The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2015 is now available to download here. If you are interested in reports from previous years you can still download the 2014 report here and the 2013 report 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 for 2015, which is available here.

NORTH NORFOLK: Bird Fair & Edible Frogs

22nd May 2016

This weekend was the Norfolk Bird & Wildlife Fair, and having enjoyed our visit last year Cathy, Margaret & I decided to call in. Having had a look at the lecture list we settled on Sunday so that we could listen to Julie Curl's talk about wildlife in archaeology. We all found the talk very interesting, vindicating our choice. In particular Julie touched on the discrepancies between documentary evidence of birds being eaten at banquets compared to the archaeological evidence. It appears that when estates were writing that they were serving up hundreds of Bitterns they may well have just had one or two as table decoration and been feeding their guests commoner birds like geese, all disguised with strong herb sauces. Something worth bearing in mind when looking at old bird records!

After the lecture we went for a walk around the grounds. Our first port of call was the rose garden, where two Spotted Flycatchers had been seen the previous day. There was no sign of them whilst we were there, although a bonus was a Hobby flying past. We then took the path across the meadows, stopping at a small pond. Here we saw Azure and Large Red Damselflies, Four-spotted Chasers and Cathy spotted a small fish that looked like a Minnow.


Whilst we were near the pond Cathy asked what the noise was that we could hear in the background. Dismissing my original suggestion (a Crow that had swallowed a duck) we carried on along the boardwalk until we reached a small hide overlooking a large pond. Once we entered the hide it became apparent that the noise was coming from a target species of mine, the Edible Frog. The loud calls meant I scanned the area closest to the hide, but Cathy pointed out the fifty or so Edible Frogs much further back amongst some weed. They were mostly lime green, with white vocal sacs visible when they called. Apparently these frogs originate from a release at nearby Erpingham in 1977. Having seen the frogs we returned to the main part of the fair for lunch, before having a look around the main Marquee.


WHITLINGHAM: Spring invertebrates

21st May 2016

Having been to Thorpe on Friday, I checked Whitlingham on Saturday. I checked around the ruins in the hope that a Spotted Flycatcher would have returned, but it seems this species is no longer regular in the area. There was quite a bit of Star-of-Bethlehem flowering - have I just missed this in previous years? The Great Broad was a bit disturbed from boating activities, but mainly held Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


The warm weather meant lots of insects were about, including six species of ladybirds and two shieldbugs. There were lots of small Nomada bees flying around the eastern end of the Great Broad, but frustratingly none would settle - I still don't have any on my patch list. Hoverflies included my first Cheilosia illustrata of the year. Another one of my favoured groups are metallic seed and leaf beetles, and there were some nice bright green ones which I think are Plateumaris sericea, and a darker one that I haven't made up my mind on yet! Figwort Weevils were also out and numerous along the south shore.




THORPE MARSH: Mayflies & an egg mystery solved

20th May 2016

Whitlingham has begun to quieten down with regards to birds, so on Friday evening I headed to Thorpe Marsh where there was a better chance of seeing something different. I once again failed to see any Hobbies, but I did add one bird to my patch year list in the form of a Shelduck. Susan had kindly emailed me to say that she had seen one on Thursday whilst conducting Orange-tip counts, but at first glance there was no sign of it on the broad. Ricky then phoned me to say that he had seen it fly in and land on the western edge of the broad. Despite scanning from different vantage points it was out of site, and I had almost given up before finally seeing it asleep amongst some vegetation.

In contrast to the birds there were large numbers of insects. In particular there were lots of recently emerged Mayflies (Ephemera vulgata) and Caddisfly spp. I was also able to solve a mystery from last weeks visit to Wheatfen. Whilst at the Bioblitz we had seen eggs on dock leaves, but not been able to identifity them. Today I saw not only the eggs, but the beetles responsible. They were Galerucella sagittariea, and with several similar species with different foodplants, the fact that they were egg-laying on dock was particularly handy. Of the rest of the insects, Red-headed Cardinal Beetles are always nice to see, and there were also some Soldier Beetles (Cantharis rustica).






EAST NORFOLK: Bee-eater

15th May 2016

Despite being recorded annually in Norfolk, Bee-eaters can be quite difficult birds to see. Typically they are seen (or sometimes just heard) flying over, never to be seen again. I had only seen one in Norfolk, a bird at Glandford that stayed in the area a few days. All this meant that a Bee-eater in the Winterton area that had remained for the best part of a week was a major draw for East Anglian birdwatchers. Having had a busy weekend I hadn't thought about going to see it, but on Sunday evening Ricky texted me to say that he was going to go, did I want a lift? Despite thinking that it would probably have headed off to roost before we got there I accepted the offer, and the gamble paid off nicely as we got excellent views of the Bee-eater, firstly perched up, then gliding about and finally feeding. A great end to the weekend, and thank to Ricky for the lift.






