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: Last visit of the year

28th December 2011

Of course it might not be my last visit of the year, if someone finds a Slav Grebe in the next few days, I'll be there.  But as things stand, with no change in the weather, my last few visits have been almost identikit, even including a very lazy Snipe that has been within a few feet of bank for over a week.  Today it was very windy, which made loads of gulls land on the water.  These counts, all very much minima include 450+ Black-headed Gulls, 200+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 160+ Common Gulls and 10+ Herring Gulls.  As the light began to fade I headed up to the farmland near Whitlingham Hall in search of one more species for the patch year list (Barn Owl, Red-legged Partridge or Yellowhammer were the ones in particular I hoped for), but without success.  Three heads poked out from behind a ridge in one of the fields, but slightly oddly turned out to be Mistle Thrushes.  So there we go, 106 for the year, a respectable total considering 2010 was boosted by the crazy spell that brought in all 5 grebes, GN Diver, Smew, Ruddy Duck and Ring-necked Duck.  

Bring on 2012!


BROADLAND: Rollesby & Wroxham

27th December 2011

Cathy was still ill, and politely disputed my notion that a good long walk in the fresh air would do her good, so we went out for a look at places with less than 5 minutes walking involved. First stop was Rollesby Broad, where a Great Northern Diver was floating along. It was distant, but still easily visible to the naked eye. Whilst watching it the bird didn't dive once, but did spend a lot of time with its head submerged.

Next we went to Wroxham Broad, which presumably had been disturbed recently as there wasn't a single Aythya present. I picked out one Little Grebe and a Marsh Harrier hunted over nearby alder carr, but that was it. Deciding to try closer to home, we stopped at Old Lakenham Mill, where the semi-resident Little Egret was feeding in the river. A flock of apparent swans near Caistor St Edmund was actually 4 Mute Swans and 7 White Domestic Geese. Finally we went for a look along the river between Bawburgh and Marlingford, which was bird-lite.

WHITLINGHAM: Christmas Eve

24th December 2011

A pre-Christmas jaunt, and not much was stirring, not even a... well you get the idea anyway. Bird of the day was this colossal gull, dwarfing the Lesser Black-backs although matching them in mantle shade.

THETFORD FOREST: Lynford Arboretum

22nd December 2011

A short walk around the paddocks was devoid of Hawfinches, but did see a nice perched up Crossbill.  Poking around the arboretum I found a calling Firecrest, and we also saw some late fungi, including an Ear-pick Toadstool and some Stag's Horn.

Stag's Horn


21st December 2011

As I'm not sure when I will get to update the blog before Christmas, now seems as good a time as any to wish all of my readers a
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Many thanks to all those who have contributed to my birding throughout the year, be it through lifts, information about sightings, advice or companionship.

WHITLINGHAM: Red-crested Pochard & lots of Teal

17th December 2011

My first impressions upon arriving at Whitlingham were that it was going to be a quiet visit, but it actually turned out to be quite productive.  After a chat with one of the model yacht club members at the slipway I had a look in the woods near the car park.  Unfortunately it doesn't look like any feeders are being put up this year, which is a shame as they attracted good numbers of birds.  The reason is probably financial, but last year they did attract such large numbers of rats that the Pied Piper of Hamlyn had to be hired to get them out of the C.P, which probably was a factor too.  The best bird using the feeders last winter was a Nuthatch, but as it happened I heard one calling further along Whitlingham Lane, so hopefully this shouldn't affect my chances of seeing one here next year.

A modest number of ducks were on the Great Broad, but there wasn't anything out of the ordinary, or any interesting hybrids.  When I got to the river I scanned Thorpe Broad, and seeing there was a large number of Teal I set about scanning the margins to look for Green-winged Teal.  Whilst doing this I saw a female Red-crested Pochard, my first here this year and the third autumn/winter that at least one has arrived.  Carrying on to the conservation area bay I counted a flotilla of 90 Teal and a single sleeping Snipe.  10 Shoveler were on the Little Broad, and whilst watching them two Kingfishers flew through my field of vision, one chasing the other.  Finally I located at least five Lesser Redpolls in the alders, along with a mobile flock of Siskin.
Thorpe Red-crested Pochard.  The red bill is a photographic artefact, it was only red-tipped in the field.

NORTH NORFOLK: More Sandpiper and a productive raptor roost

4th December 2011

The days birding started at Cley, for another look at the Western Sandpiper. The hides were busier than yesterday, but the bird was closer, so it was still worth the crowds. I got a few digiscoped pictures, which add nothing to any of the debates around the ID. Once the sandpiper moved further away we went to Teal hide. After scanning Pat's Pool my attention was drawn to a Shoveler in front of us. It was swimming backwards and forwards along the edge of the pool, regularly diving. It was making a meal of getting under water, the head starting low to the water then the wings thrusting down. I don't think I've ever see Shoveler do this before, but apparently it is noted in B.W.P. (thanks to Dave A for this info).

Is mincing a diagnostic feature?
Size comparison with a Dunlin

Before leaving Cley, we scanned through the Brent Goose flock in the field behind the visitors centre. We found one Pale-bellied Brent Goose and these two returning leucistic birds. The photos undersell how pale they look in the field. It was now lunchtime, and we headed off to the Three Swallows for lunch.

