The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2023 is now available to download from the Bird Reports page or from here

SOUTH NORFOLK: Shotesham lichen meeting

30th March 2024

Norfolk lichen recorder Rob Yaxley had organised a few informal meet-ups to survey churchyard lichens, and I managed to attend one at Shotesham, a village a few miles south of Norwich. We looked at three churches (two 'proper' ones and a ruin) and as expected racked up a good lichen list. The presence of quite a few experienced naturalists meant that we also turned up various other species across a wide range of groups. The pictures below are a small selection of highlights, but things that spring to mind include a lichenicolous fungus that appears to be new to Norfolk (Spiloma auratum), my long-awaited first Bristly Millipedes, the inconspicuous ladybird Rhyzobius litura, Ashy Mining Bee and smut fungi on aconite and sweet violet and the pseudoscorpion Chthonius isochneles.

WHITLINGHAM: Evening visit

19th March 2024

I seldom get down to Whitlingham in the evenings, but on this occasion I had been invited to a celebration evening in the visitor barn to officially open the new cafe and 'changing places' toilet facility. I headed down after work and was treated to some lovely views of a Barn Owl quartering the field south of Whitlingham Lane. It was then into the barn to meet some of the volunteers that help run the CP, listen to a few speeches and sample some canapes. The cafe and decour both looked very impressive, and it was nice to have been invited to have a look.

WHITLINGHAM: March WeBS count and some Bonfire moss

9th March 2024

Some nice weather for the March WeBS count and I had a good chat with Ed Mackrill part way round. A brief bit of Chiffchaff song from the wood near the pumphouse was my first singing one of the year and on the island two pairs of Cormorants were on nests. There were still good numbers of Tufted Duck, plus a drake Goldeneye and two Pochard. A Reed Bunting called from near the Little Broad and there was still a small flock of Redpolls in the area. The only non-avian species of note was 'Bonfire Moss' Funaria hygrometrica growing on an old burnt area. This is a common species and has been recorded here by the Norfolk & Suffolk Bryological Group, but was a new one for me apparently.

NORWICH: Sweet Briar Marshes cattle and mammal signs

2nd March 2024

The NWT reserve at Sweet Briar Marshes is yet to formally open to the public, but has been running events for the past year or so. I took my eldest daughter along to this one, which was to show young people the British White cattle that are now grazing the site with the aid of GPS collars. Unfortunately they had moved off onto the wetter parts of the site, so we did see them but always from a distance. There were plenty of tracks and signs to look for too, including Fox scat, deer footprints and mole hills.

WHITLINGHAM: February 2024 WeBS and early nesters

11th Feb 2024

The second WeBS count of the year. The site was still flooded in multiple places, less so than in January but the section of path near the pump house tested my wellies, a Christmas present having had my previous ones for over 20 years. Fortunately there was no leaks, and I walked slowly enough to not slop any water over the tops either. Duck numbers have started to drop, I didn't see any Shoveler at all on the Great Broad although there were a couple visible over the river on St Andrews Broad. There were 188 Tufted Duck and 17 Pochard, plus two Great White Egrets (one on the Little Broad, one on the Great Broad). My first singing Reed Bunting of the year was singing from the river edge, and I got good views of the redpoll flock near the gas works, eventally picking out a Mealy Redpoll amongst them.

I checked last years Grey Heron nests - one was occupied, one was empty and one had been taken over by an Egyptian Goose! In fact there might be two or even three Grey Heron nests close together, it was difficult to see if there were just three adults in close proximity of if they were all on nests.

Before leaving I checked out a bracket fungus growing on a cut wooden post near the visitor barn, that had first been reported to me before Christmas. I'm still not completely sure what it is, but Brownflesh Bracket has been suggested and seems like a reasonable bet.

NORWICH: January 2024 roundup

January 2024

A brief summary of the rest of January. Other than the two Whitlingham visits I didn't have any other dedicated wildlife-watching time. I saw one new species, a scale insect on Viburnum tinus called Lichtensia viburni. Whilst checking the host plant, which is widely planted in gardens and hedges around Norwich, I noticed that lots of leaves were a silvery colour. This is apparently caused by a species of Thrips called Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis. I've not found any so far, presumably they don't overwinter as adults this far north, but will be checking again later in the spring.

In terms of birds, in addition to those seen on January 1st or at Whitlingham I added Rook to my year list from the car whilst on a family trip to King's Lynn museum and the following: Kingfisher, Long-tailed Tit, Stock Dove (Wensum Park), Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldcrest, Coal Tit (Waterloo Park), Jay (Lakenham Way) and Grey Wagtail (Norwich city centre), so by the end of the month I had seen 47 birds at Whitlingham and 60 overall.

WHITLINGHAM: New record Shoveler count

13th January 2024

The path around the Great Broad is still flooded in places, with the water level almost reaching the wooden bridges along the south shore. A local resident remarked that it was the highest he'd ever seen the water here and implicated the hard infrastructure (e.g. the car parks), but that would overlook the large swathes of the county that have been flooded for some time. Anyway, knowing what it was like I wore my wellies and carried on.

