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: Garden lockdown list - Day 19 (Ant Damsel Bug & a nice Tortrix)

DAY 19 - 8th APRIL

Another sunny day and a couple of common butterflies to add to the list, Orange-tip and Holly Blue, both seen and indentified having seen them fly past the window. Actually in the garden there was a nice unidentified fly and I took some pictures of the spiders in the garden (Pardosa sp), but in terms of things I could identify there was a nice adult Ant Damsel Bug, a tiny Garden Spider and a Heather Tortrix moth.






70. Orange-tip
71. Holly Blue
72. Ant Damsel Bug
73. Garden Spider
74. Heather Tortrix

NORWICH: Garden lockdown list days 16-18

DAY 16 - 5th April

A Red Mason Bee flying around the garden avoided the camera, but was seen on several later dates too. An interesting looking insect on the back wall of the garden did have its picture taken, but it was a Wood Gnat and there's quite a lot of them, so no species-level ID there.


64. Red Mason Bee

With movement being restricted there has been unusually high interest in Dandelions on Twitter, and accordingly I posted some pictures of one of mine from the back garden (there are at least three species present). It was one of section Ruderalia, the largest and trickiest section to ID, but both Josh Styles and Mark Lynes thought it was Taraxacum alatum, so we'll work on that assumption for now.




65. Taraxacum alatum (NEW)
 

DAY 17 - 6th APRIL

Nothing new added.

DAY 18 - 7th APRIL

Some time spent in the garden with my daughter early in the morning paid off as I heard my first Blackcap of the year singing distantly amongst the post-dawn chorus. As the weather warmed up we stopped to watch some gulls calling overhead to see that they were mobbing a Buzzard, a 'full-fat' garden bird tick (my third of the lockdown but the first one actually seen, following Wigeon and Teal being heard flying over).

66. Blackcap (h)
67. Buzzard 

After we headed back inside I noticed a small green weevil on the wall behind me, presumably it had hitched a lift in on my jumper. The thing most noticeable about it was some huge jaws, but past that it looked like a group of about 20 similar green species. I recalled that the position that the antennae were inserted was important (one genus has them in at the side and the other one has them in at the top). This didn't look quite right, but I assumed it must be Polydrusus formosus. Luckily my error was noticed online and it was the sole member of a third genus, Pachyrhinus lethierryi, a recently spreading species I'd never seen before. This was only the seventh Norfolk record. Even better was to follow, as when I put the bins out I noticed an inconspicuous ladybird (i.e. one of the small poorly marked ones). I tentatively identified it as Rhyzobius chrysomeloides, which was later confirmed by Martin Collier. Even rarer than the weevil, this one was only the third Norfolk record.




68. Pachyrhinus lethierryi (NEW)
69. Rhyzobius chrysomeloides (NEW)


NORWICH: Garden lockdown - day 15

DAY 15 - 4th APRIL 2020

A sunny day and not too windy either, meaning that with a bit of patience I could see some insects around the back garden. As our garden is enclosed and in a row of houses, different bits get the sun at different times. Later in the summer with more flowers out this isn't really an issue, but early in the spring it means that there is a particular window for looking at flowers and preferred areas of basking leaves, which I am learning.





59: Dark-edged Bee-fly
60: Melanostoma scalare (hoverfly)
61. Harlequin Ladybird
62. Light Brown Apple Moth
63. Eupeodes luniger (hoverfly)

An interesting species seen but not initially identified was a thin fly on the shed that was running about rather than flying, giving it the look of a mirid bug. The suggestion online is that it is probably Tachypeza nubila, but I'll wait until I see it better to confirm that.


A small Staphylinid beetle also landed on Rose's sand pit, but I'm still not inclined to try to key one of those out...

NORWICH: Garden lockdown list days 12-14

DAY 12 - 1st APRIL

It was after dark when I noticed online several other Norwich (and indeed further afield) birders commenting on the number of Wigeon flying over their houses. I've not had much luck with hearing notcurnal birds, admittedly mostly due to lack of effort, but noise pollution and not living on an obvious flyway also playing their part. I had already decided to put the moth trap out, and whilst out heard what sounded like wingbeats of something flying overheard. I tried again an hour later and bingo, the very clear sound of some Wigeon calling to each other fairly low and flying eastwards. A very satisfying moment to hear a bird I associate with the coastal and broadland marshes from my urban garden.

