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

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

NORWICH: Snakefly and an unusual lichen

First half of May 2021

Various sightings on my walks to and from the city, culminated with the finding of my second ever Snakefly. Identification relies on the pattern of veins in the fore and hind wings - fortunately I managed to get a photo of the hindwing of this one to confirm that it was Xanthostigma xanthostigma.


Other sightings included Regal Piercer, a micro moth associated with Sycamore, the beetle Bruchus rufimanus and some Tawny Mining Bees. The first Swifts returned to our housing estate on 9th May, and on the same day I found an out of place Reed Warbler singing from scrub along a pathway at Waterloo Park, well away from any suitable habitat.

Finally, having seen it mentioned online I searched for and found Phylloblastia inexpectata. This is a foliicolous lichen (i.e. one that grows on leaves) and is almost certainly hugely overlooked, with this being the first VC27 (east Norfolk) record.

NORTH OF NORWICH: Bog Beacons and heather invertebrates

2nd May 2021

After leaving Earlham Marshes I headed to a site north of Norwich that is subject to a long-term NNNS Research Project. The site is currently being surveyed by a team of expert botanists, and a week or so ago they had come across a fungus that I had wanted to see for ages, Bog Beacon (Mitrula paludosa). This small but spectacular species is commoner in the north (where there are more bogs, funnily enough) but there were only a couple of previous Norfolk records. Armed with good directions from Ian I set off and found the area without much trouble, which was handy because the area has some rather deep boggy areas of mud.

Whilst on site I decided to sweep a bit of heather in the hope that I could find either of my long-term heathland target species, Heather Ladybird or Heather Shieldbug. I didn't see either, and actually didn't find too much. There were a few spiders, including Agalenatea redii, plus Small Heather Weevil and a Heath Rustic caterpillar.

NORWICH: Blue-headed Wagtail at Earlham Marshes

2nd May 2021

The thriving community of birders in west Norwich, including some excellent UEA birders, had produced a string of great bird sightings from Earlham and Bowthorpe Marshes this spring. I was finally tempted to go and have a look by a Blue-headed Wagtail on Earlham Marsh, which given that I've never even seen our usual subspecies around the city was a very good find. Walking out across the marsh from the dragonfly pond the water levels looked good, and scanning across I noticed a Little Ringed Plover towards the back of the marsh. A couple were just leaving and told me the area that the wagtail had been frequenting, and after a couple of scans I found it actively feeding in an area near the bund. It gave great binocular views, although was just a bit too far for my bridge camera. Nearby my first Sedge Warbler of the year popped up and sang. I even managed to avoid any problems with the local horse, that had been giving some other birders a bit of agro before being moved off the site.

SOUTH NORFOLK: Ashwellthorpe anemone fungi

Late April 2021

Near the end of the month we went for our near-annual trip to Ashwellthorpe Lower Wood to see the Bluebells. Another tradition is for me to check all around the Wood Anemone plants in the hope of finding the scarce Wood Anemone Cup fungus that is sometimes found with it. Once again I drew a blank, but this increased scrutiny of Wood Anemone plants led to several new fungal finds, with the rust fungus Tranzschelia anemones and the smut fungus Urocystis anemones. I also noted the weevil Barynotus moerens, something I think I've seen here before but not been able to identify. There was also a couple of interesting sawflies, but they were from the tricky genus Dolerus, so without a specimen they could only be narrowed down to a species pair.

NORWICH: Biscuit Beetle and Eastern Rocket

Late April 2021

Noticing a tiny beetle dead on the windowsill at work, I stuck it under the microscope and identified it as a Biscuit Beetle. I was tempted to joke that it died of hunger because I would never leave any biscuits lying around, but its the larvae that are the voracious eaters so that doesn't really work.

On my way into work recently I had noticed some plants with yellow flowers at various points on my journey. They looked like wall-rocket species, but I hadn't stopped to examine them and find out exactly what they were. It wasn't until a week later when Louis and Chris had posted about seenig Eastern Rocket in Norwich that I suspected that was what these were - a thought confirmed when Chris gave me directions to some plants on Oak street, on my walk into work. The other ones I'd seen near New Mills were also this species, an alien that I'd not recorded before.

BROADLAND: Few fungi but a rare case-bearing moth

17th April 2021

After more than a year's absence, Fungus Study Group events recommenced with a trip to a private Broadland location, with numbers restricted to groups of six. It was a beautiful sunny day in an unspoilt area, and although the dry conditions restricted us to a small number of mostly tiny plant fungi it was really nice to be out with the group again. We watched some hares chasing in a nearby field, a couple of Cranes flew over and some Bearded Tits flew down a dyke. 

