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

THORPE MARSHES: Flyover Hobby & some warblers

29th April 2012

With no change in the weather looking likely, I bit the bullet and went down to Thorpe in the drizzle.  My main objective was to catch up with one of the Grasshopper Warblers that has been present for the past week, whilst a secondary target was Whimbrel, on account of a large gathering at Breydon recently.  I spent some time in the area just over the footbridge listening for Groppers, without success.  Several Sedge Warblers were audible, including a showy one in a small willow close by.  On the path a small blue egg with light speckling at one end had presumably fallen from a nest as it showed no signs of predators.  In the distance I heard a Reed Warbler sing briefly in the direction of the railway line.

Having negotiated the flooded path near the gate, I saw that the entire scrape was now a pool, less wader habitat and more suitable for ducks, of which Gadwall and Teal were present.  Scanning the skies I noticed a dark falcon approaching.  I managed to get my binoculars on it and confirm my initial impression that it was a Hobby, but it showed no signs of stopping, carrying on north towards Thorpe road.  I've long expected to see Hobbies at Whitlingham, but this was my first here, and very pleasing it was too.

At the bird screen I scanned for waders, particularly a Common Sandpiper seen by Ricky midweek.  I soon located it, bobbing manically along what remained of the spit (mostly submerged by the high water level).  Further round I found another one on the exposed shingle part of the spit.  Finally I caught a burst of Grasshopper Warbler song, which I managed to track back to a patch of brambles along one of the ditches.  On my way back I met a local birder called Steve, who was able to tell me about the Grey Plovers seen here earlier in the year, before I headed for home to dry off.


28th April 2012

Most of Saturday was not great.  I spent the majority of the day waiting in a near-empty house for an engineer to come out (he never appeared), finally leaving and watching Norwich City play Liverpool, losing 3-0.  Once the match was over Cathy kindly suggested we go and look for two White Storks that had been found near Acle earlier in the day. We found Damgate Lane easily enough, and scanning from just over the bridge I managed to pick out one of the Storks behind some cattle.  It was then obscured as a cow walked in front of it, but after a while the cows moved off to the left, leaving the two White Storks standing next to each other on the marshes in the pouring rain, ensuring that the day ended on a positive note.

WHITLINGHAM: Tern influx

24th April 2012

Today saw an unprecedented influx of Arctic Terns across the country, and it was no surprise that several found their way to Whitlingham.  I managed to get a lift to the country park after work, and scanning eastwards along the Great Broad I picked up 11 terns flying around near the island.  The first couple that I got a good look at were Common Terns, but I then saw an Arctic Tern land on one of the posts.  Walking level with them I began scanning and picked out another Arctic.  Justin was already on site and said that two Arctics had just flown east in addition to the two in front of us.  One of the Arctic Terns was determined to land on a buoy, regularly slipping off as it turned, flying up and trying again.

Whilst scanning for perched terns I found a Green Sandpiper on one of the wooden platforms along the North shore of the broad.  I see these annually at Thorpe, and sometimes on the river, but this is probably my first record at Whitlingham 'proper'.  Justin pointed out a lone Swift that flew over with a large mixed hirundine flock that was hawking insects above our heads, a decent record given the date.  The Swift took me up to 90 for the year at Whitlingham & Thorpe, with several common warblers still to go.

NORTH NORFOLK: White-headed Blackbird

22nd April 2012

A leisurely trip along the North Norfolk Coast had more hail than birds.  A few hirundines and Wheatears around, bird of the day this singing white-headed Blackbird at Morston.

Bewick's Swan update - I didn't see it on Sunday for the first day since its arrival, but I then saw it again on Monday (23rd), initially near Fye Bridge (Magdalen Street), but then chased off by a Mute Swan it flew back towards Cow Tower, settling just past St James Mill.

WHITLINGHAM: Finally some hirundines

21st April 2012

My first visit to Whitlingham in a couple of weeks, and still no sign of any Sedge Warblers, despite three being in residence across the river at Thorpe.  I did manage to catch up with Swallow, Sand Martin and a lone House Martin though.  Two broods of Greylag Geese have hatched out (seven and six goslings), and there have been no further Egyptian Goose fatalities (two broods of six still).

After lunch, and waiting for the rain to subside, I went to Earlham cemetery to look for a Pied Flycatcher, which had been found by Will around a hundred yards from my old house (see BirdBeards for a finders report).  Unfortunately there was no sign of it, although its a large area with some impenetrable evergreens, so it may still be around.  Either way its an excellent bird for the city and further evidence of what can turn up if you look regularly.

NORWICH: More tales from the Wensum

April 2012

I have been fortunate enough to see the Bewick's Swan every day since it was first found on Tuesday.  This picture taken on the 21st shows a few brown feathers left on the wing, so as suggested previously it does appear to be moulting, hence why it has stuck around.  I also couldn't resist taking this picture of an Egyptian Goose, a particularly apt description.