First stop after lunch was Blakeney. No sign of any wild geese from Friary Hills, but amongst the Blackbirds in a hawthorn was this tame, dark-beaked individual. Possibly a continental bird?
After Blakeney we went to Branthill Farm real ale shop for a stock-up, before having a look around the nearby area, finding a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Common Buzzard whilst several skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew over. At around three we headed for Warham Greens, and upon our arrival the one birder already present put us onto a female Hen Harrier. Whilst watching this a Merlin flew through the telescope view, landing on the top of a small bush. A bit later a male Hen Harrier began to hunt, and at times was crossing over with the ringtail. Interestingly at one point they were both hunting in the same area, but with completely different flight patterns. Whilst the female flew level over the saltmarsh, the male was hunting in a series of semi-circular glides, creating a pattern that looked like an oscillating wave. As the light began to fade I picked up a Short-eared Owl gliding in from the east, completing an excellent days birding.

NORTH NORFOLK: Cley Calidrid

3rd December 2011

Its always a little bit frustrating when a rare bird turns up on a Monday, more so if it is potentially a first for the county. I was very glad that the putative Western Sandpiper (hereafter known as the Western Sandpiper) seemed settled at Cley, and finally got to see it on Saturday morning with Cathy and Margaret. Everyone in the hide seemed to agree with the ID, although Jeremy Clarkson did suggest shooting it so that we could be sure. I think he was just deliberately trying to be controversial to drum up publicity for his forthcoming book "Where To Watch Birds Whilst Driving Really Fast And Offending People". After watching the Sandpiper from Dauke's and Avocet hides (trying to get a better view as it often hugged the bank), Robert Smith kindly came and told us the Green-winged Teal was showing well, so we went and had a look at that. The last couple I've seen have been asleep, so it made a nice change to see one moving

I took this picture of the Green-winged Teal, apparently whilst on a slope. For any American readers, forget about the G-W Teal and marvel at the amount of Eurasian Teal.

WHITLINGHAM: Windy gullfest

27th November 2011

A friends stag do in London the previous day ensured that I wasn't out much before midday today. I arrived at Whitlingham in gusty winds, which whipped up the water into a serious of small waves. The winds were off the land, minimising the chance of windblown seabirds (although I notice that Graffham had 3 Velvet Scoter this week to keep me hoping), but what was noticeable was the number of gulls on the water, at least 120 Black-headed off the slipway alone. The hybrid LWF x Ross' Goose was present and calling repeatedly (I do have a rubbish video of this which I will try to upload). There was a welcome increase in Tufted Ducks, and a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls (an adult and a 2nd winter) were in a large mixed flock of Lesser Black-backed and Common Gulls.

Looking over at Thorpe Broad the river looked particularly high, and I later found out that there had been some localised flooding at the coast. The conservation area bay was packed with birds for a change, but still nothing scarce (2 Little Grebes, 5 female Pochard and some Teal the best birds). The Little Broad looked like it hadn't been disturbed that morning, with more Tufted Ducks and Gadwall, and a couple of Shoveler for good measure. 12 Siskins were also bombing about the site.

SUFFOLK: Lowestoft Hume's Warbler

20th November 2011

A couple of people had sent me messages during the week suggesting that I should go and see a Hume's Warbler in the middle of Lowestoft. Phrases like "great views" and "you can't miss it" were dangerously bandied about. As it happened Norwich was completely enveloped by fog, so a trip out seemed a good idea, even if it was to Suffolk. Cathy located the alley where the bird had been, which quite frankly looked more likely to host a body than a rare bird. A couple with binoculars confirmed we were in the right place, but the only bird there today was one Blue Tit. Bugger. Luckily all was not lost. Lowestoft is so good for birds, if one leaves, there is always another one just up the high street. So it proved here, and I finally did see a Hume's Warbler, albeit a bit further away than the first bird would have been, feeding merrily in trees behind the Royal Falcon. Why don't we get birds like this in Yarmouth I wondered, oblivious to the fact one had been found in Yarmouth that morning. Having run out of 'foot-in-mouth' moments, we went home.

WHITLINGHAM: Fog, crab legs and a Goldeneye

19th November 2011

As many of you will have guessed from the lack of news from Whitlingham at the weekend, "track the Eider" was not a successful campaign. After being seen drifting past Strumpshaw it was not reported again, presumably re-orientating itself and flying back to the sea. Nevertheless I was at Whitlingham on Saturday morning to have a good look myself. This initially seemed harder than it should have been as fog was still hanging over the broad, but as the sun rose it soon dissipated. There was a strong smell of the sea in the air, surely an omen? No, actually, it was someone's discarded seafood. One of the stranger items of litter to be found on site.

Wildfowl numbers were similar to the previous week, with a slight increase in Tufted Ducks. Are Aythya and Gadwall numbers still low in the broads I wonder? Last weeks Goldeneye was still around to the east of the island. I walked along the river as far as the bypass in case the Eider was still on the river, but saw nothing unusual. A couple of flyover Lesser Redpolls suggest there may be a small flock locally that move around rather than continuing passage. I went into the woods to get a vantage point over Thorpe Marshes, and saw a bit of late fungi, including my first site record of Verdigris Toadstool (pictured below).

Rubbish Goldeneye record shot

Track that Eider!

15th November 2011

So, you find yourself with a week off and don't fancy wandering around Hunstanton on the off chance you find a garden with some buds in? Why not take the big Eider challenge? Ben Lewis originally found a female-type Eider on the river at Buckenham on Sunday, and then yesterday it was seen heading west past Strumpshaw. Continuing along the river, hopefully it will get to Whitlingham (and even more hopefully it will stay there. Unfortunately work prevents me from going each day and checking, but if anyone goes to Surlingham C.M., Brundall, Bramerton, Postwick, Whitlingham Sewage Works or Thorpe & Whitlingham please keep an eye out! Lets get some more sightings on the Map of Duck below.

