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

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

2020 highlights and end of year post

And so 2020 comes to an end, to be replaced by a rather similar start to 2021 by the looks of it. All of my wildlife trips during the year took place in the administrative county of Norfolk, which is rather local even by my standards. An abundance of caution meant seldom meeting up with people, even when it was legally allowed, and for the first time in many years I didn't see any new bird species having decided to stay away from sizeable twitches. Nonetheless, as it has a habit of doing wildlife provided some respite. Simple things like spending time in the garden, listening to birds singing in the evening without a backdrop of people outside the nearby pub and Blue Tits finally using out nesting box were all pleasant, but some of the other yearly highlights are listed or shown below.

New patch birds

April was the first month that I'd not visited my patch since August 2009, but as restrictions were eased a bit in May I was able to visit again. Fortunately this meant I was able to go and listen to the Corncrake (although as it's almost certainly from a reintroduction scheme it's not gone down on the list), but it was June's Savi's Warbler that was the patch highlight of the year, reeling away in the sunshine at Thorpe Marshes. Flyover Common Crossbills and the short-staying Red-breasted Merganser completed my best year for new patch birds since 2016.


Having seen the usual resident species it is unusual for me to see anything new, but a colony of Southern Migrant Hawkers were found at Thompson Common during the summer, and after giving it a few weeks we went and had a look. It was a lovely warm day and having located a male we all got excellent views as it repeatedly hovered in front of us. Elsewhere at an undisclosed site I was also able to see Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, another recent colonist to the county.


Much biological recording depends of the availability of up-to-date, affordable and usable ID guides. The release of the latest Richard Lewington-illustrated guide is one such book that should give Ladybird recording a shot in the arm, in particular the half of the species that usually escape attention because of their size, the so called "inconspicuous ladybirds". Thanks to the guide, advice from Vanna Bartlett and Andrew Jewel's excellent website, I finished the year having seen six species of inconspicuous ladybird (five found and one shown by Vanna). All six were found around Norwich, and I'm sure there are more species to find locally too. I even managed to find a new conspicuous species, the pine associated 18-spot Ladybird.

Ivy Ladybird, Nephus quadrimaculatus
18-spot Ladybird

Target species

In recent years I have not set myself too many target species, knowing that I don't have the time to actually go and look for them, but I still remember ones from previous years that I never saw, plus the ever growing list in my head of things I'd like to see. Two targets seen this year were the snail parasite Leucochloridium paradoxum, the video of which was shown on Autumnwatch, and Magpie Inkcap, seen at Wayland Woods.

Coreid Bugs

Lockdown meant that I was unable to go and have a look at a newly discovered colony of Scarab Shieldbugs, which would have been a new species for me, but I had better luck with the related family Coreidae. I found one a new species on my walk home from work, Slender-horned Leatherbug, and also added two species to my garden list, the common Dock Bug was expected but Deticulated Leatherbug less so.


Involvement in a book

For the past few years I have been helping with a book for the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists' Society entitled Norfolk's Wonderful 150. It includes 150 species with links to the county, some rare, some common, but all nominated for their connection. Having helped to finalise that list, I was then tasked with making sure there was someone to write accounts for the insects, then trying to track down photos of them (not always easy with some of the more obscure ones). Finally I then had check over the profiles received and if necessary edit them down to the'house style' to fit with the other profiles we were receiving for plants, animals etc. Anyway, after lots of effort it was finished this year and sent out to members, which was satisfying.

Happy New Year to you all, lets hope that 2021 is a positive one.

NORWICH: A confiding Yellow-legged Gull

Mid December 2020

Birding during December largely took the form of looking around whilst walking to work (it is dark on my return). Whilst this was largely an uneventful affair, a couple of Pink-footed Geese flocks flew over, one heard only in the fog and one seen. The Cormorants perching up on a building near New Mills reached a total of four, falling well short of a new one for each day of advent.


Bird of the month was a 2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull, initially found by Stephen Vickers in Wensum Park. When I cut through the park I was fortunate to see it fly in with some Herring Gulls. It was the closest up I've seen one, as well as being a new bird for several of my more tenuous birding lists (on foot from home and birds within the Norwich outer ring road). There was also a Herring Gull in a similar pluamge stage, so I was able to compare the two, which will hopefully come in handy when identifying this age Yellow-legged Gull again in future. As far as I know it is still present (writing this on the 29th Dec).

Yellow-legged Gull

 Herring Gull for comparison

And so, unless anything great turns up in my garden this is the last blog entry of 2020. I got behind in the spring and never really caught back up until now, so apologies to readers that like their blog entries to be fairly current. Time depending I will put together a year highlights/summary post in a couple of days, but you won't be missing out on too much if I don't! Best wishes to everyone for 2021.

WHITLINGHAM: December bird count

13th December 2020

The final WeBS count of the year, and quite probably my final patch visit of 2020 too. In the past December has been a productive patch month - my best birding find here, a female Ring-necked Duck, came in December, whilst various other winter wildfowl can turn up around this time, but today it was rather quiet. Numbers of Tufted Duck nudged towards 200 - I counted 191 in the end, whilst six Goldeneye was a decent count although lower than some counts earlier in the month. 14 Pochard, 84 Gadwall, 88 Mallard and 5 Teal completed the duck counts. Four Little Egrets were still present around the Little Broad, although I suspect a few more might have roosted but departed before I got there. It was damp and fairly busy, so I didn't linger or note anything of non-avian interest either.

