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

Wet weekend wildfowl

28th & 29th November 2009

On Saturday me & Cathy took the train to Hoveton and walked to Wroxham Broad. I was surprised that no other birders were there when we arrived. To the left (west) of the car park a group of Pochard were partly visible, and I found the Ring-necked Duck with them, although it had it's head down so i couldn't make out the beak. It drifted out of sight towards the yacht club jetty, so we settled down to wait for its re-emergence. A local birder joined us for a while, but decided to leave looking through the fence to us. Standing in the scrub at the edge of the car park and 'scoping through the metal fence I watched the Pochard flock around the jetty, and was eventually rewarded with a better view of the R-N Duck as it swam through my field of view. Not as good views as Whitlingham last year, but at least we saw it. Back in Hoveton a Black Swan was on the river near the Tourist Information Office.
On Sunday me & Adam went down to Whitlingham. As we arrived it started to piss it down with rain, a feature of the trip. Conclusions are that my new coat is waterproof, but this makes my trousers very wet. A Kingfisher flew across the Little Broad, and a Grey Heron stood close in to the path. We saw little other than the usual geese and Coot along the southern edge, and almost turned back as the rain strengthened and it became apparent that the path was flooded near the east end. We carried on (my new walking boots are waterproof too, thankfully) and were rewarded with a large number of birds in the conservation area:
Lots of Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck & Gadwall
Pochard - 57 (33m, 24f)
Teal - 12 (7m, 5f)
Little Grebe - 7
Wigeon - 4 (2m, 2f)
Shoveler - 3 (2m, 1f)
Adam picked out a Snipe preening on the edge of one of the islands, and Cormorants had displaced all the gulls except one LBBG from the posts. Another Grey Heron was on the main island, and a couple of Common Gulls were loafing with the Black-headed Gulls. A walk up the tree avenue failed to produce any signs of mythical Tawny or Little Owls, but did turn up Green Woodpecker and Jay. Two pairs of Egyptian Geese argued over the road, one pair having the field as a territory, the others settling for the Little Broad carpark. The field pair won, so the carparkers don't even have access at the moment! Still no sign of any Brambling or Waxwings, but Northerlies forecast this week.

Sculthorpe Moor

22nd November 2009

As part of Cathy's birding education, we went to Sculthorpe to get a better look at Water Rails, Marsh Tits and possibly Brambling. As it turned out there were no Brambling yet (much to Cath's annoyance, if anyone sees any around Norwich in the near future please let me know. UEA bird feeders is usually a good site). We did see all the usual woodland fare minus the Golden Pheasant, which had obviously migrated to the Himalayas. No sign of any Willow Tits either, but the rain put us off from looking too hard. In terms of non bird life, we saw a Bank Vole, 2 Muntjac Deer and some Wood Blewitt fungus. Gary & Claire joined us in the scrape hide, but by then the rain had set in and everything had gone to ground.

Marsh Tit from the fen hide

A Water Rail strikes a characteristic pose

Red crested Pochard, but should I feel bad about counting it?

21st November 2009

I nearly missed out on another patch tick today. Following the reappearance of the broads Ring-necked Duck, I planned to get up early and hit Whitlingham at dawn to look for scarce Aythya species before the whole county descended on the country park. My alarm went off at 6, then went off full stop. I slept in until 10 and thought bugger it. Settling down in the afternoon, a text from Gary alerted me to a Red-crested Pochard that had been seen the previous day (presumably this news was from RBA, there was no news on BirdGuides). The light was poor, but I figured I could get there with 45 minutes of light left, so I power walked down, arriving at 3.15. No sign in the conservation area or on Thorpe Broad, and I was on the verge of giving up when I found the drake RCP, attacking a Gadwall. I watched it as the light faded, unfortunately too dark for a record shot. I then walked home in the dark for a celebratory beer.
The first question should be whether the Red-crested Pochard comes from a sustainable population or is an escape. Unfortunately I can't think of a good way of finding this out. November has seen a large increase in wildfowl numbers at Whitlingham, and if a "wild" bird was to turn up, now would be the time. I'm happy either way really, but should I be? To explain this, with ironic timing fellow UEA alumni the Punkbirders have written an article for Birdwatch about whether it's ok to tick category C species. To be honest I don't really understand it. The suggestion appears to be that as many introduced species negatively impact on native species, ticking them is unethical. I don't really see the link between the impact of a species and its "tickability" personally. Maybe I've missed the point, but in answer to the sub-headline "Is it really ok to tick those Category C birds?" I can't see past the obvious answer. Yes.

