The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2014 is now available to download here. It is stored on google drive, which sometimes condenses the photos if you view it online, this should be resolved if you download and then view. The 2013 report is still available here. Thanks to everyone who has contributed sightings, information and photos to these reports.

You may also be interested in Chris Durdin's Thorpe Marsh Wildlife Report, which is available here.

NORTH NORFOLK: Fritillaries and Leafhoppers

27th July 2015

Despite showers being forecast I was eager to go to Holt Country Park to look for the valezina form of Silver-washed Fritillary. Whilst this species is usually orange, in some colonies a small percentage of the females are instead a bronzey-green colour. Fortunately the colony at Holt, probably the best known one in Norfolk, has this form present. I had failed to see it on previous visits, so I wasn't confident of seeing one, particularly because it was raining as we drove through Edgefield, but by the time we arrived at Holt the rain had stopped and a few butterflies were on the wing.

Last year we saw quite a few Silver-washed Fritillaries on the Buddleia at the back of the car park, and similarly on this visit two were almost immediately visible. Both were vibrating their wings, presumably heating up their flight muscles after a period of inactivity. We took a slightly circuitous route to the pond along a path that had held a valezina a week ago, but didn't see any butterflies at all. Stopping at the pond we scanned the vegetation and saw another normal-type Fritillary. Then bingo, a beautiful bronzey valezina landed on the Hogweed in front of me. I called Cathy round and we both admired the butterfly as it gave excellent views. Further round the same island of vegetation Cathy found a second one, with both showing at the same time to confirm it was a second individual.

Whilst we were here I remembered that one of the wardens was monitoring hoverfly records, so I made an effort to photograph as many species as possible. Of those that are identifiable without examination or a specimen we found eleven, quite good for a small area on an overcast day. These included three Volucella species and two new ones for me, Helophilus trivittatus and Sericomyia silentis. On our way back to the car we saw another couple of orange Silver-washed Fritillaries nectaring on thistles, plus a Red Longhorn Beetle and a Speckled Bush-cricket.

Whilst in North Norfolk we decided to carry on to Sheringham Park. Here I wanted to look for one of my target species for the year, the attractive Rhododendron Leafhopper. We had checked quite a few Rhododendrons without finding any, and then I saw some white leafhopper nymphs. We wondered if it was too early in the season, but Cathy quickly answered that question by finding some adults lower down on the same plant. Rhododendron Leafhoppers are green with red streaks and a black line through the eye, and are well worth a closer look if you see one. The NBN map for this species doesn't show any records for Norfolk, but their presence here is well known, even being mentioned on the Sheringham Park website. We ended a successful trip with chip butties at the park cafe.

WHITLINGHAM: Lesser Stag Beetle

26th July 2015

Looking ahead to the weather for my impending time off, I was less than pleased to see that it was basically rain showers for most of the week. With this in mind I decided to get a couple of hours in at Whitlingham on Sunday morning before the rain hit. Wildfowl numbers were similar to the previous week, so the avian highlights were a Kingfisher (perched up on the main island), two Buzzards that flew over and four Swifts, still lingering on in Norwich for a few more days.

In addition to looking for any storm-driven birds, I wanted to check for Willow Emerald damselflies along the south shore of the Great Broad. These damselflies are spreading rapidly now, and were present at Thorpe Marsh, Cow Tower, Cringleford and UEA last year, but not seemingly at Whitlingham. Last Sunday I had seen an Emerald Damselfly sp. (i.e. Common or Willow) fly up into an Alder, but not managed to see it well enough to confirm it was definitely a Willow Emerald. Later that day I checked my emails to find a message from a local birder who had seen a Willow Emerald in pretty much the same spot the day before. I'm being good and not counting it, and there was no sign on this visit, so the wait for my 18th patch odonate goes on.

Another thing I was checking for was for Ladybirds infected with a fungus, but I'll probably do a separate post about that particular quest! I did find a few more new species to add to my patch list, which will hopefully hit 900 in the next few weeks. Of the new species the most pleasing were Short-winged Conehead, Lesser Stag Beetle and the hoverfly Volucella inanis.

