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

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

100th patch bird of the year...

30th December 2009

I was still in bed when I got a text from Adam, telling me there was a Black-necked Grebe at Whitlingham. After a half-asleep "are you sure?" message, it was established that the bird was indeed a Black-necked Grebe, and I had to see it. I left without any breakfast and walked down to Whitlingham in the drizzle. I spotted a Kingfisher and a redhead Goosander close in to the shore as I walked along, stopping level with the island. At first I couldn't see any grebes other than GC, but a second look revealed the Black-necked Grebe, which promptly dived. I watched it for a while, periodically wiping my telescope and glasses. A local birder came over and we watched the bird for a bit longer, before continuing round the broad. There was no sign of the GN Diver, although it had been seen ealier in the morning. Through the flooded north-east corner, and along the back path we saw little, until a Bullfinch flew out of some brambles.
When I got home I had a tot up and found that the grebe was my 100th Whitlingham bird of the year. I had been aiming for 100, so to finish on 101 (Bullfinch was also new) was particularly pleasing. I had missed a fair few birds; Garganey, Mandarin, LRP, Wood Sand, Brent Goose, all the terns, plus fly through Crossbill and Whooper Swan, but all in all a good year. My best self-found bird was probably an Avocet on Thorpe Broad. Here's to 110 next year!

Goose watching

28th December 2009

Gary & I had originally agreed to go to Wayland Wood to see if there are still any Golden Pheasants there, but on the day we decided to head for the coast to fill in a few gaps in my year list. We arrived at Docking and scanned through thousands of Pink-footed Geese in the hope of finding the Snow Goose, but no luck. On to Holme, and we suceeded in seeing Long-tailed Duck, Gary picking up three just offshore. We cut inland towards Wighton to look for more geese, and duly found another flock. We scanned this one for a while too with no luck. I later found out the Snow Goose was at Holkhma, but hey, you can't win them all.

Giving up on geese, we called in at Cley, where a flock of Twite have been recently. Suffice to say they weren't there whilst we were, but we did see a Kigfisher and a Jack Snipe, whilst a Kestrel proved an obliging subject for a while. The last target of the day was Merlin, so we headed to Stubb Mill. We were doing well, Gary called 4 Cranes and I spotted a ringtail Hen Harrier, but banks of mist/fog rolled in and put an end to the fun.

Fudge & Diver

...the new detective series starting on ITV3. Not really, they only show repeats.
27th December 2009
With Cath & her mum having joined the NWT over Christmas, they wanted to go to a reserve. I suggested Barton Broad, certainly not just so I could have a look at the Fudge Duck. After braving the boardwalk, slippery with water and ice, we reached the viewing platform where four birders were looking fairly close in. I soon found the male Ferruginous Duck with a small group of Pochard near the tern platforms. As the bird was giving good views, I took the chance to use one of my Christmas gifts, a hardbacked sketch book. This is useful because a) my digiscoping is crap, and b) I realised this year I don't take enough notes, and if I want to get birds through rarity committees I need to start taking more! Below is todays masterpiece (yep, I took pencil crayons too!). All in all a success, but I don't think many birds are going to make as obliging subjects. There were 20+ Goldeneye on show too, and lots of Fieldfares.

My Fudge notes. The blue line on the left is a scanner artefact.

We took a slow drive along the coast as far as Walcott, but didn't see the Cranes. Lots of Lapwings around Brograve farm though. Back in Norwich we stopped at Whitlingham, and after a short walked along the south shore my scope was full of diver. Presumably the Strumpshaw bird, I had hoped it would drift along to Whitlingham before Christmas, but better late than never. It was diving a lot, and will hopefully make its home there for a while so I can get better views later in the week. The broad was full of Coot and Gadwall, and a Grey Heron looked uneasy on a post, as if it was minding the space for a Cormorant and hoping it wouldn't be long. I might put a photo of the diver up, but its hardly worth it, it was so low in the water you can only see a third of its body!

Merry Christmas!

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, those who have left comments or that I have met in the field this year.

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!


