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: Thorow-wax and poplar mines

8th September 2019

After the Heydon Hall fungus foray I headed back to west Norwich to drop Ian off, and he mentioned that there was a Thorow-wax plant growing in Earlham Cemetery. This is a scarce species, and one I'd not seen before, so Ian kindly agreed to show me where he'd found it. Fortunately even though it was past its best it was still quite distinctive.

On my way back to the car I had a look at a couple of large Black Poplar trees. Whilst undoubtedly planted here, 'true' Black Poplars are quite rare nowadays. A couple of mines were visible, the moth Stigmella trimaculella and the Agromyzid Aulagromyza populicola, whilst there were also some nice twisted galls caused by the aphid Pemphigus spyrothecae.

NORTH NORFOLK: Heydon fungus foray

8th September 2019

The first Norfolk Fungus Study Group foray of the autumn was held at the picturesque surroundings of Heydon Hall, and upon arrival the Lady of the house very kindly invited us in for a pre-walk coffee. Part of the estate is open to the public, but we had been allowed to look around some of the private areas too.

As with the Catfield foray last month, we built up a good list but with quite a lot of plant fungi and relatively few agarics. Some of the new species for me were Conocybe emiglobata, Psathyrella pseudogracilis and Resinomycena saccharifa, whilst Stewart pointed out that the white tips to Creeping Thistle that I've seen quite frequently are caused by a fungus called Phoma macrostoma. We stopped for lunch under a large and photogenic old Sweet Chestnut tree.

 The roof of a restored former sheep shed

The afternoon carried on in a similar vein, with Peniophora laeta on Hornbeam the highlight. We also saw some cups on Sweet Chestnut cases. The scientific name for these is Lanzia echinophila, although some wag has managed to get the official vernacular name for this species to be Hairy Nuts Disco. Laugh? I thought I'd never start.

There weren't too many interesting insects seen, although Chrysoesthia drurella mines on Fat Hen are always nice to see and Stewart pointed out a cone on Sycamore caused by Caloptila rufipennella and two Beech leaves stuck together by Strophedra weirana. I saw the green spider Diae dorsata, and we saw three Hobbies flying over. Despite the lack of large fungi (unsurprising in the dry conditions) we had a lovely day in idyllic surroundings, finishing with views of the church as we walked back.

SUFFOLK: Minsmere Adder and bees

Late August 2019

Our last visit to Minsmere had been fairly short, so we decided to visit again and spend a bit more time on the reserve. After lunch we headed down to the north bushes, where we were treated to views of both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, at one point in the same tree until a Robin started chasing them out. There were fewer bees than our last visit (although still quite a lot of Bee-wolves), but a Silvery leaf-cutter bee (Megachile leachella) was a fairly common new species for me.

Further along the path I was keeping an eye out amongst the trefoil in case a late Six-belted Clearwing was still around when I heard a squeak. Trying to see where the noise had come from I noticed an Adder! Neither Cathy or Rose had seen a wild snake before, so I managed to draw their attention to it. I expected that it was basking and would soon slither off, but it actually moved further into view. I then saw what was going on - it had just caught a rodent! It was determined to eat it, and we were able to stand at the edge of the path and watch as it stretched its mouth over the vole(?). Once it had more than half in its mouth, and presumably therefore a good grip, it turned round and slithered off into the undergrowth. I've been fortunate to see Adders and Grass Snakes quite a bit since I was a kid, but have never witnessed this before so I was delighted, and even more to be able to share it with my family.

Reaching the beach Cathy struggled manfully to push the pushchair through areas of loose sand, developing a good technique by the end of it! On the way we got close views of a Dartford Warbler near the tank traps, and after searching a couple of patches of Restharrow I found a new agromyzid leaf miner, Liriomyza cicerina. Dune Villa (a type of Bee-fly) and a Sharp-tailed Bee sp were also noted here. We continued our lap back to the visitors centre, having seen a excellent range of species.

EAST NORFOLK: Looking for migrants and damselflies

Late August 2019

Near the end of the month Adam & I had set a day aside for birding. There had been an arrival of Wrynecks and Whinchats along the east coast a few days previously and also several sightings of Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly on the pools at Winterton, a species I've never seen, so we decided to head to Horsey and then walk to Winterton and back.

We arrived in light drizzle, which was eventually replaced with bright sunshine by the time we left. Despite the seemingly favourable weather conditions there were not many migrants about. Several local Stonechat families were seen, as was a big mixed Linnet/Goldfinch flock, two Whinchats and a few warblers. Surprise sighting of the day went to a Green Sandpiper that flew up off one of the pools, and a Pied Flycatcher was heard but not seen within some willows.

Unfortunately there wasn't much better luck with the Damselflies. There were lots of Emerald Damselflies, but the only other damsel found was a female Blue-tailed, which proved a bit of an ID challenge because it looked particularly small and dowdy. I assumed it was teneral, but actually some old females look like that. Some Donacia beetles were also noted on the pools, although I'm never completely convinced I've keyed them out correctly so I still need to double check the ID.

