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

NORTH NORFOLK: Chalkhill Blues

30th July 2011

Last year we went to Warham for the first time to see Chalkhill Blues. We were successful, although they were largely over, with most butterflies being washed out or tatty or both. We had a hard time finding the site, in the end having to ask a local in Wighton. This year we still didn't find it straight away (almost getting sucked into the Warham Triangle, a local version of the Bermuda Triangle that only causes people looking for Iron Age forts and flocks of geese to disappear). Eventually we did get there, and were pleasantly surprised to find 30+ Chalkhill Blue butterflies in tip-top condition. I also found a Wall Butterfly and several interesting looking plants which will take me a while to work through and identify. On the bird front we had a singing Yellowhammer accompanyment and a Buzzard overhead.

Who says romance is dead? This pair of Chalkhill Blues pick a dried cow-pat to mate on.


29th July 2011

Following a fairly unproductive morning visit to the broads, Jim & I went for a look around the pools at Cantley Beet Factory. It was my first visit here, and the potential was apparent, even if the birds initially weren't. There wasn't that much mud exposed, so we concentrated on the margins, and managed to turn up two Wood Sandpipers, a Dunlin, a Ruff (possibly two) and several Green and Common Sandpipers. I see that 45 Green Sandpipers have been seen today (30th), is there a pit we missed or are they commuting between the pits and nearby fields? There was also a large number of Shelduck, including some young ones.

We saw three of these whopping longhorn-type beetles in the morning. I haven't had a proper look for it in books yet, but if you know what it is then do please comment.

Wood Sands with bonus Dunlin. As soon as I got my camera out they refused to turn side on and show their nice spangly backs.

EAST NORFOLK: Rollesby Waterside

28th July 2011

Today we visited the relatively new Waterside restaurant at Rollesby, which if you believe the hype is the best thing to happen to the broads since some bright spark decided to dig up some peat near the river. We had a bit of cake and a drink on the terrace overlooking the broad. It was nice. There was a nagging feeling though, that the broads aren't really meant to be nice. They're meant to be wild and windswept rather than seen from posh decking with food on square plates (I am not a fan of plates with corners. Round ones are just fine thank you). My conclusion was that it is fine for tourists, but its rather too sanitised for my liking. Bird wise it looks like Common Terns have had a productive year, with c25 loafing on a jetty on Rollesby Broad. Scanning Ormesby Broad I located a Grey Heron in a tree and a few more Common Terns.

WEST NORFOLK: Hunstanton

27th July 2011

Fancying a drive, we decided to take in Hunstanton, scanning the rooftops in case the escaped Eagle Owl that has been frequenting the area was still around. Having not seen anything we were driving back to the amin road when I spotted what looked like an owl on the top of a building across some playing fields. It didn't look as big as it should have done for an Eagle Owl to me, but we drove back to check it out. It was a big fake owl. Presumably to scare pigeons I guess, as there was a mock Peregrine-type bird at the other end of the roof. How annoying. This is the second time I've spotted a "bird of prey" only to find it is a decoy - there is one near Hevingham as well. And as for the joker that put those fake Bustards in the brecks...*

* Note: As far as I know there are no Bustards, real or fake in the brecks. There are fairly frequent rumours though. My guess is that some sightings may relate to non-birders seeing Egyptian Geese or something like that.

WHITLINGHAM: Thorpe & Town House

25th & 26th July 2011

Thorpe Marshes (25/07/11) - c50 Lapwing, Stock Doves, not much else.
Thorpe Green (25/07/11) - Black Swan (1)
Whitlingham C.P. (25/07/11) - Usual stuff, plus some juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls
Thorpe Marshes (26/07/11) - c60 Lapwing, Stock Doves, still not much else.

Its no wonder everybody sacks off inland birding over the summer with wonder hauls like this. On Tuesday after Adam & I had looked around Carey's Meadow and Thorpe Marshes we decided to go for lunch at the Town House, and despite the drizzle we sat outside so that we could scan the river and areas of scrub. This proved to be the most productive hours birding of the holiday so far, seeing a Sylvia warbler triumvirate (Blackcap, Whitethroat and Garden Warbler), a family of recently fledged Goldcrests and the icing on the cake, a Kingfisher.

