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: Hobby & an unusual Swift

30th May 2013

An overcast day, once again bringing the Swifts and hirundines low over the Great Broad. There had been a change in the ratio since my last visit, with a rise in House Martin and Swallow numbers and a decrease in Swifts. I left the south shore and went through the woods to look for a 'green man' carved stump that is somewhere in the woods. I didn't find that, but did find some interesting fungi on a log by the riverside. Shortly after a Hobby flew over towards Thorpe Marsh, my 99th patch bird of the year.

Possible Pluteus petasatus and a Peziza sp.

Back at the broad I was scanning the conservation area when I heard the mew of a Buzzard. Looking up there were actually three Buzzards, two of which continued to circle whilst a third bird (presumably an interloper) continued northwards. Birdsong was muted, but I did turn up a couple of interesting insects, notable Red-and-black Leafhopper and Red-headed Cardinal Beetle. As I neared the Watersports Centre a/the Hobby flew through the Swifts. I stopped at a suitable vantage point to try to re-find it, and in doing so noticed a Swift with a lot of white on it. The white wasn't constrained to the rump, and it was the same size as a nearby normal plumaged Common Swift, so it was fairly straight-forwardly an aberrant plumaged Common Swift. It continued to swoop backwards and forwards along the north shore of the broad, and eventually I managed to get several photos of it, none of them particularly sharp.

Incidentally if anyone does know where the 'Green Man' stump pictured here is, I would appreciate directions.

WHITLINGHAM: More Swifts and some interesting insects

25th May 2013

Still plugging away at Whitlingham, I arrived to find another huge Swift invasion under way. There were literally hundreds (at least 600+), and I was able to stand at the edge of the Great Broad and let them fly either side and over the top of me, sometimes so close I could hear the wings as they changed direction. A couple of Common Terns were calling, one in flight and one on a raft, and a Common Sandpiper was perched on one of the fishing platforms. I saw my first couple of hoverflies of the year too, including this Helophilus pendulus.

I saw my first damselflies of the year, with several teneral Common Blues on emergent vegetation. Other interesting stuff included a Slender Groundhopper and a smart Orange-tip. There were also a few more plants in flower, and an interesting green jelly like thing. It looked like a type of fungus, but having got home and checked, it is actually a mass of a type of Cyanobacteria.

WHITLINGHAM: Swifts, Cuckoo and May Shoveler

18th May 2013

An appointment in the city meant that I didn't get down to Whitlingham until lunchtime, but the overcast weather meant that it still wasn't unduly busy. Large groups of Swifts were still wheeling around in the sky like pointy-winged bats on acid. A scattering of Swallows and House Martins were still present but vastly outnumbered. The bird screen came up trumps (there isn't often much to see from here in summer), with a Common Sandpiper on the edge of the island and a pair of Shoveler. This is my latest patch record by quite some way, although I am aware of two later records for the site, both from the end of May. I finally heard my first Cuckoo (98) of the year, and after trying to pinpoint the sound it helped me out by flying into the trees on the island.

A bit further down the path I met another local birder, and we stopped for a chat. He had seen an aberrant Swift with a white patch, possibly the same bird that has been seen at Strumpshaw before. He had also noticed a leg ring on one of the Lesser Black-backs, although it was presumably one of the ones loafing on the broad as we couldn't find it on the posts to read the ring. One other interesting sighting from April was of an adult Med Gull he had seen amongst a flock of Common Gulls, a species that still eludes me here.

On the way back along the south shore I there were three broods of Canada Geese - judging from the size one of the original broods that was missing last week has died, but there are two new broods. Three small Greylag goslings must be a new brood as well, adding to the impressive year for this species here. Whilst searching for a singing Garden Warbler I noticed an unobtrusive green-flowered plant called Crosswort, which turns out to be new for me.


WHITLINGHAM: Red-rumped Swallow (no, I didn't see it)

13th May 2013

There is probably no more frustrating time to hear that a rare bird has been seen on your local patch than Monday morning. I had been at work for around an hour when Neil came in, asking if I had checked BirdGuides recently. It turned out a Red-rumped Swallow had been seen at Whitlingham at 08:12, a site first and a bird I've never seen. It could have been a nervy day waiting to see whether it was still there when I finished work, but as it turned out a text from Justin told me that it hadn't been seen since 08:25. I had checked through the hirundines on the previous day to no avail, which combined with the large arrival of Swifts on Monday (estimate of 1000, up from c300 on Sunday) suggests that the Red-rumped Swallow had just arrived. Interestingly one was seen early morning on 14th May 2012 at Colney GPs, so hopefully we are starting a trend of mid-May Norwich area records; although hopefully the next one will stick around!

I'm not sure that there are any, but if any photographs were taken I would be very interested in seeing them.

