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: Natural Surroundings

27th May 2015

We hadn't been to Natural Surroundings since it had returned to the ownership of the Harraps, so we decided to pop in and have a look round. If you haven't been before, Natural Surroundings is near Glandford and is a mixture of a cafe/gift shop in the woods, a wild flower plant centre, landscaped gardens and river valley habitats. For birders it is notable for being the best place in the Cley square for seeing birds like Nuthatch and Great-spotted Woodpecker, both of which were present on feeders outside the cafe whilst we had lunch.

One of the recent developments is a length of boardwalk and a hide overlooking the river. We walked slowly along the boardwalk, checking out the damselflies that were landing in front of us. I had mixed feelings about the hide. It looks nice and well built, with windows all round allowing panoramic views of the area. However, as there is no shielding on the way up to it most birds would see you coming and fly off, rendering it a bit superfluous. I suppose once you are in it (and provided that few other people walk down to it) then you could get good views of Kingfishers along the river.

One of the results of the range of plants in the gardens is an excellent range of insect life. Some of the most interesting species evaded ID (notably a large sawfly with an orange abdomen and a smaller one with lime green markings), but I did manage to photograph my first Lacehopper, an interesting creature with highly patterned wings. A couple more new micro moths continued a recent purple patch for me.

The lacehopper Cixius nervosus

White-barred Gold Moth

After our walk we headed back to the cafe, where we enjoyed some huge bits of cheese on toast whilst watching the aforementioned woodpecker on the feeders. If any of this takes your fancy then the 'grand re-opening' is happening on Saturday 30th May, with free entry to the reserve and guided walks etc, so well worth a look. Details can be found here:

We meandered back to Norwich, checking out two roadside nature reserves looking for Purple Broomrape and Knapweed Broomrape, although as expected it proved too early in the season for either.

NORTH NORFOLK: Southrepps Common & environs

26th May 2015

Having given Cathy a lift to Tuttington I had a couple of hours free, so I decided to visit Southrepps Common. After a slight detour (the road to Felmingham was closed so I had to turn round and go via Colby) I parked up at Southrepps. The site is actually a collection of several commons, but I concentrated on the largest one, which is an SSSI. A few yards on to the boardwalk I saw a Muntjac Deer walking off into the undergrowth, and a large frog hopped across the path. Looking at some buttercups I noticed large numbers of a tiny golden micro moth in the flowers. These were the aptly names Plain Gold moth (thanks to Andy for the ID).

A bit further along I came to the main area of interest, a cut area containing some orchids. Being relatively early in the season all of the orchids seemed to be Southern Marsh Orchid. The site is also good for sedges apparently, but they are rather beyond my identification skills at the moment. The main species I wanted to see was Narrow Buckler Fern. I did see some tri-pinnate ferns that looked different from the Broad Buckler Fern in the nearby woods. The pinnae look right, but as the scales on the stem hadn't matured and that was the main feature I was going to use, I'm still not completely sure. Despite the likely looking conditions and sunny weather, two falcons flying overhead turned out to be Kestrels rather than Hobbies.

Leaving the common I headed along a public footpath through The Warren, a nearby woods. I didn't see much in the wood, but along the edge I saw Goldcrest, Whitethroat and most pleasingly a Spotted Flycatcher. Just afterwards I took a different path to the one I was aiming for, and ended up halfway between Southrepps and Trunch. Walking back I found lots of Early Purple Orchids on a couple of roadside verges, and also a Nelson plaque with 'site no. 37' written on it in pen. Do any local history enthusiasts know what this plaque is marking, and if there really is another 36+ of them around?

NORWICH: Earlham Cemetery plants & insects

24th May 2015

On Sunday the Friends of Earlham Cemetery had scheduled a guided walk looking at plants and insects. This plan was rather affected by the steady rain, but we still went round, mainly looking at plants but also noting any insects we did find. In the background we could hear the music from the second day of Radio 1's Big Weekend, although when Cathy & I were there on Saturday it seemed to be the DJs at the cocktail bar that were making more noise than the bands.

Heading over to the north-east corner of the cemetery we saw Meadow Saxifrage and Cuckoo Flower growing, and stopped to talk about the nail galls growing on the Lime trees. Whilst sheltering under a lime I spotted a tiny micro moth that turned out to be my first Lime Bent-wing. Further along we were shown the hybrid of Wood and Water Avens, and Ian explained the differences between Spanish and English Bluebells (most in the cemtery are Spanish).

Other interesting things that we saw included cherry galls growing on Oak catkins, Salad Burnet leaves (it was mentioned that this plant tends to get cut down every year before it flowers!) and we finished the walk at the pond in the memorial garden. Here Large Red and Azure Damselflies had just emerged and were being battered by rain drops. I noticed another tiny micro moth on a fern nearby, and identified it at home as Fern Smut moth, an under-recorded moth, indeed this appears to be the first TG20 record. Thanks to Stuart and Ian for their expertise and local knowledge in leading the walk.

