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

WHITLINGHAM: Brief evening visit

23rd April 2015

Having heard that there had been Swifts and a Cuckoo at Whitlingham during the week I headed down for a bit after tea on Thursday. It was too late for any Swifts (I later found out there had been some earlier in the day) and I also didn't hear any of the crepuscular species that sometimes turn up in spring such as Nightingale and Grasshopper Warbler. The main songsters were Song Thrushes, and the Oystercatchers were also making a fair bit of noise. I walked back along the Lime tree avenue, getting excellent views of some bats flying past and over me (probably Soprano Pipistrelles).

WHITLINGHAM: April counts & more migrants

19th April 2015

Upon arrival at Whitlingham for April's WeBS count I spent the first few minutes scanning the meadows opposite for Ring Ouzels. There wasn't any, but I did hear my first Whitethroat of the year, and found a second one as well, both singing from the scrub near the archery range. A Peacock butterfly fluttered past, and a Sand Martin flew over.

At the Little Broad I picked out a Kingfisher perched up at the far end of the broad, although I only managed a couple of out-of-focus record shots before it flew off. There were still a pair of Tufted Ducks on the broad, along with Mute Swan and Coot on nests.

There wasn't any unusual wildfowl on the Great Broad, a drake Teal probably the most interesting. There was however broods of Greylag Geese (4 + 8), Canada Geese (6), Egyptian Geese (1) and Mallard (3). The downcast conditions brought a hirundine flock lower, allowing me to pick out my first House Martins of the year from the Swallows and Sand Martins. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were numerous, and I also heard my first Reed Warbler of the year too.The Oystercatcher pair that has taken up residence at Whitlingham in recent weeks were still present.

Scanning the shingle at Thorpe Marsh there was no sign of the Common Sandpipers present earlier in the week, but there was a lone Lapwing and some more hirundines overhead.

THORPE MARSH: Spring migrants and a catchup

14th April 2015

I haven't written up a few brief trips out, but probably not enough to do a full update post about. The highlight was an early local Common Tern, found at Whitlingham by Joe Harkness on 9th April. I was out at the time but was able to call in and see it later in the evening. Whilst the 9th April doesn't sound that early it was actually over a week earlier than my previous first  patch sighting, and may end up being the earliest site record (if you have seen an earlier one at Whitlingham then please let me know). I have also been enjoying watching the bees and bee flies in my front garden during the sunny spells we've had of late.

On the 14th I went to Thorpe Marsh after work, hoping to see some migrants. During the day a Ring Ouzel had been found at UEA (still a bird I don't have on my Norwich list), so I was hoping Thorpe would turn up one of them. I usually head to the scrape first, but knowing there had been some sandpipers on the shingle spit I headed there first. Some local kids were playing music, so I stayed long enough to pick out a Common Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper then headed round to the bird screen.

On the broad itself a brood of six small Mallard ducklings bobbed past, but there was little else of interest. A Sedge Warbler was in full song from the ditch nearby, and a second one was singing from the marsh between the path and the railway line. There were a lot of butterflies about, mostly Small Tortoiseshells. I also heard one each of Willow Warbler and Blackcap, and got great views of a hovering Kestrel. A pleasant evening to be out, and there's still plenty of time to find that Ouzel...

BRECKLAND: A Yare Valley outing

8th April 2015

On Wednesday a select bunch of Yare Valley birders embarked on a birding day out to the Brecks. Whilst I can't compete with Jim's erudite trip report ( or Ben's excellent Firecrest photos (, this is my brief summary of the day.

Ricky & I left Norwich just after six and travelled to a forest ride deep in the Brecks where we met Jim & Ben. We were hoping to locate some Golden Pheasants at a site that Jim had seen several in the past. We couldn't hear any calling, which we took as a bad sign, but nonetheless set off patrolling the rides and looking down the gaps between conifers. With no sign of any Goldies we eventually gave up, although good views of a Woodlark were of some consolation.

