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: Yellow-legged Clearwing & other goodies

29th July 2016

Earlier in the year James Lowen had set himself a target to see as many Clearwing moths as possible. During this challenge he had found that his garden was actually something of a hotspot for them, with three species present nearby. At the start of July he had opened up his garden to a group of moth-enthusiasts to come and have a look at a Red-belted Clearwing that he had caught, and a week or go had extended the same offer so that people could see Yellow-legged Clearwing. Unfortunately I couldn't attend the latter due to a combination of the car being repaired and being at work, however James very kindly allowed Cathy & to come round and see another one on Friday.

In addition to the Yellow-legged Clearwing, he had also kept an Oak Nycteoline moth for us to look at too. In fact as a measure of how good James's garden is, I enquired about a micro moth on the table outside and found out it had been rescued from water and left to dry out. It turned out to be Hypsopygia glaucinalis, another new species for me. As we left I noticed some bees on some sort of garden-variant Tansy. They were a Colletes, but there are two very similar ones that both occur around Norwich and come to Tansy, C. daviesanus and C. fodiens, so not possible to ID them to species level without closer examination.

MID-YARE: Claxton moths

28th July 2016

On Thursday I went to Claxton to meet Jim. The main aim of the morning was to do a bit of surveying at a private site nearby, but before heading off we had a look through his moth trap. The village location within the mid-Yare valley meant for a good selection of moths, both in the trap and in the bushes surrounding it. A selection of the catch are included below.

 Antler Moth
 Balsam Carpet
 Chinese Character
 Gold Triangle
Least Carpet

NORWICH: Garden wildlife

26th July 2016

With trips planned for later in the week I decided to get some gardening done. I have taken to gardening with a camera handy in case I disturb something interesting, and this proved to be the case today, when a bit of weeding turned up an Ant Damsel Bug. Despite living on a lawn-less street I heard a Field Grasshopper, and found it on my garden wall. Out the back a couple of leafhoppers were on a Buddleia, and inside the house Cathy found a Meal Moth, which had presumably been disturbed from the garden by my exertions.

TARGET SPECIES: Felixstowe Wall Lizard

25th July 2016

On nice hot summer days lots of people choose to go to the beach, whilst another big chunk of the population choose not to go to the beach in order to avoid the first lot. I'm not a big fan of lazing around on the sand, but there is a lot of coastal wildlife, so there are sometimes good reasons for getting close to the sea. On Monday Cathy & I headed to Felixstowe, a town I'd not properly visited before (I had been through it several times on the way to Landguard). 

The reason for our visit was to look for Wall Lizards. This non-native species of lizard is present at a number of sites across the country as a result of introductions (deliberate or accidental). No-one seems to know how the Felxistowe Wall Lizards got there - it could be that someone released them, but they could have also been brought across with plants, or even arrived via the port. Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group monitor populations of Wall Lizards across the UK, and suggest that these ones have been present since at least 2007, and young have been observed so it is a proper population rather than a few stray adults.

Not knowing how close we would be able to park to the Pavilion Gardens we left the car along the seafront to the south, and walked along the promenade towards the gardens. I hadn't realised how long a stretch there was, made up of about eight sections of garden. There was nothing for it but to wander through them, keeping an eye on the rough stone walls for lizards. Over half way through we only had a spider-hunting wasp to show, and Cathy asked if I'd be annoyed if we didn't see any lizards, but luckily this became immaterial as I found one. It was basking on a low stone wall, and once it spotted us soon ran off - unfortunately on hot days reptiles are very skittish. It was quite greenish, although this didn't show up in the photos.

Having successfully found a Wall Lizard, we then walked back along the seafront to the car, getting some ice cream and chips on the way.

WHITLINGHAM: July count with bonus Muscovy

23rd July 2016

On Saturday afternoon I was back at Whitlingham to carry out the July WeBS count. It was a hot day and the country park was busy, but luckily the oversummering wildfowl are fairly resilient to the disturbance. The Little Broad was quiet with the exception of a couple of Common Terns. Walking away a pair of Kingfishers flew over and towards the far corner. The largest Great Broad counts (2015 in square brackets) were:

Mute Swan - 74 [67]
Greylag Goose - 20 [49]
Canada Goose - 40 [51]
Egyptian Goose - 37 [35]
Mallard - 76 [101]
Coot - 28 [36]
Great-crested Grebe - 8 [3]

Five Common Terns (plus the two on the Little Broad) were rather high for a non-migratory count, although Drew has had ten on one occasion this summer. The star of the count was the Thorpe St Andrew Muscovy Duck, which was on the slipway and came over and very patiently stood near me, even when it became clear I didn't have any food.

