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: Felbrigg fungi

30th October 2015

I was in North Norfolk to drop Cathy off in Tuttington, so I called in at Felbrigg Hall to have a look for fungi. Felbrigg is one of the best sites in the county for Waxcaps, and the only place in Norfolk that the rare Pink Ballerina has been recorded. I didn't find any of those, but I did see Scarlet, Parrot, Golden, Meadow and Snowy Waxcaps. The rarest species I saw was a tiny parasitic fungus that turns the gills of Snowy Waxcaps a purple colour. Provided that this record is accepted from a photo then it will be the 4th Norfolk record. A pale yellow club fungus was probably Apricot Club, although it requires microscopy to be sure. There was no sign of any Mandarins on the lake, but there were a couple of Little Grebes, plus 34 Tufted Ducks and some Gadwall.

 Scarlet Waxcap
 Paecilomyces marquandii on Snowy Waxcap
Putative Apricot Club (or Yellow Club)

CENTRAL NORFOLK: St Faith's Common fungi

29th October 2015

We popped out in the afternoon for a short walk at St Faith's Common near Horsford. It didn't take long for us to find Hoof Fungus (Fomes fomentarius), a relatively common species that I hadn't seen before. It used to be found in Norfolk as it fossilised ones have been found, but in recent times it has only spread back from the west and is still not paricularly widespread. In one of the open areas there was a lot of Common Rustgill (Gymnopilus penetrans) growing, and Cathy found some more Orange Peel fungus (Aleuria aurantia). I spotted some Fluted Bird's-nest Fungi (Cyathus striatus), which was nice to find having previously been shown it earlier in the year at Earlham Cemetery

 Hoof Fungus
 Common Rustgill
 Fluted Bird's-nest Fungus
Orange Peel fungus

NORFOLK: Earlham & Holt fungi

27th October 2015

Cathy & I headed out today to have lunch at Natural Surroundings. Whilst signposted as a wildflower centre, the best bit for many people is the little cafe in the woods, where you can have lunch whilst watching woodland birds on the feeders.

On the way we called in at Earlham Cemetery, where I had got directions from Ian for Jellybaby fungus (Leotia lubrica). This was a new species for me, although Cathy wasn't particularly impressed with its similarity to actual jellybabies, despite my demonstration of just how similar they are.


At Natural Surroundings we had some big slabs of cheese on toast whilst watching Nuthatches and Coal Tits on the bird feeders just outside the window. After lunch we went out into the nature reserve, having a walk around the wooded areas before reaching the river. Here we saw some Brown Trout in the River Glaven. We stopped in the hide, but didn't see much from it. On our way back to the cafe a large flock of Siskins called from the trees nearby.

On our way back to Norwich we decided to call in at Holt Country Park. Near the car park I stopped to look at the remains of Golden Bootleg Fungus, which looked like it had encountered someone elses' boot. Luckily I had seen photos of it before the damage, so knew what it was. We headed off into the totem pole clearing, which always used to be good for fungi when I was younger. I was a bit surprised to see a woodland garden - presumably it has been there ages but on all of my recent visits I have always headed off towards the pond or around the edges.

 Golden Bootleg - seen better days
The garden proved to be full of fungi. Large amounts of Hairy Curtain Crust were growing on the wooden edging, and Cathy set about finding lots of fungi, including Orange Peel fungus and some impressive Redlead Roundheads. We saw many different species, including an old favourite of mine, Ear Pick fungus. This species grows from pine cones and has spines rather than gills.

 Orange Peel fungus
 Redlead Roundhead
 Ear Pick fungus
 Common Mazegill

NORWICH: Earlham Cemetery October fungus walk

25th October 2015

Today was the monthly Friends of Earlham Cemetery walk, with a fungi and trees theme. In the absence of Ian, who maintains the sites fungi list, I helped lead the walk. We began in the small areas of nutrient-poor grassland alongside the drive. Pleated Inkcap was the first fungus of the day, followed by Ivory Bonnet and Meadow Coral. We soon found some Waxcaps, including some bright red ones which turned out to be Vermillion Waxcaps (rather than Scarlet, which I thought they might be at the time). In the same area were Golden Waxcap, Parrot Waxcap and Snowy Waxcap, whilst further round we saw Blackening Waxcap and the tan-coloured ochraceopallida variant of Snowy Waxcap. Other species in this area included Ivory Coral and Earthtongue spp.