WHITLINGHAM: Swifts and goslings

12th May 2013

I made an early morning trip to Whitlingham to complete May's WeBS count. The weather was overcast, which meant that a huge number of Swifts and hirundines were feeding low over the broad. They moved in relentless waves across the surface of the water surface, occasionally swarming up to form a screeching cloud when a patch of sunshine broke through. Twice they were parted by a male Kestrel cutting through the flock, but I once again failed to see the Hobby that has been kicking around for a couple of weeks. Lots of Swallows and House Martins were mixed in, along with a few Sand Martins.

It appears that this year is the best year I can remember for Greylag broods, as well as the super-brood of 13, there were broods of 2, 2 and 3 at the west end (plus the Swan Goosiest hybrid had a lone gosling), a brood of 3 in the conservation area and two broods of 5 at the east end. One brood of nine Canada goslings was along the south shore of the broad but there was no sign of the other one from last week. Duck-wise the Pochard had gone, so it was three Tufted Ducks on the Great Broad and one Gadwall at Thorpe.

Garden Warbler was the pick of the passerines, whilst I once again didn't see or hear a Cuckoo. A few more plants were in flower, including Greater Celandine, Common Stork's-bill and Dove's-foot Crane's-bill.

NORWICH: City centre Common Sandpiper

7th May 2013

A new inner Norwich tick today, with a Common Sandpiper on the River Wensum level with Greens gym. It flew along the river, briefly landing on the muddy edge of the river, before flying off, calling as it went.

WHITLINGHAM: Nice evening, no new birds

6th May 2013

A nice evening, so a quick lap of the broad seemed in order. Given that a few Little Gulls and Black Terns had been seen at other sites around the county I walked round anti-clockwise to scan the broad first. The net result of this was three Common Terns, along with a second brood of Canada Geese and three more broods of Greylag Geese. Two of the Greylag families appeared to have creched their young together into a group of 13. Nothing of interest flew over, and one of the Garden Warblers that I first saw on Saturday was the pick of the singing birds. Back in the car park I noticed loads of Cuckoo Pint had unfolded.

WHITLINGHAM: Warblers & Butterflies

4th May 2013

By the start of May most warblers are present and singing locally, so I headed down to Whitlingham in the morning to try to connect with the ones I hadn't seen. Conditions weren't perfect, a strong breeze in particular made hearing an pin-pointing bird song that bit more tricky. Despite this I managed to clock up nine species of warbler (Gropper being the only one I could reasonably expected to have heard - I don't know of any being seen here this year so far). I had to work hard to get views of a calling Lesser Whitethroat, but managed good views of two Garden Warblers. A count of Common Whitethroats produced a minimum of 12 around the Great Broad, almost certainly an undercount, with more elsewhere.

Whilst scanning across to Thorpe a passing boat disturbed a Common Sandpiper from the river margins, which flew up and appeared to land on the shingle edge of Thorpe Broad. Swifts were still very much in abundance, and the first brood of Greylags has hatched, albeit only two of them. There was no sign of the Mute Swans on the nest near the bird-screen, but no sign of any cygnets either. This nest was predated last year, so perhaps the same thing has happened again. There were a few butterflies around, including a Peacock, Orange-tip and two Green-veined Whites.

Incidentally the RSPB and Broads Authority are running a dawn chorus walk, boat ride and cooked breakfast at Whitlingham at Whitlingham tomorrow - I would welcome any sightings (or particularly counts) of singing warblers if any readers of the blog go on the walk.

NORWICH: City centre Canada Goose

3rd May 2013

A central Norwich tick on the way to work today with this Canada Goose on the river near Cow Tower. Also in the past few days a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap have been singing, and a pair of Mute Swans abandoned a nest they had been making and assembled an even bigger one near Fye bridge.

WHITLINGHAM: Canada Goslings & Whitethroats

2nd May 2013

I made a brief visit to Whitlingham this evening, hoping to catch up with a Hobby or Cuckoo, both of which had been seen earlier in the week. As I walked between the two broads a Weasel ran across the path and into some nettles. I waited quietly to see if it was still there, and was rewarded with a great view of it's head as it stood up to see if the coast was clear. A bit further round I had a Vole sp. run across the path as well.

There had clearly been another influx of Whitethroats since my last visit, they seemed to be singing from every suitable area of scrub along the north shore. A few Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were also singing, but the birdsong in general was rather muted, and it didn't come as any great surprise that I didn't hear any Lesser Whitethroats or Garden Warblers. Looking out across the broad large numbers of hirundines (mostly House Martins and Swallows) and Swifts flew low over the broad. Looking over to Thorpe my hopes were raised by a soaring falcon, but as it got closer it became obvious that it was a Kestrel.

On my way back along the south shore I saw the first brood of Canada Geese of the year (8 goslings) and a large brood of recently fledged Mallard ducklings, accompanied by a dark 'bibbed' type adult.