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: Last visit of the year

28th December 2013

Unless something particularly unusual turns up today was my last patch visit of the year, and I decided to head down to Whitlingham before sunrise in the hope of a last minute addition like a Barn Owl or some flyover wild swans. As I walked along the river at Trowse Meadow Redwings were passing overhead, and six Cormorants flew west. A Great-spotted Woodpecker called, and another one was in a tree near the old Whitlingham lane route. A Nuthatch was also calling from near the car park, and I was surrounded by a flock of Long-tailed Tits.

There was still a large concentration of Gadwall on the Little Broad (c240) and six Shoveler. By the time I had reached the Great Broad the sun was up and creating a two-tone effect of golden reeds and sunshine along the north shore and shadowy frost along the south shore. A flock of 17 Pochard were mixed in with the Coot and Tufted Duck, and a pair of Wigeon were the first I've seen here since January. Three Little Grebes were the only other birds of note from the south shore. I stopped briefly to check out a fallen tree where several types of fungi were growing, before carrying on to the conservation area. Here I noticed an adult Herring Gull with a red ring on its left leg, but unfortunately the combination of distance and bright sunlight meant that I couldn't read it.

Coprinellus sp

So there we go, I end the year having seen a round 100 species of bird at Whitlingham in 2013, lower than the past few years but at least scraping into three figures for the fifth successive year.


So as 2013 draws to a close it remains for me to wish all of the readers of my blog and fellow Norfolk wildlife enthusiasts a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2014!

NORWICH: An unusual find...

19th December 2013

On the way to work today I saw a family staring at something in the road. I looked over and saw this dead Woodcock. I considered picking it up, then the logical part of my brain asked me what my colleagues would think of me walking in with a dead Woodcock under my arm, and more importantly what I'd do with it afterwards, so I checked for rings (it was unringed) and then left it. I happened to mention it to Pete (a fellow birder and bird artist) who said he would have liked to have had it to draw, but by the time he popped back it had gone.

WHITLINGHAM: December counts

14th December 2013

Middle of the month usually means WeBS counts, and so today I went down to Whitlingham to see if there had been any further increase in wildowl. The main change was in Teal numbers, now up to 55. On the downside there was no sign of the Shoveler. There was also 215 Gadwall, 124 Tufted Ducks and 168 Coot, along with the usual swans and geese.

Sighting of the day was a couple of Peregrines over the Thorpe Broad. Initially I thought that they were heading of down the valley, but then they flew round. The smaller bird continued over the marsh, where earlier a flock of 25 Snipe had been put up, but the larger bird showed well, giving several fly-pasts. It concentrated on a large raft of Black-headed Gulls, as if trying to spook one into the air, but it never seemed to be in fully focused hunting mode - maybe it just doesn't like gulls. Once both birds had gone from view I continued my counts from the bird screen, where I discussed the birds and the purpose of the counts with an interested walker.

WHITLINGHAM: A bit of winter wildfowl

8th December 2013

Luckily the flood waters had little effect as far as Norwich (Thorpe Marsh suffered a bit of flooding but that was about it). I headed down to Whitlingham to see if any birds had arrived from the coast. This time last year was my most successful day at Whitlingham, finding Ring-necked Duck and Common Scoter, but there was nothing so exciting this time. The scarcest duck of the day was Shoveler, six of them on the Little Broad, and there was around 200 Gadwall, up on the last couple of years. Two Little Grebes were near the main island, and there were also a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls around.

I decided to spend a while at the slipway looking for more colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls. Despite some controlled wildfowl attracting with seed (and some uncontrolled attracting by families with spare loaves of bread) none of the gulls seen were ringed. Many of the Mute Swans and one of the Canada Geese were, but only with metal rings, which require much closer inspection! I did get a decent look at one though, as it was eyeing me up as a potential food source.

WHITLINGHAM: Sightings for 2013 Bird Report

December 2013

Regular readers of the blog will probably remember that last year I collated my Whitlingham records along with sightings from fellow local birders into a Whitlingham 2012 Bird Report (still available here if you didn't see it at the time). This was generally well received, and I have been working on a report for 2013. The main part of the report is the systematic list, complete with details like high counts, earliest and latest sighting dates etc. There will also be brief articles on January's Bittern invasion and the origins of colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls seen at Whitlingham. In terms of species, 2013 has seen fewer species reported than 2012, but these have included Whitlinghams first Red-rumped Swallow (recently accepted by the Norfolk Birds Rarities Committee - see the latest work-in-progress file on their website).

I would be grateful for any sightings from the Whitlingham area (including Thorpe Marsh) this year. Records of scarce birds, flyovers and ringed birds would be of particular interest.

