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

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

NORWICH AREA: Grey Wagtails

25th February 2012

An evening drive south of Norwich was owl-less, but we were rewarded with excellent views of a pair of Grey Wagtails.  Upon our arrival at a ford we had found last year there was no sign of activity, until Cathy spotted one of the wagtails right next to the car!  It flew across the road but soon returned, and perched up on a post just feet away.  Unfortunately the poor light meant that most of my photographs were out of focus.  Whilst I was attempting to take some in-focus shots, Cathy located the other bird, and the pair flew onto a piece of rubbish at the edge of the ford.  We also saw lots of Red-legged Partridges, fighting Pheasants and a Rat.

Close, but facing the wrong way
Facing the right way, but not enough light for a good photo

WHITLINGHAM: Brent still, and a Buzzard

25th February 2012

Whitlingham was very busy this morning, with some sort of big canoe race on.  Even the woodland carpark was full, as people gathered to watch the canoes.  I wasn't overly bothered, I was hoping for a mega flyover (GW Egret upriver, Glossy Ibis downriver, WT Eagle maybe still in the county).  The Brent Goose had reappeared around the carpark, feeding on the grass bank and then later on the broad.  A squealing Water Rail was the only bird of note near the bird screen, and the usual common ducks were on Thorpe Broad.  After a brief word with Richard on Whitlingham Lane I had a look around the small wooded areas, and was rewarded with a Buzzard (being mobbed by the local Jackdaws) and a Coal Tit, which flew into the large oak in the carpark.

Making friends with the locals

NORWICH: Great White Egret

19th February 2012

A brief trip to Three Score in the morning was enough to catch up with the Great White Egret that had eluded me on Thursday.  Handily Paul W had the bird in his telescope view when we arrived.  It appeared to be asleep, but did eventually stick out a snakey neck and look around.  Below it was a Grey Heron, allowing a nice comparison of size.


18th February 2012

A last visit to Whitlingham of my week off.  Had the Great White Egret still been showing at Colney I may well have headed there, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise.  The large amount of canoeists on both broads appeared to have moved off most of the wildfowl, so I headed for the conservation area in the hope of finding the remnants.  On the way I picked up a Peregrine over Thorpe, and it continued on its way over the Great Broad, allowing excellent views as it cruised past.  From the bird screen I looked out over the water, which was being whipped up by strong winds.  Along the far bank an unusual duck swam out from behind one of the smaller islands - a female Pintail!  I walked round to the riverbank to get a better view, and found a second bird. After 10 minutes or so they drifted into a small bay that you can't see from the path.  Another excellent patch bird!

NORTH NORFOLK: Finches & Buntings

17th February 2012

Cathy's birthday, but she agreed to do a bit of birding provided there wasn't much walking involved.  We headed for the North Norfolk Coast, first stop Kelling, where I hoped to see one of the yellow-polled Redpolls. We found an orangey-polled one, but not the nice yellowy gold that has been pictured recently.  Onwards, we stopped at Salthouse to have a look at the Snow Buntings, around 30 of which obliged on the mound at the end of the carpark.  We had lunch at Cley, where a Ruff was in the field behind the visitors centre with a large flock of Lapwing.

After lunch we had a quick look at Blakeney Quay, before heading to Wells where seven Little Grebes were in the harbour.  Waves of Pink-footed Geese flew over our heads as we drove west, stopping at the end of Bone's Drift to scan the geese.  A few White-fronted Geese were visible, but no sign of any Greenland White-fronts or Barnacles.  We called into the new wildlife shop at Burnham Deepdale for a quick look, before heading to Choseley, where we saw 40+ Corn Buntings and a similar number of Yellowhammers.  As it was beginning to get dark we had a quick check for Golden Pheasants at Wolfterton, without success.  I thought I had one when I saw a flash of orangey-yellow, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a Mini Cheddar packet, further reason (not that it should be needed) as to why littering is bad.

NORWICH: Colney & Earlham

16th February 2012

As a change from Whitlingham I went out to the west of the city.  Starting at Colney Gravel Pits I had a scan for Smew or anything out of the ordinary, but saw nothing scarcer than Teal.  Walking back along the road I then went onto Bowthorpe Marshes. On the river a Little Egret briefly raised my interest (a Great White Egret was seen in the area earlier in the week), but having thought about it Little Egret is still a decent bird for this area.  Two out of the three large pools that I used to come and sit near when I lived at Three Score were completely dry.  Further along at Earlham Marshes I found a Water Rail in vegetation along the river edge and a couple more Teal.  Just before reaching Earlham Park I found a Kingfisher perched up, but it then shot off as I reached for my camera.  Final decent of my walk was a Nuthatch, calling from a tree near St Mary's church.


