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

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

BRECKLAND: Grime's Graves

30th May 2016

An overcast bank holiday Monday saw Cathy & I head off to the Brecks. We had lunch at Brandon Country Park before having a brief walk around the walled garden and the pond. From here we headed to the English Heritage site at Grime's Graves. I had wanted to visit here for a while to see the odd sunken landscape. If you are not familiar with the place then you can best appreciate it via an aerial shot like this one.

Despite Cathy not liking heights or the idea of descending underground, she plucked up the courage to accompany me down one of the old flint mines. The cloudy weather and wind meant there were hardly any insects around, although we did see a Diamond-back Moth and a Cinnabar Moth. The chalk flora was also rather interesting, with species like Purple Milk-vetch, Common Rock Rose and Wild Thyme present near the visitors' hut.

WHITLINGHAM: Trowse invertebrates

29th May 2016

In case you hadn't noticed, we are now firmly in the period where inland bird activity has declined and plants and insects come to the fore on the blog. With this in mind I decided that rather than go straight to Whitlingham I would focus my attentions on Trowse Meadow and Trowse Woods before having a quick look over the broad.

Trowse Meadow was covered in buttercups, and looks the sort of place that should really have orchids too, but apparently doesn't. Some cows are grazing on it, but they seem to have a very placid temperament. I focused on some of the vegetation along the river edge, finding a couple of Downlooker Snipe Flies and an interesting dark fly sheltering underneath a poplar leaf. Incidentally there are a couple of trees here that look like Black Poplar, which is quite rare now. Does anyone know if the Poplar trees at Trowse are 'proper' Black Poplar or hybrids? Anyway, I didn't recognise the fly, but Andy Musgrove identified it as another soldier fly, possibly Scarce Orange Legionnaire, which if confirmed would be another new to 10km like Friday's Black Colonel.

Downlooker Snipe Fly
(Scarce?) Orange Legionnaire - note the orange body that gives it its name is hidden under the black wings

I saw two more interesting bugs as I departed the meadows and entered Trowse Woods. Firstly on nettles at the edge of the meadow was the ant-like nymph of Miris striatus (sometimes called the Fine-streaked Bugkin) and secondly was a yellowish soldier beetle, Cantharis decipiens.

On my way up through the woods I stopped to note various plants, harvestmen, weevils, beetles, galls and leaf miners, some of which I photographed to look at closer when the time allows. The clearing at the top of the woods didn't have many flowers out (a patch of Red Campion notwithstanding) so I carried on and exited the woods, heading east towards Whitlingham. Here I spotted a new micro moth, the Sulphur Tubic.

Walking back along the lime tree avenue to Whitlingham there were several more things of particular interest. This fly, apparently bound to the dock with some white silky stuff, has actually been parasitised by a fungus (Entomophthora muscae). The fungus kills the fly, but not before making it walk to a prominent position so that the spores can be dispersed and infect other flies. The Longhorn Beetle (Grammoptera ruficornis) was also a new species for my patch list. After a quick look over the Great Broad I completed my circuit, ending a very productive visit.

WHITLINGHAM: Tortoise Beetles and more

27th May 2016

After dropping Cathy off in the city I looped round to Whitlingham for an evening walk. There were thousands of a small species of Caddisfly, Mystacides longicornis, that had clearly emerged that day.

Whilst listening to a Song Thrush I noticed a well-camouflaged Tortoise Beetle on a burdock leaf. There are two similar mainly green ones, but this one turned out to be Thistle Tortoise Beetle (Cassida rubiginosa). Interestingly I found a second species later on, also on a burdock leaf. This one was Cassida vibex, which I have recorded here previously.

My productive evening of invertebrates continued with some occupied leaf mines in a dock leaf and lots of weevils. A soldierfly was identified online by Andy Musgrove as a Black Colonel (these flies all have a military rank in their name!) and confirmed by the Soldierfly recording scheme as a new TG20 record, which was satisfying. I also saw a small white micro moth. There are two similar species that are most easily identified by looking at them head on, so I'm not sure mine can be identified - it is either Elachista argentella or Opostega salaciella.

Finally I noticed that quite a lot of the campion flowers had dark centres. This is caused by a smut, known aptly as Campion Anther Smut.

NORWICH: A scarce leaf-miner

27th May 2016

On my way home from a Norwich Bat Group talk on Thursday evening I noticed a few brown areas in the leaf of a Lime tree near my house. It was getting dark, so I left it and then on Friday morning on my way to work I remembered to stretch up and collect the leaf. As I'd expected, the brown areas were three leaf mines, although they were evacuated ones (i.e. the insects that had made them had emerged). 