YARE VALLEY: Wheatfen Bioblitz

15th May 2016

On Sunday Wheatfen hosted a Bioblitz, in conjunction with the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists Society and NBIS. This brought together a host of experienced naturalists and interested wildlife enthusiasts to head out onto the reserve and record as many species as possible. I had agreed to go through the moth trap at the start of the morning, however my role became rather superfluous as the cold weather overnight meant only three moths were present in the trap - 2 Powdered Quakers and 1 Green Carpet.



After this slight setback I went for a walk looking for insects with local volunteer Kevin, Tim Hodge, David Norgate and several others. We begun in the area around the Thatch, where we were shown the larvae of the very rare beetle Galeruca laticollis feeding on Meadow-rue. Five species of ladybirds were present, along with a Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle and several different hoverflies. Two Hobbies flew over, and we saw three Cuckoos including a bubbling female. Stewart Wright showed us several micro moths and case-bearing larvae, which were particularly interesting.

 Cream-spotted Ladybird
 Galeruca beetle larvae
 Coleophora paripenella case
 Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle

A few sunnier spells encouraged more insects to fly, including Orange-tip and Hairy Dragonfly. There were lots of Green Nettle Weevils and early instar Dark Green Bush-crickets in the nettles as we looked for extra species. We were able to point out some other interesting species, including a tiny Owl Midge and a large Noon Fly. A rust on Wild Currant was a new fungus for me. On our way back to the visitors centre we saw Large Red and Blue-tailed Damselflies, and a Black Colonel soldierfly. After handing in our records sheet I headed home, but recording went on into the afternoon - I'll update this post with an overall species total if one gets published.

WHITLINGHAM: Swifts, House Martins & more

14th May 2016

Saturday was a cold, breezy day and birdsong was muted. The highlight of my Whitlingham visit was the waves of hirundines and Swifts sweeping low to the water, hurtling over the surface of the Great Broad. The Swifts were closer in to the shore, but interestingly there was a large number (probably around 120) House Martins further back. Several other Norfolk birders also noted seeing large numbers of House Martins at wetland sites today, so perhaps there has been a late arrival?


Two new species were seen, firsty Fever-fly (Dilophus febrilis), and secondly Changing Forget-me-not.


WHITLINGHAM: Black Terns at last

10th May 2016

By the weekend it was beginning to look like the large passage of Marsh Tern spp had passed Whitlingham by. Luckily this year with some of the UEA birders visiting Whitlingham in addition to the regulars, there are more eyes on the lookout, and this afternoon Drew came up trumps with some Black Terns. 

Luckily I had just got home from work when he called, and was able to head down to the Great Broad where two Black Terns were hawking insects along the far shore. They began to move towards eastwards towards the island, so I walked a bit further down. A screeching call alerted me to a third Black Tern flying in, and looking along the shore I could see that Drew had also noticed this latest bird. Whilst Black Terns are near-annual at some sites in Norfolk, I think these might be the first ones at Whitlingham since September 2010, and definitely my first summer adults here. They remained into the evening, allowing a number of local birders to see them. Incidentally they were mostly out of my camera range, so I'd love to see any photos that people may have taken of them.



There was also a bonus beetle - whilst walking from the car park to the broad I spotted a metallic beetle in the undergrowth, which I recognised as Chrysolina polita, which became patch species 1001.

Chrysolina polita

WHITLINGHAM: May counts & patch 1000

8th May 2016

Hot sunny days are great for lazing about, but less great for lugging a telescope around a busy country park on the outskirts of the largest urban conurbation for about 100 miles. The place was packed, so I attempted to be as quick as possible whilst carrying out this months wildfowl count. On the Little Broad a couple of Common Terns were resting on the line of buoys and straw close to the south shore, allowing me to take a few photos. Lone Gadwall and Tufted Duck, three Mallard and a couple of Mute Swans completed the Little Broad count.


The only bird present in any numbers on the Great Broad was Lesser Black-backed Gull, with 87 counted, mostly in a flock east of the island. The drake Pintail x Mallard hybrid that now spends most of its time at Thorpe Green was also present near the island. There is a lot of Greylag Geese goslings about, with a creche of 47 goslings probably representing a minimum of six broods. In contrast I only saw one brood of Egyptian Geese and Canada Geese. Only 7 Tufted Ducks were left, although the broad was quite disturbed. Across the river at Thorpe there were lots of gulls and four Common Sandpipers. Frustratingly a group of people were trespassing on the hingle edge fenced off for Little Ringed Plovers. Why do people feel the need to do this when there is an accessible area for them nearby?

