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

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

Whitlingham Orchids & Triathlon warning

27th June 2010
Another quick visit to Whitlingham before the England game. The only bird of note was a Grey Wagtail on the river just before Whitlingham Marshes. I had more luck with insects, seeing my first Ringlet of the year, along with Red Admiral, Comma etc. I went back to photograph the Mullein Moth caterpillars that I found last week, and also saw my first Cinnabar moth caterpillars (and one adult moth) of the year. Between the sewage works and the bypass a lone Bee Orchid spike was on the edge of the path and a number of Pyramidal Orchids are now flowering in one of the meadows.
In case anyone cares, Whitlingham is pretty much a no-go area next weekend as the Norwich Triathlon is on, so people will be swimming in the broad, running around the CP and biking down Whitlingham Lane. Good luck you crazy individuals.

Trowse Meadows & environs

26th June 2010
I decided to follow up on reports of a possible Cattle Egret seen heading in the direction of Trowse on Friday. The bird could well have continued east to Berney or south towards Caistor, but I was content to check the meadows along the river between Old Lakenham and Whitlingham. There was an immediate score with a Little Egret in the river near the Cock Inn. This is only my second record in the Norwich area, and only a mile or so from becoming my first patch record. Not knowing anything more about the Cattle Egret this was probably coincidental, so I kept searching. Walking along the river I saw thousands of small fish, a Lapwing and some dragonflies, and that was about it.
I could think of two more local herds of cattle, the first being at Trowse Common. A quick walk across it was enough to rule it out of the equation. Walking down Whitlingham Lane I encountered my first Meadow Brown of the year whilst scanning the cattle in the fields opposite Whitlingham. I completed my circuit by going up the Lime Avenue, round by Whitlingham Hall and back through Trowse , seeing a number of butterflies but no more birds of interest. On getting home I began to plan for a trip to Strumpshaw to look for the reported Marsh Warbler (a bird I'm yet to catch up with), only to then find that it had been re-identified as a Reed Warbler. Drat.

Whitlingham Woods

22nd June 2010
Ignoring hayfever and the ridiculous heat, Cathy & I went to Whitlingham in the evening. Rather than concentrate on the broads I decided to spend a couple of hours in the woods in the hope of locating the Spotted Flycatcher that Adam had reported the day before. I'm also yet to get Coal Tit or Goldcrest on the years patch list, so the potential was pretty good. Despite walking along all of the woodland edges and some of th other paths, we failed on all three accounts. A Treecreeper taking food to a presumed nest site and recently fledged Blue & Great Tits occupied us for a bit, but on the whole birdlife was quiet. Insect-wise my 3rd Red Admiral of the year, 2nd Brown Silver-line Moth and 1st ever Mullein Moth caterpillars were around the far end of the country park.

Flamingos and local wanderings

20th June 2010
Father's Day in the Emerson household tends to involve a walk in the morning and then a family meal. With dad having no preference as to where we went, I suggested Cley in the hope that the Chilean Flamingos were still present. Whilst accepting they are probably from the Dutch/German feral population, I would presume that it is not self-supporting and have no illusions as to their BOU eligibility, but still thought that flamingos in a wild setting were well worth a visit. As it was, the pair were visible from the car park, and showed brilliantly from Bishop's Hide, feeding constantly around Pat's Pool. We spent an hour or so on the reserve but saw little else of note with the exception of an adult Spoonbill on Whitwell Scrape. The leg tags were orange-yellow-orange if that means anything. It was behaving like a typical Spoonbill, in that it was asleep for 99% of the time.

For lunch we went to the Greens on the outskirts of Aylsham for a carvery, which was excellent as ever. Having foolishly agreed to attend a surprise 90th birthday party in the evening (anyone else think this sounds like a dangerous idea?) I had the afternoon to kill in North Walsham. I had a walk around Pigney's Wood, seeing little except my 2nd Red Admiral and 1st Speckled Wood of the year. I was puzzled to not be able to find the hide, until I noticed a clear rectangle of ground and scorched trees. Presumably arson, I'll add that to my book of reasons why I don't like people. Incidentally I can't remember seeing a good bird from the hide, but it did contain the sightings book, so thats years of records gone. A walk around Witton Woods was notable only for a family of Coal Tits, the party went off without a hitch at the Poacher's Pocket (no seabird passage visible to the naked eye from the pub either) and a Buzzard flew over the road near Ridlington on the way back.

