And so 2020 comes to an end, to be replaced by a rather similar start to 2021 by the looks of it. All of my wildlife trips during the year took place in the administrative county of Norfolk, which is rather local even by my standards. An abundance of caution meant seldom meeting up with people, even when it was legally allowed, and for the first time in many years I didn't see any new bird species having decided to stay away from sizeable twitches. Nonetheless, as it has a habit of doing wildlife provided some respite. Simple things like spending time in the garden, listening to birds singing in the evening without a backdrop of people outside the nearby pub and Blue Tits finally using out nesting box were all pleasant, but some of the other yearly highlights are listed or shown below.
New patch birds
April was the first month that I'd not visited my patch since August 2009, but as restrictions were eased a bit in May I was able to visit again. Fortunately this meant I was able to go and listen to the Corncrake (although as it's almost certainly from a reintroduction scheme it's not gone down on the list), but it was June's Savi's Warbler that was the patch highlight of the year, reeling away in the sunshine at Thorpe Marshes. Flyover Common Crossbills and the short-staying Red-breasted Merganser completed my best year for new patch birds since 2016.
Having seen the usual resident species it is unusual for me to see anything new, but a colony of Southern Migrant Hawkers were found at Thompson Common during the summer, and after giving it a few weeks we went and had a look. It was a lovely warm day and having located a male we all got excellent views as it repeatedly hovered in front of us. Elsewhere at an undisclosed site I was also able to see Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, another recent colonist to the county.
Much biological recording depends of the availability of up-to-date, affordable and usable ID guides. The release of the latest Richard Lewington-illustrated guide is one such book that should give Ladybird recording a shot in the arm, in particular the half of the species that usually escape attention because of their size, the so called "inconspicuous ladybirds". Thanks to the guide, advice from Vanna Bartlett and Andrew Jewel's excellent website, I finished the year having seen six species of inconspicuous ladybird (five found and one shown by Vanna). All six were found around Norwich, and I'm sure there are more species to find locally too. I even managed to find a new conspicuous species, the pine associated 18-spot Ladybird.
In recent years I have not set myself too many target species, knowing that I don't have the time to actually go and look for them, but I still remember ones from previous years that I never saw, plus the ever growing list in my head of things I'd like to see. Two targets seen this year were the snail parasite Leucochloridium paradoxum, the video of which was shown on Autumnwatch, and Magpie Inkcap, seen at Wayland Woods.
Lockdown meant that I was unable to go and have a look at a newly discovered colony of Scarab Shieldbugs, which would have been a new species for me, but I had better luck with the related family Coreidae. I found one a new species on my walk home from work, Slender-horned Leatherbug, and also added two species to my garden list, the common Dock Bug was expected but Deticulated Leatherbug less so.
Involvement in a book
For the past few years I have been helping with a book for the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists' Society entitled Norfolk's Wonderful 150. It includes 150 species with links to the county, some rare, some common, but all nominated for their connection. Having helped to finalise that list, I was then tasked with making sure there was someone to write accounts for the insects, then trying to track down photos of them (not always easy with some of the more obscure ones). Finally I then had check over the profiles received and if necessary edit them down to the'house style' to fit with the other profiles we were receiving for plants, animals etc. Anyway, after lots of effort it was finished this year and sent out to members, which was satisfying.
Happy New Year to you all, lets hope that 2021 is a positive one.