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

NORWICH: Back to Mousehold Heath

31st December 2015

The last day of the year, and having dropped Cathy off in the city I carried on round and went to Mousehold Heath again. Having ascertained that I was in the wrong place when I looked before, I headed a bit further along the slope, searching birch trees as I went, and this time found the tree that had Plicatura crispa growing on (alongside Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum). The brackets were old, but still recognisable, including the gill-like folds underneath. Whilst looking at the fungi I could hear Goldcrests calling, and I picked out the sound of a Treecreeper moving through the trees with them. After checking a few birds I found the Treecreeper, and watching it spiralling up a nearby birch, which was a nice end to the years wildlife watching.

WHITLINGHAM: Last visit of the year

29th December 2015

On Tuesday I went for a final lap of the year around Whitlingham in the unseasonal warmth of December. As I left the car park a flock of Siskins and Goldfinches twittered from some Alders. I stopped to watch them as they fed high up in the trees. Further round I stopped near the slipway to check the legs of Black-headed Gulls for rings. Due to the number of people walking past, the gulls were staying mostly on the water, and after half an hour I gave up and carried on around the broad. Scanning across to the island I noticed a drake Goosander asleep on a log. It woke up briefly and appeared to yawn, then tucked its head back again.

From the end of the Great Broad I scanned across to Thorpe Broad. One of the things that has been done as part of the habitat management is the vegetation has been cleared from the end of the spit, and as a result it was teaming with birds. At least 45 Herring Gulls and 115 Black-headed Gulls were visible, along with four Cormorants and four Lapwings. There were lots of ducks on the broad itself, the best of which were three Wigeon.

There wasn't anything particularly rare in the conservation area bay, but it was nice to see it full of birds. I counted 120+ Gadwall and 3 Little Grebes, along with loads of Tufted Ducks and Coot.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Christmas to everyone who reads my blog, and best wishes for the new year.

NORWICH: Mousehold Heath fungi & bugs

23rd December 2015

Whilst looking at some local wildlife blogs recently I noticed a post on Sean's blog (The Autistic Naturalist) that mentioned a bracket fungus potentially new to Norfolk that had been found at Mousehold Heath. The fungus in question was Plicatura crispa, a small fleshy bracket with folds underneath instead of gills or pores. Finding the one tree that it was going on was always going to be a bit tricky, but Sean kindly gave me directions to the right area, so when I had a bit of free time on Wednesday I headed up to the heath.

Arriving at Mousehold I headed past Zak's and into a small clearing, where I stopped to watch three Goldcrests flitting through the trees. I headed down a steep path until I had nearly reached the bottom of a valley in front of me. I knew that the Plicatura was growing on a tree trunk that also had a Stereum sp. on, and I found a likely looking tree with Stereum and some gone-over small brackets. I assumed this was the right place and that I was just a bit late, but having compared photos of this tree to the one on Sean's blog it seems likely that I was just in the wrong place.

Whilst I was there I had a look around the heath, seeing some common fungi. I then spotted some interesting small bracket-types growing on the end of a birch log. They were gilled underneath, with cross-veins between the gills, which is a fairly uncommon feature. I got it down to a couple of families, and a helpful person from the British Mycological Society identified it as Bitter Oysterling, Panellus stipticus. This species, which is more common on Oak, was new for me, although it has been found on Mousehold before, in 1980!

I did see another rather interesting thing whilst poking about. I struggle to identify Dryopteris ferns, and so when I saw a Male Fern sp. I took a closer look to see if it was Male Fern/Scaly Male Fern/Golden Scaly Male Fern. In doing so I turned over some fronds and found loads of bugs huddling together in groups. I was able to identify them as Birch Catkin Bugs. Rather odd to see them on ferns, but there were lots of Birch trees nearby, so presumably they are overwintering amongst the ferns.

You may need to click on the photo to see the bugs properly

NORTH NORFOLK: Paston Way near North Walsham

22nd December 2015

Having dropped Cathy off at Tuttington, I had a couple of hours to spend nearby. I headed to North Walsham and walked a stretch of the Paston Way towards Pigney's Wood. Despite being mid-December there were still some jelly fungi about, including Witches' Butter and Yellow Brain fungus. I also stopped to admire a bramble leaf that contained multiple leaf mines (caused by larvae of the micro moth Stigmella aurella). On the way back a mixed tit flock was flying about near the birdge over the old canal, and whilst watching them I heard and then saw several Siskins, adding to a productive walk.

 Stigmella aurella mines in Bramble
 Witches' Butter
 Yellow Brain fungus
North Walsham-Dilham canal, looking towards Swafield

WEST NORFOLK: Flitcham & Roydon

21st December 2015

Having finished work for Christmas, I decided to head to west Norfolk for a bird & fungus twitch. My first target was the long-staying Pallid Harrier. I hadn't gone whilst it was at Snettisham, so I headed to Flitcham Abbey Farm in the knowledge that its appearances there were rather erratic. There were two birders already in the hide, having diverted on their way to a football match (presumably Manchester City v Arsenal). 