Other random bird news:
Waxwings have returned to Norwich for the winter, with a small flock around the Hall Road area (thanks to Will from the Birdbeards blog for updates on these).

The Hawk & Owl Trust have put up a new camera on the Cathedral to look at the Peregrines next year. I don't know why they need a new one, maybe its conitnuous rather than shots every two minutes. Anyway, its good that the male is still holding territory around the Cathedral.

Woodfordes have given the NWT a cheque for nearly £2400, raised from sales of its "Once Bittern" beer launched earlier this year.

WHITLINGHAM: A few more ducks and a Goldeneye

12th November 2011

Illness had prevented me from going out last weekend, so I was particularly keen to get to Whitlingham early on and see what wildfowl had arrived. November is one of the best times to find scarce ducks at the C.P, with Ring-necked Duck, Pintail and Red-crested Pochard in previous years. None of those species were present today (ironically its the Pintail I was hoping for most), but there was a range of the expected winter ducks in small numbers - 1 Goldeneye, 2 Shovelers, 5 Pochard, 16 Wigeon and 30+ Teal. A couple of Little Grebes were bobbing around near the Cormorant posts.

Many birds were flying overhead, I noted Redwings, Skylarks and a Lesser Redpoll, but I'm probably missing out on some ticks by not knowing more flight calls. Is there a CD of flight calls made anywhere, or is this going to be a bird-by-bird Xeno Canto job? I didn't see the Siskin flock that was around a couple of weeks ago, but it was quite mobile. Near the Little Broad was a dead Coot. I checked it in case it was ringed (it wasn't) then left it. I sort of felt that I should move the body into the undergrowth or something, but as I couldn't decided why that would be of any benefit I decided against it.

WHITLINGHAM: Owl watching

30th October 2011

Apologies for the 'blank' post before this one, I am short of time and wanted to post about the owl.

On Friday evening a Short-eared Owl was reported at Thorpe Marshes. This represents a great sighting for the edge of Norwich, but by the time I got there it was almost pitch black. I still had a look round (I would have seen it had it broken the skyline I reckon) with no luck.

Saturday I was out, so on Sunday evening I remembered that the clocks had changed and went to Thorpe at 16:00. The first half hour of my vigil sitting on the cattle pen was pleasant enough, with a noisy stream of gulls heading back to the coast and a couple of noisy Grey Herons around too. Then the moment that in all honesty I didn't think would happen, a Short-eared Owl flew up from vegetation near the broad, and did a sweeping flight around the marshes. Less than a minute later it was gone, flying over Bungalow Lane. Absolutely amazing. I've seen a fair few SEOs at the coast, often in daylight, but for some reason this one on the patch was much more thrilling.

As the light got worse I decided to get up and double check that it hadn't flown behind some of the willows. At that point the owl flew back into view, coming in high over the poplars. I managed to get one sort of in focus picture (it is a SEO, honest!) as it flew over my head and out of sight. I waited ten minutes and then began walking back, only to get my best views as it flew across the path in front of me and then alongside the path at close quarters. A really enjoyable evenings birding.

At the time I presumed it would be the first Thorpe/Whitlingham Short-eared Owl, but as it happens I have just got my copy of the Norfolk Bird & Mammal report for 2010, which says that a maximum of three were seen at Whitlingham Marsh during the winter of 2009/10. Incidentally Whitlingham Marsh could refer to the council owned nature reserve of that name, or the marshy area behind the sewage works (with no general access) that is referred to as Whitlingham Marsh on Ordnance Survey maps. The only other B&MR nugget I have seen of interest to Whitlingham folks is a max count of 30 Little Grebes in Feb.

[Update] For those wanting to look for this bird, it is still being seen 10/11/11.


30th October 2011

One juvenile Shag offshore, an Eider, a few Guillemots and Red-throated Divers, plus a Red-breasted Merganser scared off by a jetskier. On the way back we stopped in Winterton as the Pallid/Common Swift flew over the car, but with the pale grey background I couldn't make out any plumage details at all. A Marsh Harrier flew over near Filby Heath, and there was a large flock of Pink-feet near Acle.

NORTH-EAST NORFOLK: Some seawatching

29th October 2011

After a brief spell moving some furniture around, Gary, Adam & I set off for everyone's favourite stretch of "under-watched" coastline, Trimingham. Before walking to the woods Gary noticed a Buzzard sp. flying west that appeared to have a white rump. We managed to find a gap in the treeline and confirm that the bird was as suspected, a Rough-legged Buzzard. The bird then stalled in the air and swooped down out of sight. We intended to try to re-find it, but news of a Red-rumped Swallow flying north from Sea Palling with two Swallows had us instead choosing to go to the clifftop.

The sea was initially not too productive, but as time passed several groups of Little Gulls passed leisurely by, as did several Kittiwakes and a couple of Wigeon. A number of Red-throated Divers were on the sea, and a lone Snow Bunting flew east along the cliffs. At around 12:30 the moment we were waiting for arrived, when three Swallows flew up from the cliffs. In a blur we panned from bird to bird as they split up across the fields. Surely one had to be the Red-rumped? The closest two were definite Swallows, the third had come and gone none of us had seen a pale rump on it. We were faced with the truth that despite it being the end of October it was just a coincidence that there were two groups of Swallows along the coast.