NORFOLK BIRD FAIR - with bonus moths

17th May 2015

On Sunday Cathy, Margaret & I went to the Norfolk Bird &Wildlife Fair at Mannington Hall. Mannington is a lovely location, and we were lucky with the weather too.

We arrived in time to see the moth traps being opened. The cold weather overnight meant a relatively small return (with the exception of Cockchafers, which came forth from the traps like Scarab beetles in The Mummy). This didn't really matter, as one of the moths that was caught was a Scorched Wing, one of my target species from last year finally seen! Powdered Quaker and Least Black Arches were also new for me, whilst Great Prominent, Pebble Prominent and Chocolate-tip were nice to see again.

 Scorched Wing Moth

We had a look around the stalls and exhibitions, and everyone was very friendly. Before lunch we headed to the makeshift lecture theatre in the cafe, where we heard a talk from Simon Harrap about Norfolk's wildflowers. Later on we returned to hear Ieuan Evans describe the BTOs Cuckoo tracking scheme, before Bill Oddie delivered an ebullient talk about his childhood, influences and opinions on the current state of conservation. Around the site we saw Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Grey Wagtail, and in pig fields nearby there were lots of Stock Doves. We all enjoyed the day, however with many people remarking on the relatively small number of visitors it remains to be seen if the event will become a fixture in the calendar.

WHITLINGHAM: May count & a red fly

15th May 2015

With a busy weekend planned, I went down to Whitlingham on Friday evening to complete the May wildfowl count. The Great Broad resonated with the sound of Common Terns. Four were present, three resting on buoys and another one flying around. They called frequently too each other but as they were neither agressive nor actively feeding I wasn't sure why! On the wooden platform just west of the bird screen I picked out a Common Sandpiper bobbing up and down. Canada Geese seem to have done well this year, with five broods so far (four on the Great Broad and one at Thorpe), and another bird on a nest on the main island. Swifts, a male Gadwall and 20 Tufted Ducks were also of note.

It was a nice evening, so as I was going round I kept an eye out for invertebrates, adding several species to my patch list. I tracked a moth that flew past as it landed in some nettles and found it was a Green Carpet. A smaller but equally welcome moth flying around the gorse was a Grey Gorse Piercer. An unusual-looking metallic red fly had me stumped, but it turns out it is a green species (Gymnocheta viridis) that sometimes turns red with age. A final new species was an overdue fungus. I have begun work on a downloadable guide to Whitlingham's bracket fungi, and had been unable to find any records of Sulphur Polypore in my notes, so it was apt that I noticed it growing on a tree on the main island whilst 'scoping the gulls.

THORPE MARSH: Marsh Harrier & cinchbugs

11th May 2015

Monday was a particularly warm day, and after work I headed down to Thorpe Marsh for a look round. As I arrived some Swifts screeched overhead. In the past few days Swifts have arrived in force over Norwich, I'm now seeing them daily at home and at work. I met Jeremy Halls who works near Thorpe Marsh, and we started a circuit with a look over the broad from the shingle. There was very little of note on the broad, but then a male Marsh Harrier glided into view, looking resplendent in the sunlight. We watched it hunt back-and-forth before flying over the broad and away eastwards.

Further round we began to see damselflies, at least one Large Red and several teneral damselflies, probably Common Blue Damselflies. Butterflies like Peacock and Orange-tip were also flying around. Earlier in the month Jeremy had found a Stickleback nest in one of the dykes, but the vegetation had grown up and we could find it on this occasion. I took the opportunity to learn a bit more about some of marshland vegetation and as a result added a few more species to my all-taxa patch list, including Lesser Pond Sedge, Hard Rush and Spring Sedge.

A new invertebrate for my patch list was the European Cinchbug, which was numerous in one area of dykeside vegetation. I had only seen this species once previously - the day before in my back garden!

Donacia sp (tentitatively keyed out as Donacia simplex)

NORTH NORFOLK: Burnham Citril Finch

10th May 2015

On the way back from Ashwellthorpe I got a phone call from Ricky, asking if I wanted to go and see the Citril Finch at Burnham Overy. I had been aware of it in the morning, but because I'd been out I hadn't realised that it had settled down and shown well during the afternoon. Cathy kindly gave her assent, so after a quick bite to eat Ricky picked me and Andrew up and we set off for Holkham.

Parking up at Lady Anne's Drive we noted a couple of Brent Geese flying past, along with some noisy Oystercatchers and lots of Woodpigeons. We took a brisk walk along the pines until we emerged at a dell at the edge of the dunes. A small crowd (given the rarity f the bird) of around 30-40 people were watching the Citril Finch as it fed and hopped around part way up a dune. At times it showed well on the bare sand, although it also spent quite a bit of time obscurred behind a bramble.