NORWICH: Bewick's Swan on the Wensum

17th April 2012

Having moved house recently I have been looking forward to my new scenic walk home from work, notably along the River Wensum.  Today the walk had an added bonus, in the form a Bewick's Swan!  I had noticed on Birdguides that someone had seen it in the morning, but thought it would be long gone by afternoon.  I had time to nip home, get my camera and come back.  It was staying within a fairly small section of river, between Cow Tower and a slipway just east of it.  An excellent Norwich bird, is it expecting too much for it to relocate to Whitlingham one evening?!

[Update] Bewick's Swan still present late afternoon Friday 20th April near Pull's Ferry.


15th April 2012

The last day of our whistle-stop tour of the south coast, and we headed out early to Portland Bill again in search of migrants.  Two flyover Lesser Redpoll were our only reward, so we began our journey back to Norfolk via Glamorgan to see the longstaying Lesser Scaup.

The Lesser Scaup was excellent for two reasons.  Firstly, the location.  Cosmeston Lakes CP was very Whitlingham-esque.  When we got there we found a large lake, with people canoeing along the back, and model yachters along the near side.  It was jammed full of people.  After walking along some boardwalk we came to the second lake, which was quieter and had some birds on it.  This is where the similarities end, as here they had made the second lake a conservation lake - at Whitlingham there is a very heavily used lake and a slightly less heavily used lake.  Anyway, the Lesser Scaup was visible from a viewing platform with a small group of Tufted Ducks.  This enabled us to get good views (I could even see some slight vermaculations on the white sides), and I am now confident that were one of these to turn up locally, I could not only ID it but justify my ID to a records committee!

Whilst at Cosmeston we also saw a Common Sandpiper, my first of the year, and then some Red Kites on the way home.


14th April 2012

An early start had us at Portland Bill, where we were hoping for some migrants fresh in from the continent.  A number of Wheatears was a start, along with several Swallows flying through.  The local Rock Pipits were calling and feeding on the rocks below.  Most birders seemed to be sea-watching, so we had a quick look, and located typical species (Manx Shearwater, Razorbill, Guillemot etc).  Further round we were put onto a lone Puffin on the sea.  A calling Yellow Wagtail flew over unseen, and a Stonechat sat up on some gorse in the distance, but it was very quiet.  My first Sand Martins and House Martins of the year came in off the sea, and we got close up views of a Kestrel and more distant views of a Raven.

After breakfast we decided to try a high point overlooking the bay, and when this didn't work we had a look around one of the large abandoned quarries that is now a nature reserve, and a birdless one at that.  Of botanical interest was some dead looking Ivy Broomrape.  Getting no-where fast we decided to go somewhere where there were actually some birds, to remind us what they looked like.  I suggested Radipole in the hope of seeing that plastic Hooded Merganser that's been there ages.  As it turned out we couldn't even find that, but whilst there we did get great views of a Glossy Ibis, brief views of a Kingfisher and my first Reed Warbler of the year.  Cetti's Warblers were very showy here, we saw at least five.  Afterwards we headed back to Portland, and found nothing, again.

SOUTH COAST: Day 1 Photo "special"

13th April 2012

In view of his impending marriage, Adam wanted to have a few days of birding outside of Norfolk, and it was decided to head down to Portland Bill, calling in at some good birds on the way.  First stop was Hordle in Hampshire, where an adult Rose-coloured Starling was frequenting the village.  We went for a walk around scanning TV aerials etc, only to come back and find it perched on a telegraph post above the car.  It was flighty, so the photograph is nothing more than a distant record shot.

Carrying on into Wiltshire we stopped at Langford Lakes, seeing my first Sedge Warbler of the year and a Ferruginous Duck.

Next stop Chew, and having struggled to find the specific area, we eventually stopped on the road bridge overlooking Herriott's bay.  The Spotted Sandpiper was doing manic circuits around a rocky island, and was partly overshadowed by a showy Grey Wagtail.

More fun and games trying to find the site that had two Long-billed Dowitchers (the car park is called one thing, and appears to serve three nature reserves with different names).  Once there the dowitchers showed beautifully, and a Great White Egret flew overhead and landed on the same scrape.  One of the locals told us it had been ringed in France in 2009.

With no sign of the previous days Blue-winged Teal at Ham Wall, we headed to Abbotsbury where a Black-winged Stilt was showing distantly.  We also picked up some Terns and a Green Sandpiper here, before heading to our hotel on Portland.

