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.

WHITLINGHAM: January counts

18th January 2015

I was looking forward to todays WeBS counts, with the forecast cold weather raising the possibility of some winter ducks appearing. I was also wary of the possibility of snow showers inhibiting visibility and impeding the counts. As it happened, I needn't have worried. The overnight chill amounted to a light frost, and there was no snow or precipitation of any sort. I arrived to an eerie landscape broken only by the yaffling of a Green Woodpecker, but departed to a bright day full of runners, dog walkers and other park visitors.


Ducks were spread across the Little Broad, making the counting process that bit more difficult. The pick of the bunch was six Shovelers together at the eastern end. On the Great Broad I scanned through the Black-headed Gulls for ringed birds, unsuccessfully. Further along I did find a red-ringed Herring Gull. Although too distant to read the ring from the south shore I did locate the bird again from the bird screen. It was VKB, a gull ringed as a pullus at Havergate Island in 2012. I had seen it previously here in 2014, and several other birders have also reported it from here.


I had been hoping to find the Great Northern Diver that had gone missing from the Strumpshaw/Rockland area, but there was no sign of it. The 2009/10 bird took several weeks to make its way to Whitlingham, so I would advise everyone to be on the lookout. With no other new wildfowl I completed my counts. The combined counts for Little Broad, Great Broad and Thorpe Broad included 80 Pochard, 220 Tufted Ducks, 209 Gadwall, 104+ Teal, 232 Coot and nearly 500 Black-headed Gulls. I did repeatedly check for the Mediterranean Gull, but as it turns out it was still at Thorpe St Andrew and unfortunately you can't see the green from Whitlingham.

NORTH WALSHAM AREA: Ebridge & Witton Woods

11th January 2015

Having given Cathy & Sophie a lift to North Walsham I had a couple of hours free to do a bit of birding. I decided to go to Ebridge Mill, and firstly walked along the western side of the old canal. A Grey Wagtail flew past, several Meadow Pipits called and I could hear Teal in the distance. Two Buzzards circling over Witton Woods were my first of the year. About halfway along the path I looked across and spotted two Muntjac Deer. The one in front was aware of my presence, but was content with the distance between us and kept browsing. I moved slightly further back and watched them as they fed amongst the rushes.



Having reached the end of the path I retraced my steps and then took the permissive path across to Witton Woods. Some Redwings called from the hedgerow before I entered the woods. There were quite a few walkers about, so I took a small path through some young trees, flushing another Muntjac Deer which bounded off from the path. In the coniferous part of the wood I saw some Goldcrests and Coal Tits. Possibly the most interesting sighting of the trip was a leaf-mine in Primrose leaves. Having looked for the organism that makes the mines it seems likely that it is a type of fly that is very scarce locally, although I'm still hoping to find a leaf-mining diptera expert to confirm my ID!



NORWICH: Thorpe St Andrew Med Gull

11th January 2015

On Saturday afternoon Justin had found a Mediterranean Gull with a flock of Black-headed Gulls on the riverside green at Thorpe St Andrew. I had never seen a Med Gull near Norwich, and the green is within a stones throw of Whitlingham too (I use the railway line as my arbitrary patch boundary). Considering this I popped down to Thorpe on Sunday morning in the hope that it was still around.

I arrived at around nine, and had the green almost to myself. There were hardly any gulls, so I kept scanning the tops of the lamp-posts where the Black-headed Gulls seemed to be congregating. I sat down on one of the benches and soon the gulls began to arrive and group together along the edge of the green. After several scans I had found the two ringed Black-headed Gulls that Justin had also seen yesterday, but no sign of the Med. By this time the gulls had been scared into the water by a dog, but upon their return I noticed the 1st-winter Med Gull had joined them. It was close, allowing excellent views, but it was constantly preening, making for rubbish photos.

I had rather resigned myself to not patch-ticking the gull when more dog walkers sent the gulls into the air. The Med Gull was easy to keep track of, and it flew over the river but then back round and landed back on the green. Less than a minute later the flock were put up again, but this time some canoeists went past and the Med Gull flew up, over the railway line and well into Whitlingham airspace. Hopefully it will hang around for a while, because it would be nice to see it on the Great Broad rather than just in the air close by!

