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

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


30th January 2011
I did my bit for citizen science in the morning with an hour watching my feeders for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I managed 11 species, fairly representative of the day-to-day birds I get. The best bird was a Nuthatch. Numbers were restricted to ones and twos as a result of the boistrous activity of the Woodpigeons and Squirrels. The squirrel in particular was a pain, firstly stealing the half-apples and then coming back with a small blow-torch made from a discarded toothbrush to open up the peanut feeder.
In the afternoon Cathy & I went for a walk in Earlham Park and UEA grounds. The broad was quiet as ever, so we had a look at the feeders in the conservation area. No sign of any Bramblings, but at least five Redpolls included two showing a deep pink colour were on the feeders. Incidentally over the weekend I have also seen Black-headed Gulls and Great Crested Grebes in summer plumage.

WHITLINGHAM: Week 5 - Naff all and some Waxwings

29th January 2011


Another dreary Saturday morning at Whitlingham. What a difference a year makes, last year we had scarce grebes and ducks on every patch of clear water, this year I've been driven to praying for a Goosander or a Smew. I haven't heard of any at UEA this year, so it's not like I can go and grab one for translocation from there either. 40+ Siskin, 7 Wigeon and a few Shoveler were a level above the rest of the usual birds. Two year patch ticks were both seen from Trowse Meadows, Greenfinch (remember when they were common?) and Kestrel. On the way back to Cathy's I found a flock of Waxwings around the ring road, which eventually flew off south towards Old Lakenham.

The worst picture of Waxwings you are likely to see. Ever.

BEER: Burns Night

25th January 2011
A hypothetical scenario. Inspired by watching repeats of Who Do You Think You Are?, you've delved into your ancestry and found that you're 1/128th Scottish. That qualifies you to celebrate Burns Night. You go to Sainsbury's and buy some Haggis, but what can you drink with it? The only person to reply to this desperate request on Facebook is the eccentric and slightly camp posh guy you used to work with, who replies that "it's Pimms o'clock." You delete him, but you still have a drinking dilemma.
Well your problem is solved, the excellent Shepherd Neame brewery have brewed a special Burns Ale. As with a few of their beers details are sketchy (it isn't even mentioned on their website), but I managed to source this one from that well-known beer emporium that is North Walsham Lidl. Enjoy!

NORFOLK: Walcott seafront

23rd January 2011

Following pre-birthday drinks at the Garden House on Saturday night, Cathy & I went for a meal on the Sunday at the Poacher's Pocket in Walcott. Afterwards we braved the sea air for a quick look along the seafront, seeing a Med Gull loafing wth the Black-headed Gulls, and watching the always-entertaining clockwork Turnstones.

Turnstone, taken at Sheringham

WHITLINGHAM: Week 4 - Pink-footed Geese

22nd January 2011
With a number of resident species still to see (Kingfisher, Water Rail etc) and recent movements of Pink-footed Geese over Norwich, I decided to get down to Whitlingham just after dawn. There was no sign of the Kingfisher that often frequents the river along Trowse Meadows, but I did hear some stilted bursts of song from a Cetti's Warbler for the first time this year. There were already a number of cars parked along Whitlingham Lane, but most appeared to be people getting ready to row on the river.
Walking along the edge of the Little Broad a flock of Siskin (one of several seen) flew over but didn't settle. A Great Spotted Woodpecker finally gave itself up having been heard calling throughout the month. Three Wigeon, a few Shoveler and loads of Gadwall were on the broad. The Great Broad was quiet, although over 200 Coot were crammed into the conservation area bay. Still no Snipe on the edges of the islands. A pair of Mistle Thrushes near Whitlingham Barns was a belated year tick, and a skein of Pink-footed Geese flew over heading east, a bird I missed at Whitlingham last year. Walking back from the sewage works I saw two Marsh Tits, a Treecreeper and a Coal Tit on the car park feeders. The patch list is now up to 58 for the year.

