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

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

EAST NORFOLK: Loads of Cormorants and a winter Skua

29th January 2012

We spent Sunday afternoon doing a spot of leisurely birding in the Great Yarmouth area. The Velvet Scoter that has spent the past week or so close offshore was easily picked up from near the Britannia monument, whilst a couple of Med Gulls were being buffeted by the strong winds. We had a look around Bradwell for the Ruddy Shelduck, which wasn't visible from the main road but was found behind some farm buildings close by. Returning to Yarmouth we stopped at Caister beach. Scanning out to sea I saw a raft of Cormorants that continued for an age. The choppy water meant an accurate count was impossible, but there were at least 350 birds there. A couple of Red-throated Divers flew past whilst I was trying to count the Cormorants, and once I'd given up I found three very close inshore, barely past the fishermens' lines. A Great Skua flew past heading south, I'm pretty sure its my first winter record. An Eider north was also of interest. A couple of Little Egrets flew over the road at Ludham Bridge on our way back.

Red-throated Diver close in to shore

WHITLINGHAM: Week 5 and it's all quiet again

28th January 2012

Spring was in the air today, with pairs of Egyptian Geese using every vantage point to noisily proclaim their territories.  I did actually see a pair mating in late December, so there could even be some young anyday now.  The Great Broad was busy with canoeists and model yachters, the result of which was that much of the wildfowl had departed, much of it to Thorpe Broad.  I spent a while at the bird screen picking through the ducks, of which the presumed Pochard x Tufted Duck was the only interesting one.  A Snipe on one of the smaller islands was out in the open and made a nice change from the usual undergrowth lurking.  A couple of Lesser Redpoll flew over unseen, but I managed to track them down to some riverside Alders along with a raucous flock of c30 Siskin.  A few more Siskin were further along the path.

The farmland at the top of the Lime Tree Avenue was devoid of birds other than a flock of Jackdaws, but I struck gold looking back towards the city, with one of the cathedral Peregrines perching on the spire.  Walking back along Whitlingham Lane I went across Trowse Meadows and saw two Kingfishers, one on the ditch that runs along the lane and one on the river.

WHITLINGHAM: Local rarity - Ferruginous Duck

21st January 2012

Firstly many thanks to those who sent messages regarding the Ferruginous Duck.  As planned I got to Whitlingham on Saturday morning and soon got onto the bird, which was asleep on the edge of the main island on the Great Broad.  After a showery wait the Ferruginous Duck eventually took to the water, and at one point took off after something spooked the jittery Teal.  It landed slightly closer, and allowed views for another 15 minutes or so before flying off, this time away from the bay.

main points noted were:
  • Small black nail to the bill
  • Pale sub-terminal area before the nail
  • Main area of the bill grey (bluey grey in some lights)
  • Mahogany coloured head
  • Head shape appeared slightly squarer than previous Fudge Ducks I've seen
  • Pale eye
  • Dark brown back
  • Paler brown sides
  • White wingbar noticeable when preening and in flight
  • White vent
  • Pale belly patch, some brown flecking visible in flight
  • Slightly smaller than nearby Tufted Ducks
  • No attachment to particular species (spent all of the time on its own)

Also around were 250+ Teal, the Wigeon x Gadwall hybrid, the apparent female Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid and a Snipe.

[Edit] If anyone has any photographs of this bird then I would be very interested to see them! I can be contacted via the email address on the right hand side of the blog. Thanks.


19th January 2012

Rather out of the blue a drake Ferruginous Duck was found at Whitlingham on Thursday afternoon.  In hope rather than expectation I managed to get to Whitlingham after work, but even a part jog (part wheeze) around to the conservation area bay wasn't enough to beat the impending darkness.  The conservation area bay was almost empty, with most of the wildfowl drifting into the middle of the broad to roost.   I tried to find a consolation Owl or Woodcock, but it was not to be.  The Fudge Duck has been seen again today, so if you don't need to use your digits for a while, I would appreciate you crossing them for me that it stays until tomorrow.

WHITLINGHAM: A probable hybrid and a nice woodland walk

15th January 2012

So far its been quite slow going at Whitlingham. I noticed an odd-looking female Pochard, which had a uniformly dark head, clearly marked white patches alongside the base of the bill (like some female Tufted Ducks) and a seemingly thicker or differently shaped bill. It could well be a female Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid, hopefully I can get some better pictures to help confirm this. Well hopefully I can find a Smew or something interesting, but you know what I mean, a hybrid is better than nothing.

With the wildfowl looking similar to the past couple of weeks I decided to head into the woods for a change. This paid immediate dividends when I found a Stoat rummaging around in the leaf litter. Further round I had to move off the path to allow a pack of Nordic walkers* through. Most of them were grateful, although one of the last ones muttered something about there being a murder in the woods, a reference to the bird-themed episode of Midsomer Murders broadcast last week, were two twitchers were killed in a wood**. Despite their ski-poles, it appeared they hadn't been up the steep steps as there was plenty of wildlife about. A while spent watching a mixed tit flock paid off with close views of a Nuthatch, whilst further round a Fox ran off through the undergrowth and I got neck-ache checking through a flock of Goldcrests.

