The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2016 is now available to download here.

The previous reports are also availble: 2015 here,
2014 report here and the 2013 report 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 for 2016, which is available here.

BROADLAND: How Hill fungi

16th September 2017

Todays fungus study group foray was at How Hill, and as I headed there the steady rain and copious amounts of standing water made me wonder if I had made the right decision to attend. The thought that my other option for the day had been a freshwater snails workshop at Carlton Marshes (further away and less shelter) cheered me up a bit. As expected the weather and the fact that it was the second foray of the month meant a slightly reduced group, although numbers were built up by four members of the How Hill staff.

We headed off into the woods and began to accrue species straight away. Crepidotus sp are common on forays, but one taken by Tony turned out to be Crepidotus versutus which was a new one for me. Purple-edge Bonnet (Mycena purpurescens) was another good one, amongst the 20 or so species we saw before the heavy rain drove us back to the house. Most places we visit have very little shelter, so we were lucky to have a lounge with hot drinks and cake!

View from the not-quite-aptly named sun room

Once the rain had eased a bit we headed back out. Picking up where we left off we were shown some Spectacular Rustgills that fruit each year, along with Stump Puffballs, Crested Coral and Rutstroemia echinophila for the second foray in a row. A good range of Mycenas were being found, about 14 or 15 different species providing Yvonne with lots of work back at home. I found some cup fungi growing on the petiole of an Oak leaf to go with the related cups on bark and Chestnut casings.

We stopped in the secret garden for lunch at the summerhouse, before exploring the lawns nearby. Lizzy, who had been quite prolifically finding new species for the day list seemed disappointed when a clump of white spheres turned out to be Grass Snake eggs rather than a fungus - several of us rushed back to have a look. Sadly rotten, but the first time I've seen them. Fungi kept being found, with a rust on Potentilla, Larch Bolete, Birch Knight and Deer Shield. The sun actually came out for a spell, and insects were suddenly visible, including Willow Emeralds and a Rhododendron Leafhopper.

Checking the area alongside a path we saw Papillate Pinkgill (confirmed by Alex)  and some Moor Clubs. There was a distinct lack of moorland, which puzzled us, but Tony confirmed later that they were indeed this species. We finally left the secret garden and crossed the woods, where I found three Lion Shields, completing the set of the three yellow shield species for me.

Out on a large lawn we were hopeful for some Waxcaps and other associated species, but unfortunately we were either too early or it wasn't as good as it looked. Pink Domecap was a decent find, but some part-mown Yellow Clubs were the only CHEG species. Just off the grass some Jellybabies were found under the wooded edge.

Before leaving we had a look around the car park and the lawn in front of the house. A few more species were added, including Meadow Coral, although the pick was probably some small ascomycetes that Yvonne found growing on a Dryopteris fern. They turned out to be Psilachnum chrysostigmum, the second Norfolk record. An obliging Sericomyia silentis hoverfly was also nice to see. Altogether we managed over 110 species, the most I remember on a foray for quite some time, so I'm glad I wasn't put off by a bit of rain!

NORWICH: Catton Park ground beetle

14th September 2017

After work I headed to Catton Park. There had been strong winds for the past few days, and I was interested to see if many branches had come down, possibly bringing species usually above head height down to the ground. Before entering the park I checked out the road verge nearby, where I confirmed some naturalised Soapwort that I had tentatively identified from the car a few weeks ago.

Going along an area of woodland edge I noticed some black fungal spots on Elm leaves, which Tony Leech kindly identified as Dothidiella ulmi, which has five previous Norfolk records. I then cut across the grassland and found a ground beetle buried head down in a Knapweed head. It turned out it was just feeding on the seeds, and was quite speedy when disturbed. It turned out that it was Curtonotus aulicus, and this behaviour is quite typical. A range of common Oak galls completed the evenings recording.