It was my most productive day of the year for butterflies, including two Brimstones and a Holly Blue, neither of which are particularly widespread at Whitlingham. Small Tortoiseshell, Orange Tip and Peacock were also present. The hoverfly Leucozona lucorum was nice to see again, but the most pleasing site was a fly, Bibio anglicum, not because it is particularly unusual, but because it becomes the 1000th different species that I've seen on my local patch. A significant personal milestone, and one which I'll probably write more about as some sort of article.

 Leucozona lucroum
Bibio anglicum

NORWICH: Plantation Garden wildlife workshop

8th May 2016

On Sunday morning I went to the Plantation Garden, a restored Victorian garden near the Roman Catholic cathedral in Norwich. As part of a plan to survey the wildlife present in the gardens and to encourage volunteers to take on the ongoing recording of it, a series of four wildlife workshops have been arranged. These workshops are being run by the Friends of Earlham Cemetery - the first two focusing on daytime insects, the third on moths and the fourth on fungi. Through my links with the Friends of Earlham Cemetery I had been asked if I would help with some of the workshops, so I met Stuart Paston (Norfolk's hoverfly recorder) and Jeremy & Vanna Bartlett for the first workshop.

After a brief introduction about why people record wildlife and the sorts of things to record, we headed into the garden. It was a bright sunny day and we saw a range of insect groups, although not too many of any one group. Orange Tips, Holly Blues and a Green-veined White all flew about within the garden. Using Stuart's expertise we looked closely at some hoverflies, seeing two new ones for me, Platycheirus albimanus and Epistrophe eligans. Several bees and ladybirds, Bee-fly, Common Earwig and a Beris sp soldierfly were all added to the list. Hopefully the participants found the workshop useful and there will be a good turnout for the next one in July.

Epistrophe eligans

NORTH NORFOLK: Baconsthorpe picnic

7th May 2016

With nice weather forecast for the weekend we decided to go for a picnic at Baconsthorpe Castle, a ruined stately home near Holt. It's a scenic site, surrounded by a moat that joins up with a small lake. Despite it ostensibly being a non-birding trip we saw a pair of Gadwall, a Little Grebe and some cygnets on the lake. Whilst we ate our lunch Swallows, Swifts and Skylarks flew overhead, and a Whitethroat sang from a nearby tree. Nearby a bee was flying around the base of the ruins, and when I looked closer I saw that it was a Gooden's Nomad Bee, a new species for me. Rue-leaved Saxifrage was growing on the walls, which was also nice to see.

Baconsthorpe Castle grounds
 Gooden's Nomad Bee - a bit blurry because its in flight
Rue-leaved Saxifrage

WHITLINGHAM: Black Tern watch (none so far)

6th May 2016

Throughout the day there had been a passage of Black Terns, including birds west of Norwich at Colney and east of Norwich at Buckenham, so after work I headed to Whitlingham to check the Great Broad. Other birders had already checked the previous evening and earlier on Friday, so the CP got pretty good coverage, and sadly no Black Terns (or Whiskered Terns, which had also turned up in several places around the country, though not in Norfolk).

It was a warm day, which made a pleasant change as my last few visits have been either cold or rainy. The Whimbrel earlier in the week was my 997th patch species, so I turned my attention to insects on my walk back to the car park in the hope that I would find three new species. A Syrphus hoverfly turned out to be Syrphus ribesii, which I've seen before. A solitary bee, Andrena nitida, on the picnic meadow was new however, and became species number 998. I had high hopes that a crab spider (Xysticus cristatus) would be 999, but having checked with Pip Collyer (Norfolk's spider recorder) he suggests that whilst likely, it wasn't marked well enough to be definite.

 Syrphus ribesii
Xysticus sp.

As it was I did get my 999th species, a small white-flowered plant called Sticky Mouse-ear. Hopefully one more visit will see me reach the 1000 - Whiskered Tern would be nice!

Sticky Mouse-ear

WHITLINGHAM: A patch Whimbrel

3rd May 2016

On Tuesday evening I'd got home from work and seen a message from Drew about a nasal-saddled Tufted Duck at Whitlingham. This was doubly interesting, firstly in that hopefully we can find out where it was ringed (somewhere in France) but also it shows that there is a turnover of birds going on rather than the same Tufted Ducks that wintered lingering. 

