The Whitlingham Bird Report 2019 is available now (click here)

For previous years (2012-2018) see the links on the Whitlingham Bird List page.

NORWICH: Ivy Bees emerge and other commute sightings

4th September 2020

 Late summer sees the emergence of a recently colonised bee species, Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae). I decided to take a short detour home from work through Wensum Park to see if I could find any. As it happened I did, although not on the eponymous plant. Males emerge slightly earlier than females and do utilise a few other plants, including Canadian Goldenrod as seen here.

 

Whilst looking around I noticed some galled Fat Hen leaves, a new gall for me, caused by the aphid Hayhurstia atriplicis. Another nice find on the way home was some fresh mines of the Hedge Cosmet moth (Cosmopterix zieglerella). The adult moth is a very smart looking thing, but I've only found the mines so far. 


YARE VALLEY: Wheatfen - a famous pulsing snail parasite

 Late August 2020

When I was growing up like many nature-lovers I was a fan of David Attenborough programmes, for their content, cinematography and his presenting style, but I was very aware that most of the species featured lived in exotic places and I was unlikely to ever see them. Accordingly I tended to seek out programmes that described UK wildlife, and the one I remember most was actually a programme about the attempted reintroduction of Large Coppers to the Fens. It was in 2014 that the cover of a Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists Society publication about parasitic organisms (called Hidden Lives) reminded me of the episode of Trials of Life, in which a Trematode worm takes over an Amber Snail, making it climb onto vegetation and flash it's antennae. The hope is that a bird will eat it and the Trematode can continue its life cycle inside the bird. The clip, entitled "Zombie Snail" is available to watch here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00bxh35. Why is all of this relevant? Well, it was at this point that I realised that one of these really interesting species "as featured on TV" occurred about 6 miles from Norwich, at the Ted Ellis Nature Reserve at Wheatfen.

The thing is, finding a few infected snails on a large nature reserve is very difficult. I had kept an eye out on each of my visits to no avail. Then, a few weeks ago I saw a post on the Wheatfen Facebook page that a volunteer had found and photographed a snail infected by Leucochloridium paradoxum (in fact she had done better than that, finding another snail infected by another species in the genus with brown bands instead of green). On the off chance I contacted Will Fitch, the Wheatfen warden, to ask if he knew where they had been seen. I received the answer that they were at the far end of Smee Loke (which sounds like a location from a Tolkien novel but is one of the main Wheatfen paths). With the location narrowed down, it was time for an Emerson family wildlife walk to try to track it down.

After a while it wasn't looking too promising, between us Cathy & I had found a few Amber Snails, but all apparently healthy. It was on our way back when I happened to glance into a patch of bindweed and noticed a snail with a pulsing, banded green antenna! Get in! 




Wheatfen is an excellent site for invertebrates and we saw various other things, including Spiked Shieldbug and Adelphocoris ticinensis, whilst Cathy found the impressive larva of Cimbex connatus, a large sawfly that feeds on Alders.




NORTH NORFOLK: Grass-of-Parnassus

 Late August 2020

When I still lived in North Walsham Dad & I would visit Beeston Common quite often, but mainly in spring when the orchids were out. We decided to have a walk around one afternoon, and saw several later summer flowers that my earlier visits hadn't noted, like Grass-of-Parnassus and Goldenrod, the latter a scarce plant in Norfolk that could be overlooked as a type of Ragwort by the inexperienced observer. I had hoped to see Water Cricket on the stream, but there was no sign of any.





WHITLINGHAM: August WeBS count, ivy insects and more...

 23rd August 2020

This months WeBS count was rather late in the month, and many of the swans and geese had moved on from the late July peak counts. The vegetation was quite high around the Little Broad, amking it tricky to see in from many angles, but whilst looking I noticed that a patch of Ivy had come into flower. There were no Ivy Bees yet, but lots of wasps, Hornets, hoverflies and greenbottles. I did pick out, a larger, darker wasp, and from the markings was able to confirm that it was a Median Wasp, which was nice.

