The Whitlingham Bird Report 2020 is available now (click here)

For previous years (2012-2019) see the links on the Whitlingham Bird List page.

WHITLINGHAM: A new rust, early House Martin and Kittiwake (eventually)

Early April 2021

A patch visit early in the month started well, with a mixed flock of hirundines containing House Martins, a week earlier than my previous earliest record here. At least two Mute Swans were on nests, and two Wigeon were on the Great Broad along with Mandarin, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck and Pochard. There was a large flock of 1st-winter Black-headed Gulls near the end of the broad, but I couldn't pick out anything else amongst them. Heading off into the wooded edge a Stock Dove was singing, and after checking a couple of patches of Moschatel I found some with Puccinia albescens, the second of the two rust fungi that specialise on it (having found the first one in Whitlingham Woods a few years ago).


I then headed round to Thorpe Marshes for my first visit of the year. The water levels were very high and the river had started to overflow onto the path, so I decided to do a quick lap. The pair of Stonechats that had overwintered were still present out on the marsh, and there was success on St Andrews Broad where a winter-plumaged adult Little Gull was with the Black-headed Gulls. At that point I found out that Justin had found two Kittiwakes on the Great Broad! He assured me that they looked very settled, so applying Sod's law it wasn't any great suprise that they had flown off 20 minutes later.

There was however a reprise, with an adult Kittiwake being found at Whitlingham a few days later. Rose and I took a walk along the southern shore of the Great Broad and eventually saw it at the east end. This was only my second live bird here (having also found a recently dead 1st year bird as well as an adult).

NORWICH: Early April at Mousehold Heath

Early April 2021

A family walk at Mousehold Heath was notable for the large number of Green Tiger Beetles seen - at least 20, probably quite a few more than that. They were very active, often first seen flying past and landing on a sandy bank. I kept an eye out for bees in the hope of finding my first Ashy Mining Bee, but only found a handful of species, including Orange-tailed Mining Bee. We also saw a couple of False Puffballs (Entiridium lycoperdon), slime moulds that form whitish half-spheres on tree trunks. Judging from social media it is having a good year. On our way back Cathy noticed a Treecreeper on a tree trunk close to the path, which showed very well.

NORWICH: Late March in the city

Last half of March 2021

The third week of March was rather quiet sightings wise, with a few flyover birds on my daily walk in to work including Grey Heron and a couple of Oystercatchers, whilst I heard my first Chiffchaff of the year singing along Lakenham Way on 23rd March. I saw a new beetle, by virtue of it landing on my desk, Two-spotted Carpet Beetle (Attagenus pellio). There was also an avian highlight with three Red Kites flying over Bethel Street seen at close quarters. Having seen the first one I then got closer and saw two fly over heading in the same direction. I assumed at the time that the first one had looped round behind me, but other observers on the other side of Chapelfield Gardens confirmed there were three individuals.

WHITLINGHAM: March WeBS cout & a new smut fungus for Norfolk

13th March 2021

The March WeBS count was rather uneventful, an exodus of ducks left around 100 Tufted Ducks, 4 Gadwall and 2 Pochard (numbers picked up later in the month, and a few Shovelers were seen the other side of the river at Thorpe on the same weekend). I delighted in prolonged views of a Jay in the wooded area near the Little Broad, and a hybrid Canada x Greylag Goose was on the Great Broad.

Having not visited the woods so far this year I had a quick walk in the nearest bit, hearing Treecreeper, Marsh Tit and Bullfinch for the first time this year. Spurge Laurel was in flower near the car park watchpoint. The most interesting point of the visit was a gall on Lesser Celandine. It didn't look like a rust so I examined it further, and as I suspected it turned out to be caused by a smut fungus, Urocystis ficariae. What I didn't realise at the time was that this is acutally quite a scarce species, and it appears to be new to Norfolk which is nice.

NORWICH: City centre sightings and a White-fronted Goose

1st week of March 2021

A busy week at work, compounded by the knowledge that a Black Redstart was present on my estate during a couple of the days and would have either been visible from the house or possibly even on top of it. Bird sightings on the way into the city have increased, with Sparrowhawks seen on several days, a Kingfisher along the river at New Mills and unexpectedly an Egyptian Goose on the building adjacent to Chapelfield Gardens!


Other wildlife sightings included a new site for Collared Earthstar (Geastrum triplex) - under some trees near the Sainsburys on Queens Road, and a small orange bryophilous fungus growing on a mossy wall, identified by George Grieff as Octospora coccinea s.l.


Throughout February there had been a flock of White-fronted Geese on the marshes at Postwick. These were quite close to Norwich as the crow flies, but quite a trek following footpaths or roads, so I had grudgingly ignored them. During the early part of March there seemed to be a movement of White-fronted Geese south of Norwich, including one that spent a few days at Marston Marshes. Marston is on the edge of Norwich a similar distance away to Whitlingham or UEA, so I went for a walk there and fortunately the White-fronted Goose was still present along the river, an excellent bird for the Norwich area. I also saw my first Ring-necked Parakeet of the year there, and some large aquatic snail shells on flood debris that Mike Hoit had already identified as Lister's River Snail.

