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: Bugs & beetles

30th August 2014

Saturday saw me heading to Sheringham Park for the first of two NNNS wildlife workshops that I have booked onto this autumn. The subject of this one was beetles and bugs, and it was lead by our county bug recorder Rob Coleman and British Bugs webmaster Dr Tristan Bantock. After an introductory talk about the differences between beetles, bugs and the families that make them up we headed out to look for beetles. Initially we checked under log piles, finding a range of Carabids, including a relative of the Violet Ground Beetle. We followed this by checking a number of pitfall traps that had been set two days ago.

The large ground beetle species, Carabus problematicus

After releasing the beetles we headed to an area of wildflower meadow to practice using sweep-nets. Using this technique we caught several different bugs (and lots of spiders!). After a break for lunch we returned to the field, this time using beating trays to sample bugs from trees and shrubs. I teamed up with Tim Hodge, our best find being the planthopper Issus coleoptratus. Before returning to the classroom we targeted a Silver Birch for Birch Catkin Bugs, finding some larvae but no adults. After our surveying we then spent 45 minutes with some set specimens and microscopes to try out some dichotomous keys.

This was a very interesting day, and I picked up some useful information on identification, sampling techniques and literature.

NORWICH: City centre Willow Emeralds

29th August 2014

Earlier in the year I had been contacted by a reader who told me about some newts and terrapins at Cow Tower pond in Norwich. I went and saw the newts one day after work, but I didn't see the terrapins and as I no longer go that way regularly had rather forgotten about them. That was until yesterday, when Steve on BirdForum commented that he had seen them, and also Willow Emerald damselflies, a rapidly spreading species that was only seen in Norfolk for the first time about five years ago. Interested to see the Willow Emeralds in the city I called in after work and despite the windy conditions found one on a reed stem. Incidentally I still didn't see the terrapins (although I heard one plop into the pond from the vegetation). Has anyone managed to photograph them to ascertain the ID?

Willow Emerald - a welcome addition to the city centre odonata


27th August 2014

This evening I joined members of the Norwich Bat Group for a walk around Whitlingham Great Broad. We met in the car park at eight, and after a brief talk we set off in a clockwise direction. In addition to the standard heterodyne bat detectors Sam (leading the walk) had an Anabat Recorder capable of making recordings, whilst two other members had detectors that plugged into iPads, allowing us to see real-time sonograms of the bats we were detecting. This technology was not only visually interesting, but also allowed the bat species to be identified with more certainty than using the standard detectors.

The first bat of the evening was a Noctule, Britain's largest bat. It is often easy to see Noctules at Whitlingham just after dusk, but this one only showed in brief glimpses as it hunted near the river. Our second bat showed much better, a Soprano Pipistrelle hunting under a Horse Chestnut tree on the riverbank. As we continued round we detected many more Soprano Pipistrelles and Noctules, and also a scattering of Common Pipistrelles

As we walked back along the south shore we stopped at regular intervals to look and listen for Daubenton's Bats hunting low over the water. We didn't find any, but we did find a scarcer species, Nathusius' Pipistrelle. This species is also associated with water, and up until recently was considered to be rather rare. Having detected one, we then found another when we were almost back to the car park. The light coming from the watersports centre and the city were enough to allow us to get good views of the bat as it flew close to us along the waters edge.

Nathusius' Pipistrelle is a new species for me, and my 7th bat (I have managed to see all seven at Whitlingham too). Norfolk has 12 regular bat species - of the remaining five there are two that I hope to see at some point, Barbastelle and Serotine. Leisler's Bat is mostly restricted to occasional sightings near Thetford Forest (although there is a record on the Norwich Bat Group website for Whitlingham), whilst Whiskered and Brandt's Bats are rare and very difficult to separate.

Thanks to Sam and the Norwich Bat Group for leading the walk and for helping me add another species to my patch list!

You can find out more about the Norwich Bat Group via their website: and you may be interested in finding out what bats are present in your area by taking part in the Norfolk Bat Survey, details here:

YARE VALLEY: Great Green Bush Crickets & Willow Emeralds

24th August 2014

Today we took advantage of the sunny weather to look for another one of this years target species, Great Green Bush Cricket. This species is scarce in Norfolk, only being found in the Reedham area and an area close to the border with Suffolk in the Brecks. Great Green Bush Crickets can be easy to locate in the right areas because they make a loud stridulating sound a bit like a sowing machine, however despite their large size they can be hard to find when they stop making a noise. We had previously tried to find them in 2012, and had located several crickets without managing to see them. This time we tried the area near Petitts (animal adventure park) on the recommendation of Ben, and straight away I heard a Great Green Bush Cricket in a patch of brambles. After a few minutes of searching I found it and managed to get some photos before crawling deeper into the bush. Cathy & Margaret came over a short while later and it steadfastly refused to show again.

After the crickets we called in at Strumpshaw Fen, where I was hoping to photograph the Willow Emerald damselflies, as the first time I saw them here I had forgotten my camera. We walked around the back entrance to the reserve, stopping to scan into the ditch at regular intervals. It didn't take long to locate a Willow Emerald, which perched up within photographic range. However on our way back another visitor had found one on a dead thistle stem that allowed very close views, which was excellent. Strumpshaw was teaming with insects - we saw Short-winged Coneheads, loads of Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters, lots of Dock Bugs, Green Shieldbugs and a Snout (moth).