WHITLINGHAM: Butterflies but no hirundines

11th April 2012

With Sedge Warbler, Sand Martins and Swallows all seemingly overdue, I was confident of seeing them today, along with one or two other migrants, such as Little Gull.  A walk around the broad failed to provide any new migrants at all.  After the warm period at the start of spring it appears now that if anything migrants are arriving later than usual.  Of the resident birds several Mute Swans, a Coot and a Greylag Goose were all on nests (the latter has chosen a spot close to the path to the birdscreen, which wasn't a good idea).  Mortality seems to be fixed at one gosling per week for the Egyptian Geese, with both broods down to six.  On the slipway the presumed Ross' x Lesser White-front was coming to bread, and a male Gadwall seemed to have developed a close friendship with a male Mallard.

The day was redeemed in part by several butterflies.  Up until this point I had only seen 2 Commas and a Green-veined White, but as I walked down to Trowse a bright Brimstone flew past.  On the meadows a Small White was feeding on dandelions, and along the riverside path at Whitlingham two Speckled Woods flew past.  At the top of the Lime Tree Avenue were a Comma and Small Tortoiseshell, plus a White sp.  My trip ended on a positive note with a Kingfisher flying upriver at Trowse.

THORPE MARSH: Little Ringed Plovers still present

8th April 2012

A morning trip to Thorpe.  No movement initially on the scrape, but after 5 minutes a Little Ringed Plover emerged from the rushes, and a high-pitched call alerted me to another further over.  They ran about, feeding periodically until one flew over onto the broad.  Walking further round a Meadow Pipit flew up from the marshes and into a tree along the fence-line.  I walked across onto Bungalow Lane, pausing to watch a male Kestrel hovering overhead.  A Willow Warbler was singing from the trees along the ditch.  From the bird screen I scanned the spit, and was pleased to pick up the Green Sandpiper that I had seen last week, half walking, half bobbing along the edge.  On the way home I walked around Carey's Meadow, which was quiet other than the sound of Chiffchaffs and one Blackcap.


6th April 2012

I decided to head down to Whitlingham early, to catch some of the dawn chorus and have a look round before the site got busy.  This paid off straight away, with views of my first patch Otter from the bridge at Trowse.  I walked along the misty meadows to try to locate it further along the river towards Whitlingham, but it wasn't visible looking back along the river.  Usually there are lots of canoeists around, even just after dawn, but today I had the place to myself.  On the Thorpe side of the river a young Fox came down to the river to drink.

Further along I looked back across the broad to the visitors centre, noticing the new platform that has been put in to allow boat trips on the Solar boat Ra which is being moved here.  I can't say I welcome the added disturbance, but it will at least allow a ducks-eye view of the broad, which will help me when anticipating where certain species might occur.

A singing Willow Warbler was the highlight in the conservation area.  No Garganey, but a lone Teal and two drake Shovelers were in the bay.  I headed up into the woods on the off chance that Adams Firecrests were still around, but there was still no sight or sound from them.  A female Bullfinch had joined Tuesdays male, lots of singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and a pair of Goldcrests were calling.  

I headed further down the lane, seeing two Oystercatchers at the sewage works.  On the fields between Whitlingham and Bramerton several Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings were feeding, wilst the song of Skylarks filled the air.  A Red-legged Partridge ran across a field nearby, both of the latter birds would be patch ticks if it wasn't for the fact that I don't count birds this side of the sewage works.  Back at Whitlingham there was a brood of seven Egyptian Goslings, in addition to seven of last weeks (one has perished so far).  Eight Mallard ducklings were also recently hatched.


WHITLINGHAM: More spring migrants

3rd April 2012

Whilst out I received a text from Adam, saying he had found two Firecrests at Whitlingham.  As far as I'm aware there haven't been any previous records of Firecrest here (please contact me if you do know of any, I like to keep my records as accurate as possible).  I headed down to have a look that afternoon in the hope that they would still be around.  On my way I stopped off at the woodland viewpoint and scanned Thorpe Marshes, finding two Little Ringed Plovers and a summer-plumaged Dunlin on the scrape.  Carrying on I did a quick search of the area where the Firecrests had been seen, then picked a spot to settle down and keep watch.  Unfortunately I neither saw nor heard any, but I did see three Blackcaps (beating my earliest record by two days), a Willow Warbler and a lovely Bullfinch.

Having descended from the woods I scanned Thorpe again from a different angle, and was rewarded with a Green Sandpiper making its way around the shingle spit.  Walking back towards the broad a Marsh Tit was giving its spring call.  Finally on the meadows just past the visitors centre a Green Woodpecker was on the grass, as was a dark and nicely patterned female Pheasant vaguely resembling a female Black Grouse. Presumably its a tenebrosus type, the first I've seen in the area.

Yeah, I know there's a fence in the way.  When I tried to look through at a different angle it ran out into the field in that silly way that Pheasants do.


3rd April 2012

A leisurely drive through North Norfolk turned up this dogfight over the road, as a Red Kite was mobbed by corvids.