The Whitlingham Bird Report 2017 can be viewed or downloaded here. For previous years (2012-2016) see the links on the Whitlingham Bird List page.

You may also be interested in Chris Durdin's Thorpe Marsh Wildlife Report for 2017, which is available http://www.honeyguide.co.uk/documents/ThorpeMarshesWildlifeReport2017.pdf

NORWICH: Some Norwich moths

Mid-April 2018

Last year I didn't attempt any moth trapping* at home, but now as I'm often awake early morning I thought I should really start and see what I can find in the garden. Initial attempts weren't promising, probably mostly due to light pollution from the nearby streetlights, but also due to a lack of established plants too. The first trap had nothing, the second also nothing but a Dotted Border resting nearby on the wall. The third attempt saw and Clouded Drab and Hebrew Character, whilst the steady improvement continued recently with four species - the previous two plus 2 Common Quakers and a Double-striped Pug.

 Clouded Drab
 Hebrew Character
 Common Quaker
Double-striped Pug

I'm lucky to know several other people who moth trap in the city and who catch more interesting things than I do. In particular James Lowen invited me round to see a Red-green Carpet, a lovely greenish species with variable red streaks that I've wanted to see for a while. James also had a Satellite which was another new species for me (if you look closely you can see the small white dots either side of the big one that give this moth its name).



Gary White had also caught a Red-green Carpet over the weekend, but the other species he had of interest to me was a Twin-spot Quaker. Brindled Pug, Early Thorn, Herald and Early Grey were also things I can only hope for in my garden. Still, you never know. Thanks to James and Gary for allowing me to come and have a look at these species.

 Twin-spot Quaker
 Herald

* For those unfamiliar with moth trapping, my moth trap is a Skinner trap - effectively a light over a box, and is a commonly used and non-lethal way of monitoring moths.

WHITLINGHAM: Yellow Dung Fly & fungi

13th April 2018

Keen to avoid another foggy visit, instead I next managed to get down to Whitlingham late afternoon on Friday. Visibility was fine, but the birdlife was rather muted. The hirundine flock on this occasion was made up of Swallows and House Martins, whilst Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps sung regularly from around the broad.

In non-avian sightings I failed to see my first patch hoverfly of the year (I was hoping for something on the sallows, but it just wasn't sunny enough), but did find a Yellow Dung Fly, some Glistening Ink Caps and what we think is probably Hairy Bracket (Trametes hirsuta).




WHITLINGHAM: Grey Wagtail

11th April 2018

I had a chance to pop down to Whitlingham in the morning, but as became something of a trend I had to contend with rather poor visibility due to fog hanging across the water. A hirundine flock contained my first Sand Martins of the year, and eventually I picked out a House Martin too. I noted a Common Gull on the Great Broad - these will soon be moving on.


The highlight of my visit was a Grey Wagtail near the slipway, initially interacting with a Pied Wagtail, before I obtained excellent views as it perched up in a tree overhanging the water.



NORTH NORFOLK: Butterbur

8th April 2018

A diversion on my way to North Walsham took me through a small village where Jeremy had told me he had seen Butterbur in the past. This distinctive plant is somethin that I'd not seen previously and had decided to make an effort to see this year. It grows in damp places and as we drove past I spotted it from the car. Parking up and nipping out I found at least 20 flowering 'spikes' of Butterbur between the road and a nearby dyke. This plant has an eponymously named moth associated with it, but the flowers emerge before the leaves so there was no point checking for it yet.

Incidentally there is a commoner species found in a larger range of habitats is Winter Heliotrope, which can be seen growing along the River Wensum in Norwich just west of Pulls' Ferry.



BRECKLAND: Colletes cunicularius and other interesting insects

5th April 2018

After leaving Weeting, we called in at Lynford Water. This area of former gravel pits has a nice sandy bit of heath that is one of two Norfolk sites for Early Colletes (Colletes cunicularius), a species that Jeremy and Vanna had tried and failed to see twice before. The weather had warmed up nicely, so we were optimistic that it would be third time lucky.

Walking down the path from the car park we saw a Melangyna hoverfly. Fortunately it was one that can be identified from photos, Melangyna lasiophthalma, which was a new one for me. A pair of furry flies were mating on the ground a bit further along, but rather than Bee-flies these turned out to be a tachnid fly, Tachina ursina, which was also new.



Our target bees mainly nectar on Sallow pollen, so we moved along to check out the trees along the waters edge. Small Tortoiseshell and Comma butterflies were seen, along with two more new insects, another tachinid, Gonia picea, and an ichneumon, Diphyus quadripunctorius.



