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.

BRECKLAND: Speedwell search & Stone Curlews

12th April 2014

Chronologically the next species on my list of 30 Interesting Things was one or more of the rare Speedwells that can be found in the Brecks. Cathy & I went to a site near Thetford, where we searched along the edges of a path for the tiny blue flowers. We did find two speedwells, but neither were rare - most of the plants were Ivy-leaved Speedwell, whilst the other turned out to be Common Field Speedwell. We did see a Goldcrest and heard a Blackcap in the nearby pines.

Before going back we moved on to Weeting Heath, where we got good views of two Stone Curlews from west hide and had a chat with one of the wardens. I didn't have my 'scope with me to take any photos, but I notice that Craig Shaw also visited Weeting yesterday and he has got a good photo of the Stone Curlews on his blog here: http://craigshawsbirdingblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/brecks.html

NORTH NORFOLK: (Bats and) Chips

9th April 2014

On Tuesday evening we went to NE Norfolk to look for Barbastelle Bats. Before arriving at the roost site we headed to Walcott to get some chips to eat whilst we waited for the bats to wake up. Unfortunately we found out that the inhabitants of Walcott don't eat chips in the evening (at least this appears to be the case as every day except Friday the chip shop shuts at 3). We turned round and tried Bacton, where we just managed to get some chips before that shop shut too. With our precious potato-based meal we headed along the coast and parked up to await the emergence of some bats. Sundown came and went, and there was no sign of any bats. I got out and tried the bat detector at a range of frequencies, but not even a Pipistrelle. At least by trying early in the year there is plenty of time to try again later.

WHITLINGHAM: First Swallows and Red Kite

8th April 2014

April can be the best month of the year for birds at Whitlingham, so after work I decided on a quick visit to look for migrants. Birdsong was muted and I didn't see anything of note along the south shore, but walking back three Swallows flew over the Great Broad, stalling and gliding in the wind. A single Shoveler and six Gadwall were visible on the Little Broad before I headed round to Whitlingham Lane. 

I scanned the meadows for Wheatear, but the only species present was Jackdaw (96 of them!). Before leaving I scanned the dead tree on the off chance that a Little Owl had taken up residence, only to have a Red Kite fly through my field of view! I tracked it along the trees before it emerged and soared over Whitlingham Lane. This was only my second sighting here, and much better views than the first one which had been much higher up. This bird has been seen regularly at Whitlingham and Trowse over the past couple of weeks, so hopefully one of the Norwich-based bird photographers will get some good photographs of it in the near future. Whilst scanning the skies for it to re-appear I was rewarded further with a Peregrine flying over towards the city.

WHITLINGHAM: Spring migrants begin to arrive

6th April 2014

An overcast day with sporadic showers meant I was unlikely to catch up with the soaring raptors seen yesterday (Red Kite, Buzzard, Marsh Harrier), but did seem like good weather for hirundines. There had been a wholesale clearout of ducks from the Little Broad, with no Shoveler and only five Gadwall present. I went and checked the sightings board, but it still read that I should look out for autumn fungi and berries. Heading along the south shore of the broad I heard my first Blackcap about half way along, singing from the edge of the picnic meadow. In all I heard four, along with my first two Willow Warblers of the year just past the old pump house.

On the broad itself there were still 100+ Tufted Ducks and a pair of Pochard. There was no sign of Green Sandpiper or Little Ringed Plover on the shingle at Thorpe, although both have been seen during the week. I scanned the edges of the conservation area bay for Garganey, my patch nemesis, and in doing so almost missed a Little Egret, which was sat in one of the willow trees on the east end of the island. After another shower passed over I scanned again and picked up a single Sand Martin. It flew through and along the river, showing no interest in the broad. On my way back I spoke to one of the park rangers, who confirmed that a Red Kite was being seen regularly over the campsite and Whitlingham Hall area.

In non-avian news there are even more Wrinkled Fieldcaps out on one of the woodchip piles, and I saw a species of Thick-headed Fly.

Wrinkled Fieldcap (Agrocybe rivulosa)
Thick-headed Fly (Myopis sp)

BROADS: Fairhaven Gardens

5th April 2014

Today Cathy & I visited Fairhaven Gardens, an area of wet woodland near South Walsham. The sun was out and we enjoyed our walk along the ditches. As well as the usual early spring flowers there are a number of planted species here, including the potential invasive alien species Skunk Cabbage.

Skunk Cabbage

The sunshine ensured lots of butterflies around, including my first Orange-tip of the year and lots of Brimstones and Peacocks. Cathy hadn't brought her binoculars but still managed to pick out a number of species at distance, including a Treecreeper and fruiting bodies of the slime mould Entiridium lycoperdon high up on a tree trunk. A couple of Blackcaps were singing, along with lots of Chiffchaffs. The bird hide was closed for a workshop, so we went a little bit further on to look out over South Walsham Broad, but there wasn't much on it. On our way back I heard a singing Nuthatch, and again Cathy found it first. As we watched it became clear there was a pair, with one going into a presumed nest hole. We ended our visit with a cream tea in the cafe.