NORWICH: Scabious Mining Bees

23rd July 2015

I decided to make the most of the warm weather and head to Earlham Cemetery after work. On the first Buddleia I came to I saw a large hoverfly, the distinctive Volucella inflata, a relative of the hornet-mimic Volucella zonaria that is being seen frequently at the moment. I photographed it and have now got confirmation that it is a new species for the cemetery list. This is no mean feat, as Norfolk's hoverfly recorder lives close by and has recorded quite a few species here!

During the sunny spells I checked some of the uncut areas of the cemetery for butterflies. Two Large Skippers were still flying, and of the smaller skippers that I checked, all four were Essex Skipper. A female Common Blue butterfly was also nice to see.

My main reason for visiting the cemetery was to look for Large Scabious Mining Bees (Andrena hattorfiana). This is quite a rare species, and in Norfolk is at the northern limits of its British range. There are several colonies on the coast, but the main stronghold is the Brecks, making the Norwich colony a bit of an outlier. After a bit of searching I found the main area of Field Scabious, and straight away saw the bees. They have pale yellow hairs on the back legs, but on almost all of the bees they had turned a lovely salmon-pink colour due to the scabious pollen. Despite there also being lots of Black Knapweed nearby, the Scabious Mining Bees kept strictly to the Scabious flowers. This was another interesting species that it was nice to see so close to the city centre.

NORWICH: An encounter with the Bee Wolf

22nd July 2015

A discussion on the Norfolk Wildlife facebook page recently had mentioned a large colony of predatory solitary wasps known as Bee Wolves on the North Norfolk coast. The Bee Wolf hunts Honey Bees, and in the typical photographic pose can be seen carrying them, legs clamped round, back to the burrow. A good photo showing this can be seen here:

The particular colony being discussed turned out to be on private land, but as alternative sites were mentioned one in particular stuck out, Norwich castle gardens. Whilst in Norfolk the Bee Wolf is mainly found in dunes, some have found an area of sandy soil in the centre of Norwich to their liking. I decided to have lunch in the castle gardens, and after a bit of searching I found the colony, and spent a while watching the Bee Wolves excavating their burrows and going about their business. I did see one bring in a Honey Bee, but it was far too fast for my photography skills. Watching these wasps that up until the previous day I hadn't even known they were there made me think about how many other interesting species are close by but I'm yet to see...

WHITLINGHAM: July wildfowl count & more hoverflies

21st July 2015

As I hadn't been able to carry out the wildfowl counts on Sunday I managed to go to Whitlingham on Tuesday after work. As I walked along the lane four young Kestrels were making a racket as they chased each other over the meadow. The vegetation around the Little Broad was so high that I had to go to the gates near the watersports centre to view it, seeing seven Mallard and a couple of Mute Swans.

On the Great Broad I counted 65 Mute Swans, 49 Greylag Geese, 51 Canada Geese, 35 Egyptian Geese and 94 Mallard, plus smaller amounts of other regular species. With the exception of the Egyptian Geese count, which is very close to last year, the rest are all well down on the equivalent 2014 count. The highlight of the count was an unseasonal female Wigeon.

Lots of Hogweed has now gone to seed, but there were still enough flowers to draw in some interesting insects as I went round. A 16-spot Ladybird, a new species for me, was probably the best one, but unfortunately it flew off before I could photograph it. I also found a new hoverfly, Cheilosia illustrata, and the always impressive Hornet-mimic Hoverfly Volucella zonaria.

An additional new species was a small tachnid fly with red sides to the abdomen. Tim Hodge kindly identified it for me as Eriothrix rufomaculata. The final interesting species of the day was a Four-banded Longhorn Beetle. I had never seen one until I visited Ormesby a couple of weeks ago, but now it's on the Whitlingham list.

WHITLINGHAM: Orchids and shieldbugs

19th July 2015

On Sunday I headed down to Whitlingham in the morning to do the monthly wildfowl count, only to notice some posters advertising an "open water event". Further down Whitlingham Lane there were cones and temporary traffic lights, and finally the sound of a public address system. Clearly there was no point starting to count the wildfowl properly, so I decided to head out onto the picnic meadow and then the woods to make sure my visit wasn't wasted.

