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

WHITLINGHAM: Thorpe Marshes

27th March 2011

I spent Sunday morning on the Thorpe side of the river for a bit of variety. Carey's Meadow held 4 singing Chiffchaffs and a Stock Dove, but its still looking rather brown and cut back. Station marsh was greener, and I sat on the stile near the cattle compound to scan the scrape. The water level looked good for waders, but there was no sign of any, not even the LRP seen last week. Six Meadow Pipits and a Reed Bunting were on the grazing marsh, and a female-type Goldeneye was the pick of the ducks. With no sign of any hirundines or other migrants passing overhead, I gave up and headed home.

WHITLINGHAM: Week 13 - The purple patch continues

25th March 2011

After the excitement of last weeks Bittern, I was quietly hopeful that this could be the year I finally break my Whitlingham Garganey duck (pun intended). A singing Chiffchaff on Trowse Meadows was a patch year tick, and several more were in song around the country park. Better was to come when a now familiar trilling sound alerted me to 19 Waxwings, which flew over the meadows off towards Thorpe. Waxwing was another patch bogey bird for me, in a spell that included one visit when some were onsite but thick fog came down preventing me from seeing them!

A brief burst of sunshine wasn't enough to bring any butterflies out, but two Tree Bumblebees were a first for me. This species was first discovered in Norfolk in 2008 (in Earlham Cemetery), but has since spread rapidly. Duck numbers were low (3 Pochard, 4 Teal, 6 Shoveler), and no sign of any Garganey. Nonetheless I did manage to add an unprecedented third patch tick in two visits, a Little Egret flying east over the Great Broad. As a result of my dawdling it was getting dark as I walked back. The upside was that I got a chance to try out my bat detector. A bat near the Little Broad turned out to be the expected Soprano Pipistrelle, but five or six flying over the river from the main bridge going back to the city could have been Common Pipistrelle or Daubentons (45kHz).

NORTH NORFOLK: Kelling Heath

20th March 2011
The downside to my increased focus on local birding so far this year has been that I haven't got out to North Norfolk much. I decided to remedy this with a trip to Weybourne and Kelling Heath. This proved more problematic than it needed to be as the train to Sheringham was replaced by a coach service (taking an extra 35 minutes) and this meant missing the 2-hourly Coasthopper by a couple of minutes. Rather than wait I decided to walk to Weybourne along the clifftop path. I failed to find Wheatears or anything other than hundreds of Skylarks on the gold course, and the buntings at Weybourne were too far away for me to convince myself that they were definitely Lapland.
Having drawn a similar blank looking for migrants on Weybourne Camp, I walked up the hill to Kelling Heath, where the first hour was similarly bird-adverse. The lizards got so used to me wandering about they stopped bothering to run off after a while. My luck finally changed when I talked to a birder who had seen two Dartford Warblers earlier in the day. With an area to focus on and some bursts of sunshine I finally got a good look at a male Dartford Warbler, sat up on some gorse. It vanished as quickly as it had arrived, and I only got one flight view in the 20 minutes or so after the initial sighting. After walking back to Weybourne I found I had an hour until the bus , which I divided between a quick seawatch and trying Woodfordes Best Bittern at the Ship Inn.

WHITLINGHAM: Week 12 - Patch tick!

18th March 2011
As with the previous week I decided to give Whitlingham a try on the Friday evening rather than wade through the crowds at the weekend. A Med Gull and Mealy Redpoll were both reported during the week, so I was hopeful of finding something interesting, maybe even an elusive Garganey, a bird I'm still missing at Whitlingham. Walking along the Little Broad I saw a Water Rail for the 3rd consecutive visit, but saw nothing else of note until the conservation area, where the two redhead Goosanders were still present and I got decent views of a Cetti's Warbler from the track down to the bird screen.
I could so easily have missed the bird of the evening. As I walked along the riverbank path I looked up and caught sight of a large brown bird flying off towards Thorpe Marshes. From directly behind the jizz was odd... and then it turned slightly side-on - a Bittern! Eventually I lost the bird behind some trees, but it appeared to have continued east towards Postwick. Possibly a bird returning to Strumpshaw from winter feeding grounds, or a bird prospecting for a new territory? When I got home I found that someone else had reported it, also in flight. A satisfying case of being in the right place at the right time!

WHITLINGHAM: Looking for Ruddy Shelduck

Following a morning out I returned home to find an email letting me know about a Ruddy Shelduck at Whitlingham. I considered whether to go and look for it. On one side I hadn't batted an eyelid when two were reported from Marlingford a week or so ago, but once again the "but its on my patch" mentality crept in, so after lunch I went down to Whitlingham again to have a look. Suffice to say it was gone. Birdlife was similar to my previous visit, with the addition of two Goosander, one Oystercatcher and a singing Marsh Tit. I saw the Water Rail again, getting better views as it wasn't dusk!

NORWICH: First butterflies of the year

12th March 2011
A trip to the Cathedral so that Cathy could see the Peregrines was unsuccessful, but the warm weather had brought a number of butterflies out. On our walk in along Lakenham Way we saw 2 Brimstones and 4 Commas, whilst on our return the Comma numbers were up to 6 and single Peacock and Small Tortoiseshells were also out.

In the evening whilst watching the gulls stream eastwards towards Breydon, a very early Swallow flew through.

