The Whitlingham Bird Report 2017 can be viewed or downloaded here. For previous years (2012-2016) see the links on the Whitlingham Bird List page.

You may also be interested in Chris Durdin's Thorpe Marsh Wildlife Report for 2017, which is available

SUFFOLK: Lepidoptera in the King's Forest

1st August 2018

This spring Butterfly Conservation have been running a series of moth trap openings in the King's Forest in north Suffolk. These have been held in mid-week so I was only able to attend one. Five traps were put out, but they were small Heath traps, so there actually wasn't a huge range of moths to go through. There were four new macros for me - Birch Mocha, Peacock Moth, True Lovers Knot and Bird's Wing. Clouded Buff was a Breckland speciality, albeit one that I had seen before. In addition one attendee had brough another Breckland speciality, Marbled Clover, caught nearby at Lackford.

 Birch Mocha
 Clouded Buff
 Peacock Moth
 Marbled Clover
 Bird's Wing

Afterwards we went for a walk along one of the nearby rides. A Grayling sat obligingly on the path, and we were treated to a sight I've not seen for many years as around 30 Red Admirals flew all around us, attracted by the squashed wild cherries on the path. A Silver-washed Fritillary was also present in the same area, and the leaf mine of Stigmella aceris in Field Maple, a very scarce but spreading species over the border in Norfolk was new for me.

Other than the butterflies and moths, Sharon showed us a colony of Pantaloon Bees, which were being rather skittish. Nearby I found the bug Alydus calcaratus, and a couple of Tortoise Shieldbugs were nice to see.

NORWICH: Spitting spider and pick of the moths from July

Late July 2018

A brief catchup of some interesting wildlife seen at home or in Norwich city centre.

I'm not a spider fan, but having noticed a distinctive looking small spider at work, I caught and photographed it in case it was one of the relatively few species that can be identified without examination. As luck had it this one was identifiable and also rather interesting. It is Scytodes thoracica is a 'spitting spider', which can catch prey by shooting out silk at them. Pip Collyer, the Norfolk spider recorder, says that it is seldom seen so a good find. A second new species found at work was a Cream-streaked Ladybird, which was found on the outside of my office window.

I've been running my actinic moth trap fairly regularly at home, and by the end of July had reached about 130 species for the year - relatively modest compared to those with larger gardens or close to green spaces, but pleasing for me given the light pollution and housing estate setting. The highlight in terms of rarity was the Goosefoot Owlet (Scythris limbella), only the second Norfolk record! In terms of looks Small Ranunculus was the pick of the bunch, a Red Data Book species and my first new macro trapped at this house. Wax Moth and Ribwort Slender were also new ones for me.

 Goosefoot Owlet
 Small Ranunculus
 Wax Moth
Ribwort Slender

BRECKLAND: Weeting bioblitz

22nd July 2018

A while back Chris Packham announced that he would be doing a series of bioblitzes around the UK. Looking at the detail I was a little bit sceptical - Chris is a very knowledgeable and passionate naturalist, but it seemed to be trying to cram in too much. The marketing information suggested creating a benchmark for each reserve, but with five reserves a day that's not a great amount of data. The tagline 'reserves are not enough', whilst in itself very true, also seemed rather odd considering most of the sites being visited were nature reserves. Scanning down the list the only Norfolk venue was Weeting Heath and was listed as invite-only, so I didn't give it any more thought.

A few weeks later I was invited to help out. It turned out that although Chris and his team would only be present at each site for a few hours, the idea was that local naturalists did the actual recording and then there would be interviews and footage of some of the more interesting finds. I was asked to help record fungi, although as it happened the weather was so dry there wasn't any, so I just recorded as many miscellaneous species as possible.

The warden at Weeting, James, was an excellent host, and briefed the assembled group about the plan for the day, and also left cake and tea making facilities in his dormitory. I opted to stay near the visitors centre whilst the moth trap was emptied in the hope of seeing some Breckland specialties. As it was I didn't see any new macro moths (I was hoping for Tawny Wave or a late Cream-spot Tiger, but Oblique-striped and Mere Wainscot were the main Breckland species). I did however see quite a few new micros as several were retained for checking, and Oak Eggar is always nice to see.

Heading across the road it didn't take long for me to realise that I hadn't brought enough drink, as the heat was scorching. I began by checking the flowerheads, mostly Ragwort and Yarrow, and soon saw a Brassy Longhorn moth (Nemophora metallica) and several Forester moths.

I was also able to take advantage of the numerous experts present to identify some of the things I didn't recognise. Pip Collyer and Helen Smith were looking at an attractive spider, Neoscona adianta, whilst Nick Owens identified a solitary wasp I'd caught as Oxybelus uniglumis. Steve Lane helped with the beetles, with Gastrophysa polygoni, Galeruca tanaceti and Silpha laevigata all seen.

