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: 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.

YARE VALLEY: Surlingham CM

18th August 2011

For a bit of variety we went to Surlingham Church Marsh. Unfortunately the nearby Gun Club was in session, which probably accounted for the lack of Little Owls (they were scared off, not shot, just to clarify). Even without large numbers of birds it was a pleasant walk, the view from the bush shelter hide was particularly nice, as was the view across the fields to the Woods End. A large gathering of Swallows and House Martins hawked low over the pools before flying off eastwards. The muddy edges to the top right of the pools looked great for waders, but were bare. On our way back a Dark Bush Cricket jumped onto Cathy's shoe, and we were seen off by several Southern and Migrant Hawkers.

WHITLINGHAM: So many posts, so few birds

17th August 2011

With a Black Tern at Rockland and a variety of interesting raptors reported within a 10 mile radius I decided it was worth putting a few more hours in at Whitlingham. It wasn't. With autumn approaching I can hear the coast calling, and as a result visiting less often until the ducks start coming back. That said, if anyone sees any collections of large gulls at Whitlingham then give me a shout, Yellow-legged Gull is possible late August, and I still haven't seen Med Gull here (ever) or GBB Gull (year).

Ps. If you want a laugh at my expense, I thought I had found a Grey Plover across the river at Thorpe. At 8x I spotted a black band, edged with white, and what appeared to be a grey back. What could it be? Not convinced but ever hopeful I phoned Cathy to bring my telescope, upon which point I hurried back and saw this very nice flint. Click to enlarge the embarrassment.

EAST NORFOLK: Winterton Dunes

16th August 2011

Just a quick walk today, having a look around Winterton North Dunes. A large number of Grayling butterflies were flying around the dunes, along with loads of Grasshoppers. A few gulls, terns and Cormorants were offshore, and there was a steady stream of Swallows flying south low over the dunes and strandline. Two Swifts were also flying south but noticeably higher than the Swallows. On the way back a male Marsh Harrier flew over the road in fron of us and gave crippling views alongside the car, before drifting off inland. In the evening we went down to Carrow Road to watch Norwich reserves, and were treated to a beautiful sunset with tonnes of Gulls flying over to go to roost.


The sky over Carrow Road

WHITLINGHAM: Orthopteran update

14th August 2011

Still no sign of a good Tern or Osprey, or anything good birdwise really. Of the resident stuff a Marsh Tit was calling in scrub near the river and a family of recently fledged Pied Wagtails were catching flies along the shore of the Great Broad. A couple of fresh looking Small Tortoiseshells were the pick of the butterflies. Poking about in the grass I disturbed a Mint Moth, and found Meadow Grasshopper, Field Grasshopper and Long-winged Conehead (which sounds more exciting than it looks). Conehead literature suggests it is best heard with a bat detector, but this is the second year I've found them at Whitlingham by ear, maybe they're getting louder?!

Long-winged Conehead


12th August 2011

A good look around the country park, meadows, woods and marsh still failed to turn up any unusual birds (how I wish the White-winged Tern at Graffham had chosen Whitlingham instead). A couple of Common Terns were flying around the Great Broad, but that was it. From memory the number of Coot should be building up now, but it isn't. A few Blackcaps were eating Blackberries near the river, and a "bull-necked"-looking Marsh Tit may have been strung for Willow in the days of old. Whilst scanning the meadows for partridges I saw a large bug out of the corner of my eye, which it turns out is a Western Conifer Seedbug. Smart looking thing, but apparently a huge pest species accidentally imported to Europe from the USA. On the bright side we are quite low on Ruddy Ducks, so it'll give DEFRA something else to shoot.

