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

More half-term birding

I've lumped wed-fri together so people don't get sick of the constant updates.

Wednesday saw me & Adam brave the crowds for another patch visit to Whitlingham. The birds were all crammed into the conservation area, and amongst the Coot I saw a Wigeon with what looked like a green Teal-like stripe on its head. I was thinking Teal x Wigeon, although American Wigeon x Wigeon would look similar. Either way, I moved to get a better view and couldn't pick it up again. The bright sun on the water could well have created an artefact, so although exciting at the time I won't be dwelling on it. The only other sighting of note was three flocks of Redwing over going determinedly west (10, 21, 22).
On Thursday Cathy & I got a lift to Snettisham via Flitcham. Unfortunately the Little Owl wasn't showing, but we did see a Bullfinch, a number of Red-legged Partridges running (always an amusing sight) and a Common Buzzard. At Snettisham we both noticed a Water Rail simultaneously in the reeds, and picked out eight wader species whilst waiting for the Knot to flock. We left before the last remaining birds had taken to the air, but were still pleased with the views of Knot and Golden Plover flocks twisting and turning above us. We diverted via Brancaster in case the Snow Goose was still around, but were just in time to see the remnents of the Pink-feet fly North.
By Friday I was ready for a more local trip, and took the bus south to the village of Shotesham. I waited on the edge of the common with a small group of birders (seeing Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher by the ford), until one of them located the Siberian Chiffchaff in a hedge. I saw it flitting about in a willow before it emerged from the top and flew across the road into someones garden. The call seemed to be straightforward tristis, although I don't think I've heard abietinus calls to compare it with. The residents very sportingly gave us permission to go down their drive, but as it hadn't called in a while I had a quick scout of the nearby trees and then got the bus back home. The bird has been heard to sing and has been recorded, so it should get clinched either way. I had planned to have a drink in the local pub, but it was shut when I got to it. Later in the day a possible Parrot Crossbill was reported from Wells Woods, which sounds like a tempting trip for Saturday!

Cley & Salthouse

27th October 2009
After a complaint from Cathy that I wasn't finding her enough birds, we went to Cley to look for Snow Buntings. A compromise look through the waders failed to turn up the White-rumped Sandpiper, but there was a nice looking white-headed Ruff. We sat in Dauke's Hide scanning the Teal and Wigeon, and eventually found the Green-winged Teal sleeping on an island. A slightly surreal moment happened earlier when a woman who followed us into the hide asked us straight away where it was, and when I replied "I don't know, I've only just got here" muttered "you mustn't be able to see it from here, there's not enough people" and walked out. Notwithstanding the old way of doing things (i.e. looking for yourself), it seemed an odd principle that a bird is only present if a crowd is watching it. Very odd actually.

Great. Now where's my Blue-winged Teal?

A few Bearded Tits flew over, and flocks of 30-50 Redwing and Fieldfare were flying over regularly. We heard a Water Rail, but didn't see it, much to Cathy's dismay, and unsurprisingly the Snow Buntings had gone. A seawatch was poor, however in addition to a lone adult Gannet going east, a Great Northern Diver sat offshore. We walked along to Salthouse, then back to the village. A flock of around 200 Greylags was on Arnold's Marsh, and a (tame) Snow Goose and at least 4 Canada x Greylag Geese joined a Canada Goose flock. A Barn Owl hunting over the marshes was a nice end to the day.

Whitlingham & Mousehold

24th & 25th October 2009
A patch visit to Whitlingham saw the usual crowds of walkers and dogs. The Egyptian Geese had mostly buggered off to Thorpe Broad (51 on the spit), whilst everything else had made for the conservation area. Large amounts of Coot, too mobile to count, and the first Wigeon of winter, 4 males and 6 females. No sign of Adam's female Mandarin. Whitlingham Lane was covered in ladybirds, mostly 7-spot, but a reasonable number of Harlequins as well.
Following that unsuccessful visit it was back to Trowse Woods to get a sample of the bracket I found last week. It is still on to be Ganoderma resinaceum, which would be about the 5th Norfolk record. Other notable fungi included Polyporus durus, Mycena arcangeliana and Mycena adscendens.

