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

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

THORPE MARSHES - Wheatear!

21st April 2018

I'd just returned from Mannington, and with Cathy & Rose out I made myself a cup of tea and sat down to check my emails. A few minutes later I saw a message from Gary on Twitter to say he had just found a Wheatear at Thorpe Marshes. Wheatears are just about annual locally, but typically only one or two a year and staying a few hours. I'd never seen one at Whitlingham or Thorpe, so with a baleful look at my cup of tea I grabbed my bag and headed back out.

Once on site I called Gary to ask whereabouts he had seen it last, and found out that a family was currently walking down the path where the Wheatear had been. I walked over to the middle of the marsh, stopping briefly for a chat with Susan who had just completed a lap. There was no sign initially on the paths or in the dead tree nearby, but turning round I spotted the Wheatear on a gatepost. Hurrah! The first Wheatear of the year is always a bit special, but to see one here was much more so.



I watched the Wheatear for a while before it hopped down and walked off through the rushy grassland. Gary appeared and we heard a Grasshopper Warbler reeling distantly near the railway line. The Wheatear then reappeared on the gate and we got excellent views. It was quite confiding, so in a rare burst of photographical acumen I laid on the gravel path so that I could see a nice blue background behind it instead of the cluttered marsh or trees. 




This sighting brought my patch list up to 149 birds, tantalisingly close to my medium-term target of 150. Possible 150th species that might be possible this spring include Garganey, Osprey, Crane, Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Ruff or Yellow Wagtail, but it could just as easily be something completely unexpected. A big thanks to Gary for finding the Wheatear and letting me know about it. This year I have less time to spend birding, so having an excellent network of local birders is much appreciated.

There was a final bonus sighting for the visit, as after crossing the footbridge and walking back towards Thorpe St Andrew I spotted a solitary bee on the road. It was still alive so I picked it up to move it to the side so it didn't get squashed, and noted sime pale grey hairs on the lower parts. At home I managed to identify it as Andrena nitida. At the time I thought it would be a new species for me, but consulting my records I did see one at Whitlingham in 2016, when it became my 998th patch species!



NORTH NORFOLK - Mannington fungus foray

21st April 2018

Having been busy for the first two dates, Saturday was my first fungus study group foray of the year. Ian was busy with the flora group, so I headed straight to Mannington Hall and met another ten or so members of the group in the main car park. There was a range of habitats to explore, and first up were the main hall grounds. Spring forays tend to be dominated by species that occur all year round like plant fungi and things on wood, but there are a few spring specialists. One of these is Cedar Cup (Geopora sumneriana). This species is common in some parts of the country but I'd never seen it, so I was particularly pleased to find one under the second Cedar I checked. Another 20 or so fruiting bodies were then found under the same tree, but it was also evident that some had been removed, presumably eaten by a Grey Squirrel or Muntjac, which might partly explain why I'd not come across them before.




A few more species were added in the grounds, including Rhododendron Bud Blast, which looks spectacular in closeup, and Snowy Disco, which likewise is tiny but interesting with its furry white discs. Two agaric-types were also seen, Wood Blewit and Parasola schroeteri.



Leaving the grounds we headed into some dry woodland, which as expected wasn't particularly productive. I did find Bleeding Broadleaf Crust on a Hazel branch, and  we also recorded the unremarkable leaf fungus Cercospora mercurialis on Dog's Mercury, the rust Puccinia sessilis on Cuckoo Pint and marvelled at the large expanse of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage.



In the woods themselves we saw a few other bits and bobs, but nothing to write home about. I was becoming frustrated by some very flitty micro moths that refused to land, but in some sort of invertebrate karma one flew into a spiders web nearby and I confirmed that it was a Common Oak Purple, Dyseriocrania subpurpurella.


Back onto the road we walked down to the stream and into a wetter area of woods. It was fairly slow going here too, so after a bit of a look round we stopped for lunch in a clearing. After eating I had a quick wander around, seeing some Dark-edge Beeflies and Slender Groundhoppers.

Next stop was a sheep pasture nearby. A few of us walked through it, with some Banded Mottlegills being the only species of note. Looking back the rest of the group had barely moved, and this remained the case a while later. I began to suspect that the group had been infiltrated by some members of Dawdlers Anonymous on vacation, so headed back to see if they had found anything. There was a few bits and bobs, including the cup fungus Myriosclerotina curreyana and Nemania serpens on a branch, plus the tiny plant Blinks.



Finally leaving the field the next distraction was a ruined chapel, which we did a lap around. I found a tiny amount of Bluebell Rust before we left to return to the hall grounds. Walking past the lake we saw a Muntjac Deer and a Red Kite, before noticing that once again most of the group was missing. After a while we decided to move on to the wet meadow that we had been aiming for, only to find everyone else there too, having taken a different route via the cars.

Several of the group headed into the reeds, where they found several different cups and blobs on the dead stems, including two Mollisia spp. The sun was out, and looking for insects I found two hoverflies on Marsh Marigolds - Cheilosia pagana and Neoascia tenur. A Blue Shieldbug was hunting for Altica beetles, and a Vetch Piercer moth (Grapholita jungiella) was also seen. Before leaving I did a quick lap of the boardwalk, seeing a Smooth Newt in the small pond and hearing at least two Edible Frogs from the bird hide. The Red Kite then flew directly over my head, giving excellent views.






