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

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

THORPE MARSH: Late summer insects

27th August 2015

With autumn approaching and the nights already pulling in, I took the opportunity to take a late-afternoon stroll at Thorpe Marshes. I was optomistically hoping that an Osprey or wader sp. would fly over whilst I was there, but had no luck on either front. In fact birdwise 3 Tufted Ducks and a couple of House Martins were as good as it got.

I amused myself by checking the umbellifers for insects. Most of the Hogweed has gone to seed now, but in wet areas it has been replaced by Wild Angelica, which is also good for insects. There were lots of wasps, but also several species of hoverfly. Eristalis intricarius and Volucella inanis are both species that I have seen at Whitlingham, but these may be the first Thorpe Marsh records depending on if anyone else locally records hoverflies here reguarly. I saw at least one new hoverfly species, but frustratingly it can only be determined to a species pair (some people believe they are just one species). This was the thin and pointy Melangyna compositarum or labiatarum. I also got good pictures of an adult Parent Bug (I saw late instars of this species recently at Whitlingham) and a very patient Migrant Hawker.

Having checked my photos and lists from recent trips I have been able to add another three species. Firstly I had failed to add Toad (one seen in Trowse Woods last year), and much more recently I realised that the large leaves along the riverbank belonged to Butterbur, and the mildew on Field Maple is as you would expect, Maple Mildew.

944. Toad
945. Butterbur
946. Maple Mildew (Sawadaea bicornis)

I added three species on this particular visit. Tansy I suspect I have seen before here, but it wasn't on the list. The beetle Coccidula rufa is a member of the ladybird family, half of which don't actually look like ladybirds. Thanks to Mark for mentioning that it was present at Thorpe. Finally a common spider that also wasn't on my list, Four-spotted Orb-weaver. This takes me to 949, 51 to go until I get to 1000!

947. Tansy (another award winning photo here)

948. Coccidula rufa

949. Four-spotted Orb-weaver

WHITLINGHAM: A very rare beetle indeed

24th August 2015

One of the positives of being part of wildlife blogging and online communities (and also the reason I finally caved in and joined Twitter) is being able to see what other naturalists are recording in their parts of Norfolk and learning about species I've never seen (or sometimes even heard of). From a recording point of view I like to find out how to identify a species, then go out and look for it myself. By then submitting my records to the relevant county recorder or recording scheme this is a win-win situation.

Recently I heard about a search for a rare beetle. The beetle Baranowskiella ehnstromi, which doesn't have an English name, is Europe's smallest beetle, and has only recently been found in several European countries. Not only does it require a microscope to find it, the beetle also lives inside a scarce bracket fungus, Phellinus conchatus, all explaining why this species could go overlooked. Earlier in the month Andrew Duff, a coleopterist* living in Norfolk, decided to search for the beetle, which had never been recorded before in Britain. This is where I first heard about the search, as Andrew needed the help of local mycologists** to locate the bracket fungus that hosts this tiny beetle.

The collective hard work paid off, and Andrew, along with mycologists Tony Leech (the Norfolk fungus recorder) and Neil Mahler (the Suffolk fungus recorder) managed to find Baranowskiella ehnstromi at a site west of Norwich. This is now being written up to support the addition of this species to the British list. I was pleased for them, but at the back of my mind was the thought that I knew of a tree that had the same bracket fungus on in the Whitlingham area. Could that too hold this beetle?

Because Baranowskiella ehnstromi is so small it is almost impossible to detect in the field, so I took a small piece of the bracket fungus home and looked at it under a microscope. After a while I noticed the rear of a beetle sticking out of one of the pores. This odd behaviour is typical of Baranowskiella ehnstromi, which seems to rest by plunging head-down into the pores of the fungus, without going completely in. Eventually the beetle emerged and I got a photograph. Andrew has confirmed that it is the correct species, and kindly allowed me to blog about it before his paper officially documenting the discovery is published. Other than the west Norwich site, Neil had also found the beetle at a site in Suffolk, but my sighting may well be only the 3rd British record, which is amazing. With this in mind I have been asked not to say exactly whereabouts I found it, to protect both the beetle and the fungus from being over-collected. 