As it was WeBS weekend I carried out a complete wildfowl count, the undoubted highlight of which was the number of Shoveler present. They started increasing in number during the week, and the 61+ present on Friday had been a new site record, but careful scanning from multiple viewpoints led to me counting (and double-counting!) 83 on Saturday, a mixture of adult drakes, immature drakes and females. So currently a site high count, but who is to say that the numbers won't keep increasing over the next week?

Sadly there was no sign of the Pintail that had been seen on Friday, a bird I've only seen here twice. There were however 2 Goldeneye, 2 Wigeon, 249 Tufted Ducks (including the pink-billed one), 122 Gadwall, 25 Teal and 11 Pochard, so a good selection of ducks. The wintering Great White Egret showed well, as did the 'brown' Cormorant discussed in last years Whitlingham Bird Report. Close-up views of five Lesser Redpoll and a Redwing, a flyover Ring-necked Parakeet and two Sparrowhawks up in the distance were all welcome sitings too.


10th January 2024

I have now completed the annual bird report for Whitlingham & Thorpe 2023 - you can download it here

A big thank you as always to everyone who has reported sightings, provided data or allowed me to use their photographs. A special mention to Robin Chittenden, Ed Mackrill and David Ratcliffe whose photos have enhanced the report significantly. Here's to an interesting patch 2024!

WHITLINGHAM: 1st Jan 2024

Last year due to various things, mostly childcare related, I got very behind at keeping this blog uptodate and then the task of catching up was too much. I am therefore leaving the last 6 months unwritten and starting again with the best of intentions!

1st January 2024

I started the year as usual, staring out of my living room window trying to see what birds were landing in some distant trees or flying past. I managed to see a slightly disappointing 8 species, beginning with Woodpigeon followed by Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Magpie and Starling. A visit to the in-laws produced several additional garden species, notably Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Dunnock and Jackdaw. It was then off to Whitlingham for an after-lunch walk.

The water levels at Whitlingham were probably the highest that I have ever seen them, with the circular path flooded in multiple places. Knowing this I was wearing my wellies and comfortably made it round. Some of the recent ducks had either departed or were too hidden to pick out with binoculars (I didn't see Teal, Pochard or Goldeneye) but I did see two Great White Egrets, Shoveler and Great Black-backed Gull, which were decent first of January birds here. The local aberrant Cormorant was present just before dusk, although as it seems to have moulted a bit it no longer sticks out as much. As I was leaving I also noticed a Carrion Crow with a few pale feathers too. Sighting of the day was perhaps a large Pike, seen well as it lurked under one of the bridges.

If you squint you can see the Pike!
Great White Egret, Grey Heron and 2 Little Egrets


Carrion Crow with a few white feathers

WHITLINGHAM: Delayed June WeBS count

Late June 2023

I had to delay June's WeBS count as there had been triathlons using the Great Broad. The wasn't anything particularly notable in terms of birds - 113 Greylag Geese, 57 Mute Swans (plus some cygnets in the conservation area bay) and 47 Egyptian Geese. A couple of Common Terns were also still present. In terms of invertebrates I saw my first patch Umbellifer Longhorn Beetle (Phytoecia cylindrica) and nice crab spider (Misumena vatia) and the smut on Greater Pond Sedge that has been very prevalent this year, Farysia thuemeni.

BROADS: A trip to Trinity Broads looking for fungi

Mid June 2023

In June the Norfolk Fungus Study Group visited Trinity Broads, specifically an area of woodland near Rollesby. The dry weather meant that there wasn't much in the way of 'cap and stem' fungi, but we did find quite a few interesting things in a relatively small patch of wet woodland, as well as enjoying some nice views over the broad. Some of the new species for me included Podosphaera mors-uvae (American Gooseberry Mildew), Hymenoscyphus salicellus, Vibrissea filisporia and Pandora dipterigena (the latter a fungus on mosquitoes).

Afterwards we had a quick walk around the boat club woods, where we also had permission to record. Here I saw the bug Cyllecoris histrionus for the first time. The visit was also quite good for psyllids - the total of seven species is the most I've recorded in a single day. All were fairly common species - Baeopelma foersteri and Cacopsylla fulguralis were the most notable ones.

SUFFOLK: A visit to Carlton Marshes

Mid June 2023

It had been several years since I had visited Carlton Marshes SWT reserve near Lowestoft, indeed a whole cafe and education centre had been built in the meantime. Despite not venturing too far out on the reserve there was a lot to see, the highlight of which was probably my first Rosy Woodlouse, Androniscus dentiger. Prior to my visit I had seen a smut fungus found on sedges (Farysia thuemenii) mentioned, and these things often tend to have good and bad years, so I checked some sedges and low-and-behold found absolutely loads of it. A third new species was Cyperus Sedge, which was common along the edges of the dykes.