WHITLINGHAM: Week 11 - An evening visit

11th March 2011

The increased daylight and nice weather allowed me to go out birding after work for the first time this year. Whitlingham was pleasantly quiet, but the downside was that many birds were already settling down to roost/sleep. In fact the first thing of note was more than halfway round, a small bat sp. (presumably Common or Soprano Pipistrelle) hunting purposefully around the woodland edge. The walk back along the southern edge of the Great Broad was similarly uneventful, before a Song Thrush and Water Rail near the Little Broad added a couple to my patch year list.

NORFOLK: Dips and Egrets

6th March 2011

I went out for a jaunt around Norfolk with Gary & his dad, intending to look for the Great White Egret and then make our way up to the North Norfolk coast. In half-hour or so at Marlingford there was no sign of the egret, although we did hear a Grey Wagtail at Marlingford Mill and watched Buzzards displaying over a local woods. Our dip-fest continued by not seeing two species of owl and not seeing Woodlarks. "Surely that isn't going to be the highlight?" was the groan as we came away from the first three hours birding with distant views of a Stonechat.

We reached Titchwell and sprinted for the food hatch, Gary being the winner of the one sausage roll, whilst the losers received the Cornish Pasties. Presumably we can't call these Cornish pasties anymore, as they now have some sort of European regional protection. Anyway, by the time Phil got to the hatch there was no pastry-based products of any description. On the beach we walked along towards Thornham to get level with the scoter flock. No sign of any Velvets, but we did see a small flock of Eider and two Red-necked Grebes. A flock of Snow Buntings flew over our heads and we were stalked by two Black-headed Gulls.

Other stuff at Titchwell included Twite, Water Pipit and Water Rails. Beginning our way back to Norwich we stopped at Choseley, where we were serenaded by the jingling song of Corn Buntings, which was lovely. Back at Marlingford, looking at the same field as before, the Great White Egret was bang in the middle of it. We blinked and it had gone, hidden in a sttep-banked bit of river. Blinking again it was back, staying in view for about five minutes before vanishing behind a clump of Alders. We lingered a while, but it seemed content behind its trees so we headed back to Norwich.

Egret hide-and-seek

WHITLINGHAM: Week 10 - Finally some Goosanders

5th March 2011

Last weeks fence around the Little Broad, which I presumed would be to create a separate area on the north shore for use by educational bodies, has in fact been extended all the way around the east shore of broad. Suggestions that the fence is only a temporary measure until an 8ft tall brick wall can be built were denied by an imaginary Broads Authority spokesman. A Black Swan resting on the small sliver of mud within the fence gave it that wildfowl collection feeling. Of more interest was a hybrid Wigeon x Gadwall (initially seen by David Norgate a couple of weeks ago) along the far shore. It stayed along the far shore, but patience paid off as a couple of hours later it swam within photographic range.

I'm lonely, I want Bar-headed Geese and Puna Teal, now!

Gageon or Wigwall? I can't decide what sounds least stupid.

Walking around the Great Broad it was evident that the drizzle was keeping people away (the exception being the model yachters, but they were having a race from the bank rather than roping off the slipway). Looking over onto Thorpe Broad I saw my first Whitlingham Oystercatcher of the year, it appears that there has been a decent move inland over the past week as I also saw some at Marlingford and Flitcham on Sunday. Birds of the day were two redhead Goosanders in the conservation area bay. Another year patch tick, although they have presumably been at Whitlingham since Monday when Adam saw two there.

NORWICH: Birds and beer in the local news

2nd March 2011

There are a number of beers named after birds, including the Wagtail Brewery's Best Bittern. Today Norfolk's best known brewery, Woodforde's, announced that their "Once Bittern" Ale will go on sale in pubs across Norfolk. It had initially been brewed last autumn exclusively for Wetherspoons pubs, but will now be released as a seasonal beer for this spring. For every pint sold 1p will be donated to the NWT. The press release doesn't say where it will be stocked, but if you're into your ale you probably know which pubs tend to get Woodfordes seasonal beers (Trafford Arms, Murderers etc).

For more information see EDP article

Also in the news today, Norwich Cathedral and the Hawk & Owl Trust have announced that they have erected a custon nest box for the Peregrines that have frequented Norwich Cathedral for the past few years. There are cameras focused on it, and they hope to follow the pair breeding via screens in the catherdral visitors centre. A welcome addition to Norwich's birdlife, and something to keep the Feral Pigeons on their toes!

Some pictures from the EDP can be found here

WHITLINGHAM: Soon with extra reedbed

1st March 2011

Whilst on the internet I happened to come across the winter 2010/2011 Whitlingham report, available here:

It answers one of my questions - it appears that the fenced off area of the Little Broad is going to be another private area for schools and educational activities. The bit that I'm not won over by is the decision to remove the last remaining open edge at the east end of the broad (and with it the last chance of passage waders) to create that desirable habitat "dense reedbed".

"To improve its potential as a haven for wildlife, the Little Broad at Whitlingham is to be planted with reeds along its eastern shore and around its fringes. Reeds have already grown naturally in some places and new planting will extend the reeds to form dense beds where warblers and waterfowl can live and breed."

"In a new project funded by Norfolk County Council who run Whitlingham Outdoor Education Centre, a piece of land beside the Little Broad will be fenced off and planted with a screen of trees to create a secure site where groups from schools and other educational bodies can study nature.and other educational activities. Planting is due to start in spring."