NORWICH: Local Black Redstart

30th March 2014

In between shopping and visiting the in-laws I found out about a Black Redstart that had been reported on a roof on Corton Road. As I live nearby I nipped out to have a look. On my first look there was no sign of it, but on my way back I noticed it peering Robin-like over the top of the roof. I waited nearby and it hopped along the top of the roof. An excellent bird to see locally, so thanks to whoever found it initially.

BRECKS: Lynford Two-barred Crossbills

29th March 2014

On Saturday I went to Lynford Arboretum with Jim and Connor to have a look for the Two-barred Crossbills which have shot back to prominence in the last week or so. On our way there I saw my first Brimstone butterflies of the year, and there were loads of them at the Arboretum, along with a couple of Commas. Upon our arrival a Common Crossbill was in trees near the car park.

Crossing the road and and walking up the main track we heard a probable Two-barred Crossbill contact call, but couldn't find the bird itself. Walking further in we heard at least four singing Firecrests, all deep in cover, but with no sign of any more Crossbills we returned to some puddles near the entrance in the hope of seeing one coming to drink. After a short while a birder stood with us saw a Crossbill fly into a small tree nearby. It was mostly obscured by branches, but Connor noticed it had two clear wingbars. It turned side on and flew down to drink, showing the first wingbar to be large, but the second slightly less so. It looked like a 1st-winter bird, but was it a Two-barred Crossbill, or the debated look-a-like? We thought it was probably OK, but hoped it wouldn't be our only sighting.

The Crossbill soon flew off, but we waited for a while near the gate hoping for it to return. Nearby Nuthatches and Siskin called constantly, and we were treated to a excellent display by a Goldcrest, raising its crown and singing at an interloping bird. Whilst Jim & I were watching the puddles Connor had gone looking for Firecrest. A phone call informed us that instead he had found a Hawfinch, so we hurried along to have a look. When we got there it was still visible near the top of a tall tree, but when it flew out we saw there were actually two!

We looped round through the Arboretum, before deciding to give the puddles one last look. It was whilst standing here that Connor & I both heard a Two-barred Crossbill call, and we picked it up in one of the larches. We called Jim and a small group of birders over, and managed excellent views of a male Two-barred Crossbill. With all eyes focussed on the tree, a female was found on a branch on the other side of the trunk, and finally another male. Just before we left they all moved onto the same branch, with all three in the same 'scope view. An excellent afternoons birding, thanks to Jim & Connor for the lift and company.

30 INTERESTING THINGS - 3/30 Hard Shield Fern

23rd February 2014

This week had seen a small influx of early migrant birds to Norfolk, so I headed down to Whitlingham in the hope of breaking my earliest patch record for Willow Warbler or Sand Martin. The weather was overcast with a few showers, but this can be handy for 'dropping' migrants, so I didn't resent the rain. On the Little Broad ten drake Shoveler were still present, along with a dwindling number of Gadwall. There was no sign of last weeks Egyptian goslings, which doesn't bode well for them. The most interesting bird on the Great Broad was a hybrid Canada x Greylag Goose near the main island.

With no migrants other than the now widespread Chiffchaffs, I headed further along into the woods. On my way along a woman stopped to tell me she had just seen a Hedgehog walking across the road ahead, but it had gone by the time I got there (I have only seen a squashed one here). There was plenty of birdsong, including a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Nuthatches, Song Thrush and lots of Wrens. The woods were carpeted with Dog's Mercury, Moschatel and Early Dog's Violet were also in flower.

Having asked for sites for Hard Shield Fern, a species I have never (knowingly) seen, I was told of several places, including Whitlingham Wood. Jeremy had kindly told me that there was a record from the woods in 2011, so I paid particular attention to the clumps of ferns, most of which are Male Fern. I had almost completed a circuit of the woods, not hearing any migrants along telegraph pole alley, when I noticed a different fern near the top of the steep steps. A closer look revealed it as my target species, Hard Shield Fern. I know I've looked at that clump of ferns before, but just never realised what it was!

WHITLINGHAM: March counts & Orange Underwing

16th March 2013

A bright sunny morning for today's WeBS count, with the attendant increase in visitors. The Little Broad held three Little Grebes, 11 Shoveler (a good count for March) and 45 Gadwall. A Chiffchaff called intermittently, the first of four around the site. Coltsfoot and Lesser Celandines were flowering in several places, whilst several Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks were seen flying in search of more flowers.

Little Grebes & Gadwall
Egyptian Geese
Along the shore of the Great Broad two small Egyptian goslings accompanied their parents along the slipway. Overhead some Redwings called unseen. A day-flying moth flew past me, and I managed to track it down a path, where I confirmed that it was an Orange Underwing, my first here. I also managed to find a couple of interesting fungi, Winter Polypore (Polyporus brumalis) and what may be Wrinkled Fieldcap (Agrocybe rivulosa).

Orange Underwing
Winter Polypore 
Possible Wrinkled Fieldcap

FENLAND: Whooper Swans

8th March 2014

Earlier in the year my mum and Cathy's mum had both expressed an interest in seeing a Swan feed at Welney WWT reserve. The mild winter has meant that fewer swans than usual were present, but we decided to go anyway and have a meal at the cafe before heading to the main hide as an early Mother's Day present.

