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

Introducing the NNNS 150 species project

A few readers might be aware that for the past few years I have been a council member of the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists Society. In 2019 we will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the formation of the society, which is a massive milestone (in comparison the Norfolk Wildlife Trust will shortly be 92). We will be doing a range of things to celebrate the 150 years, but one which we are currently planning is a book to be given to members (with some copies made available for sale to non-members) featuring 150 species with Norfolk links.

The 150 species will be a complete mixture of groups, some common and some rare, some spectacular and some overlooked, a few extinct and even one mythical! These have been suggested by our county recorders and whittled down from a larger list. Members can find the list (or 148 of them to be precise) at the back of Natterjack, which you should have just received or be receiving soon. Each species will have text written by a profiler, but we also want a photo, or if not then a drawing or painting of each. Clearly this will be easier for some than for others - we anticipate receiving lots of photos of Swallowtail butterflies, but has anyone photographed Large Dune Leafhopper (Doratura impudica)?

The challenge to anyone reading this is to supply a photo of any of the trickier species on the list - either already taken or by going out and finding them! I cannot guarantee that we will use all of the images, in an ideal world we will have several for each species and can pick from them. Ideally photos would be taken in Norfolk, but again being realistic there are some species that we will be happy to receive a photo from anywhere.

So, the subset of the 150 that I think are the trickiest (either in terms of rarity, location, difficulty in identifcation or obscurity) and therefore most in need of a photo are:
  • Marram Grass Chelifer (Dactylochelifer latreillei) - a pseudoscorpion
  • Ceutorhynchus querceti   - a weevil
  • Bledius filipes - a rove beetle
  • Diastictus vulneratus  - a dung beetle
  • Agabus striolatus - a water beetle
  • Psylliodes sophiae - a leaf beetle
  • Dolichopus laticola - a fly
  • Hybomitra muehlfeldi - a fly
  • Breck Robberfly (Machimus arthriticus)
  • Orange-horned Green Colonel (Odontomyia angulata) - a soliderfly
  • Banded Golden Hoverfly (Callicera spinolae)
  • Levels Duck-Hoverfly (Anasimyia interpuncta)
  • Microdon devius - a hoverfly
  • Sea Club-Rush Hoverfly (Lejops vittatus)
  • Giant Oak Aphid  (Stomaphis quercus)
  • Spiny Broom Aphid (Ctenocallis setosa)
  • Thyme Aphid (Aphis serpylli)
  • Large Dune Leafhopper (Doratura impudica)
  • Metalimnus formosus - a leafhopper
  • Platymetopius undatus - a leafhopper
  • Unciger foetidus - a millipede
You might have noticed the reference to a mythical species in my introduction. That wasn't a joke - famous devil dog Black Shuck has made the list! You'll do well to get a photograph of him, but it's a good opportunity for someone living in north Norfolk to take their big black dog out one night for a photoshoot, or perhaps for an artistic reader to come up with something?!

So what to do if you do have a photo of one of these species that you are happy for the NNNS to use for this project? (I should say at this point that your name will be credited with the image but we cannot offer payment) It might be that you have already been approached by one of the species profilers asking for pictures, in which case please send to them as requested. If you are an NNNS member then contact details for Hans Watson who is collating the pictures are at the bottom of the Natterjack article. If neither of these apply then please send me an email (whitlinghambirds 'at' and I will pass them on.

Thanks to anyone who can help, and keep an eye on the blog at the start of 2019 when the book will be released and more celebratory activities will be announced.

WHITLINGHAM: January wildfowl count

18th February 2018

On Sunday I was at Whitlingham early to get the wildfowl count done. In addition to wanting to beat the crowds I also needed to be away before the football traffic built up, and also hoped that I might finally catch up with some migrating Bewick's Swans. I didn't think that the temperatures had dipped very low overnight, but the meadows were covered with frost and part of each broad was frozen. As the sun finally burst through a misty haze hung over the broad and picnic meadow, and the bird song was more reminiscent of an April morning.

