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

NORWICH: City centre Kingfisher

27th February 2013

A Kingfisher on the River Wensum was a nice sight early morning. It flew east along the river as seen from Fye Bridge. I have seen them a few times in the city, but this was my first sighting here in 2013.

[Edit] Later in the week I added two birds to my 'walk to work' list in the form of Common Gull and Siskin, both rather overdue.

WHITLINGHAM: City Pochard & showy Water Rail

23rd February 2013

There is only so much time you can spend at home waiting for the Vatican to reply to your job application, so I gave up and headed down to Whitlingham. The car had given up the ghost last weekend, so I walked along the river, and was rewarded with a drake Pochard, looking out of place in the river basin just north of the Lady Julian Bridge.

Pochard with Norwich castle in the background

Having walked along the edge of the Little Broad I stopped and scanned, and a Water Rail ran out in front of me. It didn't go too far, so I moved and took up a position a bit further along, and was rewarded with cracking views as it walked along the opposite side of the ditch. 

The first time I have managed to photograph Water Rail here

Further along I spotted a Kingfisher perched in an Alder, although it soon flew off as some people walked past. I had a good scan of the broad, hoping that the cold weather (it was snowing at this point!) would have brought in some more wildfowl, but in fact it was quieter than usual. The best bird seen in the second half of the visit was a Great Black-backed Gull, which ominously appeared to have blood on part of its beak. GBBGs aren't particularly common here, but I soon saw another, this time with the gull flock across the river on Thorpe Broad. There were more ducks here (although similar numbers to my previous visit, so not accounting for the 'missing' Whitlingham birds). On my way home I saw a Goldcrest in the hedge near Trowse Meadow, only a couple of feet away.

THORPE MARSH: Reed Buntings return

19th February 2013

Around this time last year Thorpe was enjoying a good run of waders, albeit in frozen conditions, so I decided to avoid what would have been a busy Whitlingham (this week is half term week in Norfolk, other areas had it last week) and have a look around. Flyover swans were also high on my wishlist, with February traditionally offering the best chance of seeing them - not that I have since moving to Norwich.

The sun was shining as I arrived at Thorpe and waded through the flooded path to the cattle compound. The scrape was completely underwater (I persist in calling it the scrape, but others, perhaps more aptly, call it the flood!) and as a result it had Teal swimming on it but no waders. Further round I thought I heard a Reed Bunting calling, and indeed I had, seeing a male at the top of a bush (72) and hearing two more further round. Stopping to speak to one of the locals a Sparrowhawk flew over the marsh and headed low over the broad.

In complete contrast to the sunshine part of the broad was actually frozen, with hundreds of Black-headed Gulls loafing on it. I counted them, reaching c525, and checked for rings and Med Gulls - neither found. There were still lots of ducks, around 60 Pochard, 40 Gadwall, 40 Tufted Ducks and 30+ Teal, whilst a pair of summer plumaged Great-crested Grebes were on the river. On the exposed shingle 14 Lapwings were the only birds of interest.

THETFORD: Otter time

17th February 2013

Cathy has wanted to see an Otter for some time, and as she doesn't particularly like Strumpshaw (probably the best place to see Otters locally) we decided to go to Thetford where several Otters have been showing well recently. We arrived, saw a small group of photographers, walked up to them and there in the river were two Otters! I had hoped that we would see them, but was still a bit surprised that they would be there on cue, particularly as information on their presence was largely restricted to 'Thetford' to reduce the risk of attacks by people who aren't as appreciative of them. We went for a nice riverside walk in the sunshine hoping to catch up with them further along, but in the end settled for our initial views.

Otters can be a divisive species. To some they are a beautiful mammal that is very much a part of the river ecosystem, to others they are unwanted predators that devour large collections of expensive fish. I'm not going to tell people what they should think, but I would say is that I advocate critical thinking to support your own view. If you want to know about Otters, then please look at several sources to back up anything you read online or in the papers. Be particularly wary of figures that don't have a source. If someone is claiming that x number of Otters are present on a river, is that from a properly carried out survey? It could be an estimate, or it could be completely made up (as I suspect one letter in particular to the EDP suggesting that there were 70 pairs of Otters along the Wensum was). Also, does the writer have a particular agenda? Someone who has just lost some expensive fish may not be impartial. Some people are against culling of any species, whilst at the other end of the spectrum some want to cull almost anything that eats large fish (Otters, Cormorants, Goosanders...)

A few key points:
  • Otters are currently protected by law - it is illegal to kill or disturb them
  • Otters were re-introduced to Norfolk after their population had dropped significantly
  • The re-introductions were carried out by the Otter Trust, and ceased in 1996 - see here
  • Otters and other predators numbers don't just keep going up. They are governed by predator-prey dynamics - if there is not enough prey items then the number of predators will decrease.

