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

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

BEER: Norwich City Of Ale Festival

For anyone in or around Norwich, the first City Of Ale Festival is now on! There doesn't seem to be much to it other than some publicity, however apparently if you visit all 31 participating pubs within the 10 day period you can get a T-shirt, and there is a Brewer's Market outside the Forum 10-6 tomorrow (Sat 28th).

For more information see

NORFOLK: More bird-free fun

22nd May 2011

As it appeared that the world hadn't ended (maybe 3rd time lucky Mr Camping? Or will you just be quiet now?) Dad & I went out for a drive around North Norfolk, looking for orchids and dragonflies. After a brief stop to look for dragonflies, we moved on to Swafield to try to see some Early Purple Orchids I remembered from when I lived in North Walsham. Failing to find them, we then moved onto Overstrand, where we were hoping to find some of the red form of Early Marsh Orchid. We drew another blank here. I have a hazy memory of seeing them from some steep wooden steps, but maybe the cliff has eroded, or I could just be losing it. The sky had clouded over at this point, which enabled me to notice a Gannet circling out to see, the white almost glowing as it turned in the light.

Next stop was Holt C.P. At the pond we saw a male Broad-bodied Chaser and a number of damselflies, including the blue-form female Variable Damselfy pictured below. The strong winds meant that no dragonflies were flying on the lowes, and there were no orchids (plenty of Round-leaved Sundew though). We did see a Green Hairstreak at my third site this year, which was good.

After a pub lunch at the Royal Oak in Bintree we headed to Foxley Wood to resume our hunt for Early Purple Orchids. The only orchids around seemed to be Common Spotted, however we did also see two flowering Greater Butterfly Orchids, one protected by a wire cage and this one. I've seen Lesser Butterfly before, but this may well be a new one for me, so a nice way to end the day.

SUFFOLK: Lakenheath Fen

21st May 2011

Working down Cathy's list of birds she'd like to see, we reached Golden Oriole. Although several have been seen/heard recently (I still need G.O. for Norfolk) our best shot was Lakenheath, so we headed across the border into Suffolk. To condense a long wait into a short story, we heard but didnt see any Orioles. We were kept company by a group of dragonfly enthusiasts, who had located a Scarce Chaser and proceeded to trample through the bankside nettles to photograph it, despite having lenses that would allow pictures to have been obtained from Brandon. Whilst I was staring at the poplars Cathy went looking for insects, finding another Scarce Chaser, red-and-black froghoppers and several beetles. On our way back to the car a Hobby soared over.

As it still wasn't even midday we stopped at East Wretham on the way back. Pick of the birds was a Redstart, whilst a brood of Egyptian Geese on Langmere gave it that homely feeling.

NORWICH AREA: An idyllic evening

20th May 2011

A lovely sunny evening seemed a good opportunity to go for a drive around some of the nearby villages (i.e. south of the city). The first stop on our voyage of discovery came after going over a ford. Having slowed down to avoid a Pied Wagtail in the road, we spotted a Grey Wagtail right alongside the car. Pulling over we watched as it flew over to its mate on the other side of the river, and they treated us to a midge-catching masterclass, jumping up and catching them in mid-air. We then had to wait as 7 Mallards wandered fown the road, rather amusingly going into the drive of a B&B!

Further along we watched a "singing" Red-legged Partridge and took some photos of the ruins of a church before watching hirundines over Shotesham Common. Turning back towards Norwich I saw a Little Owl hurtle past. It flew onto a telegraph post nearby, so we drove a little bit closer then stopped for a look. A Blackbird then mobbed it, causing it to fly to the post right near our car. In fact, it was so close that to get a photo I had to hang out of the car window, hence the white in the bottom right of the picture. It may clean up in photoshop if I get round to it.

Little Owl. Click to enlarge.

Before going home we decided to drive down Whitlingham Lane as I still need Barn Owl for the patch list this year. Part way down we stopped to watch bats over the meadows. Seemingly somewhere in size between Pipistrelle and Noctule, I hope they could turn out to be Natterers, but I will have to go back with the bat detector to check this out. Further down I saw another owl flying, and drew attention to it in my own reserved style (SH*T! IT'S AN OWL!). Pulling into the Little Broad car park we heard two Tawny Owls calling to each other, before our one flew back over Whitlingham Lane and towards the Lime Tree Avenue. Patch gold, and a marvellous evening close to home.