The number of birds on the Little Broad had decreased from my last visit, which was just as well as I was having to split my time between counting them, keeping an eye out for Water Rails and watching the Siskins feeding above my head. A pair of Shoveler remained at the east end of the broad.

Moving across to the Great Broad I began by checking some loafing Black-headed Gulls for rings. I then moved on, taking less time than usual for this time of year because with the exception of the Tufted Ducks the numbers of everything else were low. A group of 25 Pochard were in the conservation area bay, along with six Little Grebes (a seventh was seen against the north shore of the broad). Despite the sunny spells there was no sign of the Bittern. As I completed my lap around the north shore three Egyptian Geese very tolerantly stood on different cut trunks of a large tree on the riverbank. On my way back I checked the gulls again and saw returning bird A341.

Selected bird numbers (complete site including Justin's Thorpe count):
  • Gadwall 54 (a drop of 208 from January's count). 2017 - 130
  • Tufted Duck 221 (a drop of 106 from January's count). 2017 - 216
  • Pochard 39 (a drop of 20 from January's count). 2017 - 27
  • Coot 68  (a drop of 124 from January's count). 2017 - 179

THORPE & WHITLINGHAM: A morning of patch visits

15th February 2018

With a nice sunny day in prospect I had a quick look around three of the sites that make up my Whitlingham patch. I started off at Thorpe Marshes, and had soon seen two Buzzards, one distantly off towards Postwick and the other flying low over the marsh, parallel to the railway line. What was probably the overwintering male Stonechat darted into the large bramble, but sadly didn't pop out whilst I was there. I had a look around the small wooded area, finding some Scarlet Elf Cups and Common Mazegill, but some tree work being done on Bungalow Lane meant that I retraced my steps and went round to look over the broad. Here three Wigeon were the pick of the birds, along with the expected duck species.

Next stop was Trowse Woods, although as the road was busy I parked at Whitlingham and walked south down the Lime Tree Avenue and past hte old hospital. In the fields nearby a Skylark sung, which was nice as I usually only see flyover ones here. In the woods themselves a Green Woodpecker and a Nuthatch were both calling, and amongst the large drifts of Snowdrops I also noted Winter Aconite and Lenten Rose. Three Orange Ladybirds sheltered beneath some Beeswax Brackets, and a microfungus growing on a dead Stinking Iris seedpod will probably turn out to be quite scarce if I can identify it!

Walking back along the lane I spent some time along the south shore of the Little Broad where Mark Eldridge had seen a particularly pale Redpoll the day before. Justin was also having a look, and whilst we were there we saw around 15 Redpolls, but unfortunately the four we saw well were all Lessers. A pair of Bullfinches and a singing Treecreeper were also of note in the same area. Despite the nice weather I'm still yet to see a butterfly so far this year.

WEST NORFOLK: Wensum valley & TItchwell

13th February 2018

Adam & I decided to do a leisurely bit of birding along the Wensum valley and north-west of the county. Our first port of call was Sparham Pools, and here it became apparent that the previous night had been colder than we thought, with the edges of the lake still frozen. Walking along the perimeter we saw a large flock of Fieldfares in an adjacent field, and I heard my first drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker of the year. There was no sign of any Goosanders, a few Shoveler being the most interesting birds on the lake. Something brown moving across the ice caught our eye, but it turned out to be a bunch of leaves being blown steadily across the ice!

Our next stop was at Guist, where a few Greylags and Egyptian Geese were in the fields near the river. We stopped again near Choseley, where the fields were full of Brown Hares and Lapwing, which was good to see.

Arriving at Titchwell before lunchtime we walked along the path from the car park and stopped to look at some fungi, including Alder Goblet (Ciboria caucus) and Scarlet Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca). A large flock of mostly Chaffinches also included at least two Bramblings and some Greenfinches. They were coming to the feeders then flying down to the ditches to drink.

The water level was high on the freshmarsh, but there was a group of Avocets in addition to the ducks and Brent Geese. On the todal section there were lots of Redshanks, but when we returned they had been joined by a large flock of Knot plus some Dunlin and a Ringed Plover. On the beach we saw Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and Sanderlings, with Goldeneye, Common Scoter and Red-breasted Mergansers offshore. Red-crested Pochards and more Brambling were on the Meadow Trail.

