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

Showy Ibis

29th October 2010

Following a night at Norwich Beer Festival the morning was a write-off, and it was agreed that we would go out only if walking was kept to a minimum. Accordingly Cathy & I got a lift to Welney to see the Glossy Ibis that has made a flooded field its home. Reaching the site we found it showing beautifully, having decided to snooze close to the road. Unlike Spoonbills, the Glossy Ibis decided to play ball and not sleep the day away, taking a couple of steps and then concentrating on preening. Cracking views, making up for my previous sighting which upon being discovered promptly flew off. The fields around Welney held some wild swans (a flock close to the road were Whoopers, didn't attempt to ID those further away), Stock Doves and a covey of Red-legged Partridges.

A few days in Wales

25th-27th October 2010

The main purpose of this brief foray into Wales was for me & Dad to see the spectacle that is the Red Kite feeding station at Gigrin Farm. Dad wanted to get some good photos, I had prepared myself for some digiscoping mayhem. We stayed at the Brynarfon Country Hotel, handily supported right at the bottom of the Gigrin access track. The number of Kites increased as we approached feeding time, and once the meat was deposited over a hundred swooped down to feed. A breathtaking sight, and as we soon discovered a difficult one to photograph. The Kites almost exclusively fed in flight, swooping down to pick up a chunk of beef, sweeping it from claws to beak and eating in one motion. One bird that did settle was a beautiful leucistic Red Kite. A loud "kronking" alerted us to a Raven perched nearby, and another two flew in later. After feeding time the Kites dispersed slowly, and were still seen from the hotel grounds and restaurant, and over Rhayader throughout the evening.

Having taken advantage of the sunny weather on the first day, we then had a rainy day to occupy. We took a picturesque drive through the Snowdonia National Park, ending up at a misty Anglesey. Visibility was rubbish but it didn't matter, two Choughs were feeding in a field along the roadside. The toilets were shut (there appears to be a nationwide consensus that people don't need the loo between October and March) but the cafe was open. After lunch the mist had cleared a bit, and we located a further three Choughs before leaving the island.

Timing is everything

23rd October 2010

One of the good things about bird news services is the ability to view records of scarce birds around the country, telling you when a particular species is migrating in numbers. A cursory glance this week showed that it was prime time to catch a migrating Rough-legged Buzzard, and that a mini Waxwing invasion had begun. With these two birds in mind I set off for Whitlingham in the rain, hoping that when it cleared there would be hordes of aforementioned birds soaring above me, possibly with unexplained orchestral music playing from somewhere. Unsurprisingly that never happened. Not a single bird of prey, and the only flocks overhead were small numbers of Redwing, which probably arrived weeks ago but flew over to make me feel better.
Wildfowl counts were tricky because canoeists going up and down the broad were constantly flushing or moving birds, particularly the flighty Tufted Ducks. A male Shoveler and three Little Grebes were of note in the conservation area. Whitlingham Marsh was barren as always, maybe someone should recommend removing all of the vegetation and having a giant wader scrape. Or how about a reedbed? The highlight of the day was my first Whitlingham Coal Tit of the year (long overdue), bringing the list ever closer to my 110 target. Marsh Tit and Kingfisher were the other decent birds of the day, and with more rain falling I gave up and went home.

Whitlingham list moves on slowly

16th October 2010
I had every intention of getting up early, getting the train to Sheringham, bus to Stiffkey then walking to Warham to see what would be my first Pallas Warbler. When it came to it, I just couldn't be bothered. I transferred Pallas Warbler from my "birds that I should really be finding myself in 2010" list to my "birds that I should really be finding myself in 2011" list, and went for a walk around Whitlingham instead.
Starting near the Yacht Club I stood in the drizzle sorting through the Long-tailed Tit flock, which still doesn't have any Coal Tits or Goldcrests in it. I've even had Goldcrest in my garden this week damnit. Looking over the Little Broad to start my wildfowl count two big red beaks immediately stuck out. Red-crested Pochards (105)! Not particularly nice ones, I presume 1st winter or coming out of eclipse, but still only my second patch record and the first semi-decent bird I've found this autumn. I put the news out in case any local birders were interested. The good thing about Whitlingham is that its so busy a few more birders makes no difference at all. The Black Swan was still accompanying the Little Broad Mute Swan family.
Scanning the Great Broad the thing that stuck out immediately was that there had been an influx of gulls. Lesser Black-backs have ranged from 2-15 over the past few months, mostly around the posts, but today there were rafts of 41 and 26 birds. Careful scanning revealed one Yellow-legged Gull (106) that I was happy with, although there may have been another. Black-headed Gulls were also very common, with 190+ spread out across the broad. Flocks of Redwing and Goldfinch flew over, and better from my point of view were two Linnet (107). Constant scanning of the far shore rewarded me with three Kingfishers around the broad, and 81 Tufted Ducks were at the eastern end, completely segregated from 60-odd Pochard on Thorpe Broad. Not a bad mornings birding all in all.