52: Wigeon (new for the garden list)

Incidentally you might hear the phrase 'noc-mig(ging)', which can mean listening to birds flying over but more usually is the recording of bird calls over the house during the night then analysing the recordings to find out what flew over. This undoubtedly adds to our knowledge about bird movements, but is also like an annoying friend constantly telling you what you missed out on seeing. In addition I think that analysing the recordings each day would be a bit of a time sink, so its not something I'll be doing for a while yet. Nice to pop out now and again to listen to birds flying over though, something I already did in the autumn when the Redwings return.


DAY 13 - 2nd APRIL

Rose and I checked the moth trap in the morning, and were very pleased to see that we had caught two moths - rubbish in comparison to most moth trappers, but before May it is very hit and miss if I catch anything. The two moths were a Common Quaker and a Common Plume.




53: Common Quaker
54: Common Plume

After last nights successful nocturnal listening I tried to repeat the trick, particularly as some people in the west were also hearing Common Scoter. No luck with the Scoter, which typically reach Norfolk later in the night (i.e. after midnight) and in lower numbers that places further north. Incidentally an excellent article with maps visualising their progress over a few nights is on the Birdguides website and available to non-subscribers, see it here: https://www.birdguides.com/articles/migration/citizen-science-reveals-nocturnal-scoter-migration-routes/

I did however hear a flock of Teal, not as close as the previous nights Wigeon, but another new one for the garden list.

55: Feral Pigeon
56: Teal (new for the garden list)


DAY 14 - 3rd APRIL

An early trip outside with Rose to fill up the bird feeders and I was rewarded with the sound of a Chiffchaff calling from trees off towards the local recreation ground. One year we had one fly-catching in our garden, but the rest of time we make due with hearing snatches of distant song. A Dunnock was also heard - in previous years one has held territory in our conifer, singing almost level with our bedroom, but this year he must be based elsewhere.

57: Chiffchaff (h)
58: Dunnock


NORWICH: Garden lockdown list days 7-11

DAY 7 - 27th MARCH

43. Hedgehog - poo found in the garden!
44. Red Dead-nettle (present all along but missed off the list earlier)
45. Firethorn Leafminer (Phyllonorycter leucographella) - papery mines on the leaves of the Pyrocantha out the front, seen when going out to go food shopping.

DAY 8 - 28th MARCH

Nothing new added

DAY 9 - 29th MARCH

A leaf mine was evident in some basal Ox-eye daisy leaves. There is a fly species that I've seen that is known for doing this, Phytomyza leucanthemi, but it is quite difficult to separate the mines from Chromatomyia atricornis agg, the species mentioned earlier that is covering my Dandelion and Sow Thistle leaves. Barry Warrington, the Agromyzid Recording Scheme organiser suggested trying to wait until it pupates, at which point they can be separated.


Whilst looking for insects I did notice a couple of species-specific mildews. One on the stems of Petty Spurge was Podosphaera euphorbiae, whilst the one on Creeping Buttercup was Erysiphe aquilegiae var ranunculi.



46. Podosphaera euphorbiae
47. Erysiphe aquilegiae var ranunculi.

Something that I looked for having seen it mentioned on Twitter was a 'leaf miner' that eats out cypress twigs. You can find them because it turns them a whitish colour and if you look carefully you can see holes where the frass (caterpillar poo) is ejected. A couple of species do something similar, but this one was caused by the Cypress-tip Moth (Argyresthia cupressella). I was pleased to have seen something new for the garden, then realised that actually I had seen the adult moth here already.



48. Cypress-tip Moth (Argyresthia cupressella)

DAY 10 - 30th MARCH

An otherwise typical garden wildlife day was brightened up by the visit of a Wren, which explored the garden and appeared to be finding some insects around the Honeysuckle along the back wall. A scarce garden visitor.