After lunch at the cafe we drove along some of the back roads near Ringstead looking for Pink-footed Geese. We found a flock, but there were no interloping other species or neck-collared birds. Our final stop of the day was at Flitcham. For once the Little Owl was showing well from the bird hide, and another birder pointed out two Egyptian Goose goslings amongst the vegetation. We couldn't pick out any Tree Sparrows amongst a finch flock, but it was starting to rain so it seemed a good point to return home.

WHITLINGHAM: No diver, but plenty of interest

11th February 2018

On Saturday a diver sp was seen flying west over Whitlingham. It wasn't identified to species, but suffice to say any diver around the city would be an excellent sighting, so I decided to head down on Sunday morning in case it had looped round or was on the river nearby.

As I arrived at Whitlingham a Kestrel flew up out of the Lime trees, the wind carrying it soaring over the car and away over the meadows. After checking the Little Broad I concentrated on the Alder trees where some Mealy Redpolls had been the previous day, but there was no sign of them (Gary later saw two of them along the north shore of the broad, although they had gone by the time I got round). More trees had been cut down since my last visit and at the end of the little broad some of the shingle was courdoned off, presumably to dig the new pond-dipping pond that Tesco's 'bags of help' fund had provided money for. I couldn't account for the three benches that had been turned over and fenced in - perhaps there had been a bench-tipping event?

Near the slipway I caught up with three Lesser Redpolls, that showed well low down near the broad edge. Further along I stopped to see a small group of Pochard diving actively. Level with the island I heard a Brambling calling behind me, so I moved round to the end of the ditch to see into the scrub. This proved to be a good move as a Kingfisher landed on a branch nearby. There was a lot of branches between me and it, but this appeared to reassure the bird as it had clearly noticed me but didn't fly off. In fact I watched it for about 5 minutes before if caught a small fish and flew further back to eat it. The vivid blue and orange reflected in the dull water -eExcellent views of my favourite bird species.

Continuing to the end of the broad I scanned across hoping to see the Wigeon that have been on St Andrew's Broad recently, but they were out of site. Some Redwing flew out of the plantation behind me. I kept an eye out in the Alders for any more Redpolls, but the wind had got up and there was no sight or sound of any. Looking out into the bay a first-winter Great Black-backed Gull was by the Cormorant posts, which was of note. I finished off by checking the river at regular intervals, but still no luck.

I wouldn't be surprised if the diver landed on the river somewhere either in the city or to the west, so keep an eye out if you are in the city or somewhere like UEA Broad, Colney/Bawburgh lakes etc.

NORWICH: Catton Park winter fungi

4th February 2018

Yet another grey day as I set off for a walk around Catton Park for the first time this year. It was too cold and damp for insects, so I decided to stick to the wooded edges and look for fungi. This proved to be quite a good idea, as I found some nice Grass Oysterlings (Crepidotus epibryus) growing on dead Sycamore leaves, as well as some tiny pink blobs of Illiosporiopsis christiansenii. Other fungi included Jelly Ear, Oyster Mushrooms, Toothed Crust, Yellow Brain and Smoky Bracket.

 Most Crepidotus spores are ellipsoidal, but this species has longer, thinner spores.

Mid-winter isn't a great time for leaf mines, but I did manage to find four species including Phytomyza leucanthemi in Ox-eye Daisy basal leaves, which was a species I've been keeping an eye out for.

BRECKLAND: Earthstars and other fungi

27th January 2018

It was my birthday in the week, so on Saturday Cathy & I decided to visit the Brecks for a walk and lunch. It was a lovely sunny day - haha, of course it wasn't, it was gloomy and cloudy like all of the other times I've been out so far this year. As we left Norwich it began to drizzle, and it then rained constantly for the rest of the time we were out.

