5th March 2016
The weather was overcast and rainy, but I went out anyway, hoping to hear an early Chiffchaff as a harbinger of spring. There was no-one else parked in the largest car park, and I didn't meet another person until I was nearly level with the island, which is almost unheard of here regardless of time of day or weather. There were no ringed Black-headed Gulls on the slipway, and Tufted Duck numbers had declined to around 60. A pair of Great-crested Grebes were in full summer plumage but showing no inclination to display to each other.
At times like this it is a bonus to have a wider interest than just birds, so rather than complete a lap of the broad I detoured off onto the picnic meadow. Whilst a rain shower passed over I spent the time looking at dead birch leaves, hoping to see some microfungi on them. I found something slightly larger, Common Grey Disco, a small grey cup fungus with white rims, growing on a fallen branch. I also found some Jelly Ear growing on the birch, which is an unusual host for this species. Throughout the visit I saw more Jelly Ear than I've ever seen in a single day, including some very large specimens.
I decided to continue round to some of the parts of my patch that I visit the least, heading south along the lime tree avenue and past Whitlingham Hall. Here there are some fields that probably represent my best chance of seeing a Yellowhammer on patch, but today, as usual, there was nothing new for me. A Stock Dove flew rapidly past. Continuing along the road I turned off along the path towards Trowse, stopping to look at some Peltigera lichen.
Entering Trowse Woods I stopped to admire the Snowdrops. The few in the country park are a double-flowered variety, but these ones along with the ones in Whitlingham Woods are single-flowered. A large plant with pale green flowers stood out, and once closer I recognised it as a type of Hellebore. The leaves looked similar to Green Hellebore, but Brian Evesham kindly identified it as Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis), a garden throwout. Further along a larger and yellowy-green plant stood out from the Snowdrops. The flowers were at the end of a long stem, reminding me of Few-flowered Garlic, but not quite right. Again my more learned botanist friends came to the rescue. It looked like Spring Snowflake, but Ian Senior noticed that actually there were two flowers (and the bud of another to come), making it Summer Snowflake.
Lifting my eyes up from the woodland floor I noticed a Great-spotted Woodpecker fly into a nearby tree. The 'whip-whip, whip-whip' call of a Nuthatch sounded loudly nearby, and I managed to set eyes on my first Nuthatch of the year. In the distance a Great-spotted Woodpecker (a different bird to the one I had just been watching) was drumming. Trowse Woods holds the first (and perhaps still the only?) tree with an interesting fungus called Beeswax Bracket on. I tried to refind the tree, having been shown it in 2012, and to my satisfaction I did find it. The fruiting bodies are now old and rather dry (when fresh they oozed a yellow substance that gives the fungus its name).
A final fungal find was some tiny orange discs on a dried umbellifer stem. These are probably beyond me, so I shall look to pass them on to a more experienced mycologist. I stood for a while near the edge of the wood, and was rewarded with a flock of Redwings, moving silently along the edge of the wood, latterly accompanied by some rather noisier Long-tailed Tits. Exiting the wood onto Whitlingham Lane I walked back to the car park. My final action was to watch a flock of Black-headed Gulls that had moved in. A heavy hailstorm swept through, so I had to dash to the car to finish my vigil, which ended early as half of the flock were spooked off by a passing car.