I did walk down to the slipway to have a quick look, and was rewarded with a Common Sandpiper flying languidly west over the broad. Crossing over onto the meadow I immediately heard some Roesel's Bush Crickets and Long-winged Coneheads. The pick of the insects was a large sawfly/ichneumon that I initially thought was a Wood wasp, but actually it seems to be something similar. I also found a Red-legged Shieldbug, a species I have seen here before but not photographed.

Looking at the clumps of trees in the middle of the meadow I noted a couple of new galls for my species guide, one causing rolled up Ash leaves and one forming a gall on Turkey Oak catkins. The woods were relatively quiet, although it was nice to see the large amounts of Enchanter's Nightshade in flower. I left the woods and crossed over to look at the river. A Norfolk Hawker flew past, and a shoal of Roach were visible in the shallows.

Walking back to the country park I looked into the long grass where Pyramidal Orchids can be found. I was pleased to see two pale pink flowering spikes, clearly different to the usual deeper pink flower spikes. A Birch Shieldbug was also of interest and a patch tick for me.

CAMBRIDGESHIRE: Devil's Dyke Marbled Whites

18th July 2015

Amongst my wildlife interests, butterflies rank highly, so this summer I wanted to see at least one new butterfly species. The easiest one to go for seemed to be Marbled White, not present in Norfolk but common at a site called Devil's Dyke just into Cambridgeshire.

Having driven past miles of racecourses we arrived, only to have a slight unplanned issue, as there was a race event on at the July course and the road that people usually park on was being used. Happily we found a place to park close by, and walked back to the Devil's Dyke. The main path runs along the top of a raised earthwork, with a steep slope down to the main ditch part along the western edge. The tannoy from the racetrack was clearly audible, commentating on races, announcing withdrawals and at one point giving out the latest England score from the Ashes. All of this contributed to a rather idiosyncratic location!

The first butterflies we saw were Chalkhill Blues, and they continued to be the commonest butterfly species all along the stretch we walked. This was an upgrade of sorts, as the only ones I had seen before were at Warham Fort in North Norfolk. Whilst this population now appears to be self-sustaining, it originated from an unauthorised release and there is limited suitable habitat nearby. Crossing over from the first half of this section of the dyke we soon came across our first Marbled White. It was spending most of the time at the bottom of the dyke, so I carefully walked down and tracked it and another one nearby. Despite the windy conditions I managed to get some photos, and noted that one of them had a red parisitic mite on it.

We spent a while watching the Marbled Whites, which looked excellent and had a very pleasing fluttery flight. Heading back along the path I noticed some bright yellow chrysalises (I'm not convinced that is the correct plural!) on Knapweed stems, which I think belong to Six-spot Burnet Moths. A Hawthorn Shieldbug landed on my back, and Cathy noticed a Bloody-nosed Beetle walking across in front of us. We enjoyed our walk along this stretch of the dyke, and a couple photographing butterflies suggested trying the stretch near Reach, so perhaps we will try that another year.

NORTH NORFOLK: Knapweed Broomrape

12th July 2015

On Sunday afternoon we went back to North Walsham to see friends, but we left a bit early to check out a couple of roadside nature reserves. My targets were Knapweed Broomrape and Purple Broomrape, two parisitic plants that I had searched for earlier in the season before they had emerged. The first one was the easiest to find - Knapweed Broomrape is also known as Tall Broomrape, and having located some Greater Knapweed I soon saw several spikes of it's companion plant. The flowers were old and orangey-brown, but still had attracted several insects including a Hairy Shieldbug.

I had less luck at the second site, with no sign of any Purple Broomrape. It might not have flowered there this year, but it might just be that I left it too late in the season. It wasn't a complete loss though, as well as my first Gatekeeper of the year I also saw a Latticed Heath moth, a new species for me.

In addition to the two Broomrapes I have seen (Common and Knapweed), and the one I missed (Purple), Great Broomrape also grows in Norfolk. It was thought extinct for a time, but found again on private land somewhere a few years back. It may well be re-found elsewhere in the county, so if you see a large Broomrape plant growing close to gorse or broom (it's main host plants) on land with public access then I would appreciate an email!

