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: A better look at the Slav Grebe

26th January 2013

A surprisingly frozen Whitlingham today, with only isolated areas of open water. One of these is always near the Visitors Centre, and today it held the Slavonian Grebe (present for its 9th day), a Goldeneye and 132 Pochard (a decent count here). Despite most of the rest of the broad being frozen I did still walk round, seeing three Shoveler and a scattering of Teal. Thorpe Broad was almost completely frozen, three Lapwings standing on the snow-covered shingle. I checked along the Little Broad, where the Siskin and Redpoll flock were AWOL, and got good views of a Water Rail in the open as it ran across a frozen ditch. A Treecreeper was the only new bird of the year, whilst I also saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker in a regular tree near the Little Broad. Before leaving I returned for another look at the Slav Grebe. Seeing loads of Black-headed Gulls on the ice I checked them for colour-ringed birds, but there weren't any.

NORWICH: Wensum Woodcock

22nd January 2012

I have been hoping that the cold weather would push a scarce bird onto the Wensum nearby (perhaps Goosander?), but have so far been disappointed. It was light enough for me to see the local Peregrine yesterday, and today I went one better with a Woodcock! I was about level with the new(ish) Jarrold Bridge when it flew around the edge of the Bishopgate car park before flying over the Adam and Eve and then doubling back and heading off towards Cow Tower. There isn't much open space along the river, so perhaps it was roosting at Mousehold and had left to find some open space to forage in overnight.

NORWICH: Snowy Rosary Cemetery

20th January 2012

My Foot It list has never really taken off, so I decided to return to Rosary Cemetery to have another look for Nuthatch and Treecreeper. As before I failed on both counts, but as well as the commoner species there was also a flock of Redwings flying around.

WHITLINGHAM: Bittern-tastic

18th January 2012

Bitterns occur annually at Whitlingham, but they seldom stay long. My only previous sightings was of one flying eastwards one evening. I was therefore particularly pleased to arrive after a careful walk through the snow to find two birders watching a Bittern showing well in the reeds opposite the visitors centre. I watched it for about half an hour before setting off around the broad to see what else was around.

Scanning through the ducks I saw my first patch Shoveler and Wigeon of the year, along with several Little Grebes. A noisy flock of Siskin were flying between Alders, and a Water Rail scurried along the far shore. I was listening out for wild swans flying over, but instead picked out a couple of Fieldfares and some Redwing. Scanning from just past the island I noticed a black-and-white grebe with its head buried in its back. Soon it did stick its head up and look around, allowing me to confirm that the bird was a Slavonian Grebe, my second patch record following the one at Thorpe in December.

One of the Broads Authority staff stopped to tell me that he had seen the second Bittern towards the east end of the lake, so I carefully scanned the edges. I couldn't see the Bittern, but did see another Water Rail. After scanning Thorpe Broad (lots of birds but nothing unusual) I scanned the area of wet woodland in the north-east corner of the broad, and was pleased to see a Woodcock probing for food. In the conservation area around 120 Teal were all huddled together along the edge of one of the smaller islands and the two brown-head Goldeneye were showing now and again. There were loads of gulls around, and finally I managed to find a scarce one in the form of an adult winter Yellow-legged Gull. As I walked back to the main path I looked to my left and saw a Bittern! It saw me and flew up and over the scrub, looking to have dropped back in further along the north shore. All in all a cracking patch visit.

WHITLINGHAM: Duck decrease and a Conifer Mazegill sp.

12th January 2013

More local birding, and I had hopes that the cooler weather would have brought in some more ducks. Not even necessarily scarce ones, as I haven't seen usual winter fare such as Shoveler and Wigeon here yet in 2013. In the car park I noticed an interesting looking bracket fungus, which I shall return to later in the post. Starting at the Little broad I once again failed to see Water Rail, hindered in part by a fallen Ivy covered tree that blocks the view of a favoured section of bank. A 1st-winter Grey Heron was the first one of six that I saw on site today.