49. Wren

DAY 11 - 31st MARCH

Exciting developments today, with a Blue Tit carrying some small twigs into the nesting box on our shed. The box was up before we moved in, and both Blue Tits and Great Tits visit it annually before deciding not to nest there. This time, however, we are hopeful that Blue Tits might actually nest there! The only difference to previous years is an interesting one. We grew a Teasel in a wildflower patch nearby, and we left the big dried structure in situ - this has given the Blue Tits an intermediate perch close to the nest box to fly to before then flying in. Could this have made the difference?

One more micro-fungus seen today, a rather non-descript species on daisy leaves. Some tiny ground bugs were also noted, luckily I had inspected these in the past so knew they were the rather tricky Nysius huttoni.



50. Entyloma belliae
51. Nysius huttoni

NORWICH: Garden lockdown list - Day 6

DAY 6 - 26th MARCH 2020

A sunny day with little wind, and accordingly there was an upturn in the number of insects in the garden. Firstly there was a Hairy-footed Flower Bee, an iconic spring species. When we first moved in we planted some Lungwort specifically to attract this species, and to my slight surprise it actually worked almost straight away. Today though it was on the Perennial Wallflowers. A Small Tortoiseshell flew through the garden to add my first butterfly.


37. Hairy-footed Flower Bee
38. Small Tortoiseshell

I then had a look at the Rose-of-Sharon to see if anything was basking on it, finding my second garden shieldbug of the year, a Common Green Shieldbug. There were also some old leaf mines of the micro moth Ectoedemia septembrella and a Common Wasp. Above was my first garden hoverfly of the year, Eristalis pertinax.





39. Common Green Shieldbug
40. Ectoedemia septembrella (leaf mine)
41. Common Wasp
42. Eristalis pertinax (a hoverfly)

In stuff that doesn't go down on the list, there were several different flies that I couldn't identify. The Sow-thistle and Dandelions are both covered in leaf mines caused by Chromatomyia 'atricornis' agg - they could have been caused by Chromatomyia horticola or C. syngenisiae. I also noticed some aphids on the Buddleia, but they are still quite young - hopefully when mature they might be easier to identify.






NORWICH: Garden lockdown list - Day 4

DAY 4 - 25th MARCH 2020

Today's spell in the garden was enlivened by a Sparrowhawk, circling low over the garden several times before drifting off further down the estate. Carrion Crows and a Pied Wagtail also flew over.

21. Sparrowhawk
22. Carrion Crow
23. Pied Wagtail

Having decided that I should start putting together the list with a bit more oomph I had a quick look at the other wild plants in the garden (other than Petty Spurge, seen yesterday whilst looking for the rust). I noted the following:

24. Daisy
25. Common Cat's-ear (leaves only)
26. Sycamore (Self-seeded having from a mature one on the other side of the road)
27. Annual Mercury
28. Round-leaved Cranesbill
29. Creeping Buttercup (leaves only)
30. Goosegrass (leaves only)
31. Herb Robert (leaves only)
32. Smooth Sow-thistle

A poke around for invertebrates added a few extra species. I found three species of Springtail but only identified Orchesella cincta - one was very non-descript and I don't have the resources to ID it, whilst the other one probably would have been identifiable if I'd have got a decent photo. Frustratingly I also glimpsed a Springtail Stalker sp, a tiny ground beetle with alien-like bug eyes. It got away before I could pot it or photograph it, but hopefully I'll find it again. Below is a picture of one from Acle a few years ago.

33. Orchesella cincta (a apringtail)
34. Garden Snail
35. Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus)
36. Common Flower Bug

Other things seen were a small micro moth that looks like a Mompha sp (we have had Mompha subbistrigella in the garden before so probably that), some larvae that remind me of leatherjackets (i.e. Cranefly larvae) and a Common Flower Bug.



NORWICH: Garden lockdown days 2 & 3

DAY 2 - 23rd MARCH

Having taken Cathy to work I returned home to look after Rose. During a spell outside we had a look around the garden. As the full lockdown wasn't declared until the evening I didn't make any attempt to record the handful of wild plants growing in the garden, but I clearly noted Petty Spurge because I recorded the rust fungus Melampsora euphorbiae growing on it. Rose was happy to walk around for ages holding a 7-spot Ladybird, but I was more interested in a Juniper Shieldbug, a new species for the garden.