Shortly afterwards I got another message, this time to say that Drew had found a Whimbrel. They are just about annual at Whitlingham, but most records are just of birds flying over. This one had landed out of sight across the river at Thorpe. Going to Thorpe Marsh would give me the best chance of locating it, but the rush hour traffic would delay me getting there. Instead I headed to Whitlingham, carried on to the woodland car park and headed up to the viewpoint. From here you can see much of Thorpe Broad, however bits are masked by the trees. Fortunately I managed to find an angle to look through the trees and located the Whimbrel resting on the shingle edge of the broad. It remained there for about another 10 minutes, before calling repeatedly and presumably flying off. This became my 143rd patch bird - many thanks to Drew for finding it and letting me know.

NORFOLK: Bird race 2016

1st May 2016

The first of Sunday of May usually sees Gary, Adam & I embark on our annual Norfolk bird race. This year we were accompanied by Gary's friend Alysia, who having recently got into birding was keen to see some new locations and birds. For any readers unfamiliar with the concept of a bird race, it is an attempt to see or hear as many species of birds as possible within a fixed time period, usually a day. Imagine a sort of amalgamation of Springwatch, a round Britain rally and 24, with lots of product placement from crisp manufacturers and lucozade.

Incidentally the previous day had seen five teams compete in the Norfolk Bird Race organised in association with the Norfolk Bird Fair, which is being held on 21/22 May. The teams were sponsored to raise money for Wader Quest, and raced across East Anglia rather than just Norfolk. If you are reading this on Monday 2nd May you could still donate to Wader Quest here: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/Norfolk-Bird-Race-2016. If not, then why not visit the Norfolk Bird Fair and hear about it there?

Gary picked me up at four o'clock, and we headed down to our usual starting point on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. On our way we picked up our first bird of the day, a Tawny Owl, close by in an area of Breckland forest. Incidentally Adam had seen a couple of birds already, and during the day some of us sometimes missed a bird and picked it up later, so my sequence of birds will be slightly different from Gary's for example. We also didn't record some of the common 'heard only' birds, knowing we would see them later in the day. What follows is a rough account, including some but not all of the birds we saw.

The next birds on the list were things like Pheasant, Carrion Crow and Magpie, before we stopped to look for Treecreepers. We could hear several, but it took a few minutes before I eventually picked one up on a nearby tree. A couple of Mandarin flew past, the first of three pairs we saw in the area. A Water Rail called and went down on the list as we thought it possible we'd not see one later (and we didn't). Nuthatch and Great-spotted Woodpecker were added to the list, but most pleasingly of all we got excellent views of two Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers.


Heading back along the riverbank we saw Marsh Tits, Green Woodpecker, a Sparrowhawk, two flyover Lesser Redpolls and a singing Garden Warbler. Heard but not seen were Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler. A Kingfisher flew downriver, and a Siskin flew over us. The lack of floating leaves in the river meant that we were concerned we might miss out on Grey Wagtail, but handily one flew past us shortly after. Goldcrest, Jay and Coal Tit were handy early additions, so we moved on having seen 42 species with another 7 heard. A look around St Helen's picnic area added Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet and some rather picturesque Mute Swans.


Next stop was some forest rides nearby, where we successfully saw some Tree Pipits. Skylarks had begun to sing, and we saw a Willow Warbler having heard them earlier in the day. A Stonechat was a nice surprise and meant that we could cut out a stop for them later in the day. Our next stop was Lynford, and we headed towards the lakes first. A smart male Bullfinch was visible from the car park, and a Cuckoo and a Common Sandpiper were present around the main lake. In some open land nearby see found some Woodlarks and a Wheatear.

Heading back into the arboretum we heard a Firecrest singing and located it close by. Heading down to the lake we saw a Little Grebe, before heading to the paddocks. A Grasshopper Warbler reeled from a small tree close by, before being chased out by a bird that looked like it could have been a Lesser Whitethroat, but vanished before we could confirm it. Heading back through the arboretum we got a proper bonus bird, as a calling Hawfinch flew over us and away into the trees.

Our next stop was Weeting Heath, but on our way we stopped in Weeting village to add House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Rook and Swift. We were to see lots of Swifts throughout the day at a range of sites. Despite quite a few cars in the car park there was nobody in either hide at Weeting, and we couldn't blame them as there was no sign of Stone Curlews from either of them. This was our first 'miss' of the day, but we were still doing well and didn't have time to hang around so we headed off towards Welney, adding Swallows, House Martins and Red-legged Partridges.

As we neared Welney I noticed a Yellow Wagtail in a field. By the time we stopped and reversed it had gone, but in a field the other side of the road there were several more and also some White Wagtails. Further round Gary spotted a Little Owl on a building roof. He wasn't sure at first, asking if it was a bird or just a knob on the roof, so it wasn't surprising that it flew off before he could photograph it.