* Nordic walkers are people that walk around with two ski poles.  I think the original idea was that it was practice for skiing, but now it seems to be a fitness activity in its own right.
** As you'd expect this was straight out of the annals of birding stereotypes, and centred around the stringing of a Blue-crested Hoopoe (sic).

NORTH NORFOLK: Some Shorelarks and Geese

14th January 2012

In the afternoon we went to Holkham to have a look at the Shorelarks (or Shore Larks as I guess they are meant to be called.  I'm not having it).  The fields either side of Lady Anne's Drive were full of Pink-footed Geese, Wigeon and Moorhens, and Cathy saw a Firecrest in a Holm Oak at the end of the drive.  After walking around the bay we located the Shorelarks, albeit most of the time there was just a head sticking up from the vegetation.  By the time we got back to the car the Ross' Goose was visible with the Pink-footed flock, which was nice.  No luck with Rough-legged Buzzards towards Burnham, but we did see Lapland Buntings, a Barn Owl and loads of Grey Partridges.


14th January 2012

In the morning I headed down to Thorpe Marshes in the hope that a group of Ruff that had been seen in midweek by Ricky would still be in the area. Upon arrival I immediately heard a burst of Cetti's Warbler song, but as the source appeared to be some way off I continued until I heard another one closer to the path. A couple of minutes wait was enough to get good views as it clambered about the dead vegetation. Negotiating the pool of water across the gateway I went and stood by the cattle pound to scan the marshes. 16 Lapwing and 3 Snipe were the only wading birds, and gull numbers were nowhere near the levels around last week. A Great Spotted Woodpecker by the railway line and a Wren were new for the year, and another ten Snipe were onsite, mainly along the far edge of the broad east of the spit.

NORWICH: City Kingfisher

10th January 2012

Still not enough light to go anywhere birding after work, but I did see a Kingfisher flying along the river between New Mills and Barn Road Bridge  in the gloom after work today.

BROADLAND: Malthouse Broad

8th January 2012

We popped down to Ranworth in the afternoon to have a look at the female Ring-necked Duck.  I have a particular affection for this bird as it is the only lifer (so far) that I have seen at Whitlingham, dating back to when it first appeared in Norfolk in November 2008.  We found it pretending to be asleep with a flock of Pochard off the staithe at Malthouse Broad.  Afterwards we went for a drive around the villages south of Norwich, the highlight of which was a Barn Owl south-east of Shotesham.

WHITLINGHAM: A more thorough look around

7th January 2011

My visit on January 1st had been rather rushed as the light was going, so this week I took a bit more time and went around more of the patch.  I picked up a number of common birds along Whitlingham Lane and various bits of scrub before I got to the broads.  4 Little Grebes were on the river, and Snipe numbers had halved (back to one).  At least 170 Teal were in the conservation area bay, these are worth keeping an eye on with a Green-winged reported from Strumpshaw recently.  Gull-wise a Great Black-backed was with the regular loafers.

There was very little of note on the river or on Whitlingham Marsh, although a flock of Fieldfares flew over.  The sewage works held more gulls and some Rooks.  On my way back I went through the woods, and scanned Thorpe Marshes from the viewpoint above the car park.  The marshes looked completely flooded, but once again it was only loads of gulls that were taking advantage.  A small flock of Goldcrests in the conifers was the third time I've seen them in a week, anecdotally appearing to be benefiting from the warm after a couple of harsh winters.  I spent a while watching an area of beech mast near the picnic area, seeing lots of Chaffinches and Great Tits, but nothing more exciting.  12 new birds for the patch year list, taking me up to 48.

NORWICH: Earlham Cemetery

3rd January 2012

A rainy day meant I spent most of the time indoors, seeing a Jay and a couple of Coal Tits in the garden.  When the rain did stop I went for a walk in the eastern half of Earlham Cemetery (which would surely be renamed as Britain's Magical Squirrel Land if the Broads Authority had anything to do with it*).  I had hoped to catch up with a Treecreeper or Nuthatch, but the best thing I found was a couple of Goldcrests.  Redwing and Goldfinch flocks were also flying around.  I thought I may have found a roosting Tawny Owl when I found a Jay screeching at a large tree, but it turned out that the Jay simply hates Ivy.

* If you don't understand this, it's my first mention of the year of the Broads Authority's re-branding of the broads as Britain's Magical Waterland.

NORTH NORFOLK: Titchwell trip

2nd January 2012

Titchwell is always a popular destination early in the year, and so it proved on Monday when we went along for the afternoon.  In fact there is probably an arguement for concreting over half of the marsh to provide extra carparking*.  The Coue's Arctic Redpoll (which is apparently pronounced "Cows" - how many other bird names am I pronouncing wrong I wonder?) was showing near the picnic area as we walked past.  As with the shrike last week we were treated to good views as it flew into the tree above us.  A quick look through the rest of the Redpolls and a couple of Goldcrests later we moved on as a scrum was building.  After a quick look at the sightings log we went on to Island Hide.

