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.

YARE VALLEY: Strumpshaw moths

27th June 2015

Today was the first of three public moth mornings scheduled at Strumpshaw Fen. Having previously been to ones in July and August, we had booked this June one in the hope of seeing some different species. So far the year has been relatively poor for moths, but the recent warm weather ensured a large catch (100+ species) spread across three traps. Some of the most 'crowd-pleasing' moths included four hawk moth species (Elephant, Lime, Poplar and Eyed), Drinker, Buff-tip, Swallow-tailed and Green Silver-lines. Several micros were new for me, along with three macro moths - Scorched Carpet, Pinion-streaked Snout and Scallop Shell. Many thanks to Ben for putting out the traps and going through them.

Scorched Carpet
Pinion-streaked Snout
Scallop Shell

Once we had gone through the moth traps we headed down towards the river. A couple of Red-tipped Clearwing moths had been seen here last weekend, and as I had never seen any of the clearwings it seemed a good place to look. We stopped near some large brambles, and quickly afterwards located a single Red-tipped Clearwing. Cathy & Margaret spotted one flying round, and I managed to find it again resting on the bramble leaves,  which was excellent. We couldn't find any more, and as it was rather hot and lunchtime we headed home.

Red-tipped Clearwing

NORWICH: Earlham Cemetery summer insects

Late June 2015

During the last week I have made three brief visits to Earlham Cemetery. The first one was a bit of a washout as there was a heavy shower. The second two visits were made during warm weather and I saw a range of insects. There had clearly been an emergence of Yellow-and-black Longhorn and Swollen-thighed beetles, both of which could be found visiting bramble flowers. Meadow Plant Bug was numerous but still a new species for me. I found a tortoise beetle Cassida vibex  on a Knapweed plant, a Malachite Beetle, and a Yellow Shell moth was flushed from the grass. On the final visit I also saw some Common Broomrape growing in one of the older grassland areas.

NORWICH: Interesting wildlife at home

21st June 2015

In recent weeks there have been quite a few Hummingbird Hawk Moths seen in gardens across Norfolk, quite often nectaring on Red Valerian. We have some Red Valerian in the back garden, so quite often in the morning whilst waiting for the kettle to boil I look out of the window checking for hawk moths. On Sunday morning I was looking out of the window, not seeing Hummingbird Hawk Moths, when a Little Egret flew over the garden. I'm only about half a mile from the River Yare, but as the bit inbetween is mostly houses it was not only unexpected but also the first time in I've got Little Egret on a garden list for any house I've lived in.

Having been out doing non-wildlife related activities we returned to the house late evening to find a small black ladybird on the door frame. Common species like Harlequin and 2-spot Ladybird have black forms, but based on the size and also the shape (it was rounder than the commoner ladybirds) this one looked different. Ladybirds are quite a distinctive group, and they also have a very efficient recording society. Cathy had the free iRecord Ladybirds app on her iPad, and flicking through the species guide she soon identified it as a Pine Ladybird. Having checked the features (small size, round body, ridge around the edge, two red comma shaped markings and two red dots) I agreed, and found that it was a new species for me. I sent the record to the UK ladybird survey via iRecord, and the record was verified a couple of days later.

THORPE MARSH: More invertebrates

19th June 2015

I popped down to Thorpe Marsh after work on Friday. Summer can be a bit of a quiet time for birds here and so it proved. Reed Buntings were the most obvious bird, with at least five seen. An Oystercatcher called and a couple of Lapwings were around. Reed, Sedge and Willow Warblers all sung occasionally.

Turning my attention to plants and insects I noticed some Celery-leaved Buttercups in flower. A reed beetle seemed to have a purple sheen rather than the commoner copper colour. These beetles can be very variable, but I have tentitatively keyed this one out as Donacia semicuprea rather than the commoner Donacia simplex - let me know if you disagree! A Yellow-tail moth caterpillar was on a Hawthorn near the bird screen, a new patch caterpillar for me but not a new species as I have seen the adult moth at Whitlingham previously. Lots of Swollen-thighed Beetles and a few hoverflies were out on the Hogweed. I also located a new gall on some Ash trees, and a distinctive aphid species on Guelder Rose.

Celery-leaved Buttercup
 Donacia semicuprea (I think!)
Yellow-tail Moth caterpillar

WHITLINGHAM: June counts & meadow insects

12th June 2015

As I had a busy weekend planned I went down to Whitlingham on Friday evening to complete June's wildfowl count. A lone Mute Swan, a heard-only Moorhen and four sleeping Mallard were the only birds on the Little Broad, although I paused to check out a quiet Reed Warbler amongst the Alders, which didn't seem to be anything rarer.