Our main destination was an area of woodland where I hoped to see a new species of earthstar. Earlier in the year I had been discussing earthstars with Mark Joy, who has spent the last couple of years visiting a large variety of sites to find and photograph these interesting fungi. During this conversation it emerged that he had seen one of the species I'd not come across whilst in Norfolk last autumn. With most fungi they would have decomposed long before now, but earthstars often just dry up, which means that the fruiting bodies can be found almost all year round in some places.

Having parked up we entered the woods, and following Mark's directions I soon found the right area. To my delight the earthstars were still present, some completely dried up but others at least holding their form. These were Crowned Earthstars (Geastrum coronatum), growing beneath a cypress tree. They were all concentrated around the base of one tree, but as Cathy checked other trees nearby she found five fresher looking earthstars. These turned out to be Striate Earthstars (Geastrum striatum), a commoner species but nice to see. It is something of a feature that many earthstars have similar habitat requirements, so if you find one species then it is quite likely you'll find another there too. Cathy also found some Pearly Powdercaps (Cystoderma carcharias), which I'd not seen before.

 Crowned Earthstar
 Crowned Earthstar
Striate Earthstar - note the clear stalk and collar to the spore sac, and the clearly grooved peristome (opening at the top)
 Pearly Powdercaps

Next we moved on to Lynford Arboretum. In a short loop we admired the drifts of Snowdrops flowering below the trees, before moving to the gate to watch the feeders. Coal Tits and Marsh Tits joined the commoner species, whilst the sight of a Treecreeper on the ground was unusual. I noticed a hellebore growing beside the path so went over to check for leaf mines (now a well engrained habit!) and instead noticed some concentric circles, indicating a fungal leaf spot. At home I was able to identify this as Hellebore Black-spot (Microsphaeropsis hellebori). This might be well known to gardeners, but Tony Leech confirmed that there is only one previous Norfolk record, from Ted Ellis in 1956!

From Lynford we headed to Brandon Country Park. We both like the cafe here, however on this occasion we arrived just too late for hot food, so we contented ourselves with a toasted tea cake and an apple crumble tart. From the cafe window we could see lots of birds on the feeders, including more Coal Tits. Whilst in the cafe 'Weather with you' by Crowded House came on whilst the rain continued outside. Sometimes its hard not to think that there is a cosmic joker out there...

WHITLINGHAM: January wildfowl count & a showy Bittern

21st January 2018

An early start meant that I was up to see a beautiful orangey-pink sunrise. Five minutes later and the sky had turned a pale grey for the rest of the day - those shepherds know what they're talking about.

The little broad held ten species, a reasonable total that included a female Shoveler. A Green Woodpecker swooped across and almost over my head, whilst a flock of Siskins swirled around. Moving onto the Great Broad I was pleased to see seven Egyptian Geese. In recent years only one pair has bred (sometimes having a second brood), so it would be nice to think that more pairs are around, and the odd bird might mean one is already on a nest.

I spent some time at the slipway scanning the reeds opposite for the overwintering Bittern, with no luck. Next up were the Black-headed Gulls, with only one being ringed, and that a metal ring that I couldn't read. Birds were scattered over the broad but the Pochard (13), Shoveler (2) and Teal (6) were all around the main island. Interestingly no Great-crested Grebes were seen. Numbers of common migratory species considerably down on this time last year:
  • Mallard 76 (2017: 56)
  • Tufted Duck 278 (2017: 381)
  • Gadwall 128 (2017: 238)
  • Coot 155 (2017: 337)
Whilst near the bird screen I got a phonecall from Rich Moores, who was near the visitors centre with members of the Norwich Bat Group. He had just had a Great White Egret fly over heading west, and also told me that the Bittern was now out and had been showing well for the past 30 minutes. As I was finishing off the count I then headed back round to the slipway, where the Bittern was still showing really well, perched partway up some reeds. After watching it for a while I headed to Trowse Meadows hoping to track down the Great White Egret, but there was no sign of it there. 

Whilst at Trowse Meadows I noted several species of fungi, as well as leaf mines of Copotriche marginea and Stigmella aurella in Bramble.