Returning to the visitors centre I caught up with Joe Harkness and Andy Musgrove & family. After re-hydrating I had a quick look around, seeing the Broad-leaved Helleborines and noting the leaf mines of Bucculatrix frangutella on Buckthorn. Chris Packham arrived at around 17:45, and after introducing himself and getting distracted by a dog, he gave a passionate address about the need to act now to protect and enhance our wildlife, which will culminate in a walk for wildlife in London (click here for more details). He also said that some of the sites visited had never had a bioblitz or wide-scale recording before, so for some sites at least they do indeed now have a benchmark for the future. All in all despite the heat it was an enjoyable day, and many thanks go to James and the NWT staff for their organisation.

NORWICH AREA: Plants and moths at Trowse

17th July 2018

Having a spare hour one evening I decided to do a quick lap around Trowse Meadow before heading off patch and walking along the river between Trowse and Old Lakenham. I speculatively checked an area of Common Meadow-rue for the caterpillars of Marsh Carpet, a rare and attractive moth that is occasionally caught west of the city. Sadly I couldn't find any. I did find a new plant, Ploughman's Spikenard, followed by a leaf mine of the micro moth Flame Crest (Chrysoesthia drurella). Sadly the mine was vacant so no chance of rearing out the moth.

YARE VALLEY: Cramp Ball Weevil at last

15th July 2018

In May I had the opportunity to visit a private wood at Postwick along with Jeremy, Vanna and Ian  to record wildlife for the owner. We had a good time and recorded some interesting species, so had agreed to visit again in July to do more recording. The England football team had briefly threatened to alter my plans by getting to the world cup semi-finals, but by losing meant that I didn't have to leave early to watch the final.

We recorded a good range of species, many different to those recorded on our previous visit. The undoubted highlight for me was the Cramp Ball Weevil (Platyrhinus resinosus), a species I've wanted to see for years but despite seeing hundreds of Cramp Balls had not come across. It could have got away again, as when Vanna noticed something on a plant stem it dropped to the ground, a common beetle defence mechanism. Fortunately I had seen enough to think that it looked interesting, so I kept looking until I located it on the ground, even with the very passable bird-dropping camouflage on the underside.

Of the rest of the species several interesting micro-moths were seen, including the mine of Heliozela resplendella, Ash Bud Moth and Alder Signal. I recorded 17 Agromyzid leaf mines, including Phytomyza agromyzina on Dogwood, probably the commonest species that I had yet to see.

The leafhopper Evacanthus interruptus, conopid Conops flavipes and soldierfly Dioctria baumhaueri were also of note.

WHITLINGHAM: July WeBS count and zigzag sawfly

15th July 2018

A hot morning at Whitlingham for the July WeBS count, with only the expected waterbirds recorded. A Reed Warbler was still singing, and some Swifts were screeching around overhead although I've not seen any near the Swift tower in the car park. Mute Swan and Greylag numbers were much higher than the past two July counts. Mallard numbers were much lower than 2017, but in line with 2016.

Mute Swan: 114 (2017: 85, 2016: 74)
Greylag Goose: 72 (2017: 26, 2016: 20)
Mallard:83 (2017: 155, 2016: 81)
Tufted Duck: 2 (2017: 0, 2016: 7)

I had arranged to go on to Postwick after Whitlingham, so didn't have time to linger, but did quickly nip to the picnic meadow. This year has been good for Hairstreaks, and after years of looking I managed to see my first patch Purple Hairstreak around the top of a large Oak. I couldn't find any White-letter Hairstreaks around some Elms, but did find Elm Zigzag Sawfly feeding signs and a larva. This species is a recent non-native arrival and can quickly defoliate trees, making it a potential pest species. A leaf mine in Water Mint caused by Phytomyza tetrasticha was a new one for me.

EAST NORFOLK: Winterton sharp-tailed bee

12th July 2018

During a work trip to Winterton Dunes I noticed a few species of interest, notably Large Sharp-tailed Bee (Coelioxys conoidea), the beetle Sermylassa halensis and Long-legged Tabby moth (Synaphe punctalis). Three Brent Geese flew south over the sea and terns called in the distance.

NORWICH: Local moth highlights

Late June/early July

In addition to leaf mines and bees, I've also seen some nice moths around Norwich in the past few weeks. Horehound Longhorn moth (Nemophora fasciella) is a scarce day-flying moth that I have been looking out for since one was seen at Whitlingham a few years ago. I finally managed to see one on my way home via Train Wood. Even then I almost missed it, as it was on some 2metre high Hogweed. Fortunately I noticed the antennae sticking up over the edge and having held my camera above my head, gently bent the stem down until I could see it.

A second highlight was an Orache moth, a rare migrant species (formally resident in East Anglia over 100 years ago) with bright mossy green areas. James Lowen had caught one, and kindly allowed me to pop over and have a look.

Other moths of interest were commoner species attracted to my garden for the first time, of which Elephant Hawk Moth, Green Silver-lines and Scallop Shell were all great to see.