The Whitlingham Bird Report 2020 is available now (click here)

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

NORTH NORFOLK: Pigney's Wood

12th September 2020

At the weekend we wanted to go for a walk, so I decided to head to Pigney's Wood. It was my first visit since NWT had taken over management of the site and the first ever visit for Rose and Cathy. We had a pleasant walk around, although a rather agressive dog off its lead that ran up to Cathy and another couple somewhat took the gloss off a bit. For the first time this autumn there was a noticeable amount of fungi about, including an Agaricus sp, Suede Bolete, Stump Puffball and Brown Roll Rim.

Other wildlife included a late-ish flock of House Martins and Swallows over the canal, Cetti's Warbler and Bullfinch both heard, lots of Speckled Woods, Aulagromyza populicola and Pyllocnistis unipunctella mines in Poplar, Ivy Bees and a snail-killer fly Coremacera marginata.


NORWICH: Early September commute wildlife

 Early September 2020

A few interesting sightings from my walks to and from work. Box-tree Moths are spreading around Norwich, which is probably a bad thing because they can defoliate bushes very quickly and get through mutliple life cycles in a year. I'd seen the caterpillars at my inlaws recently, but saw my first Norfolk adult moths at a security light. Nearby I was puzzled by some leaf mines on Sycamore leaves. Leaf mine guru Rob Edmunds confirmed that they were Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner larvae. This species has been recorded mining Sycamore and Norway Maple, but I had only ever recorded it on Horse Chestnut.

Checking the security light later in the week was productive, as in addition to a few common moths there was a Lunar Yellow Underwing, a species subtley different to Lesser Yellow Underwing and more commonly found in the Brecks. I also found a Blackcap sitting by the path near Micawber's Tavern. I went over in case it was injured, but it was able to scold me and hop off, so hopefully it was fine. At the end of the week I had a close look at a pine tree in Waterloo Park and found my first Scymnus suturalis, a species of inconspicuous ladybird associated with pines. There was also a nicely patterned micro moth, which I think is one of the samara-mining Ectoedemias.

SOUTH NORFOLK: Dickleburgh & Frenze Beck

5th September 2020

In late summer an increasing number of tweets were being made about Dickleburgh Moor, an Otter Trust nature reserve in south Norfolk that has been attracting lots of waders. We decided to have a look, and having found the small car park we headed to a picnic bench to have lunch. I had brought my spotting scope, but in retrospect should have brought the tripod as most of the birds were distant. That said, I did manage to pick out Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff and Ringed Plover, which was a decent haul. In the weeks after Pectoral Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and were all present - an amazing list for what at first just looks like a couple of flooded fields. Clearly this is a disservice to the Otter Trust and the ranger managing the site, who have done an excellent job and taken advantage of a site that must be situated on a wader passage route.

As there wasn't a signposted walk around the site, we decided to head elsewhere for a walk. I had heard of a small nature reserve on the outside of Diss called the Frenze Beck Nature Reserve, which was only a short distance down the road. This was a pleasant reserve with some wet woodland and meadows. There wasn't much out of the ordinary in a brisk circuit, but it would certainly be worth a look if you lived nearby or found yourself in the area.

NORWICH: Ivy Bees emerge and other commute sightings

4th September 2020

 Late summer sees the emergence of a recently colonised bee species, Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae). I decided to take a short detour home from work through Wensum Park to see if I could find any. As it happened I did, although not on the eponymous plant. Males emerge slightly earlier than females and do utilise a few other plants, including Canadian Goldenrod as seen here.


Whilst looking around I noticed some galled Fat Hen leaves, a new gall for me, caused by the aphid Hayhurstia atriplicis. Another nice find on the way home was some fresh mines of the Hedge Cosmet moth (Cosmopterix zieglerella). The adult moth is a very smart looking thing, but I've only found the mines so far. 

YARE VALLEY: Wheatfen - a famous pulsing snail parasite

 Late August 2020

When I was growing up like many nature-lovers I was a fan of David Attenborough programmes, for their content, cinematography and his presenting style, but I was very aware that most of the species featured lived in exotic places and I was unlikely to ever see them. Accordingly I tended to seek out programmes that described UK wildlife, and the one I remember most was actually a programme about the attempted reintroduction of Large Coppers to the Fens. It was in 2014 that the cover of a Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists Society publication about parasitic organisms (called Hidden Lives) reminded me of the episode of Trials of Life, in which a Trematode worm takes over an Amber Snail, making it climb onto vegetation and flash it's antennae. The hope is that a bird will eat it and the Trematode can continue its life cycle inside the bird. The clip, entitled "Zombie Snail" is available to watch here: Why is all of this relevant? Well, it was at this point that I realised that one of these really interesting species "as featured on TV" occurred about 6 miles from Norwich, at the Ted Ellis Nature Reserve at Wheatfen.

The thing is, finding a few infected snails on a large nature reserve is very difficult. I had kept an eye out on each of my visits to no avail. Then, a few weeks ago I saw a post on the Wheatfen Facebook page that a volunteer had found and photographed a snail infected by Leucochloridium paradoxum (in fact she had done better than that, finding another snail infected by another species in the genus with brown bands instead of green). On the off chance I contacted Will Fitch, the Wheatfen warden, to ask if he knew where they had been seen. I received the answer that they were at the far end of Smee Loke (which sounds like a location from a Tolkien novel but is one of the main Wheatfen paths). With the location narrowed down, it was time for an Emerson family wildlife walk to try to track it down.

