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

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

EAST NORFOLK: Roe Deer & Hoopoe

Mid-April 2019

Adam & I met up in North Walsham for a look around a few sites in East Norfolk. We started by heading for a lake that sometimes attracts Ospreys on passage - no luck this time but we did see a pair of Marsh Harriers. The winds had been stifling the arrival of migrants, and a walk along the dune scub at Waxham turned up nothing better than a Blackcap, although we did see the two Ring Ouzels that had been present in that area for a while. Good views of a Roe Deer were the highlight of the visit.

Neither of us had seen a Hoopoe for several years, so we decided to head to Winterton, stopping briefly on the Horsey straight to see the Tundra Bean Goose and Great White Egret. At Winterton we walked quite a way down the south dunes, seeing only a pair of Stonechat and some Skylarks, before hearing that the Hoopoe had last been seen near the toilet block. Deciding to check the north dunes we were on the verge of giving up when someone gave us a thumbs up and pointed in the direction they had come from. A few more minutes searching and we located the Hoopoe, which showed well until accidentally flushed by some walkers.

On the way back we called in at a site that used to hold Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers on the off-chance, but there was no sign of any, albeit by then it was mid afternoon so this wasn't a surprise.

SUFFOLK: Oxlips and Tachinids

Mid-April 2019

Having contemplated what ancient woodlands fairly near Norwich were buggy friendly, I suggested that we go a bit further afield to Bradfield Woods. This site, managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust, is a national nature reserve that has apparently been coppiced continuously since 1252 and is rich in wildlife. I'd never visited before, and as a bonus it holds a good population of Oxlips.

We arrived around lunchtime so started with a picnic near the visitors centre, before heading off around the black trail. There was a good range of flora right from the car park, including things like Wood Anemone and Wood Spurge. We hadn't gone very far when Cathy found our first Oxlips (a new species for me), and we ended up seeing loads of them. Further alongs were some Early Purple Orchids, but they were in bud rather than open flower.

It was an overcast day so not great for insects, but I did see a few hoverflies flying around, along with some tachinids. Getting a closer look I assumed that it would be Tachina ursina, however it had some yellowy-orange areas on the side of the tergites which that species doesn't have. In fact it was Tachina lurida, a species that when I checked with the county recorder turned out to be new to Suffolk. Phasia hemiptera, another tachinid, was also seen. Bradfield was a lovely place, and given that we probably only explored about a third of the woods is somewhere we might well return to in the future.

WHITLINGHAM: White-cheeked Pintail hybrid

Mid-April 2019

A late afternoon walk at Whitlingham with Cathy & Rose meant that I caught up with the White-cheeked Pintail x Mallard hybrid that has been moving between Whitlingham and Strumpshaw. It has been hanging around the slipway fairly regularly, but I hadn't seen it up until that point. Whilst there I also read the rings of five Mute Swans, which have probably travelled a combined total of zero km, but you never know.

NORWICH: Two interesting garden species

8th April 2019

A walk around the garden turned up two new species for me, including one that was new to Norfolk. Firstly whilst looking for hoverflies on the Mahonia growing up against our wall, I noticed there were some red spots on the leaves. Looking underneath I saw that this was a rust fungus, and a quick check identified it as Mahonia Rust, Cumminsiella mirabilissima.

Looking in a patch of buttercup leaves nearby I noticed a leaf mine that appeared to be going into the midrib. Buttercups have several fly mines, including Phytomyza ranunculi which is probably the second commonest Agromyzid mine after Phytomyza ilicis in Holly, but none of the common ones go to the midrib. My suspicion was confirmed by Barry Warrington, this was Phytomyza stolonigena, which has no previous Norfolk records in the recording scheme database.

NORWICH: Hoppers and Leatherbugs

30th March 2019

At the weekend we popped round to Jeremy and Vanna's garden to pick up a bit of frogspawn for our pond. The garden has an excellent range of planting for wildlife and I usually see something new each time I visit, and this was no exception. In the back the main attraction was an oddly-shaped leafhopper called Asiraca clavicornis, which looks like a sort of tiny lobster/leaf insect hybrid.

Other more common species included quite a few Gorse Shieldbugs and some Dock Bugs. This latter species was to prove my undoing, because as we had a look around the front, Cathy found a pale brown Coreid bug and I dismissed it as a young Dock Bug, only for Vanna to see it and point out that it was in fact Rhombic Leatherbug, a species I've never seen before! Once she had pointed it out the the shape and upwards tilting edges were obvious, but how many times might I have lazily overlooked this previously (although thinking about it perhaps not as I tend to photograph at least the first one I see each day to verification of iRecord and they have all been Dock Bugs). Anyway, thanks to Cathy and Vanna for that. Slender-horned Leatherbug is the next one on my list (although I've also not seen Dalman's, Cryptic and Boat Bugs either). A Forget-me-mot Shieldbug was a nice bonus too.

