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

TARGET SPECIES: Northamptonshire Wood White

25th June 2017

After our successful Glapthorn visit we moved on to Salcey Forest, a Forestry Commission woodland. Upon arrival we had found a picnic table to have lunch on, however a sharp shower had us retreating to the car. With good weather we would have been confident of seeing Wood White here, but now with 100% cloud cover and showers our chances were not looking good at all.

We set off into the woods, paying particular attention to the wider rides with Meadow Vetchling and Vetch spp. We reached one edge of the wood without seeing a single butterfly species, although a couple of Ringlets appeared shortly afterwards. Ringlets seemed to be either hardier or more numerous than the other species, as we saw several more close by. A Sabre Wasp was off interest, and Cathy found two tiny eggs on a blade of grass.

After retracing our steps to the last crossroads we took another path along the woods. Having accepted that very few butterflies were on the wing at the moment, we were now checking the undergrowth for roosting whites. This was unsuccessful, but the extra scrutiny did turn up a number of other insects, including a Blood-vein moth, an Alder moth (unfortunately a bit on the dead side), the beetle Ischnomera cyanea and a new hoverfly for me (Leucozona laternaria). A Fox on the path in front of us was another highlight.

We continued around the wood until we got to an open crossroads area, where Carl had seen several Wood Whites the previous year. A search of the area turned up one Large Skipper. It was now a question of how long we were prepared to wait. In the distance there appeared to be a small patch of sunshine, so we agreed to wait and see if that passed over, then call it a day. 

There was a bit of a breeze, so it wasn't too long until there was enough sun to feel the warmth, and almost immediately a White Admiral flew out of a nearby tree. Carl called out that he could see two Silver-washed Fritillaries, but this was ignored as Cathy had spotted a smallish white butterfly. We rushed over and tried to keep watching it as it flew over some scrub. Our hopes were dashed however, when Carl noted that there was a small amount of black on the wingtips - it was a Small White.

The sunny spell was already passing us, but having stayed in the area where the Small White had been I spotted another white butterfly. This one immediately looked better, with a weak lolloping flight and rounded wings. I called the others over and we all agreed it was indeed our target, a Wood White. Not to be outdone, Cathy then found a perched one just to the right of the one we were watching. With the sun now behind the cloud it showed no signs of going anywhere, and we managed to get some good views and photos. Hurrah!

Before we headed off I noticed an odd-shaped insect in the vegetation opposite, which upon closer inspection turned out to be a Dusky Cockroach, another excellent addition to the day's species list.

Thanks to Carl for an excellent tour (if you are interested then you can see a list of tours that he runs here:

TARGET SPECIES: Northamptonshire Black Hairstreak

25th June 2017

Last year Cathy & I spent an enjoyable July day in Northamptonshire watching Purple Emperors with Carl Chapman. As I have seen few species of butterfly outside of East Anglia, this year we again joined Carl for a trip to Northamptonshire, this time hoping to see two new species, Black Hairstreak and Wood White.

The first of our targets was the Black Hairstreak. This species can be quite tricky to see, due to a combination of scarcity, a short flight period, an arboreal nature and a habit of only flying in bright sunshine. We arrived at Glapthorn Cow Pastures, which despite the name is now an area of woodland with lots of Blackthorn scrub. The sign on the corner made it clear that no horses were allowed on the reserve, so reluctantly we all dismounted and stabled them before carrying on*.

A bit further along we reached the gate onto the reserve. A neat sign gave an update on the Black Hairstreaks, and it wasn't promising. Apparently they had emerged two weeks early this year (the flight period is often only around three weeks in total) and at the time the sign was written only two tatty butterflies were being seen. It concluded by stating that ny the open day, which was today, it was expected that none would be present. All that remained was to work out whether the author of the sign was a realist or a pessimist.

The other thing we had against us was the weather, which was meant to be largely overcast with some showers. Fortunately for the time being the sun was shining, and a Silver-washed Fritillary flew past us. As we checked out a sunny area of Blackthorn we also saw Brown Hawker and Emperor dragonflies. A few more common butterflies were seen, but then we noticed a small group intently watching something up ahead. Catching up with them we found that it was indeed a Black Hairstreak, which quickly flew round in an arc. Would this be our sole sighting? Well no, because instead of flying off it landed close by on a patch of brambles. It remained here for over 20 minutes, providing my closest views of any hairstreak.