After a while it wasn't looking too promising, between us Cathy & I had found a few Amber Snails, but all apparently healthy. It was on our way back when I happened to glance into a patch of bindweed and noticed a snail with a pulsing, banded green antenna! Get in! 

Wheatfen is an excellent site for invertebrates and we saw various other things, including Spiked Shieldbug and Adelphocoris ticinensis, whilst Cathy found the impressive larva of Cimbex connatus, a large sawfly that feeds on Alders.

NORTH NORFOLK: Grass-of-Parnassus

 Late August 2020

When I still lived in North Walsham Dad & I would visit Beeston Common quite often, but mainly in spring when the orchids were out. We decided to have a walk around one afternoon, and saw several later summer flowers that my earlier visits hadn't noted, like Grass-of-Parnassus and Goldenrod, the latter a scarce plant in Norfolk that could be overlooked as a type of Ragwort by the inexperienced observer. I had hoped to see Water Cricket on the stream, but there was no sign of any.

WHITLINGHAM: August WeBS count, ivy insects and more...

 23rd August 2020

This months WeBS count was rather late in the month, and many of the swans and geese had moved on from the late July peak counts. The vegetation was quite high around the Little Broad, amking it tricky to see in from many angles, but whilst looking I noticed that a patch of Ivy had come into flower. There were no Ivy Bees yet, but lots of wasps, Hornets, hoverflies and greenbottles. I did pick out, a larger, darker wasp, and from the markings was able to confirm that it was a Median Wasp, which was nice.

In terms of wildfowl, there was nothing out of the ordinary. A Mallard had a young duckling, perhaps a third brood, and at least five of the Mute Swans were sporting the local colour rings. A selection of comparitive counts are below. The difference in Mute Swan numbers is probably due largely to the timing of the count - by September 2019 numbers had dropped to 20.

  • Mute Swan 17 (2019: 74)
  • Canada Goose 14 (2019: 4)
  • Mallard 76 (2019: 101)
  • Coot 12 (2019: 7)
  • Cormorant 28 (2019: 11)

A selection of other species of interest included Bronze Furrow-bee, a parasitised aphid on Alder, a leaf mine on Canadian Goldenrod caused by Nemorimyza posticata and a smut fungus on Water Stitchwort. The trip had a frustrating conclusion. Earlier in the month some people had come and stolen many of the railway sleepers that used to line the car park. This meant that in order to park you had to pay attention to the well-worn parking places and use some common sense. Unfortunately this proved beyond some people, who parked in a row that completely blocked in an existing row of cars, including mine. I therefore had to just wait by my car until someone came back and left, allowing me to get out. It didn't look much better along the lane either, with two cars parking between the 'no parking' bollards, and at least one other car on double-yellow lines a bit further down.

MID-NORFOLK: Buxton Heath summer invertebrates

 22nd August 2020

With the summer nearing its end we went for a family walk at Buxton Heath, which was resplendent with purple heather and earned Rose's approval thanks to the ponies grazing on it. Wildlife watching was limited mostly to the path and nearby vegetation, but that was still rather productive. Heathland bees were numerous, with Heather Mining Bees (Andrena fuscipes) and its cuckoo bee Nomada rufipes, plus Heather Bee (Colletes succinctus) alongside cuckoo bee Epeolus cruciger. We saw a colony of Bee-wolves, and a large Red-banded Sand Wasp.


Other species of interest included an assassin bug (probably Coranus woodroffei although they are very similar to Heath Assassin Bug), Dodder, a parasitic plant with tiny pink flowers on 'silly-string' like red filaments,  and a new one for me, the tachinid Linnaemya vulpina.

THORPE MARSHES: On the lookout for rare caterpillars

 Mid-August 2020

Thorpe Marshes has a good range of wetland plant species, including two that could potentially host rare moth species (Meadow Rue is the foodplant of Marsh Carpet, and Water Dock is the foodplant of the Water Dock Case-bearer, Coleophora hydrolapathella). I decided to pop in one lunchtime and have a look around these plants in the hope of detecting either species. I didn't, but most of the Water Dock isn't accessible and there isn't that much Meadow-rue either. One plant that is doing well is Greater Water Parsnip, a rare species that has been planted here as part of the Water, Mills and Marshes project. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it seems to have taken well.

Whilst there was no luck with the target larvae, I did manage to see a Knotgrass moth caterpillar, and also a new hoverfly, Sphaerophoria rueppelli. A Tortoise Shieldbug and my first Painted Lady of the year were also of note.

NORWICH: Robberflies and a lacebug

Mid-August 2020

A couple of additional interesting things seen whilst at my in-laws, firstly a mating pair of Kite-tailed Robberflies landed on the window, and secondly the tiny lacebug Physacheila dumetorum landed on my hand. I haven't seen many lacebugs so assumed it would be a new one for me, although when checking I found that I had seen one before in similar circumstances whilst at the Gunton Arms.