Vermillion Waxcap
 Parrot Waxcap
 Golden Waxcaps
Snowy Waxcap var. ochraceopallida

Continuing along the path Jeremy showed some of the group the effects of Ash dieback disease, whilst we found the strong-smelling Sulphur Knight and looked at the diversity of form of the Deceiver. Further round we compared the gill structures of Tawny Funnel, Clouded Funnel and a Mycena sp. A lone Sessile Earthstar was growing by the path, but it was a bit eaten around the edges, which was a shame. We saw some Milky Bonnets, Butter Caps and Smoky Bracket as we headed round to the area where the Death Caps are found. That species had gone over, but we did see some Dog Stinkhorns nearby.

 Milky Bonnets
 Sessile Earthstar
 Smoky Bracket

Finally we checked an area near the entrance where the coral Ramaria flaccida grows, and also saw some Lilac Fibrecaps. The next Friends of Earlham Cemetery walk is on Sunday 15th November at 2pm if anyone is interested.

Ramaria flaccida

EAST NORFOLK: Siberian Stonechat & Puffballs

24th October 2015

Whilst there has been a clearout of birds from the North Norfolk coast, another rare bird had been located mid-week at Caister-on-sea. Siberian Stonechats had until fairly recently been treated as a sub-species, but are now considered a full species in their own right (and indeed may be further split in the future). The Caister bird is a male, and a particularly nice looking bird, so Cathy & I decided to go and have a look.

We parked up near the lifeboat station and walked south through the dunes. A Common Stonechat flew out of some scrub, but we didn't see much more until we had reached a small group of people scanning inland. I set up the 'scope and quickly picked out the Siberian Stonechat perched on some brambles along the edge of the golf course. It remained faithful to this area, frequently flicking up to feed and returning to its favoured perch. It showed off the large, unstreaked rump patch that helps identify this species, and I even got an out-of-focus photo of it.

After having a look at the Stonechat Cathy went over to look out to sea. She had found a seal, but then called me over to check out a large bird she had found. I had a look and found that it was a 1st-year Swan - not the sort of thing you would expect to see offshore, although I had seen a couple of Whooper Swans off Titchwell a few years back. Distance prevented me from identifying this one conclusively (I suspect Whooper), so I would be interested if someone got better views and knows for sure. Cathy had also noticed some large puffballs, which based on the long stipe and 'spikiness' were Pestle Puffballs, although in slightly unusual habitat. We also saw Dusky and Grassland Puffballs on our way back to the car.

 Swan sp.
Pestle Puffball

NORTH NORFOLK: Burnham Overy Dune fungi

18th October 2015

Whilst at work during the week, I had read about the recent influx of migrant birds, particularly along the north Norfolk coast, with a degree of envy. On Sunday I had kept the day clear to attend a NNNS walk at Burnham Dunes, which would include the opportunity for a bit of birding, but was more aimed at plants and fungi. As I had been looking forward to this walk I decided to go ahead as planned, but to leave early and spend a bit of time in Wells Woods first. 

Upon arrival I was surprised that dog walkers outnumbered birders, but this state of affairs didn't persist for too long. I decided to devote the bulk of my time to looking for the Blyth's Reed Warbler found earlier in the week, and after hearing it call for a while I eventually got brief views. With time running out before I had to head to Burnham I walked west along the main track, stopping at regular intervals to admire the Goldcrests that adorned many branches. Despite Connor telling me that the Hume's Warbler and Pallas' Warbler were still present further along, I was unable to see either in a brief look before heading back to the car.

I parked up at Burnham Overy Staithe and met Tony Leech who was leading the NNNS walk. We were also accompanied by Andy Bloomfield, who works on the Holkham estate. On the walk out to the dunes Andy stopped to look at a bunting he had seen, which he had heard give a ticking call. Unfortunately it flew out of sight, but he called a friend to come and check it out, and they confirmed that he had found a Little Bunting! As at Wells there were lots of Goldcrests, only here they were flicking about in the Sueada, and later on also amongst the moss and lichen of the dune slacks.