EAST NORFOLK: Lesser Emperor and other inverts

11th July 2015

In 2012 I had a very good year for odonata (dragonflies and damselflies). In terms of damselflies I saw Scarce Emerald and Small Red Damselflies for the first time, along with the recently colonised Willow Emerald and the vagrant Southern Emerald. Of the dragonflies I finally saw Black Darter, and also saw the now fairly regular migrant Red-veined Darter. These additions took me up to 29 Norfolk species (including Yellow-winged Darter from an invasion year in the 1990s). With this in mind I was interested to hear in 2014 when several Lesser Emperor dragonflies, a species that I hadn't seen, turned up in Norfolk at Felbrigg and Filby. I went to Filby to have a look, but didn't manage to see one.

Fast-forward a year, and Lesser Emperors were once again seen at Felbrigg and Filby. Feedback from an observer last week was that sightings were less frequest as the temperature dropped, so rather than trying after work I waited until the weekend, and luckily Saturday morning was sunny. Cathy & I arrived and set off along the boardwalk to look out over Ormesby Little Broad, which seemed to be more reliable for sightings than the Filby Broad boardwalk that I had tried last year. Several people were at the viewpoint and confirmed that there ad already been sightings that morning. Most of the dragonflies zooming past were Norfolk Hawkers, but it wasn't long before we got our first sighting of a Lesser Emperor flying past. A while later we got another look, once again flight views only. There didn't seem much chance of it settling, but I was just happy to get to see a new species.

On our way back to the car park we saw a wide range of invertebrates.The two highlights were the attractive hoverfly Chrysotoxum bicinctum, found by Cathy, and Four-banded Longhorn Beetle, of which I found two. There was also a range of bees, hoverflies and the commoner Yellow-and-black Longhorn Beetle. A White Admiral butterfly was also nice to see, although it dodn't stop to be photographed. A Common Emerald damselfly and a Brown Hawker were also new for the year.

Chrysotoxum bicinctum
Four-banded Longhorn Beetle
Yellow-and-black Longhorn Beetle

SUFFOLK: Bee-eater flock

9th July 2015

I seldom venture into Suffolk to twitch birds, but on Thursday evening I got a text from Ricky saying that he was going to Theberton, and as he was going to pass close by was I interested in coming? The target was a flock of ten Bee-eaters that had been in the area recently. No-one seems to know where they spend the day, so the idea was to head to the area that they had roosted the previous night in the hope that they would return. We left Norwich before there was any sign of them, but on the way we were able to check with Ben, who was on site and informed us that the whole flock were present.

It took around an hour to get to Theberton, and as we arrived lots of birders were leaving (seldom a good sign!). We quickly established that the birds were still present, but they were no longer showing well on telegraph wires, and were instead flying over some poplars before going to roost. Looking up as we walked along the lane we picked out the Bee-eaters, drifting and swooping above the trees. A few minutes later and they had all landed and vanished amongst the poplar leaves.

The group of birders that remained scanned through the poplars hoping to pick out some of the birds, and it didn't take long to pick out two, with a third occasionally visible when the wind blew the leaves back. Just like Golden Orioles they could be surprisingly cryptic, despite the bright colours.

Before leaving we tried a different viewpoint from a nearby road, and Ricky noticed that there were actually two birds roosting cheek-to-cheek. The Bee-eaters had gone to roost at just after eight, and despite the Swifts and hirundines still hawking insects past nine, they seemed quite settled and never flew out, even when a helicopter went over the trees. Birders trying on Friday night were unsuccessful, so it seems we were lucky to see and spend a lovely sunny evening with these birds. Thanks of course to Ricky for driving and Ben for letting us know they were still there.

NORTH NORFOLK: Sculthorpe Glow-worms

4th July 2015

On Saturday evening Cathy, Margaret & I went to Sculthorpe Moor for one of their organised Glow-worm walks. In the past Glow-worms were fairly widespread, even occurring at Whitlingham in the 1990s, but in recent years they have declined, and having not seen one for several years we decided to go on this walk. Incidentally the decline is a bit tricky to be sure about, as not that many people go out after dark during the summer surveying for Glow-worms.

We arrived just before nine and had a brief talk, before setting off for a walk onto the reserve. As it began to get dusk Woodcock began to fly over and we got brief views of a Barn Owl. We stopped to admire the new elevated boardwalk and hide, which is almost finished and due to open over the summer. We spent a bit of time at the hides at the end of the reserve to wait for it to get dark.

