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

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


24th September 2017

With the winds seemingly not great for migrant birds, and plenty of fungus forays to come, I decided to focus on insects for a bit longer. I was aware of some interesting stuff being recorded at Roman Wood on the edge of Acle recently, including two species I was keen to see (Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug and Rhombic Leatherbug), so I arranged to meet Tim Hodge there to see what we could find.

Roman Wood has a couple of differing compartments, but the area we focused on were recently cut grassland bordered by 20 year old planted trees and bushes. There were plenty of Pestle Puffballs growing around the edges, and the warm sunshine ensured there were quite a few hoverflies around too.

One of the methods of surveying that Tim had been employing at Roman Wood was seiving of the grass piles. I was surprised by the sheer volume of creatures this produced, but many of them were very small. The tiny ladybird Rhyzobia litura was of interest. Nearby a bee bank had been established, and a metallic green Lasioglossum (or possibly Halictus) was inspecting the soil. With no sign of any shieldbugs in the piles we moved on to a bit of sweeping, and this came up trumps with my first Bishop's Mitre Shieldbug.

Whilst sitting on the grass a Common Darter landed on me several times, although I had to twist to photograph it. A couple of Agromyzid mines were noted, including a new one for me, Agromyza plantaginis, on Greater Plantain.

At the eastern edge of the site there is a ditch, and as we headed that way Tim pointed out a Willow Emerald. They really are quite widespread now, I've seen them at many sites this year. A rust fungus on Agrimony was a good find and a few other bits were noted, including some mines in Poplar and Alder. Seiving of one final grass pile turned up two Notiophilus palustris beetles, part of a genus of ground beetles that have large eyes and stalk Springtails.


23rd September 2017

On Friday a White Stork had been reported near Long Stratton, and had apparently gone to roost on a chimney nearby. It was unringed, and had at one point been following a tractor, which struck me as rather wild sounding behaviour. I decided that given this, regardless of its origins (and let's face it, it is almost impossible to prove the origin either way of an unringed bird) I would enjoy seeing it. That is, lest we forget, the reason for endulging in a hobby.

There had been no news regarding the stork on Saturday morning, so I went to have a look for it. A slow drive around a couple of country lanes later and I noticed a field being ploughed, with loads of gulls in attendance. I pulled over and scanned through them without success, but a bit further along I found the White Stork in a grassy field adjoining the ploughed one. Staying in the car so as not to spook it I got good views as it walked about and fed in the grass. The only other people about were a family, I think probably the same ones mentioned in the EDP article. Incidentally I know there are a few slightly questionable details in the article, but it is great that this bird has been discussed at the local school, so well done to the teacher there. Later in the day David and Linda also saw the stork, and David has some better photos of it on his blog here:

On the way back I was passing a site for Sandy Stiltball, so I stopped nearby and had a look. I only found four fruiting bodies (the site was rather overgrown), most of which were rather old specimens. A check of some Common Mallow nearby revealed one of the specialist weevils that feeds on it, Aspidapion aeneum, so good to end the day with a new species.

NORWICH: Coral fungus and an Earthstar

22nd September 2017

After work on Friday I was walking down Lakenham Way when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Instinct said that it looked like a coral fungus, but there was a large patch so I had second thoughts until I got over to it and found that it was indeed around ten clumps of a Ramaria coral. There are quite a few different species so I need to examine a bit, but Tony Leech agrees with me that the most likely species is Ramaria stricta.

This would have been good enough, but whilst looking at the coral I also noticed at least six Collared Earthstars, including a nice fresh one. 

To add to the fungi, I also found a Rosemary Beetle in the in-laws garden before heading home.

NORTH NORFOLK: Wells warbler & fungi

17th September 2017

I didn't have any plans for Sunday, so when an Arctic Warbler was found at Wells Woods I decided to head over and have a look. It was raining on the way up, but by the time I got there the sun was out, creating a marked difference between the waterproof wearing birders and the beach going tourists. After a brisk walk to the area of birches that the Arctic Warbler was frequenting I got brief views before it flew further back into the trees. Rather than go round I decided to stay and wait for it to come back, and was rewarded with good 'scope views as it worked its way up through the trees. It was a bit too mobile for my digiscoping so I didn't bother trying, but others were clearly getting some good photos.

After a while (and conscious of the fact I'd only paid for two hours of parking) I wandered back. At the edge of the birches I stopped to look at a Brown Birch Bolete, and closer to the dell I found several more. These latter ones had darker caps, but turned out to be the same species. A Small Copper landed briefly on the path, and two Bitter Waxcaps were growing in the Dell amongst lots of Eyebright. I also noticed some sawfly caterpillars feeding on Birch leaves on my way back. A pleasant trip for my first coastal birding of autumn, and belated my first new bird of the year.

