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

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

After work birding fun

28th & 30th April 2010
Following on from the weekends Bluethroat, another two cracking birds turned up on Wednesday (unless you consider Tawny Pipit cracking, in which case three). I was so psyched by the thought of seeing a Hoopoe I began walking to the train station straight from work, minus optics or any real plan of action. Luckily I got a phone call offering me a lift later on, so I had time to go back, eat and get my 'scope. Gary did the legwork on site, relocating the bird and keeping it in view until we arrived. We watched it sit in long grass along the edge of a field, before it spread its ridiculous wings and lolloped off.
Winterton (and indeed most of the east coast) is a bit of a pain to get to via public transport, so I was concerned I would miss out on the male Woodchat Shrike. Gary came to the rescue, giving me a lift after work on Friday. There were only two birders on site when we arrived, neither of whom had seen the shrike. I managed to find it, getting flight views as it zoomed into some small trees on the bank. There was a tense wait to see if we could refind it (there was nothing else it could have been, but I didnt really want to tick it on those views). Eventually it popped up, Gary got it in the 'scope and all was well, even better than the Hoopoe. On the way home we called into Barton to look for Adam's Arctic Terns, but only found loads of Common Terns.

Winterton Woodchat

5 more to go

27th April 2010
Aiming to make the most of the warm weather I set out after work to try to nudge my Whitlingham list closer to the 100 mark. Upon arrival at Thorpe Marsh I saw a blue mini parked up, but thought it couldn't possibly be Adam & Laura, I mean, they were at work. I went and sat on the edge of the cattle pound for about 20 minutes, watching the scrape whilst listening for Grasshopper Warbler or Cuckoo. I heard neither, but was able to see 2 Snipe, a Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and a pair of Stock Doves go about their business before I moved on. There was little about on the grassy area, the Wheatear invasion appears to have predictably fizzled out before it reached here.
Continuing on my lap, taking care on the soft ground (the recent rain has soaked in rather than sitting on the surface, giving a false impression of dryness!) I scanned the spit from the rather pointless bird screen. The only waders on the spit were three Oystercatchers, but patch bird number 94 for the year, a Whitethroat, flew across my path and onto a reed stem. It wasn't long until I found another, in brambles on the riverbank. So far I have seen Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat all in literally the same 10 feet area that they were last year. How's that for precision? Scanning from the moored boats I saw a brown wader in flight, this time with no white rump and white wingbars. It landed next to another, and Common Sandpiper was on the list (95). It turns out Adam had indeed got out of work and seen some Avocets before I got there, I really need to get me some of that flexible working. On the walk home a flock of around 20 Swifts screeched overhead as they flew towards the city.

After the Lord Mayors Bluethroat

25th April 2010
Anything I saw today was bound to be a bit of an anticlimax, unless a Bee-eater had flown over the house calling then sat on a nearby roof until half nine waiting for me to get up (unfortunately it didn't). At the 4th time of asking my actinic moth trap had actually caught some moths, admittedly only 2 Hebrew Characters and a Common Quaker, but we can work on that. I stayed in doors most of the day, but a text from Adam saying that he had seen a Barnacle Goose at Whitlingham the day before convinced me to give it a look. He had actually seen a whopping 13 patch ticks, albeit 9 of them birds that I'd seen earlier.
Arriving at the Great Broad I was off the mark with 2 Common Terns (later joined by two more), swooping low over the water without ever going in. Maybe the gnatty-things are tastier than fish? Or maybe it was a celebratory flight at reaching this urban oasis? Either way, a passage bird that I missed completely last year. I had a quick look in the woods, seeing loads of Blackcaps. The Shelduck had departed from Trowse Marsh, but six Swifts screamed overhead, which I'm sure is my earliest Whitlingham record. Back down to the broad, 5 Sedge Warblers singing in total and some Sand Martins, but no sign of the Barnacle or Lesser Whitethroat. Still, another couple down, seven more to reach 100! I'm banking on House Martin, Cuckoo, Buzzard, Common Sandpiper, Coal Tit plus a couple of waders on Thorpe Marsh to bring up the ton.

