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WHITLINGHAM: September WeBS and a few fungi

9th September 2018

September is often a quiet month for wildfowl, as the aggregations of local species move away after their summer moult and the wintering birds are yet to arrive. A couple of House Martins flew over to signify the end of summer, and the 'hweeting' Chiffchaffs were a sign of autumn. A Green Sandpiper flew low over the broad into the conservation area.

Selected count species:
Mute Swan: 13 (2017: 30)
Greylag Goose: 0 (2017: 3)
Mallard: 63 (2017: 76)
Coot: 45 (2017: 22)
Little Grebe: 1 (2017: 0)
Cormorant: 25 (2017: 0)

Comparing against last year the differences in swans, geese and Mallard can probably be explained by birds on the river at Thorpe River Green. There does however seem to be a reasonable increase in both Coot and Cormorant numbers from the 2017 figures.

The insect highlight of my walk was the hoverfly Epistrophe grossulariae, a new Whitlingham species albeit a common one that will have just been overlooked.


I was almost back to the car park when I met Anne, Neil, Steve & Gill from the Norfolk Fungus Study Group. Back in 2009 Michelle Hoare had found the nationally rare fungus Allopsalliota geesterani at Whitlingham, but it had taken me until last year to refind it (see here). It was fruiting again this year and Anne had informed the group, some of whom were keen to see it. Nearby we also noticed Pavement Mushroom (Agaricus bitorquis) and Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea), whilst a Stubble Rosegill (Volvopluteus gloiocephalus) was a new species for my patch fungi list.





The final sighting of note was of one of the Ruby-tailed Wasps, probably Chrysis ignita agg.


NORWICH AREA: High Ash Farm moth survey event

8th September 2018

There are some rather common early spring, autumn and winter moths that I've never seen, mainly because all of my garden moth trapping has taken place in small urban gardens where there is a noticeable drop off in species caught outside of May-August. I was therefore pleased to see that a Norfolk Moth Survey event was taking place in September at High Ash Farm, just south of Norwich. I hoped to see any of the Sallows, having previously only seen Barred Sallow, and more speculatively Convulvulous Hawk Moth, which has so far failed to show up on my specially-planted Nicotiana plants.

The weather forecast was for some light drizzle, which might have deterred some attendees, but we did end up with two generators and four traps, which were spread out along the woodland edge. One of the traps was under a big Ash tree, and being the foodplant of Centre-barred Sallow it was pleasing to see one almost straight away. In fact over the course of the evening I probably saw about 20! By the time I left around 40 species of adult moth had been recorded, of which Tufted Button (Acleris cristana) was another new one.



There wasn't much time for looking around before the traps were set up, but we did see a Hummingbird Hawkmoth caterpillar, feeding signs of Elm Zigzag Sawfly, the leaf mine of Sloe Midget (Phyllonorycter spinicolella) and Stewart pointed out a mildew on Duke of Argyll's Teaplant, Arthrocladiella mougeotii that is probably very common but goes unrecorded. Thanks to Ken and the rest of the group for an interesting evening - hopefully I can get to a few more moth survey events in 2019.




NORWICH: Poplar leaf mines

6th September 2018

One thing to come out of my burgeoning interest in leaf mines is a habitat of trying to check different types of tree where possible. We have White/Grey Poplar Poplars at Whitlingham but I know of some hybrid Black Poplars closer to home, so I diverted after work for a quick look. Earlier in the year I saw Hornet moth and a gall, but on this occasion I managed two leaf mines. These were the 'snail-trail' mine of Poplar Bent-wing (Phyllocnistis unipunctella) and Black poplar Pigmy (Stigmella trimaculella), neither of which I see very often.


NORTH NORFOLK: Mini birding pub tour

31st August 2018

Having earmarked this day to go birding with Adam, Gary and Jim, it was somewhat typical that the winds were uncondusive to seawatching or migrant birds. We had initially been thinking of getting a lift up to the coast and then using the Coasthopper bus to move between sites as a nostalgic reminder of birding before I passed my driving test. Unfortunately the lift would have meant starting very early, so I decided to drive.

Upon reaching North Walsham to pick up Adam we had a quick chat to plan the day, and decided to head for Blakeney. Adam suggested heading to the King's Arms, which seemed to be an odd place to start as it sits on the high street, but what we didn't realise is that the garden out the back is adjacent to a scrub-lined lane and National Trust owned meadow. Whilst having a drink we racked up around 20 species, including a Red Kite circling up with some Buzzards. The highlight was a presumably migrant Reed Warbler seen in the Hawthorn hedge.


The plan was to eat at the Dun Cow because of the marshland views, but it was still a bit early so we stopped off at the Three Swallows. A large group of House Martins were visible over the marshes, along with a few Swallows (some sort of pub-birding gold star here for seeing a species from a pub of the same name). Sparrowhawk, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit and Cormorant were also new here.



Moving on to the Dun Cow, seeing a Small Heath butterfly on the green, we got drinks and did an initial scan, picking up Mute Swan, Rook, Grey Heron etc. Looking back towards Cley we picked up Teal and Avocets in flight too. After looking at the menu we decided to head to Sheringham for some more basic food (I'm sure the food is still very nice, but it looked a bit posh for us. The website states that the aim is to be a pub that serves good food rather than a restaurant with a bar, but how many pubs offer Lobster Thermidor as an option?) The main reason we couldn't order though was the inclusion of Spam on the menu, making it impossible to actually say what we wanted (spam, spam, halloumi chips and spam...*)


Arriving in a rather busy Sheringham, we located ouselves at the Two Lifeboats where we had some bowls of topped chips and scanned out to sea. Jim picked out three Gannets moving east, then a Sandwich Tern flew west. A small flock of Ringed Plovers flew east, a new pub species for me.