WHITLINGHAM: Thorpe Greenshank

10th August 2011

Earlier in the week I had noticed that Ricky had seen five Greenshanks at Thorpe Marshes, but as they had flown off shortly after I hadn't given them too much thought. However whilst I was out I received a text from Adam saying he had seen five Greenshanks and two Green Sandpipers that morning, so I decided to go and have a look. At first glance most of the waders including the Lapwings appeared to have cleared out, but careful scanning revealed a Green Sandpiper on the edge of the shingle, finally my 100th patch bird of the year! With several groups of people walking around I decided to do a lap and then come back and wait for the birds to emerge. For once this paid off, with a lone Greenshank (101) walking out onto the shingle spit. This is my second record at Thorpe, following a long-staying bird in spring 2009. Three calling Oystercatchers flew over heading south but showed no signs of landing.

NORTH NORFOLK: Titchwell Moths

10th August 2011

We had decided in advance to go to Titchwell to see the moth traps opened, and despite the forecast of rain we decided to go anyway. The catch was predictably small, although it did include my first Ear Moth sp. and two Canary-shouldered Thorns. Peter from Holme (Moths of Holme Website) had brought a few from his trap, the most notable being a Straw Underwing. In the gift shop I had a look at the new Cranes in Norfolk book. It looks nice, but at £30 may well be pricing a number of people out of buying it (including me). It is also possibly bad timing, as British Birds have just published an article on Cranes in Britain.

WEST NORFOLK: Roydon Common

9th August 2011

Last year whilst in west Norfolk we had called in at Dersingham Bog to look for Black Darters, without success. I had heard that they were easier to find at Roydon Common, so that was todays destination. I had been to the western carpark at Roydon a few times and the heathland looked very dry, so I guessed that the eastern carpark would be better. The map in the NWT reserves handbook showed a sort of figure of eight track, with mire at the far end of it. We took the left hand path, and at a junction took the left hand path over a style, thinking that it wouldn't make any difference. Well it did. This path, not marked on the map, simply took us along the boundary of the reserve to a road at the end. It was a nice walk, loads of butterflies and commoner dragonflies, but no wet heathland.

After a picnic lunch we re-traced our steps, but for some reason the Cathy had rather lost some of her appetite for looking for small black dragonflies at this point. We took the other path at the point we had gone wrong and looked over a small rushy clearing, but agreed to go back to the car rather than go for another long walk. I presume it is just a matter of following one of the small tracks through the woods, but if anyone can put me out of my misery and give nice directions to a good area for Black Darters I would appreciate it.

NORTH NORFOLK: Natural Surroundings moths

7th August 2011

We spent the morning at Natural Surroundings. I had let them know that we were coming in advance and Andrew had kindly agreed to put the moth traps out for me, so we had a large number of moths to sort through. There were around 40 species, the most spectacular being a Red Underwing. There were large numbers of Setaceous Hebrew Characters and Shuttle-shaped Darts, and some of my favourites like Black Arches and Swallow Prominent. There were also several burying beetles, some black and some orangey-red and black striped ones. Whilst we were sorting through the traps we showed interested visitors some of the catch and talked about moth trapping. As it was Sunday they also got the resident Hedgehog (Cookie) out to show.

WHITLINGHAM: Oh so quiet

6th August 2011

Back at Whitlingham it was eerily quiet for a Saturday. With no noise coming from families and walkers many of the ducks were still drifting asleep like an early morning in winter. With no disturbance on the broad Cormorants were diving on the water straight out from the slipway. Six Great Crested Grebes loafed together near the main island. There was frequent short showers, and I only really stopped when I heard a Bullfinch calling from deep within some Willow scrub. When the rain got harder it stopped calling, and after waiting for 20 minutes I finally gave up and went home.

NORWICH AREA: Cringleford & Eaton

5th August 2011

In the evening Adam & I went for a walk to Cringleford, initially following the river down to UEA. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary we retraced our steps and tried the other section of the river, battling along the overgrown path south of the road. We carried on to Eaton Common, where we saw a Kingfisher flying along the river from Keswick Mill. It was beginning to get dark, so we went back to the river at Cringleford to look for bats, and saw a good number of Soprano Pipistrelles hunting over the river before flying off over the meadows.