After a few 'probables' feeding high up on the Sallows, we began to see male Colletes skimming low over the turf. They were very hard to get a good look at, but further along we found some holes, and when a female emerged she was immediately pounced upon by multiple male bees. Once mating they were easy to observe, and we got great views.




After stopping for lunch we slowly made our way back to the car, checking the sallows again. There were lots of insects, the best of which were an Early Nomad Bee (Nomada leucomelaena), a Myopa sp and a Large Gorse Mining Bee (Andrena bimaculata).



A very successful trip in terms of finding our target and lots of other species of interest. Thanks to Jeremy, Vanna and Ian for their company and insect spotting skills.

BRECKLAND: Weeting speedwells and invertebrates

5th April 2018

Breckland has a range of rare plants, but many of them are restricted to a handful of sites, and even when you are in the right place they can be hard to find. I was therefore delighted when the Norfolk Wildlife Trust held a spring flora walk at Weeting Heath, which as far as I know is the only place in Norfolk where Spring Speedwell grows. The area where this plant, along with other scarce speedwells (Fingered Speedwell and Breckland Speedwell) is on arable land just off the reserve boundary but managed by the reserve staff. This area, like most of the reserve, has no general public access. The only slight problem was the recent weather - the late spring meant that only one of the three species was in flower.

Having picked up Ian, Jeremy and Vanna we arrived at Weeting to a sunny but cool morning. James the warden took us across the road and we spent two hours looking at the speedwells, seeing several flowering Fingered Speedwells and leaves of the other two.

 Fingered Speedwell, Veronica triphyllos
 Breckland Speedwell, Veronica praecox
 Spring Speedwell, Veronica verna

I had been hoping for one of the scarcer shieldbugs or Coreid bugs, but did manage a Stiltbug, Neides tipularius, and a sawfly, Dolerus gonager. I also noticed some small spiky weevils that I think must be Otiorhynchus ovatus.




Back in the car park a Brimstone flew past, my first butterfly of the year. James showed us some bark mines that he had found in a young Oak tree. They are the sort of thing that must be going overlooked in the county, looking like faint veins in the bark. There are two possible causers, Ectoedemia atrifrontella and Ectoedemia longicaudella. Both would be new to Norfolk, although the undetermined mines have also been seen at Santon Downham. As we went to get in the car Ian looked down and noticed a Sooty Cup fungus (Helvella leucomelaena) growing beside the car! Thanks to James for running the walk.



WHITLINGHAM: A few spring migrants and a new moth

4th April 2018

On Wednesday afternoon we went on a brief family trip to Whitlingham. It was raining on our way there, and there was a heavy shower not long after. However, once the rain had passed we had a short period of sunshine, and that is when we got a glimpse of spring. Several Chiffchaffs started singing, and I heard my first Blackcap of the year. Cathy found another four birds, including a pair, all non singing but moving through the trees. Over the broad a Swallow skimmed low, but there was no sign of any House Martins, which would have been a new early record had I seen one.

It wasn't just the birds that were out. I searched a large patch of Coltsfoot that was covered by tiny beetles, and managed to find a single, rather bedraggled solitary bee, probably Andrena bicolor, but depsite being a common species it is quite difficult to ID with certainty (or it is to me at least!). The best sighting of the day was a moth that Cathy noticed fluttering in the undergrowth. It was definitely a carpet moth, but I thought it was too early for Common Carpet or Garden Carpet. Luckily I managed to get a wing shot, enough to confirm it as Water Carpet, a new species for me.




NORWICH: A rare longhorn beetle

4th April 2018

Following on from my previous post, another good way of seeing new species is to keep in touch with other local naturalists. This can be a good way of finding out what is about and where best to see things, but sometimes it does mean that you can 'twitch' something rare or unusual. Jeremy & Vanna keep a garden list of insects, which has been swelled recently by several insects emerging from their firewood pile. One such thing was a tiny longhorn beetle, quite distinctive because the wingcases are nowhere near long enough to cover the wings. The ID is Nathrius brevipennis, and is the first Norfolk record in over 100 years! Two of these beetles emerged - the first one died (they wouldn't normally emerge until later in the year), but I was kindly invited to go and see the second one.



NORWICH: A new spider (Philodromus dispar)

2nd April 2018

For people who are mostly interested in birds, seeing a new species is a fairly uncommon occurrence and will usually involve spending hours searching a local patch or bit of coastal scrub in favourable conditions, or dashing off to look for a rarity that another birder has found and kindly broadcast news about. For someone interested in a wide variety of wildlife, new things turn up much more often. For instance, I went as far as my porch and saw this spider - Philodromus dispar (thanks to Pip Collyer for the ID).



