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

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

NORWICH: No Hornet Moths

26th June 2016

Last weekend I had intended to look for Hornet Moths at Thorpe St Andrew, however rain had thwarted me. These day-flying hornet mimics emerge from holes near the bases of poplar trees, and they are only usually seen early in the morning shortly after they emerge. Last year I saw some holes in the poplar trees at Thorpe Green, so I arrived early on Sunday to look for the moths. Sadly there were no moths or empty chrysalises, so it looks like they may no longer be present at this site.

It wasn't a complete waste though, as I saw a fungus growing on an exposed poplar root, which was later identified as Poplar Fieldcap (Agrocybe cylindracea), a new species for me. The local Muscovy was of course another highlight. I did walk down to Thorpe and scanned the marshes from the railway bridge, however the only thing of note was two fisherman trespassing on the newly fenced in shore of the broad.

NORTH NORFOLK: More broomrape & some hoverflies

25th June 2016

On Saturday afternoon I headed to north-east Norfolk to have a look at another population of Purple Broomrape. Thanks to some good directions I located them quickly and as this part of the coast was enjoying a sunny spell I spent a bit of time sat on the clifftop scanning out to sea for birds or porpoises. On my way back to the car I spent some time checking the flowers for insects, seeing a Painted Lady, several Volucella pellucens and Volucella bombylans hoverflies and some Tephritidae fruit flies.

 Volucella pellucens
Volucella bombylans
Euleia heraclei

THORPE MARSH: Evening jaunt

21st June 2016

After work I headed down to Thorpe Marsh for an evening wander. Walking down to the marsh I saw my first Norfolk Hawkers of the year, with two individuals having a brief dogfight before returning to their respective ditches. There wasn't too much around in the way of bird life, but it was nice to just spend some time looking over the marsh whilst Swifts screeched overhead.

NORTH NORFOLK: Purple Broomrape at Overstrand

19th June 2016

The weekend began in somewhat frustrating fashion. I had hoped to go and see the Great Knot at Titchwell on Friday after work, but it had headed off down the coast. My second opportunity to see it came on Saturday, but despite standing on the beach in the wind and rain it wasn't to be, as it was only seen for about 10 minutes. Typically it showed really well on Sunday when I had other plans.

On to Sunday, and Cathy & I were back in North Walsham to see my family. In between social engagements we headed to Overstrand for a walk along the clifftop path. My target here was Purple Broomrape, a scarce parasitic plant that I had tried and failed to see several times previously. The number of plants and the flowering time seems to vary year on year, which added to the problem seeing them. This time Ben Murphy had kindly informed me in mid-week that several plants were now flowering, so I was keen to see them whilst I could.

We parked up at the clifftop car park and headed west, stopping regularly to let people past on the narrow path. Once we were past a few houses the area to the south opened up into a golf course, whilst on the other side Sand Martins occasionally floated up over the cliffs and a Kestrel skimmed past below them. Having shown Cathy a picture of our target plant it was her that located two flowering spikes of Purple Broomrape, one near the path and one closer to the cliff edge.

We continued a bit further along to see if there were any more close by, before turning round and retracing our steps. There were several bees and wasps on the umbellifers, and other interesting invertebrates included a Gorse Shieldbug and the micro moth Pammene aurana. A Small Copper rested briefly on the path, and a Speckled Wood seemed very out of place as it flew up off the cliff and off across the golf course. Back at the car park we got an ice cream from a very friendly man at the van, before heading back to North Walsham.

MID-NORFOLK: Foxley insects and plants

11th June 2016

After the moth traps had been opened at Foxley, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust warden led a walk around the wood. He was able to tell us about the history and management of the different areas of the wood, which is the sort of thing you can't get from just walking around on your own. Inevitably I wandered along staring into the undergrowth for insects, and this time I had a partner in crime as Stewart Wright was there looking for leaf-mining lepidoptera.

My two best finds both evaded the camera - my first Eared Leafhopper jumped away and my first Tortoise Shieldbug dropped off its blade of grass and I couldn't find it amongst the leaflitter. At the other end of the scale Stewart found a case of the micro moth Infurcitinea argentimaculella, only the fourth Norfolk record. This larva of this species makes a case then camouflages it with lichen. It's so good I could barely see it even when I was looking straight at it. I have highlighted it on the photo below.

Other interesting sightings on the way round included a Six-spot Burnet Moth caterpillar and several empty pupae, an Oak Eggar moth caterpillar, attractive micro moths Alabonia geofrella, Micropterix aruncella & Micropterix calthella. Plant-wise we were shown Midland Hawthorn and Wild Service Tree, and saw loads of Common-spotted Orchids, a couple of Twayblades and some Greater Butterfly Orchids.