1st-winter Mediterranean Gull
Colour-ringed Black-headed Gull J0AR

EAST NORFOLK: Time & Tide Museum

10th January 2015

Having enjoyed the Wonder of Birds exhibition at the Castle Museum last year I had mentioned to Cathy that I would like to see the Waterways exhibition, focusing on art and nature of the broads. This one is being held at the Time & Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth, a place neither of us had visited before. The exhibition is at the end of a loop, so before we got there we looked around the rest of the museum. The first part has recreated part of the tightly packed 'rows' district, and if you buy a guidebook you can borrow handsets that tell you about the people who lived and worked there in authentic Norfolk accents.

The next section was devoted to the Herring industry, and as it features the original curing houses there was still a smell of fish in the air (we didn't mind it, but some might). Upstairs was a series of rooms with artifacts from Yarmouth through the ages, plus some stone arrowheads and borrowed real Woolly Mammoth fur. After going through a room dedicated to World War II we arrived at the broads exhibition. The first room had some excellent photography from Great Yarmouth High School and East Norfolk Sixth Form. Further along were some sketches from Arthur Patterson and several photos from famous namesake (and distant relative??) P.H. Emerson. The amount of broadland pictures and photos was perhaps less than I had expected, but it was very nicely laid out.

If you find yourself with some free time in Yarmouth and are interested in local history then I would highly recommend a visit - take into account the museum is only open 12-4 though.

 The Rows (recreations of local houses/shops)
 Fisherman selling Herring
 A person from East Norfolk
The one on the left is from Whitlingham, hurrah!

2015 Target species

During 2014 I came up with a list of 30 target species that I wanted to see. By the end of the year I had managed 12 of the 30. As well as the enjoyment of seeing species that in some cases I had wanted to see for years, it also ensured that I visited some different places, so I have decided to set myself a target list for this year too. Two things that became apparent from 2014 were that 30 species was too many to aim for, and that having birds on the list was rather pointless (most of the birds I would like to see are difficult to predict where and when they will occur, and I'd go to see them regardless of whether they were on the list). So for 2015 I have come up with 20 species, 12 carried over from 2014 and eight 'new' ones.

My 2015 Targets:
Mammals
1) Barbastelle Bat (Carried over from 2014) - I tried to see these at Paston Barn but without success. Norwich Bat Group did see some at a wood south of Norwich, so that is another option.
2) Yellow-necked Mouse (Carried over from 2014) - To see these I'll need to attend a small-mammal trapping event at a site that has them.
3) Harbour Porpoise (New) - I have seen a dead one, and some distant fins on a Sheringham seawatch that were probably Harbour Porpoises, but it would be nice to see an unequivical one.

Amphibians
4) Natterjack Toad (New) - I've wanted to see Natterjacks for a while, maybe this is the year!

Butterflies
5) Marbled White (Carried over from 2014) - I had hoped to see these at Devil's Dyke last year but didn't get round to going.
(If any Yellow-legged Tortoiseshells successfully overwintered I'd like to see those too)

Dragonflies
(I didn't see Lesser Emperor at Filby in 2014 - if any are seen again here or Felbrigg I'd like to see one)

Moths
6) Hornet Moth (Carried over from 2014) - I hope to find a fairly local site for these.
7) Scorched Wing Moth (Carried over from 2014) - Fingers crossed for one this year

Other insects
8) Rhododendron Leafhopper (New) - Very little eats Rhododendrons, but these do and they look cool. Present at Sheringham Park, maybe also places like Holt CP? See here: http://www.britishbugs.org.uk/homoptera/Cicadellidae/Graphocephala_fennahi.html
9) A Colletes Bee sp. (New) - These banded bees are often quite specific to a single plant. Scabious Mining Bee occurs at Earlham Cemetery, whilst Sea Aster Mining Bee is locally common along the North Norfolk coast and Ivy Bee spread to Norfolk last year.
10) A new Shieldbug sp. (New) - I haven't seen that many, so this should be fairly simple. Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug (http://www.britishbugs.org.uk/heteroptera/Pentatomidae/aelia_acuminata.html) or Juniper Shieldbug (http://www.britishbugs.org.uk/heteroptera/Acanthosomatidae/cyphostethus_tristriatus.html) would be good.