NORWICH: Agromyza idaeiana leaf-mine

14th September 2017

Getting interested in leaf mines has opened up a lot of new species to record whilst just out and about - on my way home from work I noticed a new one in Bramble, a short corridor leading into a blotch caused by the fly Agromyza idaeiana.

NORTH NORFOLK: Sustead Common official opening

9th September 2017

Over the summer I have been aware of a recently formed North Norfolk conservation charity called the Felbeck Trust, who have been restoring and maintaing several sites around Aylmerton and Sustead. One of the people involved is Trevor Williams, chairman of the North-east Norfolk Bird Club and Aylmerton Nature Diary blogger. I had commented on his blog in the past, and he mentioned that the Trust were holding an official opening ceremony at Sustead Common on Saturday if I wanted to come along.

I was aware that there wasn't much parking space nearby, so I arrived a bit early, parked up in the village and walked down the lane to the common. The site was a bit smaller than I was expecting, but this was soon explained - the site had been split into three blocks, and the area currently open is the two smaller areas. A larger part that is mostly composed of deciduous woodland is also now being managed by the trust, who hope to be able to purchase it in the future to reunite the whole common.

Everyone was very friendly, and after a few introductions I set about doing a bit of recording before the ribbon cutting ceremony. I got off to a good start with a Green Tortoise Beetle on one of the deckchairs, and followed this up with Dock Bugs, a Sloe Shieldbug and a Green Shieldbug amongst the Knapweed. In fact it turned out to be a good day for shieldbugs and allied insects, as I found five Hawthorn Shieldbugs in the hedge, a late instar Box Bug and several Woundwort Shieldbugs.

 Sloe (=Hairy) Shieldbug
 Hawthorn Shieldbug (late instar)
 Box Bug (late instar)

I paused for a bit to listen to the official opening ceremony, and it was pleasing to hear that many groups had contributed to opening up the site. Volunteers had put in over 500 hours, and I spoke to several locals so it seemed that the villagers were also fully onboard with the work going on, which is key when carrying out a project like this.

Across the beck on the 'surveyors allotment' part of the site I picked up a copy of the NENBC bird report for 2015 & 2016 and had a look at what the Norfolk Rivers Trust had caught. As the scrape was currently dry I could walk out onto it and found some flies on the Flag Iris that had been infected by the fungus Entomophthora muscae. I recorded several galls and leaf mines, plus four hoverflies including Chrysogaster solstitialis.

Crossing back to the main part of the common I found a plant bug, Lygus rugulipennis, which I was fortunately able to confirm because my photos were sharp enough to check the hair density on the corium, the only way it can reliably be separated from the four other similar and variable Lygus species.

I did stop at this point for cake and tea, although whilst I was waiting for the tea to cool I wandered over to the nearby hedge, where I added a type of Hawthorn mite gall, a Vapourer moth caterpillar and a Comma caterpillar to the day list.

I had a very enjoyable day checking out the site, which I'm sure will only get better as the management work continues, and look forward to visiting again next year at some point.

WHITLINGHAM: September wildfowl count

8th September 2017

This weekend was WeBS weekend, and as I was busy at the weekend I headed down after work on Friday to get the Whitlingham count done. Yesterdays flock of House Martins was still present (and lower because of the cloudy weather) and a Chiffchaff 'hweeted', but other than a Kingfisher and the Pintard it was all still very sedate. Six Tufted Ducks were visible at Thorpe.

Counts of the usual suspects:
Mute Swan 23 (2016: 24)
Greylag Goose 3 (2016: 10)
Mallard 69 (2016: 75)
Coot 22 (2016: 97)

As you can see, the Coot numbers were dramatically down on the 2016 count. My first thought was that the 2016 count might have been near the end of the month, and it was on the 18th, so the ten days will account for some of the difference. Going back further over my data however it seems like numbers do fluctuate considerably during September:

2017: 22
2016: 97
2015: 45
2014: 25
2013: 43
2012: Noted as present but no counts
2011: c100

I hung around to check the Cormorant roost, but because of the dull conditions lots were already in the trees, and as the foliage was still present it was impossible to count them accurately - there was at least 27. It began to drizzle, which was followed by a short section of rainbow, which reflected nicely in the water of the Great Broad. I do like a good rainbow.

