The Upper Tas Valley, 25 April 2020

A combined essential grocery shopping trip and a local nature walk in the Upper Tas Valley today.

Yesterday Matt Shore had the fantastic find of a Large Tortoiseshell by a footpath in the upper reaches of the Tas Valley and as it was very close to my shopping destination of Long Stratton I popped along for a look. I found the spot easily thanks to some excellent directions but sadly a 2 hour search didn't reveal the butterfly. Large Tortoiseshell is a species I saw back in 2001 at Landguard and again, tantalisingly briefly in Tyrrel's Wood about 3 weeks ago but it would have been nice to get a pic of another Norfolk one. The photo below is one of only 4 that Matt got yesterday.

The site was a pleasure to be at though and I 'yearticked' Willow Warbler and Large Red Damselfly. Having only seen 1 Red Admiral so far this year it was pleasing to see 2 or 3 today plus good numbers of Green-veined Whites. A pair of Bullfinches were seen several times and a Lesser Whitethroat was singing in the distance.

Large Tortoiseshell (copyright Matt Shore)

Willow Warblers

 Large Red Damselfly


Wonderful Winks, 23 April 2020

I ventured a little further from home by bike yesterday on what turned out to be a very hot day - phew!

Winks Meadow just outside Metfield is a place that regular readers of this blog will know is one of my favourite places  - and yesterday I needed an orchid fix! The Green-winged Orchids on the meadow are a sight to behold and I don't know of any other site where they grow in such a wide variety of colours from deep purple through various pinks and mauves to the pure white 'alba' form of which I found 4 plants yesterday. I spent a happy time here photographing them whilst being careful not to lay on any others, or for that matter on any of the thousands of Cowslips. Around the perimeter Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat and Garden Warbler were all in song. In the adjacent Millenium Wood it was nice to compare White and Black Poplars which are very handily labelled plus a gorgeous aromatic Bird Cherry humming with insects.

Green-winged Orchids

Bird Cherry

White Poplar bark

White Poplar buds

 White Poplar leaves

On the way back I called in to Mendham and had a short walk in the Waveney Valley, another place that has a special place in my heart. Nobody can tell me it isn't just as beautiful as the much more popular Dedham Vale in 'Constable Country'. Here I managed to find my first Small Copper of the year plus some lovely plants some of which were new to me - Meadow Saxifrage, Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Wall Speedwell, Sweet Vernal Grass, Common Mouse-ear Chickweed, Marsh Marigold and in the woods Water Chickweed, Ramsons and plenty of Yellow Archangel. Then back on the lane a Cuckoo called from a row of willows, my 2nd earliest ever.

Meadow Saxifrage

Sweet Vernal Grass

Thyme-leaved Speedwell

Water Chickweed

    Yellow Archangel

Stuff around Pulham Market, 17 April 2020

As the current lockdown enters its 4th week I have continued to stay local and will do so until it's safe to do otherwise.

Spring migrants have been slow arriving but a Common Whitethroat on 15th followed by Lesser Whitethroat on 16th were hopefully the start of things locally. 2 House Martins were investigating the gable on the front of Harford Bridges Tesco on 16th when I had to go and get shopping for my elderly parents. The only other local avian addition were 2 Mistle Thrushes on the edge of the village on 14th. My 'Apocolist' remains rooted on 40

Plantwise I spent some time photographing the local common wildflowers and making a trail/quiz for the grandgirlies to do with Naomi which they should enjoy. While walking I also discovered a big patch of Hidcote Comfrey along the field path beside the old Pulham Workhouse and along Guildhall Lane a single flowering plant of Hedgerow Cranesbill, both new plants for me.  A patch of Coltsfoot on disturbed ground in Beck Close was also pleasing.

I managed to get a couple of decent butterfly pics with my phone too - female Orange Tip and my first Speckled Wood of the Year on 16th. A mass of spiderlings of unknown species were in the front garden yesterday too.

Hedgerow Cranesbill

Hidcote Comfrey


Orange Tip (female)

    Speckled Wood

 Spiderlings - unknown sp

Easter in Lockdown, 13 April 2020

I have continued trying to keep busy with local flora and fauna over the Easter weekend. Some days are easier than others it has to be said!
Luckily the warm weather (until today!) has helped with insects and moth-trapping has also been a welcome diversion.

Birdwise it's been slow with precious few spring migrants around. 2 House Martins around Beck Close in the village on 11th matched last years first date and I've also found Yellowhammer locally at last. c8 Fieldfares still chakking around the meadows between the 2 Pulhams on Good Friday still hinted at winter rather than spring! My 'Apocolist' has reached the 40 milestone with a singing Song Thrush in our Horse Chestnut tree on Saturday.