In terms of wildfowl, there was nothing out of the ordinary. A Mallard had a young duckling, perhaps a third brood, and at least five of the Mute Swans were sporting the local colour rings. A selection of comparitive counts are below. The difference in Mute Swan numbers is probably due largely to the timing of the count - by September 2019 numbers had dropped to 20.

  • Mute Swan 17 (2019: 74)
  • Canada Goose 14 (2019: 4)
  • Mallard 76 (2019: 101)
  • Coot 12 (2019: 7)
  • Cormorant 28 (2019: 11)

A selection of other species of interest included Bronze Furrow-bee, a parasitised aphid on Alder, a leaf mine on Canadian Goldenrod caused by Nemorimyza posticata and a smut fungus on Water Stitchwort. The trip had a frustrating conclusion. Earlier in the month some people had come and stolen many of the railway sleepers that used to line the car park. This meant that in order to park you had to pay attention to the well-worn parking places and use some common sense. Unfortunately this proved beyond some people, who parked in a row that completely blocked in an existing row of cars, including mine. I therefore had to just wait by my car until someone came back and left, allowing me to get out. It didn't look much better along the lane either, with two cars parking between the 'no parking' bollards, and at least one other car on double-yellow lines a bit further down.






MID-NORFOLK: Buxton Heath summer invertebrates

 22nd August 2020

With the summer nearing its end we went for a family walk at Buxton Heath, which was resplendent with purple heather and earned Rose's approval thanks to the ponies grazing on it. Wildlife watching was limited mostly to the path and nearby vegetation, but that was still rather productive. Heathland bees were numerous, with Heather Mining Bees (Andrena fuscipes) and its cuckoo bee Nomada rufipes, plus Heather Bee (Colletes succinctus) alongside cuckoo bee Epeolus cruciger. We saw a colony of Bee-wolves, and a large Red-banded Sand Wasp.


 

Other species of interest included an assassin bug (probably Coranus woodroffei although they are very similar to Heath Assassin Bug), Dodder, a parasitic plant with tiny pink flowers on 'silly-string' like red filaments,  and a new one for me, the tachinid Linnaemya vulpina.



THORPE MARSHES: On the lookout for rare caterpillars

 Mid-August 2020

Thorpe Marshes has a good range of wetland plant species, including two that could potentially host rare moth species (Meadow Rue is the foodplant of Marsh Carpet, and Water Dock is the foodplant of the Water Dock Case-bearer, Coleophora hydrolapathella). I decided to pop in one lunchtime and have a look around these plants in the hope of detecting either species. I didn't, but most of the Water Dock isn't accessible and there isn't that much Meadow-rue either. One plant that is doing well is Greater Water Parsnip, a rare species that has been planted here as part of the Water, Mills and Marshes project. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it seems to have taken well.

Whilst there was no luck with the target larvae, I did manage to see a Knotgrass moth caterpillar, and also a new hoverfly, Sphaerophoria rueppelli. A Tortoise Shieldbug and my first Painted Lady of the year were also of note.





NORWICH: Robberflies and a lacebug

Mid-August 2020

A couple of additional interesting things seen whilst at my in-laws, firstly a mating pair of Kite-tailed Robberflies landed on the window, and secondly the tiny lacebug Physacheila dumetorum landed on my hand. I haven't seen many lacebugs so assumed it would be a new one for me, although when checking I found that I had seen one before in similar circumstances whilst at the Gunton Arms.



WHITLINGHAM: Trowse Woods loop

 Mid-August 2020

I don't spend too much of my time on patch at the Trowse end, so Cathy and I went for a late afternoon walk up into Trowse Woods, along the road past Whitlingham Hall and back along Whitlingham Lane. The woods themselves were quiet and too dark for many insects to be flying, but the sunny areas of the route gave up several new species for my site lists. These included leaf mines of the sawfly Heterarthrus fiora in Sycamore, aphids on Rosebay Willowherb (Aphis salicariae) and an adult Selandria sawfly, probably S. serva. We also saw a Willow Emerald near the Little Broad.





