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

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

BROADLAND: Hoveton Hall gardens

29th August 2016

Cathy & I had wanted to take our mothers on a trip to Hoveton Hall gardens for a while, however they are only open for a limited time in early summer and then on special open days. On bank holiday Monday there was one of these open days to raise money for Age UK, so we took the opportunity to have a look around.

We started in two of the 'cottage garden' type areas, the spider garden and the walled garden. Whilst having a look at the plants I was mainly looking for insects, and we spotted a number of interesting ones. Amongst the bees and hoverflies was a Hornet, and there were both Hairy and Woundwort Shieldbugs. A well camouflaged Common Groundhopper was found on some bare ground near Yellow Sorrel, and there was also an interesting bee for me to try to identify.

We then went into the water garden, where we could hear the clicking of hundreds of Rhododendron leafhoppers landing and jumping from the vegetation. Further round we could hear Bullfinches and a Great-spotted Woodpecker. Whilst Cathy, Sue and Margaret sat down, I wandered about looking for hoverflies, finding a large Sericomyia silentis.

From here we headed back for lunch in a courtyard. We sat underneath a shelter, and soon noticed that there was an active Swallow nest in the corner. We were treated to repeated flights from the adults, whizzing just over our heads and soaring up at the last minute onto the nest to feed the young.

After lunch we headed down to the lake and then into the woods. Stopping near the lake we saw an ovipositing Brown Hawker, but of more interest was a pair of Willow Emerald damselflies laying eggs into Rhododendron stems. This species has only been seen in Norfolk in the past ten years, and as Rhododendrons don't occur near the water at many (any?) other current sites, this may be a new host for Norfolk unless others have also observed this.

Another interesting sighting was a sawfly larva on Yellow Loosestrife, whilst there were more hoverflies in the woods near St Peter's church. We headed across a sheep field back to the car park, and called in at the church on our way back to have a look round.

NORWICH: Queens Hills CP

27th August 2016

For the past few years there has been some Clouded Yellow butterflies reported from Queen's Hills Country Park at the edge of Norwich, along with several other interesting day-flying moths. I had never been, but the sighting of two 'helice' form Clouded Yellows, a form I haven't seen, tempted me to go and have a look. I had been told that they were the main Queen's Hills side (there is a smaller reserve the Ringland side) near to a car park, but I could see a proper car park so I found a place nearby to park and walked back.

The area was covered in plants, so I could see why it would be good for insects. Quite a few of them were going over, but there was still lots of Ragwort, Knapweed etc. I walked around near two ponds, one dry and one full, seeing a flyover Grey Wagtail and hearing a Bullfinch. There was no sign of any Clouded Yellows in the areas I checked, but there were lots of other butterflies including Painted Lady and Common Blue.

Having a look around at the flowers I saw the hoverfly Chrysotoxum bisinctum, which I don't see very often, and also a new capsid bug, Oncotylus viridiflavus. I photographed a Cinnamon Bug (Corizus hyoscyami) and after putting the photo on Twitter Brian Eversham pointed out that the Ragwort plant it was on had been galled by a fly. There are two possible culprits, so I may ask around and see if I can find out which one it is. This conversation also highlighted a guide produced by Buglife to the insects that use Ragwort, which looks handy.

 Chrysotoxum bisinctum
 Oncotylus viridiflavus
Corizus hyoscyami

On my way back to the car I noticed a few orange, four-petalled poppies. I managed to identify them as Californian Poppy, a garden plant that has presumably either been thrown out here or grown from seed. Before going home I called in at Whitlingham, but there was a lot of disturbance on the broad from boating, so after a quick look round I headed home.

Californian Poppy - oranger in real life

NORWICH: Moth-trapping & beetle influx

23rd August 2016

The hot weather and southerly winds meant promising conditions for migrant moths, and having never seen species like Vestal or Convolvulus Hawk Moth we went round to the in-laws and put the moth trap out for a bit. We did catch a few macros, including Old Lady, Yellow-barred Brindle and Green Carpet, but the only possible migrants were Diamond-back Moths. I did catch a new micro moth for me, Mompha subbistrigella.

 Old Lady
Mompha subbistrigella

Perhaps of more interest is that moth-trappers across the county noticed that amongst all of the other insects that are attracted to the light, there was a huge influx of small orangey beetles over these few days. Other naturalists such as Andy Musgrove determined that they were a mixture of Bradycellus verbasci and B. harpalinus. I did have a closer look at one of mine (the shape of the rear pronotum is a key feature) and as expected it was Bradycellus verbasci.

Bradycellus verbasci

WHITLINGHAM: Trowse Meadows

23rd August 2016

As the hot weather continued I headed down to Trowse for an hour, to have a look for insects on the meadows. I found a promising place to sit where I could see the river and several species of flower, and phased out the droning background noise of work going on across the river. Fish shoaled in the shallows, and a Brown Hawker patrolled just above my head. I noticed that the figwort was Green Figwort, which was a patch tick, and a Lasioglossum bee fed on some Water Mint. A Small Copper was of note, considering I don't see them every year here.