In particular I would welcome any sightings of the following species as I suspect the following may have been seen in 2013 but I haven't heard about them:

Whooper Swan (usually an annual flyover)
Goosander (near annual)
Smew (near annual)
Common Scoter (several in recent years)
Osprey (Regular at Strumpshaw, occasional sorties upriver)
Most waders
Any Owls (Barn & Tawny presumably resident but not actually seen this year)
Crossbills (Presumably fly over from time to time)
Brambling (as above)

Sightings can be left in the comments on this blog, emailed to whitlinghambirds 'at' or via BirdForum, and everyone who sends in sightings will be acknowledged at the end of the report.

Many thanks.

NORWICH: Yet more Earlham Cemetery fungi

1st December 2013

As the frosts have held off I nipped back to Earlham Cemetery to look for a rare cup fungus. It had been found by the Norfolk Fungus Study Group a few weeks ago when they had a foray there (unfortunately mid-week so I couldn't attend). I managed to find it, but it was rather far gone. So take this photo as a record shot, but have a look in a book or on google if you want to see what it normally looks like!

Sowerbyella radiculata

Whilst there I had another look at the Waxcaps and other bits and bobs. I still couldn't find the area with Blackening Waxcaps and Slimy Waxcaps in, so if you have come across either of those at Earlham this year then I'd appreciate directions for next year. I was told they were somewhere in section 6 if you look at a graveyard map. Whilst I was wandering around I saw a Coal Tit, and there were also lots of Redwings around.

NORTH NORFOLK: Holt Parrot Crossbills

23rd November 2013

Happily for me the flock of Parrot Crossbills that has taken up residence at Holt C.P. was still present today, so Cathy & I went to have a look. If the Crossbills had chosen to spread themselves out over the country park then this would have been tricky, but as it happened they seemed quite content in trees close to the car park. For most of the time we were there some of the Parrot Crossbills (up to eight by the time we left) in a Larch, showing well albeit in bad light. We were able to watch them feeding and showing off the power of their impressive bills.

As it started to rain we headed back to the car, stopping off near the park giant to look at some fungi. There was a purple bracket (Trichaptum abietinum), Jelly Spot (Dacrymyces stillatus) and a Calocera sp. It looks like Calocera cornea, but as that species usually occurs on deciduous wood it may well be a related species.

NORWICH: A few more interesting fungi...

16th November 2013

With frosts (and maybe snow!) forecast this week, I popped back to Earlham Cemetery once more to try to see a few more species. My main target was a coral fungus called Ramaria flaccida. I had failed to find it last week, but Ian had given me some good directions and eventually I did manage to find some. It was starting to die off and blended in with the pine needles and leaf litter.

Next on the list was a white spindle fungus called Clavaria acuta, which can be hard to see growing in mossy ground.

Finally I went looking for some Earthtongues. These are difficult to assign to species, and it is complicated by more than one species growing together. That appears to be the case at Earlham, as a specimen that Ian took last week appears to be Trichoglossum hirsutum, but one of the ones I examined seems to be a Geoglossum sp based on the shape.

The cemetery has been excellent for fungi this autumn, and I still didn't catch up with Parrot Waxcap and Beaked Earthstar, so I'll certainly be back next autumn to look for those.

WHITLINGHAM: November count & ringed Black-headed Gull

10th November 2013

Today was WeBS count day, and Cathy came along to give me a hand. Wildfowl numbers are starting to build (although probably lower than usual for the time of year). The most notable count was 182 Greylags plus a white one. In terms of ducks there were 72 Mallard, 72 Tufted Ducks, 42 Gadwall, 9 Pochard and a Teal. Black-headed Gull numbers passed 200, and included a white-ringed bird that I have traced to a Norwegian ringing scheme. There was also a red-ringed Herring Gull that was too far away to read the ring - in the past these have been ringed as pulli in Suffolk (if you have seen a colour-ringed gull at Whitlingham and traced it's origins I would be very interested to hear from you). As we walked along the south edge of the broad Cathy found two Kingfishers, which uncharacteristically had flown past in complete silence. She also noticed an orange fungus growing on a log, probably Phlebia radiata.

Rainbow over the great broad
White Greylag
Norwegian-ringed Black-headed Gull

NORWICH: More cemetery fungi

10th November 2013

Ian and the Friends of Earlham Cemetery continue to find lots of good fungi in the cemetery. This morning I popped in to look for a few more species. I soon located the Pipe Clubs thanks to Jeremy's directions, and found more areas of Golden and Snowy Waxcaps. I failed to locate the coral fungus that I was looking for, but did find an interesting little Cantharellus-type fungus growing amongst moss. I have sent photos to the county recorder as I'm not sure what it could be. [Edit] Tony has got back to me and identified it as Arrhenia spathulata.

Golden Waxcaps
Pipe Clubs
Arrhenia spathulata

NORWICH: Catton Park

3rd November 2013

Whilst of course I have my favourite places to watch wildlife, I also enjoy visiting places for the first time to see what is about. For a few years now I have thought that I should check out Catton Park on the northern outskirts of Norwich, but never got round to it. This summer I was looking at their website and noticed there was a Fungi walk in November, so I decided that would be a good time to visit. I arrived for the walk a bit early and was surprised that there wasn't anyone else around other than a group doing a battle re-enactment. Fungus walks and foraging are rather in vogue, so I had expected it to be quite busy. As it happened, one other person turned up (a partner of one of the people in the battle!), but the warden took us round anyway.

We concentrated on a couple of wooded areas where fungi had been seen on a earlier recce, and whilst nothing particularly rare was seen, there were some nice examples of Clouded Funnel, Stump Puffball and Shaggy Scalycap. There is an interesting species of Coral Fungus here somewhere (I've seen pictures of it on Flickr) but unfortunately it's quite a big park and we didn't see it. Overall my impressions were mixed - its clearly a nice piece of parkland if you live locally, but in my time there we saw many more dog walkers than we saw wildlife.

NORFOLK: Sculthorpe Moor

2nd November 2013

It had been a while since we had visited Sculthorpe Moor, so with a free Saturday Cathy, Margaret & I headed there for a look around. We were hoping to get good views of two winter staples here, Bullfinch and Brambling. Whilst both were around somewhere, they steadfastly refused to come to the feeders whilst we were there. The Whitley Hide bird table was dominated by families of Chaffinch and Greenfinch, whilst a Lesser Redpoll also showed well on the ground as it drank from the pond. A large flock of Siskins swirled over, Marsh Tits were numerous and my first Sculthorpe Nuthatch was on the feeders at the start of the boardwalk.

There was a bit of fungi in the woods, including a distinctive looking but as yet unidentified Lepiota sp, and I did manage a new species from the trip, Lady Fern.

EAST NORFOLK: Whale time!

30th October 2013

The last day of my all-too-brief holiday, and I was due to spend it doing that great British pass-time, waiting at home for an Argos delivery. Cathy was getting ready to meet a friend in the city when I turned on the laptop and found out that yesterdays Humpback Whale was back off Winterton. A few phone calls later and my mother-in-law had agreed to come round and house sit and I could head off to the east coast. Cathy & Sophie had decided that whale watching sounded more fun than going for a coffee, so they came along too.

When we got as far as Stalham we called Gary to get a whale update, finding out that it was still off Horsey. This was around half an hour ago, so I decided to stop at Waxham and potentially head the whale off as it moved north. This idea was good in theory, but upon arrival we were told that the Humpback was still off Horsey and only visible just on the horizon. I couldn't see it, so we got back in the car and carried on to Horsey. We almost got stuck in some deep ruts in the car park, but finally got up into the dunes level with the whale. Even then it wasn't straight forward, as the whale was way out to see. We started seeing the air being blown out of the blowhole, and shortly after I finally saw the Humpback Whale itself, as a fin rose out of the water. We watched it for a while longer until it moved northwards, later being seen at Sea Palling.

Interestingly Carl Chapman, Norfolk's SeaWatch Foundation co-ordinator has suggested that there were in fact two Humpbacks involved as some pictures show a fin with some white markings on and some don't:

BEER: Norwich Beer Festival 2013

29th October 2013

It is of course Norwich Beer Festival week. Karl & I went on Tuesday, and very nice it was too. My favourite beer was Blackberry Porter from Mauldons, whilst two "Beer-with-bird-names" ticks were had with 'Golden Pheasant' and 'Knot Just Another IPA'

Details and the full beer list can be found here:

Drink responsibly!

NORWICH: Earlham Cemetery fungi

28th October 2013

I went along to Earlham Cemetery for a fungus foray, organised by the Friends of Earlham Cemetery and led by Jon Tyler. We saw a large number of species, including a couple of Waxcaps, White and Grey Coral fungi, Fly Agaric, Death Cap and Lilac Fibrecap. We also saw Jelly Ear growing on Weeping Beech as opposed to the more usual host tree (Elder).  A selection of the more photogenic specimens are below:

White Coral
Golden Waxcap
Shaggy Scalycap
Fly Agaric
Death Caps
Grey Coral
Scaly Earthball

EAST NORFOLK: Looking for Crossbills

27th October 2013

This afternoon Cathy & I went for a walk in Witton (aka Bacton) Woods. Having grown up in North Walsham, it was here that I saw my first Common Crossbills in the early nineties, so it seemed a fitting location to attempt to see Parrot Crossbill. I had been given directions to an area of trees where they had been seen earlier in the week, but other than Coal Tit and Goldcrest there weren't many birds about. The strong wind hindered any attempts to listen for distant calls or falling pine cones. Hopefully they will continue to be seen, and I can have another go later in the year.

