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

WHITLINGHAM: January wildfowl count

14th January 2017

With a spell of cold weather, including actual snow, combined with strong winds at the coast, I was optimistic that the WeBS count this weekend would turn up something good, like a Smew or rare grebe. The weather forecast for Sunday was rain, so I opted to get the count done on Saturday afternoon.

Turning off onto Whitlingham Lane I noticed that Trowse Meadow was completed flooded, the worst I had ever seen it. I thought that I’d check it for waders if I got time, but in the end it was after sunset by the time I had finished at Whitlingham. Donning wellies just to be on the safe side (they weren’t actually needed in the end) I headed back along Whitlingham Lane, counting the flock of Greylag Geese on the meadow (these don’t go on the main WeBS count, but I do put them on mine).

There was a scattering of birds on the Little Broad, the best of which was a Kingfisher seen a couple of times. Moving across to the Great Broad the Coot and ducks looked well spread out over the broad, so I set about counting them in groups. Whilst on the slipway a Mute Swan decided I must have food and ran at me. Once it got to me it wasn’t aggressive, but it did decided to try to eat the bottom of my boots, the top of my boots, and then try to get its head in my bag.

Once the swan realised that it couldn’t find any food, it decided to just wait beside me. I had just finished counting the ducks on the far shore, when a boy came up to me and asked if I was using my telescope to look at the ducks. I was so pleased that someone knew that it was a telescope and not a camera that I wanted to do one of those jumps on the spot where you click your heals to the side, but resisted the urge on account of the lack of gymnastic ability, the fact it would have looked really weird and also that I would have probably ended up kicking my Swanny friend in the head. I lowered it down and let him have a look through, and when his family came over it turned out that his dad was Martin Rejzek, formerly the Longhorn Beetle recording scheme coordinator who has lived in Norwich for many years now.

After chatting to Martin I carried on, thinking that duck numbers actually looked quite low, only to find that about 180 Tufted Duck and associated hangers-on were at the far end of the broad. The Pochard x Ferruginous Duck was also still present, as were all 11 Little Grebes that arrived several months ago.

Key combined counts across Whitlingham and Thorpe were:

  • Tufted Duck 391 (2016: 175, 2015: 220)
  • Pochard 26 (2016: 70, 2015: 80)
  • Gadwall 240 (2016: 213, 2015: 209)
  • Shoveler 8 (2016: 20, 2015: 8)
  • Coot 336 (2016: 205, 2015: 232)

Thorpe Broad had a scattering of ducks and a flock of loafing gulls, mostly Herring Gulls. Six Shoveler were present, which were of note for the site. The river level was very high, almost right up to the riverside footpath. By now the light was beginning to fade, so after a quick check of the conservation area bay, where 40-odd Cormorants were already roosting, I headed back. A flock of around 35 Greenfinches were flying around their roost trees, but there was no sign of any Water Rails along the shore of the Little Broad.

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