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

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

Introducing the NNNS 150 species project

A few readers might be aware that for the past few years I have been a council member of the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists Society. In 2019 we will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the formation of the society, which is a massive milestone (in comparison the Norfolk Wildlife Trust will shortly be 92). We will be doing a range of things to celebrate the 150 years, but one which we are currently planning is a book to be given to members (with some copies made available for sale to non-members) featuring 150 species with Norfolk links.

The 150 species will be a complete mixture of groups, some common and some rare, some spectacular and some overlooked, a few extinct and even one mythical! These have been suggested by our county recorders and whittled down from a larger list. Members can find the list (or 148 of them to be precise) at the back of Natterjack, which you should have just received or be receiving soon. Each species will have text written by a profiler, but we also want a photo, or if not then a drawing or painting of each. Clearly this will be easier for some than for others - we anticipate receiving lots of photos of Swallowtail butterflies, but has anyone photographed Large Dune Leafhopper (Doratura impudica)?

The challenge to anyone reading this is to supply a photo of any of the trickier species on the list - either already taken or by going out and finding them! I cannot guarantee that we will use all of the images, in an ideal world we will have several for each species and can pick from them. Ideally photos would be taken in Norfolk, but again being realistic there are some species that we will be happy to receive a photo from anywhere.

So, the subset of the 150 that I think are the trickiest (either in terms of rarity, location, difficulty in identifcation or obscurity) and therefore most in need of a photo are:
  • Marram Grass Chelifer (Dactylochelifer latreillei) - a pseudoscorpion
  • Ceutorhynchus querceti   - a weevil
  • Bledius filipes - a rove beetle
  • Diastictus vulneratus  - a dung beetle
  • Agabus striolatus - a water beetle
  • Psylliodes sophiae - a leaf beetle
  • Dolichopus laticola - a fly
  • Hybomitra muehlfeldi - a fly
  • Breck Robberfly (Machimus arthriticus)
  • Orange-horned Green Colonel (Odontomyia angulata) - a soliderfly
  • Banded Golden Hoverfly (Callicera spinolae)
  • Levels Duck-Hoverfly (Anasimyia interpuncta)
  • Microdon devius - a hoverfly
  • Sea Club-Rush Hoverfly (Lejops vittatus)
  • Giant Oak Aphid  (Stomaphis quercus)
  • Spiny Broom Aphid (Ctenocallis setosa)
  • Thyme Aphid (Aphis serpylli)
  • Large Dune Leafhopper (Doratura impudica)
  • Metalimnus formosus - a leafhopper
  • Platymetopius undatus - a leafhopper
  • Unciger foetidus - a millipede
You might have noticed the reference to a mythical species in my introduction. That wasn't a joke - famous devil dog Black Shuck has made the list! You'll do well to get a photograph of him, but it's a good opportunity for someone living in north Norfolk to take their big black dog out one night for a photoshoot, or perhaps for an artistic reader to come up with something?!

So what to do if you do have a photo of one of these species that you are happy for the NNNS to use for this project? (I should say at this point that your name will be credited with the image but we cannot offer payment) It might be that you have already been approached by one of the species profilers asking for pictures, in which case please send to them as requested. If you are an NNNS member then contact details for Hans Watson who is collating the pictures are at the bottom of the Natterjack article. If neither of these apply then please send me an email (whitlinghambirds 'at' and I will pass them on.

Thanks to anyone who can help, and keep an eye on the blog at the start of 2019 when the book will be released and more celebratory activities will be announced.

WHITLINGHAM: January wildfowl count

18th February 2018

On Sunday I was at Whitlingham early to get the wildfowl count done. In addition to wanting to beat the crowds I also needed to be away before the football traffic built up, and also hoped that I might finally catch up with some migrating Bewick's Swans. I didn't think that the temperatures had dipped very low overnight, but the meadows were covered with frost and part of each broad was frozen. As the sun finally burst through a misty haze hung over the broad and picnic meadow, and the bird song was more reminiscent of an April morning.

