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

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.


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