13. Petty Spurge
14. Melampsora euphorbiae (a rust of Petty Spurge)


15. Great Tit
16. Buff-tailed Bumblebee
17. Seven-spot Ladybird
18. Juniper Shieldbug


Whilst getting ready for bed we heard a Tawny Owl calling distantly. Whilst probably resident at Catton Park about a ten minute walk away, we tend to only hear owls once or twice a year from the house. I could well imagine in an older, more superstitious time this could have been thought of as an omen, although whether a reassuring sound or a 'tumbleweed-type' sign of things to come would presumably depend on the listeners predispositions.

19. Tawny Owl


DAY 3 - 24th MARCH

An exciting day with one addition, three Magpies visiting the feeders.

20. Magpie

NORWICH: The lockdown cometh - Day 1

Late March 2020

So as everyone will be aware, we are now in the unprecedented situation of being 'locked down', and with the exception of those fortunate enough to live in remote locations or on the edge of a nature reserve the focus of wildlife attention is likely to fall on our gardens. The Emerson family garden is a  smallish rectangle of space, with a lawn in the centre, a shed at the back and flower beds along three sides. It was fairly barren when we first moved in with the exception of three established conifer trees and a large Rose of Sharon bush. We have since planted it with various things, created a small pond and put up bird feeders.

Whilst we are in this situation I shall be recording and blogging about the wildlife that we see, partly as my own wildlife diary, but also to encourage others and perhaps help with the identification of thigs that you might be seeing. This will not have the depth that a 'proper' bioblitz would have , partly because my garden spells are likely to be accompanied by my young daughter, and partly because there are a range of things I will leave without identifying them to species as I won't be dissecting anything during this period. I also won't be blogging every day, because some days there just won't be anything interesting to blog about.

Boris Johnson declared the lockdown on the evening of Monday 23rd, but it was obviously coming so I began my listing on Sunday 22nd March, so that is my 'day 1'.

DAY 1 - 22nd MARCH

The first six species are ones that we see in the garden daily (the Lesser Black-backed Gulls flying over, the rest actually in the garden). Until quite recently Starlings were only occasional visitors, but having been given a mealworm feeder they now visit several times, in a group of up to 12, to empty the feeder. Maintaining it might end up being quite expensive, but they are nice to see!

1. Woodpigeon
2. Collared Dove
3. Blackbird
4. Blue Tit
5. Starling
6. Lesser Black-backed Gull

Goldfinch fly around our housing estate constantly, so are heard, and usually seen, anytime when I have spent more than about ten minutes in the garden. Chaffinches have frequented our garden a bit recently but can also usually be heard from the back garden.

7. Goldfinch
8. Chaffinch

Coal Tits are periodic visitors to our big conifer tree - fortunately this was one of the days when one turned up. House Sparrows are scarce actually in the garden (we have put up a terraced nest box for them but there has been no interest so far), but there is a small flock nearby and I heard them calling, enough to add them to the lockdown list.

9. Coal Tit
10. House Sparrow

We have lots of solitary bees flying around our Rose-of-Sharon and also on the Mahonia that grows against our outside wall. I suspected that they were Buffish Mining-bee (Andrena nigroaenea), and this ID was confirmed on the BWARS Facebook page.

11. Buffish Mining Bee (Andrena nigroaenea)


Whilst in the back garden I noticed a small fly twitching its wings in an unusual way. I suspected that this would be one of the Ulidiidae, picture winged flies, but couldn't find a match online. Posting it on Twitter I got some help from Ryan Mitchell, a Diptera enthusiast who works at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, who identified it as Geomyza tripunctata, a new species for me so a good start to the lockdown!

12. Geomyza tripunctata (an Opomyzid fly)


One other thing noted was a caterpillar spinning leaves together on the Rose-of-Sharon (Hypericum sp). I have seen similar things online identified as Lathronympha strigana larvae, but I don't know enough to be sure at the moment.