WHITLINGHAM: Week 3 - The day of the joggers

16th January 2011
Some days the birding gets better and better, but today peaked with the first bird seen on the patch - a male Blackcap. Having never seen an overwintering one until 2008, this was my third in the last three years. It was in scrub alongside the river at Thorpe Meadows, which were flooded. A flyover Pied Wagtail was also a patch year tick.
Whitlingham was ice free, which made a nice change. The large number of cars on Whitlingham Lane suggested some sort of watersports, but it turned out that most of them were joggers. Not as annoying as canoeists or irresponsible dog owners, but it is a little bit annoying having an army of brightly-coloured people running at you repeatedly. Sometimes I wonder if I've always been this grumpy or whether its developed over time. Anyway, nothing out of the ordinary on either broad, although notable increases in Teal and Shoveler numbers. The Yare Red-necked Grebe has clearly decided to sit at Rockland instead of checking out Whitlingham. Leaving the country park I walked up the lime avenue and past the old hospital, adding Stock Dove. The short grassy area near Trowse Woods held its regular Green Woodpecker, but the wood itself was quiet.

NORFOLK: Cley jaunt

15th January 2011

Having not been up to the North Norfolk Coast for a while, me & Cathy got a lift to Cley. Just past Hevingham village we almost saw a Peregrine sitting on an aerial - a second look showed that it was a model decoy. We had a quick stop at Salthouse, sitting in the car and watching the Snow Buntings and Turnstones feeding close by on the raised bank. In the fields nearby thousands of Pink-footed Geese were feeding and wheeling overhead.

Snow Bunting, taken at Salthouse last January

It started to drizzle, so we sat in Bishop's Hide for a while. We didn't see anything out of the ordinary, mostly Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Dunlin and Golden Plover. A Sparrowhawk flew in and perched close to the hide, just out of view of my viewing slot. Instinctively I moved my head to try and see it, banging my head in the process. Damn hides. Walking towards east bank Margaret twisted her ankle on the slippery mud, and after some persuading went back to the car to rest it. Cathy & I continued to east bank, but a combination of high winds and the lie of the land meant that we failed to find the American Wigeon. A quick check on Arnold's Marsh revealed loads of Dunlin and a scattering of Grey Plover, and four Little Grebes were in the storm drain.

WHITLINGHAM: Week 2 - Red-breasted Goose

8th January 2011
New Year's Day had been a bit bird-light, so my main aim for today was to catch up with some of the commoner stuff I missed then. A night without a sub-zero temperature meant that there was also the outside chance of a Smew or something. As I walked along Whitlingham Lane in the drizzle I racked up Pheasant, Redwing and Jay, whilst 115 Greylags were on the meadows. There were only a couple of Siskin in the Little Broad Alders, but while looking for them I found a Treecreeper. Walking to the east end of the Great Broad, I immediately picked out a Red-breasted Goose with the Mallard! It was clearly an escape, and a rather tame one (it began swimming over to me like it wanted a hug, but its Mute Swan bodyguard were having none of it). Figuring that other local birders might still be interested in seeing it, I texted the news in. I can understand most people not caring, but some can enjoy watching birds regardless of their origins. I thought seeing last years Chilean Flamingos at Cley was rather excellent for example.

Moving on I saw that the bird feeders near the car park had been filled up. A short stakeout and I had seen the Nuthatch and a Marsh Tit, whilst four Brown Rats were eating the spilt seed. I located the missing Siskin flock along the south shore of the Great Broad, mixed in with some Goldfinches and a couple of Lesser Redpolls. No new wildfowl on the broad to speak of, a Little Grebe and some Shoveler the pick of the bunch.
Continuing my trip around the patch I walked through the woods, hearing the third of four unseen Great Spotted Woodpeckers. I looked over onto Thorpe Marshes but there wasn't a Lapwing in sight. I did get to watch a flock of Redwings in the scrub near the river, which is always a pleasure, and a Marsh Tit was calling like a Great Tit. Whitlingham Marsh was rubbish as always, and nothing rare was lurking on the river. Even the sewage works was quiet, just a couple of Jackdaws around the stirring containers. Cathy met me back at the car park to say "aww" at the goose, and that was it for another visit.

