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: Titchwell & Thornham

24th January 2015

This weekend was my birthday weekend, and as I hadn't been to the North Norfolk coast yet this year I went to Titchwell with Cathy & Margaret. We saw some Pintail and a nice range of waders, many of which showed close to the main path. One of the Avocets had a red and blue ring on one of the legs, but unfortunately the other leg wasn't visible so I couldn't find which scheme the bird was from. On our way back to the car a small group of birders was watching a Woodcock near the path, but it was only fleetingly visible so we eventually gave up trying to see it and carried on.

Before heading home we went further along the coast road to Thornham harbour. A flock of small birds were flying around, and we tracked them down nearby, confirming that they were Twite. They perched up in the Sueada, so no chance of checking them for rings. On our way back to Norwich we saw ten Grey Partridges and two Brown Hares.

Back in Norwich I saw a Peregrine fly over towards the Roman Catholic cathedral and we were just in time to drive underneath the Starling murmuration at the St Stephens roundabout.

NORWICH: Starling murmuration

23rd January 2015

Over the winter there has been an impressive Starling murmuration over Norwich, mainly around the Chapelfield/St Stephen's Street area. In the darkest days of winter it has been hapeening whilst I'm still at work, but recently I have been able to go and have a look on my way home. If you live or work around the city I highly recommend trying to see it.

WHITLINGHAM: January counts

18th January 2015

I was looking forward to todays WeBS counts, with the forecast cold weather raising the possibility of some winter ducks appearing. I was also wary of the possibility of snow showers inhibiting visibility and impeding the counts. As it happened, I needn't have worried. The overnight chill amounted to a light frost, and there was no snow or precipitation of any sort. I arrived to an eerie landscape broken only by the yaffling of a Green Woodpecker, but departed to a bright day full of runners, dog walkers and other park visitors.

Ducks were spread across the Little Broad, making the counting process that bit more difficult. The pick of the bunch was six Shovelers together at the eastern end. On the Great Broad I scanned through the Black-headed Gulls for ringed birds, unsuccessfully. Further along I did find a red-ringed Herring Gull. Although too distant to read the ring from the south shore I did locate the bird again from the bird screen. It was VKB, a gull ringed as a pullus at Havergate Island in 2012. I had seen it previously here in 2014, and several other birders have also reported it from here.

I had been hoping to find the Great Northern Diver that had gone missing from the Strumpshaw/Rockland area, but there was no sign of it. The 2009/10 bird took several weeks to make its way to Whitlingham, so I would advise everyone to be on the lookout. With no other new wildfowl I completed my counts. The combined counts for Little Broad, Great Broad and Thorpe Broad included 80 Pochard, 220 Tufted Ducks, 209 Gadwall, 104+ Teal, 232 Coot and nearly 500 Black-headed Gulls. I did repeatedly check for the Mediterranean Gull, but as it turns out it was still at Thorpe St Andrew and unfortunately you can't see the green from Whitlingham.

NORTH WALSHAM AREA: Ebridge & Witton Woods

11th January 2015

Having given Cathy & Sophie a lift to North Walsham I had a couple of hours free to do a bit of birding. I decided to go to Ebridge Mill, and firstly walked along the western side of the old canal. A Grey Wagtail flew past, several Meadow Pipits called and I could hear Teal in the distance. Two Buzzards circling over Witton Woods were my first of the year. About halfway along the path I looked across and spotted two Muntjac Deer. The one in front was aware of my presence, but was content with the distance between us and kept browsing. I moved slightly further back and watched them as they fed amongst the rushes.

Having reached the end of the path I retraced my steps and then took the permissive path across to Witton Woods. Some Redwings called from the hedgerow before I entered the woods. There were quite a few walkers about, so I took a small path through some young trees, flushing another Muntjac Deer which bounded off from the path. In the coniferous part of the wood I saw some Goldcrests and Coal Tits. Possibly the most interesting sighting of the trip was a leaf-mine in Primrose leaves. Having looked for the organism that makes the mines it seems likely that it is a type of fly that is very scarce locally, although I'm still hoping to find a leaf-mining diptera expert to confirm my ID!

NORWICH: Thorpe St Andrew Med Gull

11th January 2015

On Saturday afternoon Justin had found a Mediterranean Gull with a flock of Black-headed Gulls on the riverside green at Thorpe St Andrew. I had never seen a Med Gull near Norwich, and the green is within a stones throw of Whitlingham too (I use the railway line as my arbitrary patch boundary). Considering this I popped down to Thorpe on Sunday morning in the hope that it was still around.

I arrived at around nine, and had the green almost to myself. There were hardly any gulls, so I kept scanning the tops of the lamp-posts where the Black-headed Gulls seemed to be congregating. I sat down on one of the benches and soon the gulls began to arrive and group together along the edge of the green. After several scans I had found the two ringed Black-headed Gulls that Justin had also seen yesterday, but no sign of the Med. By this time the gulls had been scared into the water by a dog, but upon their return I noticed the 1st-winter Med Gull had joined them. It was close, allowing excellent views, but it was constantly preening, making for rubbish photos.