The number of birds on the Little Broad had decreased from my last visit, which was just as well as I was having to split my time between counting them, keeping an eye out for Water Rails and watching the Siskins feeding above my head. A pair of Shoveler remained at the east end of the broad.

Moving across to the Great Broad I began by checking some loafing Black-headed Gulls for rings. I then moved on, taking less time than usual for this time of year because with the exception of the Tufted Ducks the numbers of everything else were low. A group of 25 Pochard were in the conservation area bay, along with six Little Grebes (a seventh was seen against the north shore of the broad). Despite the sunny spells there was no sign of the Bittern. As I completed my lap around the north shore three Egyptian Geese very tolerantly stood on different cut trunks of a large tree on the riverbank. On my way back I checked the gulls again and saw returning bird A341.

Selected bird numbers (complete site including Justin's Thorpe count):
  • Gadwall 54 (a drop of 208 from January's count). 2017 - 130
  • Tufted Duck 221 (a drop of 106 from January's count). 2017 - 216
  • Pochard 39 (a drop of 20 from January's count). 2017 - 27
  • Coot 68  (a drop of 124 from January's count). 2017 - 179

THORPE & WHITLINGHAM: A morning of patch visits

15th February 2018

With a nice sunny day in prospect I had a quick look around three of the sites that make up my Whitlingham patch. I started off at Thorpe Marshes, and had soon seen two Buzzards, one distantly off towards Postwick and the other flying low over the marsh, parallel to the railway line. What was probably the overwintering male Stonechat darted into the large bramble, but sadly didn't pop out whilst I was there. I had a look around the small wooded area, finding some Scarlet Elf Cups and Common Mazegill, but some tree work being done on Bungalow Lane meant that I retraced my steps and went round to look over the broad. Here three Wigeon were the pick of the birds, along with the expected duck species.

Next stop was Trowse Woods, although as the road was busy I parked at Whitlingham and walked south down the Lime Tree Avenue and past hte old hospital. In the fields nearby a Skylark sung, which was nice as I usually only see flyover ones here. In the woods themselves a Green Woodpecker and a Nuthatch were both calling, and amongst the large drifts of Snowdrops I also noted Winter Aconite and Lenten Rose. Three Orange Ladybirds sheltered beneath some Beeswax Brackets, and a microfungus growing on a dead Stinking Iris seedpod will probably turn out to be quite scarce if I can identify it!

Walking back along the lane I spent some time along the south shore of the Little Broad where Mark Eldridge had seen a particularly pale Redpoll the day before. Justin was also having a look, and whilst we were there we saw around 15 Redpolls, but unfortunately the four we saw well were all Lessers. A pair of Bullfinches and a singing Treecreeper were also of note in the same area. Despite the nice weather I'm still yet to see a butterfly so far this year.

WEST NORFOLK: Wensum valley & TItchwell

13th February 2018

Adam & I decided to do a leisurely bit of birding along the Wensum valley and north-west of the county. Our first port of call was Sparham Pools, and here it became apparent that the previous night had been colder than we thought, with the edges of the lake still frozen. Walking along the perimeter we saw a large flock of Fieldfares in an adjacent field, and I heard my first drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker of the year. There was no sign of any Goosanders, a few Shoveler being the most interesting birds on the lake. Something brown moving across the ice caught our eye, but it turned out to be a bunch of leaves being blown steadily across the ice!

Our next stop was at Guist, where a few Greylags and Egyptian Geese were in the fields near the river. We stopped again near Choseley, where the fields were full of Brown Hares and Lapwing, which was good to see.

Arriving at Titchwell before lunchtime we walked along the path from the car park and stopped to look at some fungi, including Alder Goblet (Ciboria caucus) and Scarlet Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca). A large flock of mostly Chaffinches also included at least two Bramblings and some Greenfinches. They were coming to the feeders then flying down to the ditches to drink.

