The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2014 is now available to download here. It is stored on google drive, which sometimes condenses the photos if you view it online, this should be resolved if you download and then view. The 2013 report is still available 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, which is available here.

NORFOLK BIRD FAIR - with bonus moths

17th May 2015

On Sunday Cathy, Margaret & I went to the Norfolk Bird &Wildlife Fair at Mannington Hall. Mannington is a lovely location, and we were lucky with the weather too.


We arrived in time to see the moth traps being opened. The cold weather overnight meant a relatively small return (with the exception of Cockchafers, which came forth from the traps like Scarab beetles in The Mummy). This didn't really matter, as one of the moths that was caught was a Scorched Wing, one of my target species from last year finally seen! Powdered Quaker and Least Black Arches were also new for me, whilst Great Prominent, Pebble Prominent and Chocolate-tip were nice to see again.

 Scorched Wing Moth
 Chocolate-tip

We had a look around the stalls and exhibitions, and everyone was very friendly. Before lunch we headed to the makeshift lecture theatre in the cafe, where we heard a talk from Simon Harrap about Norfolk's wildflowers. Later on we returned to hear Ieuan Evans describe the BTOs Cuckoo tracking scheme, before Bill Oddie delivered an ebullient talk about his childhood, influences and opinions on the current state of conservation. Around the site we saw Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Grey Wagtail, and in pig fields nearby there were lots of Stock Doves. We all enjoyed the day, however with many people remarking on the relatively small number of visitors it remains to be seen if the event will become a fixture in the calendar.

WHITLINGHAM: May count & a red fly

15th May 2015

With a busy weekend planned, I went down to Whitlingham on Friday evening to complete the May wildfowl count. The Great Broad resonated with the sound of Common Terns. Four were present, three resting on buoys and another one flying around. They called frequently too each other but as they were neither agressive nor actively feeding I wasn't sure why! On the wooden platform just west of the bird screen I picked out a Common Sandpiper bobbing up and down. Canada Geese seem to have done well this year, with five broods so far (four on the Great Broad and one at Thorpe), and another bird on a nest on the main island. Swifts, a male Gadwall and 20 Tufted Ducks were also of note.


It was a nice evening, so as I was going round I kept an eye out for invertebrates, adding several species to my patch list. I tracked a moth that flew past as it landed in some nettles and found it was a Green Carpet. A smaller but equally welcome moth flying around the gorse was a Grey Gorse Piercer. An unusual-looking metallic red fly had me stumped, but it turns out it is a green species (Gymnocheta viridis) that sometimes turns red with age. A final new species was an overdue fungus. I have begun work on a downloadable guide to Whitlingham's bracket fungi, and had been unable to find any records of Sulphur Polypore in my notes, so it was apt that I noticed it growing on a tree on the main island whilst 'scoping the gulls.


THORPE MARSH: Marsh Harrier & cinchbugs

11th May 2015

Monday was a particularly warm day, and after work I headed down to Thorpe Marsh for a look round. As I arrived some Swifts screeched overhead. In the past few days Swifts have arrived in force over Norwich, I'm now seeing them daily at home and at work. I met Jeremy Halls who works near Thorpe Marsh, and we started a circuit with a look over the broad from the shingle. There was very little of note on the broad, but then a male Marsh Harrier glided into view, looking resplendent in the sunlight. We watched it hunt back-and-forth before flying over the broad and away eastwards.

Further round we began to see damselflies, at least one Large Red and several teneral damselflies, probably Common Blue Damselflies. Butterflies like Peacock and Orange-tip were also flying around. Earlier in the month Jeremy had found a Stickleback nest in one of the dykes, but the vegetation had grown up and we could find it on this occasion. I took the opportunity to learn a bit more about some of marshland vegetation and as a result added a few more species to my all-taxa patch list, including Lesser Pond Sedge, Hard Rush and Spring Sedge.

A new invertebrate for my patch list was the European Cinchbug, which was numerous in one area of dykeside vegetation. I had only seen this species once previously - the day before in my back garden!


Donacia sp (tentitatively keyed out as Donacia simplex)

NORTH NORFOLK: Burnham Citril Finch

10th May 2015

On the way back from Ashwellthorpe I got a phone call from Ricky, asking if I wanted to go and see the Citril Finch at Burnham Overy. I had been aware of it in the morning, but because I'd been out I hadn't realised that it had settled down and shown well during the afternoon. Cathy kindly gave her assent, so after a quick bite to eat Ricky picked me and Andrew up and we set off for Holkham.