There isn't much information about Baranowskiella ehnstromi yet, but here is a short article describing it being found in Denmark in 2012 -

Patch species 943. Baranowskiella ehnstromi. If you look carefully, the beetle is just below the middle of the picture, viewed at 20x

* A coleopterist is someone who studies beetles
** A mycologist is someone who studies fungi

WHITLINGHAM: Whitlingham Marsh Willow Emeralds

23rd August 2015

Given that Jim had found an Osprey at Rockland Broad yesterday I decided that a bit of time at the eastern end of my patch would be prudent. I headed down to Whitlingham Woods, and walked down the road towards Whitlingham Marsh LNR, noticing several Crab Apple trees, reminding me that I hadn't actually recorded them before. It was a sunny morning, with a hint of sewage on the breeze* As I emerged from the woodland into a sunny glade I immediately noticed several hawker dragonflies patrolling in front of me. I managed to get very good views of two Migrant Hawkers, an often very confiding species, but also a Southern Hawker.

Migrant Hawker
 Southern Hawker

Since Oliver Ellingham launched his Powdery Mildew Survey I have paid more attention to mildews, and I noticed one growing on Great Mullein near the entrance gate. Another thing that I have been looking for is Helophilus hoverflies. They are common around Whitlingham, but every one I have checked so far has been Helophilus pendulus...until now, when I finally found an example of Helophilus hybridus. Even better, a bit further along I noticed two Willow Emeralds, one male and one female. Like the Migrant Hawkers they were quite confiding, along reasonable photos.

Looking down the river there was no sign of an Osprey, and there was nothing more than a Moorhen on the exposed edges of the river. I followed the river back towards the country park, picking up a previously overlooked species of hoverfly, Cheilosia impressa, and also noticing a plant called Arrowhead growing in the river. I also noticed at least three new galls, which I will add into my plant gall guide at some point this week. For those who have downloaded my Whitlingham guides I have updated many of them with new species in the past week.

Since my last Whitlingham post I have added another three species retrospectively:
933. the slime mould Enteridium lycoperdon
934 the tree Aspen and
935 a rust on Aspen, Melampsora laricis-populina
From today:

936. Crab Apple
937. Mullein Mildew (Golovinomyces cichoracearum)
938. Helophilus hybridus
939. Willow Emerald Damselfly
940. Red Valerian
941. Cheilosia impressa
942. Arrowhead

* For those not familiar with Whitlingham, Norwich's main sewage works lies just south of Whitlingham Marsh. On warm and/or windy days, the smell is quite apparent.

EAST NORFOLK: Winterton visit

21st August 2015

On Friday Cathy & I went for a late afternoon visit to Winterton. We had a nice walk, but there were very few birds and not much else other than Grayling butterflies. We did see one Dark Green Fritillary and a Rush Veneer moth. I had a look around some of the pools in the hope that we might see a Natterjack toadlet, but there was no sign of any. Dragonfly wise Southern Hawker and Ruddy Darter were the only two odonates seen.

WHITLINGHAM: Mandarin & Goosander

20th August 2015

Earlier whilst at Whitlingham I didn't have my binoculars with me, so other than a cursory glance on the Great Broad I didn't really look too hard for birds. Luckily Justin went for a proper look later in the evening, and I got a phone call to say that he had found a female Mandarin at the far end of the Little Broad. Cathy & I went back to have a look, and saw it swimming along the edge of the broad, actively catching flies.

Mandarin (record shot!)

Further round Justin had also located the Goosander on the river, which despite being in the area a while now I had yet to catch up with. Having dropped Cathy back home I returned for a third time and set off for the far corner of the country park. On the river near the boat club the Goosander was still present, along with a pair of Great-crested Grebes and a small group of Mallards. Further round in the conservation area bay the only bird of note was the female Wigeon that I first saw last month.

Also of note were a flock of House Martins and a few Swallows over the car park.

WHITLINGHAM: Evening visit 1

20th August 2015

After work I headed down to Whitlingham for half an hour. Walking along the south shore I decided that rather than ignore the flies I should really take some photos and see if I could identify any. It wasn't very sunny, but I did find one obliging fly, which I believe is Dexia rustica. Other species of interest were a Speckled Bush-cricket and several 22-spot Ladybirds. Near the visitors centre I noticed a Grey Dagger caterpillar, some Canadian Fleabane and a rust on Common Mallow, so quite a productive trip in the end. There was also a hoverfly hovering near the lime tree avenue that I'm sure would have been new if it had landed and let me see it properly.