Feeling hungry we moved on to the Poacher's Pocket at Walcott, where we could get a bit more seawatching in. After the initial curious questions from patrons and passers by had been answered we started scanning the sea. Most of the birds seen were similar to Trimingham, but here they were mostly pub ticks for me. Several Guillemots were loafing offshore, and a Common Scoter and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers were good birds, as was a flyover Redpoll. I missed a Great Northern Diver, but the best bird of the day was a Black Guillemot. A rare bird in Norfolk, it flew in and landed on the sea, allowing reasonable views before drifting west. Whilst eating we had been haunted by the calls of Pink-footed Geese, so we decided to have a look for them on the way back.

Following the calls we soon located a large flock of Pink-footed Geese in a couple of fields just inland of the coast road. We failed to find any scarcer species in with them, but Gary found a neck-collared bird (Pale blue CCI). The WWT got back to me very quickly about this bird, which was tagged in Aberdeenshire in April 2002, and has been sighted in Norfolk most winters since then. This year it had already been reported from the Horsey area the previous week, so the birds weren't 'new in' as we had suspected. On the way back to North Walsham we stopped off at Ebridge Mill where we saw a Grey Wagtail, and we had a Sparrowhawk near the library.

Neck-collared Pink-footed Goose

NORWICH: Annual Beer Festival

28th October 2011

On Friday I went to my 10th Norwich Beer festival. The event is now so popular that the queue for the lunchtime session stretched well past the Playhouse, so we went to the Ten Bells first (I refuse to call it the X Bells, that's just silly). When we did get in, they had run out of half-pint glasses (this year a sort of tankard style), which rather ruins my collection. As a result of going late in the week many beers were no longer available, but it was still fun as always.

NORTH NORFOLK: Right place, right time

26th October 2011

Travelling east along the coast road produced two notable occurrences. Firstly a flock of newly arrived Pink-footed Geese flying over Cley made a very convincing dinosaur pattern. Secondly I ended up being in the right place at the right time to see a recently found Pallid Swift flying above the grounds of Beeston Hall School. After a while it then flew almost overhead and off towards Beeston Bump, eventually being lost in a low cloud.

WHITLINGHAM: List moves on slowly

24th October 2011

Walking around Whitlingham in the rain, I couldn't help feel that I should just write July-October off and spend any available time near the coast. Early November is the time when wildfowl numbers increase sharply, and it was noticeable that we were a way off. c60 Tufted Ducks and 32 Teal were the ducky highlights. A Kingfisher flew along the south shore, keeping my spirits up. Right at the end of the spit on Thorpe Broad a lone Snipe was feeding. I got a bit of deja vu along the riverbank when I heard a Bullfinch in the same scrub that I had heard earlier in the year. This time I managed to see it, my first patch year tick in a while. In the area between the Little Broad and Great Broad two Giant Puffballs were growing. Flyover stuff included a small flock of Redwing and around 30 Siskins, but no sign of any Brambling amongst a flock of Chaffinches. I've only seen Brambling here once, so if anyone does see some on the deck I would appreciate an email! Hopefully there will be more to report in the coming weeks.

EAST NORFOLK: A ropey set of shrike photos

23rd October 2011

Shrike ID seems to be quite fluid, this bird is currently classed as the Daurian subspecies of Isabelline Shrike by the BOU. These digiscoped shots manage to capture the bird yawning (presumably bored of hearing the onlookers comment on its Wren eating) and stretching out the tail and wing feathers, which on some birds could have been very useful.

BROADLAND: Cockshoot Broad

16th October 2011

A brief visit to Cockshoot Broad saw me make two basic errors. Firstly I presumed that it would be quite quiet, and secondly I thought I'd be able to see some ducks. As it turned out, loads of tourists were moored at the Cockshoot staithe, and there was a constant stream of people in and out of the hide. With regards to the visibility, the angle of the sun meant that all of the birds on the broad were completely silhouetted. There were definitely Teal, Mallard and Tufted Ducks. Bird of the trip was a Kingfisher, which did a double-flypast. Afterwards we took a detour to the Caistor St Edmund area, where a large covey of Red-legged Partridges was the highlight.

NORTH NORFOLK: Lots of men in a field

15th October 2011

The place to be for any Norfolk birders with an interest in listing or rarities was Warham (site of the UKs second Rufous-tailed Robin for any foreign readers), and I duly took my place on the concrete pad at dawn, having been given a lift by Gary. Ultimately it was not to be, but a steady stream of commoner birds overhead and on the saltmarsh was some consolation. The cold morning was also a reminder that I need to buy warmer socks. Many congratulations to Rob Martin for finding the bird, and thanks to whoever organised the field for parking. The day promised more birds for those who spent the time looking, but I had a ticket for the Norwich City v Swansea match, so headed back to the fine city. We won 3-1 and played very well, so its all good.

For a finders account from Rob Martin see here: Punkbirder
For an account of the find from James McCallum see here: UK400 Club blog

Alternatively, make up a conspiracy theory about it. Bare in mind it will directly contradict the accounts of the people that were actually there at the time, so make sure its good. Maybe you were flying over in a microlite at the time and heard the whole sordid affair go down? Or maybe a friend of a friend was doing a mole survey for Natural England and was in a burrow three feet below the track and heard everything. There's no prize for the most creative entry. In fact, it might be best to just accept the statements made by Rob & James rather than pissing off two of the people most likely to find the next mega in Norfolk. Just a thought.