The highlight of the visit therefore was the leaf mine of the Nationally Scarce B micro moth, Phyllonorcyter quinquegutella on Creeping Willow. Back at Horsey Mill car park we stopped for a drink and had a walk around the garden, seeing several Rhingia campestris hoverflies.

WHITLINGHAM: Barnacle Goose & new patch insects

Mid-August 2019

A fairly brief mid-summer visit to Whitlingham was livened up almost straight away when I found a Barnacle Goose on the slipway. It was unringed but not particularly wary - I would assume it's from one of the feral populations that now breed in East Anglia, for example the free-flying colony at Pensthorpe.

A walk along the south shore of the Great Broad resulted in a number of new patch species, some of which were particularly interesting. These included a Buff-tip caterpillar, leaf mine of the sawfly Metallus lanceolatus in Wood Avens, Nomada rufipes, a leaf mine in birch caused by the weevil Orchestes rusci (note that this is quite similar to the moth mine from Hoe in the previous post) and the leaf mine of Stigmella catharticella in Buckthorn.

MID-NORFOLK: A visit to Hoe Rough

Mid-August 2019

Cathy was visiting a friend in Dereham, so with a bit of time to spare I decided to check out the nearby NWT site at Hoe Rough. Upon arrival I heard a Nuthatch calling from across the river, and walking in that direction I noticed several large poplars. Checking them for leaf mines I found those of Stigmella trimaculella and Phyllocnistis unipunctella. There were various other mines, including Phytomyza conyzae in Fleabane and Phylloporia bistrigella in Birch leaves.

Heading back on to the drier grassland I spent most of my remaining time checking out the insects visiting the flowers. A good range of hoverflies were present, the best of which was Chrysotoxum festivum.

BROADLAND: Catfield Hall Fen fungus foray

Mid-August 2019

I'd not attended the summer Fungus Study Group forays due to other commitments, but was keen to go to this one at Catfield Hall Fen, a private area of the Ant Marshes managed sensitively for wildlife. The site had been the focus of a period of intensive recording by the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists' Society, culminating in an occasional publication that was sent out to members in 2008.

Andy Beaument was our guide, having visited the site regularly, and we went on a loop taking in a range of habitats. In total I saw around 20 new species, many of them plant fungi as a result of the expertise of Stewart and Chris. There were three new agarics, Russula faginea (one of the species with a smell of crab), the small white Delicata integrella and Bog Waxcap (Hygrocybe coccineocrenata). Stewart pointed out cases of the Eyelet Sober moth (Thiotricha subocellea) on Water Mint, and we found an Otter in the river that borders the site.

YARE VALLEY: In search of the Cowbane Rust

Mid-August 2019

The Norfolk Fungus Study Group meets regularly throughout the year to survey sites for fungi, but the group also conducts ad-hoc searches or monitoring for particular species as suggested by the Lost & Found fungus project here: In recent years we have successfully found the (previously considered) rare rust Puccinia cladii on Saw Sedge, and it was suggested that the group should look for the rust on Cowbane, Puccinia cicutae. Cowbane is quite a scarce plant nationally, but is locally common in the Broads along the edge of waterways.

With all this in mind, the group had obtained permission to survey Wheatfen in the hope of finding Cowbane Rust. This meant going out on a boat, as most of the Cowbane isn't accessible from the paths. The amount of waterweed meant motor vessels were out, and before our visit the warden had found that there was too much vegetation for the work boat to go out either. It was therefore down to six of us to take out three small boats that could still get down the dykes that link Wheatfen Broad and Deep Waters. I should point out that any form of canoeing or boating is not allowed at Wheatfen other than for conservation purposes and with permission of the warden/Ted Ellis Trust.

Will and Kevin helped us launch the boats, and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours travelling along the dykes and edges of the larger waterbodies, checking every clump of Cowbane we encountered. Sadly for us it all looked healthy, although of course it could be that the rust would have developed later in the year, so another visit at some point might be wise.

After a rest and a drink we then went out for a walk around part of the reserve. We were shown some of the plants that Ted Ellis had planted and have now naturalised, namely Greater Burnet-saxifrage and Broad-leaved Ragwort, which don't occur anywhere else in Norfolk. We were then taken off-piste into one of the boggy areas of tidal woodland, where after some searching and loss of wellies Will managed to locate a small population of the very rare moss Timmia megapolitana, whose only UK population is at Wheatfen.

Despite not seeing the rust I did see a new fungus - there hadn't been space in the boats for Neil so he had gone for a walk instead, and he returned with an Iodine Bolete (Boletus impolitus), which as the name suggests has a strong smell of Iodine at the base. 

Many thanks to Will and the Ted Ellis Trust for helping us with the survey and walk, it was a privilege to visit some new parts of this excellent site.