NORWICH: Some mosses for the end of February

Last week of February 2021

This week's excursions were limited to a walk around the local park and the walk into work, neither of which resulted in any bird additions to the year list. A sunny spell did bring out a few insects though, with my first hoverfly of the year (Eristalis tenax), butterfly (Peacock) and bumblebee (too fast to be sure what species). Greenfinches and Chaffinches were also singing locally, whilst a Robin popped into the back garden on several days.

On Twitter Leif Bersweden had started posting information about common mosses, using the hashtag #couchto10mosses which encouraged me to look at some of the moss covered walls I passed, and I found a couple of the species mentioned, Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis) and Capillary Thread-moss (Bryum capillare).

Capillary Thread-moss (Bryum capillare)
Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis)
Unknown moss sp.

NORWICH: 3rd week of February and some Curlew at Hellesdon

3rd week of February 2021

I managed to get out for another local walk this week, choosing to go down onto the Marriott's Way and walk out westwards. Sweetbriar Marshes was flooded quite heavily in places (as you would expect from a floodplain) and I crossed over and went down Hellsedon Road for a while. It was nice to walk along the river, and Jay, Pheasant and Green Woodpecker were all new birds for the year. Scanning over the meadows between the river and Marriott's Way most of the birds appeared to be gulls, but further along a couple of Curlews were visible. They had first been seen a few days previously by Jo Dale, but I was pleased that they were still present given that I'd not seen any around Norwich before. I appeared to have timed it just right, because on my way home soemthing put up the gulls and the Curlews also took to the air, calling several times before flying off high north-eastwards.

Back at home the warm weather brought up my first Buzzard of the year distantly over the housing estate.

WHITLINGHAM: Snowy WeBS count and watching Redwings

2nd week of February 2021

A few days of heavy snow across the county meant not leaving the house on the basis that a pandemic is not a great time to have an ice related accident. Once things had began to thaw I did venture out, and walked to Whitlingham to get February's WeBS count done. The city was both pleasantly quiet and not as slippery as I had thought it might be. 

Arriving at Whitlingham the Little Broad was completely frozen, but most of the Great Broad was still open. There was a decent range of ducks (although typically a Smew and a Black-necked Grebe turned up on successive days after my visit). I counted 239 Tufted Ducks and around 120 Gadwall, with the long-staying 1st-winter Scaup plus Goldeneye, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Pochard and Mallard also present. A Bittern had been seen earlier in the day, but wasn't on show and I didn't linger to wait for it. Several flocks of Siskins were in the Alders, and I heard my first drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. The highlights were both seen as I walked back along Whitlingham Lane, getting prolonged views of a flock of Redwings feeding on Ivy berries, and finally a Woodcock flew over the road.


Elsewhere during the cold snap I had added three birds to the year list from the garden, Greenfinch, Goldcrest and a male Blackcap.

NORWICH: Early February & a city centre lichen

1st week of February 2021

A rather low key week. Whilst in the city I remembered to have a look at a tree on Haymarket (next to Peter Mancroft Church), which held the yellow lichen Candelaria concolor. It had been mentioned in Peter Lambley's 2019 lichen report in the NNNS journal "Transactions.." and I assumed it would be something I've never seen, only to find out checking my notes that Peter had actually shown me it near Sparham on an NNNS event several years ago.


On the bird front the wintering Yellow-legged Gull was still present in Wensum Park when I went that way into work and I heard some Greylag Geese flying over the house early one morning, but I didn't see or hear anything new this week. The only other species of note was the springtail Orchesella cincta on one of the pavilion pillars at Waterloo Park, a species I've seen before but nice to recognise one straight away.

NORWICH: Last week of January

Last week of January 2021

Despite classing Whitlingham as being in my local area I had avoided the area since our Jan 1st pre-lockdown visit, mainly because I suspected it would be quite busy. Towards the end of the month I had to go that side of the city to pick up Cathy after work and it was drizzling, so I figured it would be fine for my daughter and I to go for a walk there. Reassuringly there weren't many people around at all, so we had a nice albeit rather muddy walk. The highlight was a Great White Egret, visible almost immediately along the far edge of the broad. We also picked up various sticks to look at the lichens, and I noticed the pale orange blobs of the lichenicolous fungus Erythricium aurantiacum, which was a new one for the site.

Later in the week there was a few sunny spells, and during my walk to and from work I heard a singing Grey Wagtail and three singing Song Thrushes, both new for the year. A walk at the weekend in Waterloo Park turned up another microfungus lifer, Spilopodia nervisequa. This was one of two fungi that can be found on yellowing Ribwort Plantain leaves (as tipped off by Stewart Wright), and can be identified by holding the leaf up to the light and observing the thick black hyphal strands between black apothecia. I'm still looking for the other species!