The birders had yet to see any harriers during their vigil, and another hour went by until a ringtail Harrier sp. flew quickly over the scrub to the left of the hide. It was too fast to get the telescope on, so we ran out and onto the road to try and pick it up again. As luck would have it the bird had landed in the field opposite, but saw us before we saw it and flew back over the road. Cautiously optimistic we returned to the hide, joined by another birder, and the Harrier once again flew up, this time soaring and showing side on. It was a Hen Harrier. It was nice to get good views of a bird I usually see at distance, but still a bit of a disappointment given what I was hoping to see. I gave it a bit longer, but with no other harriers and rain starting to fall, I left for the second half of my day.

My second target was a rare fungus called Poronia punctata. It is one of two small 'nail fungi' that grow on the very specific substrate of herbivore dung. I had failed to see the other one Poronia erici, which grows on Rabbit droppings, at Holme last year. This one grows on pony dung, and had recently been seen at Roydon Common/Grimston Warren. I had kindly been told about it by Rob, and it has since been the subject of an NWT blog post.

I arrived at Roydon and the rain and wind had strengthened. I had never been to the Grimston part of the reserve, but the map assured me that there was one long path that would take me to Sandy Lane, the boundary between the two areas. Accordingly I followed the path along the western edge of Roydon, which became a wide track. I followed it all the way up to the end, where it finished at a pig farm. By now I was a bit wet and grumpy, so rather than wander across the open areas in the hope I would end up in the right area I decided it was best to head back to Roydon, where I had seen some ponies. It turns out that instead of following the path, I should have turned off through a gate and across a sort of field area towards a folly. The map on the information board, a term I'm using loosely, didn't make that clear!

I walked a couple of paths fairly near the ponies to look for piles of dung, before my basic knowledge of animal behaviour rose to the fore and I went to check out some Hawthorns that I thought they may use as scratching posts. This was correct, and I found quite a few piles of dung of different ages. Despite looking closely at them, I didn't find any nail fungi. There was some other fungi about, including some small orangey spindles (possibly Apricot Club), and Earthtongue sp. and Blushing Bracket. The latter is very common but usually grows on willow, whilst here it was on birch.

WHITLINGHAM: December wildfowl counts

13th December 2015

Today was the final WeBS date of the year, so it was off to Whitlingham to carry out December's wildfowl count. Carol & Rob had asked to come along so I met them at the start of the path down to the Little Broad. There was still a bit of mist hanging over the trees, and I stopped on the way along to photograph some lichens growing on the curb - still to be identified.

We walked along the edge of the Little Broad, stopping to watch a small flock of Siskins fly over and a Kingfisher zoom past. A Grey Heron squawked as it flew across the broad. Transferring to the Great Broad we stopped near the ruin to get some more photographs of the Pintail x Mallard hybrid, which was still sticking to that small length of broad edge.

There were lots of birds on the broad, including the most Coot I've seen here this year (264). Two drake Goosanders were along the far shore but still visible with the naked eye (earlier in the day an extra one had been seen). The most interestingly from the counts was the large number of Grey Herons. We counted seven on the Great Broad, although one was probably the one from the Little Broad. There was another at Thorpe, making eight in total, two more than my previous highest count here. The combined Whitlingham/Thorpe duck counts were 87 Mallard, 106 Gadwall, 198 Tufted Ducks, 48 Pochard and 42 Teal. A Little Grebe, two Lapwing and another Kingfisher were also of note.

WHITLINGHAM: Pintail hybrid and fungi

5th December 2015

Most of the time that I'm at Whitlingham I am on my own, so Saturday was a bit of a change as I was there a walk around the Great Broad for Anne Crotty's birthday, along with about 20 others. Anne is a fellow member of the Norfolk Fungus Study Group, so there were a few other mycologists within the group and I was hoping that despite the time of year we might turn up a couple of interesting species. 

I arrived a bit early so that before meeting up I could have a look for an interesting hybrid duck that Justin had found in the week. The bird in question was a drake Pintail x Mallard, quite an unusual hybrid. I located it with Mallards along the south shore of the Great Broad, but it frustratingly it kept fairly close to the shore, where views are obscurred by the ditchside vegetation. It was also rather nippy when it did swim, meaning I only got one in focus and three out-of-focus shots of it before having to head off. I also had a brief chat with Rich Moores before I headed to the car park.

As many of the group were not particularly interested in fungi we didn't dawdle too much, but we did manage to record a couple of interesting species. I found a Peppery Roundhead (Stropharia pseudocyanea) which is a patch tick for me, and Stephen found a Crepidotus sp that has been taken for checking but looks like it could be Crepidotus luteolus, which would be something like the 5th Norfolk record and a site first. After the walk we headed back to Anne's house for tea and cake, and whilst there she showed us another interesting fungus, Hohenbuehelia astrocaerulea, which had grown on a tree in her garden.

 Crepidotus sp.
Dried out specimens of Hohenbuehelia astrocaerulea