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

NORWICH: A selection of bees

Mid April 2018

Over the past couple of years I've been paying more attention to bees, albeit still struglling with Andrena ID. As we start to plant up the garden I was keen to get some Lungwort (Pulmonaria) to try to attract Hairy-footed Flower Bees. We bought a couple of pots of it, and two days later the bees had arrived! Hopefully I will be equally successful attracting a Convulvulous Hawk Moth with my Nicotiana plants. Here the yellowy male is shown coming to our lavendar (photo taken through the window), and the black female is shown having come to the moth trap!

The period of warm weather meant that I made some after work diversions into Waterloo Park on the way home, where some of the flowers were out and attracting insects. There were lots of Hairy-footed Flower Bees there too, along with Orange-horned Nomad (Nomada fulvicornis) and a lovely female Tawny Mining Bee. 

Also seen were Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma butterflies, Melanostoma scalare (a hoverfly) and Bibio johannis (a fly related to St Mark's Flies). Last year I always thought I should pay more visits here, based on the spring I should definitely keep them up into the summer.

WHITLINGHAM: Never mind the fog, here's the Little Gulls

15th April 2018

Sunday was April WeBS count day, and an early morning text from Gary to say that a drake Mandarin was present on the Little Broad sounded promising. As I headed to Whitlingham the fog got thicker, to the point where the far bank couldn't be seen. I couldn't see the Mandarin, but I probably wouldn't have been able to see the Mary Celeste let alone a small duck. My first patch Sedge Warbler of the year was singing from near the watersports centre.

Moving on to the Great Broad the visibility had decreased further - there was no point looking through the telescope and had it continued at that rate I would have struggled to see the telescope. Gary called and told me that he had seen a Little Gull and Common Sandpiper on his way round earlier, so we met up and waited to see if the fog would clear. Eventually, and after a sort of fog hokey cokey of it coming and going, it did and the count could resume. Two Common Sandpipers were seen, along with 3 Common Terns.

Once the fog had fully lifted we walked back along the south shore when Gary noticed his Little Gull. Whilst we looked at it we saw another two, then realised that a large part of the gull flock were Little Gulls! Initially 17, then we noticed 21! An amazing sight as they swept back and forth over the broad in waves. Almost every time we counted we found another one - at the time we thought that we were missing ones sat on the water, but it seems more likely that they were still arriving. Justin arrived about 15 minutes later, and scanning across there were now 29 Little Gulls, thrashing the previous site high count of 9 (back in 2005 - my previous highest count was 3!) Fortunately the flock stayed throughout the afternoon and was admired by many local birders, with numbers peaking at 35. The gulls were also accompanied by two Arctic Terns.

What had started out as an unpromising spring count turned out to be a great patch experience that will live long in the memory.

NORWICH: Some Norwich moths

Mid-April 2018

Last year I didn't attempt any moth trapping* at home, but now as I'm often awake early morning I thought I should really start and see what I can find in the garden. Initial attempts weren't promising, probably mostly due to light pollution from the nearby streetlights, but also due to a lack of established plants too. The first trap had nothing, the second also nothing but a Dotted Border resting nearby on the wall. The third attempt saw and Clouded Drab and Hebrew Character, whilst the steady improvement continued recently with four species - the previous two plus 2 Common Quakers and a Double-striped Pug.

 Clouded Drab
 Hebrew Character
 Common Quaker
Double-striped Pug

I'm lucky to know several other people who moth trap in the city and who catch more interesting things than I do. In particular James Lowen invited me round to see a Red-green Carpet, a lovely greenish species with variable red streaks that I've wanted to see for a while. James also had a Satellite which was another new species for me (if you look closely you can see the small white dots either side of the big one that give this moth its name).

Gary White had also caught a Red-green Carpet over the weekend, but the other species he had of interest to me was a Twin-spot Quaker. Brindled Pug, Early Thorn, Herald and Early Grey were also things I can only hope for in my garden. Still, you never know. Thanks to James and Gary for allowing me to come and have a look at these species.

 Twin-spot Quaker

* For those unfamiliar with moth trapping, my moth trap is a Skinner trap - effectively a light over a box, and is a commonly used and non-lethal way of monitoring moths.

WHITLINGHAM: Yellow Dung Fly & fungi

13th April 2018

Keen to avoid another foggy visit, instead I next managed to get down to Whitlingham late afternoon on Friday. Visibility was fine, but the birdlife was rather muted. The hirundine flock on this occasion was made up of Swallows and House Martins, whilst Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps sung regularly from around the broad.

In non-avian sightings I failed to see my first patch hoverfly of the year (I was hoping for something on the sallows, but it just wasn't sunny enough), but did find a Yellow Dung Fly, some Glistening Ink Caps and what we think is probably Hairy Bracket (Trametes hirsuta).


11th April 2018

I had a chance to pop down to Whitlingham in the morning, but as became something of a trend I had to contend with rather poor visibility due to fog hanging across the water. A hirundine flock contained my first Sand Martins of the year, and eventually I picked out a House Martin too. I noted a Common Gull on the Great Broad - these will soon be moving on.

