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

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

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.



WHITLINGHAM & THORPE BIRD REPORT 2020

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGwzAYjaGHA

 

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.


2020 highlights and end of year post

And so 2020 comes to an end, to be replaced by a rather similar start to 2021 by the looks of it. All of my wildlife trips during the year took place in the administrative county of Norfolk, which is rather local even by my standards. An abundance of caution meant seldom meeting up with people, even when it was legally allowed, and for the first time in many years I didn't see any new bird species having decided to stay away from sizeable twitches. Nonetheless, as it has a habit of doing wildlife provided some respite. Simple things like spending time in the garden, listening to birds singing in the evening without a backdrop of people outside the nearby pub and Blue Tits finally using out nesting box were all pleasant, but some of the other yearly highlights are listed or shown below.

New patch birds

April was the first month that I'd not visited my patch since August 2009, but as restrictions were eased a bit in May I was able to visit again. Fortunately this meant I was able to go and listen to the Corncrake (although as it's almost certainly from a reintroduction scheme it's not gone down on the list), but it was June's Savi's Warbler that was the patch highlight of the year, reeling away in the sunshine at Thorpe Marshes. Flyover Common Crossbills and the short-staying Red-breasted Merganser completed my best year for new patch birds since 2016.

Odonata

Having seen the usual resident species it is unusual for me to see anything new, but a colony of Southern Migrant Hawkers were found at Thompson Common during the summer, and after giving it a few weeks we went and had a look. It was a lovely warm day and having located a male we all got excellent views as it repeatedly hovered in front of us. Elsewhere at an undisclosed site I was also able to see Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, another recent colonist to the county.


Ladybirds

Much biological recording depends of the availability of up-to-date, affordable and usable ID guides. The release of the latest Richard Lewington-illustrated guide is one such book that should give Ladybird recording a shot in the arm, in particular the half of the species that usually escape attention because of their size, the so called "inconspicuous ladybirds". Thanks to the guide, advice from Vanna Bartlett and Andrew Jewel's excellent website, I finished the year having seen six species of inconspicuous ladybird (five found and one shown by Vanna). All six were found around Norwich, and I'm sure there are more species to find locally too. I even managed to find a new conspicuous species, the pine associated 18-spot Ladybird.

Ivy Ladybird, Nephus quadrimaculatus
18-spot Ladybird

Target species

In recent years I have not set myself too many target species, knowing that I don't have the time to actually go and look for them, but I still remember ones from previous years that I never saw, plus the ever growing list in my head of things I'd like to see. Two targets seen this year were the snail parasite Leucochloridium paradoxum, the video of which was shown on Autumnwatch, and Magpie Inkcap, seen at Wayland Woods.


Coreid Bugs

Lockdown meant that I was unable to go and have a look at a newly discovered colony of Scarab Shieldbugs, which would have been a new species for me, but I had better luck with the related family Coreidae. I found one a new species on my walk home from work, Slender-horned Leatherbug, and also added two species to my garden list, the common Dock Bug was expected but Deticulated Leatherbug less so.

 



Involvement in a book

For the past few years I have been helping with a book for the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists' Society entitled Norfolk's Wonderful 150. It includes 150 species with links to the county, some rare, some common, but all nominated for their connection. Having helped to finalise that list, I was then tasked with making sure there was someone to write accounts for the insects, then trying to track down photos of them (not always easy with some of the more obscure ones). Finally I then had check over the profiles received and if necessary edit them down to the'house style' to fit with the other profiles we were receiving for plants, animals etc. Anyway, after lots of effort it was finished this year and sent out to members, which was satisfying.


 

https://norfolknaturalists.org.uk/wp/shop/#op18


Happy New Year to you all, lets hope that 2021 is a positive one.


NORWICH: A confiding Yellow-legged Gull

Mid December 2020

Birding during December largely took the form of looking around whilst walking to work (it is dark on my return). Whilst this was largely an uneventful affair, a couple of Pink-footed Geese flocks flew over, one heard only in the fog and one seen. The Cormorants perching up on a building near New Mills reached a total of four, falling well short of a new one for each day of advent.