 Of the fungi, the new species were all aforementioned small obscure ones, including Rush Disco (Lachnum apalum), Ascodichaena rugosum (a black fungus on Oak branches) and Ophiognomonia ai-viridis (tiny black spikes along the petiole of dead Alder leaves).

 We stopped for lunch near a mass of flowering Gorse, which contained well over 20 Gorse Shieldbugs, loads of Gorse Weevils and my first Large Red Damselfly of the year. A Water Measurer was of note on a pool, whilst species of the day was an occupied case of the rare micro moth  Water Dock Case-bearer (Coleophora hydrolapathella)

NORWICH: City centre seal

13th April 2021

Over the past year there had been lots of sightings of a Grey Seal in the river in Norwich, and o the few occasions I had been able to go and look for it I had not seen it. A week or so earlier there had been another 'seal in the river' article in the EDP, but looking at the recent picture rather than the older ones also lumped in with it, it  was clear that this was actually a Common (Harbour) Seal, which come up the river into Norwich less frequently than Grey Seals. I kept an eye on Twitter and after work one day found that it had been seen nearby. After a bit of searching I found it near the Ribs of Beef pub. It was elusive, disappearing for 10 minutes at a time, but still a nice addition to my Norwich mammal list! Nearby a pair of Egyptian Geese had a gosling o the slipway.

WHITLINGHAM: April WeBS and stunning Kittiwake views

11th April 2021

April's wildfowl count took place with a mixture of sunny spells and hail showers. A Reed Warbler heard singing from one of the usual territories had first been heard by other birders a few days earlier, but still knocked about a week off my previous earliest patch date for this species. Elsewhere around the broad Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warblers were singing, but no Sedge Warblers were heard. In terms of breeding wildfowl four Mute Swan nests were noted (one on the Little Broad and three along the north shore of the Great Broad), but no goslings or geese on nests were seen. The Mandarin was again present, along with 78 Tufted Ducks, 2 Pochard and 43 Mallard.

The standout moment of the visit, and arguably of the last couple of years worth of visits, was 10 minutes in the close company of an adult Kittiwake. Having called in earlier in the week and seen it distantly with a flock of Black-headed Gulls, I reached this area and begun to scan out into the broad. I was disturbed by a splash, only to look up and see the Kittiwake, which had dived into the water just offshore. I was standing in a gap between the broadside trees, and it then proceded to fly back and forth along the broad edge, only a few feet above head height and at times easily within 10 feet of me. It wasn't flying particularly fast either, soaring and banking in front of me as I stood on my own. Absolutely magical. After a while it stopped flying around and floated on the broad, still quite close by. If this gets beaten as my favourite avian moment of the year then I will have seen something really special!

CENTRAL NORFOLK: Buxton Heath invertebrate selection

Mid-April 2021

Buxton Heath is probably our closest NWT reserve bar Thorpe Marshes, and has the added attraction for family walks of having horses, a favourite of my daughter. This area holds a wide range of insects, such that during spring and summer it would almost be a suprise not to see something new. During our couple of hours we saw six Buzzards kettling above the woods, a couple of Crossbills flying over, a Stonechat and a Meadow Pipit. I saw four new species, two of which are probably things that I have seen but not recorded in the past - Heather Beetle and Juniper Haircap moss. The other two were the larval stage of the Ling Case-bearer moth (Coleophora pyrrhulipennella) and a spider, Zora spinimana.

EAST NORFOLK: Birding curtailed by snow

Early April 2021

As restrictions started to be loosened I finally left Norwich to visit family and friends in North Walsham. Unfortunately the weather forecast for my trip to see Adam was rather unconducive to birding. We had intended spend some time near the local coastline, but the squally winds meant this plan was abandoned fairly early on, with a couple of Wheatears the only migrants seen. Heading inland a sunny spell meant a nice ten minutes of woodland bird song (Chiffchaffs, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Marsh Tit), but this was followed by a snowstorm, at which point we gave up and headed for home.

WHITLINGHAM: A new rust, early House Martin and Kittiwake (eventually)

Early April 2021

A patch visit early in the month started well, with a mixed flock of hirundines containing House Martins, a week earlier than my previous earliest record here. At least two Mute Swans were on nests, and two Wigeon were on the Great Broad along with Mandarin, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck and Pochard. There was a large flock of 1st-winter Black-headed Gulls near the end of the broad, but I couldn't pick out anything else amongst them. Heading off into the wooded edge a Stock Dove was singing, and after checking a couple of patches of Moschatel I found some with Puccinia albescens, the second of the two rust fungi that specialise on it (having found the first one in Whitlingham Woods a few years ago).