After watching the Citril Finch for a while we set off back to the car, stopping every so often to scan the freshmarsh in the evening sunshine. On our way back we saw three Barn Owls. The first was flying over the marshes, but the second two were both perched up in trees near the road. The first was a typically pale individual (see photo) but the second bird, which unfortunately flew off as we neared it was buffer on the underparts. Many thanks to Ricky for the lift.

SOUTH NORFOLK: Bluebells, orchids & hoverflies

10th May 2015

For the past few years Cathy, Margaret & I have made a point of going to see the Bluebells in flower during the spring. Our favoured location is Ashwellthorpe Lower Wood, so we set off on Sunday to have a walk round. The Bluebells were out in abundance, and there was also a lot of Early Purple Orchids, Bugle, Wild Garlic, a single Twayblade and many other woodland plants.

Being an ancient woodland there were also lots of invertebrates to look at too. A particular target of mine was the Ramsons Hoverfly, a specialist species associated with Wild Garlic. Cathy was the first to find one, and we found quite a few after that. I managed to find the egg of an Orange Tip butterfly on some Cuckoo Flower, and there were many adults flying. Small nymphs of Dark Bush Crickets, Common Green Shieldbugs, Dock Bugs and Red-headed Cardinal Beetles were picked out, and I saw another new species in the form of a Kidney-spotted Ladybird on a tree trunk.

 Ramsons Hoverfly

We didn't see too many birds, but did get good views of a Nuthatch, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, whilst a Green Woodpecker yaffled unseen.

NORWICH: Forget-me-not Shieldbug

4th May 2015

One of my wildlife targets for this year was to see a new species of Shieldbug. Although I didn't have a particular species in mind (there are lots I haven't seen!), I thought Juniper Or Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug would be good. I was standing in my kitchen with a cup of tea, looking at the bees flying around the Green Alkanet in the backyard when I noticed a black Shieldbug walking along a stem. I nipped outside and potted it, and after a look at the excellent British Bugs website I identified it as Forget-me-not Shieldbug. Great to get a new species, and even better for being in the garden.

NORFOLK: Norfolk bird race

3rd May 2015

The first Sunday of May saw Gary, Adam & I head out for our annual Norfolk bird race. The following is an account of our day out, minus a couple of potential rare breeders (Bittern and Dartford Warbler), which we heard and saw respectively, at some point during the day. We all ended up with the same total this year, although at different points various people were up or down on the others, so their numbering may vary from mine.

As we left Norwich we saw a Fox running down the road. That was out only sighting of interest until we reached the Brecks, when a Tawny Owl that flew across the road became bird number one of the day. Last year when we reached Santon Downham the temperature was minus one, but this year we were greeted with drizzle and relatively warm temperatures. We walked downriver, hearing a range of common woodland birds. Treecreeper, Cuckoo and Garden Warbler were all reasonable additions to the list, and we also saw an Otter in the river. At the edge of the plantation we heard Kingfisher, saw Marsh Tit and heard a drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker. Green Woodpecker and Siskin were added on the way back, along with Grey Wagtails at the bridge.

Having recorded 42 species we headed across the road to St Helen's picnic site, where another three species were added, Mistle Thrush, Swallow and Pied Wagtail. From here we moved on to a nearby block of forest to look for Woodlarks. It turned out that there was a nice path, but instead we took a log strewn one that seemed to have been enlarged by a forester driving a monster truck. Nonetheless we emerged at a clearing where we were able to add Skylark, Woodlark and Tree Pipit, plus Yellowhammer nearby.

Next stop was Lynford Arboretum. We connected with our target of Firecrest, then headed down to the lake to see Little Grebe, Tufted Duck etc. On our way back we saw Nuthatch, having failed to see any at Santon. Across the road at Lynford Water there were loads of hirundines, Great-crested Grebe, Cetti's Warbler and Gadwall. We drove to Weeting (ticking Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Rook in the village) where a Stone Curlew showed well from the right-hand hide, along with Lapwing and Linnet.

My 70th species of the day came at around 10:00 at Welney when a Shoveler flew over as we got out of the car. We added several species from Lady Fen, including Black-tailed Godwit, Yellow Wagtail and Little Egret. From the main hide we saw Avocets, Whooper Swans, Redshank, Wigeon, Snipe, Little-ringed Plover and Common Tern. Walking down to the Lyle Hide we managed to pick out a drake Garganey, and a Swift flew over. Back at the car park we managed heard a Tree Sparrow as it flew over, and also connected with Corn Bunting.