 

Bird of the month was a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull, initially found by Stephen Vickers in Wensum Park. When I cut through the park I was fortunate to see it fly in with some Herring Gulls. It was the closest up I've seen one, as well as being a new bird for several of my more tenuous birding lists (on foot from home and birds within the Norwich outer ring road). There was also a Herring Gull in a similar pluamge stage, so I was able to compare the two, which will hopefully come in handy when identifying this age Yellow-legged Gull again in future. As far as I know it is still present (writing this on the 29th Dec).

Yellow-legged Gull

 Herring Gull for comparison

And so, unless anything great turns up in my garden this is the last blog entry of 2020. I got behind in the spring and never really caught back up until now, so apologies to readers that like their blog entries to be fairly current. Time depending I will put together a year highlights/summary post in a couple of days, but you won't be missing out on too much if I don't! Best wishes to everyone for 2021.

WHITLINGHAM: December bird count

13th December 2020

The final WeBS count of the year, and quite probably my final patch visit of 2020 too. In the past December has been a productive patch month - my best birding find here, a female Ring-necked Duck, came in December, whilst various other winter wildfowl can turn up around this time, but today it was rather quiet. Numbers of Tufted Duck nudged towards 200 - I counted 191 in the end, whilst six Goldeneye was a decent count although lower than some counts earlier in the month. 14 Pochard, 84 Gadwall, 88 Mallard and 5 Teal completed the duck counts. Four Little Egrets were still present around the Little Broad, although I suspect a few more might have roosted but departed before I got there. It was damp and fairly busy, so I didn't linger or note anything of non-avian interest either.



NORWICH: Springtails in the garden

Late November 2020

A group of species that I have been thinking of paying more attention to in 2021 are the Springtails, tiny creatures that are abundant in leaf litter and soil, but also in most other habitats too. It makes sense to have a look for the larger ones first (and that is relative, i.e. 4mm instead of 1 or 2mm!). Whilst playing in the garden with my daughter on a drizzle day I noticed lots of springtails on the top of our gardening box. There was at least two different species, as some where long and thin whilst others were round, a shape known as globular. Sticking them under the microscope it turned out there were three species, Dicyrtomina saundersi, Entomobrya intermedia and Entomobrya multifasciata. No springtails seem to have many Norfolk records based on NBN (indeed the NBIS contribution seems to be only four records!) so it seems like if I do start to generate some records they could be noteworthy in a county context. The fact that I can find them in the garden. the local park and at Whitlingham also might come in handy whilst travel restrictions are in place.




THORPE MARSHES: Late Nov Red-breasted Merganser

Late November 2020

As a month of staying within a few miles of home drew to a close there was a final flourish, with a drake Red-breasted Merganser on the broad at Thorpe. A rare species inland, this was only the fourth local record in the past 30 years, so it was fortunate that it turned up on a weekend.



NORWICH: Mottled Umber

 Mid-November 2020

As expected the number of moths being seen near my adopted floodlight on the walk into work had dwindled to nothing most days, but I was pleased to see this nicely camouflaged Mottled Umber on the brick wall.



WHITLINGHAM: November bird count & fungi

15th November 2020

Heavy rain in the morning meant a delay before I could get back to Whitlingham for November's WeBS count, but for the time of year there wasn't as much winter wildfowl as expected, with 75 Tufted Ducks, 43 Gadwall, 105 Coot and 9 Little Grebes. In addition by the time I had completed my lap the drake Mandarin that often roosts on the Great Broad was back around the slipway. I also got good views of a Grey Heron which was perched up on one of the bridges along the south shore.



 A few frosts had put paid to the flush of fungi that had come up in October, but I did note a couple of new patch species, Girdled Knight (Tricholoma cingulatum), a species associated with Willows, and Silky Pinkgill (Entoloma sericeum) a grassland species.



WHITLINGHAM: Family woodland wander

8th November 2020

A family walk at Whitlingham Woods, in part accompanied by a Tree Slug as my daughter insisted that she wanted to show it (named Sluggy) the woods. The fallen Oak tree that has hosted impressive displays of Black Bulgar again was covered in fungi, mostly Stereum spp but also a nice Beefsteak Fungus. Other fungi included Dead Moll's Fingers, a slender relative of Dead Man's Fingers, plus the tiny but interesting-looking Merismodes anomalous.




I made a point of checking lots of tree trunks for resting moths. No luck on that front, but we did see lots of Door Snails, a Pine Ladybird (a fairly common species but one previously missing from my Whitlingham list), Oak Bush Cricket and the spider Drapetisca socialis.