WHITLINGHAM: Return of the hybrid

7th September 2017

An evening sojourn at Whitlingham, and there was at least a bird of note in the return of the Pintail x Mallard hybrid that has spent most of the past year across the river at Thorpe Green.

My walk took me along the southern edge of the broad and up into the woods, before I walked back through the woodland edge south of Whitlingham Lane. Back at the broad I stopped for a bit of food and watched the paddleboarders. I added a new plant to my Whitlingham list in the form of Red Goosefoot, a plant that I had tentatively identified earlier in the year based on some leaves, but decided to wait until it flowered to confirm it.

An adult Parent Bug was nice to see having seen the ball of young ones last week. Leaf mines of the micro moth Bucculatrix cidarella in Alder were new for me and TG20, and I also saw an impressive Robin's Pincushion gall.

NORWICH: Red velvet mites & more leaf-mines

6th September 2017

The previous day Gary and Alysia had found a Ring-necked Parakeet near their house in Norwich, so after work on Wednesday I went for a walk around Waterloo Park, Drayton Road and the section of Marriott's Way nearby. There was no sign of the parakeet, but as always I found things to keep me occupied. I went over to look at some Tansy, where I found five Red Velvet Mites.

Walking as far as the bridge across to Train Wood, I spotted some Wild Hops growing in the hedge, and decided to check it for leaf mines. This was a good decision as I found Agromyza flaviceps mines, another addition to my fledgeling Agromyzid list. A quick tree check turned up another new mine, that of Aulagromyza populicola.


NORWICH: Snout & oak gall

6th September 2017

A couple of interesting observations from Lakenham before work on Wednesday. Firstly I spotted a Snout moth resting in a hedge, a common moth this time of year but more often seen amongst the vegetation so sometimes hard to photograph. Secondly on Lakenham Way I saw a gall caused by the gall wasp Andricus grossulariae on Oak. The life cycle of this species, along with some other gall wasps, is a bit unusual. There is a sexual generation that produces small red galls on Turkey Oak catkins, but also an asexual generation that gives rise to the gall I saw today (a sort of frizzy knopper gall).

SUFFOLK: Somerleyton estate fungi

2nd September 2017

On Saturday the Norfolk Fungus Study Group visited the Somerleyton Estate. The border-aware amongst you will be aware that Somerleyton is in Suffolk, but as there is currently no equivalent Suffolk Fungus Study Group there is often one foray held in Suffolk, if nothing else to get a few more records for county recorder Neil Mahler who is a regular attendee at the Norfolk events.

We began at St Mary's church, where after the cows had dispersed we were able to check a nearby field. There was very little fungi about, Puccinia glechoma (a rust on Ground Ivy) was probably the pick of the bunch. Rose Sputnik galls and a Pale Tussock caterpillar were the non-fungal highlights.

Whilst more fungi would have been nice, it did at least mean that we unanimously agreed to move on to our second site, an area of heath and woodland further north on the estate. After convoying to a parking area closer to Fritton Lake we then headed down a path, seeing a Stinking Dapperling. The group dispersed to cover an area of heathland, and although there was quite a bit of fungi about, it was mostly a rather narrow band of common species. Sepia Bolete (Xerocomellus porosporus or Boletus porosporus, I don't know which is the current name and it's largely irrelevant as it will probably have changed again by the time you read this) was nice to see.

After lunch we moved on to a bit of wet woodland, and the early signs weren't particularly promising. Moving a bit further along we finally found a productive area, and the finds began to rack up. Rutstroemia echinophila, a cup fungus growing on Sweet Chestnut husks, was a new one for me. A range of Mycena, Inocybe, Naucoria and Cortinarius upped the species count, with Mycena rhenana growing on an Oak Knopper Gall being of particular interest. 