NORWICH: Sweetbriar Marshes

18th May 2011

It was a dreary looking afternoon, but I decided to go for a quick walk before tea. I decided to walk from Andersons Meadow to Sweetbriar, a walk which i should have done much more than I have now I'm living over this part of the city. On my way a Little Egret flew over from the direction of the Waterworks, a notable record for the city. It began to drizzle, but a few warblers were singing, I managed Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Whitethroat. Further on I found a woodpeckers nest with calling chicks, and a photogenic Banded Demoiselle was sheltering amongst the reeds.

WHITLINGHAM: Week 20 - Some Damselflies

15th May 2011

A drizzly day and it was more in hope than expectation that I went to Whitlingham. The bird "highlight" was probably a Song Thrush, whilst the mammalian highlight was undoubtedly this dead Mole. My first Blue-tailed Damselflies of the year were amongst the Common Blues, whilst the spur-mark on the side of the thorax on this damselfly may make it an immature male Large Red-eyed Damselfly, which if memory serves would be my first CP record. If not then its an infuscans form female Blue-tailed, and I need to find some birds instead of deliberating over this nonsense.

Immature Red eyed damselfly

NORTH NORFOLK: Cley & Natural Surroundings

14th May 2011

A quick stop at Cley in the morning to look over a productive pool on the marshes revealed the Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Wood Sandpipers, a male Garganey (possibly a pair, a small female duck was obscurred by rushes) and a green neck-collared Greylag Goose. After a quick chat with Stu and Paul at the visitors centre, a birder came up to ask Paul & I if we'd seen the Red Kite flying behind us. We hadn't and it had gone, thank goodness it wasn't anything rarer. We went to the Cafe in the Woods at Natural Surroundings for lunch. Its a lovely little place, although they could do with a few more options on the menu - basically its a sandwich or soup. We watched a Nuthatch on the feeders outside the cafe before going for a quick walk around the grounds.

NORWICH: Fox Photo Special

12th May 2011

Whilst getting ready for work I noticed a Fox sunbathing in next doors garden. I called Cathy, but it had gone by the time she got to mine. Hearing a Magpie still ticking something off we went outside to see if it was still nearby. Not only did the Fox run across in fron of us and into the garden, but it was followed a couple of seconds later by a Muntjac! Much to our amusement the deer bolted round the corner and straight towards us standing at the back door, before seeing us, jumping in the air then running off. Even better, the Fox later returned, and allowed me to get some photos. My only regret is that I didn't manage to get one of it yawning to complete the "lazy" set!

WHITLINGHAM: Thorpe Marshes again

11th May 2011

A proper walk around complete with 'scope, just on the off chance. I manage to settle the two questions on my mind, a) the Wood Sands had definitely been on the shingle spit opposite the viewing screen, and b) they weren't there anymore. As I was leaving 6 Shelduck flew west, the largest group I've had here so not a total waste of time.

NORWICH: Ok so this ones my own fault...

10th May 2011

I did consider going to Thorpe after work in case the Wood Sandpipers had hung around, but as some of you will know it was the Norwich City promotion parade through the city, and I duly went to that. Once the open-topped bus had gone passed I retreated to the pub for a drink. As my companions headed home it seemed like a good idea to go and have a look around Station Marshes. With no optics and no idea where I was meant to be looking, I was of course doomed to fail. With no other birders onsite I soon realised that I was never going to get tickable views of any waders, so I just enjoyed my wander. A very distant Cuckoo sounded like it was near Broadland Business Park area, and I got good views of a Water Vole in one of the dykes before walking home in the dark.

WHITLINGHAM: A river away...

9th May 2011

A walk around Whitlingham with Cathy just before dusk was shaping up to be a typical summer walk, nice weather, not many birds. As we reached the east end of the broad Cathy went and looked through the nettle beds for moths (Green Carpet was her best find) whilst I scanned the spit. I could see several birders with 'scopes, which made me feel slightly uneasy. What if something really good was the other side, out of sight. We moved on, and then I found out what they were looking at. 2 Wood Sandpipers on the "New Cut". I have birded Station Marsh a fair bit, and have never heard anyone refer to the new cut, so that didn't help. Could it be one of the drainage ditches across the marshy bit? If it is then there was no chance I could see it from my vantage point. With the light fading and Cathy still patiently waiting for me to continue our walk I went back and re-scanned the spit, then waited to see if a walker would flush them, and finally waited until a train had gone past. Darn it. Still, there's always next year.