 Six-spot Burnet moth caterpillar
 A case made by the larvae of the moth Psyche casta
Greater Butterfly Orchid

MID-NORFOLK: Foxley Wood moth night

11th June 2016

This weekend the evenings were designated as National Moth Night(s), and moth-trapping events were held across the country by Butterfly Conservation. Yes I'm aware there are some slight contradictions there. Anyway, the main Norfolk event was held at Foxley Wood NWT reserve, the largest area of ancient* woodland in Norfolk. The event was well attended, with around 30 people present, and we saw about 70 species of moth. This total was a bit low for the time of year (and across seven traps), but still included a good variety and large numbers of some species.

A Brindled White-spot was the scarcest species found, but there were several other species that I had not seen before, including Grey Arches, Plain Golden Y and Pale-shouldered Brocade.

 Ingrailed Clay - a very variable species
 Poplar Hawk Moth - probably the commonest hawk moth
 Beautiful Golden Y
Brindled White-spot

* later we went on a walk with the warden, who told us that rather than ancient woodland, Foxley could be considered primal woodland. This term, which I hadn't really come across before, means that the area had been continuously wooded since the last ice age retreated. In England, 'ancient woodland' means woodland present since before 1600.

WHITLINGHAM: Damselflies and 100 birds for the year

12th June 2016

After work I headed down to Trowse Meadow and Whitlingham. Light rain was falling, which had grounded damselflies along the riverbank. I saw at least seven Banded Demoiselles and a Large Red Damselfy, plus a similar range of insects to my last visit. 

Carrying along down Whitlingham Lane I saw a metallic black beetle on an umbellifer. At home I was able to identify it as Chrysolina oricalcia. This is a fairly under-recorded species in Norfolk - county recorder Martin Collier says that there have been around ten modern records in Norfolk. As is often the case there are now about 12 - the day after mine it was also found in Earlham Cemetery.

Arriving at Whitlingham I scanned over the broad and saw a Marsh Harrier circling above, belatedly my 100th patch bird of the year. It disappeared behind a tree and I was surprised to see it reappear much closer, only to find there were in fact two individuals, my first record of multiple birds over the C.P. With little of note on the broad I headed off into the picnic meadow. I had been told a few years ago that there are a few Bee Orchids here, but I've never found them. I did however find a Southern Marsh Orchid, a patch tick and a rather unusual species given the relatively dry meadow.

Whilst walking around I found another patch first, a Mother Shipton moth, and a new gall on Lime. 26 Woundwort Shieldbugs were also of note. Altogether a very productive evening visit.

NORTH SUFFOLK: Blue-winged Teal

7th June 2016

I seldom twitch birds outside of Norfolk these days, but when a drake Blue-winged Teal was found at Carlton Marshes near Lowestoft on Monday I was tempted. I have a fondness for ducks, and had previously attempted but failed to see a Blue-winged Teal at the Ouse Washes with Jim. In the past ten years there had only been a couple of accepted records in Norfolk, both one-day birds at Cley and Holme. This bird was less than 1km from the county border, so it almost counts. With all this in mind Cathy & I headed off to Carlton Marshes after work on Tuesday.

I'd only visited the reserve once before, and wasn't exactly sure where the bird was. It was being reported on the scrape, but as a relatively recent feature this wasn't marked on the site map. After a tentative walk out towards the eastern path I decided to stick to the main track, and where this track met the raised bank we saw a couple of birders. They were watching the Blue-winged Teal, albeit distantly, and kindly got us on the bird. It was feeding in a rushy corner of the pool, along with several Eurasian Teal. The distance and the propensity of the bird for keeping its head down meant my attempts at digiscoping a record shot failed.

After a while the Blue-winged Teal moved out of sight, so we headed back, taking in the Swifts and hirundines flying low over the path. Small China-mark moths fluttered low over the ditches either side of the path.

BRECKLAND: Middle Harling Heath flora

5th June 2016

For the final part of my weekend of wildlife I headed off into the Brecks for a joint meeting of the NNNS, Norfolk Flora Group and Lowestoft Field Club. The site was advertised in the programme as West Harling Heath, although shortly after entering the heath was a board describing the site as Middle Harling Heath. 

Numbers were fairly low for the event, but it was clear that the other members were very knowledgeable botanists. The positive side to this is that many species were found and recorded, including some Breckland specialities. The slight downside was that specialist recording groups tend to refer to species amongst themselves familiarly by one-word scientific names, meaning my notes needed a bit of deciphering at home!

Some of the more interesting plants that we saw included Long-headed Poppy, Bur Medick, Field Mouse-ear, Hairy Rock-cress and Thyme-leaved Sandwort. One of the rarest but least impressive ones was the grass Purple-stemmed Cat's-tail. To add insult to injury, the stem wasn't even purple on these ones.

 Bur Medick
 Purple-stemmed Cat's-tail

Whilst looking at plants I was keeping an eye out for insects, as there are several shieldbugs and leatherbugs I'd like to see that are found most often in the Brecks. As it was the only shieldbug I saw was a Hairy Shieldbug. Day-flying moths included a Mother Shipton and several Yellow Shells. My first Painted Lady of the year flew quickly over the heath, and Common Blues were also present. Other highlights included two Wasp Beetles and a Lackey moth caterpillar.