Jim previously lived in Suffolk, and his local knowledge allowed him to smuggle us across the border into Suffolk without alerting the border patrols. The omens were bad when I got out of Ricky's van to find that he had parked on an already-decaying dead squirrel. At this site too there was no sign of any Golden Pheasants. The highlight for me was Brittle Cinder fungus (Kretzschmaria deusta), whilst for the others probably a Nuthatch. With the smell of disappointment (or was it that squirrel?) in the air, we headed back into Norfolk.

We were running out of accessible Golden Pheasant sites, so we decided to switch focus to some other Breckland species. Santon Downham wasn't heaving with birders, but neither was it heaving with birds either. We saw some Mandarins, including one high up in a tree, plus Brambling, Lesser Redpoll and three drumming Woodpeckers, all Great-spotted. As we were preparing to leave Ben picked up a distant Goshawk over some nearby woodland.

As the day brightened up we headed to another Breckland site where we got some excellent views of a displaying Goshawk, which we all enjoyed very much. Afterwards we headed to East Wretham, having a good chat with the warden before saying goodbye to Ricky, who had to go to work. The remaining three of us headed off to Lynford Arboretum. We did spend a bit of time around the gate, seeing Brambling, Siskin and Nuthatch, but no Hawfinches. Having heard several Firecrests we finally got great views of one as it foraged amongst the Bluebell leaves, behaviour I'd never seen before from this species.

Leaving Lynford we did a bit of minor-road birding. Three Red Kites tussling over a field would have been a nice sight in itself, but they continued towards us and passed low over the car to give cracking Gigrin-eque views. A little way away we saw three Stone Curlews in a field. We all remarked that it was nice to see what they looked like without them being wobbled by heat haze.

Our final stop of the day was an area of forest where we hoped to see Willow Tit. We walked down the main path full of expectation. As it was we managed to save ourselves the trouble of writing out a pesky description for the rarities committee by not seeing any. We did see a Roe Deer. It stared back at us for quite some time, but as it turned away first we claimed victory over this denizen of the woods.

Despite missing out on the Golden Pheasants and Willow Tits we all had a good day out, thanks to Jim for composing our itinery, and to Jim & Ricky for sharing driving duties.

YARE VALLEY: Hardley Staithe

3rd April 2015

Over the past couple of weeks a drake Ring-necked Duck had been seen on-and-off at some fishing pits near Hardley Staithe. Having only seen females before I decided to head down to Hardley with Cathy & Margaret on Good Friday to see if it was still around. As we approached I wondered if we had taken a wrong turning, with the end of the road to the staithe looking a bit like a farmyard. Luckily we could see boats at the end and parked up at the end of the cut. A birder was just leaving, and told us that he had been present all morning and there was no sign of the Ring-necked Duck.

We carried on anyway, taking in the cold but scenic surroundings. Several birders were still present, so we stopped alongside them and scanned the pits for an hour or so in the hope that the bird would emerge from the reedy margins or fly in from Cantley. It didn't, but there was quite a bit to keep an eye on, including at least five Little Grebes, a Redshank and a pair of Shelduck. A female Scaup was also present, although it spent most of the time we were there asleep, so it took quite a while to confirm that it was definitely a Scaup. We were also treated to a hunting Short-eared Owl, initially in the distance, but later on quite a bit closer to the back of the pits. With no sign of the Ring-necked Duck we headed home the scenic route via Claxton and Rockland.


1st April 2015

On Wednesday Cathy & I took our mums to East Ruston Vicarage Gardens for a late Mother's Day trip (it was shut in March). Despite growing up nearby, I had never been before. We had a pleasant afternoon looking through the various different garden areas, followed by a big piece of cake in the tea room. In the summer I can imagine the gardens would be very good for insects, but because of the time of year we were mainly restricted to a few Bumblebees and Honey Bees. Bird-wise the highlight was a small flock of Yellowhammers. Before we left I noticed a couple of unusual ducks on a small pond. They were clearly hybrids of some sort, Dave Appleton has confirmed that they are Wood Duck x White-cheeked Pintail.

Afterwards we stopped at Walcott for ice cream, where we saw 18 Turnstones. I did keep scanning out to see whilst we were parked up, but didn't see anything of note passing through.