There are two excellent websites for identifying leaf mines ( and, so I searched for mines in Tilia spp and came up with an answer, Parna apicalis. This species only had five dots on the NBN map (a way of seeing how abundant a species is, albeit not everyone sends in or passes on their records, so it has to be treated as a guide only). It should be noted that one of those five squares is the one with Norwich in, so even if it is genuinely the second county record it won't be a new 10km square. 

I double-checked the ID with Brian Pitkin, who runs the ukflymines website and leaf miners Facebook group, and he agreed. I guess if there is a moral to the post, it is to keep your eyes open as scarce or under-recorded species can be found even within the city and as you go about your daily business.

NORTH NORFOLK: Bird Fair & Edible Frogs

22nd May 2016

This weekend was the Norfolk Bird & Wildlife Fair, and having enjoyed our visit last year Cathy, Margaret & I decided to call in. Having had a look at the lecture list we settled on Sunday so that we could listen to Julie Curl's talk about wildlife in archaeology. We all found the talk very interesting, vindicating our choice. In particular Julie touched on the discrepancies between documentary evidence of birds being eaten at banquets compared to the archaeological evidence. It appears that when estates were writing that they were serving up hundreds of Bitterns they may well have just had one or two as table decoration and been feeding their guests commoner birds like geese, all disguised with strong herb sauces. Something worth bearing in mind when looking at old bird records!

After the lecture we went for a walk around the grounds. Our first port of call was the rose garden, where two Spotted Flycatchers had been seen the previous day. There was no sign of them whilst we were there, although a bonus was a Hobby flying past. We then took the path across the meadows, stopping at a small pond. Here we saw Azure and Large Red Damselflies, Four-spotted Chasers and Cathy spotted a small fish that looked like a Minnow.

Whilst we were near the pond Cathy asked what the noise was that we could hear in the background. Dismissing my original suggestion (a Crow that had swallowed a duck) we carried on along the boardwalk until we reached a small hide overlooking a large pond. Once we entered the hide it became apparent that the noise was coming from a target species of mine, the Edible Frog. The loud calls meant I scanned the area closest to the hide, but Cathy pointed out the fifty or so Edible Frogs much further back amongst some weed. They were mostly lime green, with white vocal sacs visible when they called. Apparently these frogs originate from a release at nearby Erpingham in 1977. Having seen the frogs we returned to the main part of the fair for lunch, before having a look around the main Marquee.

WHITLINGHAM: Spring invertebrates

21st May 2016

Having been to Thorpe on Friday, I checked Whitlingham on Saturday. I checked around the ruins in the hope that a Spotted Flycatcher would have returned, but it seems this species is no longer regular in the area. There was quite a bit of Star-of-Bethlehem flowering - have I just missed this in previous years? The Great Broad was a bit disturbed from boating activities, but mainly held Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

The warm weather meant lots of insects were about, including six species of ladybirds and two shieldbugs. There were lots of small Nomada bees flying around the eastern end of the Great Broad, but frustratingly none would settle - I still don't have any on my patch list. Hoverflies included my first Cheilosia illustrata of the year. Another one of my favoured groups are metallic seed and leaf beetles, and there were some nice bright green ones which I think are Plateumaris sericea, and a darker one that I haven't made up my mind on yet! Figwort Weevils were also out and numerous along the south shore.

THORPE MARSH: Mayflies & an egg mystery solved

20th May 2016

Whitlingham has begun to quieten down with regards to birds, so on Friday evening I headed to Thorpe Marsh where there was a better chance of seeing something different. I once again failed to see any Hobbies, but I did add one bird to my patch year list in the form of a Shelduck. Susan had kindly emailed me to say that she had seen one on Thursday whilst conducting Orange-tip counts, but at first glance there was no sign of it on the broad. Ricky then phoned me to say that he had seen it fly in and land on the western edge of the broad. Despite scanning from different vantage points it was out of site, and I had almost given up before finally seeing it asleep amongst some vegetation.