EAST NORFOLK: Return to Shangri-La

13th January 2017

Having failed to see the Hume's Warbler at Waxham on the previous weekend, I was keen to revisit and give it another look. Adam had also been unsuccessful, so I agreed to head back to North Walsham on Saturday morning to pick him up then head to Waxham. I had a quick poke about in his garden before we set off, noting Stigmella anomalella mines in a Rose sp and more interestingly feeding signs of a Psychoides moth sp on Polypody ferns.

At Waxham we noticed a small group of birders looking into the Shangri-La garden. The Hume's Warbler had been seen there earlier in the morning, but there was no sign of it now. Deja vu began to creep in. Some people on Twitter had given me up-to-date information, which suggested that it was mostly favouring the area south of the garden, was calling very infrequently and was feeding low down, so we decided to search the areas of Alexanders along the coast footpath just south of Shangi-La.

After about 45 minutes with no sight or sound of the Hume's Warbler we retraced our steps and decided to try a bit to the north. A small group were looking intently into the ivy covered trees in a way that suggested they might have seen it, but they hadn't. After searching theare just north of the chalet we turned round and returned to head back to the area we started at. This time we got lucky, as a tour group had located the Hume's Warbler. It called and flew past us, and after a quick move along the path we got nice close views of it in some Alexanders before it flew up into the trees. Another call and some more good but brief views and it then vanished again.

Leaving Waxham we decided to call in at Happisburgh where a flock of Shorelarks have been frequenting the area around the lighthouse. The large field seemed to hold hardly any birds, although a Meadow Pipit was new for the year for me. Whilst Adam scanned the field I looked out to see, seeing two Red-throated Divers flying south. Further along we met Gary & Alysia, who also hadn't seen the Shorelark. After a catch up we continued on, seeing some Skylarks and a Stonechat. On the way back I noticed four Snow Buntings on the beach, suggesting that the Shorelark might have also been somewhere out of sight along the shore.

On the way home we saw drive-by Turnstones at Walcott and a Sparrowhawk over the road between Edingthorpe and North Walsham.

NORWICH: Miscellaneous January sightings

w/c 8th January 2018

Whilst the days are short I have to make due with looking for wildlife on my way to work or if it passes my window. Despite these limitations there are usually a few things of interest, even in December and January. This week I heard my first Pink-footed Geese fly over the house, presumably disorientated in the fog. Some Redwings in Chapelfield Park and a Sparrowhawk over Lakenham Way were my other avian highlights from the week.

Grey Squirrels are common in Norwich, but watching one at close quarters is always entertatining. One at Chapelfield Park was so intent on eating that as people walked past it would adjust its position, but still keep eating.

The most interesting sighting of the week came on Friday. I noticed a leafhopper had landed on my office window. It looked reddish underneath, so I potted it for a closer look, and found that it was a nicely patterned one that I didn't recognise. Further research revealed that it was an Acericerus sp. Two similar species, A. ribauti and A. vittifrons, can be separated by face pattern if they are male, but as luck would have it mine was a female. Both are associated with Field Maple, which I haven't seen particularly close to the city centre, but I'll be keeping an eye out for more to work out which species is present.


7th January 2018

Having a free morning I decided to head over to East Norfolk where a Hume's Warbler had been found recently.
Cathy: "Where is it then?"
Me: Shangri-La
Cathy: "Does it have a fountain of eternal youth, and is it guarded by Yeti?"*
Me: "No, this is the Norfolk Shangri-La. It has some stunted trees and is guarded on one side by Seals".
Cathy: "It sounds miss-named"
Me: "You might have a point".

Driving out a flock of Pink-footed Geese flew over just after Salhouse and a big flock of Rooks were in the fields near Ingham. Knowing that there wasn't much parking available at Waxham I headed for Sea Palling. I intended to park in the small charity car park but it was shut - that made me remember I hadn't been here for years. I ended up parking in the pay and display car park, although judging from the multiple cars parked on double yellow lines on the road into the village perhaps normal parking procedures don't apply here.