WHITLINGHAM: Thinking smaller

On my last visit to Whitlingham I was rather dispirited by the lack of birds, and was checking the vegetation in the hope of a new invertebrate to enliven the visit. I stopped at a patch of Burdock near the slipway and immediately noticed a ladybird. It was an Orange Ladybird, quite common around here. I kept looking, and found three 22-spot Ladybirds, also quite common. I was about to walk on when I noticed that many of the burdock leaves were a whitish colour. This was Burdock Mildew. I double-checked with the county fungus recorder in case there were other species of mildew growing on Burdock, but none have been recorded. Burdock Mildew is probably very common, but so few people are interested in mildews that this was only the fourth county record! Having finally sorted out my lists this was my 749th species at Whitlingham and my 1006th in the Norwich area.

Orange Ladybird
22-spot Ladybird
Burdock Mildew

MID-NORFOLK: Crayfish bonanza

14th August 2014

With only a few days holiday left, Cathy, Margaret & I went to Pensthorpe for a look round. Luckily we were on a covered trailer ride when the heaviest rain was falling, and after lunch the weather cleared up. We had a look around the wildfowl collection, but the highlight of the day came at the river, where we found loads of White-clawed Crayfish. The River Wensum is one of very few Norfolk rivers that still hold this species, and I had only previously seen one on a river survey for my Aquatic Ecology studies at UEA ten years ago. Having got our eye in they were easy to pick out as they lumbered along the bottom of the river.

Another highlight was a Clouded Yellow butterfly spotted by Cathy as it flew over an area of wildflowers. Unlike the ones we saw on Tuesday this one regularly stopped to nectar (mostly on Black Knapweed). Always fairly distant, I at least managed to get a record shot of it. On the bird front we got good views of a Coal Tit from the cafe and Goldcrests near the Red Squirrel enclosure. As we headed back I noticed a new hoverfly for me, Myathropa florea.

NORTH NORFOLK: Great Hautbois church

13th August 2014

A visit to North Walsham to see friends gave us an opportunity to call in to another picturesque ruin, this time Great Hautbois church. The church is unusual in that the majority of it is still standing but the roof is missing. The inside of the church is now grassed over, with headstones in too. The path down to it along a meadow was full of Speckled Wood butterflies, along with Brown & Migrant Hawkers. Back at the car I noticed some interesting galls on what I think is Salix, which I am still trying to identify.

NORTH NORFOLK: Creake Abbey & butterflies

12th August 2014

Today we headed out to North Norfolk to visit an English Heritage site, Creake Abbey. On wires nearby Swallows and House Martins were gathering, and a few Swifts were still around nearby. The abbey was nice, if rather small. The wildlife highlight was a Wall butterfly.

Wall butterfly and Pellitory-of-the-Wall, on a wall.

After visiting the abbey we had a look in the nearby courtyard cafe, but it looked a bit posh (12 Quail's eggs anyone?), so we headed to Titchwell for lunch. Afterwards we stopped briefly at Choseley where at least three Clouded Yellows were flying over a field of Lucerne and leguminous plants (a fodder crop maybe?). They didn't settle whilst we were there, but it was still nice to see them as I failed to see any in 2013 despite the influx.

WHITLINGHAM: August count & Egyptian goslings

8th August 2014

With inclement weather forecast for the weekend I decided to get this months wildfowl count done early. The rain was holding off, but it was humid and the smell of the sewage works lingered in the air. A Grey Heron was the pick of the birds on the Little Broad. Counting the birds near the slipway had been made more difficult by a visitor who had emptied a bin-bag worth of bread chunks out, whipping the ducks and swans into a frenzy. I doubt this applies to many readers of my blog, but if you do want to feed the ducks (and it is a good way of engaging young children with birds) then please use seed. The bread doesn't have much nutritional value for the birds, but makes them feel full so they end up malnourished - for example the Canada Geese currently at Whitlingham with 'angel wings'.

Carrying on around the broad two Common Terns, an adult and a juvenile, where on one of the platforms until they were scared off by a Cormorant. Large gulls were beginning to gather for a pre-roost bathe, but there was no sign of any scarcer species. Looking across to Thorpe Broad a pair of Oystercatchers were on the shingle spit. I scanned the river at regular intervals, hoping to see the ringed Cormorant, but it wasn't a great surprise not to see it as a number of boats had gone past. Back on the great broad four Tufted Ducks were the highlight in the conservation area bay. Just past the outdoor education centre a pair of Egyptian Geese had eight young goslings, which was nice to see.

In non avian sightings there were  couple of different Ichneumon wasps about, which I don't hold out much hope of identifying. More 22-spot Ladybirds were present, this time on a burdock plant. I did add a new species to my patch list, the common but unobtrusive plant Spear-leaved Orache.

Ichneumon Wasp sp.
Spear-leaved Orache

WHITLINGHAM: Ringed Cormorant

1st August 2014

Yesterday I received an email to say that a local birder had seen a Cormorant with a metal ring on one of the legs along the river at Whitlingham. Unlike coloured rings, which are designed to be read in the field, metal rings are usually only read if a bird is re-trapped, found dead or very close to the observer. If we could trace the origins of this bird it would allow us to find out where it comes from - currently I have no idea where the Cormorants that winter at Whitlingham spend the summer. I'll be keeping an eye out for this bird, but if anyone reading this is a photographer, next time you are at Whitlingham please have a look at the Cormorants, and if you see one with a ring, see if you can get some photos.  I would be very grateful for any information on this bird (or indeed any other ringed/wing-tagged birds seen in the area).