NORWICH: Second time lucky - a new bug for Norfolk

 Mid-August 2020

A final attempt to catch a rare migrant moth like Dark Crimson Underwing or Beautiful Marbled failed - a Red Admiral butterfly bizarrely decided to enter the trap and the most interesting thing was a weevil, Curculio rubidus, a scarce species in Norfolk associated with birch. In terms of moths the only species new for the year were Flounced Rustic and Pale Mottled Willow.



You might recall that earlier in the year I almost recorded a new bug for Norfolk having found it in a spiders web. On the occasion the wind blew it into the garden, leaving me unable to confirm which of two previously unrecorded species it was. I tried in vain to find a live one amongst the conifer litter for a while afterwards, but on 14th August I found another one, again caught up in a spiders web! This meant some painstaking removal of the spider silk in order to check the relative length of some hairs on its leg, but this done I was able to confirm the species was Eremocoris fenestratus - hopefully nobody else in the county found one in the meantime!

NORWICH: Garden invertebrates and inconspicuous ladybirds

 Mid August 2020

During August we spent a bit of time visiting Cathy's parents, having previously only popped round to drop off essentials. I spent some time looking around in the garden and found a good range of invertebrates, the highlights probably being two species of inconspicuous ladybird, Scymnus interruptus and Nephus quadrimaculata. It turned out that they had a Box-tree moth colony, I didn't see any adults but there was 30+ caterpillars defoliating a bush.



Other species of interest included a semi-aquatic beetle, Sphaeridium sp, what I think was Stenichneumon culpator, a stripy thrips species (Aeolothtrips sp), Broom Psyllid, Chrysotoxum verrallii and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth.







BROADS: Golden-haired Robberfly and the same Deerfly again...

 Early August 2020

Next up on the family walk schedule was Hickling, where the reserve was open for a one-way walk aroudn the reserve. We hadn't got too far when some wild west-style hoof noises started echoing around. We stepped away from the gate we had just come through and turned to look. A Konik Pony soon trotted into view, pausing at the gate to look at us before carrying on and meeting up with two other ponies.


It was a sunny day and quite a few insects were basking, including Golden-haired Robberfly and a Marsh Damselbug. A Twin-lobed Deerfly tried to bite me but fortunately was doing it through a hat. Norfolk has three fairly common Deerflies, but whenever I discover one trying to bite me it is always this species.



In a surprising turn of events we actually saw some birds too. A Kingfisher flew across Hickling Broad from the viewpoint, whilt three Black-tailed Godwits followed a small flock of Lapwing over the reserve. On the way back three Great White Egrets were also seen at the back of one of the scrape areas.

WEST NORFOLK: Southern Migrant Hawker

Early August 2020

For the past few weeks people had been posting pictures of Southern Migrant Hawkers at Thompson Common. This species was formerly a rare migrant to the UK, but in recent years has colonised in the Essex and been appearing with a bit more regularity elsewhere. At Thompson reports had been of at least six males and a mating pair, so perhaps there seemed like a reasonable chance of bumping into one.

We emerged from the woods and turned our attention to a dried out pingo where many of the sightings had been made. A hawker soon flew in and perched up, but it was a 'normal' Migrant Hawker. A couple of other naturalists were also looking - one had seen a Southern Migrant Hawker in flight a few hours earlier but that was it. We spent a while watching the very active dragonflies, hoping they would land, but it appeared that everything we saw was Migrant Hawker or Brown Hawker. Trying around the corner I saw a very blue looking dragonfly, and it briefly perched up on some bur-reed, enabling me to confirm it was our target species, Southern Migrant Hawker! It gave great flight views (down to a few feet) but barely settled. My bridge camera takes a while to focus, so I had to make do with a few not-quite-in-focus record shots. We also saw one of the site specialties, Scarce Emerald damselfly. A few more people turned up, including Vanna, Jeremy & Ian, and they managed good views too.


By now Rose was getting bored, so rather than explore further we headed back to the car. I had seen a water-dropwort species in the first dry pingo so double checked it was Fine-leaved Water Dropwort, a second new species of the day. A sedge generated much comment online, but was eventually decided as Carex otrubae by people much more knowledgeable than me about these things. Platycis minutus (a net winged beetle) was a nice find on the way back to the car.