Continuing along the north shore of the broad I saw a Goldcrest flying in and out of the path-side brambles. Winter mornings are not great times to observe wildfowl in the conservation area because of the light, but I struggled gamely on to count the ducks (all species showing a decrease in number since the start of the month except Teal). Following a discussion about Cormorants I photographed the three on the posts to check the gular angle at home - 2 carbo and one unassignable in case you are interested.

Further round I scanned across to Thorpe, seeing my first patch Lapwings of the year. I saw 11 Snipe, but there are undoubtedly many more - Chris estimated 200 when they were put up by a Peregrine earlier in the week. By now kayakers were out on the broad, so little else was added to the list on the way back.

Back at the car park I had a look under the bracket fungus I had found. As I suspected it showed an unusual pattern, a sort of 'maze'. It appears that I have found a Conifer Mazegill (Gloeophyllum sepiarium), a species that is particularly rare in Norfolk. By 2011 (the latest report I have seen) this species had been recorded twice in Norfolk, both in the 1970s. So unless it has been recorded recently, this could well be the first Whitlingham record and 3rd Norfolk record.

[Update] The county recorder believes this could in fact be the even rarer Gloeophyllum trabeum. I have sent a sample off, which will hopefully confirm this, although there is a chance that the cold spell we had could have damaged it too much to ID conclusively.

WHITLINGHAM: Bullfinch & Goldeneye

7th January 2013

I had considered a long walk into the farmland around Caistor St Edmund today, but decided against it. Instead I headed for Whitlingham to try to pick up some of the stuff I missed on my first visit. Again no sign of any Water Rails, so I headed off through the conservation area. Part way along I spotted the bright pink of a male Bullfinch, then I heard it calling to another before they both flew off. Nearby I also saw a Redwing, a bit of a relief as they seem to be scarcer than usual of late. With these two rather attractive birds seen I headed to the bird screen, where I saw two drab but equally welcome Goldeneye.

A quick look over to Thorpe revealed a similar size flock of Snipe to my previous visit, but hardly any ducks. I walked along the riverbank to Whitlingham Marsh, adding a pair of Marsh Tits. A flock of Redwing flew out of a tree near Whitlingham Barns, and the settling pools at the sewage works held loads of gulls but little else. On my way back a Sparrowhawk flew off the barns. I took the woodland route back to the broad, getting good views of Goldcrests near the path. This was to be my last addition of the trip, taking my patch tally up to 52 species for the year.


5th January 2013

Knowing that Thorpe Marsh was rather waterlogged, I donned my wellies for a trip out. I diverted through Rosary Cemetery and Lion Wood on my way, hoping to add Nuthatch and Treecreeper to my Foot It list, but this seems to be going down the pan really. A yaffling Green Woodpecker was the lone addition from my detour. Some Winter Heliotrope was in flower, as was a very early Primrose. Reaching Thorpe I heard and then saw a Great-spotted Woodpecker in a tall conifer by the railway line, whilst a Cetti's Warbler gave a brief burst of song to the right of the path. A Lesser Redpoll was showing well in some nearby Alders, before flying off over my head.

Winter Heliotrope

I waded through the gateway, congratulating myself on my choice of footwear (this didn't last, I had a rather large blister on my heel by the time I'd got home). The water level on the scrape was a bit high for waders, and accordingly the only bird I saw here was a Snipe. Further round a Meadow Pipit flew up out of the tussocky grass, whilst Greenfinch and Song Thrush were new to the 2013 patch list. Quite a few ducks were on the broad, including 27 Pochard and 42 Tufted Ducks.

BRECKS: Thetford Dipper

4th January 2013

Ever since a Dipper was found in Thetford in November, I had been waiting for an opportunity to go and see it. Unfortunately it had been rather tricky to pin down, typically only showing mid-week or once a day. Having got back from Felmingham, Cathy suggested that we went to Thetford after lunch and had a look. Happily the Black-bellied Dipper was showing well from near the middle of the Nun's Bridges. We watched it bob merrily, swim, and catch what looked like Caddisfly larvae. Back at the bridges there were lots of geese, including a family of eight Canada x Greylag Geese. On our way back we noticed a couple of birders near another bridge, and pulled in to check that they knew where the Dipper was. It turned out that they didn't, and were grateful to Cathy for giving them directions (hopefully they found it ok!)