929. Dexia rustica
930. Grey Dagger moth caterpillar
931. Canadian Fleabane
932. Hollyhock Rust Puccinia malvacearum, on Common Mallow

WHITLINGHAM: Invertebrate extravaganza part 2

16th August 2015

So following on from the last post, Tim and I were working our way along the south shore of the Great Broad, stopping at frequent intervals to look at the various insects that we found. The most productive areas were the patchs of Hemp-agrimony and Water Mint, which provided lots of nectar. A grassy corner looked like it might come up with some different species but was fairly poor. We did see a Short-winged Conehead, the second one that I have seen here in recent weeks, having previously only seen Long-winged. It was also here that we saw the Adonis Ladybird, and close by a recently-emerged Pebble Hook-tip moth was resting on an Alder leaf.

From here we crossed Whitlingham Lane and had a look in the small area of woodland between here and the picnic meadow. Walking around the southern edge of the picnic area we stopped to have a look at various galls, and also picked up another fly and a Weevil. A ground beetle had climbed a plantain stem and showed well, preferring to wave it's jaws at us from the top rather than run away! Thanks to Tim for his help in finding and identifying many of the species seen throughout the day.

918. Chrysogaster solstitialis - a small black hoverfly with red eyes [Edit: The photographed insect is actually Chrystogaster cemiteriorum, thanks to Roger Morris for the ID]

919. Pied Shieldbug - A late instar. I shall look later in the year for the adults.

 920. Alder Sawfly - a distinctive species with a red splodge marking on the back

921. Common Froghopper - I have seen lots of Cuckoo-spit before, 
but not actually seen the adult froghopper.

922. Adonis Ladybird

923. Pebble Hook-tip

924. Coremacera marginata - An interesting looking fly that hunts snails. It flew off before I could get a photo, see here for a picture and more info.

925. Sitona lineatus - A small stripy Weevil. No photo - for pictures see the Naturespot page here

926. Pterostichus madidus - a common species of Ground Beetle.


Tim has also got back to me with identifications for a couple more species that we saw on Sunday. 
927 Cassida vibex, one of the Tortoise Beetles (Naturespot picture here
and 928 Curtonotus aulicus, a Ground Beetle (on Naturespot here).

Note that where I haven't taken a photo (or I have but it is rubbish!) I have linked to some entries on the Naturespot website. Naturespot ( is an excellent website set up to show the wildlife of Leicestershire and Rutland, and has information on most of the species that I mention. Not everyone will be particularly bothered what everything looks like, but the option is there to have a look if you want to.

WHITLINGHAM: Invertebrate extravaganza part 1

16th August 2015

Following Saturday's sighting of the fly Phasia hemiptera, Tim Hodge got in contact to ask for details as he had never seen one. Some blog readers may know Tim because of the number of rare moths he has recorded at Horsey, but he is also a pan-species recorder* and much more knowledgeable about insects than I am. I agreed to meet up with him on Sunday morning to help look for more Phasias.

After focussing on the area of broad-side vegetation that I had made my sighting yesterday it became evident that there was no sign of any Phasia hemiptera. We decided to carry on along the shore in the hope that we might find one somewhere else, or at least find some other interesting things. We certainly succeeded with the latter, adding quite a few species to my patch list, and in some case to my life list. I will divide the report into two parts to avoid making it too long.

My highlight of the visit was two new ladybirds. The first one, Water Ladybird, is a species that I've wanted to see for a while. It was much smaller than I expected, which might go some way to explaining why I hadn't seen one previously! The second was Adonis Ladybird, a species that seems to be having a good year judging by reports from other observers, but it commoner near the coast. Another favourite group of mine is the shieldbugs, and I followed up Saturday's Parent Bug with two Blue Shieldbugs and a final-instar Pied Shieldbug, both new for my site list. 

910. Heterotoma planicornis - A distinctive bug with flattened antennae segments

911. Liocoris tripustulatus - A small bug with bright white spots

 912. Eristalinus sepulchralis - A small hoverfly with highly patterned eyes. If looked at closely, the lower part of the eyes are covered in small hairs.

913. Water Ladybird

 914. Blue Shieldbug

915. Nowickia ferox - A large black tachinid fly. It looks similar to Tachina ferra, but has black legs and more black at the end of the abdomen.

 916. Figwort Sawfly

917. Water Stick-insect - We were looking into the water at the edge of the broad when Tim noticed that a bit of vegetation was moving in a different direction to the floating vegetation. A closer look showed that it was a Water Stick-insect, although unfortunately we lost sight of it so there is no photo.