WHITLINGHAM: After the day of the owls

14th October 2011

I don't often let myself get too bothered by missing a particular bird, but I couldn't help wishing I'd been at Titchwell the previous day to see the mass influx of Short-eared Owls. Surely a once in a lifetime moment for those present. With my inland patching hat on, it struck me that if ever I was going to see a Short-eared Owl locally it would be now. This was further brought home when I found out that one had got as far down the river as Strumpshaw (c6 miles away). Even without the SEOs there was an influx of Great Grey Shrikes and Yellow-browed Warblers, so more than enough to keep the interest up.

I headed down to Whitlingham after work, arriving around 5. After scanning the meadows and the scrub around the Little Broad (Adam had a Brambling here earlier in the week, a scarce bird at the C.P.) I went for a quick scan of the Great Broad. Gulls were pouring onto the broad for a pre-roost bathe, the 250+ Lesser-black backs on the water were only a fraction of the birds passing through. At the east end of the broad 213 Greylag Geese was an unusually high count. Today though the waterfowl were secondary. I had identified Whitlingham Marsh and the sewage works as being the most likely spots, so I headed past the woods (quickly scanning Thorpe Marsh on my way). Of course I didn't see any owls, and no shrikes were perched on the fence, but it was worth a shout. As I walked back along Whitlingham Lane in the vanishing light I wondered what fun and games were going on at the North Norfolk Coast.

WHITLINGHAM: As you were

9th October 2011

Not too much wildfowl about today, c160 Coot and a couple of previously unseen domestic-type Mallards hardly set the pulse racing. A drake Pochard, a couple of Wigeon and a couple of groups of Gadwall accompanied the Tufted Ducks on the stretch east of the island. A few more Cormorants and a couple of Grey Herons were resting in the trees. A few Migrant Hawkers were still on the wing, and a male Kestrel was hunting over the meadows.

NORWICH: Mousehold Heath, more Redwings arrive

8th October 2011

A quick trip to Mousehold Heath was accompanied by a small passage of Redwings, which continued overnight. I can usually occupy myself in the autumn in periods of low bird-activity by looking at fungi, but the dry weather has meant that there is hardly any of that around either. Trip aborted, we went to the Wig and Pen for a beer.

MEDIA: Whitlingham Ferry?

Whitlingham was in the news last week, with Thorpe St Andrews council considering building a chain ferry between the C.P. and Thorpe Marshes. Whilst this would obviously be convenient for me, I don't really understand what benefits they think it would bring. The quoted cost of up to £250,000 means that it is highly unlikely to go ahead in any case. Perhaps they could have saved some money by looking at the one at Reedham rather than a similar one in Scotland. There would be a bit more mileage in linking Thorpe riverside with Whitlingham (allowing people to have a walk then go to a bar or cafe), but the railway line is in the way. Anyway, interesting to hear its being contemplated, and something to keep an eye on over the next few years.

SUFFOLK: Boyton Crane twitch

2nd October 2011

I had intended to go to Whitlingham, although I hadn't exactly decided what it was I expected to find, other than hundreds of people. Luckily I was saved from myself by the news that the Sandhill Crane had been located in Suffolk. Thanks to Cathy & Margaret who agreed to give me a lift, and to Gary who gave updates as it flew around a bit, we arrived in Boyton, parked outside the village so we weren't obstructing anyone and got there just in time. The Sandhill Crane was standing in a stubble field, and we watched it for around 10-15 minutes before a microlite spooked it and it circled then flew over the hedge. Someone had the presence of mind to set up a collection basket for the local church to try to keep onside the bemused (and in one case livid) local residents, and I see that since then the church carpark is being used.

The crane has also made it onto the Norfolk list (or it should do once the formalities are gone thorugh) by virtue of a retrospective identification from some birdwatchers at Snettisham. As frustrating as it is to not see the bird in Norfolk, it is surely a good thing that the bird can take its place on the county list, when everyone realised there was a very high likelihood that it had gone through or around the coast of the county in reaching Suffolk.

SUFFOLK: Lowestoft North Denes

1st October 2011

Another hot day with southerly winds, making searching for migrants that little bit harder. I decided to have a walk around the dunes and scrub north of Lowestoft. The banks of brambles that should have a nice mix of outgoing warblers feeding up and incoming birds were empty. The only thing that was in the dunes were semi-naked old people burning their skin, and that wasn't an encouragement. Walking back along the beach a Red-throated Diver landed on the sea, still partially in summer plumage. A Grey Seal emerged with a fish and was mobbed by gulls, and four Med Gulls flew around.

NORFOLK: Some shiny beetles

Late September 2011

In the absence of birds, please accept this token offering of insects from earlier this week. The first picture is off two lovely irridescent beetles, sometimes known as Rainbow Leaf Beetles, taken in Lakenham. The second picture is a Dor Beetle, taken on my trip to Thornham. Whilst I was there we also saw five Devil's Coach Horse beetles.

WHITLINGHAM: A misty landscape and some redwings

24th September 2011

An early morning visit to Whitlingham was delayed a few roads from my house as I watched a cat furiously chasing a Grey Squirrel in and out of gardens, along a fence and under a car, before the squirrel finally found refuge in a Holly tree, still being watched by the cat. I arrived just after dawn, and was treated to some nice views as the banks of mist began to clear. Whilst watching the mist rise up from the river at Trowse Meadows a Bullfinch called in the distance. A walk around the broad was largely uneventful until the final stretch, when a Kingfisher flew across the path and a Marsh Tit popped up in a tree beside the path. Several Redwing flew over, my first of the autumn.