NORTH NORFOLK: Felmingham thrush survey

4th January 2013

This morning I headed off to Felmingham to survey a core square for the BTO's Winter Thrush Survey. Having not seen any Redwings or Fieldfares at all so far this year, I wasn't overly optimistic. Arriving at the church I parked up and set off along the main road. I was almost a quarter of the way round my route before I encountered a single thrush, and I don't remember the last time I was so pleased to see a Blackbird. Continuing along down a minor road I saw a huge flock of Woodpigeons in the fields (at least 600+), and some Starlings (which I happily counted, giving the a lack of anything else). A Sparrowhawk and some finches livened the route slightly, but four more Blackbirds was the last of my survey birds. Whilst competing my route across a field I heard a couple of Skylarks passing overhead, and then three loose skeins comprising around 90 Pink-footed Geese flew south-east.

WHITLINGHAM: First visit of the year

2nd January 2013

Time to get the patch (and 'Foot It') lists started, so I shouldered my 'scope and headed off to Whitlingham. I was surprised to see Whitlingham Lane so empty after the road-as-car-park scene from my last visit - perhaps they had checked the weather forecast. I walked around Trowse Meadows hoping for a Kingfisher, but there was no sign of any. Two Mistle Thrushes in the field south of Whitlingham Lane were a nice surprise - it took me until August to see these last year. Heading down to the Little Broad the drizzle started.

Two Egyptian Geese stake their claim for a territory and also suggest a possible statue

Two Lesser Redpolls flew over calling and three Cormorants were perched on the huge pylons across the river. At the conservation area I saw my first Pochard and Teal. Further round I stopped to scan Thorpe Broad and noticed a flock of nine Snipe flying around. I saw more in the margins, and they joined the first lot, with around 25 flying at one time. In total I counted 40, but I'm sure more were present a bit further into the vegetation.

The rain was getting heavier by now, so I headed into the woods. Birdsong was muted, with nothing of interest with the Long-tailed Tit flock. Back down Whitlingham Lane there was a Great-crested Grebe on the river, and a lone Lesser Black-backed Gull perched on a buoy. A flock of around 30 Siskins flew over, briefly settling in the Alders, and some movement in the vegetation looked rather like untickable views of a Water Rail. Some Starlings on Whitlingham Lane brought this years patch list up to 40, and my Foot It list to a rather disappointing 42 so far.

LOWESTOFT & BROADS: January 1st day out

1st January 2013

First day of the year and a leisurely tour of north Suffolk and east Norfolk to see some birds. We started off by heading to Lowestoft, where a Great Northern Diver has been in the harbour for several days. It was out of sight when we first arrived, but after ten minutes or so it appeared close in. Unfortunately this put it directly in some strong sunlight, so what could have been a great photo opportunity was actually a point-the-camera-in-roughly-the-right-direction-and-hope opportunity. So here we are:

 I call this one "ah, it's come up closer than I thought" (click to enlarge)
This one I call "it would have been good if it's head was side on"

Afterwards we headed northwards back over the border to Breydon. It was high tide, so picking out birds from the tightly packed masses was tricky, but we saw flocks of Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit & Avocet, along with thousands of Wigeon and a few Teal and Pintail. A stop off at Rollesby Broad added some common wildfowl, but some boating on the broad reduced the potential return. Nearby at Repps-with-Bastwick 19 Bewick's Swans fed in a ploughed field. We then headed on up to Walcott, where we saw Turnstones and I managed to pick out an adult Med Gull on the sea, which then flew out of view.

From Walcott we headed back to North Walsham via Ebridge Mill. There was no sign of any Grey Wagtails, but there was an Egyptian Goose on the path and lots of Mgapies, possibly getting ready to roost. On our way back to Norwich we stopped at Horstead, where a Grey Heron was standing in a field and a Barn Owl flew around before heading off towards the mill.


1st January 2013

Well we are now in 2013 and I have finished off my bird report. Unfortunately I have noticed that blogger doesn't host pdf files. Whilst I see if there is a suitable other way of uploading it, it is available on the Norwich thread on Birdforum here, or drop me an email and I will send it to you.

Happy birding for 2013!