Parking up at Lady Anne's Drive we noted a couple of Brent Geese flying past, along with some noisy Oystercatchers and lots of Woodpigeons. We took a brisk walk along the pines until we emerged at a dell at the edge of the dunes. A small crowd (given the rarity f the bird) of around 30-40 people were watching the Citril Finch as it fed and hopped around part way up a dune. At times it showed well on the bare sand, although it also spent quite a bit of time obscurred behind a bramble.


After watching the Citril Finch for a while we set off back to the car, stopping every so often to scan the freshmarsh in the evening sunshine. On our way back we saw three Barn Owls. The first was flying over the marshes, but the second two were both perched up in trees near the road. The first was a typically pale individual (see photo) but the second bird, which unfortunately flew off as we neared it was buffer on the underparts. Many thanks to Ricky for the lift.

SOUTH NORFOLK: Bluebells, orchids & hoverflies

10th May 2015

For the past few years Cathy, Margaret & I have made a point of going to see the Bluebells in flower during the spring. Our favoured location is Ashwellthorpe Lower Wood, so we set off on Sunday to have a walk round. The Bluebells were out in abundance, and there was also a lot of Early Purple Orchids, Bugle, Wild Garlic, a single Twayblade and many other woodland plants.




Being an ancient woodland there were also lots of invertebrates to look at too. A particular target of mine was the Ramsons Hoverfly, a specialist species associated with Wild Garlic. Cathy was the first to find one, and we found quite a few after that. I managed to find the egg of an Orange Tip butterfly on some Cuckoo Flower, and there were many adults flying. Small nymphs of Dark Bush Crickets, Common Green Shieldbugs, Dock Bugs and Red-headed Cardinal Beetles were picked out, and I saw another new species in the form of a Kidney-spotted Ladybird on a tree trunk.


 Ramsons Hoverfly

We didn't see too many birds, but did get good views of a Nuthatch, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, whilst a Green Woodpecker yaffled unseen.

NORWICH: Forget-me-not Shieldbug

4th May 2015

One of my wildlife targets for this year was to see a new species of Shieldbug. Although I didn't have a particular species in mind (there are lots I haven't seen!), I thought Juniper Or Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug would be good. I was standing in my kitchen with a cup of tea, looking at the bees flying around the Green Alkanet in the backyard when I noticed a black Shieldbug walking along a stem. I nipped outside and potted it, and after a look at the excellent British Bugs website I identified it as Forget-me-not Shieldbug. Great to get a new species, and even better for being in the garden.


NORFOLK: Norfolk bird race

3rd May 2015

The first Sunday of May saw Gary, Adam & I head out for our annual Norfolk bird race. The following is an account of our day out, minus a couple of potential rare breeders (Bittern and Dartford Warbler), which we heard and saw respectively, at some point during the day. We all ended up with the same total this year, although at different points various people were up or down on the others, so their numbering may vary from mine.

As we left Norwich we saw a Fox running down the road. That was out only sighting of interest until we reached the Brecks, when a Tawny Owl that flew across the road became bird number one of the day. Last year when we reached Santon Downham the temperature was minus one, but this year we were greeted with drizzle and relatively warm temperatures. We walked downriver, hearing a range of common woodland birds. Treecreeper, Cuckoo and Garden Warbler were all reasonable additions to the list, and we also saw an Otter in the river. At the edge of the plantation we heard Kingfisher, saw Marsh Tit and heard a drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker. Green Woodpecker and Siskin were added on the way back, along with Grey Wagtails at the bridge.

Having recorded 42 species we headed across the road to St Helen's picnic site, where another three species were added, Mistle Thrush, Swallow and Pied Wagtail. From here we moved on to a nearby block of forest to look for Woodlarks. It turned out that there was a nice path, but instead we took a log strewn one that seemed to have been enlarged by a forester driving a monster truck. Nonetheless we emerged at a clearing where we were able to add Skylark, Woodlark and Tree Pipit, plus Yellowhammer nearby.

Next stop was Lynford Arboretum. We connected with our target of Firecrest, then headed down to the lake to see Little Grebe, Tufted Duck etc. On our way back we saw Nuthatch, having failed to see any at Santon. Across the road at Lynford Water there were loads of hirundines, Great-crested Grebe, Cetti's Warbler and Gadwall. We drove to Weeting (ticking Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Rook in the village) where a Stone Curlew showed well from the right-hand hide, along with Lapwing and Linnet.

