The Whitlingham Bird Report 2020 is available now (click here)

For previous years (2012-2019) see the links on the Whitlingham Bird List page.

NORWICH: An abundance of mildews and other plant fungi

September 2021

Wildlife recording during September was mostly incidental as I went about my business in Norwich. As we entered autumn plant fungi, particularly mildews, became more obvious, and I made an effort to check out quite a few of them by carrying around a bag and taking the odd leaf. Here are some of the highlights.

Entyloma cosmi - a white smut on Cosmos, flagged up by Stewart Wright. Present in the UK for a few years although overlooked and not officially on the UK list yet. This was at Waterloo Park.
Erysiphe aquilegiae on Columbine
Erysiphe berberidis on Mahonia
Erysiphe platani on London Plane
Erysiphe platani microsopy
Erysiphe symphiocarpi on Snowberry
Erysiphe symphiocarpi microscopy - pacman like!
Ampelomyces quisqualis picnidia - a mycoparasitic fungus that parasitises mildews
Erysiphe knautia on Scabious, parasitised by the species above
Phrgamidium tuberculosum on Rose
Phrgamidium tuberculosum teliospores


Late August 2021

A picnic and walk around Bacton Woods was pleasant as always, and inspection of some Enchanter's Nightshade plants provided sightings of Enchanter's Nightshade Mildew (Erysiphe circaeae), Enchanter's Nightshade Rust (Puccinia circaeae) and Enchanters Cosmet moth (Mompha terminella).

Earlier in the day Gary White had texted to say that he had caught a Clifden Nonpareil, and we were welcome to come and visit to see it if we wanted. This large species, known in the past as the Blue Underwing was a very rare species in Norfolk, but appears to be successfully recolonising, and is one of a handful of species that I was particularly keen to see. As we were coming back from North Walsham it wasn't much of a diversion to go via Wroxham, and we all enjoyed seeing the Clifden Nonpareil. Gary had moved during lockdown so this was our first visit to the new house, and we had a poke around the garden before leaving, seeing amongst other things Pink Domecap.

BRECKLAND: West Stow Beowulf trail

Late August 2021

Having been thinking of places to go for walks, we decided to try the Beowulf and Grendel trail at West Stow Country Park. This wasn't quite as well signposted at various points as most trails are, but was enjoyable and I do like a good dragon.

The lush vegetation alongside the river was particularly productive for insects, with one section in particular hosting Net-winged Beetle (Platycis minutus), Tree Damselbug, Xylota sylvarum and Xylota segnis.

NORTH NORFOLK: Pensthorpe invertebrate highlights

Late August 2021

Pensthorpe is known for many things, including the wildlife-friendly farming, reintroduction programmes and of course the large wildfowl collection. It will however perhaps not be much of a shock to regular readers that the wildlife highlights of my visit with the family were actually both found on a small birch tree outside the toilet block before you enter the main reserve. On this particular birch I found three Solitary Birch Aphids (Monaphis antennata), a rare aphid that is unusual because it occurs on the upper side of the leaf rather than underneath, relying on its colour and solitary nature to hide it from predators. On the same tree I noticed a small caterpillar partly suspended on silky threads. This was Birch Ermel (Swammerdamia caesiella), a new species for me. In the wooded area a really nice ichneumon, Opheltes glaucopterus obliged for photos. The ducks were nice too of course.

NORWICH/WHITLINGHAM: Interesting oomycete and some willow feeders

Late August 2021

Never one to pass up on the chance of a walk, after dropping Cathy & Rose off at the Cathedral for an event I carried on up to St James' Hill and had a stop around the bit of Mousehold Heath in front of the prison. On the way up I noticed some powdery distorted plants, and with a bit of research came to the conclusion it was Lesser Swine-cress, twisted and coated with an Oomycete called Perofascia lepidii. Possibly new to Norfolk.

Later in the day I called in at Whitlingham, where amongst other things I saw some Giant Willow Aphids and some sawfly larvae, tentatively Euura pavida, also feeding on willow.