It was a different scenario near the slipway on the Great Broad, where someone feeding the geese brought in a large proportion of the 177 Greylag and 44 Canada Geese present. Packed together they moved like a swarm of insects towards the food, although my description of them as a 'swarm' appeared to envoke a polite rebuke from a gentleman on Twitter. Lest any readers think the same, humour can be difficult to convey online, but in the majority of cases when I use a word out of its original context it is deliberate and used to convey an impression of my experience, rather than just a mistake. A pair of Mute Swans had one cygnet, there was no sign of any of the other nesting pairs. Three Common Terns screeched noisily back and forth, and one of the local Oystercatchers flew over. Sixteen Tufted Ducks remain.

I had heard that Bee Orchids had appeared in the picnic meadow last year, so I made a brief diversion to have a look for them. Not only are Bee Orchids lovely plants to look at, there are also several different variations that can sometimes turn up amongst the regular plants. Two in particular that I have never seen are the yellow-flowered form 'ochroleuca' and a pointed form 'trollii', sometimes called Wasp Orchid. I am still to see both, as I couldn't find any Bee Orchids at all. Whether I was looking in the wrong place or they haven't emerged I'm not sure.

Of course no time in a wildflower meadow is wasted if you are a naturalist. Having recently written a short guide to the plant galls found at Whitlingham (you can download it from my 'species guides' page, along with several other guides - I will add more over time) I was pleased to see a gall on Lime leaves that has been recorded previously but I hadn't seen. It takes the form of green or reddish 'pustules' on the upper surface of the leaf.

I was equally pleased to see a female Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly on the meadow. The males used to be very numerous holding terrritory along the south shore of the Great Broad, but seem to have declined in recent years. I saw a number of different grasses, all of which I am ill-equipped to identify but will make the effort at some point. Other interesting sites included a Green Carpet moth, the hoverfly Eristalis arbustorum, the Soldier beetle Cantharis nigricans and what I think are young Common Green Capsid bugs.

NORFOLK: Bladderwort at Silfield

7th June 2015

Following our Suffolk sojourn, Dad & I called in to Silfield nature reserve on our way back to Norwich. Silfield is a small nature reserve on the opposite side of the A11 to Wymondham. It was constructed mainly as mitigation for the destruction of some Great-crested Newt habitat. I had been vaguely aware of its presence for a while, probably from reading it in the EDP years ago, but otherwise knew very little about it. This year, mainly as a result of some postings on the Norfolk wildlife facebook group I had heard more about it, in particular that one of the ponds has Bladderwort in it. Bladderwort is an interesting plant, it is insectivorous but also aquatic, trapping tiny water creatures in its eponymous bladders. This was a plant that I had wanted to see for a while, and Nick kindly sent me a message earlier in the week to tell me that it was in flower.

Having left the A11 at the wrong turning we had a bit of a long route round to get back to Silfield (I'd left my OS maps at home, which was a mistake), but we managed to find Burnthouse Lane and followed it along to the end where it widened out into space for a few cars to park. A footpath headed over the A11 to another set of ponds, but as we were only making a brief stop we headed east along another footpath and then through a gap in the hedge. A clearing opened out in front of us, with a very nice pond at the end. Amongst the pondweed there were lots of Bladderwort flowers on red stalks out of the water. Four-spotted Chasers and several damselfly species were also numerous. Having taken photos of the Bladderwort and Bogbean, we also noticed some fish with red fins (we think they were Rudd) close to the surface, and a Buzzard flew over. Once you blocked the traffic noise out it was a nice little reserve, which I shall endeavour to visit again at some point to look around properly.

SUFFOLK: Pub beetle

7th June 2015

Whilst out in the Waveney valley on Sunday, dad & I stopped for lunch at the Dolphin Inn at Wortham. It was lovely and sunny so we sat outside, and whilst eating I noticed a small black and red beetle flying in and running over the table. I got my camera out and managed to get a photo when it returned. At home I tentatively identified it as Glischrochilus hortensis. Andy Musgrove confirmed the ID, and interestingly mentioned that he too has seen this species outdoors at pubs, suggesting that it may be attracted by spilt beer. So next time you are sitting outside a pub having a drink, keep an eye out for this beetle!

SUFFOLK: Target species - Frog Orchid

7th June 2015

One of my target species for the past couple of years has been Frog Orchid, a rather unassuming greenish plant that has only one East Anglian site, a meadow in Suffolk. I had planned a visit with dad, but I was not confident of success. Orchid flowering times vary year on year, and a friend had visited earlier in the week and not seen any Frog Orchids. When I mentioned I was going to another orchid enthusiast he said "couple of weeks early maybe" and finally of course we actually had to find them amongst the vegetation.

On our way we made a brief stop to look for Bee Orchids, but didn't see any. They are out at some sites, so I put this down to bad luck and we carried on. Finding our target site, Wink's Meadow, also took a bit of doing. The site is small, in fact it is a tiny natural oasis amongst a sea of agricultural land, and accordingly it wasn't signposted from anywhere, keeping us guessing right up to our arrival when we passed the entrance board.

One of the reasons for coming, even if the Frog Orchids weren't flowering, was to see another orchid that grows here in large numbers, Green-winged Orchid. I had seen them before, but not seen the 'alba' variety, which has none of the pinky-purple colour, giving flowers that are white with the green streaks. We soon found several of these, along with many paler plants with largely white flowers but some pink markings. Many were going over, but there were enough plants to find some fresher ones. Dad spotted some Adder's Tongue ferns, unusual plants that resemble mini Cuckoo Pint. 

Eventually (and to my delight) I did find three Frog Orchid flower spikes. Two completely out and one with flowers at the bottom out and the rest in bud. Frog Orchids vary in colour from green to a dark red, but most flowers are somewhere in between. Interestingly the first one I found had a reddish hood but green lip, whilst the second two were reversed with a green hood and reddish lip. Thanks to those (particularly Dave & Chris) who gave me information about this site.

WEST NORFOLK: Snettisham Park Farm

30th May 2015

On Saturday Cathy, Margaret & I went to Snettisham Park Farm. It is a working farm, but probably best known for the deer park and trailer rides out to feed the deer. We had been when we were younger and decided to go back and have a look around. Having had a look at some of the animals we set off on one of the walks around the farm. We walked along the River Ingle for a bit, before heading along some grassland where we saw a Garden Chafer. There was also a sign with a horse that someone had painstakingly turned into a Zebra using tippex, which was impressive as far as graffiti goes.

 Garden Chafer
 Captive Red Deer herd
Caution: Man on Zebra

When we got back we went on one of the aforementioned rides out to the deer. We saw a pair of Shelduck with six ducklings on one of the ponds, and on the way back a Grey Partridge ran out of some long grass. Tufted Duck and Gadwall were also on one of the lakes.

NORTH NORFOLK: Natural Surroundings

27th May 2015

We hadn't been to Natural Surroundings since it had returned to the ownership of the Harraps, so we decided to pop in and have a look round. If you haven't been before, Natural Surroundings is near Glandford and is a mixture of a cafe/gift shop in the woods, a wild flower plant centre, landscaped gardens and river valley habitats. For birders it is notable for being the best place in the Cley square for seeing birds like Nuthatch and Great-spotted Woodpecker, both of which were present on feeders outside the cafe whilst we had lunch.

One of the recent developments is a length of boardwalk and a hide overlooking the river. We walked slowly along the boardwalk, checking out the damselflies that were landing in front of us. I had mixed feelings about the hide. It looks nice and well built, with windows all round allowing panoramic views of the area. However, as there is no shielding on the way up to it most birds would see you coming and fly off, rendering it a bit superfluous. I suppose once you are in it (and provided that few other people walk down to it) then you could get good views of Kingfishers along the river.

One of the results of the range of plants in the gardens is an excellent range of insect life. Some of the most interesting species evaded ID (notably a large sawfly with an orange abdomen and a smaller one with lime green markings), but I did manage to photograph my first Lacehopper, an interesting creature with highly patterned wings. A couple more new micro moths continued a recent purple patch for me.

The lacehopper Cixius nervosus

White-barred Gold Moth

After our walk we headed back to the cafe, where we enjoyed some huge bits of cheese on toast whilst watching the aforementioned woodpecker on the feeders. If any of this takes your fancy then the 'grand re-opening' is happening on Saturday 30th May, with free entry to the reserve and guided walks etc, so well worth a look. Details can be found here:

We meandered back to Norwich, checking out two roadside nature reserves looking for Purple Broomrape and Knapweed Broomrape, although as expected it proved too early in the season for either.

NORTH NORFOLK: Southrepps Common & environs

26th May 2015

Having given Cathy a lift to Tuttington I had a couple of hours free, so I decided to visit Southrepps Common. After a slight detour (the road to Felmingham was closed so I had to turn round and go via Colby) I parked up at Southrepps. The site is actually a collection of several commons, but I concentrated on the largest one, which is an SSSI. A few yards on to the boardwalk I saw a Muntjac Deer walking off into the undergrowth, and a large frog hopped across the path. Looking at some buttercups I noticed large numbers of a tiny golden micro moth in the flowers. These were the aptly names Plain Gold moth (thanks to Andy for the ID).

A bit further along I came to the main area of interest, a cut area containing some orchids. Being relatively early in the season all of the orchids seemed to be Southern Marsh Orchid. The site is also good for sedges apparently, but they are rather beyond my identification skills at the moment. The main species I wanted to see was Narrow Buckler Fern. I did see some tri-pinnate ferns that looked different from the Broad Buckler Fern in the nearby woods. The pinnae look right, but as the scales on the stem hadn't matured and that was the main feature I was going to use, I'm still not completely sure. Despite the likely looking conditions and sunny weather, two falcons flying overhead turned out to be Kestrels rather than Hobbies.

Leaving the common I headed along a public footpath through The Warren, a nearby woods. I didn't see much in the wood, but along the edge I saw Goldcrest, Whitethroat and most pleasingly a Spotted Flycatcher. Just afterwards I took a different path to the one I was aiming for, and ended up halfway between Southrepps and Trunch. Walking back I found lots of Early Purple Orchids on a couple of roadside verges, and also a Nelson plaque with 'site no. 37' written on it in pen. Do any local history enthusiasts know what this plaque is marking, and if there really is another 36+ of them around?

NORWICH: Earlham Cemetery plants & insects

24th May 2015

On Sunday the Friends of Earlham Cemetery had scheduled a guided walk looking at plants and insects. This plan was rather affected by the steady rain, but we still went round, mainly looking at plants but also noting any insects we did find. In the background we could hear the music from the second day of Radio 1's Big Weekend, although when Cathy & I were there on Saturday it seemed to be the DJs at the cocktail bar that were making more noise than the bands.

Heading over to the north-east corner of the cemetery we saw Meadow Saxifrage and Cuckoo Flower growing, and stopped to talk about the nail galls growing on the Lime trees. Whilst sheltering under a lime I spotted a tiny micro moth that turned out to be my first Lime Bent-wing. Further along we were shown the hybrid of Wood and Water Avens, and Ian explained the differences between Spanish and English Bluebells (most in the cemtery are Spanish).

Other interesting things that we saw included cherry galls growing on Oak catkins, Salad Burnet leaves (it was mentioned that this plant tends to get cut down every year before it flowers!) and we finished the walk at the pond in the memorial garden. Here Large Red and Azure Damselflies had just emerged and were being battered by rain drops. I noticed another tiny micro moth on a fern nearby, and identified it at home as Fern Smut moth, an under-recorded moth, indeed this appears to be the first TG20 record. Thanks to Stuart and Ian for their expertise and local knowledge in leading the walk.

NORFOLK BIRD FAIR - with bonus moths

17th May 2015

On Sunday Cathy, Margaret & I went to the Norfolk Bird &Wildlife Fair at Mannington Hall. Mannington is a lovely location, and we were lucky with the weather too.

We arrived in time to see the moth traps being opened. The cold weather overnight meant a relatively small return (with the exception of Cockchafers, which came forth from the traps like Scarab beetles in The Mummy). This didn't really matter, as one of the moths that was caught was a Scorched Wing, one of my target species from last year finally seen! Powdered Quaker and Least Black Arches were also new for me, whilst Great Prominent, Pebble Prominent and Chocolate-tip were nice to see again.

 Scorched Wing Moth

We had a look around the stalls and exhibitions, and everyone was very friendly. Before lunch we headed to the makeshift lecture theatre in the cafe, where we heard a talk from Simon Harrap about Norfolk's wildflowers. Later on we returned to hear Ieuan Evans describe the BTOs Cuckoo tracking scheme, before Bill Oddie delivered an ebullient talk about his childhood, influences and opinions on the current state of conservation. Around the site we saw Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Grey Wagtail, and in pig fields nearby there were lots of Stock Doves. We all enjoyed the day, however with many people remarking on the relatively small number of visitors it remains to be seen if the event will become a fixture in the calendar.

WHITLINGHAM: May count & a red fly

15th May 2015

With a busy weekend planned, I went down to Whitlingham on Friday evening to complete the May wildfowl count. The Great Broad resonated with the sound of Common Terns. Four were present, three resting on buoys and another one flying around. They called frequently too each other but as they were neither agressive nor actively feeding I wasn't sure why! On the wooden platform just west of the bird screen I picked out a Common Sandpiper bobbing up and down. Canada Geese seem to have done well this year, with five broods so far (four on the Great Broad and one at Thorpe), and another bird on a nest on the main island. Swifts, a male Gadwall and 20 Tufted Ducks were also of note.

It was a nice evening, so as I was going round I kept an eye out for invertebrates, adding several species to my patch list. I tracked a moth that flew past as it landed in some nettles and found it was a Green Carpet. A smaller but equally welcome moth flying around the gorse was a Grey Gorse Piercer. An unusual-looking metallic red fly had me stumped, but it turns out it is a green species (Gymnocheta viridis) that sometimes turns red with age. A final new species was an overdue fungus. I have begun work on a downloadable guide to Whitlingham's bracket fungi, and had been unable to find any records of Sulphur Polypore in my notes, so it was apt that I noticed it growing on a tree on the main island whilst 'scoping the gulls.