10th October 2010
In addition to the disappointment of finding diddly-squat the previous day, I thought I had probably missed seeing the Olive-backed Pipit that had been found at Stiffkey. After a lay-in there was still no news, but we decided to head there anyway and have a look along the coastal path. On the way we stopped at Cley Spy where a male Black Redstart was sitting on top of one of the buildings. A smart bird, and Cathy's 200th bird of the year. Upon arriving at Stiffkey I was surprised by the amount of cars, and soon found out that the pipit had been seen again.. Excellent. I was a bit concerned about Cathy and her mum walking out to the gorse along the muddy path, but they both said they wanted to go, so we all set off.
Having slid our way to the gorse, we positioned ourselves at a good viewpoint and waited. We soon got flight views, but rather than moving off with what was by now quite a crowd, we waited, presuming that the bird would be flushed back our way. It was, and then back the other way. After three flight views we became aware from the looks of other birders that it was coming our way again. Cathy uttered the immortal words "oh, is that it right in front of us?" and indeed it was. The Olive-backed Pipit was showing brilliantly in an open patch of grass at the edge of the gorse, about 10 feet away. As a number of birders who hadn't seen it yet came round behind us, I sat down and allowed people behind to get decent views. After a minute or so it went back into the vegetation. We skidded happily back to the car, and went to Wells for chips.
Postscript: The privilege of finding one of the few British spiders that bites humans was soured by the fact I hate spiders, and it bit me. Feeling a sharp pain on the back of my neck, I swatted a spider resembling an orb-web spider onto the back seat of the car. We pulled over and I literally kicked it out - well I wasn't going to touch it again! The bite swelled up like a mosquito bite, but went down soon after. First ladybirds, now spiders. Who knows what will bite me next.

Attempt at finding a decent migrant

9th October 2010
With easterly winds and the offer of a lift, Winterton seemed like as good a spot as any to kickstart my autumn from a birdfinding point of view. Starting off in the South Dunes, we spent a long time staring into trees and the bankside scrub, finding loads of birds or very few species. Large flocks of Meadow Pipits were feeding all along the valley, confirmed as the most he had ever seen by one of the residents of the houses near the Hermanus. Almost every bird that wasn't a Meadow Pipit was a Robin, including one recently deceased bird, presumably dying of exhaustion. It wasn't all bad, a small number of Brambling had also arrived and allowed us close views.
We didn't go too far into the North side, but the bushes west of the totem pole held at least one Redstart. Further along a number of Goldcrests, some still flying in off the sea were collecting in the hollows. A number of Chiffchaffs were in the same bushes, but despite some variation in colour I couldn't turn any of them into something more interesting. We went the scenic route home, and were barely out of Winterton when I spotted a ringtail Hen Harrier hunting along an adjacent field. We pulled into a side track and watched it fly across the road and continue parallel to the car. Further along three Cranes were out in the open a few fields south of Horsey Mill.

A load of Crickets and a Phalarope

2nd October 2010
Having neglected Whitlingham for a couple of weeks to spend some time at the coast, I decided to give both sides of the river an early morning grilling. Water has returned to the scrapes at Thorpe Marshes, but no waders. A couple of Wigeon and 30+ Teal were enjoying the wetness. I had hoped for at least one migrant grounded or over, but was to be disappointed. 13 Snipe over (3, 2, 7 & 1) were of note and two Swallows west could well be my latest record. I flushed two Chinese Water Deer from the flooded grassland, whilst there looks to have been a small arrival of Pochard since the last count.
On my way round to the C.P. I stopped at Carey's Meadow, no birds of note but I found a colony of Roesel's Bush Crickets, a recent colonist of Norfolk, maybe a first record for the site? Whitlingham was quiet, although 150+ Coot are still present, mostly at the east end. The ivy flowers were popular, with Red Admiral, Comma and Hornets competing with hoverflies. Showing how little there was about I got another orthoptera record for the day, my first Long-winged Conehead. The Grasshopper Atlas of Norfolk (yes there is one!) published in 2001 has them from a single site (Beeston Common), so possibly another site record. It was at this point when I was saved from ditching birds for insects by a call from Gary, offering a lift to see a Wilson's Phalarope.

Wilson's Phalarope is a bird that I had failed to see twice before when the last one turned up at Cley, so I had a vested interest in seeing this one. We drove quickly but safely to Welney (except for one bit of road where a bump sent us clean into the air) and arrived to find lots of people and not a lot of Phalarope. 15 minutes or so later it emerged back into the open, and we got good scope views. We didn't spend too long because news had broken of a Melodious Warbler at Holkham, a rare bird for Norfolk. Suffice to say we didn't see the bird, and it is therefore completely academic whether it was Melodious, Icterine, Willow or an actual Hippo. It was a good exercise in thoroughly grilling a small area of scrub, but a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler later we were all out of warblers. The stay was made more tolerable by the conversation, notably with Phil, Paul, Jim and Stuart.