Midsummers Eve at Whitlingham...nearly

18th June 2010
I wouldn't actually want to spend Midsummers Eve at Whitlingham, its creepy enough at night without the local chavs dressing as druids and sacrificing stuff. Instead me & Cathy went a few days early to the annual moth night. As the sun began to set I finally got my 101st patch bird of the year when a hulking Great Black Backed Gull flew lazily eastwards. Following a month long wait for a tick, the 102nd followed 10 minutes later when a Barn Owl flew along the rivers edge. Only my second ever Whitlingham Barn Owl, despite a guy who works at the sewage works telling me they have had up to 5 pairs there in recent years.
As it got darker we turned our attention to bats, detecting and getting good views of four Noctule Bats, before a Soprano Pipistrelle began hunting the edge of the lime tree avenue. The main event was curtailed somewhat, the low temperature and light drizzle limited us to a poor ten moth species. That said, two of them were new for me, Shoulder-striped Wainscot and Small Clouded Brindle. As we packed up to go at 11.45, a Reed Warbler was singing strongly from the southern edge of the Great Broad. Sadly we didn't hear any Tawny Owls, but maybe the light evening meant that any birds present were yet to begin calling.

Blakeney Point

12th June 2010
A week too late but with eternal hope Gary, Adam & I set off for everyones favourite shingle ridge. On the way Adam announced his latest plan to gain credibility from his birding peers, by calling binoculars "binos" (pronounced "bye-nose"). You may laugh now, but remember when you hear people talking in a hide at Titchwell, you heard it here first. The walk along as far as Long Hills was uneventful, a Great Crested Grebe on the sea the only bird worth stopping for. As feared, the Subalpine Warbler was long gone, and (Subalpine) Skylark and Meadow Pipit were little consolation. The ghost of Pallas' Reed Bunting and some mating Sand Digger Wasps later and we had reached a new low in birding. A Gannet offshore upgraded the trip from "complete bollocks" to "nearly complete bollocks."
With time in North Walsham before we got our train back, we went to the Bluebell for a drink. A nice beer garden round the back of the pub was teeming with birds, which was a nice change. Blackbirds, Starlings and Goldfinches zoomed around, and we were serenaded by a Song Thrush from the corner of the garden. That means "singing" for all you Reservoir Cats fans, I apologise for attempting to use an unrestricted lexis. The bird of the session was a recently fledged Great-spotted Woodpecker clinging on for dear life to a dead tree on the other side of Bacton Road.

Marston Marshes

6th June 2010
Rather than face the crowds at Whitlingham, I went for the quieter option and headed for Marston Marshes. Bird action was fairly muted, six warbler species but no Gropper for me still. After the possible oriole at Colney I paid particular attention to the poplar belt, but turned up nothing more exciting than a Great Spotted Woodpecker bringing in caterpillars. Down the river a female Grey Wagtail flew into the scrub. Before the storm hit a number of dragonflies and damselflies were hunting over the marsh, and my first Red Admiral of the year flew along the northern edge.

Oh go on then, I'll go and see the Stilts

5th June 2010

Today was going to be a relatively straightforward couple of hours at Whitlingham before it got stupidly hot and busy. I was up early and getting ready to go when I got a text from Gary about 5 Black-winged Stilts at Titchwell. Nice birds, but too far, still going to Whitlingham. A second text announced they had buggered off east. Fair enough, definitely Whitlingham then. Next a knock at the door from Adam "get dressed we're going to Titchwell, Black-winged Stilts!" Titchwell it is then.

We arrived to find Paul Eele emptying last nights moth trap. Loitering around for a few minutes we saw four different Hawk Moths and loads of others that never visit my actinic trap. Moving on towards the freshmarsh we joined the end of the line watching the Black-winged Stilts. Five were present, but I never saw more than four at any one point. My only previous Stilt was Sammy here about six years ago. They were showing so well I took this photo:

Whoops, wrong photo. In birding terms "showing well" means "visible." I had gone before the Gull-billed Tern did its flypast, which is a shame.

