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

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

NORTH NORFOLK: Blickling Goosander and hoverfly

29th February 2020

We headed to Blickling Hall for a childrens' trail associated with one of Nick Butterworth's 'Percy The Park Keeper' books, which was very nice. Afterwards we headed into the grounds, where I was a bit surprised to see four redhead Goosander on the lake. These have been present for quite a while, but given the number of people walking around the area I would have expected them to have flown off. A hybrid Ruddy Shelduck x Egyptian Goose was also present in the area, and a Buzzard flew over.

In the slightly more sheltered formal bit of the gardens I saw my first hoverfly of the year, a female Eristalis tenax.

NORWICH: Rue-leaved Saxifrage amongst the cobbles

Late February 2020

On my way into work I noticed that it seemed to be a very good year for Rue-leaved Saxifrage, with large numbers of the distinctive basal rosettes amongst some cobbles. A few plants had begun to flower.

NORWICH: Plantation Gardens lichens & invertebrates

22nd February 2020

With an hour or so of free time in Norwich city centre I went for a walk down to the Plantation Gardens, a small and sheltered ornamental garden hidden away behind the Roman Catholic Cathedral.

There wasn't much about in the way of insect life, but I spent some time looking at the old walls, seeing a few lichens and springtails that I didn't recognise, plus an interesting fly that turned out to be Liancalus virens, a new species for me. Whilst looking in the flower beds I also noticed Bluebell Rust (Uromyces muscari) on some Bluebell leaves.

 Liancalus virens,
 Lepidocyrtus sp.
Bluebell Rust

NORTH NORFOLK: Birds, churches & a new moth

19th February 2020

It seems an age away, but back in mid-February I went back to North Walsham to meet up with Adam and head to north Norfolk for a day of birding. We stopped at Bayfield Lake, where several Red Kites and a minimum of six Buzzards were soaring over the woods. Various common waterbirds were around the lake, along with several White-fronted Geese.

We both have a liking for churches, so we decided to call in at Wiveton Church for an unlikely moth twitch. A Lichen Button (Acleris literana) had been seen overwintering on the outside of the church a couple of months earlier by Rob Yaxley. Despite not being particularly uncommon they are very well camouflaged on lichen-covered surfaces and I'd not see one before - we might well have still not seen one if it hadn't been for a kind local who guessed what we were looking for and pointed out where it was hiding. Inside the church I noticed a dedication to Daniel Riviere (son of BB Riviere, who wrote early books about the birds of Norfolk) and an interesting panel including a winged lion.

Next stop was on the outskirts of Wells, where the wintering Rough-legged Buzzard showed distantly. We hoped we might encounter a Raven at Holkham, but first walked out into the bay for a look on the sea. There was a huge raft of Common Scoter and several Red-breasted Mergansers, whilst Sanderling on the beach was new for the year. Walking back around the roped-off area we got good views of a flock of Snow Buntings and five Shorelarks. A slow drive around the nearby area failed to find the Raven, but we saw some Brown Hares and Stock Doves.

On the way back we called in at Barningham Winter Church, a ruined church situated on a private estate. We initially tried to reach it via a public footpath, but the signs through the farmyard weren't very clear, so in the end we used the driveway. We saw some Teal on a flooded area near the estate lake and got close views of a Buzzard, but not too much else.

YARE VALLEY: Off-season Strumpshaw fungus foray

15th February 2020

The first Norfolk Fungus Study Group foray of the year had been in doubt due to the strong winds that had caused numerous site closures the previous week, but with a thorough risk assessment and some volunteer warden guides we carried out a short foray of some of the more open fen areas. By the end we had racked up a very respectable 80-odd species, which would have been much less impressive had Stewart not arrived first and recorded about 50 of them on the main reserve before the rest of us arrived.

We only saw three gilled fungi, but one of them was a species I've wanted to see for a while - Reed Bonnet. This fungus has a distribution centred on the Broads and tends to grow on cut reed stems, so is recorded fairly often by conservation volunteers but less often on forays. The remaining nine new species that I saw were all small fungi on old stems or wood, but they did include some rather interestingly shaped species, some of which I've included below.

 Reed Bonnet - Mycena belliarum
 Acrospermum compressum
 The tiny yellow one near the centre is Yellow Mascara Disco (Belonidium sulphureum)
 Glyphium elatum
Styctis stellata

Other than the fungi there wasn't too much of note around - I flushed several Snipe from an area of cut reed and heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling.

NORWICH: That river is so low I can see the receycling bins

12th February 2020

Walking in to work one morning I was surprised to see how low the water level was in the river near the outer ring road. This stretch isn't tidal because of the level drop at New Mills, and although Norfolk had been affected more by strong winds than rain, it had by no means been dry recently. The answer turned out to be quite prosaic, the Environment Agency had opened the sluice gates to allow more water through. This was apparently a trial to see what effect the lower levels could have on wildlife and flood risk (see the Evening News article here). As you can see there were some muddy margins exposed that could well attract some passage waders, which would be nice. Note also that a resident was so surprised at the water levels that he or she pushed her recycling bin into the river.

WHITLINGHAM: February WeBS count - Mandarin at last

8th February 2020

The second WeBS count of the year, and there was a welcome sight at the slipway where the regular drake Mandarin was present. This bird has been seen at Whitlingham on and off for around a year (with an absence of several months over the summer) but tended to arive late in the day, roost and then depart early morning. Since having a child I have seldom visited particularly early or late, so I had managed over 20 visits without seeing it until now!

The rest of the count was fairly standard, with some selected combined Whitlingham/Thorpe counts including:
Gadwall:70 (2019: 48, 2018: 54)
Tufted Duck: 239 (2019: 219, 2018: 221)
Pochard: 26 (2019: 17, 2018: 39)
Goldeneye: 1 (2019: 4, 2018: 0)
Coot: 94 (2019: 99, 2018: 68)

Also of note was a Treecreeper showing well on one of the Alders near the slipway, and several birds heard singing that weren't noted during January, like Song Thrush and Greenfinch. I managed to read the metal ring of a Mute Swan whilst counting on the slipway - not an individual that I had recorded before, but predictably one that was ringed at Whitlingham a couple of years ago. I had a look in a few thistle stems hoping to find Agromyzid larvae, but instead only found an interesting but unidentifable orangey-pink larva.

NORWICH: Sparrowhawk hunting sparrows

4th February 2020

I see Sparrowhawks reasonably regularly around Norwich, but had a treat one morning down Lakenham Way when I watched one hunt House Sparrows. The sparrows spend much of their time in scrub along the top of the high walls either side of the footpath, and the Sparrowhawk made several passes at them. The first time some sparrows were flushed out and it almost got one, but after that they sensibly kept tucked in. When I left the Sparrowhawk was perched up in a nearby tree - I wonder how long it waited before giving up?