There was one more thing of interest, Yvonne had brought a Dotted Chestnut moth caught in Martham to show and get a second opinion on. It was the first time I had seen this species, which is scarce in Norfolk although spreading northwards.


NORWICH: A selection of bees

Mid April 2018

Over the past couple of years I've been paying more attention to bees, albeit still struglling with Andrena ID. As we start to plant up the garden I was keen to get some Lungwort (Pulmonaria) to try to attract Hairy-footed Flower Bees. We bought a couple of pots of it, and two days later the bees had arrived! Hopefully I will be equally successful attracting a Convulvulous Hawk Moth with my Nicotiana plants. Here the yellowy male is shown coming to our lavendar (photo taken through the window), and the black female is shown having come to the moth trap!




The period of warm weather meant that I made some after work diversions into Waterloo Park on the way home, where some of the flowers were out and attracting insects. There were lots of Hairy-footed Flower Bees there too, along with Orange-horned Nomad (Nomada fulvicornis) and a lovely female Tawny Mining Bee. 




Also seen were Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma butterflies, Melanostoma scalare (a hoverfly) and Bibio johannis (a fly related to St Mark's Flies). Last year I always thought I should pay more visits here, based on the spring I should definitely keep them up into the summer.






WHITLINGHAM: Never mind the fog, here's the Little Gulls

15th April 2018

Sunday was April WeBS count day, and an early morning text from Gary to say that a drake Mandarin was present on the Little Broad sounded promising. As I headed to Whitlingham the fog got thicker, to the point where the far bank couldn't be seen. I couldn't see the Mandarin, but I probably wouldn't have been able to see the Mary Celeste let alone a small duck. My first patch Sedge Warbler of the year was singing from near the watersports centre.

Moving on to the Great Broad the visibility had decreased further - there was no point looking through the telescope and had it continued at that rate I would have struggled to see the telescope. Gary called and told me that he had seen a Little Gull and Common Sandpiper on his way round earlier, so we met up and waited to see if the fog would clear. Eventually, and after a sort of fog hokey cokey of it coming and going, it did and the count could resume. Two Common Sandpipers were seen, along with 3 Common Terns.




Once the fog had fully lifted we walked back along the south shore when Gary noticed his Little Gull. Whilst we looked at it we saw another two, then realised that a large part of the gull flock were Little Gulls! Initially 17, then we noticed 21! An amazing sight as they swept back and forth over the broad in waves. Almost every time we counted we found another one - at the time we thought that we were missing ones sat on the water, but it seems more likely that they were still arriving. Justin arrived about 15 minutes later, and scanning across there were now 29 Little Gulls, thrashing the previous site high count of 9 (back in 2005 - my previous highest count was 3!) Fortunately the flock stayed throughout the afternoon and was admired by many local birders, with numbers peaking at 35. The gulls were also accompanied by two Arctic Terns.




What had started out as an unpromising spring count turned out to be a great patch experience that will live long in the memory.

NORWICH: Some Norwich moths

Mid-April 2018

Last year I didn't attempt any moth trapping* at home, but now as I'm often awake early morning I thought I should really start and see what I can find in the garden. Initial attempts weren't promising, probably mostly due to light pollution from the nearby streetlights, but also due to a lack of established plants too. The first trap had nothing, the second also nothing but a Dotted Border resting nearby on the wall. The third attempt saw and Clouded Drab and Hebrew Character, whilst the steady improvement continued recently with four species - the previous two plus 2 Common Quakers and a Double-striped Pug.

 Clouded Drab
 Hebrew Character
 Common Quaker
Double-striped Pug

I'm lucky to know several other people who moth trap in the city and who catch more interesting things than I do. In particular James Lowen invited me round to see a Red-green Carpet, a lovely greenish species with variable red streaks that I've wanted to see for a while. James also had a Satellite which was another new species for me (if you look closely you can see the small white dots either side of the big one that give this moth its name).



Gary White had also caught a Red-green Carpet over the weekend, but the other species he had of interest to me was a Twin-spot Quaker. Brindled Pug, Early Thorn, Herald and Early Grey were also things I can only hope for in my garden. Still, you never know. Thanks to James and Gary for allowing me to come and have a look at these species.

 Twin-spot Quaker
 Herald

* For those unfamiliar with moth trapping, my moth trap is a Skinner trap - effectively a light over a box, and is a commonly used and non-lethal way of monitoring moths.

WHITLINGHAM: Yellow Dung Fly & fungi

13th April 2018

Keen to avoid another foggy visit, instead I next managed to get down to Whitlingham late afternoon on Friday. Visibility was fine, but the birdlife was rather muted. The hirundine flock on this occasion was made up of Swallows and House Martins, whilst Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps sung regularly from around the broad.

In non-avian sightings I failed to see my first patch hoverfly of the year (I was hoping for something on the sallows, but it just wasn't sunny enough), but did find a Yellow Dung Fly, some Glistening Ink Caps and what we think is probably Hairy Bracket (Trametes hirsuta).




WHITLINGHAM: Grey Wagtail

11th April 2018

I had a chance to pop down to Whitlingham in the morning, but as became something of a trend I had to contend with rather poor visibility due to fog hanging across the water. A hirundine flock contained my first Sand Martins of the year, and eventually I picked out a House Martin too. I noted a Common Gull on the Great Broad - these will soon be moving on.


The highlight of my visit was a Grey Wagtail near the slipway, initially interacting with a Pied Wagtail, before I obtained excellent views as it perched up in a tree overhanging the water.