the visitors centre I finally got a good Silver-washed Fritillary picture as one landed in front of me. We also saw some other interesting insects, including a male Wood Horntail. Just before leaving I noticed a Grayling in the car park, the first non-coastal one I've seen in Norfolk for a while.

Spot the real one...
Female Silver-washed Fritillary
Male Wood Horntail (the female is the more familiar yellow-and-black)
White Admiral

NORTHUMBERLAND: Lindisfarne trip

26th July 2014

Today Cathy & I took an early wedding-anniversary trip to Lindisfarne & Northumberland. The tide times dictated that we didn't have much time on the island, but we had an excellent day and vowed to return at some point down the line...

Lindisfarne Castle
White Stonecrop
Bird artwork using (Pheasant?) feathers
Bamburgh Castle

SOUTH NORFOLK: Sharp-leaved Fluellen

In addition to the plants on my '30 things to see' list, there are quite a few other interesting ones that I want to see at some point. These include things like the parasitic Yellow Bird's Nest, the carnivorous Greater Bladderwort, unusual Moonwort fern, the scarcer poppies and arable weeds the fluellens. Last week I saw that Rob Yaxley had found some Sharp-leaved Fluellen on a footpath south of Norwich, and resolved to try and have a look.

After a very hot walk taking in part of the Boudicca Way and some sun-baked fields I arrived at the section of footpath. I searched amongst the larger plants but still couldn't see the Fluellen. I texted Andy, who had also seen the plant, and he offered the useful observation that it was smaller than he had expected. Re-tracing my steps and searching the bare ground carefully I finally saw the Sharp-leaved Fluellen. The leaves were flattened against the ground, and the purple-and-yellow flowers were tiny. Close by were another couple of new plants for me, Stone Parsley and Pepper-saxifrage. My thanks to Rob and Andy, without whom I wouldn't have seen the plant. There is another rarer Fluellen in Norfolk (Round-leaved Fluellen) - now I know the scale I'm working at maybe I'll find that one day!

NORWICH: Sweetbriar trip

After work I walked along Marriott's Way out of the city to Sweetbriar Marsh to look for plants. I didn't see much of interest in the end, but did add naturalised Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea to my Norwich list, and found a new bug in amongst the nettles, Liocoris tripustulatus.

I also noted a very large bramble. I was concerned that it might be the invasive Great Bramble that is now being reported, but having had a look it doesn't appear to be that.