WHITLINGHAM: Week 19 - Not as bad as it looks

8th May 2011

I hadn't visited Whitlingham during the week as a cold had completely zapped my energy, so I was looking forward to seeing what had arrived since my last visit. John had kindly emailed me to say he had seen a 1st-summer Little Gull on Wednesday evening, whilst I would be interested to find out which direction the three Night Herons were flying when seen/heard at Strumpshaw on the same evening.

Upon arriving to a long row of cars parked along the lane (which is now legally a freeway, although as the police dont have the time to come and impose tickets its all a bit pointless) I presumed that the C.P. would be heaving. In the end it was no busier than normal for a sunny day. The great broad was quiet, 27 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 3 Herring being the only birds of note. Swifts were screeching overhead, and the nettles along the riverbank were full of Common Blue Damselflies.

Birdsong was muted, but amongst the Whitethroats and Blackcaps I found a skulking Lesser Whitethroat (not singing) and further round in the conservation area a Garden Warbler. Last year GW was my 100th bird, this year I've only made it to 92. Mind you, there are still anumber of "common" birds I should get (e.g. Red-legged Partridge, Bullfinch, Grey Wagtail) and hopefully a few migrants still. I had been hoping for Bar-tailed Godwit, but no joy. On the rest of the way round I saw my first Banded Demoiselle of the year and a Common Sandpiper flew downriver. The area of scrub that was cleared near the Little Broad has been turned into an area for archery (there is already one, why do they need two?). Presumably this project took priority over both concreting the Little Broad and building Badminton courts and the giant tire swing on the Great Broad island.

Whilst at Whitlingham I found out about the Collared Flycatcher, but on the way home I was buoyed by my own black-and-white bird, when the partially leucistic Blackbird that frequented Chapelfield in 2009 made a surprise re-appearance.

I know that this picture is worse than my usual poor standards, but it was chased off by a small child. Said infant had ignored other birds, adding further anecdotal evidence that birds with pigmentation mutations suffer from increased predation.

NORFOLK: Butterfly spotting

7th May 2011

As rain was forecast for later in the week (not that that seems likely at the moment) Cathy & I decided to but birds to one side for the day and go butterfly hunting. The aim was to see two of the three regularly-occurring Norfolk butterflies that I have never seen, Dingy Skipper and Grizzled Skipper. These two butterflies can both be rather annoying to pin down, as not only are they scarce locally, they are also rather dowdy, allowing them to disappear against brown backgrounds. In the end we found 2 Dingy and c15 Grizzled Skippers, and also saw 2 Green Hairstreaks, 2 Mother Shipton moths and a Burnet Companion moth. The last butterfly I want to see is White-letter Hairstreak, which have occurred in Chapelfield Park before, but if you have a reliable site then please let me know!

Grizzled Skipper

Dingy Skipper

NORFOLK: Bird Race

1st May 2011

This will be quite a long post. You may want to make a cup of tea, or better still, pour yourself a beer.

Long-time readers will be aware that every May myself, Gary White & Adam Pointer have a bird race. It's not technically a race, we just set out to see as many species of bird as we can within a day. This year we made two changes, firstly doing it on the first Sunday of the month rather than the last one, and secondly constricting ourselves only to birds seen within the county of Norfolk.

We left Norwich at 04:00, and the difference a month makes was immediately evident, we didn't see a single bird on the journey down to Santon Downham. The sun was beginning to rise as we made our way along the river, anxious to get a good start by seeing some woodland birds. First bird of the day was a Moorhen. Gary soon saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker fly off, but Adam & I missed it. We spent probably too long trying to track it down, and eventually gave up. Some compensation was a Treecreeper (we had heard them all around us but it took a while to see one) and even better calling Willow Tit. Two Sparrowhawks flew over, a shame they werent Gos, but still good as I missed one last year by virtue of falling asleep. On the way back to the car we managed a first Garden Warbler of the year, drake Mandarin and a Grey Wagtail, and further on Crossbill and GS Woodpecker.