5th August 2011

Foxley was the destination today, following up on reports of a SW Fritillary last week. The rides were teeming with butterflies, but no luck with the fritillary. A sign of how peaceful it the woods were came when a Roe Deer and fawn crossed our path, obviously aware that I hadn't brought my camera. I saw my first Migrant Hawkers of the year, and also saw Oak and Dark Bush Crickets. Plantwise there was some Enchanter's Nightshade and Yellow Pimpernel along the path edges. Birds calling (most of them seen eventually) included Green Woodpecker, great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Bullfinch and Marsh Tit. Some footprints found in some soft mud looked like Badger, but I need to check that.

For lunch we went to the Bridge Inn at Lenwade, probably unique in that it has a modest-sized fishing lake in the beer garden. We ate outside, but only saw a Common Tern and four Canada Geese around the lake.

WHITLINGHAM: Rain does not equal birds

4th August 2011

Against all common sense I went down to Whitlingham in the rain, hoping that the inclement conditions would bring in something out of the ordinary. I managed three Bantams and 132 Mute Swans. The rain kept up a steady pace, ensuring I was soaked by the end. I did see a possible hybrid duck that had a bright yellow end-third of the bill, which made it stand out from the rest of the dowdy eclipse ducks, but I didn't care enough to hang around for it to come closer to the shore.

NORTH NORFOLK: Baconsthorpe Castle

2nd August 2011

Today we visited Baconsthorpe "Castle" (it was a fortified private home) near Holt. Lovely weather, lovely place. It has a moat which connects to a small lake on one side, where we saw a Kingfisher. Scouring the ruins we also found a resting Knot Grass moth blending in well with the lichen. Other stuff of interest were a number of dragonflies and a singing Yellowhammer on the approach road.

NORWICH: Mousehold Hairstreaks part 2

1st August 2011

The recent Brown Argus sightings have brought up the unlikely scenario that I could see all 34 regular Norfolk butterflies in a year (I'm not counting Silver-washed Fritillary in that as it seems they are yet to establish themselves - I'd still like to see one though!). I reckon I'll bump into Grayling around Salthouse later in the summer, so Painted Lady seems to be the one I may struggle with as they seem very thin on the ground this year. Anyway, that left Purple Hairstreak to see, and luckily enough there are some at Mousehold Heath.

With the sun shining I started at Zak's, where a colony of PHs are meant to live on the central oak ("Turner's Oak"). With no sign there I went to investigate the myriad other oaks on the heath, finding Small Copper butterflies, Brown Hawker, Common Darter and Emperor dragonflies and a Common Lizard. Eventually I found a couple of Purple Hairstreaks, even getting a record shot of a tatty individual before it flew off. I then found another five around some oaks where I had seen them last year, and four more (2 and 2) near more oaks on my way back along the edge of the heath. I did fail in my secondary mission, to find Striped-winged Grasshoppers, which have apparently colonised in the last few years. I didn't actually put that much effort in, having seen that most of the ones I was kicking up (not literally) were Field Grasshoppers.

Another one for the "poor record shot" album

WHITLINGHAM: Flyovers. You've got to love them.

31st July 2011

A lazy morning in Lakenham was interrupted when I found out that an Osprey had just been seen over South Tuckswood. This is just the other side of the ring road from Cathy's house, and with no details as to what direction it was heading (maybe it was just circling, daring people to make a move) we went out into the garden and looked south, hoping that it would glide past. It didn't. We were going to Royston later, so a proper search was out of the question, but Margaret offered to drive down to Whitlingham before we went so that I could satisfy myself that there wasn't an Osprey perched up on my patch laughing at me. Whitlingham was packed with people and boats, and no self-respecting Osprey would have done anything other than fly over. Looking on the bright side it would be better to find one out of the blue rather than semi-twitch one I suppose.