The water level was high on the freshmarsh, but there was a group of Avocets in addition to the ducks and Brent Geese. On the todal section there were lots of Redshanks, but when we returned they had been joined by a large flock of Knot plus some Dunlin and a Ringed Plover. On the beach we saw Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and Sanderlings, with Goldeneye, Common Scoter and Red-breasted Mergansers offshore. Red-crested Pochards and more Brambling were on the Meadow Trail.

After lunch at the cafe we drove along some of the back roads near Ringstead looking for Pink-footed Geese. We found a flock, but there were no interloping other species or neck-collared birds. Our final stop of the day was at Flitcham. For once the Little Owl was showing well from the bird hide, and another birder pointed out two Egyptian Goose goslings amongst the vegetation. We couldn't pick out any Tree Sparrows amongst a finch flock, but it was starting to rain so it seemed a good point to return home.

WHITLINGHAM: No diver, but plenty of interest

11th February 2018

On Saturday a diver sp was seen flying west over Whitlingham. It wasn't identified to species, but suffice to say any diver around the city would be an excellent sighting, so I decided to head down on Sunday morning in case it had looped round or was on the river nearby.

As I arrived at Whitlingham a Kestrel flew up out of the Lime trees, the wind carrying it soaring over the car and away over the meadows. After checking the Little Broad I concentrated on the Alder trees where some Mealy Redpolls had been the previous day, but there was no sign of them (Gary later saw two of them along the north shore of the broad, although they had gone by the time I got round). More trees had been cut down since my last visit and at the end of the little broad some of the shingle was courdoned off, presumably to dig the new pond-dipping pond that Tesco's 'bags of help' fund had provided money for. I couldn't account for the three benches that had been turned over and fenced in - perhaps there had been a bench-tipping event?

Near the slipway I caught up with three Lesser Redpolls, that showed well low down near the broad edge. Further along I stopped to see a small group of Pochard diving actively. Level with the island I heard a Brambling calling behind me, so I moved round to the end of the ditch to see into the scrub. This proved to be a good move as a Kingfisher landed on a branch nearby. There was a lot of branches between me and it, but this appeared to reassure the bird as it had clearly noticed me but didn't fly off. In fact I watched it for about 5 minutes before if caught a small fish and flew further back to eat it. The vivid blue and orange reflected in the dull water -eExcellent views of my favourite bird species.

Continuing to the end of the broad I scanned across hoping to see the Wigeon that have been on St Andrew's Broad recently, but they were out of site. Some Redwing flew out of the plantation behind me. I kept an eye out in the Alders for any more Redpolls, but the wind had got up and there was no sight or sound of any. Looking out into the bay a first-winter Great Black-backed Gull was by the Cormorant posts, which was of note. I finished off by checking the river at regular intervals, but still no luck.

I wouldn't be surprised if the diver landed on the river somewhere either in the city or to the west, so keep an eye out if you are in the city or somewhere like UEA Broad, Colney/Bawburgh lakes etc.

NORWICH: Catton Park winter fungi

4th February 2018

Yet another grey day as I set off for a walk around Catton Park for the first time this year. It was too cold and damp for insects, so I decided to stick to the wooded edges and look for fungi. This proved to be quite a good idea, as I found some nice Grass Oysterlings (Crepidotus epibryus) growing on dead Sycamore leaves, as well as some tiny pink blobs of Illiosporiopsis christiansenii. Other fungi included Jelly Ear, Oyster Mushrooms, Toothed Crust, Yellow Brain and Smoky Bracket.

 Most Crepidotus spores are ellipsoidal, but this species has longer, thinner spores.

Mid-winter isn't a great time for leaf mines, but I did manage to find four species including Phytomyza leucanthemi in Ox-eye Daisy basal leaves, which was a species I've been keeping an eye out for.