NORFOLK: East Norfolk

3rd January 2010
Gary & I decided to have a day out in the east of the county. After picking me up we made a quick stop off on Clarence Road to have a look at a flock of Waxwings busy eating some rather manky-looking yellow apples. After having a good look, we carried on to Cantley to have a look at the geese. Gary's damaged foot ligaments meant that long walks were inadvisable, so we looked over from School Lane rather than walking towards the river path. A large number of White-fronted and a small number of Taiga Bean Geese were on the marshes, but there was no sign of the LWFG. We also managed to get some good views of Fieldfares hopping about in fron of us.
The next bird required a trip into Suffolk, but we decided an Iceland Gull was worth it. Arriving at Hamilton Dock in Lowestoft a birder was already looking at the Iceland Gull, and after flying around the harbour it eventually flew close to us and landed on the fence. Easily my best views of this species, and having not seen Ross' or Ivory, it has to be my favourite gull. High praise indeed. Back across the county border (or not if you are a political boundary denialist we stopped at Breydon Water south shore. We found out that the Brent Geese and a flock of Lapland Buntings were quite a way along, so we contented ourselves to scan the estuary. A huge swathe of Wigeon covered the mud, and every wader species was a year tick, including a flock of c30 Avocets.

Heading towards the broads we pulled in to admire the sight of a field of wild swans. There looked a healthy number of 1st winter birds with them, although they were being annoyed by what was either a one-man or large toy helicopter being flown nearby. We carried on to the Eels Foot Inn for our first visit. The garden has a brilliant panoramic view over Ormesby Little Broad, which was unfortunately frozen. We got ourselves a drink and then crossed our fingers for a Bittern. No such luck, but we did clock up 24 species, including three pub ticks - Jay, Red-crested Pochard and Marsh Tit.
Next up was Barton Broad, where I hoped to see drake Smew. A quick scan around the open water and there they were, two drake Smew amongst the Goldeneye. Whilst I feasted my eyes on the Smew, Gary had found a Peregrine sat on a post and being eyed warily by the Teal. Our final stop on the way back to Norwich was at Wroxham Broad. We scanned through the Aythya flock, interrupted for a while by the arrival of a mixed Redpoll flock in alders near the boat club. I was ready to give up, but another flock of ducks flew in, and amongst them was the 1st-winter male Scaup that had been seen that morning. Who needs colour when you have Iceland Gull and Smew?


1st January 2010
A new year, but the same cold and cloudy weather greeted me as I stuck my head out of the window. A leisurely morning, with ten species seen in Cathy's garden whilst I chain-drank tea, the first of which lest you care was a Blackbird. It was then time for our new years jaunt around Whitlingham.
Along the lane the flock of Greylag Geese was present, although smaller than the previous visit (c100 birds). Investigating the feeders near the car park we found that almost all of them were empty, which didn't help the tally. The best bird here was a Coal Tit, making a mockery of my 10-month Coal Tit drought last year. Heading down onto the slipway we saw that most of the Great Broad was still frozen, with two main open areas. Scanning the first bit of water we saw the normal wildfowl (Pochards, Tufties etc) along with a pair of Wigeon and a Canada Goose. On the ice a number of Black-headed and Common Gulls were loafing, as was a 1st-winter Herring Gull.
Walking further around the broad a couple of Skylarks flew over, calling. Another decent patch bird followed in the form of a female Goldeneye, which flew west from the second patch of open water. Scanning the area around the island we added Shoveler, Teal, Little Grebe and 29 Cormorants. The walk around the north shore was relatively quiet birdwise, probably directly linked to being rather noisy peoplewise. The Redpoll that had been in the alders along the Little Broad in midweek were absent, but a reasonable flock of Siskins had replaced them. Last bird of the visit was a Magpie, the 36th species. This total is well short of last year, but thinking positively that increases the fun of finding the missing birds.