 Wasp Beetle
 Mother Shipton
Lackey moth caterpillar

YARE VALLEY: Strumpshaw moths

5th June 2016

The weather so far this spring has been rather poor for moths, so Cathy & I took the opportunity to head to Strumpshaw Fen on Sunday morning to see a couple of moth traps be opened. There were about 30 species between them, still down on what you would expect around this time of year. Upon our arrival a call went up from the screen near reception hide that a Barn Owl was hunting over the reedbed, and we watched it drifting about in the morning light. 

None of the macro moths were new for me, but there was some interesting ones like Scorched Wing, Scorched Carpet and Silky Wainscot, plus the obligatory hawk moths. I did see a few new micro moths - a Cork Moth caught by Ben Lewis, Alabonia geofrella caught by Matt Casey and Pyla fusca caught by James Lowen. Despite the likely potential for seeing Swallowtails later on in the day, we left once the traps had been looked at so that I could head out later in the day. Just before we left a Kingfisher flew across the broad to bookend the visit nicely.

 Scorched Wing
 Scorched Carpet
Alabonia geofrella

WHITLINGHAM: June counts & invertebrates

4th June 2016

The time of year and belated good weather meant a busy weekend, so after returning from the North Norfolk coast I opted to to to Whitlingham to carry out the June WeBS counts. There were no surprises in terms of the bird life, although it was good to see three broods of Mute Swans. Usually there are at least four on nests around the site, but it is unusual to see more than one or two broods, presumably as a result of predation. I think the geese mainly breed on the island, where they have more protection against predators.

Anyway, the main combined Whitlingham Little Broad/Great Broad/Thorpe Broad counts with the equivalent 2015 count in brackets were:
Mute Swan 58 (35)
Greylag Goose 133 (181)
Canada Goose 36 (44)
Mallard 49 (42)
Tufted Duck 5 (16)
Coot 5 (14)

I tried to avoid being distracted by other wildlife so that I could carry out the count in reasonable time, but I didn't manage it. First thing of interest was a case-bearing moth case on Alder. Having been shown some of these type of cases at Wheatfen and seeing them at Salthouse too, I'm now picking them out more easily. Hopefully I can identify this one to species later.

The Diamond-back Moth invasion was very much in evidence, and a Silver Y moth was presumably also a migrant. It seems to be the best year for 2-spot ladybirds in ages, but today I saw at least three of the black 4-spotted form, which I haven't seen for several years. A yellow-banded Longhorn moth and two Banded Demoiselles were new for the year, and the final thing of interest was a folded Hazel leaf caused by a Hazel Leaf-rolling Weevil.

NORTH NORFOLK: Salthouse Heath

4th June 2016

With an upturn in the weather, Cathy & I spent the afternoon in north Norfolk. We began at Natural Surroundings, where we had a nice lunch whilst watching a Stock Dove under the feeders.

We then carried on to Cley, where we noticed lots of presumably migrant hoverflies along with the Diamond-back Moths. Finally we headed to Salthouse Heath. I had hoped to see the May Lilies that grow here, but the heath covers a large area and we didn't see them. Incidentally if any readers know whereabouts they are I would be grateful so that I can try again next year.

Eupeodes corollae

Despite not seeing the May Lilies we did see a number of interesting species, mostly around a single Birch tree. Cathy found the case of a case-bearing moth, and the same tree held weevils, shieldbug nymphs and leaf mines caused by an Eriocrania moth sp. We also saw one of the lime green sawflies, Rhogogaster viridis.

NORTH NORFOLK: Plants and a Soldier Beetle

2nd June 2016

On Thursday I went to the North Norfolk coast with dad. The weather was overcast and drizzly, so we saw very few insects, but did manage a few interesting bits and bobs. We started off at Holme Dunes, where there were a few Early Marsh Orchids along the entrance track. We also saw two small species of clover growing in the car park, Suffocated Clover and Bird's-foot Clover. These species had been mentioned recently in a blog by the North-west Norfolk Naturalists. [Edit] Note that it was Suffocated Clover that I saw, not Subterranean Clover as I had initially written - apologies for any confusion caused.

From here we headed to Thornham, stopping for lunch at Shuck's restaurant, based in a Yurt. The food was very good, albeit rather fancy for my taste (for example several options were served with aioli, which I'd never even heard of). They also gave you the choice of rustic or stealth chips. As much as I wanted to see what on earth stealth chips were, I was concerned they would attack me whilst I wasn't looking, so I settled for rustic ones.

The weather hadn't improved, so we decided to drive along the coast road and call in at Holt Country Park. When I used to come here regularly as a kid I had seen Bird's Nest Orchids here, but we failed to find any on this occasion - perhaps I was looking in the wrong place, or perhaps we just overlooked them. I did see one new species, a small soldier beetle that landed on Dad's hand, Rhagonycha limbata.