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

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

WHITLINGHAM: November WeBS count, mines & fungi

11th November 2018

Back to Whitlingham for the November WeBS count, and I was hopeful of seeing four Goosander that had been present all week. Of course they had departed at some point the day before. A female Red-crested Pochard was present, having been found by Gary the day before, but was elusive spending most of the time out of site in the bay on the north side of the main island. A flock of Siskins and some flyover Meadow Pipits were also noted. I checked the Black-headed Gulls for ringed birds, and found one Finnish metal-ringed gull, that frustratingly I could only partially read (from the part code it appears to be one of the regular birds).

Key counts (Great Broad & Little Broad):
Mute Swan: 20 (2017: 19, 2016: 30)
Gadwall:152 (2017: 143, 2016: 112)
Mallard: 56 (2017: 65, 2016: 64)
Shoveler: 4 (2017: 12, 2016: 11)
Pochard: 31 (2017: 28, 2016: 7)
Tufted Duck: 197 (2017: 343, 2016: 194)
Cormorant: 35 (2017: 47, 2016: 30)
Coot: 143 (2017: 146, 2016: 254)

What we can see from these counts is that basically everything is unremarkable! With the exception of Shoveler numbers being in single-figures, each species closely mirrors data from either 2017 or 2016. So whilst Tufted Duck numbers are much lower than last year, they are very similar to the previous one.

I added a couple of new leaf mining moths to both mine and the Whitlingham list, with Ectoedemia intimella in Sallow and Ectoedemia heringi in Oak. There was a handful of fungi around the broad too, including Shaggy Ink Cap, Crimped Gill (Plicatura crispa) and Stubble Rosegill.

YARE VALLEY: Strumpshaw fungi 2

4th November 2018

Sunday was the second of my two fungi walks at Strumpshaw, and I arrived a bit early to search for a leaf-mining moth in fallen Aspen leaves. The species is Ectoedemia argyropeza, and the mines are inconspicuous except for a relatively small window when the leaves have turned dark and fallen, leaving a 'green island' caused by chemicals secreted by the larva that prevent the tree reabsorbing the chlorophyll in the leaf. I managed to find one mine, which was enough to add the species to the reserve list.

After a short delay for some of the walk participants to arrive we set off into the woods. Whilst waiting I had noticed some Slender Clubs growing below the trees at reception, and a bit further along the path we saw a Blue Roundhead. Into a clearing a bit further along and there was a nice display of Wolf's Milk Slime Mould, followed by some Upright Coral.

Further round we continued to see a good range of species, including some not seen on the October walk. These included Artist's Bracket (identified by the galls of the fly Agathomyia wankowiczii that only occur on this species), Spring Hazelcup (as the name suggests unusual at this time of year) and Common Eyelash fungus.

WHITLINGHAM: Some leaf mines & fungi

28th October 2018

A few hours free on Sunday afternoon saw me head to Whitlingham. I had a look over the Great Broad in case there were any storm-driven seabirds, but it was much the same as it had been at the WeBS count, with a few more Tufted Ducks and Coot. I then turned my attention to the wooded areas, where I racked up about 20 moth leaf mines, including several patch firsts.

 Ectoedemia occultella in Birch
 Phyllonorycter tristrigella in Elm
 Stigmella sakhalinella in Birch

There wasn't an awful lot of fungi around, but I found some Wrinkled Peach fungus in an area where I had seen them previously, and Parasola auricoma was a new Whitlingham one for me. I also saw a nice looking slime mould on some fallen Lime tree fruits, which was identified online as Diachea leucopodia.

Of the non-lepidopteran mines there were several beetles - Rhampus oxycanthae on Hawthorn, Rhampus pulicarius on Sallow and a Sphaeroderma sp on thistle. Saving the best until last, a mine of Phytomyza fallaciosa in Creeping Buttercup was a new record for Norfolk.

NORTH NORFOLK: Holt fungus foray

Late October 2018

Despite spending quite a bit of time during the autumn looking for fungi, I don't get round to going on many public forays anymore. Tony Leech was leading one at Holt C.P. for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Cathy & Margaret came too so Rose could attend her first foray. It had been ages since I had been to the CP via the Hempstead Road entrance so I had forgotten that bit was hilly, making for some interesting buggy-pushing (which didn't get any better on the gorse-laden Lowes), but we did see a good range of fungi to make up for any diffculties.