Fungi
11) Hoof Fungus (New) - Spreading into Norfolk, present at several sites including Deringham Bog.
12) One of the red Waxcap sp. (New) - Either Scarlet or Crimson Waxcap would be nice.
13) Fluted Bird's Nest Fungus (New) - Having seen Common & Field Bird's Nests I'd very much like to see this one. I don't know of any seen in the past few years in Norfolk though (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyathus_striatus)

Ferns
14) Narrow Buckler Fern (Carried over from 2014) - BSBI maps suggest these occur close to Norwich so I may just need to work on my fern ID!

Orchids
15) Frog Orchid (Carried over from 2014) - I had hoped to get to Wink's Meadow last year but didn't get time.
16) Lizard Orchid (Carried over from 2014) - present at Devil's Dyke.

Other flowering plants
17) Purple Broomrape (Carried over from 2014) - Present in north-east Norfolk, although I failed to find it near Overstrand several years ago.
18) Chaffweed (Carried over from 2014) - Only present at one site in Norfolk, I didn't get round to visiting last year.
19) Any Breckland Speedwell sp (Carried over from 2014) - We visited a site for two of these last year but were in slightly the wrong place - I have some proper directions this time!
20) Maiden Pink (Carried over from 2014) - One of loads of Breckland plants I've never seen.

So there we are, the 20 (plus two possible extras) species that I hope to track down this year in between the Whitlingham visits and birding. Incidentally my Whitlingham all-species list is currently just over 810 species, so I hope to push that towards the 850 mark too.


WHITLINGHAM: A few more birds & BSBI plant hunt

3rd January 2014

A grey and rainy day, but with my Christmas holiday coming to a close I decided to give Whitlingham a look anyway. The Little Broad was rather low on ducks, but it turned out that many of them had simply moved on to the Great Broad. Near the bird screen a Snipe flew up out of the vegetation and across the bay. There was no sign of any Little Grebes (perhaps on the river?) but a few Teal and Shoveler were still present. At least 50 Pochard were on the Great Broad, with good numbers of Tufted Ducks and Gadwall, but nothing out of the ordinary. As I went round I paid particular attention to the tit flocks, trying to find one of the overwintering Chiffchaffs. I didn't see any, but this approach did pay off with a Goldcrest and a Treecreeper. A couple of Marsh Tits were also of note, and my Whitlingham list is now up to 40.

In addition to looking for birds I was also keeping an eye out for flowering plants as the BSBI* were conducting a survey to see what plants were in flower across Britain between 1st-4th January. I managed 12, none of which were particularly unusual. There was quite a bit of fungi about too, the most interesting of which turned out to be some circles on violet leaves. I suspect whatever it turns out to be will be under-recorded - I initially thought that the damage might be caused by a leaf miner of some sort.
Possibly Ramularia lactea on a Viola leaf
Beech Tar Crust

* The Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland

WHITLINGHAM BIRD REPORT 2014

I have now completed the Whitlingham Bird Report for 2014, based on a combination of my sightings, those told or emailed to me by other local birders and sightings posted on the internet. Hopefully other local birders will find something of interest amongst it. You can download a copy from this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_juW4cq34V3TXVFTzl1bWw3MG8/view?usp=sharing .


WHITLINGHAM: New Year's Day

1st January 2015

Having stayed overnight in North Walsham my first bird of the year came in the form of a flock of Long-tailed Tits. I heard them calling outside, and looking out of the window they were in a nearby Silver Birch tree before flying into the hedge a couple of feet from the house. We saw another five species from the house, combined with a few more on the journey back to Norwich.

After lunch Cathy & I headed to Whitlingham for a quick look around. On the way down Whitlingham Lane it became apparent that not only was it quite busy, but quite a few people had got together and made a new year's resolution to ignore the path and wander obliviously down the road. I'm not convinced they will be able to keep it up all through the year though.

Having safely dodged the pedestrians we set out back towards the Little Broad, passing a flock of 32 Greylags on the meadow. We quickly added Gadwall and Tufted Duck to the year list, whilst Cathy spotted a sleeping Wigeon (a bird I didn't see here until December in 2014) along the far shore. A bit further round was a Shoveler, and there were two more at the east end. There were hardly any small birds around, but we did stop to look at a log with a lot of Olive Oysterling fungi on.