My 70th species of the day came at around 10:00 at Welney when a Shoveler flew over as we got out of the car. We added several species from Lady Fen, including Black-tailed Godwit, Yellow Wagtail and Little Egret. From the main hide we saw Avocets, Whooper Swans, Redshank, Wigeon, Snipe, Little-ringed Plover and Common Tern. Walking down to the Lyle Hide we managed to pick out a drake Garganey, and a Swift flew over. Back at the car park we managed heard a Tree Sparrow as it flew over, and also connected with Corn Bunting.

Heading north I saw my first Red-legged Partridges and Buzzard of the trip. Four Arctic Terns looked out of place flying across a field, but soon reorientated themselves to one of the cut-off channels. We attempted to find the recently reported Black-necked Grebe at Tottenhill without success. We also had a look at Pentney gravel pits adding nothing (although we did see another Little Ringed Plover).

The next stop was Roydon Common. Having already seen Woodlark we just had a quick walk along the main path, seeing our target bird (Stonechat) along with bonus Curlew (my 100th bird of the day) and Wheatear. On our way back to the car Adam stopped and motioned to a Slow-worm on the path. We stood still and waited until Gary caught us up. It staid still on the path until we moved, when it turned unhurriedly and slithered off.


At Flitcham Abbey Farm the Little Owl was sat in his tree, and we also saw Grey Partridge. Lesser Whitethroats and Bullfinches were singing - I managed to see one of the former, but had to be content with just hearing the latter. In the nettles nearby was a Red-breasted Carrion Beetle and a 22-spot Ladybird, and on the brow of the hill Adam & I saw a couple of Fallow Deer.


We took a diversion from our normal route to visit Snettisham Coastal Park, hoping for Ring Ouzels and other possible bonus migrants. We didn't find any, it being a vast area to cover quickly. The tide was coming in, which did allow us to pick up  Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot. From here we drove to Titchwell via Choseley, where we caught up with the passage Dotterel, also seeing more Wheatears and Corn Bunting.

We arrived at Titchwell much later than usual, meaning no cup of tea for me. I had 114 birds upon arrival, so it was make-or-break time for our list. Luckily there was a lot to see. Bearded Tits flew across one of the dykes, Brent Geese and Pintail were on the freshmarsh, as was a Common Sandpiper, Turnstone and Little Tern. Some Pink-footed Geese were flying in the distance, and a Greenshank was on the tidal marsh. On the shore we saw Sanderling and two Little Stints in with a flock of Dunlin. Common Scoter passed by, as did a Sandwich Tern. A Short-eared Owl flying east initially looked Harrier-like, but evenutally revealed its true identity. A flyby Green Sandpiper and a couple of Eider meant we were on 130 as we walked back onto the reserve, three short of last year.

A Spotted Redshank, Pochard and Barn Owl took us level before we headed onto the east trail. Here we easily picked out Red-crested Pochard, and heard a Grasshopper Warbler. We moved further round on the off chance we could see it, and luckily for us a friendly birder already had it in his 'scope. It was all the more impressive as he confessed to us that he couldn't actually hear it reeling!

Heading east along the coast we picked up Spoonbill, Red Kite and Sparrowhawk, but didn't find any Turtle Doves on the heathland inland from the coast. We headed back to Cley as sunset approached, and arrived just in time to see a small flock of Yellow Wagtails including a Grey-headed Wagtail fly off to roost. After a brief chat with David Norgate we headed to the central hides, hoping to add Ruff or Whimbrel to our tally. We failed to see anything new, so headed inland where we spent a while standing in the moonlight, listening to a Nightingale and watching a bat slying around the scrub. In the distance we saw flashes of lightening, an atmospheric end to our day, and my best ever day total of 140 species.
 

THORPE MARSH: Nightingale & Cuckoo

29th April 2015

With more migrants arriving in recent times, I headed down to Thorpe for an hours birding after work. Before getting to Thorpe Marsh I had a look nearby for a Nightingale found by Ricky earlier in the month. As I neared the site I could hear it singing away with gusto. I was struggling to see it until another bird ducked into the bush and begun chasing it around, with the original bird scolding the intruder. Although I couldn't be sure, I suspect that the second bird was another male Nightingale (two had been heard singing earlier in the day). Ricky got some footage of it singing, which you can see here.

Leaving the Nightingale I headed on to Thorpe Marsh, where a Cuckoo was calling from the marshes to the east. I walked around the edge of the marsh to the bird screen for a quick scan. Further round I heard and saw my first Garden Warbler of the year, along with a couple of Linnets that flew out from scrub near the river. A Swallow and a Common Tern also flew over to complete a pleasant evenings birding.