 Yellow Wagtail
Little Owl

At Welney we added a few birds from Lady Fen (Shelduck and Avcocet), before heading to the main observatory hide. Here a Little Ringed Plover and two Garganey were the highlights, along with a few Whooper Swans, Common Terns and other common ducks. A Cetti's Warbler sung and we added Lesser Whitethroat, Wigeon and Reed Warbler along the path. A bit further up we stopped at one of the wicker hides. Dunlin and Ringed Plovers were on a scrape, and a Great White Egret was feeding along the back of the pool. A Meadow Pipit became my 100th bird of the day at 11:45, the first time I've got to the 100-mark before 12. After hearing loads I finally saw a Sedge Warbler in the car park before we left.

 Garganey
 Little Ringed Plover
Great White Egret

Herring Gull and Feral Pigeon were additions as we travelled up through Norfolk to Tottenhill, where fortunately there weren't many leaves on the trees allowing us to see a Black-necked Grebe on one of the pits when it swam out into open water. We arrived at Flitcham, where a Red Kite was flying over a roadside field. Our first Egyptian Geese of the day were in a field on the otherside of the road. We had a brief look from the hide, where an adult Yellow-legged Gull was perched up close by. We walked into the village and saw some Tree Sparrows.

 Yellow-legged Gull
 Tree Sparrow

Our next stop was Snettisham CP. Last year we had tried here and not seen much, but we thought it was still worth a go. It didn't look promising with lots of people and dogs running around, but further away from the car park Gary heard a Ring Ouzel calling and I spotted a Redstart perched up on a Hawthorn. With not much other than a distant Marsh Harrier, we headed up to the top path to look for waders. The tide was in, and there weren't any. Darn. Walking back I spotted a Whinchat perched up nicely, steadfastly ignoring the hubub going on along the beach. We then cut back through an area of scrub, and Gary was vindicated as a Ring Ouzel flew out of the area he had heard it in originally.

Whinchat

A quick stop in Hunstanton added Fulmar to the list, before we went to Thornham Harbour. There were less waders than we'd hoped for, but Curlew, Brent Goose, Whimbrel and Grey Partridge were all added to the list. There was even time for me to photograph the hoverfly Rhingia campestris along the coast path. Heading inland we stopped to twitch nine Dotterel south of Choseley, taking me up to 120 species at around 15:30.

Rhingia campestris - note the long 'nose'

At Choseley Drying Barns the star was a Turtle Dove, feeding alongside Stock Doves, a Collared Dove and some Woodpigeon. Yellowhammer was an 'upgrade' from heard-only, and Corn Buntings were a relied have missed them earlier. We headed to Titchwell on 123 birds, with a seemingly good chance of beating last years total of 140 species.

Turtle Dove

Arriving at Titchwell at around 16:00 we checked the sightings book before heading off to Patsys reedbed. Common Gull, Med Gull and Red-crested Pochard were all added from the bird screen, whilst there was another Little Ringed Plover and another Cetti's Warbler called but remained hidden. Scanning from near Island Hide we heard Bearded Tits, but a Turnstone, Great Black-nacked Gull and a Grey Plover west of the the bankwere the only additions. From Parrinder Hide a Little Stint eventually appeared, but we were still missing quite a few waders. We headed to the beach, and a scan out to sea gave us Sandwich Tern and Common Scoter, whilst a single Black-tailed Godwit and some Sanderling were on the beach.

 Red-crested Pochard
 Turnstone
 Little Stint

Leaving Titchwell we were on 135 species, and our options were running out for new ones. A stop at Gun Hill gave us Barn Owl (we had seen one earlier in the day, but it had been in Suffolk!) and Short-eared Owl. Another stop further along added Spoonbill and Pink-footed Goose, taking us to 139 with a couple of hours of daylight left. Surely we could do it from here.

Working out the commonest birds we still hadn't seen it became apparent that most were waders or seabirds. We had a quick look up at Kelling Heath, where a purring Turtle Dove was nice to hear, but no birds were added. Our hopes were pinned on Cley, but we failed to add any birds on the reserve, and only Black-headed Gulls and Sandwich Terns were moving out at sea. Rather than wait around and then attempt to see a Nightingale in North Norfolk we decided to return to the city early and hope that the male Peregrine would be roosting on the spire of Norwich Cathedral. We returned in just enough light, but despite trying multiple vantage points there was no sign of it (the other bird was out of site on the nest platform). We did manage our final bird, a singing Nightingale on the outskirts of Norwich.

So another excellent if frantic days birding, ending just short of beating last years total, and thanks in particular to Gary for driving duties.