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

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

NORTH NORFOLK: Black-headed Bunting

29th May 2014

Monday's Black-headed Bunting had been untwitchable, but it was followed two days later by a more accessible one in West Runton. As luck would have it the bird was still present on Thursday, so after I finished work Cathy & I went to have a look. There was no sign of the bunting when we arrived, or for quite a while after. Chris pointed out that it was shaping up to be a dull blog entry if we didn't see it, but luckily for us (and you dear reader) eventually the Black-headed Bunting did appear, and sat in full view albeit distantly. As an added bonus it didn't rain whilst we were there either. Whilst waiting for it the only other birds in the brambles were a Whitethroat and a Linnet, whilst some Gannets were passing out to sea.


28th May 2014

The final day of my short holiday, and we were visiting friends in North Walsham. Whilst there I went for a walk to Pigney's Wood, a local nature reserve. I started by following a footpath down to Little London, and then on past Mike Thurston's watersports centre. Here I found that where the path crosses the river the high water levels had washed away part of the path. I could have jumped it, but given the mud looked slippery I chose instead to walk along to the road. This proved to be the safer option, but did mean that my legs got absolutely soaked, to the point where the water began to pool in my walking boots. Having reached the road and proceeded along the correct side of the river I found that the path was flooded. Not knowing how badly I retraced my steps and tried again, this time walking along the road to the main car park.

All of this wet footpath-walking hadn't been completely devoid of wildlife, I had seen Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Reed Bunting, Whitethroat and Sparrowhawk by this point. An Azure damselfly and a Diamond-back Moth were also of note. As I walked along Hall Road a Yellowhammer sat on the wires and the mist rolled across the fields.

After checking the sightings board I took one of the paths towards the old barn. From here I walked to the pools, disturbing a Kingfisher from the pond-dipping platform. A Cuckoo was calling from across the river, and I managed to see it near the top of a willow. Despite looking around some of the hedgerows and mature woods I didn't see much else of note, and headed back via the old railway line, hearing another Cuckoo and getting close views of a Kestrel near the canal.

Drinker moth caterpillar

NORTH NORFOLK: Some new moths

27th May 2014

As I had a few days off I had planned to take the opportunity to go to Natural Surroundings on Tuesday morning to see their moth club open the moth traps. The forecast for Monday night and Tuesday morning was rain, but we decided to go anyway. This proved to be a good decision, as we saw around 65 species, some of which were new for me, including Lobster Moth, Seraphim, Green Arches and Alder Moth. Thanks to Greg and the rest of the group for sorting through the traps.

Lobster Moth
Green Arches
Privet Hawk Moth

After the traps were empty we had a hot drink and piece of cake in the cafe, before heading to Cley. Here we had lunch whilst the rain bucketed down outside. The previous day a Black-headed Bunting had been seen in a Cromer garden and access had been arranged for after 1 should it be found, so we headed home via Cromer just in case, but as it happened there was no sign of the bunting.

NORWICH: Skywatching

26th May 2014

After a busy few months I was relaxing at home when I noticed a couple of twitter messages from the Peregrine watchpoint at the cathedral, where the volunteers had seen a Booted Eagle fly over heading north. The highest point around Norwich to look out for raptors would probably be St James' Hill at Mousehold, but it would have already been past there so I decided to go into the back garden and just watch the skies for a while. This actually proved quite successful, as I saw two Buzzards and a Peregrine, both garden ticks. By the time I came in for lunch there had been several other sightings, including one from the A47 level with Whitlingham. More sightings were reported later in the afternoon too, although so far no photos have emerged.

NORTH NORFOLK: Titchwell in May

25th May 2014

Having not been birding for a while, Cathy fancied a trip out, so we headed to Titchwell. Despite the nice weather it wasn't particularly busy, and quite a few of the people we did see seemed to be more interested in the beach than birds. Avian highlights were a brood of Red-crested Pochard ducklings, two Little Gulls and an offshore Red-throated Diver, but we also enjoyed close views of Common Terns and Avocets, along with a very tame Robin in the picnic area.

As well as the birdlife we also saw Hairy Dragonfly, Four-spotted Chaser, Azure damselflies, Blue-tailed damselflies, Red Admirals and a Large Skipper. Cathy found some Green Dock Beetles, and a Garden Tiger Moth caterpillar was on the edge of the path. On the meadow trail lots of Southern Marsh Orchids were in flower, and a white-flowered Ragged Robin stuck out from the usual pink ones.