The bird I most wanted to see was probably a female Mandarin that had been seen earlier in the day, but I couldn't find it.  There were two Scaup, and several other new birds (Ruff, lone Avocet, Shelduck etc).  Cathy didn't fancy going to the beach so she stayed in the Parrinder Hide, whilst I carried on to the sea, noting three Spotted Redshanks on the way.  On the beach I picked up Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwit, whilst a number of Goldeneye were close in.  A Goosander looked a bit out of place on the sea, but not as out of place as two Whooper Swans bobbing along a way out.  A Red-throated Diver and several Common Scoter flew past, but as I was in a hurry I didn't hang around to wait for other flybys.  On the way back to the car I found my second Water Rail in two days in the ditch by the main path.

We had a quick drive up to Choseley in the fading light, seeing a few Yellowhammers.  There was no sign of any Little Owls, but several people were parked up partway down the road, presumably waiting for one (or something rarer that I don't know about!).  Last bird of the day was a Barn Owl hunting over the fields just before Wells.

* This is said in jest, don't send me hate mail.

WHITLINGHAM: New Year's Day patch visit

1st January 2012

I got down to Whitlingham for the first time in the afternoon, and the country park was completely packed with people who have made a New Year's resolution to get fit.  Luckily they will have probably given up by next week.  Along Whitlingham Lane a Green Woodpecker was feeding close to the road.  Scanning from the slipway I picked up the usual common stuff plus a Little Grebe (the first of five seen), a Grey Heron and the presumed Lesser White-front x Ross' hybrid.  The Little Broad held some Shoveler, but little else was seen until I reached the bird screen.  Here there was a large number of gulls, including a large argentatus race Herring Gull, the first I can remember seeing here.  My recced Snipe was still present, and had in fact found a friend.

Not much on Thorpe Broad, and it was starting to drizzle, so I power-walked the south shore, pausing to scan at convenient spots.  The light was going, but I headed along the Little Broad to look for Siskin and Redpoll (no luck with either).  Finally I decided to pick a likely spot and wait in case a Water Rail walked past, and I was duly smug when one did exactly that, picking its way slowly along the waters edge.  A double "zee" alerted me to two Kingfishers, which flew past at speed.  36 species was a low-key start, but we can't be too far from a cold snap now, with its attendant increase in waterfowl.

THE FAR EAST: Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth

1st January 2012

My first bird of the year was predictably Collared Dove, but the second bird was less so.  Whilst I was having a cup of tea I heard Pink-footed Geese, and looking out of the window a skein flew high westwards.  Whilst finishing breakfast news came through that the Hoopoe was still at Lowestoft.  Cathy's interest in birds is partly linked to mine, but she had wanted to see a Hoopoe since she was given her first bird book as a child, so we put plans to go to Whitlingham on hold to go and see this iconic bird.

Arriving at Lowestoft we found the green roofs that the Hoopoe had been favouring, but as it happened it was now feeding on nearby wasteland.  A cracking bird, and easily the best bird I've seen on January the 1st.  After a while we went round to ASDA, and a look upriver gave us a masterclass in diving, with a Black-throated Diver, a Red-breasted Merganser, Shag and Cormorant.  It was almost enough to make us start a "birds seen from supermarket carparks list."

The birds active feeding was too much for my poor digiscoping 

Rather than go back to Norwich directly, we headed off to ASDA in Great Yarmouth.  We walked around to Breydon Water, although seeing someone in the hide I decided not to make the assumption that it was a birder and to look from the path.  The tide was in, making for a bigger spectacle but more distant birds.  There was no sign of the Spoonbill that has been overwintering here, but loads of the commoner waders.  On the way back we added Kestrel and Sparrowhawk to the year list.

FAKENHAM: Intergrade Great Grey Shrike

30th December 2012

As the year drew to an end, the flagging up of the Fakenham Great Grey Shrike as possibly of the homeyeri race made a trip to see it more tempting.  I remembered reading the Birding Frontiers article about a homeyeri Great Grey Shrike at Sheffield, so I had a rough idea of the key features, so I decided to go and have a look for myself.  Upon arrival we saw birders turning to face us, so we stopped near a gap in the hedge, and were rewarded with a close fly past of the Great Grey Shrike.  Whilst the bird was out of view we repositioned ourselves near the area it appeared to fly to, and after a short while it flew up into the tree above us and peered down.  The 'expression' was something akin to one of the velociraptors from Jurassic Park, before it decided we were just too big to impale on a thorn and flew off.  The shrike remained mobile, so we then employed the tried and tested 'stand and wait' technique, and eventually got perched up views, albeit distantly.

The next day the bird was clarified as probably an intergrade: Birding Frontiers Shrike update.

Before heading home we went to Wells, where we saw a Red-necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe and three Little Grebes from the quay.