Also a hearty congratulations to Whitlingham Country Park on receiving the Green Flag Award for the fifth year in a row (Broads Authority Press Release). However, when will the Broads Authority give up and stop calling Whitlingham "The Gateway To The Broads"?*

I'm off to learn Two-barred Crossbill calls in anticipation of an invasion. Come to think of it, I'd willing take Common Crossbill locally.

* The Norfolk Broads, in case you don't know, are a series of shallow lakes in East Norfolk that were excavated as peat diggings. When the Broads Authority started marketing Whitlingham they put signs up on the approach road saying "Gateway to the Broads". They had to remove the signs from the entrance as there was a lot of derision and complaints, mostly from places that are actually in or close to the broads. Acle has signs saying Gateway to the broads, and many people would consider Wroxham the broadland hub. Whitlingham, lovely as it is, isn't in the broads, and the great Broad and Little Broad aren't proper broads as they are flooded gravel diggings.

NORWICH: Bowthorpe & Colney area

24th July 2011

As the weather was nice I decided to give Whitlingham a miss and head for the quieter option of the stretch of the River Yare west of Norwich. Walking along Earlham Road I noticed a Brown Argus settle on the grass, the first one I've seen around the city. Leaving the road to walk along the river at Earlham church I heard an increasingly frequent beeping noise like a metal detectorist getting closer to a buried tin can, and accordingly stopped to wait for the Kingfisher to shoot threw along the river. Further along a Song Thrush was whacking a snail against the path.

As the blackberries are beginning to ripen I paid particular attention to brambly areas, finding a Garden Warbler and numerous Blackcaps amongst the commoner birds. On the fishing lakes several Great Crested Grebes and Common Terns were nicking a few fish. As with many trips in the summer the highlights were non-avian. In this case a Grass Snake basking along the river bank, and two black Mink. Of course Mink aren't a highlight in the case of being glad of their presence, but it was only the second time that I have seen one.

A mink legs it across the path. Click for a slightly bigger picture.

WHITLINGHAM: Thorpe Marsh, frustrating times

20th July 2011

Another evening at Thorpe, and more disappointment. There were 43 Green Sandpipers at Cantley yesterday, coincidentally 43 more than I saw this evening. I did get an inkling I wasn't going to see anything when I looked out over the spit, only to have my view blocked by two people throwing balls into the broad for their dogs to chase. I went around to the marshes side and counted the loafing Lapwing (49), and whilst doing this I heard a Bullfinch calling from scrub near the railway line. Now Bullfinch would have been new for the year if I could have located it, but despite calling a few more times it stayed hidden. Having waited for half an hour or so I decided to go and have another look on the spit, only to find two different people standing on the shore. The final straw for me was when I realised they didn't even have a dog, they had just decided to walk to the edge and throw stones in. Grrr.

In todays EDP there is a big article about the NWT taking over the running of Thorpe Marshes. It says they want to hear from people about the marshes, although it doesn't give an email address or any contact details for people to give their views, which I thought was a bit odd. For me the oddest thing about the article though is Mr Joyce saying that one day he hopes Bitterns will find Thorpe Marshes. If you've been, you'll know that only a very small amount of the site is reedy. Its just not Bittern habitat. Was this just a flippant remark, or does he really want to get rid of the existing habitat and reed it over? He also suggests a living classroom, which is completely unecessary given that across the river Whitlingham has a Forest School, pond-dipping platforms, a separate area of woodland for activities and an indoor classroom area in the barn. I await the consultation process with interest.

MID-NORFOLK: A hoooge caterpillar

17th July 2011

A trip looking for Damselflies was perhaps a bit silly considering the overcast and showery conditions, but we went anyway. The target was Small Red Damselfly, and we didn't see any. This could have been down to the conditions, the flight period could be over or I simply may have been looking in the wrong place. Nevertheless in a short period of time we did see a number of notable things. Whilst looking amongst the vegetation I spotted a number of Marsh Helleborines and Fragrant Orchids amongst the Common Spotted Orchids (mostly a white form).