NORWICH: Springtails in the garden

Late November 2020

A group of species that I have been thinking of paying more attention to in 2021 are the Springtails, tiny creatures that are abundant in leaf litter and soil, but also in most other habitats too. It makes sense to have a look for the larger ones first (and that is relative, i.e. 4mm instead of 1 or 2mm!). Whilst playing in the garden with my daughter on a drizzle day I noticed lots of springtails on the top of our gardening box. There was at least two different species, as some where long and thin whilst others were round, a shape known as globular. Sticking them under the microscope it turned out there were three species, Dicyrtomina saundersi, Entomobrya intermedia and Entomobrya multifasciata. No springtails seem to have many Norfolk records based on NBN (indeed the NBIS contribution seems to be only four records!) so it seems like if I do start to generate some records they could be noteworthy in a county context. The fact that I can find them in the garden. the local park and at Whitlingham also might come in handy whilst travel restrictions are in place.

THORPE MARSHES: Late Nov Red-breasted Merganser

Late November 2020

As a month of staying within a few miles of home drew to a close there was a final flourish, with a drake Red-breasted Merganser on the broad at Thorpe. A rare species inland, this was only the fourth local record in the past 30 years, so it was fortunate that it turned up on a weekend.

NORWICH: Mottled Umber

 Mid-November 2020

As expected the number of moths being seen near my adopted floodlight on the walk into work had dwindled to nothing most days, but I was pleased to see this nicely camouflaged Mottled Umber on the brick wall.

WHITLINGHAM: November bird count & fungi

15th November 2020

Heavy rain in the morning meant a delay before I could get back to Whitlingham for November's WeBS count, but for the time of year there wasn't as much winter wildfowl as expected, with 75 Tufted Ducks, 43 Gadwall, 105 Coot and 9 Little Grebes. In addition by the time I had completed my lap the drake Mandarin that often roosts on the Great Broad was back around the slipway. I also got good views of a Grey Heron which was perched up on one of the bridges along the south shore.

 A few frosts had put paid to the flush of fungi that had come up in October, but I did note a couple of new patch species, Girdled Knight (Tricholoma cingulatum), a species associated with Willows, and Silky Pinkgill (Entoloma sericeum) a grassland species.

WHITLINGHAM: Family woodland wander

8th November 2020

A family walk at Whitlingham Woods, in part accompanied by a Tree Slug as my daughter insisted that she wanted to show it (named Sluggy) the woods. The fallen Oak tree that has hosted impressive displays of Black Bulgar again was covered in fungi, mostly Stereum spp but also a nice Beefsteak Fungus. Other fungi included Dead Moll's Fingers, a slender relative of Dead Man's Fingers, plus the tiny but interesting-looking Merismodes anomalous.

I made a point of checking lots of tree trunks for resting moths. No luck on that front, but we did see lots of Door Snails, a Pine Ladybird (a fairly common species but one previously missing from my Whitlingham list), Oak Bush Cricket and the spider Drapetisca socialis.

NORWICH: Harrison's Wood fungi & Broom moth caterpillar

7th November 2020

For most of November we were in a national lockdown, albeit unlike the first one outdoor activity was permitted for recreation rather than just exercise. We decided to go out for one local walk per week, and this week we chose Harrison's Wood in Sprowston. We had first visited a week ago but only covered about a third of it before it started getting dark, an constant issue over the winter months. This time we took a different route, covering an area with lots of pine trees and conifers. As expected this gave us some different fungi species, including Earthfan, Powderpuff Bracket, Ear Pick fungus, Brown Parasol, Jewelled Amanita, Primrose Brittlegill and Cauliflower Fungus. I was also pleased with the find of a Broom Moth caterpillar, on Bracken rather than its eponymous plant.

WHITLINGHAM: Fungi at Whitlingham & Trowse Woods

1st November 2020

Because I'm usually busy during autumn, somewhat ironically I don't always get to spend much time to look for fungi on my own local patch, so I made a point of heading to Whitlingham Woods and then on to Trowse Woods for a walk around. At Whitlingham I found the larva of Coleophora albitarsella on Ground Ivy, a new one for the site, plus Shaggy Scalycap and Jelly Rot on a stump in the car park.

 I had been given directions to several interesting species in Trowse Woods that had been found by members of the Fungus Study Group in the previous week, but I hadn't gone far in before I saw Anne Crotty, who was able to point out most of them, saving me a lot of hunting around! New species for me included Mycena erubescens, Pluteus hispidulus, Garlic Parachute and Mealy Oyster, whilst we did find a few species that hadn't been found previously, including Yellowing Cup, Peziza succosa.

NORFOLK: Even more October fungi

 Late October 2020

With a few days off work we decided to go for a few family walks in woodland areas fairly close to Norwich, namely Foxley, Strumpshaw and Harrison's Wood (Sprowston). We saw a nice range of fungi across these differing sites, including Trooping Funnels, Parrot Waxcaps, Fly Agarics, Crab Brittlegill, Dark Honey Fungus and many more. Bullfinches were particularly common at Foxley - I heard at least eight there.

Trooping Funnels

Parrot Waxcap and a club - probably Apricot Club

Waxcap sp - probably Parrot Waxcap

Coprinellus impatiens - probably
Crab Brittlegill
Shaggy Parasol
Dark Honey Fungus
Dead Man's Fingers and Candlesnuff Fungus