15th February 2012

Another visit to Whitlingham this morning in the drizzle.  Level with the island I saw two adult male Goldeneye, making a nice contrast with the rather scruffy 1st-winters that have been present the past few weeks.  Past the island a redhead Goosander, presumably the same one I saw at Thorpe yesterday, was swimming past a group of Tufted Duck.  Just like yesterday I momentarily looked away and it had disappeared into the ether.  Not much going on in the conservation area, but I found a big mutilated fish on the riverbank path (if anyone can tell me what it is or what killed it then please leave a comment).  Further round I found the two Smew that were reported yesterday swimming past a raft of Common Gulls.  As the rain started up again I checked the treetops for Mistle Thrushes (one of the old country names is "Storm cock" after its habit of sitting at the top of trees singing during storms) but it obviously wasn't stormy enough.  Finally before leaving I scanned the broad again and found a third Smew, matching my highest count from Feb 2010.

WHITLINGHAM: Thorpe Marsh Dunlin & Goosander

14th February 2012

Rather than visit Whitlingham today I decided to have a walk around the Thorpe side, and it paid off nicely.  Scanning the scrape from the cattle compound I picked up a Dunlin, my second new patch bird in under a week.  I watched it feeding along the back edge with some Lapwing before it disappeared behind the rushes.  From near the path a Water Rail called.  Near the nyjer feeder a Greenfinch and a couple of Jays were in the bushes, a noisy flock of Siskins were in the railway line Alders and a few Snipe flushed up off the marsh.  From the bird screen I noticed a redhead Goosander serenely gliding around the spit.  I let Ricky know, and it turned out this was a patch tick for him.  I kept on it until he arrived, which turned out to be just in time as a minute later it did a vanishing act, although its presumably still nearby.

If anyone is interested, the NWT are running a "family fun day" event here on Wednesday to celebrate their leasing of the site, so attend or avoid as you see fit.

NORWICH: Wintering Blackcap

12th February 2012

A wintering Blackcap in the garden today, feeding on ivy berries.

WHITLINGHAM: Smew & Brent Goose pics

11th February 2012

Finally the weekend was here, and I hadn't looked forward to a patch visit as much in ages.  The Great Broad was mostly frozen, but there were two big holes in the ice, into which all of the wildfowl had crammed.  The Brent Goose was still around, allowing some good photos.  I met Shaky and Adam and we had a leisurely wander round, picking up the Smew as it flew along the river, and later when it settled into one of the holes.  Paul W joined us, and whilst watching the Smew Shaky picked up a Water Rail along the far shore and I found a male Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid.  Another cracking local visit.


9th February 2012

Since my visit on Saturday a reasonable amount of snow and a cold snap had opened the floodgates for scarce winter birds at Whitlingham.  Scaup, Bittern, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser (a real blocker here) and Goosander have all been seen this week.  On Wednesday we went down after work in the vain hope that the Merganser would still be around, but it was just too dark.  As we left Cathy saw a small dark goose on the slipway, but I didn't give it too much thought as the resident small hybrid often hangs around in that area.

On Thursday evening I was able to get a lift to Whitlingham slightly earlier to have a look around.  As we drove along Whitlingham Lane I was looking for geese, seeing 2 Egyptian, 4 Greylag, and then a small one...a Brent Goose!  I stared at it, as if subconciously I expected it to be a hybrid, but nope, it was a 1st-winter Dark-bellied Brent Goose.  Bonkers.  Cathy got out of the car to get a better photo of it, at which point it wandered over the bank and into the overflow car park.  This makes up for missing the previous one, which turned up at Thorpe for one day whilst I was in Scotland.

Photo: Cathy Thomas

Remembering what I had actually come for I scanned the Great Broad, seeing a huge raft of Common Gulls, and also the redhead Smew along the far shore.  An excellent 30 minutes birding, and the good spell isn't over yet - a Great White Egret has just been seen (on the 10th).

WHITLINGHAM: Ooh a few flakes of snow!

4th February 2012

Well its the cold snap we wanted (sort of), and it was down to Whitlingham, where birding would surely be as simple as spotting a Smew in an ice hole.  As it happened, the Great Broad wasn't frozen at all, although the Little Broad was almost completely covered.  There was a welcome return for the bird table near the car park, and a Great Tit was taking advantage of a fat ball hanging nearby.  News onsite wasn't promising, no sign of any Smew, and some wild swans, probably Whooper, had flown over earlier.  A few Wigeon were new for the year here, but it wasn't the birdfest I had hoped for.

I went up into the woods, partly to look for Woodcock, and partly to look down at Thorpe Marshes.  Looking down from the viewpoint there were a lot of gulls, but no sign of any waders.  Further round I found a Treecreeper whilst watching some Goldcrests.  After a brief detour to look at a Snowdrop covered bank, I returned to the main path and again looked over Thorpe Marshes.  I was slightly concerned that I was missing something when two birders met and after talking one immediately got on his phone, but that's paranoia for you.  I spent a while at the conservation area, and eventually found a Goldeneye, which brightened up the trip.  On the way back three Lesser Redpolls flew over and the Wigeon x Gadwall was in a small area free from ice on the Little Broad.