On our way round we did see quite a bit of fungi - Cathy found an unopened Parasol and a number of Mycena sp, whilst there were also Fly Agaric, Amethyst  Deceiver and Beech Sickener. We also saw some Hard Fern, a species that I have presumably seen here before but not recorded. On the way back to North Walsham a Stoat ran across the road.

Hard Fern


20th October 2013

Still not a lot of birds of note at Whitlingham - around 20 extra Gadwall, 30 extra Greylags and 37 Cormorants went to roost. Only flyovers were Redwing.

Loads of fungi about though, including my first Norwich-area Dog Stinkhorns, growing on bark chippings at Whitlingham Marsh.

Dog Stinkhorns
Honey Fungus
Common Earthball
Death Cap
Porcelain Fungus
Russula sp. or Mycena pura
Shaggy Ink Cap
Yellow Field Cap

WHITLINGHAM: October count & Migrant Hawker

12th October 2013

With heavy rain forecast for much of the weekend, I decided to get the wildfowl count at Whitlingham done on Saturday in case Sunday was a washout.With my inland patcher's hat on I was at least hopeful that there may be a sea-bird of some description around (several sites in other counties managed Great Skuas and Leach's Petrels). As it was the weather was actually rather pleasant, and there was nothing out of the ordinary at all on the broad. Some small flocks of Redwings were flying over as they have been for the past few days, and a Redpoll sp. also flew over calling. Across the river at Thorpe at least six Snipe were on the spit, probably a fraction of the actual number there.

In terms of other wildlife there were some Shaggy Ink Caps and Sulphur Tuft, and I managed to photograph a Migrant Hawker resting in the vegetation at the edge of the broad.

Migrant Hawker

Young Shaggy Ink Caps

NORTH NORFOLK: Titchwell trip

6th October 2013

It had been a while since we had been to the coast, so we went to Titchwell for the afternoon. In the trees near the car park a Yellow-browed Warbler called, but I couldn't see it. We walked slowly around the Meadow Trail in case it was showing there (it wasn't). There were lots of dragonflies, including mating Migrant Hawkers and ovipositing Common Darters.

Mating Migrant Hawkers

Back on the main path I looked back towards the coast road and saw a white goose in a field apparently with a small flock of Pink-footed Geese, although there were also some Greylags a bit further over. As I started setting up my telescope the Pink-feet and white goose flew off. Cathy got binoculars on them and noted that the white goose had black wing-tips, but felt that the black appeared to carry on along the trailing edge of the wing. We did check the field again on our way back, but there was no sign of the geese there or between Choseley and Docking, so it remains a mystery.

Further along a female Red-crested Pochard was on the reedbed pool. Lots of waders on the freshmarsh, the best of which were two Little Stints and two Curlew Sandpipers. Past the Parrinder hide turning we saw a nice Grey Plover still almost in summer plumage, and a Greenshank was stood close to the path. The tide was out when we got to the beach, a single Eider, a Great-crested Grebe and lots of Gannets were the only things I could make out. On the way back the Greenshank had moved into the channel and was feeding by lowering its bill into the water and running forwards, which was interesting to watch.


NORWICH: A little bit of gold

6th October 2013

It doesn't look like I'll be able to moth trap at my new(ish) house, and there isn't any oaks nearby either, so Merveille de Jour remains on the wishlist for the time being. There are still a few moths around though - Margaret found this Large Ranunculus in her garden. From a distance it looks mostly grey, but click to enlarge the photo and you'll see gold spangling over it.

WHITLINGHAM: Still butterflies about

28th September 2013

Still quiet at Whitlingham - one Teal had joined the small numbers of Tufted Ducks and Gadwall already present on the Great Broad. A Kingfisher flew off the river and onto Thorpe Broad, and several butterflies were still flying.

Speckled Wood


WHITLINGHAM: September wildfowl count

22nd September 2013

An overcast day for September's WeBS count, which on the bright side meant the C.P. was less busy than of late. Not a single hirundine was left, no doubt all on the south coast where 34,000 Swallows were seen in the morning alone in Dorset. There were a few signs of increasing waterbird numbers, notably 15 Great-crested Grebes and 20+ Cormorants. Duck-wise 9 Gadwall (5LB, 4 GB) included one with a particularly pale lower half of the head. Four Tufted Ducks and a drake Pochard were also on the Great Broad. Insects were in short supply, a few Migrant Hawkers and an unidentifed White butterfly were the only large insects flying, whilst Long-winged Coneheads called from the vegetation. Some fungi at the side of the path looks like Stropharia coronilla, although I'm not 100%. Hopefully Octobers count will be more exciting!

Gadwall with a two-tone head. I think it's just normal variation rather than any hybrid jiggery-pokery.

Putative Stropharia coronilla