There were quite a few dragonflies about, including Black-taled Skimmers at most of the small bays along the south shore and some Red-tailed Damselflies on the amphibious bistort. Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Small or Essex Skipper were also present around the Great Broad.

There were a couple of other interesting things, some picture-winged flies associated with burdock, Terellia tussilaginis, and a gall made up of a rosette of sallow leaves, caused by Rabdophaga rosaria.

WHITLINGHAM: Pied Wagtails and a new leaf-mine

21st July 2016

On Thursday evening I went for a pre-dusk stroll at Whitlingham. The temperature had dropped to a bearable level, but it was a bit late for seeing insects. The broad was quiet, with no sign of the neck-banded Greylag Goose present earlier in the month. A family of Pied Wagtails were catching insects along the slipway, and I also noticed a new Cranefly (although I've not identified it yet) and a leaf mine in burdock caused by Phytomyza lappae.

NORWICH: Mousehold solitary wasps

21st July 2016

As it was still hot after work on Thursday I headed up to Mousehold Heath to have a look for butterflies and anything else that might be of interest. Along one of the footpaths were a row of holes made by digger wasp spp. I watched them flying in and out, although they were tricky to observe, flying in close to their burrow and peering out before they emerged.

Before leaving I checked along one of the woodland edges where White Admirals have been reported before. I didn't see any, but did see a new hoverfly, Xylota sylvarum (although the angle makes it look a bit like X. xanthocnema here so I might get a second opinion). I also gathered a few leaf mines to try to key out.

MID-NORFOLK: Sculthorpe Woodcock & beetles

17th July 2016

One of Cathy's aunts has been staying with her mum this week, and they had asked if we could go out for the day and see some wildlife. Rather than go to the coast, which would probably be packed with sun-worshippers, we went to Sculthorpe Moor. There were relatively few visitors, although the Hawk & Owl Trust were having a party for their volunteers in the visitors centre.

There weren't many birds visible on the first section of the boardwalk, although a couple of Marsh Tits were coming to the feeders at old gits corner. We stopped a while on the bridge over the stream, and further along I noticed some ripples. Suspecting a Water Vole, I moved position so that I could see past some overhanging vegetation to the source of the movement. To my surprise it turned out to be a Woodcock! There was enough distance between it and us that we could all watch as it bathed along the stream edge, stretching and occasionally flapping. A very unexpected but pleasing sight.

Along the river we watched Emperors and Four-spotted Chasers disputing territory, with Large Red, Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies amongst the vegetation. At the next hide along we watched a family of Collared Doves on the bird table and a Buzzard flew over. Cathy was enjoying watching some small fish spinning side one, showing a silvery gleam, until a Little Grebe came right up to the hide and started eating them.

On the way back Cathy was carefully watching the boardwalk as she had found several small frogs and toads earlier. This time she found something more unsusual, a Sausage Ground Beetle*. As we got back to the car I noticed a pale cream coloured ladybird. It turned out to be a 14-spot Ladybird, which I see quite regularly, but usually with a deeper yellow colour and with some spots joined up.

* so named because the small raised areas between the ridges resemble a string of sausages

NORTH NORFOLK: Moths and a Gatekeeper aberration

16th July 2016

One of my target species this year is the Lappet Moth. Lappets are quite rare in Norfolk, and our hopes for seeing one were pinned on the open day at Holme NOA where one was caught last year. We arrived at the headquarters of the Norfolk Ornithologists Association to see a small group assembled ready to go through some traps. The first moths we were shown had been caught on the outside of one of the traps, and were a positive start - two of them were new for me, Kent Black Arches and Small Emerald.

The first trap we went through had been brought from Hunstanton, and contained mostly common species. The first Holme trap had a few nice species in, including several Ruby Tigers, but nothing new. There were two more traps to check, so we went to have a look. A Pine Hawkmoth and some Early Thorns were of note, and a Shore Wainscot was another new moth. Unfortunately there was no Lappets, but there we go. Back at the observatory we were shown a Barred Red that Trevor had caught, and some Large Thorns that had been bred from eggs.

Whilst with the traps a female Common Crossbill had been calling from a pine tree nearby, and back at the car park a Grasshopper Warbler reeled from close by. "It was showing well in that Hawthorn 30 seconds ago" was the message from other birders.