Bearded Tooth Fungus at Trowse Woods

The following day a wander around Mousehold saw the customary number of birds (it varies between 5 and 6), and a surprising lack of fungi. We failed to see Fly Agaric, my main reason for going. The fenceposts were covered in ladybirds, but in contrast to Whitlingham, most were Harlequin.

Eastern Crowned Warbler

24th October 2009

I had planned to go on a local fungus foray today, but the offer of a lift to see the latest addition to the British List provided to strong a temptation. Me and Adam met Gary & Phil at six o'clock, and we headed off to Lincolnshire. Here we stopped for breakfast at a Little Chef whilst awaiting news from the quarry. First news negative, but by the time we had finished our tea the ECW had been seen again, and the journey was on.
A largely traffic-free journey to South Shields and we eventually found Trow Quarry. We walked down to the crowd and had brief views in the scrub before the Eastern Crowned Warbler flew to the next stand of trees. A Yellow-browed Warbler called and showed well, but it took the next flight of the ECW before it showed well. I was able to watch it feeding, during which it performed a nice roll around a branch, demonstrating the key features; pale underparts, yellow vent, crown stripe, long bright supercillium and thin wingbar. Happy and not too wet, we decided to wind our way home via Bempton.
We drove across the corner of the Yorkshire Moors, in the hope of seeing Red Grouse (probably the most common British species I'm yet to see - I don't leave Norfolk much!). Unfortunately the rain was pouring down, and we soon gave up. We also didn't see any Dippers at a favourable looking stream, and had a nice bacon roll in a cafe in the middle of nowhere. We arrived at Bempton Cliffs RSPB in the mist, and walked around the corner towards the feeding station. Here we crouched down and watched a Red-flanked Bluetail foraging in the undergrowth close in. A small child was particularly excited, chanting "there it is" long after the bird had gone (a stringer of the future?) before wandering into my telescope.
We decided to attempt one last bird, a Dusky Warbler at Flamborough Head. We walked down a muddy track alongside the Viking Pub (unfortunately it wasn't visible from the pub) and stood in the rain for what seemed like an age, without success. Eventually the rain stopped, and a birder found what looked like the Dusky in a stand of scrub behind us. We spent a while getting brief flight views before the bird called. I managed to get a 30 second view, enough to pick out the facial markings and colouration to go with its "Tek" call, and decided it was unlikely I would get any better views. Before leaving I scanned a large flock of Starlings (no RCSs) and saw a Yellowhammer on the wires. Off home, and back by 9:30. A long and successful day!

West Runton (2)

17th October 2009

With no further sightings of the Pied Wheatear, my attention was caught by a report of a possible Veery. I'm still not entirely sure of the order of events, specifically if there was also a Swainson's Thrush or a re-identification, and also whether it/they were seen later on but not reported, as one BirdForum poster says he saw both birds in the evening. Either way I decided to head for West Runton and hope that any Catharus thrush reports would reach me by word of mouth.
I walked up to the field west of the derelict buildings, where around eight birders were looking in different places, suggesting no-one was on the bird. Having seen about 30 Skylarks, a birder approached me and asked if I'd seen the Short-toed Lark yet. Saying I hadn't, he pointed out an area of the field where he had seen it last, and sure enough as we neared the area it flew up and did a loop of the field. I managed to keep it in my binoculars until it landed, by which point more people had come over and managed flight views the next time it took off. To confuse matters some people got on a Skylark sitting on the fence and thought that was the S-T Lark (it would have been ironic getting that good views, everyone I spoke to had only seen it in flight). I stayed a while, hoping to get a view of it in a furrow, but unlike the Skylarks it seemed determined to remain in the stubble.
I then walked west along the coastal path, past some handgliders towards Beeston Bump. A number of Cormorants were in the shallow foreshore pools, and a Lapland Bunting stopped briefly on the cliff edge before flying off eastwards. A Kestrel and two Meadow Pipits were the only other birds I saw inland, whilst the low tide meant seawatching would have been pointless.
Back in Norwich I went to Trowse Woods to have a look at a fungus known as "Bearded Tooth Fungus." I eventually found it on the end of a Beech log. As far as I know this is the only site in Norfolk, and it wasn't seen last year (it could be that the dry conditions this year have been beneficial for a change!). There were a number of other species , mostly brackets, but also large quantities of Honey Fungus and Sulphur Tuft.