I had rather resigned myself to not patch-ticking the gull when more dog walkers sent the gulls into the air. The Med Gull was easy to keep track of, and it flew over the river but then back round and landed back on the green. Less than a minute later the flock were put up again, but this time some canoeists went past and the Med Gull flew up, over the railway line and well into Whitlingham airspace. Hopefully it will hang around for a while, because it would be nice to see it on the Great Broad rather than just in the air close by!

1st-winter Mediterranean Gull
Colour-ringed Black-headed Gull J0AR

EAST NORFOLK: Time & Tide Museum

10th January 2015

Having enjoyed the Wonder of Birds exhibition at the Castle Museum last year I had mentioned to Cathy that I would like to see the Waterways exhibition, focusing on art and nature of the broads. This one is being held at the Time & Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth, a place neither of us had visited before. The exhibition is at the end of a loop, so before we got there we looked around the rest of the museum. The first part has recreated part of the tightly packed 'rows' district, and if you buy a guidebook you can borrow handsets that tell you about the people who lived and worked there in authentic Norfolk accents.

The next section was devoted to the Herring industry, and as it features the original curing houses there was still a smell of fish in the air (we didn't mind it, but some might). Upstairs was a series of rooms with artifacts from Yarmouth through the ages, plus some stone arrowheads and borrowed real Woolly Mammoth fur. After going through a room dedicated to World War II we arrived at the broads exhibition. The first room had some excellent photography from Great Yarmouth High School and East Norfolk Sixth Form. Further along were some sketches from Arthur Patterson and several photos from famous namesake (and distant relative??) P.H. Emerson. The amount of broadland pictures and photos was perhaps less than I had expected, but it was very nicely laid out.

If you find yourself with some free time in Yarmouth and are interested in local history then I would highly recommend a visit - take into account the museum is only open 12-4 though.

 The Rows (recreations of local houses/shops)
 Fisherman selling Herring
 A person from East Norfolk
The one on the left is from Whitlingham, hurrah!

2015 Target species

During 2014 I came up with a list of 30 target species that I wanted to see. By the end of the year I had managed 12 of the 30. As well as the enjoyment of seeing species that in some cases I had wanted to see for years, it also ensured that I visited some different places, so I have decided to set myself a target list for this year too. Two things that became apparent from 2014 were that 30 species was too many to aim for, and that having birds on the list was rather pointless (most of the birds I would like to see are difficult to predict where and when they will occur, and I'd go to see them regardless of whether they were on the list). So for 2015 I have come up with 20 species, 12 carried over from 2014 and eight 'new' ones.

My 2015 Targets:
1) Barbastelle Bat (Carried over from 2014) - I tried to see these at Paston Barn but without success. Norwich Bat Group did see some at a wood south of Norwich, so that is another option.
2) Yellow-necked Mouse (Carried over from 2014) - To see these I'll need to attend a small-mammal trapping event at a site that has them - Seen at Wheatfen
3) Harbour Porpoise (New) - I have seen a dead one, and some distant fins on a Sheringham seawatch that were probably Harbour Porpoises, but it would be nice to see an unequivical one.

4) Natterjack Toad (New) - I've wanted to see Natterjacks for a while, maybe this is the year!

5) Marbled White (Carried over from 2014) - I had hoped to see these at Devil's Dyke last year but didn't get round to going - Seen at Devil's Dyke
(If any Yellow-legged Tortoiseshells successfully overwintered I'd like to see those too)

(I didn't see Lesser Emperor at Filby in 2014 - if any are seen again here or Felbrigg I'd like to see one) - Lesser Emperor seen at Ormesby Little Broad

6) Hornet Moth (Carried over from 2014) - I hope to find a fairly local site for these.
7) Scorched Wing Moth (Carried over from 2014) - Seen at Mannington Hall

Other insects
8) Rhododendron Leafhopper (New) - Very little eats Rhododendrons, but these do and they look cool. Present at Sheringham Park, maybe also places like Holt CP? (Update - I have been told they occur at Hoveton Hall Gardens, so that sounds like a good bet, provided they are open to the public at the time the leafhoppers are out). See here: - Seen at Sheringham Park and Somerleyton Hall
9) A Mining Bee sp. (New) - These banded bees are often quite specific to a single plant. Scabious Mining Bee occurs at Earlham Cemetery, whilst Sea Aster Mining Bee is locally common along the North Norfolk coast and Ivy Bee spread to Norfolk last year. - Scabious Mining Bee seen at Earlham Cemetery
10) A new Shieldbug sp. (New) - I haven't seen that many, so this should be fairly simple. Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug ( or Juniper Shieldbug ( would be good. - Bronze Shieldbug seen at Whitlingham, Forget-me-not Shieldbug seen in Norwich.