I then headed round to Thorpe Marshes for my first visit of the year. The water levels were very high and the river had started to overflow onto the path, so I decided to do a quick lap. The pair of Stonechats that had overwintered were still present out on the marsh, and there was success on St Andrews Broad where a winter-plumaged adult Little Gull was with the Black-headed Gulls. At that point I found out that Justin had found two Kittiwakes on the Great Broad! He assured me that they looked very settled, so applying Sod's law it wasn't any great suprise that they had flown off 20 minutes later.

There was however a reprise, with an adult Kittiwake being found at Whitlingham a few days later. Rose and I took a walk along the southern shore of the Great Broad and eventually saw it at the east end. This was only my second live bird here (having also found a recently dead 1st year bird as well as an adult).

NORWICH: Early April at Mousehold Heath

Early April 2021

A family walk at Mousehold Heath was notable for the large number of Green Tiger Beetles seen - at least 20, probably quite a few more than that. They were very active, often first seen flying past and landing on a sandy bank. I kept an eye out for bees in the hope of finding my first Ashy Mining Bee, but only found a handful of species, including Orange-tailed Mining Bee. We also saw a couple of False Puffballs (Entiridium lycoperdon), slime moulds that form whitish half-spheres on tree trunks. Judging from social media it is having a good year. On our way back Cathy noticed a Treecreeper on a tree trunk close to the path, which showed very well.

NORWICH: Late March in the city

Last half of March 2021

The third week of March was rather quiet sightings wise, with a few flyover birds on my daily walk in to work including Grey Heron and a couple of Oystercatchers, whilst I heard my first Chiffchaff of the year singing along Lakenham Way on 23rd March. I saw a new beetle, by virtue of it landing on my desk, Two-spotted Carpet Beetle (Attagenus pellio). There was also an avian highlight with three Red Kites flying over Bethel Street seen at close quarters. Having seen the first one I then got closer and saw two fly over heading in the same direction. I assumed at the time that the first one had looped round behind me, but other observers on the other side of Chapelfield Gardens confirmed there were three individuals.

WHITLINGHAM: March WeBS cout & a new smut fungus for Norfolk

13th March 2021

The March WeBS count was rather uneventful, an exodus of ducks left around 100 Tufted Ducks, 4 Gadwall and 2 Pochard (numbers picked up later in the month, and a few Shovelers were seen the other side of the river at Thorpe on the same weekend). I delighted in prolonged views of a Jay in the wooded area near the Little Broad, and a hybrid Canada x Greylag Goose was on the Great Broad.

Having not visited the woods so far this year I had a quick walk in the nearest bit, hearing Treecreeper, Marsh Tit and Bullfinch for the first time this year. Spurge Laurel was in flower near the car park watchpoint. The most interesting point of the visit was a gall on Lesser Celandine. It didn't look like a rust so I examined it further, and as I suspected it turned out to be caused by a smut fungus, Urocystis ficariae. What I didn't realise at the time was that this is acutally quite a scarce species, and it appears to be new to Norfolk which is nice.

NORWICH: City centre sightings and a White-fronted Goose

1st week of March 2021

A busy week at work, compounded by the knowledge that a Black Redstart was present on my estate during a couple of the days and would have either been visible from the house or possibly even on top of it. Bird sightings on the way into the city have increased, with Sparrowhawks seen on several days, a Kingfisher along the river at New Mills and unexpectedly an Egyptian Goose on the building adjacent to Chapelfield Gardens!


Other wildlife sightings included a new site for Collared Earthstar (Geastrum triplex) - under some trees near the Sainsburys on Queens Road, and a small orange bryophilous fungus growing on a mossy wall, identified by George Grieff as Octospora coccinea s.l.


Throughout February there had been a flock of White-fronted Geese on the marshes at Postwick. These were quite close to Norwich as the crow flies, but quite a trek following footpaths or roads, so I had grudgingly ignored them. During the early part of March there seemed to be a movement of White-fronted Geese south of Norwich, including one that spent a few days at Marston Marshes. Marston is on the edge of Norwich a similar distance away to Whitlingham or UEA, so I went for a walk there and fortunately the White-fronted Goose was still present along the river, an excellent bird for the Norwich area. I also saw my first Ring-necked Parakeet of the year there, and some large aquatic snail shells on flood debris that Mike Hoit had already identified as Lister's River Snail.