One of the groups that the dunes here are particularly known for are the Earthstars. We saw a minimum of two species, possibly two more (there can be quite a bit of overlap between species, so Tony took samples of two to check microscopic features before confirming their ID). The two definite species were both new for me, Tiny Earthstar (Geastrum minimum) and Dwarf Earthstar (Geastrum schmidelii). The latter species was found in a restricted area of the dunes that we were able to enter whilst accompanying Andy. Here we also saw a pond containing Natterjack Toad tadpoles. Apparently the toads had spawned late, and unfortunately these tadpoles are likely to perish as the weather gets colder.

Tiny Earthstar
 Dwarf Earthstars
Natterjack tadpoles

In addition to the Earthstars we saw a number of other species associated with nutrient-poor grassland. These included five Waxcap species (Blackening, Dune, Snowy, Spangle and Parrot), a yellow spindle sp and some Enteloma sp. Back in the old dunes we came across a large area of Winter Stalkballs (Tulostoma brumale), a species I saw for the first time last year at Holme Dunes.

 Snowy Waxcap
 Spangle Waxcap
 Winter Stalkball

Having searched the old dunes, we headed northwards into the loose sand of the yellow dunes. We had a rough idea of the sort of species we hoped to find here, and managed to see almost all of them. I was pleased to see Dune Stinkhorn, as my only previous sighting had been of a dessicated specimen at Holme a year ago. Field Bird's-nests were common, growing on old Marram debris. Dune Mushroom, Dune Cavalier and Dune Brittlestem were both expected, but the small ink cap Coprinopsis ammophilae growing amongst the sand caused excitement, as it appears to be the first Norfolk record (there are no records on the county database, but a separate national one has to be checked too). 

 Dune Stinkhorn
 Field Bird's-nest
Coprinopsis ammophilae

On the way back it was good to meet Robert Yaxley on the coastal footpath. A crowd had gathered to look for the Little Bunting, which was currently out of sight, but after a full day I decided to head home rather than wait for it to show.

WHITLINGHAM: October counts & fungi

17th October 2015

This week has seen large numbers of migrant birds arriving at the coast, but before worrying about those there was this months WeBS counts to get done. As I pulled into the car park at Whitlingham I thought it was odd that there was a caravan parked up, until I looked around the rest of the car park, where many more large caravans were also positioned. The penny dropped that travellers had taken over and set up camp, so I had to turn round and managed to find a space in the next car park along.

Before leaving the car park I heard my first Redwings calling as they flew over. Along the edge of the little broad there were lots of reddish-orange Tawny Funnels (Lepista flaccida) growing amongst the leaf litter. A Water Rail squealed from the broad edge, and a Grey Heron perched up on one of the bales floating in the water. Some more fungi were growing between the two broads, this time Clustered Domecap (Lyophyllum decastes), a new patch species for me.

 Tawny Funnel
 Clustered Domecap

There has been a significant increase in wildfowl since last month, although nothing particularly spectacular. In terms of ducks there were 81 Mallard, 43 Gadwall, 27 Tufted Ducks, 6 Pochard and 1 Teal. Other species included 103 Coot, 2 Great-crested Grebes and 2 Little Grebes. 41 Cormorants was a large non-roost count, and interestingly a group of 16 were fishing together, a behaviour I seldom see here. A Kingfisher flew past, 2 Cetti's Warblers called, and several Siskin flew over.

The most interesting avian sighting of the day occurred as I scanned across to Thorpe Marsh. Seven Teal were visible on the spit, when I noticed some black-and-white stripes showing amongst the vegetation behind them. I expected it to be a Water Rail, so was surprised when a Red-legged Partridge came into view! Viewing through some trees and in the rain prevented me from getting more than a record shot of this slightly out-of-place bird.

Red-legged Partridge at Thorpe

SUFFOLK: Brandon CP Bioblitz

11th October 2015

Sunday was UK Fungus Day, and we spent the afternoon of it at Brandon Country Park, just over the border into Suffolk. Brandon was hosting a Bioblitz, organised jointly with NBIS and Breaking New Ground, a lottery-funded project aiming to connect people with the landscape and wildlife of the Brecks. 

Bioblitzes are a relatively recent concept, and basically involved trying to record as many species of wildlife as possible within a set time period, usually 24 hours or less. They vary quite a bit - at one end of the spectrum lots of experienced recorders go off and get on with recording their specialist areas, whilst at the other end there are lots of child/family friendly events, which enthuse young people about nature but don't generate many records. This one was nicely balanced, with regular guided walks and events, but also a number of very knowlegeable recorders, many of them from the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists Society.