Eventually we decided to investigate further along the path, stopping briefly to photograph a horsefly. We hadn't gone far when we were called back by a shout of Purple Emperor. It turned out that one of the group, who were presumably mostly from the local Butterfly Conservation branch, had spotted a Purple Emperor feeding from a sap run, apparently a first for the site!

The Purple Emperor flew off shortly afterwards, so again set off down the path, and again were called back. This time it was to say that there was a glade close by with multiple Silver-washed Fritillaries present. Following the directions we found the area, which looked very similar to a number of other sunny areas, so why the fritillaries found it so attractive was a bit of a mystery.

After a while we retraced our steps, seeing a White Admiral fly briefly into the treetops. We had been told that a second hairstreak had been seen near the entrance gate, but there was no sign of it. There was a male Gatekeeper, upholding its duties by sticking to the hedge around the entrance. With part one of our trip successful we returned to the car for a cup of tea.

* I might have made that bit up.

TROWSE: Some mimicking hoverflies & other patch ticks

24th June 2017

After my successful Currant Clearwing visit, I headed around Norwich to Trowse for a bit of time on patch. Trowse Meadow was pleasant, but in overcast conditions there weren't as many insects about as I'd hoped, with the exception of numerous Banded Demoiselles near the river. A clump of Pencilled Cranesbill growing near the bridge are new to my Whitlingham list as far as I remember, and the click beetle Adrastus pallens was also new.

I then crossed the road and went up into Trowse Woods. I walked fairly quickly through the shady areas because my destination was the clearing at the top of the woods, where two islands of Buddleia attract lots of insects. I was in luck, and after a few minutes there was some bright sunshine. A Common Darter was resting and I got good views of Eristalis intricarius, a bee mimic, and a pair of mating Meadow Browns. The undoubted highlight was a new hoverfly for me, Chrysotoxum festivum, a wasp mimic.

Leaving the woods I looked round past Whitlingham Hall down to the country park, adding another two patch ticks, Oak Bush-cricket (a species that sometimes comes to moth traps but is otherwise quite hard to record, despite being common) and a ground bug, Petritrechus lundii.

TARGET SPECIES: Currant Clearwing

24th June 2017

In recent weeks I had been seeing lots of pictures of Clearwings online, so was aware that if I were to see Currant Clearwing, one of my 2017 targets, I needed to go and look for them soon. I hadn't had time to go to North Norfolk, where a particular fruit farm is known for having many of them, but fortunately a friend with an allotment gave me permission to visit and have a look there.

Given the recent warm weather I was hopeful that it would be sunny and I would stand a good chance of seeing a Currant Clearwing either on some Currants or on nearby flowers. Saturday turned out to be overcast, and having failed to find any clearwings on a search of the vegetation, I resorted to my back-up plan, a pheromone lure. This worked within a few minutes, and I soon saw my first Currant Clearwing, swiftly followed by a second one. I retrieved the lure so as to cause minimal disturbance to any others nearby, and had a good look at the one male that remained nearby.

After spending some time with the clearwings I had a quick look around the rest of the allotment. I saw two plants of interest, Weasel's Snout and Henbane, growing amongst the beds.

In terms of other insects the highlight was one of the ruby-tailed wasps, Hedychridium roseum, whilst there was also a Cerceris wasp sp. As I was leaving I noticed a black Crossocerus sp, an all black wasp with huge eyes - very alien looking! I had planned to head over to Earlham Park to look for hoverflies, but fortunately had looked on the EDP website earlier and realised that there was an 80s Pop concert going on there, so instead I headed to Trowse, which I will post about separately.

NORWICH: Return to Catton Park

21st June 2017

At the start of the year I had decided that I would take advantage of being quite close to Catton Park by visiting at least once a month to track the changes through the year. This lasted until March, then basically the amount of wildlife increased and I split my time between Whitlingham, target species and various other ventures. On Wednesday the weather had reached a warm but not stifling balance, so I decided to pop down after work for an hours walk around.