11) Hoof Fungus (New) - Spreading into Norfolk, present at several sites including Deringham Bog.
12) One of the red Waxcap sp. (New) - Either Scarlet or Crimson Waxcap would be nice.
13) Fluted Bird's Nest Fungus (New) - Having seen Common & Field Bird's Nests I'd very much like to see this one. I don't know of any seen in the past few years in Norfolk though (

14) Narrow Buckler Fern (Carried over from 2014) - BSBI maps suggest these occur close to Norwich so I may just need to work on my fern ID!

15) Frog Orchid (Carried over from 2014) - I had hoped to get to Wink's Meadow last year but didn't get time - Seen at Wink's Meadow.
16) Lizard Orchid (Carried over from 2014) - seen in Norfolk.

Other flowering plants
17) Purple Broomrape (Carried over from 2014) - Present in north-east Norfolk, although I failed to find it near Overstrand several years ago.
18) Chaffweed (Carried over from 2014) - Only present at one site in Norfolk, I didn't get round to visiting last year.
19) Any Breckland Speedwell sp (Carried over from 2014) - We visited a site for two of these last year but were in slightly the wrong place - I have some proper directions this time!
20) Maiden Pink (Carried over from 2014) - One of loads of Breckland plants I've never seen.

So there we are, the 20 (plus two possible extras) species that I hope to track down this year in between the Whitlingham visits and birding. Incidentally my Whitlingham all-species list is currently just over 810 species, so I hope to push that towards the 850 mark too.

WHITLINGHAM: A few more birds & BSBI plant hunt

3rd January 2014

A grey and rainy day, but with my Christmas holiday coming to a close I decided to give Whitlingham a look anyway. The Little Broad was rather low on ducks, but it turned out that many of them had simply moved on to the Great Broad. Near the bird screen a Snipe flew up out of the vegetation and across the bay. There was no sign of any Little Grebes (perhaps on the river?) but a few Teal and Shoveler were still present. At least 50 Pochard were on the Great Broad, with good numbers of Tufted Ducks and Gadwall, but nothing out of the ordinary. As I went round I paid particular attention to the tit flocks, trying to find one of the overwintering Chiffchaffs. I didn't see any, but this approach did pay off with a Goldcrest and a Treecreeper. A couple of Marsh Tits were also of note, and my Whitlingham list is now up to 40.

In addition to looking for birds I was also keeping an eye out for flowering plants as the BSBI* were conducting a survey to see what plants were in flower across Britain between 1st-4th January. I managed 12, none of which were particularly unusual. There was quite a bit of fungi about too, the most interesting of which turned out to be some circles on violet leaves. I suspect whatever it turns out to be will be under-recorded - I initially thought that the damage might be caused by a leaf miner of some sort.
Possibly Ramularia lactea on a Viola leaf
Beech Tar Crust

* The Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland


I have now completed the Whitlingham Bird Report for 2014, based on a combination of my sightings, those told or emailed to me by other local birders and sightings posted on the internet. Hopefully other local birders will find something of interest amongst it. You can download a copy from this link: .


1st January 2015

Having stayed overnight in North Walsham my first bird of the year came in the form of a flock of Long-tailed Tits. I heard them calling outside, and looking out of the window they were in a nearby Silver Birch tree before flying into the hedge a couple of feet from the house. We saw another five species from the house, combined with a few more on the journey back to Norwich.

After lunch Cathy & I headed to Whitlingham for a quick look around. On the way down Whitlingham Lane it became apparent that not only was it quite busy, but quite a few people had got together and made a new year's resolution to ignore the path and wander obliviously down the road. I'm not convinced they will be able to keep it up all through the year though.

Having safely dodged the pedestrians we set out back towards the Little Broad, passing a flock of 32 Greylags on the meadow. We quickly added Gadwall and Tufted Duck to the year list, whilst Cathy spotted a sleeping Wigeon (a bird I didn't see here until December in 2014) along the far shore. A bit further round was a Shoveler, and there were two more at the east end. There were hardly any small birds around, but we did stop to look at a log with a lot of Olive Oysterling fungi on.

Scanning across the Great Broad Cathy pointed out a Cormorant that was acting strangely. Upon closer inspection it became apparent that it had caught an Eel and was trying to swallow it. This took quite a while, and even when it had got the Eel completely inside you could still see it squirming in the Cormorant's throat. As we carried on I looked through the gulls and noticed a 1st-winter Great Black backed Gull, a decent January 1st bird here. It was defending a crust of bread against all comers. Further along we scanned towards the island, adding Grey Heron and Teal, whilst a Fieldfare flew over. We finished on 34 species, 25 of which were at Whitlingham.