Butterflies have been much in evidence and Orange Tips are now widespread. I managed to photograph both Holly Blue and a nice pale 'hutchinsoni' Comma over the weekend too.

Moths in the trap have included Frosted Green, Double-striped Pug and Swallow Prominent as new for the year. On Saturday night a catch of 38 moths of 10 species was my biggest catch so far.

A clump of Greater Celandine in the village was the botanical highlight. Despite it's name it is nothing like Lesser Celandine and the 2 aren't closely related at all.

'hutchinsoni' Comma

Holly Blue

Frosted Green

Brindled Beauty

Double-striped Pug

Swallow Prominent

  Greater Celandine

Surprise, surprise, it's more local stuff! 10 April 2020

Today, the boredom has reached critical levels!

So here's a quick blog post as an update on the last few days. Local walks continue and I've now done 10,000+ steps every day since lockdown started 16 days ago. The recent highlight on these walks was the discovery of a new plant for me - the easily overlooked Cut-leaved Dead Nettle. I've also had a curious white Wood Forget-me-not and the first Bluebells.

I did a couple of bits of work in Harleston this past week so took a sneaky 5 minute look at Weybread on my way home. The female Red-crested Pochard was present on no.1 pit and a Common Tern was on Ocean Pit. And they were without getting out of my van!

Yesterday I mixed things up a little with a bike ride out to Tyrrel's Wood where things got very interesting indeed. After the delight of my first orchids of the year with c12 Early Purple Orchids in various stages of flowering (plus loads more yet to emerge) I was walking back when I got onto a butterfly sat on the ground beside the path in a slightly more open area at the edge of the wood - unfortunately it was a 2 second view before it was chased off by a Brimstone but I am 99% sure it was a Large Tortoiseshell! Despite much searching I couldn't find it again though. Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker were all very vocal in the wood.

Other butterflies have started to emerge with Orange Tip, Small White, Large White, Green-veined White and Red Admiral having joined the yearlist.

I had a small surge (well trickle really!) of new records for the apocolist with 4 new ones yesterday. The up to date scores on the doors are:

No.35 - Blackcap (singing for the last few days now)
No.36 - Kestrel (low over the house)
No.37 - Oystercatcher (calling over the house)
No.38 - Greylag Goose (over calling after dark as I checked the moth trap)
No.39 - Tawny Owl (calling at 10.30 last night)

Moth trapping has produced just one new species for the year - Small Quaker but 3 each of Early Thorn and Brindled Beauty last night were nice. 

Early Purple Orchids

Cut-leaved Dead Nettle

white Wood Forget-me-not

    Brindled Beauties

It's got to be local! 6 April 2020

With the lockdown continuing, I, like many other naturalists have been keeping it local for the last couple of weeks. Belinda and I are lucky enough to live in a rural area with a garden and access to field footpaths, tracks and quiet lanes just yards away from the house. We have been ensuring we get our daily exercise fix and now know every footpath intimately!

Wildflowers continue to dominate things and I think I know where to find every local species that is out now. 2 Bulbous Buttercups out along Mill Lane were new for me (although I've probably see loads in the past and not known how to id them!

Butterflies have been out in the thankfully sunny weather - Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and Holly Blue while we also had a good emergence of Seven-spot Ladybirds and Dark-bordered Bee-flys in the garden.  

I have also dug my moth trap out of the garage where it's not been used for a couple of years. This was mainly due to a lack of time but now time is the one thing I have plenty of! Trapping on the last 2 nights has produced 8 species - Brindled Beauty, Early Thorn, Early Grey, Common Quaker, Clouded Drab, Hebrew Character, Brindled Pug and Twin-spotted Quaker.

'Apocolist' continues but things have understandably slowed down a bit:

No.30 - Rook (a single fly-by from the bedroom window)
No.31 - Common Buzzard (3 distantly to the north then 1 over the house)
No.32 - Herring Gull (c6 circling over and very vocal)
No.33 - Sparrowhawk (circling over house being mobbed by Carrion Crow)

Stop press

No.34 - Linnet (singing towards Guildhall Lane and scoped from house)

Also today - the first Swallow of the year high over Semere Lane plus c25 Fieldfare and 2 Redwings  

Bulbous Buttercup

Seven-spot Ladybird

Early Grey

Early Thorn

Brindled Beauty

Brindled Pug