 Gorse Shieldbugs
 Dock Bug
 Not a Dock Bug! Rhombic Leatherbug
 Forget-me-not Shieldbug

There was still time for a few other bits - Sage Leafhopper and the stiltbug Berytinus signoreti were both new, as would a Brown Lacewing sp had I been able to identify it to species. Thanks as always to Jeremy and Vanna for their hospitality.


28th March 2019

I'd not taken my phone to work, but wasn't particularly bothered as I don't get many calls anyway. Arriving home and checking for messages I found a missed call and a message to say there was a pair of Garganey at Whitlingham! My patch nemesis, and if they were still present then my 150th patch bird. After a gibbered explanation (and a reassurance that no, nobody had died) I set off for Whitlingham, cursing the late night shoppers that were adding to the usual rush hour traffic.

The Garganey had been viewed from the east end of the Little Broad, near the pagoda, so I headed straight there and scanned the Little Broad. They were nowhere to be seen. Had they gone to roost, flown off or just moved? I went across to the Great Broad and scanned as much as I could see. Nine Wigeon were present, the temporarily resident drake plus a group of eight near the island, but on this occasion I wasn't impressed. There was no sign of the Garganey.

Moving back to the Little Broad I decided I would give it ten minutes before having to return home to sort our food. Scanning across I noticed two small ducks swimming across the broad. The light was beginning to dim so I got them in the telescope and hoorah, it was indeed the Garganey! I headed to a better vantage point and was about to digiscope myself a record shot when they flew up and after a coupele of laps of the broad they disappeared from view. At one point they appeared to be being chased by a Mallard, but by the second lap they were chasing it. Fortunately for people arriving later they relocated to the Great Broad and were also present on the day after, although often elusive. 

My 150 patch birds has taken a whopping 13 years since my first visit here in 2006, and there are probably ten or so fairly common 'flyovers' that I would hope to add at some point (e.g. Bewicks & Whooper Swans, Curlew, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Yellow Wagtail, Yellowhammer...). Many thanks to Justin Lansdell who found the birds.

NORWICH: First singing Blackcap of the year

26th March 2019

Having not heard any Blackcaps singing at Whitlingham on the 24th, I heard my first singing one on Lakenham Way on the 26th. Looking at my records this is very close to my 2017 date from the same location on 27th March. I wasn't walking down Lakenham Way in 2018 so don't have a comparable date for last year. For many years Blackcaps would be a first or second week of April bird, but like many other spring migrants seem to be arriving earlier (although as with Chiffchaffs it can be tricky to determine which birds are newly arrived and which have overwintered, so it is best to wait for multiple birds to further suggest recent arrivals).

WHITLINGHAM: March WeBS count & insects

24th March 2019

The March WeBS count is always one with a hint of optimism, particularly if it happens late in the month, because pretty much anything could turn up in terms of early migrant species or things moving back to the continent. it also marks the start of the Garganey season, where I attempt to see what used to be a regular species here for the first time. A White-tailed Eagle was also touring Norfolk so add an extra incentive to keep looking up.

In terms of waterbirds the count was rather quiet:
  • Mallard 9 (presumably some were over at Thorpe Green)
  • Gadwall 1
  • Teal 2
  • Tufted Duck 117
  • Pochard 1

And actually it was quite quiet elsewhere. Chiffchaffs were calling, and an inspection of some gardens along Whitlingham Lane looking for a House Sparrow seen recently by Gary at least turned up a nice singing Coal Tit, not a species I see too regularly here for some reason. Greenfinch, Green Woodpecker and Pheasants were also seen nearby.

Of the non avian stuff, I checked a Burdock seedhead and was rewarded with the larva of the moth Metzneria lapella, whilst the sawfly Aglaostigma acupariae was a new one for the site and will need adding to my Whitlingham Sawflies guide. A small colony of Andrena bicolor were feeding on Lesser Celandines but very little was on the Sallow catkins. Dark-edged Bee-flies and Hairy-footed Flower Bees were also noted. A Small Tortoiseshell was belatedly my first butterfly of the year.

NORTH NORFOLK: Southrepps Common

16th March 2019

I hadn't attended the first two Norfolk fungus study group meetings of the year, and there was briefly a worry over this one as the site, Southrepps Common, changed hands shortly before we were due to visit. Thankfully the Norfolk Wildlife Trust who now manage the common were happy for us to visit and so the foray went ahead. Spring forays usually don't turn up many of the larger gilled fungi, but through a combination of fungi growing on wood and plant fungi we compiled a list of around 100 species, which was excellent (I only saw about 70 of those as the group spread out and various people took specimens home to determine).

Some of the more interesting or photogenic species were Hypoderma hederae, Propolis farinosa, , Radulomyces molaris and Stictis elongatispora.

There wasn't too much about in the way of insects, but with a bit of hunting we did find some intersting bits and bobs. Hoverflies are one of my favourite invertebrate families, so Cheilosia albipila, a species associated with Marsh Thistles, was the highlight, followed by the beetle Notiophilus biguttatus and stem mines in Broom caused by the moth Leucoptera spartifoliella. After lunch we cheched out the dry woods of School Common, adding a few more species and flushing a Woodcock.