After a while I crossed the road and headed for a walk around the church meadow. I hadn't been here for years, and there wasn't much to see, with only a bit of Ragwort and Knapweed in flower. I checked some Lime tree trunks, finding a couple of Noon Flies, before heading back through through the churchyard and home.

WHITLINGHAM: August WeBS count & new hoverflies

21st August 2016

A hot and busy day at Whitlingham to complete the August WeBS count. There was a further reduction in wildfowl numbers from July, and no Greylag Geese on the broads at all. This complete clearout struck me as unusual, but actually last year there was only six recorded from the August count, so a similar thing happened last year as well. There were no terns or singing warblers, but a couple of House Martins flew over and a Bullfinch was heard in the conservation area. The vegetation around the Little Broad has grown up so much that it was tricky to see the whole of the broad, but hopefully some of it will die back soon. Twelve Greylag Geese were on the slipway at Broadland Boat Club, along with a white Call Duck.

Selected counts (2015 totals in brackets) were:
Mute Swan 60 (74)
Greylag Goose 0 (6)
Canada Goose 4 (3)
Egyptian Goose 21 (23)
Mallard 98 (120)
Gadwall 4 (0)
Tufted Duck 4 (0)
Coot 48 (44)

Potentially the most interesting sighting of the day was one that got away. A small brown butterfly nectaring on Ragwort between the two broads looked very much like a Brown Argus, a species I've not recorded here, but it flew off and I couldn't be 100% sure it wasn't a female Common Blue, so I'm not counting it. Whilst loitering nearby in the hope that it would return I noticed an unfamiliar green plant, later confirmed online as Lesser Swine-cress, a new species for me.

Lesser Swine-cress

I also added two hoverflies to my patch list, Xanthogramma pedisequum (also a Norfolk tick having seen it just over the border at Brandon CP earlier in the summer) and Helophilus trivittatus, possibly a migrant. Other interesting sightings included galls on Persicaria sp and Alder. The first one took the form of bright red swellings along the stem, which were very noticeable so I don't know how I;ve overlooked it in the past. The second was a species I have wanted to see for a while, Alder Tongue Gall. This was found near the bird screen, and I only saw it because I stopped to watch a flock of Long-tailed Tits flying past.

 Xanthogramma pedisequum
 Helophilus trivittatus
 Gall caused by the gall midge Wachtliella persicariae
Alder Tongue Gall, caused by the fungus Taphrina alni

WHITLINGHAM: Grasshoppers and lots more

16th August 2016

On Tuesday evening I headed out after work, intending to have a quick stroll around Trowse Meadow and the common behind the church, which I haven't visited in years. A combination of work and football parking meant that there was nowhere to pull up along Whitlingham Lane, so I changed plans and instead headed off to the woodland car park.

My first port of call was the woodland watchpoint, although tree growth in front of it means that hardly any of Thorpe Marsh can be seen. I had a look at a decaying tree nearby in case the Coral Tooth fungus was fruiting, but there was no sign of it yet. Out of the woods I visited the lime tree that had attracted so many insects on my last visit, but it was no longer flowering. There were quite a few hoverflies on the Buddleia and knapweed flowers, so I decided to walk along the wildflower meadow to the Great Broad, then to the east end of the Great Broad before retracing my steps.

I saw lots of invertebrates, so this account is just the selected highlights. During a period of sunshine I stopped and heard some grasshoppers calling. Previously I have only recorded Field and Meadow Grasshoppers here, so I was keen to check them both out as Common Green Grasshopper should occur here too. The first grasshopper was green, and looked promising, but I was a bit concerned about the lack of white on the edge of the scutellum markings, and after posting I double-checked and I now think it is a Meadow Grasshopper. The second one was definitely Meadow Grasshopper. Dark Bush Crickets were also calling, but I didn't attempt to find any.

 Meadow Grasshopper - greener than the more 'typical' one shown below
 Meadow Grasshopper

Along the Great Broad shore I noticed a dark looking wasp. I had seen one a few visits ago and it had eluded me, but this one at least allowed one photo before vanishing. It appears to be a worker Median Wasp, a new species for me. As is so often the case whilst I was inspecting the foliage carefully I found another interesting species, the very colourful Black Willow Bark Aphid (you may need to click on the photo to see the white and orange spots).

Despite checking lots of hoverflies, they all appeared to be species I'd seen before except two. The first one. Epistrophe grossulariae, is new for me provided I've identified it correctly. The second looked initally interesting in the field, but turned out to be Eristalinus sepulchralis, a species that I have recorded here once before.

Scorpion flies are a common sight throughout the country, but not everyone realises that there is more than one species. Only the males can be identified in the field, and then it requires a good view of the genital capsule. I saw one basking and thought it looked a bit daintier than normal, but I managed to get close enough to photograph it and it was Panorpis germanica, the commonest species.

On my way back I stopped to look at a Caddisfly on an Alder. Whilst looking at it I saw a large sawfly larva on the next leaf up. The appearance and host plant suggest that this is the Large Alder Sawfly, Cimbex connatus, that was only re-discovered in Norfolk five or so years ago after a long absence. We currently don't have a Norfolk Sawfly recorder, but I have asked Tony, one of our top dipterists, if he is aware of any other Norwich area records.