* Pan-species recorders or pan-species listers are what used to be known as "all-round naturalists". In recent years there has been an effort to build up a community of people recording multiple groups. For more information see:

WHITLINGHAM: August counts & Phasia hemiptera

15th August 2015

On Saturday I headed to Whitlingham to carry out the August wildfowl counts. Nothing unusual present, numbers with difference from 2014 equivalent in brackets are: Mute Swan 74 (+11), Greylag Goose 6 (-1), Canada Goose 3 (-2), Egyptian Goose 23 (+9), Mallard 120 (-13), Coot 44 (+16), Moorhen 3 (-4), Great-crested Grebe 4 (-4), Cormorant 17 (-2), Grey Heron 1 (-1). Gull numbers vary depending on the time of day so are less comparable, today there were 58 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A Common Tern, Kingfisher, Marsh Tit and Swallow completed the avian interest.

Of the main insect groups a fresh Painted Lady was perched on a reed stem and several Migrant Hawkers were patrolling Whitlingham Lane. There were lots of Volucella inanis and Volucella pellucens hoverflies along the south shore of the Great Broad, along with two Hornets. I noticed a powdery mildew growing on Great Willowherb, which was new for me.

 903. Willowherb Mildew Sphaerotheca epilobii

My second new patch species of the visit was a small hoverfly called Syritta pipiens. I had noticed that there were loads of these small hoverflies feeding on Water Mint, and luckily they have distinctive swollen-looking femurs which allowed me to identify them.

904. Syritta pipiens

The second new patch species of the day was a type of shieldbug called the Parent Bug. They have this name because the adult stands guard over the eggs and then once they hatch, the young shieldbugs too. The ones that I found were late instars, so they had left the adult but not grown their wings yet.

905. Parent Bug

Next was a very interesting looking fly called Phasia hemiptera. They are big, but also look very wide, with rather unusual-looking wings and metallic colours. I'd never seen it before, although since seeing this one I've read that they have also been seen at Bacton Woods and Strumpshaw Fen over the weekend, so presumably there has been an emergence or they are having a good year.

906. Phasia hemiptera

Further along the path I noticed a digger wasp attacking a solitary bee. Many of these wasps are tricky to identify, but I thought this one looked vaguely familiar and I tentatively identified it as Cerceris rybyensis. This ID has now been confirmed by the county recorder for solitary wasps, Tim Strudwick.

907. Cerceris rybyensis

Flies are not a strong point of mine, but I did notice several large orange and black Tachinid flies, which are the distinctive species Tachina fera, which I have seen a few times before but not actually recorded.

908. Tachina fera

And finally of the species identified so far from Saturday, I noticed a small orangey-brown micro moth with white markings, known as Nut-bud moth.

909. Nut-bud Moth Epinotia tenerana

NORWICH: Hummingbird Hawk Moth

14th August 2015

This year I have seen a number of interesting species of insect from my kitchen window whilst making tea or washing up. Today I was doing the latter when a moth flew past. I suspected it was a Hummingbird Hawk moth, although I wouldn't have recorded it based solely on those views. Luckily it landed on one of two Buddleias we have, and I was able to confirm that it was indeed a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. These moths are reasonably common migrants, and are responsible for calls and letters to people like the RSPB from people who are convinced that they have seen a real Hummingbird in their garden!

In other moth news, I have identified a moth that I saw at Thorpe Marsh on 30th July as Evergestis pallidata, which becomes patch species number 902.

SUFFOLK: Somerleyton Hall

12th August 2015

On Wednesday Cathy & I (along with our mothers) went to Somerleyton Hall, just across the border into Suffolk. On our way we stopped at St Olaves, where we had food and drink at the Bell Inn, apparently the oldest recorded pub in the broads. 

We booked onto a tour of the hall, but before that spent some time exploring the gardens. The highlight was a stretch of flowerbed that was packed with Speckled Bush-crickets and early-instar Common Green Shieldbugs. Cathy found some Rhododendron Leafhoppers, which we thought was rather odd as they were on Chinese Lantern plants. Later on we did find hundreds on Rhododendrons nearby, so it has been suggested that they were simply trying to disperse rather than feeding on an alternate plant. An Oak Bush-cricket was also found on the Rhododendron. As we looked around the outside of the hall I noticed three active House Martin nests. Going inside we had an interesting tour around the hall, before having tea and a big piece of cake in the cafe.

 Somerleyton Hall
 Speckled Bush-cricket
 Rhododendron Leafhopper
Oak Bush-cricket