Scanning across the Great Broad Cathy pointed out a Cormorant that was acting strangely. Upon closer inspection it became apparent that it had caught an Eel and was trying to swallow it. This took quite a while, and even when it had got the Eel completely inside you could still see it squirming in the Cormorant's throat. As we carried on I looked through the gulls and noticed a 1st-winter Great Black backed Gull, a decent January 1st bird here. It was defending a crust of bread against all comers. Further along we scanned towards the island, adding Grey Heron and Teal, whilst a Fieldfare flew over. We finished on 34 species, 25 of which were at Whitlingham.


WHITLINGHAM: Wigeony hybrid

31st December 2014

I managed an hour or so at Whitlingham this afternoon to see what the cold weather had brought. The Little Broad was more than half frozen, although the unfrozen bit still contained Shoveler, Gadwall and a Little Grebe. There were good numbers of Tufted Ducks on the Great Broad, but the main bird of interest was a hybrid duck that Justin had found during the morning. It appears to be a Eurasian Wigeon x American Wigeon hybrid, although I'm open to ideas if anyone thinks differently. It is an escape (rings were visible when it was out of the water) which is a shame, but nevermind. A walk back along the south shore of the Little Broad failed to provide any Water Rails, leaving them as 'heard only' for the patch year list. Best wishes to everyone for the new year.


SUFFOLK: Covehithe Shorelarks

29th December 2014

With the year nearing its end there was time for a birding jaunt into north Suffolk. I hadn't previously visited Covehithe and was interested in visiting and seeing the three Shorelarks that had been present for a little while. Cathy, Margaret & I arrived in the village and took the public footpath past some pig fields and out to the coast. A squally shower passed overhead, reducing visibility. On Covehithe broad we saw a pair of Goldeneye, a drake Pochard and some Gadwall. As I walked passed an area of Marram grass I saw the Shorelarks feeding close by along the broad edge. They happily fed away, but their constant movement combined with the rain made them a pain to digiscope (see some of my 'favourite' efforts below)




After leaving Covehithe Broad we had a look around the local church, which is situated partly within the ruins of the old one. We stopped in Lowestoft for lunch and a quick look from the quayside (a Seal being the highlight here) before continuing round via Yarmouth. On our way home we stopped near Halvergate in the hope of seeing a Rough-legged Buzzard or Short-eared Owl, and handily another birder was already watching a Rough-legged Buzzard perched up on the marsh, a nice end to the day's birding.


WHITLINGHAM: Pre-Christmas visit

23rd December 2014

With a little bit of time free I popped down to Whitlingham for a pre-Christmas jaunt. Scanning the meadows I looked up to see a Peregrine gliding over. There was still a reasonable number of Gadwall on the Little Broad, along with a scattering of Tufted Ducks. Three Shoveler were also present, including a pair close in to the east end.


Seeing lots of Black-headed Gulls resting near the canoe racks I scanned across for ringed ones, knowing that even if I did find any they would probably be out of range. I didn't see any with coloured rings, but did pick out a couple of metal ringed birds. They were far too far too get any detail, but James Appleton had seen two Swedish metal-ringed birds here last month, so perhaps these are the same birds. There were also quite a few Black-headed Gulls around the slipway, but no ringed ones visible.


The rest of the walk was pleasant but unspectacular, with around 100 Tufted Ducks, 31 Pochard and some Teal spread out across the Great Broad. Two Little Grebes were still in the conservation area bay. There has been quite a bit of tree clearance around the broad edges, so I shall be keeping an eye on the woodchip piles and cut stumps next year hoping for some interesting fungi!

Merry Christmas to everyone who reads the blog and those I have met throughout the year. Here's to a great 2015.


NORWICH: Yew Club

19th December 2014

The last day of work before Christmas, and as a result we were allowed to leave early in the afternoon. Instead of heading straight to the pub I excused myself and nipped to Earlham Cemetery. My target was a rare tiny white fungus called the Yew Club. I had some directions written down that read rather like a treasure map, and having found the right area I then had to get low to the ground and search amongst the moss. Eventually I found it and managed to get some photos. Many thanks to Ian who originally found it and gave me the directions. There was still time afterwards to meet my colleagues in the pub for a couple of drinks and a game of 'pass the pigs' (no I hadn't heard of it either).