In the afternoon we agreed to go to the coast to have a look around. The lack of migrants reported and the westerly winds meant there was no obvious destination, so I decided on Thornham (the wrong ...rnham as it happened, but there we go). We parked at the staithe carpark and walked along the coastal path, but there were hardly any passerines about, and a Spotted Redshank in one of the creeks was the best bird of the trip.

NORWICH: Students in not drinking shocker

21st September 2011

It wouldn't have happened in my day. Anyway, it appears that someone on the UEA campus wasn't in the student bar, and as a result found a lone Snow Bunting wandering around on the grass outside some of the new accommodation blocks ('new' as in not Waveney Terrace/Prison). I found out about the bird when I got home from work (thanks to James G for the text) and after a cup of tea decided to walk down to UEA and see if it was still around. To my surprise it was, and was every bit as tame as Snow Bunting usually are at the coast. It was walking around, picking at white feathers and dandelion clocks as if to check that they weren't snow. Eventually it flew in a tight arc around two other birders, landing even closer to them on the next bit of lawn. Well done to the finder, and to any new birders starting uni here - its not always like this!

WHITLINGHAM: Lots of gulls

18th September 2011

What a difference a day makes. In contrast to the previous day when I had the country park almost to myself, the sun had brough out hundreds of people. Wildfowl numbers were accordingly down, the whole Wigeon flock had gone. The only new arrival was a drake Pochard in with the Tufted Ducks. A Shag had been reported near the island in the morning, so I checked and re-checked all of the Cormorants, but with no joy. If anyone who reads the blog knows anymore details (adult/juvenile, time seen etc.) I would appreciate it. Whilst scanning from the bird screen a flock of 146 Lesser Black-backed Gulls dropped in, and I spent a while scanning through to check for Yellow-legged Gulls. There definitely weren't any adult YLG, but it did highlight the fact that I don't know how to separate juveniles and 1st winters, so some evening reading needed!

2nd winter Lesser Black-backed Gull. Maybe.

WHITLINGHAM: Big arrival of Wigeon

17th September 2011

A couple of weeks since my last visit, and with Grafham Water showing the potential of inland reservoirs (albeit much larger ones) I thought an early morning visit was in order. Upon arrival I was scanning from the slipway when I heard the whistling noise made by Wigeon, and sure enough six were swimming around near the far bank. As I continued round I found a further 37 mixed in with a similar sized flock of Gadwall. It wasn't long before the ducks were disturbed by a speedboat sent out by the watersports centre, but when they landed again I was able to confirm that there were 43 Wigeon, far and away my highest count here. In the conservation area bay another 25-odd Gadwall and a Little Grebe were loafing around. Three Chiffchaffs were singing around the site, and five Cetti's Warblers were singing too. A Speckled Wood and a couple of White sp. were the only butterflies, whilst a Shaggy Ink Cap was by the path at the east end.

Shaggy Ink Cap

NORWICH: Hummingbird Hawk Moth

15th August 2011

Sitting indoors isn't usually a very productive place to watch nature, but Cathy made the most of it this evening by spotting a Hummingbird Hawk Moth in the back garden. We ran outside and were treated to close views of this delightful moth feeding on honeysuckle flowers. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera on me (my only picture of a hummer was ironically one settled on a leaf rather than the hovering they are famous for) but fingers crossed it will return...

NORTH NORFOLK: It's like a Bittern, but smaller

10th September 2011

No prizes for guessing my destination on Saturday, with the juvenile Little Bittern at Titchwell defying a supposed period of inactivity resulting from the presistent westerly winds. It took two and a half hours of pool gazing before we got views, but it was worth the wait. A close Red Kite and a late Swift flew over. Everyone has their moments where a bird shows after they leave, and this was nearly mine. Cathy had waited patiently for a few hours and I had agreed to go after checking the freshmarsh, but on the way back I noticed everyone had bunched together. The Little Bittern had came into the open then back into the reeds (a nearby birder accurately described picking it out as a "Magic-eye puzzle") but I finally saw bits of it. After a short wait it then stepped out into the open again, looking straight towards us then turning side-on and catching a fish. Despite the reeds blowing about in front of me I managed to get a couple of digiscoped photos for posterity.

If only all bird-related arguments were this easy to answer...

A: Umm, No. Definitely no. Next question.

What happened to make gamekeepers ask if sea eagles could mistake young children for prey you ask? Ah. One attacked a clergyman* (who presumably wasn't a young child**) who has defending his prize winning*** goose (called Bertie****), a natural prey item, from the eagle. The clergyman was the Very Reverend Hunter***** Farquharson. Does this sound too surreal to be true to anyone?

* It jumped on his back. Thats weird isn't it? I mean, Eagles don't strike me as good jumpers. Maybe he was lying down.

** This is a guess, but how many young children have a prize-winning goose?

*** What prize(s) has it won? Tastiest goose? Goose that looks most like a fish? I'm going to try to find out, I hate not having all the details.

**** Possibly after Bertie Wooster, who in an episode of "Jeeves and Wooster" sung a silly song with the refrain "Ever so goosey goosey goosey goosey"

***** Yes his first name is Hunter. Make of that what you will.

YARE VALLEY: Marston, Eaton & Keswick

5th September 2011

A warm morning was a mixed blessing, nice enough to go out but warm enough to bring hoardes of people to Whitlingham. Adam suggested a walk along the river south of the city, so we headed for Marston Marshes. The paths had been resurfaced since my last visit, but the riverside ones don't appear to have been raised, so its only a matter of time before they flood. The new wader scrape was similarly disappointing, both in size and the fact that it is almost invisible from the path. We saw Great Spotted Woodpecker and Kestrel, whilst a flock of House Sparrows were on the feeders on Marston Lane.