As Cathy & I hadn't been to Brandon CP before we called in to the visitors centre to see what had been seen already. We then set off on a walk around the nearby woodland, paying particular attention to the fungi we saw. Cathy found a number of interesting species, the highlight being Green Elf Cups. This fungus stains wood green, but it is less common to see the fruiting bodies growing from it. I had mentioned this to Cathy when we saw some of the green wood, and she promptly went and found some of the small cups growing a nearby small branch.

We headed back to the visitors centre and added some of our sightings to the species lists, before stopping for lunch. After lunch we headed out to look for more fungi in an area near the playgrounds. Here we saw a good range of different species to our first walk, including White Saddle (Helvella crispa) and Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa). As the bioblitz drew to an end we returned to the visitors centre, where someone had brought in two Pale Tussock moth caterpillars. We also saw a Bank Vole and a couple of different species of harvestman (identified by Andy Musgrove). When we left 254 species had been recorded, with more to be added as further identifications are made at home.

NORTH NORFOLK: Felmingham fungi & beetles

10th October 2015

On Saturday I met Adam in North Walsham and we headed to Felmingham to visit Bryant's Heath. When I was growing up my dad and I would visit the heath every spring to look for Adders, Common Lizards, Green Hairstreak and Green Tiger Beetles, but it had been over ten years since I last visited. The track down to the heath had some large water-filled divots in it, so I parked on the verge and we walked the rest of the way.

Felmingham Heath has a SSSI designation because of the mixture of habitats (areas of wet and dry heathland, plus areas of wet and dry woodland too). Given the time of year we decided to focus mostly on fungi, so we entered the woodland  around the north-western edge of the heath. It was immediately obvious that there was a lot of fungi about, with large amounts of Ochre Brittlegill, Butter Cap and Amethyst Deceiver growing along the sides of the path. We were to see hundreds of the first two species, perhaps even thousands. We also bumped into Gordon Woolcock, a local naturalist that who posts on the Norfolk Wildlife Facebook page. We had a chat about some of the species he has seen on his regular walks here, and it was nice to put a face to a name.

Ochre Brittlegill (formerly Common Yellow Russula before the crazy re-namers got it)

The first non-fungal thing of interest we saw was a dead Dor Beetle. It was lying on its back, and the underside was a metallic bluey-purple (this feature separates it from female Minotaur Beetles). Further along we saw some absolutely huge Earthballs, several species of Milkcap and Russula, and our first Boletes of the day. I spotted some tiny stalked cup fungi growing from an acorn, which delight in the name 'Nut Disco'. Whilst it sounds a rather silly name, the boring explanation is that the 'disco' part is short for discomycete, an old taxonomic grouping of small, disc like fungi.

The underside of a Dor Beetle. This is probably Common Dor Beetle, but there is a similar one called Common Dumble Dor. No, there actually is.
 Larger than normal Common Earthball, which has burst open.
 Nut Disco growing on an acorn

Heading out onto the heathland we saw the first of many Fly Agarics. Many were the deep red you would normally associate with this species, whilst others were more orangey as a result of age and weathering. A recent online discussion had highlighted that there is actually an orangey form of Fly Agaric called var aureola, and at least one young-looking specimen may have been of this form. Another interesting fungus was Earthfan, which was growing along the edge of a heathland path.

 Fly Agarics (possible var aureola on the left)

Having seen some rather large holes in the ground (too big to be made by Field Digger Wasps, which also dig here) we finally tracked down the culprit, a Minotaur Beetle. It reared up and pointed its 'horns' at us, so we took a few photos and allowed it to go about its business, which mostly involves rolling dung into balls and hiding it in holes. Still, each to their own. On the way back to the car we stopped to watch a flock of birds flying past, which included several Goldcrests mixed in with Long-tailed Tits. A Treecreeper and at least two calling Bullfinches were also nice to see.

 Male Minotaur Beetle

Before dropping Adam home we stopped at one of North Walsham's car parks to look for Ivy Bees, a species that has only begun to colonise Norfolk in the past few years. We found a clump of Ivy in flower, but it was rather overcast and it didn't come as any great surprise that we didn't see any bees.