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

Northern Birds & Pubs

Apologies if you have been diverted here looking for the Yorkshire page of the Lonely Planet guide.

27th November 2010

Having spent the week humming and harring about trying to see the Northen Harrier, the fact that it was being seen regularly in the Thornham area was enough to make up my mind to give it a go. Titchwell takes about the same time to get to as London via public transport (seriously, both are c2.5 hours from Norwich), so it was fortunate that Gary "I laugh in the face of driving in snow. Ha ha ha. Just like that" White agreed to go and give me & Adam a lift. After an uneventful journey (Buzzard near Worstead, an exclusion zone of no snow around Sheringham the two points of interest) we arrived at Thornham Harbour and set up our 'scopes near Connor. We had to wait a little while as the harrier was sensibly sheltering from the cold wind and occasional snow flurries, and were entertained by a covey of Grey Partridges that flew overhead. Eventually the Northern Harrier flew up and gave a nice flypast, the dark upperparts particularly standing out. We tracked it around the marshes and across Holme before losing it in the distance.
After waiting a while there was no sign of the harrier returning, so we went to Titchwell for a hot drink. As the cafe had only just opened, I even managed to get a sausage roll, a real rarity. Our vigil by the bird feeders was productive, with a Brambling in the leaf litter and a Lesser Redpoll on the feeders to add to an unseasonal Chiffchaff in the woods between the carpark and seats. We decided to work our way back along the coast, next stop Wells.
Arriving at the carpark in Wells we scanned Abraham's Bosom (ooh matron) and found some Goldeneye and Little Grebes. The word on the street (woodland path) was that there was a male Northern Bullfinch doing its trumpety thing, plus a possible Siberian Chiffchaff and Northern Treecreeper. On our first walk down the left hand track we heard a number of "normal" Bullfinches, but no Northerns. We walked back down the track and finally heard it, a Bullfinch with a toy trumpet. We located the bird, which flew across the path and into the trees. Perched up it was big and bright, everything you could want in a Bullfinch. We managed to locate the Bullfinch flock, but heard no more trumpeting. A few of the females may have been Northerns too, but at distance there was no easy way of telling. We also saw some Redpoll sp. before setting off to have a look for the Chiffchaff, which we had been told was in scrub near the toilet block. There was no sign after a brief search, and deciding that it probably wasn't a good idea to keep loitering around the toilets, we moved on.
With some good birds under our belt, we hoped to continue the good work from the pub garden at the Dun Cow. For some reason we had the garden to ourselves, and soon clocked up some common stuff. Adam picked out a Snipe, a pub tick for both of us (Gary had one here previously), and soon they were everywhere, including three which flew over the pub. That was to be our only new pub bird, although I picked out a flock of Snow Buntings on the shingle ridge west of the Little Eye, and a Barn Owl made a welcome appearance. Arriving in North Walsham with 45 minutes to kill before our train we went to the Bluebell for another drink. The garden was snowbound and we saw very little, House Sparrow the dubious highlight.

Cley AGP

21st November 2010

After a trip to Cley Spy and lunch at the Three Swallows (Highly recommended. Has anyone tried the Wild Boar, Turkey, Hare & Pigeon pie?!), Dad & I headed to Cley for a quick look round. We were greeted in the carpark by an enthusiastic Northerner imparting the directions "third bird from the right" to a couple nearby. A quick glance revealed that the 3rd bird to the right was the long-staying American Golden Plover. After getting our permits and some Christmas cards we went to Bishop's Hide, where I digiscoped this effort. The AGP had moved a few birds in, but bearing in mind there were 1000+ Golden Plover, it was still behaving very well. A Water Rail on Carter's Scrape and a Little Grebe in the roadside dyke were the other birds of note. We stopped off at Salthouse beach carpark for a coffee (the only coffee sold from the back of a van endorsed by Birds and Beer) and watched a lone Turnstone patrol round the outside of the car.

Earlham Cemetery

20th November 2010

Waking up to a drearie and foggy day I decided to spend a bit of time in the cemetery rather than go further afield. In the past few days a Tawny Owl has been audible from my house, so I hoped to pin it down to a roost tree. This proved easier said than done, and despite checking some likely looking trees and investigating any "mobbing" calls, we didn't find any owls. Cathy did spot a couple of Treecreepers that would have been visible from my garden had I been there, and a couple of Nuthatches were nice to see. We came across one Long-tailed Tit flock, with no birds of interest attached to it.

