The Whitlingham Bird Report 2020 is available now (click here)

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

BROADLAND: Hickling Swallowtails

27th June 2013

A day off, nominally to go to the Norfolk show, saw Cathy & I instead head off to Hickling. We were mainly looking for Swallowtails, but we also saw a range of dragon and damselflies (Norfolk Hawker, Four-spot Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer, Large Red Damselfly, Azure Damselfly and Blue-tailed Damselfly. We located at least six Swallowtails, although they were too flitty to get decent photos. A Large Skipper and a Speckled Wood were also new for the year for me.

In terms of birds a Treecreeper was probably the most interesting as I don't remember seeing one at Hickling before. A couple of Little Egrets, Marsh Harrier, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Common Tern were the best of the rest. We also saw a Drinker moth caterpillar, and a convincing bee-mimic Hoverfly (Volucella bombylans).

WHITLINGHAM: June counts and some micro moths

22nd June 2013

An overcast mid-summers day did not is not usually a great day for a Whitlingham visit, but it was WeBS weekend and Sunday had a 'fun run' scheduled (paying £10 to run around the broad doesn't sound that fun to me), so Saturday it was. A mostly white Greylag was on the slipway with the main Greylag flock. It looks quite distinctive, I would be interested to hear from anyone who has seen this bird elsewhere, to help work out how far away geese come from in summer to moult here.

The Greylag count hit 165 (plus a few goslings), and there were finally two broods of Mute Swans. A brood of young Egyptian Geese may well be a second attempt of the year, and there were also young Coot and Moorhens. A Cuckoo called in the distance, and Common Terns screeched over Whitlingham and Thorpe broads. Insect wise there had been an emergence of micro moths, with 55+ Nemophora degeerella and quite a few Nettle Tap moths.

Nemophora degeerella - note the length of the antennae!
Nettle Tap moth


18th June 2013

A Roller found near Holt on Sunday afternoon was a bird that I particularly wanted to see, but it wasn't until Tuesday evening that I had time to go for a look. I managed to borrow the car from Margaret after work, and Cathy & I headed to Edgefield. The bird had been commuting between the woods to the west of the main road and the Lowes to the east, so our first job was to ascertain where the bird was. A birder at the car park told us that the bird was on the lowes, so we set off east. 1.5 miles later we arrived to find a small group of birders. I'm pretty sure that it would have been quicker to walk from Holt C.P. car park, but I guess if the bird had been at Edgefield it would have been much further so worth hedging our bets.

Anyway, we were there, and a birder kindly allowed us a view of the Roller through his 'scope. It was perched up in a deciduous tree and we were able to watch it fly from tree to tree. At one point it flew down to a manure heap (I'm not convinces it actually was a manure heap, where would all the manure come from? But it did look like one), seized an item of prey and then went back to eat it. Views were good although distant, nicely complemented the Upper Hollesley bird, which had shown well but not flown around much.

We took a different route back to the car, seeing a Woodlark and Wood Horsetail at its only Norfolk site. This was my second Norfolk tick of the year, following on from the Thetford Dipper.

Wood Horsetail

WHITLINGHAM: Summer hail

15th June 2013

Sometimes you get the idea that a trip isn't going to go well. I arrived at Whitlingham to find my normal car park closed, so I headed on to the main one. Here the parking meter was broken, with a note saying "use the one in the overflow car park". As I got out I heard a peel of thunder overhead, and by the time I had returned to the car I had to take shelter from a heavy mid-summer hailstorm. After ten minutes or so it subsided and I got out. I hadn't gone far before my walking boots began sucking up all the nearby water by capillary action, completing their transformation from 'looking a bit rough' to 'no longer fit for purpose'.

Just another summer's day

And so it was, that I began my walk round with soggy feet and the feeling that today probably wasn't the day I got my 100th patch year bird. I began with a look around the ruins and Lime tree avenue for my best bet, Spotted Flycatchers. For the second year running I didn't see any, although I haven't completely given up hope yet. My second best bet was a flyover raptor (Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Osprey all realistic shouts), so I kept scanning the skies in between the cloudbursts. On the broad itself there was nothing unexpected, most off the birds were Greylag as a result of a good breeding year and regular early summer gathering - I counted around 145 adults with several goslings - including two that appear to have been adopted by a pair of Canada Geese.

Just past the bird screen I got a cryptic message from Neil ("are you on your way to the Swift?"). A quick phone call back ascertained that he did indeed mean a Pacific Swift, but that it was in south Suffolk. A shame that it wasn't in Norfolk, but as I was going out in the afternoon it was probably for the best. Continuing around the broad the common warblers were all still singing, but only one or two of each. A couple of Common Terns were on one of the plastic platforms, and a brood of Coot were in the conservation area. There was still no sign of any cygnets - have all of the swan nests failed this year? With the lack of birds I searched through the undergrowth for anything interesting. Hundreds of Common Blue Damselflies flew about the nettles, with a few Blue-tailed Damselflies scattered in. The most interesting thing I found was a gall growing on Ground Ivy.

BROADLAND: Catfield Fen

9th June 2013

Today was the open day at Catfield Fen. This broadland reserve, owned by Butterfly Conservation, is usually closed to the public due to the unsafe boggy ground and only visible from a path along the western boundary called the Rond. I had wanted to visit for several years now, so despite the overcast conditions Cathy & I set off early to get there in time for the opening of some moth traps that had been left out overnight.

Arriving around nine we gathered in a cut grass area being used as a makeshift car park for the open day. In keeping with the year in general the moth catch wasn't very large, but habitat meant that several of the moths caught were new for me. The most numerous species was May Highflyer, whilst the pick of the rest were Oblique Carpet, Silky Wainscot and Flame Wainscot. We didn't see a single butterfly, but Andy Brazil did show us a female Azure Damselfly that he had found.

Oblique Carpet

Later in the morning we went on a guided walk into the fen. This was mostly centred on an area of carr woodland, and although it was interesting to look around the area, there wasn't much in the way of insect life or flowers due to the conditions. We did see some Water Violets and Royal Ferns, whilst a Great-spotted Woodpecker called in the background.

Water Violet
Royal Fern