[Edit] I went on my planned visit to Whitlingham in the afternoon, and as predicted it was hot and full of scantily clad people (not a good thing), with an added sewagey smell. The only thing of note was a newly fledged brood of Whitethroats sitting in the brambles near the river.

Now I'm up-to-date: Trumpeter Finch

2nd June 2010
I had planned on getting an early train to Sheringham whilst crossing my fingers that the Trumpeter Finch had stayed the night. As it was I managed to get a lift, so me & Cath set off at 7 and arrived at Cley just after 8. Walking along the reserve I noticed that a pair of Mute Swans had two "Polish" cygnets. The other five were normal. I seem to remember that a few years ago one out of four was Polish, which together suggests that the parents are heterozygous for this mutation, which would of course be recessive. I think that it the first time I have used something from my degree since I graduated. The shame.
Anyway, we walked along East bank, seeing Bearded Tits and Sedge Warblers etc etc. The Trumpeter Finch had moved about a mile east of the end of East bank, but quite frankly I could have jogged it if I'd needed to. A small group of birders were watching it from a sensible distance, I had a look from a bit further back before joining them. The Trumpeter Finch was feeding quite contentedly, and as the sun came out the pinkish tinge to the body stood out, and despite the red beak and legs it blended in quite well with the shingle. We watched it for a while, also seeing a Wheatear, before heading back. As I was getting a lift we didn't stop to look for the Thrush Nightingale, although I later found out that it had gone anyway. Ironically a Marsh Warbler is now at Minsmere, but you can't win them all. On the way back to the car I saw my first Wall Butterfly of the year.


1st June 2010
I usually arrange to go out a few days during half-term, and today was a trip to Minsmere. Usually this would be a very good thing, I like the reserve and its big enough to spend the day and not get bored. Unfortunately whilst I was in Suffolk, not only was I missing the Cley Trumpeter Finch (and I didn't see the 2008 one either), but I could also have seen my first Marsh Warbler and Thrush Nightingale (maybe. Did anyone record the song?) Still, never mind, until I learn to drive I'll just have to get used to it.
In the morning we did the main lap around the scrapes. There was a lack of decent waders, two summer-plumage Knot the best I could find. A nice Med Gull swam past North Hide, and the young Avocet, Shelduck and Oystercatchers were cute. Someone could make a really nice pie out of those Black-headed Gulls nesting everywhere, maybe I should suggest it. Having done the usual thing and thanked people for pointing out a marsh-harrier (I know, I know, they're rare everywhere else. If I have some "grumpy local" badges made up, who wants one?) we found a Drinker Moth caterpillar by the pathside.
After lunch it began to drizzle, so we decided to sit in the Bittern hide for a while. We were entertained by a sleeping Fox and a close Cetti's Warbler before a Bittern was called flying over the reedbed. A Sparrowhawk and ten minutes later it was my turn to find one, watching it climb up the reeds, stick its neck upwards in a snake-like fashion before launching into flight. The trip ended on a good note, as a volunteer warden spotted the 1st-summer Purple Heron that has been hanging around, fly up out of the reeds. It appeared to be chased by an adult Grey Heron, giving us good comparison views as it flew through 60 degrees before dropping back down into the reeds.

Orchids & Insects

31st May 2010

About this time last year I remember reading Connor's Blog and seeing some great pictures of Military Orchids. I thought "ooh I'll go and see those", only to find out that the reserve only opens once a year. Nonetheless I remembered, and this year dad agreed to drive me there. The omens weren't good, it rained early on, and the thick cloud cover was bad for photography. The bright side is that the poor light is a great excuse for hundreds of out-of-focus pictures. My best effort is below, for some better ones check here. Incidentally the open day is usually on the second May Bank Holiday, however next year it is proposed to be Saturday 28th May. It's probably best to check with the Forestry Comission nearer the time if you plan to go.

After lunch I optimistically wanted to look for butterflies. We didn't really see many. However all was not lost, with my first Scarce Chaser dragonfly, and two day-flying moths, Mother Shipton and Burnet Companion.