BOOK REVIEW: Arthropedia

Regular readers will be familiar with Vanna Bartlett, as I regularly blog about trips to the Norwich garden that her and Jeremy maintain for wildlife, seeing a number of new insects, many of them bees, in the process. I first met them through the Friends of Earlham Cemetery, and we have also been on several wildlife-related trips out. Anyway, Vanna is an excellent wildlife artist, and waas due to celebrate the release of a new Arthropod-themed book at Natural Surroundings next month. Covid-19 has scuppered that, meaning no release event, no bookshops to browse in and manynot accepting new stock. I don't usually review books on my blog but am happy to make an exception for this one, so please see below for my review (which is actually written for the forthcoming NNNS Natterjack) and checkout the website https://arthropedia.co.uk/arthropedia/ for more details and a link to order online if you like the look of it.






Being familiar with Vanna Bartlett’s wildlife artwork (and having also visited the wildlife garden that her and her husband are rightly proud of), I was excited to receive an advance copy of Arthropedia to review. As the title suggests, the subjects of the book are terrestrial arthropods (insects, arachnids, isopods and myriapods), most of them Norfolk species and a good percentage seen in Vanna’s garden. This localism is also extended to include the use of Norfolk-based designers and printers in the production of the book.

The central thread of Arthropedia is a series of beautiful colour wildlife plates, one for each letter of the alphabet. The connection to the letter varies, sometimes it is straightforward (e.g. B = Bees), sometimes the link is a word (E = Emperors features a butterfly, moth and dragonfly) and occasionally the link is more obscure (K = Kaleidoscope, featuring a large mixture of species displayed in a kaleidoscopic fashion). These pictures have all been worked up from the author's own photographs along with field sketches and really capture the character of the organism. Each species is numbered and referred to in the text, which is also interspersed with many black-and-white drawings to illustrate additional species or aspects of behaviour. There are also additional topographic illustrations showing the different parts of the species referred to.

Whilst this book could stand alone as a volume of wildlife art, to treat it as such overlooks the large amount of information included between plates. The passionate narrative of the author and artist used to describe finding and observing the species illustrated serves not only to connect with and inform the reader, but also to encourage him or her to seek out and value these species. This is done in part by the accompanying descriptions, but also more overtly in the final chapter that describes in depth the setting up and planting of the author’s wildlife garden.

Due to the current pandemic the launch event for Arthropedia has had to be cancelled, and there is a risk that this wonderful book will not receive the attention that it deserves - I heartily recommend that you seek out a copy. You can find out more information about the project at https://arthropedia.co.uk/ and can order a copy direct from Mascot Media via https://www.mascotmedia.co.uk/books/arthropedia-an-illustrated-alphabet-of-invertebrates.html

James Emerson (March 2020)

YARE VALLEY: Strumpshaw Clarke's Mining Bees

15th March 2020

With an inkling that freely moving around the county might not be possible soon, we called in at Strumpshaw Fen for an afternoon walk. Close views of a Marsh Tit were had near the reception hide, with a Marsh Harrier and a calling Chiffchaff also of note. On the insect front there was little seen, but we did stop to watch the Andrena clarkella bee colony by the side of the path.



WHITLINGHAM: A brief early March catchup

Early March 2020

One evening after work we called in at Whitlingham where a Barn Owl had been showing regularly around dusk. We were successful, watching it distantly perched up in trees south of the lane. As I no longer tend to visit particularly early or late this was my first patch Owl for quite some time.

I was back on Sunday 8th for the WeBS count, which given the situation later in the month was rather fortunate to fall early in the month. The Little Broad was busy with canoeists, which had undoubtedly scattered the Little Egrets and anything else that would have been around the far edge. There appeared to have been some disturbance on the Great Broad too as there was only around 140 Tufted Ducks but Gary had counted about 100 more than that at the start of the day. There was a handful of Pochard too, but the highlight of the day was a Water Rail that walked across the main path around the Great Broad. A bit of hesistant Chiffchaff song heralded our first migrant warbler arrival too. I tried to quickly read a few goose and swan rings too, with one new one that had been ringed earlier in the year by the UEA ringing group.