In a rare burst of sunshine the butterflies emerged, including a Small Copper and my first Brown Argus of the year. Find of the day though went to a huge Emperor Moth caterpillar that I found in a patch of brambles. What a beastie!

Marsh Helleborine

Fragrant Orchid

Brown Argus

Emperor Moth caterpillar

WHITLINGHAM: Egyptian Goose numbers still rising

16th July 2011

After a day of persistent rain I finally got down to Whitlingham at about 5. I had already counted 82 Egyptian Geese between the watersports centre and the slipway, and added a few more along the south shore to finish up with a new record site count of 94. I wondered whether this could even be one of the highest counts for Norfolk, but it appears that there have been several large post-breeding gatherings, notably 200 at Holkham in 1979 more recently large gatherings at Breydon, Buckenham and Pentney.

Enjoying the relative quiet as the rain kept visitors away I had a nice stroll, accompanied by the calls of the three Common Terns (2 juveniles) that had flown from Thorpe to perch on the cormorant posts. Bird of the evening was a juvenile Linnet that was feeding on dried Hogweed seeds (or insects in them). I've seen several fly over and some more at the sewage works, but this was the first time I'd seen one on the deck at the country park proper. As I left the sun came out, bringing out Swallows, House Martins and several butterfly species.

WHITLINGHAM: Thorpe Marshes and some Lapwings

15th July 2011

I'd noticed that Ricky had found two Green Sandpipers at Thorpe during the week, and sensing my 100th patch bird of the year I walked up there after work. Despite extensive scanning of the spit and broad edges I didn't find them, but they could well still be on site somewhere. Eitherway I would still expect to pick up Green Sand over the summer or autumn. Four Common Terns were screeching around, including two juveniles, which was pleasing. The recent Norfolk Bird Atlas doesn't show any breeding nearby (although I remember seeing a juvenile at Strumpshaw last year), so hopefully this is the first step to colonisation of this part of the river. Despite recent rain the scrape didn't have any standing water, but it did have 66 Lapwing, a reasonable summer count. Insect wise I saw my first Norfolk Hawker for the site and several small white micro moths which I need to have a look at.

On my way back I called in at Carey's Meadow. I was frustrated by loads of elusive stridulating insects, which I initially presumed were grasshoppers but having failed to see one I am now wondering if they are some sort of phantom insect. Or leafhoppers. They sounded like someone winding on the film on a disposable camera, so if that rings a bell then please put me out of my misery. I also saw a newly emerged Burnet moth, presumably 6-spot, but the top two spots were merged, which may make it 5-spot/narrow 5-spot, which can't be separated 100% etc etc so again, if you know what Burnet moths have been verified at Carey's Meadow please don't keep the information to yourself!

Upon returning home I decided to relax with a bottle of beer. Unfortunately I picked the bottle of "Black Death", which is flavoured with what is affectionately called Death Chilli (I believe there is now one hotter, but it used to be the hottest chilli in the world). Suffice to say I didn't finish the whole bottle.

EAST NORFOLK: Horsey Dunes

10th July 2011

On Sunday afternoon we went for a stroll along the dunes at Horsey, keeping an eye on the sky in case any Pacific Swifts should appear. Straight away we saw butterflies galore from the carpark, a couple of Dark Green Fritillaries and several Essex Skippers being year ticks. Further along it seemed that most of the skippers were Small, and a steady stream of fritillaries sailed past but refused to settle for photographs. There was a slightly embarrassing incident further on when I thought I'd found one settled on the ground and crawled up to it on my stomach before finding that it was dead. To be fair it was partly covered in ants (eating it or working out how to take it to their nest maybe?), which meant that it was moving slightly.

Best of a bad bunch

It looked less dead from further away

I pointed out a couple of Stonechats "chatted" on the fence, prompting Cathy to remark "I'd almost forgot you were a birdwatcher". Maybe too much time spent on butterflies. Looking out at the sea a few Grey Seals were loafing just offshore, whilst a Common Tern with a seemingly rather darker grey back than normal held my attention for a bit. Other than that it was rather quiet birdwise.