The highlight of my visit was a Grey Wagtail near the slipway, initially interacting with a Pied Wagtail, before I obtained excellent views as it perched up in a tree overhanging the water.


8th April 2018

A diversion on my way to North Walsham took me through a small village where Jeremy had told me he had seen Butterbur in the past. This distinctive plant is somethin that I'd not seen previously and had decided to make an effort to see this year. It grows in damp places and as we drove past I spotted it from the car. Parking up and nipping out I found at least 20 flowering 'spikes' of Butterbur between the road and a nearby dyke. This plant has an eponymously named moth associated with it, but the flowers emerge before the leaves so there was no point checking for it yet.

Incidentally there is a commoner species found in a larger range of habitats is Winter Heliotrope, which can be seen growing along the River Wensum in Norwich just west of Pulls' Ferry.

BRECKLAND: Colletes cunicularius and other interesting insects

5th April 2018

After leaving Weeting, we called in at Lynford Water. This area of former gravel pits has a nice sandy bit of heath that is one of two Norfolk sites for Early Colletes (Colletes cunicularius), a species that Jeremy and Vanna had tried and failed to see twice before. The weather had warmed up nicely, so we were optimistic that it would be third time lucky.

Walking down the path from the car park we saw a Melangyna hoverfly. Fortunately it was one that can be identified from photos, Melangyna lasiophthalma, which was a new one for me. A pair of furry flies were mating on the ground a bit further along, but rather than Bee-flies these turned out to be a tachnid fly, Tachina ursina, which was also new.

Our target bees mainly nectar on Sallow pollen, so we moved along to check out the trees along the waters edge. Small Tortoiseshell and Comma butterflies were seen, along with two more new insects, another tachinid, Gonia picea, and an ichneumon, Diphyus quadripunctorius.

After a few 'probables' feeding high up on the Sallows, we began to see male Colletes skimming low over the turf. They were very hard to get a good look at, but further along we found some holes, and when a female emerged she was immediately pounced upon by multiple male bees. Once mating they were easy to observe, and we got great views.

After stopping for lunch we slowly made our way back to the car, checking the sallows again. There were lots of insects, the best of which were an Early Nomad Bee (Nomada leucomelaena), a Myopa sp and a Large Gorse Mining Bee (Andrena bimaculata).

A very successful trip in terms of finding our target and lots of other species of interest. Thanks to Jeremy, Vanna and Ian for their company and insect spotting skills.

BRECKLAND: Weeting speedwells and invertebrates

5th April 2018

Breckland has a range of rare plants, but many of them are restricted to a handful of sites, and even when you are in the right place they can be hard to find. I was therefore delighted when the Norfolk Wildlife Trust held a spring flora walk at Weeting Heath, which as far as I know is the only place in Norfolk where Spring Speedwell grows. The area where this plant, along with other scarce speedwells (Fingered Speedwell and Breckland Speedwell) is on arable land just off the reserve boundary but managed by the reserve staff. This area, like most of the reserve, has no general public access. The only slight problem was the recent weather - the late spring meant that only one of the three species was in flower.

Having picked up Ian, Jeremy and Vanna we arrived at Weeting to a sunny but cool morning. James the warden took us across the road and we spent two hours looking at the speedwells, seeing several flowering Fingered Speedwells and leaves of the other two.

 Fingered Speedwell, Veronica triphyllos
 Breckland Speedwell, Veronica praecox
 Spring Speedwell, Veronica verna

I had been hoping for one of the scarcer shieldbugs or Coreid bugs, but did manage a Stiltbug, Neides tipularius, and a sawfly, Dolerus gonager. I also noticed some small spiky weevils that I think must be Otiorhynchus ovatus.

Back in the car park a Brimstone flew past, my first butterfly of the year. James showed us some bark mines that he had found in a young Oak tree. They are the sort of thing that must be going overlooked in the county, looking like faint veins in the bark. There are two possible causers, Ectoedemia atrifrontella and Ectoedemia longicaudella. Both would be new to Norfolk, although the undetermined mines have also been seen at Santon Downham. As we went to get in the car Ian looked down and noticed a Sooty Cup fungus (Helvella leucomelaena) growing beside the car! Thanks to James for running the walk.

WHITLINGHAM: A few spring migrants and a new moth

4th April 2018

On Wednesday afternoon we went on a brief family trip to Whitlingham. It was raining on our way there, and there was a heavy shower not long after. However, once the rain had passed we had a short period of sunshine, and that is when we got a glimpse of spring. Several Chiffchaffs started singing, and I heard my first Blackcap of the year. Cathy found another four birds, including a pair, all non singing but moving through the trees. Over the broad a Swallow skimmed low, but there was no sign of any House Martins, which would have been a new early record had I seen one.

It wasn't just the birds that were out. I searched a large patch of Coltsfoot that was covered by tiny beetles, and managed to find a single, rather bedraggled solitary bee, probably Andrena bicolor, but depsite being a common species it is quite difficult to ID with certainty (or it is to me at least!). The best sighting of the day was a moth that Cathy noticed fluttering in the undergrowth. It was definitely a carpet moth, but I thought it was too early for Common Carpet or Garden Carpet. Luckily I managed to get a wing shot, enough to confirm it as Water Carpet, a new species for me.