Heading north I saw my first Red-legged Partridges and Buzzard of the trip. Four Arctic Terns looked out of place flying across a field, but soon reorientated themselves to one of the cut-off channels. We attempted to find the recently reported Black-necked Grebe at Tottenhill without success. We also had a look at Pentney gravel pits adding nothing (although we did see another Little Ringed Plover).

The next stop was Roydon Common. Having already seen Woodlark we just had a quick walk along the main path, seeing our target bird (Stonechat) along with bonus Curlew (my 100th bird of the day) and Wheatear. On our way back to the car Adam stopped and motioned to a Slow-worm on the path. We stood still and waited until Gary caught us up. It staid still on the path until we moved, when it turned unhurriedly and slithered off.

At Flitcham Abbey Farm the Little Owl was sat in his tree, and we also saw Grey Partridge. Lesser Whitethroats and Bullfinches were singing - I managed to see one of the former, but had to be content with just hearing the latter. In the nettles nearby was a Red-breasted Carrion Beetle and a 22-spot Ladybird, and on the brow of the hill Adam & I saw a couple of Fallow Deer.

We took a diversion from our normal route to visit Snettisham Coastal Park, hoping for Ring Ouzels and other possible bonus migrants. We didn't find any, it being a vast area to cover quickly. The tide was coming in, which did allow us to pick up  Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot. From here we drove to Titchwell via Choseley, where we caught up with the passage Dotterel, also seeing more Wheatears and Corn Bunting.

We arrived at Titchwell much later than usual, meaning no cup of tea for me. I had 114 birds upon arrival, so it was make-or-break time for our list. Luckily there was a lot to see. Bearded Tits flew across one of the dykes, Brent Geese and Pintail were on the freshmarsh, as was a Common Sandpiper, Turnstone and Little Tern. Some Pink-footed Geese were flying in the distance, and a Greenshank was on the tidal marsh. On the shore we saw Sanderling and two Little Stints in with a flock of Dunlin. Common Scoter passed by, as did a Sandwich Tern. A Short-eared Owl flying east initially looked Harrier-like, but evenutally revealed its true identity. A flyby Green Sandpiper and a couple of Eider meant we were on 130 as we walked back onto the reserve, three short of last year.

A Spotted Redshank, Pochard and Barn Owl took us level before we headed onto the east trail. Here we easily picked out Red-crested Pochard, and heard a Grasshopper Warbler. We moved further round on the off chance we could see it, and luckily for us a friendly birder already had it in his 'scope. It was all the more impressive as he confessed to us that he couldn't actually hear it reeling!

Heading east along the coast we picked up Spoonbill, Red Kite and Sparrowhawk, but didn't find any Turtle Doves on the heathland inland from the coast. We headed back to Cley as sunset approached, and arrived just in time to see a small flock of Yellow Wagtails including a Grey-headed Wagtail fly off to roost. After a brief chat with David Norgate we headed to the central hides, hoping to add Ruff or Whimbrel to our tally. We failed to see anything new, so headed inland where we spent a while standing in the moonlight, listening to a Nightingale and watching a bat slying around the scrub. In the distance we saw flashes of lightening, an atmospheric end to our day, and my best ever day total of 140 species.

THORPE MARSH: Nightingale & Cuckoo

29th April 2015

With more migrants arriving in recent times, I headed down to Thorpe for an hours birding after work. Before getting to Thorpe Marsh I had a look nearby for a Nightingale found by Ricky earlier in the month. As I neared the site I could hear it singing away with gusto. I was struggling to see it until another bird ducked into the bush and begun chasing it around, with the original bird scolding the intruder. Although I couldn't be sure, I suspect that the second bird was another male Nightingale (two had been heard singing earlier in the day). Ricky got some footage of it singing, which you can see here.

Leaving the Nightingale I headed on to Thorpe Marsh, where a Cuckoo was calling from the marshes to the east. I walked around the edge of the marsh to the bird screen for a quick scan. Further round I heard and saw my first Garden Warbler of the year, along with a couple of Linnets that flew out from scrub near the river. A Swallow and a Common Tern also flew over to complete a pleasant evenings birding.

NORTH NORFOLK: Edingthorpe

26th April 2015

After a visit to some family in Edingthorpe, Cathy & I took a walk around some of the lanes that I used to walk when I was growing up. As well as boring her with my reminiscences ("I once saw a Turtle Dove on those wires" etc) we stopped every so often to admire the flowers growing on the verges. There were Bluebells and Meadow Saxifrage, hinting at old woodland here in the past, along with Wild Strawberry, Greater Stitchwort, Primroses and Yellow Archangel (the latter probably a throwout from cultivation). The highlight for me was Soft Shield Fern, a new species for me. We also saw quite a few bees and a friendly horse. I did scan the paddocks hoping for Ring Ouzel, but only managed to find a Mistle Thrush.