On the way back Yvonne found some Powdery Piggybacks growing on an old Blackening Brittlegill, which according to my records was my first sighting since 1998, a reminder of how long I've been looking at fungi!

WHITLINGHAM: Parent bugs and a chalcid wasp

31st August 2017

An hour at Whitlingham, and as a singing Chiffchaff was the only bird of note I spent my remaining time checking the trees. One of the first Alders I checked had a brood of late-instar Parent Bugs clustered round in a ball, which was nice to see.

I managed to record three new moths for my patch list, although unfortunately I didn't see any of them as they were all from vacant mines. These were Stigmella tiliae (on Lime), Stigmella lemniscella (on Elm) and Bucculatrix bechsteinella (on Hawthorn). The harvestman Paroligolophus agrestis was one I'd not recorded before, but apparently it is one of if not the commonest harvestman in the UK, so I'm glad I rectified that. The highlight of the walk was a tiny but beautiful chalcid wasp, Ormyrus nitidulus. For scale, it is sitting on half an Oak Knopper Gall.

 Ormyrus nitidulus

NORWICH: Mousehold fungi and leaf mines

30th August 2017

Another brief local trip, this time to Mousehold Heath. It was raining so there were few insects about, so I focused my attention on fungi, leaf mines and galls. There was quite a bit of fungi about, but most of it was a small range of common species like Sulphur Tuft, Tawny Grisette, Ochre Brittlegill, Blusher and Common Earthball.

 Tawny Grisette
Ochre Brittlegills

Of the rest, a gall on Yew was new, as was an Agromyzid leaf mine in Silver Birch. I thought I'd found a new leaf-mine in Bracken, but it later turned out that there are two species that make near-identical mines so it remains an either/or. The highlight was a leaf beetle, Gonioctena olivacea, found on Broom.

 Taxomyia taxi
 Agromyza alnibetulae
 Leaf-mine in Bracken
Gonioctena olivacea

NORTH NORFOLK: Bank holiday part 3 - Morston

Our afternoon destination was Morston, apparently along with hundreds of others. Most of them seemed content to stay around the quay or head to Blakeney though, so when we took the coast path towards Stiffkey we were soon away from the crowds. I spotted some Sea Wormwood and had a quick look for Scarce Pug caterpillars without success. I'm not sure if they are found this far east, as the distribution is mainly the north-west of the county.

Our target here was Sea Aster Bee (Colletes halophilus), which as its name suggests is an autumn flying bee that specialises in collecting pollen from Sea Aster, a fact that is very useful as otherwise it looks very similar to other members of the genus. To start off we struggled to find any large areas of Sea Aster, but then on the off chance we checked a bit of saltmarsh and found quite a bit in flower. It was mostly the rayless form, and hence had gone overlooked as we were looking for areas of purple. On the yellow flowerheads we found 15-20 Sea Aster Bees, somewhat tricky to photograph but niec nonetheless. This was my 49th bee species - not a spectacular total but double the number I'd seen at the start of the year.

We carried on past the bees to Stiffkey Fen, where we stopped and had lunch. The birds were quite distant, although a flock of 37 Spoonbills stood out. On the way back we paid more attention to the scrub and saw several Stonechats, presumably a family group.

Back at Morston Quay we headed to the toilets and Adam noticed a Frosted Orange moth on the wall. Looking up we realised that there was actually a good range of moths over the ceiling and walls, so once it was empty I quickly moved about and photographed a few. There were more on the outside of the block too. Given the nearby saltmarsh and the coastal location I was hopeful that some of them might be rare, but there was nothing I'd not seen before. Rosy Rustic, Chinese Character and Pale Eggar were some of the scarcer ones. We had a quick look from the observation tower and a tasty sausage roll before leaving.