The month ended with the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. During the chosen hour we only had visits from six species; Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Blackbird, Starling, Blue Tit and Goldfinch. Later that day we did have a Sparrowhawk land on the garden fence, sadly attempts to photograph it through the window are not blog worthy.

By the end of January I had managed to see 48 bird species - probably the lowest January total I've ever recorded, but not surprising given the lack of actual birding.

NORWICH: A few January fungi

3rd week of January 2021

A blank week in terms of new birds for the year, but I did keep up my record of seeing a new species of something each week thanks to a tip from Stewart Wright. Stewart had posted on a Facebook group about the lichnenicolous fungus Athalia arachnoidea, and on my way past some trees on the next road over from my house I noticed some pale rings on the lichen-covered bark. At a distance you might assume that it was just dying off, but a closer inspection showed that it was a covering of white silky strands that are indicative of that species.


A few other fungi were also seen in the week, a rather non-descript orangey-brown one that I've not pinned down yet and Wood Blewit in the garden, and Bartheletia paradoxa on some dead Ginkgo leaves in Waterloo Park.

NORWICH: January week 2 - a new birch catkin gall

2nd week of January 2021

A quiet week. Cutting through Wensum Park a couple of times finally paid off when I saw the 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull again. It doesn't seem to be there the whole time, but does tend to fly in when the gull flock are attracted by people putting down food, as was the case here. Otherwise the only new birds for the year list were Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Coal Tit, the latter a welcome site in the garden. 

As with the first week I did eak out a new species, this time by checking some old birch catkins. A post online had highlighted that there were three gall midges in the genus Semudobia that can cause galls on them. Having taken a few home I failed to find either of the species that cause swellings in the seeds, but did find galls of Semudobia skuhravae, which swells the bases of the seeds and means they stick to the central bit of the catkin. There are no Norfolk records on NBN, but Rex Hancy lists it for both VC27 and VC28 in his NNNS Occasional Publication on the plant galls of Norfolk, so there must be Norfolk records of it on a database somewhere! I hope there will still be some old catkins left next time I get to go for a good walk at Whitlingham so I can check for them there.

NORWICH: A showy Kingfisher and a new lichen

1st week of January 2021

As we entered lockdown number 3, the opportunities for anything that resembled recreation were cut (other than fishing, which a government minister, who presumably has never been fishing or seen a fisherman decided could count as exercise). Entried for the forseeable future therefore all relate to ad hoc sightings around Norwich.

Five more birds were added to those seen on January 1st, all on my way to or from the city - Jackdaw, Redwing, House Sparrow, Stock Dove (briefly singing from Train Wood) and Wren. I also got some nice views of a Kingfisher perched up along the river near Fye Bridge. I even managed to see a new species, although I couldn't identify it myself so ended up sending the pictures to Peter Lambley, who confirmed my lichen was Diploschistes scruposus.

WHITLINGHAM: New Year's wigeon

1st January 2021

The start of the year began as the last few have, looking in the back garden and down the road for birds to add to the year list. The species seen were similar to last year - basically it's always 10-15 of the same species, in a slightly different order! This time first to be conclusively identified was Carrion Crow, followed by Blackbird, Starling, Woodpigeon and Common Gull.

Normally we would head to Whitlingham then on to my in-laws for a meal - obviously the latter was out this year, and we decided to wait and go to Whitlingham in the afternoon when we hoped it would be less busy. This did seem to work, probably also aided by the overcast conditions, and we had a muddy walk along the south shore of the Great Broad and back. Whilst the duck numbers were still low there was a bit of a surprise in the form of a small flock of Wigeon on the Great Broad, at one point 11 visible but on our way back only nine - presumably the other two were tucked in near the island. Four Goldeneye, a flypast Kingfisher and the resident Barnacle Goose were of note. There was also a final flourish as the drake Mandarin that often roosts here during the winter was visible near the ruined hall.


January 2021

I am pleased to say that the Whitlingham & Thorpe Bird Report for 2020 is now complete and you can download it via the link here. Thanks to everyone who has reported sightings from the area over the past year - this has been even more important than usual as I was unable to visit during lockdown and made fewer visits than normal throughout the rest of the year. In particular I am grateful to Gary White, Justin Lansdell and Stuart White who sent through lots of records and also between them managed to photograph many of the species present. Gary has also put together a Youtube video of clips of many of the species seen, which can be viewed here:


You can also still view or download all of the previous Whitlingham & Thorpe bird reports using the Whitlingham Bird List & Report page at the top of the blog and a reminder that if birds aren't your thing then there are various species guides covering animals, insects, plants and fungi on the Whitlingham Species Guide page.