After lunch we decided to call in at the Gunton Arms on the way back. This lovely country pub set just inside Gunton Park afforded lovely views, including of the Red and Fallow Deer herds kept in the park, but failed to turn up the hoped for Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush etc. We did add a few commoner birds to the daylist. A lacebug that landed on me turned out to be Physatocheila dumetorum, a new species for me.



I finished the day with a pub list of 42 - although some of the others had heard an extra species or two.


* If you don't understand this reference, please go and watch the entire Monty Python back catalogue

CENTRAL NORFOLK: Buxton gentians and bees

Late August 2018

Last year I visited Buxton Heath twice looking for Marsh Gentians, and despite being told what area to look in I failed both times. Having seen that Chris Lansdell had seen some in flower recently, I asked him for directions and took a long lunch break to pop down and have a look.

Partway along the path a local dogwalker stopped to talk to me, and it was soon evident that she was a rather knowledgeable botanist. After discussing some of the nearby plants (Eyebright, Marsh Lousewort, Common Centaury, Devil's Bit Scabious) I mentioned the Gentians, and she took me to an area nearby. She said that it wasn't sunny enough for the flowers to be open, and sure enough they were tightly closed - almost certainly why I missed them last year.


Parting company I carried on, as this wasn't the area that Chris had told me about. I found the right area, and to my delight found several Marsh Gentians that did have open flowers, hurrah! Checking in a small enclosure nearby I also found Marsh Clubmoss, another rare plant I'd never seen before.




With this double plant success I started paying a bit more attention to the insects, and soon noticed that there were two different stripy solitary bees taking pollen from the heather. These were Heather Mining Bee (Andrena fuscipes) and Heather Colletes (Colletes succinctus). Further round I found Nomada rufipes, a cleptoparasite of the Andrena, and also several Bee-wolves. It could have been even better, as I had largely ignored the bumblebees but Phil Saunders saw Heath Bumblebee here a few days later, a species I've not seen before.




Walking back to the car along the edge of the site I noted the leaves of Lily of the Valley and Aulagromyza tremulae mines on Aspen. I then found a beetle that depsite my Gentian success became my species of the day. The tiny, bird-dropping camouflaged longhorn beetle Pogonocherus hispidus (Lesser Thorn-tipped Longhorn Beetle) has been something I've wanted to see for a while, and despite the small size it is a really cool beetle.


There was time for one more species to be recorded. There is a common plant, related to Redshank (the flowering plant, not the bird or the moss of the same name) and Pale Persicaria called Water-pepper. Unfortunately, there is also one called Tasteless Water-pepper, which I haven't seen. This means that everytime I see a Water-pepper sp, I feel obliged to taste a small piece. It's always the peppery one.


NORFOLK: A sawmill and an Osprey

Late August 2018

As a fan of slightly esoteric things, one Sunday we visited Gunton Sawmill, a fine reconditioned water-wheel powered saw, which is open to visitors one afternoon a month over the summer. It was very interesting too. The surrounding parkland is strictly private, but a scan over the adjacent lake revealed hundreds of House Martins swooping low over the water. Some large London Plane trees were growing along the pathside, and I spotted some Phyllonorycter platani mines on them, which as I suspected were new to the 10km square.





On the bank holiday Monday we had a drive out to Ranworth. As we had the pushchair I tried not to loiter on the boardwalk, but we did manage to see the Osprey that had been seen for several days previously. It was right across the other side of the broad so we were grateful to the birder on the viewing platform who had left his telescope set up for visitors to see it. One of the hare sculptures was also attracting plenty of attention.



BROADLAND: How Hill heron

25th August 2018

After dropping Cathy & Rose off in the city I had a free afternoon and decided to visit How Hill to look for the Purple Heron that had been seen there recently. Having parked up I called in at Toad Hole Cottage to get a ticket for the nature trail, and was told that the heron had been seen a few hours previously but spent a lot of time out of sight in the reeds. I tried to keep focussed and walk straight to the hide that overlooks Crome Broad in the far corner of the reserve, but inevitably stopped regularly due to the large amounts of insects on the Angelica flowers. There were loads of hoverflies, including Sericomyia silentis, Platycheirus rosarum and Melangyna compositarum/labiatarum.




A couple were just leaving the hide when I got there, but after that I had at least 30 minutes of solitude, and 20 minutes in the Purple Heron did the honourable thing and flew up out of the reeds in front of the hide, before flying low to the left. This was only my second Purple Heron and my first Norfolk one, having seen one at Minsmere years ago. Later I was joined by several other birders, but the heron didn't show again before I left. One of them, Nathan, came back the following morning and managed to get a good flight shot which is on the RBA gallery here.

On my way back I could pay more attention to leaf mines, noting a good suite of Alder species and a handful of Agromyzids. A couple of Willow Emerald damselflies were also of note. The best find was a mine of  the moth Leucoptera lutella in Bird's-foot Trefoil. This is a Nationally Scarce A species that Stewart pointed out to me at Burgh Common recently.



NORWICH: A selection of mid-August moths

21st August 2018

Having run the moth trap in the garden most weeks, we have had a steady trickle of species new to the garden list, but occasionally there would be a cluster of interesting species. This night was one of them, with Carcina quercana (famour for being the moth on the cover of the Sterling, Parsons & Lewington micro moth book), Pyrausta despicata, Copper Underwing and Straw Dot all new. In addition Green Silver-lines and a female Orange Swift made a nice change from the typical Turnip Moth/Square-spot Rustic/Vine's Rustic filled traps.