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 Partridges

29th May 2012

Another look around the farmland south of Norwich after tea.  First up was this large bird in a tree...

Which was of course that countryside staple, the Egyptian Goose.  No sign of any Little Owls, but we did find a pair of Grey Partridges, my first TG20 record, near the village of Howe.

NORWICH: Mousehold butterflies

27th May 2012

With scorching hot weather I didn't fancy lugging the 'scope around, so instead I opted for a walk around Mousehold looking for butterflies.  I saw Holly Blue & Small Copper on St James' Hill, and a couple more Small Coppers and a Green Hairstreak near Vinegar Pond.  Male & female Broad-bodied Chasers were flying around the small pond north of Vinegar Pond.  The female was ovipositing, but I don't fancy the chances of the pond staying wet for a couple of years.  The other insect highlight was a couple of Green Tiger Beetles.

SOUTH NORFOLK: Green-winged Orchids

26th May 2012

Another nice evening, so we called in at New Buckenham Common NWT to have a look at the Green-winged Orchids.  After a bit of a wander I found around fifty flowering spikes close together, and proceeded to take some photographs, several of which were actually in focus!  Several plants had paler white & purple flowers, but I didn't see any of the 'alba' variety that are all white with just the green streaks on the wings.

Incidentally, over the summer I am going to be looking for Green-flowered Helleborines, which apparently used to occur along the river valleys near Norwich.  If anyone knows roughly where they occur(ed) then I would be very grateful for an email or message (probably best not to use the blog comments).  Cheers.


26th May 2012

I went to Thorpe Marshes this morning in the hope that the hot weather would bring out some raptors.  Along the ditches lining the path to the marsh were number of Large Red & Common Blue Damselflies, as well as two Hairy Dragonflies.  I didn't really expect to see any waders on the scrape, but immediately noticed a medium-sized wader working its way along the mud.  As it was silhouetted I had to reposition to get a better look, enough to see that it was a Redshank, a new bird for the year and only my third patch record.  Further round there was a welcome return for two Little Ringed Plovers and a couple of Lapwings.  This spell of birds was completed by a Hobby, which flew in and hunted over the marsh before flying back eastwards, and a pair of Sparrowhawks, including a particularly large female.

I had a look around the Bungalow Lane area (I'm still hoping to see Marsh Harrier this year) to no avail, then moved onto the bird screen.  One Common Sandpiper was walking along the edge of the spit.  Further round I scanned the rest of the bare shingle spit, and found another six!  This is my second highest patch count, following a flock of eight Common Sandpipers along the river in 2010.  On my way back along the riverside path a pair of Linnets flew between the small trees.  Before leaving I had another scan over the woods, and saw a Common Buzzard soaring up in the distance.

NORWICH AREA: Partridges

24th May 2012

A nice evening amongst the farmland south of Norwich.  Nothing of particular scarcity, but we did see this photogenic Red-legged Partridge.


20th May 2012

Bee-eater!  I've wanted to see one of these for ages, and despite an initial setback when it flew off from Glandford ford, Cathy, Margaret & I managed to get excellent views as the bird relocated to wires near the sewage works.  Afterwards we headed to Cley for some food, only to meet Bill Oddie in the carpark!  After a brief chat we left him in peace and headed up to the visitors centre for lunch.  In a quick scan of Pats Pool from the centre I saw a large flock of Dunlin, a 1st-summer Little Gull and some Avocet chicks.

WHITLINGHAM: Some butterflies, and a question

19th May 2012

Lets start with a quiz question...

The scenario is this: You are at a wildlife trust reserve, complete with nice visitors centre, and you find a fairly rare bird.  The reserve collects donations from visitors, and its a week day so you are unlikely to be deluged by too many twitchers all at once.  So, do you:
a) Release news
b) Watch the bird all day then release news the next day.

Please send your answers on a postcard to:
Why Didn't We Know Earlier?
Birds & Beer Office

A winner will be selected at random and sent a copy of the book "Knowing How To Separate Rhetorical and Literal Questions".

Anyway.  I went to Whitlingham in the hope of finding my own Night Heron.  The broads were both being used for a range of watersports activities, and were accordingly rather barren.  Two broods of Mute Swan cygnets have hatched, including the ones from the nest by the bird screen track.  Looking across to Thorpe I found a lone Oystercatcher, and on the Great Broad there was one Common Sandpiper.  The day was a bit more productive butterfly-wise, with 8 Orange-tips, 2 Green-veined Whites and one tatty Peacock.  I also saw my first Large Red Damselfly of the year and several teneral Damselfly sp.

NORWICH: Common Tern

17th May 2012

On the way to work a Common Tern flew down the River Wensum, flew in a circle around the corner near Cow Tower than headed off westwards.  A new bird for me for the city centre, although one that I had been expecting because of the large numbers of Terns at Whitlingham this month.

YARE VALLEY: Savi's Warbler

16th May 2012

The chance to hear and even better actually see a Savi's Warbler within 10 miles of home was too good to pass up, and I managed to get a lift after tea on Wednesday to go and have a look.  I arrived at Tower Hide around 18:30, and was surprised that there were only four others in the hide.  Within a few minutes the Savi's began reeling, and I managed to get reasonable telescope views as it moved about the reeds.  It then disappeared from view, only to return briefly then drop down to the right.  Over the next hour the Savi's reeled for short periods, but seemingly from further right, out of sight in the reedbed.  The reeling was quite distinct from Grasshopper Warbler, I'm pretty sure I could call one if one were to ever turn up in my neck of the woods. Whilst there, a Bittern was booming close by and a Cuckoo flew past the hide, as well as the usual Marsh Harriers etc.  Congratulations to Ben on his find, and thanks to the RSPB for releasing news.  