As it was the start of rush hour I decided that instead of crossing the ring road and heading to the Oak Lane entrance (a walk that would have resembled the start of Horace Goes Skiing), I would cross at the traffic lights and go in through the woods. This immediately paid off as I was only a few paces in when I saw a Vole pearing out of its burrow. It watched me, I watched it. After a minute I reached for my camera, and it vanished into the hole.

With the visit already worthwhile, I had a wander out of the woods and into the meadow, where there was a (probably seeded) area of wildflowers, mostly Ox-eye daisies. A number of moths were flying, but on closer inspection most of them were Garden grass-veneers, which look surprisingly big in flight. I did find a more interesting moth though, the Triple-stripe Piercer (Grapholita compositella). After checking at home I found that this was a new TG21 record, which was satisfying.

A detour to check out an area of bare sandy soil was interesting, because there was a large area of Corn Spurrey, which I'd only seen as an arable weed once before. There was also a fumitory growing nearby.

Back to the meadow, and several Merodon equestris hoverflies were picked out, as well as a Slender-striped Robberfly. This species, which like the piercer was a new one for me, holds its body in a distinct pose, looking a bit like a stubby damselfly.

A quick walk across part of the parkland turned up a few common beetles and bugs, and some dried specimens of Common Broomrape. I should probably make sure I return in July!

YARE VALLEY: Strumpshaw dragonflies & beetles

18th June 2017

Sunday was Father's Day, and as dad hadn't been to Strumpshaw for over a year we decided to go there. We arrived at about 10:30, by which time it was scorching hot and packed with people, including a coach party. We had a quick look at some moths left near the reception hide, crowd-pleasingly big ones rather than rare reedbed types unfortunately. A Swallowtail flew past near the cottage as if at the head of a conga line. We decided to head for the Lackford Run end of the reserve until the crowd dispersed a little.

As we approached the railway line I heard a Grasshopper Warbler reeling close by. It didn't take us long before we found a male Scarce Chaser perched up, but the bright sunshine and my lack of photographic skills meant that the body was completely washed out in my pictures. Eventually I did manage to get one where you could see the abdomen colour, but only because it landed at an angle. The blue damselflies were very skittish - the few I did see close enough were Azure Damsels.

I kept an eye out near the Alders for White-barred Clearwings, without success. A couple of small Swallowtail caterpillars were nice to see, and a Common Lizard was found resting on the boardwalk with its legs raised in the air, presumably to avoid the hot wood! Marsh Pea was also seen from the boardwalk. Another three Swallowtails were seen flying over the reeds, but never close enough to photograph.

We retraced our steps, looking for insects as we went. I saw a yellowy soldier beetle, one of a species pair, and having failed on several previous occasions managed to get a photo of the palps. They had a dark tip, identifying it was Cantharis pallida. There were lots of reed beetles, which I have got down to Plateumaris, but am still deciding which of two similar species they are. 

Back on the reserve proper we headed for the meadow. There didn't seem to be too much about, a slight concern as I'm helping lead a walk here in a few weeks time. The dykes were quite promising however, with lots of Norfolk Hawkers and Four-spotted Chasers, plus Hairy Dragonfly and Common Emerald. We bumped into Carol, Steve and Eddie and had a chat before continuing across the meadow. The final sighting of interest was a soldierfly, Banded General, which I've wanted to see for a while.

NORWICH: A few new moths & a caddisfly

17th June 2017

After our Weeting trip we called in to see Gary and Alysia's moth haul. A Festoon would have been the highlight had I not seen two earlier in the day, so the Spinach took the honours as a new macro. Triangle-marked Roller (Ancylis achatana) was a new micro, as was Four-spotted Obscure (Oegoconia quadripuncta) (albeit the latter requires gen det to be sure, so it won't make my list proper). The large orange caddisfly Limnephilus rhombicus was also new. We had a quick look at the unpotted moths still in the trap and released the Lime Hawk Moth before heading home.