One of the highlights was the range of boletes seen, 5 species in all including Scarletina Bolete (the commonest of the ones with bright red pores instead or yellow), Peppery Bolete and Mottled Bolete (which bruises a bright greeny-blue at the base). We saw quite a bit of Nail fungus (Poronia punctata), although at a stage where the black specks on the surface weren't visible. Unfortunately I didn't photograph the one species that was new to me, Burgundydrop Bonnet, as I didn't realise at the time that I'd not seen it before.

 Scarletina Bolete
 Mottled Bolete
 Nail Fungus
Fly Agaric

Afterwards we headed to Natural Surroundings for lunch, which was great as always.

NORWICH: Beer festival

Late October 2018

My annual visit to the Norwich Beer Festival, this year with Karl & Hadley, was enjoyable as always. I was hoping to get to try a beer that appeared to tick all of the birds and beer boxes, Have your cake & Egret by the Magpie Brewery. Magpie Brewery already have lots of beers with Magpies, a Jay and Ravens on the labels, but this one actually features a Little Egret on top of a cake. Unfortunately there was only one barrel, and it wasn't on during my visit. It also gives me an opportunity to raise one of my bugbears, the incorrect use of the word 'literally*'. When the beer was recommended in the Evening News, the manager of the curiosity bar stated "It’s got raspberry and vanilla in it so it is literally liquid cake" - thus showing a fundamental lack of understanding of the ingredients of both beer and cake.

Picture taken from the Magpie Brewery website

In terms of beers that I did get to drink, I was pleasantly surprised by Foragers Ale, a beer brewed by Poppyland Brewery and flavoured with Parasol fungi. This is the first time I've tried fungi as a beer ingredient, and it was out of curiosity rather than expectation, but it was actually quite nice. The Poppyland Brewery has previously used a range of foraging ingredients such as Alexanders and Dandelions, but a check on their website suggests that the brewer in charge is retiring and looking to sell the brewery (if you fancy buying it then get in touch with him!). If foraged beers are your thing, then the other one I'd recommend is Wildcraft Brewery, which do a good range of seasonal stuff.

* A week earlier the Autumnwatch social media team, having seen a squirrel caching nuts in one place, had tweeted that the squirrel was "literally putting all of its eggs in one basket". It wasn't doing that.

NORTH NORFOLK: A bit of coastal birding

22nd October 2018

Other commitments have meant few days out birding this autumn, so it was a pleasant surprise that on the day before an arranged trip to North Norfolk with Adam that a Brown Shrike had been found at Weybourne Camp and the presumed Stejneger's Stonechat was still present between Salthouse and Kelling. 

Having both seen the long-staying Brown Shrike at Staines a few years ago, both Adam & I were most interested in the Stonechat, so we headed straight to Salthouse and parked up by the duckpond. Whilst there a message came though to say there had been no sign of it, but we walked down to Meadow Lane. It only took a couple of minutes to locate the 'Eastern' Stonechat - perhaps we just got there as it was waking up, or the observers present were looking in the wrong place. Whilst it stayed mostly distant, the gusty wind made it hang in the air, showing off the rump and underwing nicely.

After a while we moved on to Weybourne, where the news was progressively less optimistic. Birders walking back had been present from dawn and not seen the Brown Shrike. The next few told us that access to the camp wasn't possible today because of activities in the compound, and finally we found out that Moss Taylor had conducted a thorough search of the area and it appeared the bird had definitely moved on. We switched our attention to the sea, where there was a good passage of distant auks, Gannets and Red-throated Divers, but not much else.

We had time to visit one area to look for migrants, so decided to spend the time at Gun Hill. The lack of thrushes on our way out to the dunes didn't bode well, and there were very few birds at all in the scrub - a 1st-winter Reed Bunting and a Whinchat were the only things of note. As we headed back eastwards Adam stayed in the dunes whilst I walked along the dune edge, hoping to find Dune Cup fungus. I didn't find any (they had probably been covered by loose sand), but we did see quite a bit of other fungi, including Dune Stinkhorns.

 Agaricus sp.
 Dune Cavalier
Dune Stinkhorn

Spotting a plank of wood I decided to check under it to look for specialist woodlice and beetles. This was half successful, as the woodlice were all the ubiquitous Common Rough Woodlouse and Common Pill Woodlous, but the beetles were beach species, Broscus cephalotus and Aegiala arenaria. We stopped off on the way home at a location that has held Tree Sparrows in the past, but a house renovation and some scrub clearance means that sadly the area is no longer suitable for them.