Obligatory Bluethroat Post

24th April 2010
Birding has many levels of appeal, and a myriad reasons for doing it. However, brightly coloured or elaborately plumaged birds do seem to have that bit of extra motivation to them. Think Bee-eater vs Dusky Warbler, both at opposite ends of the county, how many would choose the warbler? Anyway, I'd never seen a Bluethroat, I was offered a lift, it was a no-brainer. Having consulted with my bank manager I scraped together enough to cover the entry fee, and off we went. Note to WWT type people. Your observatory hide is nice. I like Swans. £6.70 is a ridiculously high entry fee. I suggested it was originally £2, but eveytime something rare turns up they increase it (Canvasback £2, Caspian Tern £1, American Wigeon 50p etc). This was actually the first time I'd beent here and been able to walk around, its been flooded previously.
So, we were in, and walking across the fortifications. Some Corn Buntings singing in the car park and some House Martins were a pleasant start. Ignoring all of the hides, we carried on to the pathway to the Lyle Hide, where birders were loitering looking slightly uncertain. The reason became apparent, the bird had just flown across the path and out of sight into a small area of reedbed. We waited, and waited (the girls went and sat down on a bench watching a Sedge Warbler) before eventually the Bluethroat popped out of the reeds directly in front of Gary & I. It was constantly flicking its tail up, showing the red edges, before turning to show the blue throat and flying back down into the reeds. Everyone was excited, none more so than the guy who proclaimed "its a Wren", only to be told in no uncertain terms that he was incorrect (you had to be there). A further half hour of occasional bits of song and a couple of flight views later and we called it quits. Not the views that such a beautiful bird deserves, but enough to appreciate its salient points.
During our vigil we had also clocked up Common Tern, Yellow Wagtail, Whooper Swan and Marsh Harrier, but we wanted to get our moneys worth. On the way back we stopped for an in-promptu pond-dip, managing a leech, caddisfly larvae, lots of water snails and water lice. On the main scrape were LRPs, Common Sandpiper, more Yellow Wags and the usual marshy fare. We departed for Titchwell in search of sustenance.
With all of the sausage rolls long gone, I had the Cornish Pasty that clearly nobody else wanted. A brood of ducklings was the only thing showing from the fen hide, although we politely thanked a man for his news that a Marsh Harrier was showing. I have no idea what he'd be like at Stubb Mill. We quickly located pairs of Ruddy Duck and Red-crested Pochard, and less quickly got on to a female Ring Ouzel. At the far end of the car park we located the Lesser Whitethroat that could be heard singing from the Fen Hide. We were about ready to go home, but a quick walk along the Holme entrance track gave us a first Whimbrel of the year.

It was going so well

23rd April 2010
A midweek trip to Whitlingham had failed to turn up any migrants, and arguably the best bird of the week was a Grey Heron cruising down Earlham Road at streetlight height. A message from Paul informing me of a Lesser Whitethroat at the back of the woods acted as a spur to go back on Friday for a thorough look around.
In glorious sunshine my visit started well, Kingfisher at Trowse Meadows, Grey Wagtail in an alder along the Little Broad and my first Reed Warbler of the year soon after. There was no sign of the Lesser Whitethroat, but a number of Blackcaps were feeding in the scrub. From the lookout point in the woods I watched over Thorpe Broad for a while, picking up a sleeping Shelduck, two Little Ringed Plovers and two Green Sandpipers (another year tick). Even better was to come, whilst walking further down Whitlingham Lane a male Marsh Harrier rose up from north of the river and soared over.
Whitlingham Marsh was quiet as usual, and I took the path under the bypass to the sewage works. With all that short cropped grass and flies, I was hoping for migrant Yellow Wagtails, or something along those lines. Behind the settling pools a beautiful yellow colour glowed. Dandelions. Bloody flowers. A pair of Oystercatchers and some Swallows were the only birds of note, so my eye was drawn to a warning sign. It read "Articles in these premises are protected with SmartWater". Are they really that worried? If the smartwater wasn't protecting the sewage, would people be shovelling it out? Hmm.
Anyway, other than the smell of well-protected sewage the evening was a success, sunny weather, birdsong and four year patch ticks. A Cetti's Warbler gave a blast of song from right next to the path, giving crippling views until I got my camera out. On my way home I was looking down river just before Trowse Meadow, when my retinas were blasted by the site of two chavs having sex on a bench. Not knowing the correct etiquette for this situation, I pretended I hadn't noticed and kept walking. I hate to think what it will be like when it gets really warm.