 Caddisfly sp.
 Sawfly larva on Alder

In fact there was another new species too, a solitary wasp called Lestiphorus bicinctus. So there we go, a highly productive hour and a half, particularly as I hadn't intended to go to that area originally.

Lestiphorus bicinctus

NORWICH: Plantation Garden moth workshop

13th August 2016

Having returned home from the Strumpshaw moth morning, I had nine moth free hours before heading to another event. Saturday evening saw the third of four wildlife workshops being run to help record and encourage recording at the Plantation Garden in Norwich. This session was in two parts, so that people could see the moth traps being used tonight and could have a look at the catch on Sunday morning. I was busy on Sunday, so popped along to lend a hand in the evening.

I arrived just before nine, and although it was beginning to get dark we knew it would be a little while before the moths started to arrive. I had taken my bat detector, so I showed a few people how to use it, although sadly the only bats detected were brief flypasts. By the time the moths had begun to arrive the group had decreased in size, although it look like many people came to have a look in the morning.

Species seen whilst I was present included Common Emerald, Brimstone moth, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Marbled Beauty, Copper Underwing agg and a V-pug. A micro moth, Cydia fagiglandana, identified from photos, was a new one for me. The final workshop in the series takes place in October.

Chequered Fruit Tree Tortrix

YARE VALLEY: Strumpshaw moth morning

13th August 2016

On Saturday morning Cathy, Margaret & I headed to Strumpshaw Fen for one of the reserves moth mornings. Typically there are three of these a year, one in June, July and August, and by attending one a year for the last few years I have racked up a Strumpshaw moth list of well over 200 species. 

This year moth numbers seem to have been down on recent years, but across the two traps (one in the fen and one in the woods) we saw at least 90 species. Of the macro moths there were three new ones for me, the one I was most pleased about was Tree-lichen Beauty, a small greenish migrant species. Twin-spotted Wainscot and Phoenix were the other two new ones. There were also the usual crowd pleasers like Garden Tiger and Poplar Hawk Moth, plus scarcities like Double Kidney.

In addition to the moths the trap had also caught lots of Whirligig Beetles and one Great Silver Water Beetle. Carrion Beetles are regularly attracted to moth traps, and there was a Nicrophorus investigator, typically mite-infested. We had to move some of the moths when a predatory Robin flew in and began to eat some, and just before we left a Brown Hawker caught a Speckled Wood and perched up in a tree nearby to eat it.

EAST NORFOLK: Target species - Harbour Porpoise

12th August 2016

One of my target species from the start of the year was Harbour Porpoise, Norfolk's commonest cetacean. I didn't really know much about the status of porpoises around the county, but thanks to Carl Chapman's Norfolk Cetaceans Blog and twitter I was aware that the east coast of Norfolk produced quite a lot of sightings. At the start of the week Patrick Goffin had let me know that he had seen porpoises three days in a row off Winterton, so on Friday afternoon Cathy & I headed to the dunes for a seawatch.

It was a hot day and quite busy, but handily Winterton is large enough for us to pick a quiet spot on the edge of the dunes. I set up my telescope and after about 15 minutes picked out a small triangular fin poking up between the waves. For some reason I was rather surprised, but a second look was unequivocal, I had seen a Harbour Porpoise! In fact there were two, and despite their rather erratic appearances above the sea, Cathy managed to see one too. When the Porpoises had gone I kept scanning for birds, but other than a couple of Common Scoter it was mostly Terns, Gulls and Gannets. Just before we left a Marram Weevil landed on my hand, and a couple of Graylings were seen in the dunes.

LINCOLNSHIRE: Burghley House

10th August 2016

To celebrate our wedding anniversary Cathy & I went to Burghley House, a stately home in south Lincolnshire. We had a nice look around the house and a meal at the orangery restaurant, but for the purposes of the blog I will mention a few of the insects that we saw within the grounds. As we walked across to the entrance Cathy spotted a pair of Common Blue Damselflies at the side of the road:

In the afternoon we walked through the sculpture garden, taking in a large lake. A Red-eyed Damselfly was seen in vegetation along the edge, and a Figwort Sawfly was on its foodplant close by. The most interesting sighting for me was a Common Furrow-bee (Lasioglossum calceatum) feeding on Water Mint.

There were also a couple of plant sightings of interest, but neither likely to be 'wild'. Firstly I was looking at some ferns in the water garden. I didn't recognise one of them, and as it was growing with Maidenhair Spleenwort I thought it might be native to the area, however as there were lots of planted ferns a bit further on it probably wasn't. The second plant was a Corncockle. These attractive pink flowers used to occur as arable weeds, but are now very rare. The reason you are likely to have heard the name if you are not a botanist is because there was a ridiculous scare story about them in the papers a few years back. They are poisonous, likely many plants, but only if you eat them. As a result, the Telegraph were outraged that seed packets contained Corncockle Seeds. You can still read Patrick Barkham's response in the Guardian here:

 Unknown and dubiously wild fern sp.
 Corncockle. Don't look at it too long or it might get you.