NORTH NORFOLK: Ponies - always watching

Mid-August 2021

I'd arranged to go out with dad for a walk, but heavy rain saw us adapt our plans to go to Holt so that we could at least be a bit sheltered in the woods. Despite visiting Holt regularly as a teenager I didn't see several of the scarce plants that occur out on the Lowes, so as the rain subsided a bit we headed out and managed to located one of them, Lesser Skullcap. Walking back we noticed a pony stood stock still at the edge of the woodland. As we approached, there was a whole group of them. Turning slowly to our left, we found ourselves observed by yet another. It was all a bit creepy, although several of them did at least turn to look at us as we weaved past to get to the gate.

Back in the country park we looked at some of the wet vegetation near the pond, finding a Tree Damsel Bug amongst other things. There was a small patch of woodland with abundant fungi, including Tawny Grisette, Russula silvestris, an Earthball sp and a young Blusher. We then went on a merry dance to find somewhere where we could have lunch, with several places either full or shut, before ending up under a marquee in the garden at the King's Head at Letheringsett.

BRECKLAND: Brandon CP - a parasitised cricket and other goodies

Mid-August 2021

One of our favourite Breckland locations is Brandon Country Park, so we headed there over the summer. The cafe was open for outdoor dining, so we had lunch on the tables nearby before heading past the lake and out towards the heath before looping round and back through the woods. Probably one of the most interesting sightings came early on when Cathy noticed an Oak Bush Cricket under a leaf. When I looked closely at it I noticed the eyes seemed un-naturally red and the abdomen seemed to have almost 'melted' onto the leaf. Having posted it on Twitter fortunately Brian Eversham recognised the signs of it having been parasitised by a fungus, Enthophaga grylli. Having flagged this up, several other people also reported seeing similarly parasitised Oak  Bush Crickets in different counties around the same time.

Elsewhere on the track we saw a Large Shaggy Bee (Panurgus banksianus) and the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespillo. Further round I checked some Broom and found the treehopper Gargara genistae, something of a Breckland speciality in East Anglia, whilst Cathy noticed some Buff-tip caterpillars.

Before leaving we had a look around the walled garden and saw galls of  Rhopalomyia tanaceti on Tansy flowers in the flowerbed.

NORTH NORFOLK: West Runton rockpooling

August 2021

We had to wait for a sensible low tide time, but eventually managed to get to West Runton to take our daughter rockpooling for the first time. It was a big success, with an enjoyable mroning spent peering in the pools created by the ebbing tide. We were able to show her Beadlet Anemones, Periwinkles and Hermit Crabs, before heading back to the cafe to get lunch, which we ate in the car as heavy rain swept in. Along the cafe wall there were lots of weevils (we also saw some out near the rock pools) and several Staphylinids. The one pictured might be Philonthus cruentatus, but then again there could be other similar ones I'm not aware of.

NORFOLK: Visits to three Norfolk commons

August 2021 

During August I visited three of Norfolk's commons, so I have grouped them together here.

First up was Billingford Common, a place in south Norfolk that I had not visited before. The star attraction here is Large-flowered Hemp Nettle. We parked up in a layby along a busy road and walked through some long vegetation onto the common, and quickly saw a large patch of hemp nettles. Unfortunately it turned out they were Common Hemp Nettle, a nice but widespread species. We decided that exploring the area wasn't really practical with a young child, so we worked our way through to an open area where we could at least admire the windmill.

Next up was Alderford Common, where I spent a couple of hours after dropping my wife off in Taverham. This was a very productive visit, with numerous insects on Hogweed flowers including Banded General and Gasteruption jaculator. On the open part of the common I searched as much Wild Basil as I could and found my target, leaf mines of the micro moth Stephensia brunnichella at its only modern Norfolk site. A couple of micro fungi and four leafhopper species were all new for me.

Finally for my common excursions, following a meeting of the Norfolk Fungus Study Group at Bawdeswell Village Hall some of the group called in at Whitwell Common. It was very poor in terms of fungi, although we did see the grass fungus combination of Choke and Ergot. The leafhopper Evacanthus interruptus was nice to see, as were several Tenthredo sawflies.