Next we tried the area around St Helens picnic area. I managed to see a Kingfisher whizzing down the river, but Gary & Adam missed it. We kept on ticking woodland stuff, Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Siskin all down early. A Canada Goose flew over with a hybrid goose that had a bright almost glowing orange beak (Canada x Greylag x Carrot?). With no sign of Nuthatches or Bullfinch we headed for Weeting. A brief stop near Grimes Graves gave us our annual Tree Pipit, whilst Weeting was good for Stone Curlew, Lapwing and Mistle Thrush.

We reached Lakenheath Fen, which is unfortunately in Suffolk. However, you can see over the county boundary (the river) onto Hockwold Washes. This was a good decision, with GC Grebe, Little Grebe, Garganey, Common Tern, an Arctic Tern and c20 Bar-tailed Godwits all good birds. In fact by not walking around Lakenheath and waiting for Orioles we saved time and moved slightly ahead of lasts years equivalent total. Next stop, Welney.

Last years weather problem had been rain. We had sheltered for around an hour from downpours, denting our total no doubt. This year the issue was the very strong wind. There was no sign of the Corn Buntings near the carpark, and we didn't hold much hope of seeing the Bluethroat either. Still I coughed up the £7.10 entry fee and we marched on. A few waders, Yellow Wagtail and a few lingering wild swans were the main attraction, until the Bluethroat began singing. We stood still on the path and waited - and woohoo, the Bluethroat came out, a paths width away! Much better views than last year, and it turned, splayed out its tail and flew along the path. Now that actually was worth £7. Tree Sparrows on the bird table were the icing on the cake.

Birds were now coming a bit slower, but the total was still ticking over. A Swift over the road near Nordelph was my first of the year. We failed to see Woodlark, but I did catch up on Cuckoo having missed one at Hockwold, and we also added Whimbrel, Grey Partridge, Wheatear and Lesser Whitethroat. We were up to 98 when we arrived at Titchwell for a cup of tea.

My 100th bird (at about 14:00) was a Pochard on the freshmarsh. A number of gulls and waders boosted the tally as we headed for the beach, hopeful for some close in seabirds. On the way we were warned in increasingly strong terms about the wind.

"good luck out there lads"

"Its like a sandstorm out there"

"If you see a New York Yankies hat on the marsh, it's mine"

Out of the three, birder number 2 wins the prize. It was like a sandstorm. With the real possibility that we would be incorporated into the dune system and only a flyby Common Scoter to show for it, we dug ourselves out of the sand and headed back. Red-crested Pochard and Little Tern brought us up to 115, equalling my best ever day total. Nb, Gary saw two more than me last year, hence he was aiming to beat 117.

Driving east we decided to try Friary Hills to look for a reported Ring Ouzel. With no sign of it and Penny having no luck either we had a quick scan of the freshmarsh (Greenshank, Spotted Redshank) and left for Cley. Here we added Sandwich Tern, Reed Warbler, Hobby and Green Sandpiper, but decided against hunting for the Shorelarks. Salthouse Heath was quiet, as was Keeling Heath, so we headed down to the water meadows. Here we saw a smart Wood Sandpiper, and when the cattle went for a wander we saw another two join the first in a flight around the meadows.

Now on 121 and other birds were a bonus. We went back to Cley to check for Spoonbills. No joy, but Adam spotted some summer plumaged Golden Plovers close by. Golden Plovers are beautiful birds, and as the red sun set over Blakeney, a late-hunting Marsh Harrier flying along the bank adding to the spectacle. Heading back to Salthouse Heath we head a Nightingale singing in the distance, and pulled over further down the road. We were treated to a full song from this skulking bird as it sung near the edge of the road, and we were able to make it out as it hopped regularly about. A fitting end to the day, but on the North Norfolk coast the last bird has to be Barn Owl, and indeed it was. Just before 21:00 a Barn Owl flew along the road and perched up on a tree to watch us. Bird 124, a new record and a cracking days birding. This sort of intensive birding isn't everyones idea of fun, and I wouldnt want to do it regularly, but now and again its jolly good fun!