After lunch we called in at Holt Country Park to look for a plant I'd been told about, but there we failed to find it and after staring at leaf litter for a while we decided to give up. Near our car I had seen the hoverfly Seriocomyia silentis and there were two other sightings of note. Firstly my first Gatekeeper of the year was made more interesting by the presence of some extra black dots. Lepidopterists have long been fascinated by anything a bit out of the ordinary, and gave many of them names. This Gatekeeper appears to be an aberration named 'ab excessa.' The second interesting species was a slime mould, but a rather unusual looking one, probably from the genus Stemonitis, growing on some piling at the back of the car park.

WHITLINGHAM: Looking at brambles

15th July 2016

Readers who take an interest in moths or plants will undoubtedly be familiar with the concept of 'aggregates' of species. With moths theses aggregates typically cover two or three very similar species that either cannot be reliably separated from each other, or where to do so would require close examination of a specimen. There are some well-known plant aggregates, but unlike moths they tend to cover large numbers of micro-species. Common examples of plant aggregates include Brambles, Dandelions and Hawkweeds. These groups can be learnt if you put in the time, but the easiest way to find out what species you have is to get a friendly botanist to visit.

I had been wondering for a while what species/microspecies of brambles were present at Whitlingham, so when batologist* Alex Prendergast offered to meet me and have a look at the various plants, I readily agreed. Another fly in the ointment for bramble ID is that they can often only be conclusively identified in summer, usually around July, when they display a complete range of useful characteristics.

We met near the Little Broad, and the first bramble we saw was Rubus conjungens, growing up against the rowing club fence. A little further round we saw the first of many Rubus armeniacus bushes, the largest bramble here. I had previously sent Alex some photos of an interesting low-growing bramble from along the Little Broad shore and in the field he agreed with his initial ID, that it was a hybrid involving Rubus caesius. A bramble with nice pink flowers was R. boreanus and a fourth species nearby was R. boudiccae.

 Rubus conjungens
 Rubus armeniacus

A large bush in the car park was identified as Rubus vestitus. This one was covered with Violet Bramble Rust - perhaps this species of bramble is more susceptible, something that I will look into. We walked along the road down to the start of Whitlingham Woods, before looping back along the Great Broad shore. On this walk we added R. pruinosus, R. adscitus, R. nemoralis and best of all Rubus armipotens. This last species is only known from one other current site in Norfolk, so was a good discovery. Also whilst out I noticed a lot of green leafhoppers, which I identified at home as Cicadella viridis, another new species for the patch. My thanks go to Alex for sharing his knowledge of all things bramble.

 Rubus vestitus
 Rubus armipotens
 Cicadella viridis

* A batologist is someone who studies brambles. Someone who studies bats is a chiropterologist.

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE: A few last insect records

10th July 2016

For the unprecedented third and final part of my Fermyn trip, here are some of the non-butterfly species we saw on Sunday. If there is a moral here, it is that many presumably common species of insect away from the really popular groups (butterflies, moths, dragonflies) are under-recorded! Based on the NBN data one, possibly two of the species I saw are county firsts for Northamptonshire, whilst several others are new 10km square records.

Our day begun at Carl's house at Hungry Hill, and as we had a look around the garden I noticed some interesting looking flies on lily pads that were floating on his wildlife pond. I photographed them and was able to identify them at home as Poecilobothrus nobilitatus, which seems to have no TG23 records. Later in the day I found the same thing again at Fermyn, which again has no NBN records.

Last year I began to look more carefully at hoverflies, and there were several new ones for me at Fermyn, including Chrysotoxum caustum, which Cathy persisted with after I had thought it might be a wasp. Melangyna umbellatarum and Meliscaeva auricollis were also new. Volucella inflata is a species that I found near Norwich last year, but looks like its new for the Fermyn 10km square.

 Melangyna umbellatarum
 Meliscaeva auricollis
 Volucella inflata

It wsn't just hoverflies that were visible on flowers in the sunny glades. Most of the longhorn beetles were the common Rutpela maculata (Yellow-and-black Longhorn), but I also saw two Stictoleptura rubra. The data for this species suggests that it hadn't been recorded at all in Northamptionshire!

The final species of note was perhaps more understandably overlooked, a leaf mine in Figwort leaves caused by Amauromyza verbasci. This seems under-recorded nationally, and again not previously recorded from Northants. I have reported all of these sightings to the Northamptionshire Biological Records Centre to do my bit for cross-county recording!

NORTHMAPTONSHIRE: Extra Fermyn butterflies

10th July 2016

Whilst our trip to Fermyn Woods was mainly about the Purple Emperors, we saw a lot of butterflies, definitely more than I'd seen in Norfolk on any day this year. Silver-washed Fritillaries and White Admirals were the pick of the bunch, but there were also lots of Speckled Wood, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Large Skippers and whites.

White Admiral
 Large Skipper
Speckled Wood