Back to local birding

17th & 18th April 2010
Following last weeks Scotland adventure it was back to local matters over the weekend. Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, so I stayed indoors waiting for temperatures to cool and daytrippers to go home before setting off for Whitlingham. Unfortunately my actions were in vain, as a group of teenagers were having a party on the Little Broad beach. On the warbler front there was still only one singing Sedge Warbler, but Willow Warblers were up to four and Chiffchaffs were calling all around. The three remaining Egyptian Goose chicks are all looking healthy, and there were four broods of young Mallard chicks (10, 9, 5 & 3). A flyover Grey Wagtail, anting Green Woodpecker and the little hybrid goose were all seen on the way round.
Another sunny day on Sunday, so I decided to give the quieter Thorpe Marsh side a go. Watching the skies failed to yield more than a Swallow and a Kestrel (2nd patch record this year), but I did finally break my Little Ringed Plover duck, watching one feeding merrily along the muddy margins of the pool near the cattle pound. A lap of the site revealed three Sedge Warblers but little else, probably a few days too early for Whitethroat, Gropper etc. A further two LRPs were on the western shingly edge of the broad, four Oystercatchers on the spit and a further check of the first pool revealed three Snipe, but that was my lot. On the way back I called in at Carey's Meadow, which was similar devoid of Whitethroats.

Scotland Trip

Over the past week I have been in Scotland having a bit of a birding extravaganza. Eagles, Grouse, Pine Martens, and even an Osprey from the pub. I am trying to keep the blog Norfolk-themed, but if you'd like to read where I went, and see some record shots then why not head off to for a full report.

Here's a taster...


Crossbill watching in Abernethy. You may recognise Adam from birding at reserves in Norfolk, he's the one that sits outside the hides.

Guns and warblers at Whitlingham

7th April 2010

On Tuesday evening, late news came through that a Slavonian Grebe had been present that day. Still needing Slav for my Whitlingham list, I headed down at dawn to try to relocate said bird. Walking down the lane a Red-legged Partridge came out from the bank on the left of the road, wandered down the road before hopping into the field on the right. Only my second patch record, although perhaps an unsurprising bird to find here. Extensive scanning of the broad failed to turn up any grebes other than Great Crested and one Little. My first Sedge Warbler of the year was singing from brambles on the riverbank, along with a Willow Warbler nearby and a male Blackcap singing along the Little Broad. Near Whitlingham Hall there was again no sign of any Little Owls, I think Adam's sighting must have been a one-off as I have checked that tree to death! Three Starlings over were an embarrassing patch year tick.
Whitlingham at dawn
For those who don't have access to Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists publications, this months "Natterjack" included a story of how an individual with a telescope at Whitlingham was accused of having a gun by a member of the public and the police called. It ran that a woman thought that the birder was shooting ducks, then thought he was pointing the "gun" at her, then the police turned up and it was all sorted out. Similar events have happened in the past, I vaguely remember it happening to a famous naturalist, maybe Ted Ellis , with a butterfly net? I do however find this particular story quite odd. Most people at Whitlingham dont bat an eyelid at telescopes, and those that confuse them always presume its a big camera. Without dead ducks and bangs, why think its a gun? And wouldn't a (presumably armed) police response have at least made the local press? If I'm wrong and you have been accused, then do leave me a comment!

Easter goodies


Spring is well and truly in at Whitlingham now. The first goslings of the year are a brood of four Egyptian Geese, occupying the area around the slipway. A singing Willow Warbler on the 5th was a week later than last year. Around 25 Swallows and a Sand Martin were still hawking insects, albeit higher than when they first arrived, and a female Blackcap was in scrub by the Little Broad.
Away from Whitlingham I saw four Firecrests and some late-ish Redwing in the Brecks, and my first Willow Warbler of the year at Sparham (2nd April). I missed the Garganey at Buckenham, but saw summer plumaged Water Pipit, Little Egret, Avocet and a Stoat.

Pubs & Beer

A visit to the newly re-opened Coldham Hall pub at Surlingham was a bit of a missed opportunity, with few birds about on the river. We did manage Great Crested Grebe and Grey Heron, whilst Coal Tit and Chiffchaff remained heard only. The railway cut off our view from The Rushcutters at Thorpe, but patience paid off with flight views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. In the Woolpack in Norwich I sampled a limited edition Woodfordes beer called "City", but it wasn't anything to write home about it. More impressive was Badger's "Golden Glory" with a hint of peach.


On the last day before the Easter break we discovered a Morel at work. There are three species found in Norfolk, but this seem to resemble Morchella elata most closely.