Much of the site was still flooded, including the paths, so only the main hide was open. From here we watched as around 60 Whooper Swans and loads of Pochard came right up to the hide to be fed. One of the swans had a yellow ring on its leg, but I couldn't read the digits on it. Only a thin strip of land was visible, and this was covered in Black-tailed Godwits, with 12 Avocet, 1 Oystercatcher and 2 Redshanks. Behind them was a flock of Wigeon, including a drake with a clear green streak, similar to the birds pictured on Dave Appleton's blog.

Despite not seeing any Bewick's Swans we all enjoyed the day out, with sunny weather and excellent views. The swan feeds are finishing today (Sunday 9th) until the autumn.

THORPE MARSH: Little Egret

1st March 2014

Since moving house in the autumn Thorpe Marsh is further to walk, so it had been a while since I last visited. I had heard that a couple of Jack Snipe had been seen there in the week, so I headed down more in hope than expectation. As I crossed the railway line a Song Thrush was singing, an embarrassing patch year tick. Further along the path a couple of Reed Buntings were also singing, another year tick. As I reached the cattle pound I noticed a Little Egret amongst the rushes. I took some photos (this was the first time I've seen one here for any length of time, and only my third patch record). I eventually turned my attention to the scrape, scanning from different angles but not seeing any Jack Snipe.

As I went to move off the Little Egret flew into the middle of the flooded scrape, showing even better than it had before. Eventually it flew off, but only to relocate to the flooded path across the marsh. Walking slowly round I spotted a Stock Dove flying over the woods (no sign of any on the marsh itself though), and a Meadow Pipit also flew over. I stopped to look at some fungi and heard an Oystercatcher calling as it flew in to land on the spit. I scanned through the gulls hoping that Ben's Iceland Gull would relocate from Cantley, but despite a flock of gulls flying in from the direction of the sewage works I failed to see anything other than the commonest four species. Hopefully next time I'm here the Little Ringed Plovers will be back, along with the first warblers and hirundines.

NORTH NORFOLK: A glimpse of the aurora

27th February 2014

I happened to glance at Twitter before putting my laptop away, and noticed some excellent photos of the aurora borealis (Northern lights). Reading down the page it appeared it was showing well as far south as Blickling. Cathy jokingly said we should go and have a look, and I not-jokingly said we should go and have a look. We called Margaret, who had gone to bed for an early night but quickly got up and came over to pick us up. We headed north away from the city lights, heading to Cromer, along to Cley and home via Holt. The main activity had died down, but we still managed to see a green band of light along the horizon, which was excellent. We also saw a couple of small deer and a fox on our way round.

WHITLINGHAM: Siskin & a Suffolk Gull

23rd February 2014

I arrived at Whitlingham to the welcome sound of Siskins. They have been scarce locally this winter, presumably because of the mild temperatures, but around twenty were spread across the tops of the Alders. I scanned the Little Broad, counting nine Shoveler and 95 Gadwall. There wasn't much of note on the Great Broad, although I did stop to watch a Sparrowhawk soaring over the broad. Having gone round the broad I scanned the gulls from the bird screen and noticed a colour-ringed Herring Gull on the posts. I have reported it to the ringer, but as it turns out this bird was present last winter so I know it was ringed as a pullus at Havergate Island in Suffolk.

On my way back I glanced at a pile of wood-chips, and noticed a large group of cup fungi (Peziza sp). These can be tricky to identify, but I'll have a look in the next few days.

NORTH NORFOLK: Walsingham Abbey Snowdrops

17th February 2014

Today was Cathy's birthday, so we went for a walk at Walsingham Abbey to see the Snowdrops. The whole area was very tranquil, both along the flooded River Stiffkey and in the nearby woods. The ground was carpeted with Snowdrops and Winter Aconites, whilst Cathy found Harlequin Ladybirds, Garden Snails and a Plume moth on some old tree trunks.

WHITLINGHAM: February wildfowl counts

16th February 2014

Some bright sunshine today for a change, and as I left the car park a Skylark flew over calling. Starting as always with the Little Broad there had been a decrease in Gadwall numbers to 127, but on the up side the 12 Shoveler was my highest count here since 2010.Single Little and Great-crested Grebes were also present, along with 32 Tufted Ducks.

Nothing except Black-headed Gulls broke the hundred barrier on the Great Broad, with 91 Coot and 89 Tufted Ducks coming closest. 20 Pochard, 9 Teal and 36 Mallard completed the duck interest. I finished the main part of the count just in time, as one of the inflatable motor boats then proceeded to do flat out manoeuvres and turns along the length of the broad. Incidentally the south-east corner of the broad is still very muddy, wellies would be recommended if you intend on walking here.

Thorpe was relatively quiet, with no sign of the masses of Snipe present last month (although I presume they are still present just on the marsh rather than the broad). I did count 58 Tufted Ducks, 8 Pochard and 30 Gadwall, along with a Great-crested Grebe and Common, Herring and Black-headed Gulls.