BROADLAND: How Hill fungi

16th September 2017

Todays fungus study group foray was at How Hill, and as I headed there the steady rain and copious amounts of standing water made me wonder if I had made the right decision to attend. The thought that my other option for the day had been a freshwater snails workshop at Carlton Marshes (further away and less shelter) cheered me up a bit. As expected the weather and the fact that it was the second foray of the month meant a slightly reduced group, although numbers were built up by four members of the How Hill staff.

We headed off into the woods and began to accrue species straight away. Crepidotus sp are common on forays, but one taken by Tony turned out to be Crepidotus versutus which was a new one for me. Purple-edge Bonnet (Mycena purpurescens) was another good one, amongst the 20 or so species we saw before the heavy rain drove us back to the house. Most places we visit have very little shelter, so we were lucky to have a lounge with hot drinks and cake!

View from the not-quite-aptly named sun room

Once the rain had eased a bit we headed back out. Picking up where we left off we were shown some Spectacular Rustgills that fruit each year, along with Stump Puffballs, Crested Coral and Rutstroemia echinophila for the second foray in a row. A good range of Mycenas were being found, about 14 or 15 different species providing Yvonne with lots of work back at home. I found some cup fungi growing on the petiole of an Oak leaf to go with the related cups on bark and Chestnut casings.

We stopped in the secret garden for lunch at the summerhouse, before exploring the lawns nearby. Lizzy, who had been quite prolifically finding new species for the day list seemed disappointed when a clump of white spheres turned out to be Grass Snake eggs rather than a fungus - several of us rushed back to have a look. Sadly rotten, but the first time I've seen them. Fungi kept being found, with a rust on Potentilla, Larch Bolete, Birch Knight and Deer Shield. The sun actually came out for a spell, and insects were suddenly visible, including Willow Emeralds and a Rhododendron Leafhopper.

Checking the area alongside a path we saw Papillate Pinkgill (confirmed by Alex)  and some Moor Clubs. There was a distinct lack of moorland, which puzzled us, but Tony confirmed later that they were indeed this species. We finally left the secret garden and crossed the woods, where I found three Lion Shields, completing the set of the three yellow shield species for me.

Out on a large lawn we were hopeful for some Waxcaps and other associated species, but unfortunately we were either too early or it wasn't as good as it looked. Pink Domecap was a decent find, but some part-mown Yellow Clubs were the only CHEG species. Just off the grass some Jellybabies were found under the wooded edge.

Before leaving we had a look around the car park and the lawn in front of the house. A few more species were added, including Meadow Coral, although the pick was probably some small ascomycetes that Yvonne found growing on a Dryopteris fern. They turned out to be Psilachnum chrysostigmum, the second Norfolk record. An obliging Sericomyia silentis hoverfly was also nice to see. Altogether we managed over 110 species, the most I remember on a foray for quite some time, so I'm glad I wasn't put off by a bit of rain!

NORWICH: Catton Park ground beetle

14th September 2017

After work I headed to Catton Park. There had been strong winds for the past few days, and I was interested to see if many branches had come down, possibly bringing species usually above head height down to the ground. Before entering the park I checked out the road verge nearby, where I confirmed some naturalised Soapwort that I had tentatively identified from the car a few weeks ago.

Going along an area of woodland edge I noticed some black fungal spots on Elm leaves, which Tony Leech kindly identified as Dothidiella ulmi, which has five previous Norfolk records. I then cut across the grassland and found a ground beetle buried head down in a Knapweed head. It turned out it was just feeding on the seeds, and was quite speedy when disturbed. It turned out that it was Curtonotus aulicus, and this behaviour is quite typical. A range of common Oak galls completed the evenings recording.

NORWICH: Agromyza idaeiana leaf-mine

14th September 2017

Getting interested in leaf mines has opened up a lot of new species to record whilst just out and about - on my way home from work I noticed a new one in Bramble, a short corridor leading into a blotch caused by the fly Agromyza idaeiana.

NORTH NORFOLK: Sustead Common official opening

9th September 2017

Over the summer I have been aware of a recently formed North Norfolk conservation charity called the Felbeck Trust, who have been restoring and maintaing several sites around Aylmerton and Sustead. One of the people involved is Trevor Williams, chairman of the North-east Norfolk Bird Club and Aylmerton Nature Diary blogger. I had commented on his blog in the past, and he mentioned that the Trust were holding an official opening ceremony at Sustead Common on Saturday if I wanted to come along.

I was aware that there wasn't much parking space nearby, so I arrived a bit early, parked up in the village and walked down the lane to the common. The site was a bit smaller than I was expecting, but this was soon explained - the site had been split into three blocks, and the area currently open is the two smaller areas. A larger part that is mostly composed of deciduous woodland is also now being managed by the trust, who hope to be able to purchase it in the future to reunite the whole common.