NORTH NORFOLK: Edingthorpe

26th April 2015

After a visit to some family in Edingthorpe, Cathy & I took a walk around some of the lanes that I used to walk when I was growing up. As well as boring her with my reminiscences ("I once saw a Turtle Dove on those wires" etc) we stopped every so often to admire the flowers growing on the verges. There were Bluebells and Meadow Saxifrage, hinting at old woodland here in the past, along with Wild Strawberry, Greater Stitchwort, Primroses and Yellow Archangel (the latter probably a throwout from cultivation). The highlight for me was Soft Shield Fern, a new species for me. We also saw quite a few bees and a friendly horse. I did scan the paddocks hoping for Ring Ouzel, but only managed to find a Mistle Thrush.






WHITLINGHAM: Brief evening visit

23rd April 2015

Having heard that there had been Swifts and a Cuckoo at Whitlingham during the week I headed down for a bit after tea on Thursday. It was too late for any Swifts (I later found out there had been some earlier in the day) and I also didn't hear any of the crepuscular species that sometimes turn up in spring such as Nightingale and Grasshopper Warbler. The main songsters were Song Thrushes, and the Oystercatchers were also making a fair bit of noise. I walked back along the Lime tree avenue, getting excellent views of some bats flying past and over me (probably Soprano Pipistrelles).


WHITLINGHAM: April counts & more migrants

19th April 2015

Upon arrival at Whitlingham for April's WeBS count I spent the first few minutes scanning the meadows opposite for Ring Ouzels. There wasn't any, but I did hear my first Whitethroat of the year, and found a second one as well, both singing from the scrub near the archery range. A Peacock butterfly fluttered past, and a Sand Martin flew over.

At the Little Broad I picked out a Kingfisher perched up at the far end of the broad, although I only managed a couple of out-of-focus record shots before it flew off. There were still a pair of Tufted Ducks on the broad, along with Mute Swan and Coot on nests.


There wasn't any unusual wildfowl on the Great Broad, a drake Teal probably the most interesting. There was however broods of Greylag Geese (4 + 8), Canada Geese (6), Egyptian Geese (1) and Mallard (3). The downcast conditions brought a hirundine flock lower, allowing me to pick out my first House Martins of the year from the Swallows and Sand Martins. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were numerous, and I also heard my first Reed Warbler of the year too.The Oystercatcher pair that has taken up residence at Whitlingham in recent weeks were still present.

Scanning the shingle at Thorpe Marsh there was no sign of the Common Sandpipers present earlier in the week, but there was a lone Lapwing and some more hirundines overhead.


THORPE MARSH: Spring migrants and a catchup

14th April 2015

I haven't written up a few brief trips out, but probably not enough to do a full update post about. The highlight was an early local Common Tern, found at Whitlingham by Joe Harkness on 9th April. I was out at the time but was able to call in and see it later in the evening. Whilst the 9th April doesn't sound that early it was actually over a week earlier than my previous first  patch sighting, and may end up being the earliest site record (if you have seen an earlier one at Whitlingham then please let me know). I have also been enjoying watching the bees and bee flies in my front garden during the sunny spells we've had of late.


On the 14th I went to Thorpe Marsh after work, hoping to see some migrants. During the day a Ring Ouzel had been found at UEA (still a bird I don't have on my Norwich list), so I was hoping Thorpe would turn up one of them. I usually head to the scrape first, but knowing there had been some sandpipers on the shingle spit I headed there first. Some local kids were playing music, so I stayed long enough to pick out a Common Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper then headed round to the bird screen.


On the broad itself a brood of six small Mallard ducklings bobbed past, but there was little else of interest. A Sedge Warbler was in full song from the ditch nearby, and a second one was singing from the marsh between the path and the railway line. There were a lot of butterflies about, mostly Small Tortoiseshells. I also heard one each of Willow Warbler and Blackcap, and got great views of a hovering Kestrel. A pleasant evening to be out, and there's still plenty of time to find that Ouzel...




BRECKLAND: A Yare Valley outing

8th April 2015

On Wednesday a select bunch of Yare Valley birders embarked on a birding day out to the Brecks. Whilst I can't compete with Jim's erudite trip report (http://jimsbirdingblog.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-end-of-beginning.html) or Ben's excellent Firecrest photos (http://bensbirding.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/brecks-and-strumpshaw-update.html), this is my brief summary of the day.