In the evening we went out for another drive around the villages and fields south and east of Norwich. Best birds were six Yellowhammers and a Little Owl. The crops are getting closer to being cut, but hopefully this won't happen for another couple of weeks. I like the idea of watching whilst some fields are being cut to look for Quails being flushed, although it is probably still needle-in-a-haystack time, even if I pick a field that has some! If anyone has had luck seeing Quail at harvest time I would be interested to hear your experiences, either via comments or email.

WHITLINGHAM: Red Admiral influx

9th July 2011

A lay in after last nights mothing meant not going too far, so I decided to go back to Whitlingham for another walk round. A group of 20-odd Egyptian Geese at the west end of the Great Broad convinced me it would be a goo idea to count them, and indeed it was, with another record-breaking count of 86. The greylags were 100 short of last weeks count, but the three hybrids (presumed Red-breasted x Barnacle, Lesser White-fronted x Ross' and Greylag x Canada) were all still present. Two Common Terns were flying around the broad, and a couple of Linnets flew over.

It became apparent from the first Buddleia that there were a large number of Red Admirals present. I counted over 40, but there were probably many more! I also saw my first Gatekeepers of the year and was led a merry dance by a small skipper sp, which turned out to be Small Skipper, funnily enough. Dragonflies were present too, Black-tailed Skimmer, Brown Hawker, Emperor (including an ovipositing female) and a female Ruddy Darter. Loads of damselfies in the undergrowth, all Common Blue or teneral from the ones I looked at. Two boatloads of drunken grockles were harbingers of summer (or the apocalypse, I forget) but unwittingly put up a Grey Wagtail which flew across for my 99th patch bird of the year. Hopefully it won't be long until the 100th!

WHITLINGHAM: Bat & Moth Night 2011

8th July 2011

Cathy & I joined Peter Walton, Albert & Robin from the Broads Authority, a member of the Norwich Bat Group and three others for the annual Whitlingham Bat & Moth Night. After the introduction and a look at a selection of moths caught recently we left for a walk around the broad to find some emerging bats. I picked up a couple of Noctules flying over Thorpe, but they were barely visible to the naked eye. We stood and watched a number of Soprano Pipistrelles hunting amongst he alders, before walking towards the outdoor activities centre and got great views of four Noctules hunting over us. If you haven't heard bats using a bat detector I highly recommend it, the "raspberry" noises they make as they catch a moth never ceases to amuse me.

Heading back to the moth trap we found that as suspected the bright moon and cloudless sky was going to adversely affect our catch. We managed 16 species, including July Highflier, Ruby Tiger and several Dun-bars, but the best moth of the catch took a bit of identifying. In the end it was Cathy who took the book, diligently searched through and then gleefully announced she had it - a smart looking Dusky Sallow. We also have an interesting species pending, having detected a possible Nathusius' Pipistrelle around the trap. This could be the first record for the area, and will need a follow-up visit to take sound recordings.

SUFFOLK: Lakenheath Fen camping

2nd & 3rd July 2011

On Saturday Cathy & I went to Lakenheath Fen for their "wild camp out". We had a tour of the reserve just before dusk, seeing a Kingfisher and a Barn Owl amongst others whilst watching the sun set over the reserve. We then had a hot drink and retired to our tent whilst a couple of moth traps were set up. At various points in the night I awoke to hear Grasshopper Warblers reeling nearby, whilst one of the wardens was awoken by Cranes flying over!

Waking the next morning after a chilly night we had a bacon roll then went to inspect the catch. Unfortunately the traps werent set up in areas favourable to the Lakenheath speciality (Marsh Carpet), but we did get Elephant Hawk, Eyed Hawk and Garden Tiger to keep the kids happy, and a couple of reed specialist Pyralids and a Southern Wainscot which were lifers for me. As the sun rose we saw our first Small Skippers of the year, and several Brown Hawkers were patrolling the reserve.

Young Bearded Tits flit amongst the reeds


2nd July 2011

With time to kill before we went out in the evening we took a trip to Buxton Heath. A large stretch of heathland between the carpark and the woods was quite barren(although with the sound of Yellowhammers filling the air), but we did find our quarry further on. A small number of the rather nice Silver-studded Blue Butterflies.