The public service announcement:  Obviously as a Schedule 1 species, if you do go and have a listen stick to the Tower Hide, no tape luring or doing anything generally that would disturb it.

WEST NORFOLK: Grizzled Skippers

12th May 2012

With the good weather continuing, we decided to go to Foulden Common to catch up on some butterflies.  On the way we got close up views of a Muntjac standing just off the road, and numerous Orange-tips were flying.  On first glance the common seemed rather devoid of butterflies, with just a couple of Brimstones.  A look at the gorse that had held Green Hairstreak last year paid off with a Holly Blue, and we also saw a couple of bright Small Coppers.  Another butterflier had located a Grizzled Skipper, which quickly flew off, but Cathy located another, and as the sun came out we found another three.  We didn't see any Dingy Skippers, but it was suggested that both species were late emerging this year (it turns out that one was seen on Saturday - but its quite a large site to track down one small brown butterfly!)

Grizzled Skipper.  
Better than last years effort, but nothing I could do about the grass in front of it.

WHITLINGHAM: First sunny evening of spring

11th May 2012

Being in the very unusual situation of having a sunny evening, I decided to get to Whitlingham rather than wait for the weekend.  There was still a gusty wind blowing Swifts backwards and forwards over the broad, unfortunately none of them white rumped (even abberantly).  There were far less Swallows about too, dismissing any remaining hopes of a local Red-rumped Swallow for the moment.  A brood of young Moorhens were on the slipway, but soon walked off towards cover.  Walking around the conservation area there was a reasonable amount of birdsong, but most from deep within cover.  One Garden Warbler was the pick of the bunch, whilst a Kingfisher flew unseen down the river.

On the broad itself two Common Terns were flying around near the island, but otherwise it was very quiet.  A scan of Thorpe produced lots of House Martins, but little else.  The sun came back out from behind a cloud and encourage a Buzzard to soar up over Whitlingham Woods, pursued doggedly by a Carrion Crow, but the Jackdaws decided it wasn't worth mobbing and left the crow to it.  I left the broad to walk over the picnic meadows (still hunting for that elusive Mistle Thrush!) and found a Green Woodpecker and some Meadow Saxifrage.  In the woods near the carpark a Great Tit flew out of one of the nest boxes.  Most of these (and the bat boxes) have been broken into by woodpeckers, so good luck to the Great Tits in breeding and raising their brood.

WHITLINGHAM: 100 up, and lots of birdsong

6th May 2012

Two visits to Whitlingham today, one in the morning and one in the evening.  The main purpose of my first visit was to catch up with some recently arrived migrants whilst they were still singing, and this worked, with eight species of warbler.  Two of these, Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat became my 99th and 100th patch species of the year, a pleasing milestone with the best part of seven months still to come.  A couple of bursts of Nightingale song and a brief flight view were enough to convince me of the need to return later in the day.

Scanning across to Thorpe I noticed a Common Sandpiper on the shingle spit, and another one was on one of the plastic rafts on the Great Broad.  Up to five have been seen in recent days, which is excellent.  A number of terns were feeding around the island, careful scanning resulted in one Arctic Tern and eight Common Terns.  There was also a large number of hirundines and Swifts all feeding low over the water in the gloomy conditions.  I spent a decent amount of time looking through them in the hope of finding a Red-rumped Swallow, without success.  As several are still in other English counties (plus one at Waxham - well done to Ben) I haven't completely given up hope of one turning up at Whitlingham.

Fast forward through the afternoon and I went back to Whitlingham to spend some time with the Nightingale.  As the evening wore on it began to call more often, and I even got a brief perched up sighting at the third time of asking.  Amazingly towards the end of one burst of song, the Nightingale was answered by another individual, singing from scrub further away but still easily audible.  I had heard this bird earlier in the evening, but put it down to ventriloquism or that the first bird had simply moved further away, but both overlapping showed that there were definitely two birds.  Hopefully they may settle down, so this will be the last time I mention them. On my way back some swallows were settling on a boat, along with a Common Sandpiper, and a swarm of Swifts swirled around the Watersports centre like a vortex.

WHITLINGHAM: Local Mega - Nightingale

3rd May 2012

A red-letter day at Whitlingham, with the arrival of a singing Nightingale.  It was heard on a dawn chorus walk in the morning led by Peter, and also heard by several others throughout the day.  I'm particularly grateful to Ron, who mentioned it on Birdforum.  To maximise my chance of locating it, I waited until around seven, and headed down to Whitlingham.  On my way I heard some Sedge Warblers and saw my first Reed Warbler and Whitethroats here this year.  A Cuckoo was calling constantly, moving between the island and the willows along the North shore of the broad.  I heard a small bit of Nightingale song, and as it got darker it began to sing more.  At one point I moved around the broad and could still hear it, carrying across the water.  Over the river a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling at Thorpe.  An excellent evenings birding, and hopefully the Nightingale will stay for a while.


1st May 2012

With a message just after work saying that the Golden Oriole at Snettisham C.P. was showing well, I thought it was worth having a look (I haven't seen G.O. in Norfolk, and when they do occur they tend not to show well). Unfortunately Snettisham is almost as far from Norwich as you can get and still be in the county, so by the time we got there it had either gone to roost or at least quietened down.  With no birders on it I searched in vain through a lot of scrub, to no avail.  Large numbers of Linnets were present, along with a Whinchat, my first Cuckoo of the year and lots of Whitethroats.  A Lesser Whitethroat called, and Cathy saw it whilst I was off Oriole-hunting.