West Runton (1)

16th October 2009

Earlier in the week a Pied Wheatear had been found at Horsey. The east coast is difficult to get to by public transport, but I had managed to organise a lift on Friday night after work. Of course, the wheatear buggered off Thursday night. Typical. Instead of calling the trip off, me & Neil went to West Runton to look for the Short-toed Lark. A few other birders were looking, but seeing only Skylarks and getting drenched in a sudden downpour, we returned home via the King's Head in Hoveton.

Two patch ticks and a Buzzard

12th October 2009
Upon getting home from the cinema on Sunday, I saw just how much had been seen on the North Norfolk Coast, including a Rose-coloured Starling. However, being seen on a Sunday afternoon, I couldn't have got there anyway. Possibly more annoying, was a Common Scoter on Thorpe Broad, which I could have seen (mind you, "Up" is a very good film, I recommend it). Anyway, after getting home from work on Monday, I saw on BirdGuides that the scoter was still there a few hours ago, so I powerwalked down to Whitlingham.
Upon arriving, I was alerted to a Common Buzzard over the woods by a flock of circling Jackdaws, taking turns mobbing it. The Buzzard kept on soaring, completely nonplussed. I watched it for five minutes (Buzzards still aren't very numerous in the area) before carrying on along the broad. Another stop, as a V of Pink-footed Geese flew NW, a belated patch tick for me. Eventually I did make it to the end of the broad, and looked across the river to Thorpe Broad. After a couple of minutes, a drake Common Scoter swam into view. I watched it until the light started to fade, then walked back, directing another birder who had been looking on the main broad on both evenings rather than Thorpe Broad. I counted 82 Mute Swans as I hurried back home. On the way back from the Waterfront later that night, he odd Redwing call could be heard above. A productive evenings walking!

More local wandering

10th October 2009

With an uncharacteristic October lull (I was dipping a Wilson's Phalarope this time last year) I decided to head back to Whitlingham. Following a mini-influx of Yellow-browed Warblers, I scrutenised all of the Long-tailed Tit flocks I could find, but no luck. The best part was whilst watching some on Trowse Common, a Kingfisher dived through my binocular view into the river! A large amount of canoeists were on the main broad, and further up I saw a group of old people power-walking sideways along the path. Puzzled, I walked up to them (it took a while, they were surprisingly nimble) and found that they were having a model yacht race, but were worried about the yachts going out of range, and were keeping parallel with their boat. So anyone that thinks birding is a bit odd, there are odder hobbies out there.
In the conservation area a large amount of Coot, about 50 Tufted Duck and some Gadwall were joined by three pairs of Pochard. About a third of the Great Crested Grebes are now in winter plumage. I walked up the tree-lined avenue looking for roosting Tawny Owls (I heard two calling last month, but couldn't pinpoint them), but saw nothing other than a few Jays. Lets hope we get a few rares next weekend, to make up for not being able to go to the Scillies with Adam, Gary & Phil.


4th October 2009

In a fairly foolish move I agreed to social engagements for the first weekend of October, and feared the worst with regards to rarities turning up. Luckily the weekend was fairly quiet, the westerly winds not bringing in much. Saturday I watched Norwich destroy Bristol Rovers 5-1, and Sunday I went to Whitlingham for Cathy's mum's birthday meal. A quick walk around yielded two interesting birds, a returned Black Swan and the second-generation Chinese Goose x Greylag, which unlike its parents has a black beak. The conservation area was packed with Coot, but a lack of binoculars prevented me from scanning the banks.