In contrast to the birds there were large numbers of insects. In particular there were lots of recently emerged Mayflies (Ephemera vulgata) and Caddisfly spp. I was also able to solve a mystery from last weeks visit to Wheatfen. Whilst at the Bioblitz we had seen eggs on dock leaves, but not been able to identifity them. Today I saw not only the eggs, but the beetles responsible. They were Galerucella sagittariea, and with several similar species with different foodplants, the fact that they were egg-laying on dock was particularly handy. Of the rest of the insects, Red-headed Cardinal Beetles are always nice to see, and there were also some Soldier Beetles (Cantharis rustica).


15th May 2016

Despite being recorded annually in Norfolk, Bee-eaters can be quite difficult birds to see. Typically they are seen (or sometimes just heard) flying over, never to be seen again. I had only seen one in Norfolk, a bird at Glandford that stayed in the area a few days. All this meant that a Bee-eater in the Winterton area that had remained for the best part of a week was a major draw for East Anglian birdwatchers. Having had a busy weekend I hadn't thought about going to see it, but on Sunday evening Ricky texted me to say that he was going to go, did I want a lift? Despite thinking that it would probably have headed off to roost before we got there I accepted the offer, and the gamble paid off nicely as we got excellent views of the Bee-eater, firstly perched up, then gliding about and finally feeding. A great end to the weekend, and thank to Ricky for the lift.

YARE VALLEY: Wheatfen Bioblitz

15th May 2016

On Sunday Wheatfen hosted a Bioblitz, in conjunction with the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists Society and NBIS. This brought together a host of experienced naturalists and interested wildlife enthusiasts to head out onto the reserve and record as many species as possible. I had agreed to go through the moth trap at the start of the morning, however my role became rather superfluous as the cold weather overnight meant only three moths were present in the trap - 2 Powdered Quakers and 1 Green Carpet.

After this slight setback I went for a walk looking for insects with local volunteer Kevin, Tim Hodge, David Norgate and several others. We begun in the area around the Thatch, where we were shown the larvae of the very rare beetle Galeruca laticollis feeding on Meadow-rue. Five species of ladybirds were present, along with a Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle and several different hoverflies. Two Hobbies flew over, and we saw three Cuckoos including a bubbling female. Stewart Wright showed us several micro moths and case-bearing larvae, which were particularly interesting.

 Cream-spotted Ladybird
 Galeruca beetle larvae
 Coleophora paripenella case
 Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle

A few sunnier spells encouraged more insects to fly, including Orange-tip and Hairy Dragonfly. There were lots of Green Nettle Weevils and early instar Dark Green Bush-crickets in the nettles as we looked for extra species. We were able to point out some other interesting species, including a tiny Owl Midge and a large Noon Fly. A rust on Wild Currant was a new fungus for me. On our way back to the visitors centre we saw Large Red and Blue-tailed Damselflies, and a Black Colonel soldierfly. After handing in our records sheet I headed home, but recording went on into the afternoon - I'll update this post with an overall species total if one gets published.

WHITLINGHAM: Swifts, House Martins & more

14th May 2016

Saturday was a cold, breezy day and birdsong was muted. The highlight of my Whitlingham visit was the waves of hirundines and Swifts sweeping low to the water, hurtling over the surface of the Great Broad. The Swifts were closer in to the shore, but interestingly there was a large number (probably around 120) House Martins further back. Several other Norfolk birders also noted seeing large numbers of House Martins at wetland sites today, so perhaps there has been a late arrival?

Two new species were seen, firsty Fever-fly (Dilophus febrilis), and secondly Changing Forget-me-not.

WHITLINGHAM: Black Terns at last

10th May 2016

By the weekend it was beginning to look like the large passage of Marsh Tern spp had passed Whitlingham by. Luckily this year with some of the UEA birders visiting Whitlingham in addition to the regulars, there are more eyes on the lookout, and this afternoon Drew came up trumps with some Black Terns. 

Luckily I had just got home from work when he called, and was able to head down to the Great Broad where two Black Terns were hawking insects along the far shore. They began to move towards eastwards towards the island, so I walked a bit further down. A screeching call alerted me to a third Black Tern flying in, and looking along the shore I could see that Drew had also noticed this latest bird. Whilst Black Terns are near-annual at some sites in Norfolk, I think these might be the first ones at Whitlingham since September 2010, and definitely my first summer adults here. They remained into the evening, allowing a number of local birders to see them. Incidentally they were mostly out of my camera range, so I'd love to see any photos that people may have taken of them.

There was also a bonus beetle - whilst walking from the car park to the broad I spotted a metallic beetle in the undergrowth, which I recognised as Chrysolina polita, which became patch species 1001.

Chrysolina polita