Ricky & I left Norwich just after six and travelled to a forest ride deep in the Brecks where we met Jim & Ben. We were hoping to locate some Golden Pheasants at a site that Jim had seen several in the past. We couldn't hear any calling, which we took as a bad sign, but nonetheless set off patrolling the rides and looking down the gaps between conifers. With no sign of any Goldies we eventually gave up, although good views of a Woodlark were of some consolation.

Jim previously lived in Suffolk, and his local knowledge allowed him to smuggle us across the border into Suffolk without alerting the border patrols. The omens were bad when I got out of Ricky's van to find that he had parked on an already-decaying dead squirrel. At this site too there was no sign of any Golden Pheasants. The highlight for me was Brittle Cinder fungus (Kretzschmaria deusta), whilst for the others probably a Nuthatch. With the smell of disappointment (or was it that squirrel?) in the air, we headed back into Norfolk.

We were running out of accessible Golden Pheasant sites, so we decided to switch focus to some other Breckland species. Santon Downham wasn't heaving with birders, but neither was it heaving with birds either. We saw some Mandarins, including one high up in a tree, plus Brambling, Lesser Redpoll and three drumming Woodpeckers, all Great-spotted. As we were preparing to leave Ben picked up a distant Goshawk over some nearby woodland.


As the day brightened up we headed to another Breckland site where we got some excellent views of a displaying Goshawk, which we all enjoyed very much. Afterwards we headed to East Wretham, having a good chat with the warden before saying goodbye to Ricky, who had to go to work. The remaining three of us headed off to Lynford Arboretum. We did spend a bit of time around the gate, seeing Brambling, Siskin and Nuthatch, but no Hawfinches. Having heard several Firecrests we finally got great views of one as it foraged amongst the Bluebell leaves, behaviour I'd never seen before from this species.

Leaving Lynford we did a bit of minor-road birding. Three Red Kites tussling over a field would have been a nice sight in itself, but they continued towards us and passed low over the car to give cracking Gigrin-eque views. A little way away we saw three Stone Curlews in a field. We all remarked that it was nice to see what they looked like without them being wobbled by heat haze.

Our final stop of the day was an area of forest where we hoped to see Willow Tit. We walked down the main path full of expectation. As it was we managed to save ourselves the trouble of writing out a pesky description for the rarities committee by not seeing any. We did see a Roe Deer. It stared back at us for quite some time, but as it turned away first we claimed victory over this denizen of the woods.


Despite missing out on the Golden Pheasants and Willow Tits we all had a good day out, thanks to Jim for composing our itinery, and to Jim & Ricky for sharing driving duties.

YARE VALLEY: Hardley Staithe

3rd April 2015

Over the past couple of weeks a drake Ring-necked Duck had been seen on-and-off at some fishing pits near Hardley Staithe. Having only seen females before I decided to head down to Hardley with Cathy & Margaret on Good Friday to see if it was still around. As we approached I wondered if we had taken a wrong turning, with the end of the road to the staithe looking a bit like a farmyard. Luckily we could see boats at the end and parked up at the end of the cut. A birder was just leaving, and told us that he had been present all morning and there was no sign of the Ring-necked Duck.

We carried on anyway, taking in the cold but scenic surroundings. Several birders were still present, so we stopped alongside them and scanned the pits for an hour or so in the hope that the bird would emerge from the reedy margins or fly in from Cantley. It didn't, but there was quite a bit to keep an eye on, including at least five Little Grebes, a Redshank and a pair of Shelduck. A female Scaup was also present, although it spent most of the time we were there asleep, so it took quite a while to confirm that it was definitely a Scaup. We were also treated to a hunting Short-eared Owl, initially in the distance, but later on quite a bit closer to the back of the pits. With no sign of the Ring-necked Duck we headed home the scenic route via Claxton and Rockland.



NORTH-EAST NORFOLK: East Ruston

1st April 2015

On Wednesday Cathy & I took our mums to East Ruston Vicarage Gardens for a late Mother's Day trip (it was shut in March). Despite growing up nearby, I had never been before. We had a pleasant afternoon looking through the various different garden areas, followed by a big piece of cake in the tea room. In the summer I can imagine the gardens would be very good for insects, but because of the time of year we were mainly restricted to a few Bumblebees and Honey Bees. Bird-wise the highlight was a small flock of Yellowhammers. Before we left I noticed a couple of unusual ducks on a small pond. They were clearly hybrids of some sort, Dave Appleton has confirmed that they are Wood Duck x White-cheeked Pintail.

Afterwards we stopped at Walcott for ice cream, where we saw 18 Turnstones. I did keep scanning out to see whilst we were parked up, but didn't see anything of note passing through.