No birds, but a Bird's Nest

15th November 2009

The "no birds" bit isn't strictly true, although no interesting birds probably is. A walk around Whitlingham after the strong winds was notable only for a female Goldeneye, the first I've seen there this autumn. The best part of the day was finding a number of Bird's Nest fungi (Crucibulum laeve) on twigs near my house. (Well worth looking up on google). These tiny fungi are apparently not uncommon, but due to their size are just rarely recorded. There are 39 records from Norfolk up until 2007, from only 7 observers and none since 2002, although I think specimens have been found at one other site this year and are yet to be added to the database. Later I participated in a fungus foray at Whitlingham. I committed a schoolboy error in forgetting to take a pen, and listed everything we found using Cath's eyeliner pencil, which worked surprisingly well.
Common Birds Nest (Crucibulum laeve)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) in Whitlingham Woods

Return To Pegwell Bay

Yes I am aware the title sounds like an Enid Blyton book.
7th November 2009
Following our previous disappointment at missing out on the Zitting Cisticola, its subsequent re-appearance tempted Gary to drive back to Kent this weekend. Me, Adam & Claire all went along, on what may ultimately be a waste of time if they colonise the UK in the next few years. As before we arrived at Pegwell around 8. There was no dog show, so we walked straight to the edge of the saltmarsh, where Gary recognised the sound of the Zitter. We got a brief flight view, but over the next 15 minutes got super views as it climbed up thistles and grass stems.
We did a mini-lap of the sight to look for perched Parakeets (a flock of eight had flown through already), and had another quick look at the Zitting Cisticola, still showing well. I had a cup of tea and a bacon roll from the friendly owner of the Dog Walkers Cafe, who joked he would be releasing a Siberian Thrush in a fortnight to keep up trade. This will of course provide a dilemma if one were to turn up, but luckily I think thats unlikely.
Despite having seen it on the way to the Scillies, Gary sportingly agreed to go and have another look at the Brown Shrike at Staines. We slipped and slided in the mud on the way down, churned up by thousands of birders and a week of rain. The shrike showed well in the hedgerow to the right of the bridge, showing off the huge black and white facial mask. Excellent.
Following two megas, we then stopped off in Southend to hunt for the Ring-billed Gull. Once again we spectacularly failed, along with another few birders also present. We patrolled the seafront, I threw half my roll at the gulls, but the best we got was 4+ Med Gulls. Incredibly annoyingly we were asked "what are you looking at?", "what are you photographing?" (we had no cameras out) and "what's going on?" by every other pedestrian walking past, which really got on everyones tits. But there we go.

So many geese

31st October & 1st November 2009

Saturday started with rain, and I was considering not bothering to leave the house until Gary called to say he was already at Sheringham. Sportingly he came and picked me up from the city, and we headed to Burnham Market to search for the Snow Goose that has been in the area for the past few weeks. To cut a long story short, we searched between 6000-7000 Pink-footed Geese, in three large flocks and a number of small ones, over the course of a day. The possibilities are extensive, Snow, Barnacle, Tundra Bean, Whitefront, Ross' etc. We saw one Pale-bellied Brent Goose. Bugger. But at least we were out looking. We did detour to Holme briefly in the hope of picking up the Rose-coloured Starling seen heading West from Titchwell, and managed to see two Shorelark for our troubles. On the way back Gary relocated the GW Teal at Cley, along with a Water Pipit.
On Sunday the weather was even worse, but me & Cath joined Gary & Claire for a trip to Minsmere. We got soaked in Island Hide (the window seals have gone, leaving a large gap for water to spray in), but consolation was the long-staying Great White Egret standing at the back of the pool. Other decent birds included Bewick's and Whooper Swans, leucistic Mallard and Moorhen, Water Pipit and a 3rd year Caspian Gull. The GW Egret was my 2nd, the first being a trip to Cley with my dad 15 years ago!

Great White Egret in the rain.

Well done to all of the birders involved in settling the Greenish Warbler dispute. I think we've had enough Phylloscs for one year now (except maybe a Hume's at Holkham, fingers crossed).