As I started off on the coast path to Waxham a birder asked if I'd seen the Hume's Warbler yet, telling me that it had showed early morning but was still mobile. I hurried along to the Shangri-La garden, where I had missed the bird by about ten minutes. There were quite a few birders on site, but they kept coming and going. I was never sure if they were just checking the trees nearby or were watching it somewhere else. Eventually I gave up and headed back to the car. I knew I would probably see it if I put in enough time, but I'd said I'd be back at lunchtime and as gambling adverts tell you, if the fun stops, stop.

* people who have read the James Hilton novel might not recognise this description, but Shangri-La is guarded by Yetis in the critically slated film The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

NORWICH: Earlham Cemetery new year plant hunt

2nd January 2018

For the past few years the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI) have been running the new year plant hunt, in which people go out between 30th Dec and 2nd Jan and record which plants are in flower. This provides a wealth of data about which species are in flower and where, and over time will also contribute to phenology (i.e. are some plants changing their flowering periods). I have sometimes contributed data, but this year decided to join the walk organised by the Friends of Earlham Cemetery.

The walk started off with eight people, although it was cold and by the end some participants had departed, leaving Ian, Jeremy, Vanna and I. Altogether we recorded 29 species, although one was an unidentified grass and several might have been planted rather than naturalised. Upon transferring the list onto BirdJournal when I got home I found that Thale Cress was apparently a new species for me. This was surprising on one hand as its a common species, but not that odd really as it is small and part of a sometimes confusing mass of Brassicas.

Whilst walking round we accumulated records of several leaf mines, some probably new to the cemetery, and also some fungi. Of the latter Bleeding Broadleaf Crust and Fenugreek Stalkball were of note. We also saw two Muntjac Deer. Thanks to Ian for leading the walk and for submitting our list - you can see the results here:


1st January 2018

I have now completed the report of birds reported from Whitlingham and Thorpe Marshes in 2017. To read it or download a copy, click here.

WHITLINGHAM: First visit of the year

1st January 2018

After a relaxing morning Cathy & I took a slow stroll along the south shore of the Great Broad. It was very busy, perhaps with people who have made a new years resolution to walk more, so should be OK next week. The meadows around Trowse were completely flooded, but fortunately the broad had only overtopped onto the path in one place.

We started accumulating the common species from the car park, with a flyover Fieldfare a bonus as with the exception of a light autumn passage they have been hard to find here this winter. Reaching the broad we saw Mallard, Coot, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Egyptian Goose on the broad, followed by Mute Swan, Canada Goose and Greylag Goose, plus the Chinese Goose x Greylag Goose hybrid. Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull were all added, along with Cormorant and Great-crested Grebe.

Moving along until we were level with the island we could see some Teal and seven Little Grebes. Not much more was added until we reached the end of the broad, when looking across to St Andrews Broad we could see Shoveler, Pochard and one of the Ferruginous x Pochard hybrids (Justin had found a second similar looking bird this morning, so I'm not sure which I saw). Cathy picked out a Kingfisher flying across the river, and a flock of Long-tailed Tits flew through.

On our way back we picked up a few passerines, and heard Bullfinch and Goldfinches. Walking back along the road to avoid the worst of the mud Cathy found another Kingfisher, which based on the location was probably the same one I saw on the 29th Dec. In total I saw 33 species with two more heard only to start my patch year.

WHITLINGHAM: Last visit of the year

29th December 2017

My last trip out of the year, so fitting that it was at Whitlingham. It was raining when I arrived, so I decided to pop into the cafe for a cup of tea and some cake first. The rain had lessened when I emerged, so I had a look on the Great Broad, seeing the expected range of species. The rain begun to fall harder, so I moved onto the picnic meadow to shelter and look for a bit of fungi. There was quite a bit around still, including a few species I'd not recorded here before, including Fragrant Funnel (Clitocybe fragrans) and a pink bonnet sp (Mycena adonis). Witches' Butter (Exidia glandulosa) and Brown Cup (Rutstroemia firma) were also seen.

I was starting to get very wet, so I decided to walk back along the broad-side footpath. Part of the way along I noticed a Kingfisher perched up at the side of the dyke, and for once I saw it before it saw me! I got close views albeit obscurred by many branches, until it flew off down the wet road.

Happy New Year everyone, let's hope 2018 is a great year.