Whitlingham wildfowl

14th November 2010

A drizzly walk around Whitlingham on Sunday. For the first time in many weekend visits there was no boating, and as a result the birds had spread out across the Great Broad. Highlights included the hybrid goose mentioned in the post below, Kingfisher, c35 Cormorants and a Grey Heron. On the Little Broad there was an increase in Shoveler numbers, the Black Swan was still with its adopted Mute family and the two Red-crested Pochard drakes are still present and have almost finished moulting. Whilst the Waveney valley remains the most likely origin of these birds, late autumn is the best time to see migrant RCPs, with groups gathering in Germany and Holland to moult. There has been a notable increase in records recently, which I may have a look at if I get round to it. Whatever their origin, they represent a welcome addition to the regular stuff, and if they move away from the far end of the Little Broad I may even get a photo!

Hybrid Geese revisited

Trawling through some old posts I noticed an interesting comment from this month about the small hybrid goose that periodically turns up at Whitlingham. The comment relates to the bird depicted in the top three photographs, which has been seen on-and-off since at least January 2008.


The little hybrid goose cannot be a cross between an Anser and a Branta species, as these generally have a mainly dark tail (and also often darker bills or bills with black blotches). This means with that brightly coloured bill and legs and a typical Anser geese tail it has to be a cross between two anser species. It shows a clear indication of Ross or Snow goose parentage with the white-rimmed tertials and secondaries. As the bill is very small, I´d favour Ross goose as one parent. The other then should also be a small-billed species, probably with a pink bill also. Lesser whitefront seems to fit here best, so the most likely explanation would be Ross goose x Lesser whitefronted goose."

If the person who added this comment reads this post, I would be grateful for your opinion of the hybrids shown in the other two photos, both from Whitlingham. Bird 4 looks similar to a bird seen at Swanton Morley by Dave Appleton (possible Lesser White-fronted x Barnacle) whilst the bird in photo 5 has a similar wing pattern to the first hybrid but a larger bill and overall size, perhaps Ross' Goose x Greylag? Any comments most welcome.

Pied-billed Grebe

13th November 2010

Ever since I first went birding as a seven year old I have had a mental list of birds ("in my head" rather than "crazy") that I would like to see. One of these is Pied-billed Grebe. It could well have been because it was so close to the start of my bird book, but was undoubtedly also because of the charismatic look of the bird. I therefore jumped at the chance to go and see the Pied-billed Grebe that has taken up temporary residence at Hollingworth Lake in Manchester. When we arrived it was showing well, diving and shooting backwards and forwards along the bay. This was obviously tiring work, as it then swam to the back of the bay and snoozed against the reeds. Over a prolonged period we watched as the grebe preened, scratched, yawned, collected weed and swam along with a Moorhen-esque clockwork movement. A cracking bird and I for one will be keeping a close eye out for another Norfolk record.

Pied Billed Grebe at Hollingworth Lake

Back in Norfolk with a few hours of daylight left, Gary & I headed to Titchwell to have a look at the new path and search for the Pallas' Warbler seen in the week. A Treecreeper was the only bird of note in the trees near the visitors centre, and as suspected there was no sign of the Pallas' Warbler around the meadow trail. The new hide looks interesting, and just past it three Twite flew onto the saltmarsh, feeding near some Skylarks and oddly two Chaffinches. Incidentally Gary picked up the Twite by call, which he described as a "broken Linnet". We also saw a Cetti's Warbler before more searching of the bushes around the carpark. With the light fading we called it a day.

Twite. Note: "Titchwell Twite" is often used to refer to Linnets.


7th November 2010

Birding during the week is now down to about 15 minutes of light in the morning, enough to confirm that Waxwings are everywhere and all the Long-tailed Tits flying through the garden are rosaceus. Once the rain had stopped on Sunday I wanted to get out to the coast, and Cathy's mum offered to give us a lift to Cley. It was very busy, but after getting our permits and having a chat with John Furse we headed to Bishop's Hide. I got some half-decent photos of a Common Snipe close to the front of the hide and we admired the Teal and Wigeon. After a while a head bobbed up in the reeds, and Cathy had seen her first Jack Snipe. It took a while before I could get the 'scope on it, but we got there eventually. No sign of the leucistic Brent Geese in the flocks I scanned, and the sea was similarly quiet. The amount of people on the shingle probably accounted for the lack of a bunting flock, but there was one more lifer for Cathy, one of the Grey Phalaropes was still spinning on Billy's Wash.

Snipe at Cley