Whitlingham snowy extravaganza

19th & 21st December 2009

Saturday was still snowy, so I ditched any ideas of heading to the coast and instead went to Whitlingham. A flock of around 30 Siskin and Goldfinch were in the alders, and Cath noticed a Water Rail skulking near the path. At the end of the Little Broad a Grey Heron and a redhead Goosander (a long overdue patch tick) were standing on the bank.
The Great Broad held a vast number (400+) Gadwall, and probably a similar number of Coot. Cath spotted a Weasel near the path to the bird screen, whilst a Cetti's Warbler flew up out of the reeds. The north-east corner of the broad had flooded the path, so we hurried around the final part of the lap to go home and dry off!
On Monday I decided to spend a whole day at Whitlingham, hoping to catch some winter migration. The Little Broad had frozen almost completely, but along the back 11 Shoveler represented an increase on previous numbers. I started counting the Gadwall, when I heard some children chanting ho-ho-ho. Never a good sign. The ducks started moving as Santa arrived on a boat. I bet people who patch-bird at Cley never have these problems. A few Teal and Wigeon were on the Great Broad, but no sign of anything better until I stopped to talk to a fellow birder who picked up a redhead Goosander flying past us.
Small numbers of Lapwing flew west all day, the biggest group around 55. There had clearly been an arrival of Snipe recently, I saw 15, several in flight but most flushed. More impressively was my first patch Woodcock, making a nice change from Snipe! A group of 13 Skylark also flew west, a notable record. Other decent birds included 3 Kingfishers (Trowse Meadows, Little Broad and Great Broad), a Marsh Tit, several Song Thrushes and some Redwing. The snow may be over, but hopefully there is still time for a rare grebe or diver to find a temporary home.

A white-bearded dude goes duck spotting

Winter Blackcap

13th December 2009
A shopping trip in between the showers took me & Cathy past Grove Road, where we found a male Blackcap in the trees opposite the mini-roundabout. It takked a bit and then flew off into the gardens behind. My first overwintering one, although many do now apparently.

Sleeping Ducks in West Norfolk

6th December 2009
Having decided to have a pre-Christmas birdwatch with Gary at the weekend, I was pleased to see that a female Ferruginous Duck had been found on Friday. To add to this, an American Wigeon was found on Saturday, so we set off in the rain for a wildfowl extravaganza. On the way we stopped at Denver Sluice to look for Goosander, but with no luck. I did spot a Barn Owl flying across the channel, which was some consolation. The approach road to Welney held large flocks of Whooper Swans, with some Bewick's mixed in too. We arrived, I coughed up the £6.30 entrance fee (they get you to pay before telling you the whole reserve is flooded too ;-o) and we proceeded to the observation hide, where the guide/hostess/volunteer cheerily told us she had seen the American Wigeon earlier but had no idea where it was now.
After a few false starts, Gary "eyes of a hawk (or hwak, which I originally typed)" White, spotted the American Wigeon about 6 miles across the lagoon, sleeping on the bank. We spent about 30 minutes staring at the side of a sleeping duck, until it indulged us for 30 seconds with it's head up, showing the pale face and green facial stripe. Gary managed to record this feat, and leaving a number of birders to stare at the yank wigeon until it woke up again, we left, rubbing our eyes.
Next stop was Snettisham RSPB and the long walk to the pools. We slipped along the path (Adam's balance being particularly suspect) until we got to Rotary Hide, noting Goldeneye and Little Grebes on the way. A first scan of the bank turned up nothing, but a second scan turned up the female Ferruginous Duck, asleep. Lazy things, ducks. It woke up a few times, stretching its wings and going for a quick swim and walk, enough to note all of the fudgy features (chestnut colour, white vent, white belly patch, white underwing, sloping forehead, longish grey bill and dark eye). A large flock of Greylags held two hybrids (presumable with Canada), both looking like Greylag but with white on the face, unlike the commoner "brown necked Canada" type.
On the way back we cut through via Docking in the hope of catching up with the/a Snow Goose. We did find a pre-roost flock of thousands of Pink-footed Geese, but no rarer stragglers. These were flushed by something behind the field and flew over us, a spectacular sight. We arrived at the Dun Cow as the sun was setting in the hope of getting an owl for our pub list. No such luck, but we did manage Little Grebe, Shoveler, Brent Goose, Lapwing and Pink-footed Goose amongst others, before we left in the dark.