It began to drizzle as we crossed the railway to Eaton Common, stopping to watch a Green Woodpecker in the paddocks. A heard-only Kingfisher was the only bird of note here, and we headed off to Keswick Mill. Only a lone Moorhen on the mill pool, but in a sun-trap around the corner we saw a number of butterflies including a pristine Comma. We followed the track down to Harford Bridges, where we had a cup of tea and marvelled at the extensive Tesco Local Nature Reserve. walking back up the main road we were heckled by morons whilst photographing some Sandy Stilt Puffballs (a rare fungus) before heading back along Marston Lane.

NORTH NORFOLK: Blakeney to Stiffkey

3rd September 2011

For the last Saturday of the summer holidays I had planned a day out around Blakeney. Unfortunately the weather hadn't played ball, and it was never going to be a famous day for migrant species. This happens more often than not, so it was a case of just going out and enjoying the birds that were around. I got the first Coasthopper from Sheringham and met up with Josh for some local knowledge.

We decided to walk the coastal path west to Stiffkey, checking various points along the way. In a field just out of Blakeney we found a flock of Golden Plover and a family of Grey Partridges, and further along a Wheatear was in a horse paddock. A few Sylvia warblers were in the hedgerows and brambles, but it was rather quiet. Upon arrival at the fen we saw 11 Spoonbills resting on one of the islands, and a good range of waders. The best were a couple of Curlew Sandpipers, but we also saw Common Sand, Green Sand, Dunlin, Knot, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Little Ringed Plover. There was a large flock of Greylags, from which Josh found a lone White-fronted Goose of unkown origin.

On the way back we perched on an upturned boat for a seawatch. The strangest bird was a Black Swan on the shore, which eventually joined some Mute Swans in the channel. An almost constant stream of boats were ferrying tourists to the seal colonies, but behind them several Arctic Skuas and Gannets were passing, along with the Sandwich and Little Terns. Once we got back to Blakeney we decamped to the White Horse to play Mongolian Chess and Scrabble. Many thanks to Josh for the good company.

YARE VALLEY: Strumpshaw & Cantley BF

2nd September 2011

Jim had been seeing good numbers of waders at Cantley over the past week, and invited me to join him there for the afternoon. On the way we called in at Strumpshaw to look for the Willow Emerald Damselflies. We didn't see them, but as this is the third year they've been recorded at Strumpshaw I'm sure I'll catch up with them eventually. We did manage Common Blue Damselfly, Common Darter, Ruddy Darter, Brown Hawker and Migrant Hawker. From the reception hide a Hobby was perched on a dead tree and an immature Grey Heron was standing half-submerged, perhaps trying to cool off? Several Brimstones were flying, a rather late second brood.

After signing in at the security lodge we preceded down the footpath to the settling pools. On my previous visit to Cantley the water levels had been high, but it was immediately obvious from the large areas of exposed mud that I should expect more birds this time. Quietly viewing from the first corner we found a flock of Dunlin & Ringed Plover that also included 11 Little Stints and four Curlew Sandpipers. Eventually we walked alongside them, getting my closest views of both of the latter species. David N was already onsite, and we were joined by Ricky, creating a sort of 'bloggers-elect'. Most of the rest of the time was spent scrutinising each Ruff and Dunlin, but we also turned up Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Snipe, Yellow Wagtail and more Curlew Sands. Good views, good company, great birding.

Mixed wader flock

Juv. Curlew Sandpiper

NORTH NORFOLK: Sheringham & Beeston

30th August 2011

Entering the last week of the holidays Tuesday seemed the only day that may be good for a few seabirds on the North Norfolk coast (barring Monday and its Yelkouan of course). Adam & I got the first train to Sheringham, where we were met by Gary, and headed to the shelters. The past few times I've been here there has been no room to sit, so the fact they were empty was an ominous sign.

Settling down there was a steady passage of Sandwich Terns heading east, and a trickle of small groups of Gannets were also passing. Eventually a few Arctic Skuas passed by, and a Red-throated Diver flew East. Small numbers of Great Skuas flew past fairly close in, and we almost missed a Razorbill flying just past the end of the groynes. Eventually we saw a lone Fulmar and another Red-throated Diver, before the slightly odd sight of 12 Canada Geese flying east. Once it died down we walked east and had another look from a higher vantage point, seeing a close-in Great Skua.

Rather than go straight back to Norwich we went up Beeston Bump (almost stepping on someones Racing Pigeon on the way) and then searched the area of scrub between the coast and railway line. We turned up a few Whitethroats and a Lesser Whitethroat, but not much else really. The paddocks between the railway line and main road held corvids and gulls, but not even a returning Wheatear.

NORFOLK: Castle Acre

29th August 2011

Ostensibly today was a series of historical visits, but we managed to pack in some birds too. We started at the ruined castle at Castle Acre. The site is free to visit and has some chalk flora such as Lesser Calamint to look at when not staring at the ruins or running backwards and forwards over the bridges. The landscape looks a bit like what the Teletubbies home would be like if they decided to fortify it.

After visiting the castle, we went to Castle Acre Priory. Another English heritage site, this one charges admission, and it wa touch and go whether it was worth £5.60. However, as we were already there and it looked quite good, we went in. Straight away I located a calling Grey Wagtail, and we spent a while stalking at least three more amongst the ruins. We also saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Margaret found a couple of Little Owl feathers.