WHITLINGHAM: Geese arrive and a couple of Nuthatches

16th February 2013

A small flock of geese on Whitlingham meadows were worth checking out (albeit more for hybrids than tag-along wild geese) and turned out to be 36 Greylags. A Green Woodpecker (69) flew across my field of view, an overdue patch tick having only heard them so far this year. On the Great Broad it was apparent that there had also been a small arrival of Canada Geese, with 33 representing a significant increase on previous weeks. Other than that duck numbers were low, due in part to the canoeing no doubt. It was a different story looking across to Thorpe, where 100+ Pochard and 65+ Tufted Ducks were on Thorpe Broad. Walking round towards the conservation area a Linnet (70) flew east over the river. Four Teal and four Gadwall completed the ducks, and two Little Grebes were tight to the shore. On my way back to the car I heard a Nuthatch, and found two in tall trees between the car park and Little Broad (71).

On a non-birding note I continued to drag my TG2507 all taxa list into the 90s, with Snowdrop, Dovesfoot Cranesbill leaves and several fungi. More lichens were photographed, and the county lichen recorder has kindly ID'd the specimen that was annoying me previously - I had the genus right (Lecanora), but probably wouldn't have got the species unaided!

NORWICH: Still there...

12th February 2013

Knowing some local birders hadn't managed to connect with the Shag yesterday I made a slight detour on my way to work to look for it on the river near Friar's Quay. It was immediately visible, and I was pleased to see it swimming and diving (there had been a suggestion that it might be ill due to its inactivity yesterday). Once again the light was too poor for anything other than record shots, but I got one showing the arts college in the background before texting the bird in and heading to work.

After work I went and saw that the Shag was still present, but it appeared to have gone to roost for the evening on a muddy bank along the edge of the river, just below Elm Hill car park.

[Update] I have heard today that the Shag was found dead this afternoon near Cow Tower, which is sad. Incidentally a bit of (careful) research has turned up an article written by Michael Seago that reports that Shags have been seen in four winters in Norwich near the old technical college (presumably now the Arts College), so this is a bit of a city hotspot. The only sightings I know of in the past ten years were the bird near Carrow Road in 2009 and two seen at Whitlingham (Jan 2010 and Sept 2011).

NORWICH: Unexpected Phalacrocorax

Normally I'm against the unnecessary use of latin names where English ones will suffice, but I don't want to attract unwanted google hits...

11th February 2013

My walk to work had already been enlivened by a Grey Wagtail near the Jarrold bridge when I noticed a large greeny-black bird sat on a ledge just past Whitefriar's bridge. As I drew level I saw that the bird in question was an adult Shag, an excellent bird for the city centre. It wasn't quite out of the blue, in fact I had been searching Whitlingham for any sign of one at the weekend after a sighting of a Shag in the middle of the road near Long Stratton. Nonetheless I hadn't really expected to find it, and this makes up for the one near Carrow Road a few years ago that I dipped.

The best that I could do with my point-and-shoot camera early morning

[Edit] - Other photos are available...

WHITLINGHAM: Feb counts, Redpolls and moss

9th February 2013

Some unspectacular winter wildfowl counts today, with 104 Tufties, 92 Pochard, 134 Coot and 263 Black-headed Gulls the highest figures. 3 Little Grebes and a first sighting in a while for the Little Hybrid Goose probably edged it for most interesting water-borne birds. Luckily there was more of interest along the shore of the Little Broad. Seeing more Siskins than normal, I worked my way through the large flock, finding around ten Lesser Redpolls, and most pleasingly a Mealy Redpoll. A Goldcrest appeared right in front of me, but clearly wasn't keen on being photographed.

Little Hybrid Goose. It's like an old friend now, but noisier
 Lesser Redpolls

Before leaving I returned to the Little Broad and carpark to look for a few more bits for my TG2507 all-taxa list. This mainly consisted of a few more plants (and poxy lichens - if there is a lichenologist living in Norwich then please get in touch!), but I did get a couple of nice mosses. A couple of Treecreepers and a flyover Fieldfare were also handy additions. A calling Nuthatch makes it onto this list but frustratingly I couldn't find it so it stays off my patch year list (I know, too many lists...)

Wall Screw Moss (centre of photo). If you can ID any other lichens or mosses in the picture then please leave a message in the comments!

WHITLINGHAM: Lots of Pochard & pale Egyptian Goose

3rd February 2013

Having missed out on a flock of Cranes flying over the previous day, I had high hopes for the day. Looking out from the slipway I noticed a very pale (possibly leucistic?) Egyptian Goose. There was a bird here a few years ago that lacked the brown patch around the eye, but this is the palest bird that I have seen here.

Duck numbers had decreased further since my last visit, but there were three sizeable flocks of Pochard together with another five in the conservation area. The total of 182 birds is a new site record as far as I am aware. A Little Grebe and five Shovelers completed the interesting wildfowl. Looking over to Thorpe there appeared to be at least 100 Gadwall and a decent number of Teal, but they were mostly behind the spit, making an accurate count tricky. I photographed a few Cormorants to double-check the gular angle at home, and was alerted to the presence of a Buzzard flying over by the Jackdaws mobbing it.

Before leaving I went up to the farmland at the top of the lime tree avenue, where I added Stock Dove to the year list. I also managed to add a few bits and bobs to my TG2507 all taxa list, including Dog's Mercury, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Celandine, Turkeytail and three species of lichen.

Turkeytail (Trametes versicolor)