WHITLINGHAM: Shelduck and Mayflies

17th May 2014

The hottest day of the year so far can generally be taken as a bad time to visit Whitlingham, but as I had the WeBS counts to do this weekend I went anyway. Wildfowl numbers were generally low, but there appeared to be ten broods of Greylags spread out along the shore. It is difficult to be sure, as some families sort of 'creche' the young, but when I allowed for this (and also taking into account size difference and groups that I have seen on previous visits) ten is still an awful lot of geese. Other than the goslings a Kingfisher was the avian highlight at Whitlingham, however across the river at Thorpe two Shelduck on the broad were a welcome sight. They were my first record here for three years - the last being a flock of 6 that flew over Thorpe on 11th May 2011.

Orange-tip and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were numerous, and there were also a couple of Brimstones. As I walked further around the broad I stopped on several occasions to watch the dancing Mayflies. On one of these occasions I noticed one in a clump of rushes. I gently parted a few rushes to get a better view of it when the Mayfly put one of its legs onto my finger. I let it crawl on and took one photo before it launched off and into the air to join its contemporaries.

The Mayfly (Ephemera vulgata)

Along the north shore I spotted a dragonfly that had landed on a dried umbellifer stem. It was my first Hairy Dragonfly of the year, and as I approached it flew up and landed high up on a bank of brambles, in view but at an almost un-photographable angle. Further along I had no such problems with an obliging male Banded Demoiselle, which was content to sit close to the path. My final sighting of the day was of a hoverfly, thankfully one that can be identified by sight rather than dissection. It was Leucozona lucorum, a bumblebee mimic.

WHITLINGHAM: More migrants & lots of invertebrates

14th May 2014

Having been busy at the weekend I headed down to Whitlingham this evening to make the most of the sunshine. I popped into Trowse Woods on the way to double-check the small patch of Wild Garlic for Ramsons Hoverflies. This species is the NBIS species of the month, and the added attention has meant new records from several locations around the county. Wild Garlic isn't particularly common around Norwich, and there were no hoverflies around this particular few plants.

Whitlingham was busy, with some sort of swimming competition going on. The constant splashing of the swimmers created a sound rather similar to walking along a swiftly-flowing river. Once the swimming had stopped, peace descended and in fact most of the birds I saw were picked up by song or call. This started with three Common Terns chasing each other over the broad, followed by some Swifts overhead. Next up was a pair of Garden Warblers, showing well amongst some willows.

Further along I was checking the riverside scrub when I heard a Lesser Whitethroat singing from a Hawthorn bush. Although annual, I seldom see more than one a year so this was a good sighting. Well in theory it was a good sighting - in reality it was a rubbish sighting as it stayed steadfastly in the middle of the bush, only showing occasionally. There wasn't much in the conservation area or across the river, but a Bullfinch called from the east end of the broad. Walking back along the south shore I passed at least six broods of Greylag Geese, plus two broods of Canada Geese and one of Egyptian Geese.

In addition to the aforementioned birdlife, the nettle beds were awash with invertebrates. Lots of moths were flying, mostly a Carpet sp (looked like Garden Carpet but I never saw one settled) and Common Marbled Moth. 2-spot, 7-spot and Harlequin Ladybirds were common, along with some powdery-green Weevils (there are several similar species). Other species included Soldier Beetles, Common Blue Damselflies and a Red-and-black Froghopper.

NORWICH: Procumbent Pearlwort

14th May 2014

Occasionally when I'm looking through the Flora of Norfolk I see that there are loads of species I haven't seen that have been recorded from Norwich city centre. Some of them may be tucked away or no longer found here, but the rest I'm probably just overlooking. That was definitely the case with Procumbent Pearlwort (also known as Mossy Pearlwort), which I have seen growing on the old city walls near Chapelfield for ages, but only actually identified today. Also of note in the Chapelfield area was a Blackbird with white on the head, perhaps a relative of the white-and-blackbird present several years ago.

NORFOLK: Bird race and invertebrate photos

4th May 2014

Today I went for a bird race around Norfolk with Gary and Adam. If you have already read Gary's description of the day then there probably isn't much point reading this too unless you're really keen. To make mine different I have used photos of invertebrates instead of birds. We counted heard and seen birds, although tried to see as many as possible.

Gary picked me up from Norwich just before 0400, and we headed down to Santon Downham, seeing a couple of Roe Deer and a Muntjac in the woods nearby. The temperature had dipped to -1, and the landscape was frosty with mist rising above the river and meadows. As the river is the county boundary between Suffolk and Norfolk we had to keep an eye on where the birds were, particularly in flight. We didn't manage to catch up with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but we did see Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Willow Tit and Common Crossbill. Water Rail, Mandarin and Grey Wagtail were also good birds to get early on. A Cuckoo called constantly unseen, and a Turtle Dove was also added to the 'heard' list.