After Castle Acre, we briefly stopped at North Elmham Chapel, Norfolk's first Cathedral apparently, and a very small one. Driving back to the Fakenham Road we had just got to Guist Common when a stunning Harris Hawk flew alongside the car and then over the road. I think one has been kicking around that area for a few years, but it was my first experience of one in the 'wild' (I know its an escape). We stopped in case it flew back, and whilst waiting a Bullfinch flew into the hedge.

WHITLINGHAM: late August update

28th August 2011

1 Black Swan. Yep its chock full of birds. There weren't even any birds feeding on the blackberries, as dozens of city folk have decided to come with carrier bags and take them to make a years supply of jam.

NORTH NORFOLK: Rain in Cromer? What a surprise.

26th August 2011

After a couple of days of rainy weather I headed to Cromer on the train to try to catch up with the Greenish Warbler at Warren Woods. I walked through Link Woods on the way, and found a couple of birders looking into a Holm Oak across the playing field from Warren Woods. One of them thought he had seen the Greenish in it a minute before, so I spent a while staking out the tree and nearby scrub, seeing a couple of Nuthatches, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Coal Tit, before a Phylloscopus sp. flew out and into trees on the cliff-face. After another twenty minutes waiting to see if it would re-emerge I decided to have a look around the main woods.

By more luck than judgement I found myself almost beneath the Holm Oak that the Greenish Warbler had been seen in. Keeping still I was able to watch a number of small birds passing through the branches, including six Chiffchaffs. Several other birders came and asked if there had been any sign of the Greenish or Bonelli's recently, to which I replied no, only to find out that a large crowd around the other side of the hill had seen both 15 minutes after I had arrived. The curse of trying to locate birds away from the main group of birders I guess. I went round to join them, and heard the Greenish Warbler call on three occasions. On the first occasion a Phyllosc flew from the direction of the call into the oak, but was in no way "tickable" on those views. I stayed until 5.15 then left to get my train, a decision I was glad of when it started pouring with rain, even if the bird was seen briefly an hour or so later. On the bright side, hearing the call will hopefully help should I encounter a Greenish Warbler at some point down the line. During the afternoon a number of Swifts (max of 16) flew through.

WHITLINGHAM: Great Diving Beetle

23rd August 2011

With north-easterly winds I had been contemplating getting up very early and going seawatching, but a late night put paid to that idea. Instead I contented myself with a trip to Whitlingham in the hope of some windblown Scoters. As it happened the best bird of the day was a Common Gull in with the Lesser-black backs, which a quick notebook check suggests is my first August record here. There is still an uncut cereal field at the top of the lime tree avenue, so when that gets cut it could push some Red-legged Partridges into the meadows, but I'm struggling to amuse myself here at the moment. Plantwise some Hops are growing near the river. A large beetle wandering along the path was a Great Diving Beetle, a normally aquatic species, but one I have seen on land before. One of the Whitlingham Lane residents told me he'd seen a Grass Snake on the lane in the week, which would be good to see locally. And thats about it.

I know it doesn't look too spectacular here, but they are a pretty hefty beetle, with a good nip too.

CAMBS & NORFOLK: Terns & Waders

21st August 2011

After a fairly quiet August (so far) I didn't take any tempting to go to Graffham to see the White-winged Black Tern that has taken up recent residence. Gary & I arrived to see a few birders on site, and took advantage of a close Black Tern to get some pictures. It wasn't until it flew off that the comments around us made us aware that some individuals thought it was the White-winged Black Tern. The bird we were after was actually flying around with some Black Terns on the far edge of the reservoir. Eventually they made their way round to the sailing club, and the White-winged Black Tern treated us to some close fly-pasts before settling on the pontoon. After giving far better views than 90% of vagrant species* it set off on another lap, and we took our cue to head back to Norfolk.

After getting stuck in traffic near King's Lynn, we headed inland then north to Titchwell. We had a look through the waders, where Gary earned himself hero-worship status from a nearby birder by locating three Curlew Sandpipers near the back of the freshmarsh. Whilst this birder told his friends how he could hardly see the bird, let alone an eye-stripe, another well-meaning birder committed a cardinal sin. He tried to express his doubts about a recent Buff-breasted Sandpiper sighting (on-site this was changed later to Dotterel, I'm not sure on what basis) but insisted on only calling the bird a BBS. Don't do it folks. Maybe use acronyms when writing to save time, but not when speaking. You have time to say "Buff-breasted Sand(piper)". What if we think you mean Broad-billed Sandpiper? Or Big Balled Stint? More importantly, it justs sounds really really silly.

After calling in at Stiffkey campsite carpark (a couple of Spoonbills on the saltmarsh), we went to the Dun Cow, hoping to cash in on the wader bonanza around the coast. The best bird was pretty much the first one, Gary spotting a Yellow Wagtail get up from near some cattle and fly west. I picked up a Hobby soaring above us, and at one point four were circling together, a lovely summer sight. A kettle of gulls over Cley seemed to be highlighting where we should be, so we finished the evening in the central hides. We were treated to some very close Common and Green Sandpipers, whilst further out six Spoonbills slept, and amongst the waders were one each of Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper, plus three probing Snipe. The whole lot was put up by a marauding Sparrowhawk, and some Swallows flew into a nest they had made inside the hide! Always a great place to end a days birding.

* This, like pretty much any unreferenced statistics on the blog is a completely made up stat.