Once the light had gone we headed back in search of our quarry. Along the edges of the path we saw three adult female Glow-worms. It is the females that produce the best 'glow' to attract the males. The larvae also glow, however they can turn it on and off, producing blinking or disappearing lights rather than the steady light of the adult. We saw lots of larve (20+) as we walked back through the wooded areas, and also stopped to admire a bright orangey moon from the Whitley hide. I didn't get any good photos of the Glow-worms (I have included a picture just to show the light) but if you didn't read my blog back in 2009 then have a look at a photo I took then of a mating pair at Taswood fishing lakes:

 Glow-worm in the dark
 Pre-harvest moon

NORWICH: 10th ladybird of the year

7th July 2015

Without really trying, this year has become my most successful for ladybirds, with several new species already this year. On Tuesday I noticed another species in Norwich city centre, a 10-spot Ladybird. Like many of the species it is very variable, but this was the 'standard' form. Despite having seen ten species so far, there are still a number of species around that other Norfolk naturalists have seen of late, such as Larch, Cream-streaked and Adonis ladybirds. I'd also like to see Water Ladybird, which appears to occur in Norfolk, although I'm not sure of any specific sites for it so simply a case of keeping a look out.

WHITLINGHAM: Looking for a shiny moth

3rd July 2015

On Thursday Tim Hodge had seen a rare species of day-flying moth at Whitlingham. The Horehound Longhorn moth, an attractive purple-and-bronze coloured species has very few Norfolk records, although it seems to be having a good year this year. It can sometimes be found on the flowers of Hogweed, and as Whitlingham Lane has a good mixture of both Black Horehound (the larval foodplant) and Hogweed, I had been keeping an eye out for this species for the past couple of years without success.

After work on Friday I headed down for a quick look along the lane, bumping into James Lowen in the process. Despite searching every Hogweed plant we could get to, we had no luck. Still, knowing that it is present I shall put more effort into looking for it on future visits. This close attention to the Hogweed flowers did pay dividends though, with several new patch species. Some small yellow and black longhorn beetles turned out to be Fairy-ring Longhorn Beetles, and I also added a couple of Capsid bugs.

Fairy-ring Longhorn Beetle

Having failed to find the Horehound Longhorn, I had a quick look around the picnic meadow, where I still couldn't find the Bee Orchids that are meant to be there. I did find a single plant of Common Broomrape, which is fairly common around Norwich but was a new patch record. A large micro moth that I repeatedly flushed from the long grass looks like Rush Veneer to me, possibly a migrant.

 Rush Veneer moth (I think!)
Common Broomrape

NORWICH: Some more Norwich insects

w/c 29th June 2015

Despite work and the oppressive heat, I still managed to see some interesting insects this week. The first of these was a bug that flew in through an open window whilst I was at work. I potted it and took some photos, and was able to identify it as Deraeocoris flavilinea. As there were no Norfolk records showing up on the NBN maps* I contacted the county bug recorder, who informed me that it was only the second county record, so a good record.

Deraeocoris flavilinea

The next day nothing made it through the windows, but I did notice a ladybird on the outside of the window. I leaned round and potted that too. I recognised it as a Cream-spot Ladybird, my 9th ladybird species of the year so far.

Cream-spot Ladybird

The most pleasing insect of the week however was a new moth for me, Lilac Beauty. It was caught by my in-laws, who called Cathy having been unable to find it on their butterfly and day-flying moth guides. They kindly invited us over to have a look. Lilac Beauties have an interesting crinkled-wing look, presumably to help them camouflage themselves as dead leaves. On the same evening I was doing a bit of gardening when I found my first Soldierfly, a shiny green and blue species called Broad Centurion.

 Lilac Beauty
Broad Centurion

* NBN is the National Biodiversity Network. If you want to get an idea of how common (or not) a species is in your area, type in the latin name of you species followed by NBN into your search engine. It will bring up a page with the option to look at a map (top right of the page) showing all of the records submitted to the network. It gives a good indication of species range, but not definitive because some records haven't been updated or submitted.  
For my example, the page is here: