Who says romance is dead? This pair of Chalkhill Blues pick a dried cow-pat to mate on.
Who says romance is dead? This pair of Chalkhill Blues pick a dried cow-pat to mate on.
Following a fairly unproductive morning visit to the broads, Jim & I went for a look around the pools at Cantley Beet Factory. It was my first visit here, and the potential was apparent, even if the birds initially weren't. There wasn't that much mud exposed, so we concentrated on the margins, and managed to turn up two Wood Sandpipers, a Dunlin, a Ruff (possibly two) and several Green and Common Sandpipers. I see that 45 Green Sandpipers have been seen today (30th), is there a pit we missed or are they commuting between the pits and nearby fields? There was also a large number of Shelduck, including some young ones.
We saw three of these whopping longhorn-type beetles in the morning. I haven't had a proper look for it in books yet, but if you know what it is then do please comment.
Wood Sands with bonus Dunlin. As soon as I got my camera out they refused to turn side on and show their nice spangly backs.
* Note: As far as I know there are no Bustards, real or fake in the brecks. There are fairly frequent rumours though. My guess is that some sightings may relate to non-birders seeing Egyptian Geese or something like that.
Thorpe Marshes (25/07/11) - c50 Lapwing, Stock Doves, not much else.
Thorpe Green (25/07/11) - Black Swan (1)
Whitlingham C.P. (25/07/11) - Usual stuff, plus some juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls
Thorpe Marshes (26/07/11) - c60 Lapwing, Stock Doves, still not much else.
Its no wonder everybody sacks off inland birding over the summer with wonder hauls like this. On Tuesday after Adam & I had looked around Carey's Meadow and Thorpe Marshes we decided to go for lunch at the Town House, and despite the drizzle we sat outside so that we could scan the river and areas of scrub. This proved to be the most productive hours birding of the holiday so far, seeing a Sylvia warbler triumvirate (Blackcap, Whitethroat and Garden Warbler), a family of recently fledged Goldcrests and the icing on the cake, a Kingfisher.
Also a hearty congratulations to Whitlingham Country Park on receiving the Green Flag Award for the fifth year in a row (Broads Authority Press Release). However, when will the Broads Authority give up and stop calling Whitlingham "The Gateway To The Broads"?*
I'm off to learn Two-barred Crossbill calls in anticipation of an invasion. Come to think of it, I'd willing take Common Crossbill locally.
* The Norfolk Broads, in case you don't know, are a series of shallow lakes in East Norfolk that were excavated as peat diggings. When the Broads Authority started marketing Whitlingham they put signs up on the approach road saying "Gateway to the Broads". They had to remove the signs from the entrance as there was a lot of derision and complaints, mostly from places that are actually in or close to the broads. Acle has signs saying Gateway to the broads, and many people would consider Wroxham the broadland hub. Whitlingham, lovely as it is, isn't in the broads, and the great Broad and Little Broad aren't proper broads as they are flooded gravel diggings.
As the weather was nice I decided to give Whitlingham a miss and head for the quieter option of the stretch of the River Yare west of Norwich. Walking along Earlham Road I noticed a Brown Argus settle on the grass, the first one I've seen around the city. Leaving the road to walk along the river at Earlham church I heard an increasingly frequent beeping noise like a metal detectorist getting closer to a buried tin can, and accordingly stopped to wait for the Kingfisher to shoot threw along the river. Further along a Song Thrush was whacking a snail against the path.
As the blackberries are beginning to ripen I paid particular attention to brambly areas, finding a Garden Warbler and numerous Blackcaps amongst the commoner birds. On the fishing lakes several Great Crested Grebes and Common Terns were nicking a few fish. As with many trips in the summer the highlights were non-avian. In this case a Grass Snake basking along the river bank, and two black Mink. Of course Mink aren't a highlight in the case of being glad of their presence, but it was only the second time that I have seen one.
A mink legs it across the path. Click for a slightly bigger picture.
Another evening at Thorpe, and more disappointment. There were 43 Green Sandpipers at Cantley yesterday, coincidentally 43 more than I saw this evening. I did get an inkling I wasn't going to see anything when I looked out over the spit, only to have my view blocked by two people throwing balls into the broad for their dogs to chase. I went around to the marshes side and counted the loafing Lapwing (49), and whilst doing this I heard a Bullfinch calling from scrub near the railway line. Now Bullfinch would have been new for the year if I could have located it, but despite calling a few more times it stayed hidden. Having waited for half an hour or so I decided to go and have another look on the spit, only to find two different people standing on the shore. The final straw for me was when I realised they didn't even have a dog, they had just decided to walk to the edge and throw stones in. Grrr.
In todays EDP there is a big article about the NWT taking over the running of Thorpe Marshes. It says they want to hear from people about the marshes, although it doesn't give an email address or any contact details for people to give their views, which I thought was a bit odd. For me the oddest thing about the article though is Mr Joyce saying that one day he hopes Bitterns will find Thorpe Marshes. If you've been, you'll know that only a very small amount of the site is reedy. Its just not Bittern habitat. Was this just a flippant remark, or does he really want to get rid of the existing habitat and reed it over? He also suggests a living classroom, which is completely unecessary given that across the river Whitlingham has a Forest School, pond-dipping platforms, a separate area of woodland for activities and an indoor classroom area in the barn. I await the consultation process with interest.
A trip looking for Damselflies was perhaps a bit silly considering the overcast and showery conditions, but we went anyway. The target was Small Red Damselfly, and we didn't see any. This could have been down to the conditions, the flight period could be over or I simply may have been looking in the wrong place. Nevertheless in a short period of time we did see a number of notable things. Whilst looking amongst the vegetation I spotted a number of Marsh Helleborines and Fragrant Orchids amongst the Common Spotted Orchids (mostly a white form).
Emperor Moth caterpillar
On Sunday afternoon we went for a stroll along the dunes at Horsey, keeping an eye on the sky in case any Pacific Swifts should appear. Straight away we saw butterflies galore from the carpark, a couple of Dark Green Fritillaries and several Essex Skippers being year ticks. Further along it seemed that most of the skippers were Small, and a steady stream of fritillaries sailed past but refused to settle for photographs. There was a slightly embarrassing incident further on when I thought I'd found one settled on the ground and crawled up to it on my stomach before finding that it was dead. To be fair it was partly covered in ants (eating it or working out how to take it to their nest maybe?), which meant that it was moving slightly.
Best of a bad bunch
It looked less dead from further away
I pointed out a couple of Stonechats "chatted" on the fence, prompting Cathy to remark "I'd almost forgot you were a birdwatcher". Maybe too much time spent on butterflies. Looking out at the sea a few Grey Seals were loafing just offshore, whilst a Common Tern with a seemingly rather darker grey back than normal held my attention for a bit. Other than that it was rather quiet birdwise.
In the evening we went out for another drive around the villages and fields south and east of Norwich. Best birds were six Yellowhammers and a Little Owl. The crops are getting closer to being cut, but hopefully this won't happen for another couple of weeks. I like the idea of watching whilst some fields are being cut to look for Quails being flushed, although it is probably still needle-in-a-haystack time, even if I pick a field that has some! If anyone has had luck seeing Quail at harvest time I would be interested to hear your experiences, either via comments or email.
A lay in after last nights mothing meant not going too far, so I decided to go back to Whitlingham for another walk round. A group of 20-odd Egyptian Geese at the west end of the Great Broad convinced me it would be a goo idea to count them, and indeed it was, with another record-breaking count of 86. The greylags were 100 short of last weeks count, but the three hybrids (presumed Red-breasted x Barnacle, Lesser White-fronted x Ross' and Greylag x Canada) were all still present. Two Common Terns were flying around the broad, and a couple of Linnets flew over.
It became apparent from the first Buddleia that there were a large number of Red Admirals present. I counted over 40, but there were probably many more! I also saw my first Gatekeepers of the year and was led a merry dance by a small skipper sp, which turned out to be Small Skipper, funnily enough. Dragonflies were present too, Black-tailed Skimmer, Brown Hawker, Emperor (including an ovipositing female) and a female Ruddy Darter. Loads of damselfies in the undergrowth, all Common Blue or teneral from the ones I looked at. Two boatloads of drunken grockles were harbingers of summer (or the apocalypse, I forget) but unwittingly put up a Grey Wagtail which flew across for my 99th patch bird of the year. Hopefully it won't be long until the 100th!
Cathy & I joined Peter Walton, Albert & Robin from the Broads Authority, a member of the Norwich Bat Group and three others for the annual Whitlingham Bat & Moth Night. After the introduction and a look at a selection of moths caught recently we left for a walk around the broad to find some emerging bats. I picked up a couple of Noctules flying over Thorpe, but they were barely visible to the naked eye. We stood and watched a number of Soprano Pipistrelles hunting amongst he alders, before walking towards the outdoor activities centre and got great views of four Noctules hunting over us. If you haven't heard bats using a bat detector I highly recommend it, the "raspberry" noises they make as they catch a moth never ceases to amuse me.
Heading back to the moth trap we found that as suspected the bright moon and cloudless sky was going to adversely affect our catch. We managed 16 species, including July Highflier, Ruby Tiger and several Dun-bars, but the best moth of the catch took a bit of identifying. In the end it was Cathy who took the book, diligently searched through and then gleefully announced she had it - a smart looking Dusky Sallow. We also have an interesting species pending, having detected a possible Nathusius' Pipistrelle around the trap. This could be the first record for the area, and will need a follow-up visit to take sound recordings.
On Saturday Cathy & I went to Lakenheath Fen for their "wild camp out". We had a tour of the reserve just before dusk, seeing a Kingfisher and a Barn Owl amongst others whilst watching the sun set over the reserve. We then had a hot drink and retired to our tent whilst a couple of moth traps were set up. At various points in the night I awoke to hear Grasshopper Warblers reeling nearby, whilst one of the wardens was awoken by Cranes flying over!
Waking the next morning after a chilly night we had a bacon roll then went to inspect the catch. Unfortunately the traps werent set up in areas favourable to the Lakenheath speciality (Marsh Carpet), but we did get Elephant Hawk, Eyed Hawk and Garden Tiger to keep the kids happy, and a couple of reed specialist Pyralids and a Southern Wainscot which were lifers for me. As the sun rose we saw our first Small Skippers of the year, and several Brown Hawkers were patrolling the reserve.
Young Bearded Tits flit amongst the reeds
With time to kill before we went out in the evening we took a trip to Buxton Heath. A large stretch of heathland between the carpark and the woods was quite barren(although with the sound of Yellowhammers filling the air), but we did find our quarry further on. A small number of the rather nice Silver-studded Blue Butterflies.