Walking back to the road we then tried out some of the clearings and riverside scrub on the Santon Warren/St Helens side. We saw another pair of Mandarin, Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskins and a Tree Pipit, plus a few more common bits and bobs. From here we headed to Lynford Arboretum, where we lucked in on one of the male Two-barred Crossbills (along with the debated bird) drinking from the puddle in the walled garden. Heading to the paddocks we had a brief listen for Wood Warbler, before heading back through the arboretum. We saw our first geese (Greylag and Canada) on the lake, and added Firecrest too.

We walked back past the car to Lynford Water, adding Great-crested Grebe, Shelduck, Egyptian Goose and Gadwall. On the side of the hide I spotted an unusual spider, which turned out to be Marpissa muscosa, rare in Norfolk (only found in the Brecks, this sighting is the first in several years according to the county recorder).

Next stop was Weeting Heath (adding Collared Dove and House Sparrow on the way). The warden recommended East Hide, and a Stone Curlew was showing well. At one point it stole a mole off a Jackdaw and tried to eat it. The mole was dead (it would have been an unexpected way to get a mammal record - I haven't seen an alive mole). With little else at Weeting, we headed to Lakenheath, unavoidably seeing a Green Woodpecker in Suffolk as we pulled in. You used to be able to walk straight from the car park to the washland viewpoint to look into Norfolk, but the paths have been changed so you know have to go to the visitors centre and then double back, wasting valuable minutes. We added a few birds at Hockwold, of which Hobby and Common Tern were of note.

Last visit of the morning was to Welney. As we watched a flock of hirundines from the car park a Red Kite flew over. From the main hide complex we added Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and Whooper Swan. The 'guide in the hide' was particularly helpful, and as we were heading down to one of the hides to look for a Great White Egret he came out to tell us he had just seen it fly past in the opposite direction. We eventually found it (along with some Yellow Wagtails), but as we got back to the main hide another G.W. Egret was visible, flying onto the marsh in front of us. On the walkway back to the visitors centre I spotted our first Swifts. In invertebrate news a Common Malachite Beetle was in the hide.

On the road again, picking up Feral Pigeon and Common Buzzard, we stopped at Pentney gravel pits. This could have been a trump card, but instead it was just trump. We added one bird, a Great Black-backed Gull loafing with other gulls. Roydon Common was next, where we worked hard for a Stonechat, Curlew and Wheatear. Lots of Small Coppers were on the wing, along with a Common Heath moth. At Flitcham the Little Owl was out of sight, but there was a Yellow-legged Gull, so it wasn't a complete waste. We scanned the hedgerows nearby for Tree Sparrows without success.

News had come through on Gary's pager that a couple of Dotterel were still present at Choseley, and luckily for us when we arrived there were a handful of birders there with their 'scopes on them. We saw Grey Partridges near the drying barns, before heading down to Titchwell. We passed the 100 mark with some common waders, and also saw drake Red-crested Pochard, a pair of Garganey and a Greenshank. Little and Sandwich Terns flew past, and there was a small flock of Common Scoter on the sea. A Bearded Tit showed well near the main path, and a Sand Martin flew overhead.

With time getting on we headed back to Choseley, finally seeing a Corn Bunting on one of the wires. Heading along the coast road we made several stops, adding Short-eared owl, Spoonbill and Whimbrel to the tally. We decided to head to Kelling Heath, which may have been a mistake, as we only 'upgraded' Turtle Dove from heard to seen. At Cley we walked past the Eye field to scan the scrapes, adding distant Ringed Plover and Common Gull. Our final stop of the day was Salthouse Heath, where we heard and fleetingly saw a Nightingale. We also saw a Muntjac Deer and a Bat sp, before waiting a while in case an early Nightjar had returned. The final bird of the day was a Tawny Owl that flew across the road just after Holt. My final tally was 133 (127 seen plus 6 heard only).

WHITLINGHAM: Cuckoo, Garden Warbler & Goslings

28th April 2014

Having been busy at the weekend it was Monday evening before I managed to get to Whitlingham. It was overcast and a bit murky, and most of the birdsong was rather muted. As I headed round the broad I heard the call of a Cuckoo coming from the main island, and eventually I got a brief view in one of the tall trees. At that point I heard another Cuckoo, further away towards Thorpe. Continuing along I saw my first Reed and Garden Warblers of the year, along with a couple of Whitethroats and lots of Blackcaps. I dutifully scanned through the hirundines skimming the broad, all of which were Swallows or House Martins.

Walking back along the south shore there was a bit of a gosling-fest, with three broods of Greylags (11,3,3), the first Canada Geese (3), Egyptian Goose (5) and some fast-growing-up piebald Domestic Mallards (3).

Goose broods (foreground Egyptian, middle Canada and far Greylag). Plus bonus Mute Swan.