Yew Club

WHITLINGHAM: Bat roost checks

14th December 2014

Today I went to Whitlingham with members of Norwich Bat Group to help out with the first roost count of the winter. We headed to Whitlingham Woods and into the old Lime Kiln. This was my first visit here, as earlier in the year we had been unable to unlock it. Inside we found four bats. The first one was in a crack in the ceiling and was noted as a Myotis sp, probably Daubenton's Bat. The other three, including one piggybacking on another, were Natterer's Bats. As well as the bats there were three Herald moths on the walls of the kiln. Interestingly none of the four bats were roosting in the specially made bat bricks that had been installed.

Herald moths, a species commonly found in bat hibernaculae

Moving back down Whitlingham Lane we went to look in the old railway tunnel on the edge of Trowse Meadow. There was no sign of the regular Brown Long-eared Bat, but we did find another three Natterer's Bats, two in a crack in the wall and one in a bat brick. Also in the tunnel were another four Herald Moths, one Buttoned Snout moth and also quite a lot of Cave Spiders.

Many thanks to Rich & the Norwich Bat Group for allowing me to accompany the roost checks.

WHITLINGHAM: December WeBS counts

6th December 2014

A bright and frosty day to carry out the last WeBS counts of the year at Whitlingham. Starting at the west end of the Little Broad there was a large group of ducks, mostly Gadwall. Whilst counting them I noticed a Kingfisher fly up onto a branch, and further round two more Kingfishers flew across the broad. The vegetation had died back enough for me to look for Water Rails, unsuccessfully, and a Goldcrest called nearby.


Once again I scanned the legs of the Black-headed Gulls for foreign-ringed birds but there was no sign of any. All of the gulls were then spooked by some canoeists passing by (a group of which later envoked the ire of the model yachters by canoeing through their course). Further along Graham (a birder from Diss) stopped to let me know that there were quite a few Pochard in the conservation area bay. In total I counted 40 on the Great Broad. A single Shoveler and several Teal were also in the bay, along with 100 Gadwall and 137 Tufted Ducks.

Thorpe Broad also had a decent number of ducks, 70 Tufted, 15 Gadwall, 7 Pochard, 2 Teal and a single Goldeneye. On the spit four Snipe and a Lapwing were visible. A couple of Skylarks and Redwing flew over whilst I stood on the riverbank. With the counts all but complete I scanned the conservation area bay for a while, picking up a couple of previously hidden Little Grebes. I also flushed a Snipe from the area next to the path to the bird screen.

A rather stretched-looking Common Gull

WHITLINGHAM BIRD REPORT - Sightings please!

It's the time of year when I start to bring together the 2014 Whitlingham Bird Report. As a result of the mild start to the year the number of species reported so far is rather modest, so I would be grateful for any sightings. Of particular interest are any locally scarce birds, counts or sightings of colour-ringed birds, whilst another area that is always under-represented is flyover birds like wild geese and swans.

Below is a list of birds that might reasonably be expected to be seen here that I have not heard about at Whitlingham in 2014:
  • Bewick's Swan
  • Whooper Swan
  • Pink-footed Goose
  • Red-crested Pochard
  • Common Scoter
  • Smew
  • Red-legged Partridge
  • Any of the 3 scarcer grebes
  • Osprey
  • Woodcock
  • Med Gull
  • Yellow Wagtail
  • Spotted Flycatcher
  • Mealy Redpoll
  • Brambling
  • Crossbill
As well as Whitlingham C.P. I include records from the surrounding area (i.e. Trowse Meadow, Trowse Woods, Thorpe Marsh, Whitlingham Marsh, Whitlingham Sewage Works) see the map below


To report a sighting you can either email me at: whitlinghambirds 'at' yahoo.co.uk, leave a comment on this blog post, message me via BirdForum or via Twitter (@Norwichbirder).

If you want to see what the bird report looks like then there is a link to the 2013 report at the top of the blog.

Thanks to everyone who has already emailed sightings throughout the year. Sightings posted online will have probably been added, but if posted under a pseudonym may not have been properly credited, so feel free to let me know if this applies to you and I shall add your name to the acknowledgements section.

Unless we have a bird-filled end to the year, the final report should be released during the first week of January 2015.