NORWICH: Charter Wood - an interesting local site

1st April 2018

Norwich has a number of local nature reserves and green spaces, many of which are looked after by the Norwich Fringe Project. This excellent group of volunteers undertake a range of management work and if you have a bit of free time, or if you are looking to get some experience of conservation-related activities you could do far worse than getting in touch with them (web site here: https://norwichfringeproject.wordpress.com/). Some of the volunteers are also very good naturalists, and I tend to keep an eye on their blog to see what they find as they visit local sites. Last month I noticed a particular entry from Charter Wood, where someone had found Cobalt Crust. This is an attractive fungus that is rare in Norfolk, and as I'd never seen it, or been to Charter Wood, I decided to remedy this when I got the chance.

The first problem was a slightly embarrassing one - where exactly was Charter Wood? Despite living and birding around Norwich for many years, including one living at Three Score, I had never been, or seen signs to it. A google search returned few results, mainly just those referring to Fringe Project blogs or publicity. A map of sites on the Fringe Project website suggested that the woods were north of New Road, but I had walked that route before when I had a birdwatching permit for Bawburgh Lakes, and didn't remember any footpaths off it. The woods is also not named on Ordnance Survey maps of the area. Fortunately Robin Chittenden got in touch to say that he had helped plant the wood, and it is accessed via a nearby housing estate.

Having found out where the wood was, I still had a big problem - the Cobalt Crust was growing on a single branch. Whilst it is a bright colour, I only stood a reasonable chance of finding it if it was close to a main path. I got in touch with the Fringe Project, and fortunately one of the people involved is Michelle Hoare, a member of the fungus study group. She hadn't seen the fungus herself, but kindly got in touch with some of the volunteers from that day and got back to me with a grid reference. My chances had increased, although the time difference (it was seen in early February) was a concern, as the colour fades with time and of course the branch could have been moved.

On Sunday I arrived at the nearby housing estate, and found the path in without any problems. It wasn't marked, but I could see dog walkers in the distance, and it transpired that the site is quite well used by locals. An information board explained that the land was privately owned by a Jersey-based company, but access was allowed subject to various conditions.



The composition of the site was a bit of a surprise to me. There was a strip of undulating grassland with a large gorsey area, some maize fields compelte with singing Skylarks, and then the youngish woodland that I had come to visit. I thought that later in the year when more flowers and insects were out it could be a rather interesting and productive site, at least a bit different to the other places Norwich has to offer (thinking about it there is a bit of a similarity to Lusty Hills at UEA, but that has less general access).



I heade for the woodland, taking in a ruined building on my way. I walked through a recently coppiced area, which brought home the sheer folly of looking for a single big stick in this large mass of young trees. It was drizzling, but I picked out a few bits of interest, mostly fungi, including Jelly Ear, Hairy Curtain Crust, Waxy Crust and Winter Polypores.

 I'm sure there is a good reason why there is a shopping trolley there.
Winter polypores - from above they look like a typical gilled species, but turning one over you can see the pores.

I found my way to a clearing at the edge of the wood where some recent planting had taken place and began to search for the Cobalt Crust. The hum of the A47 traffic could be heard in the distance, intermingled with Skylark song and repeated shouts of "RORY!" coming from someone with a rather loose concept of keeping your dog under control. I had found many, many stick and branches, but sadly none containing the fungus that I was looking for.  The drizzle had gone, but I was aware that Cathy and Rose were waiting for me at home, so I took a different path back through the wood, aiming to cover as much ground as possible on my way back.

Noticing a Holly tree I went over and recorded Phytomyza ilicis, the holly leaf miner, and indeed I stopped at the layby near Earlham church & marshes on the way home and recorded it there too, adding another two 2km squares to the maps in my previous blog post. I noticed some unusual galls on a young Oak, resembling ridged barnacles. At home I identified the causer as Andricus testaceipes, although apparently there is a bit of taxonomic uncertainty and name changing around the species so it is currently more often known as Andricus sieboldi. I saw my first flowering Coltsfoot of the year, and it was nice to see a few bumblebees about too, including a confiding Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum).





A nominal unsuccessful visit in that I failed to see my target species, but considering the benefits of being out of the house, visiting a new site, seeing a new gall and generating some biological records, it was actually a rather productive couple of hours.