Everyone was very friendly, and after a few introductions I set about doing a bit of recording before the ribbon cutting ceremony. I got off to a good start with a Green Tortoise Beetle on one of the deckchairs, and followed this up with Dock Bugs, a Sloe Shieldbug and a Green Shieldbug amongst the Knapweed. In fact it turned out to be a good day for shieldbugs and allied insects, as I found five Hawthorn Shieldbugs in the hedge, a late instar Box Bug and several Woundwort Shieldbugs.

 Sloe (=Hairy) Shieldbug
 Hawthorn Shieldbug (late instar)
 Box Bug (late instar)

I paused for a bit to listen to the official opening ceremony, and it was pleasing to hear that many groups had contributed to opening up the site. Volunteers had put in over 500 hours, and I spoke to several locals so it seemed that the villagers were also fully onboard with the work going on, which is key when carrying out a project like this.

Across the beck on the 'surveyors allotment' part of the site I picked up a copy of the NENBC bird report for 2015 & 2016 and had a look at what the Norfolk Rivers Trust had caught. As the scrape was currently dry I could walk out onto it and found some flies on the Flag Iris that had been infected by the fungus Entomophthora muscae. I recorded several galls and leaf mines, plus four hoverflies including Chrysogaster solstitialis.

Crossing back to the main part of the common I found a plant bug, Lygus rugulipennis, which I was fortunately able to confirm because my photos were sharp enough to check the hair density on the corium, the only way it can reliably be separated from the four other similar and variable Lygus species.

I did stop at this point for cake and tea, although whilst I was waiting for the tea to cool I wandered over to the nearby hedge, where I added a type of Hawthorn mite gall, a Vapourer moth caterpillar and a Comma caterpillar to the day list.

I had a very enjoyable day checking out the site, which I'm sure will only get better as the management work continues, and look forward to visiting again next year at some point.

WHITLINGHAM: September wildfowl count

8th September 2017

This weekend was WeBS weekend, and as I was busy at the weekend I headed down after work on Friday to get the Whitlingham count done. Yesterdays flock of House Martins was still present (and lower because of the cloudy weather) and a Chiffchaff 'hweeted', but other than a Kingfisher and the Pintard it was all still very sedate. Six Tufted Ducks were visible at Thorpe.

Counts of the usual suspects:
Mute Swan 23 (2016: 24)
Greylag Goose 3 (2016: 10)
Mallard 69 (2016: 75)
Coot 22 (2016: 97)

As you can see, the Coot numbers were dramatically down on the 2016 count. My first thought was that the 2016 count might have been near the end of the month, and it was on the 18th, so the ten days will account for some of the difference. Going back further over my data however it seems like numbers do fluctuate considerably during September:

2017: 22
2016: 97
2015: 45
2014: 25
2013: 43
2012: Noted as present but no counts
2011: c100

I hung around to check the Cormorant roost, but because of the dull conditions lots were already in the trees, and as the foliage was still present it was impossible to count them accurately - there was at least 27. It began to drizzle, which was followed by a short section of rainbow, which reflected nicely in the water of the Great Broad. I do like a good rainbow.

WHITLINGHAM: Return of the hybrid

7th September 2017

An evening sojourn at Whitlingham, and there was at least a bird of note in the return of the Pintail x Mallard hybrid that has spent most of the past year across the river at Thorpe Green.

My walk took me along the southern edge of the broad and up into the woods, before I walked back through the woodland edge south of Whitlingham Lane. Back at the broad I stopped for a bit of food and watched the paddleboarders. I added a new plant to my Whitlingham list in the form of Red Goosefoot, a plant that I had tentatively identified earlier in the year based on some leaves, but decided to wait until it flowered to confirm it.

An adult Parent Bug was nice to see having seen the ball of young ones last week. Leaf mines of the micro moth Bucculatrix cidarella in Alder were new for me and TG20, and I also saw an impressive Robin's Pincushion gall.

NORWICH: Red velvet mites & more leaf-mines

6th September 2017

The previous day Gary and Alysia had found a Ring-necked Parakeet near their house in Norwich, so after work on Wednesday I went for a walk around Waterloo Park, Drayton Road and the section of Marriott's Way nearby. There was no sign of the parakeet, but as always I found things to keep me occupied. I went over to look at some Tansy, where I found five Red Velvet Mites.

Walking as far as the bridge across to Train Wood, I spotted some Wild Hops growing in the hedge, and decided to check it for leaf mines. This was a good decision as I found Agromyza flaviceps mines, another addition to my fledgeling Agromyzid list. A quick tree check turned up another new mine, that of Aulagromyza populicola.