Billingford Common insects and other local bits

A brief visit to Billingford Common on Sunday to look for the Large-flowered Hemp Nettle proved fruitless. Maybe the dry conditions have prevented it coming up this year as it should be obvious by now. Just 2 plants of Common Hemp Nettle were located before I turned my attention to a large patch of flowering Water Mint which was alive with insects. I found Roesel's Bush Cricket, Dark Bush Cricket, Mint Moth, Common Tachinid, Blue-winged Tachinid, Green Leafhopper and the hoverfly Eristalis horticola.

                                                                                                                                    Dark Bush Cricket
                                                                                                                               Roesel's Bush Cricket
                                                                                                                                     Eristalis horticola
                                                                                                                               Mint Moth
                                                                                                                              Common Tachinid
                                                                                                                             Blue-winged Tachinid
                                                                                                                                    Green Leafhopper

Since then, while working in Pulham St Mary I was pleased to find a Pine Ladybird (miles away from any pines!) and a naturalised clump of Pickerelweed

                                                                                                                                    Pine Ladybird
                                                                                                                                    Pickerelweed
   

The Wild Waveney Festival, 30 July 2022

Today the Wild Waveney Festival hosted by Ben Potterton and the Otter Trust took place at the Earsham Wetland Centre near Bungay. 

I'd been asked to lead a wildflower walk as part of the celebrations which also included pond dipping, moth trapping, country crafts, poultry sales, demonstrations, 'meet the animals' (horses, donkeys, and a Fallow Deer!) live music from the Foreign Locals and food stalls. And it was rammed! We turned up at 10.45 and the carpark was already full and overflowing into the lane and nearby gardens!

My walk went well as we explored the banks of the Waveney finding a good few nice plants including Arrowhead, Frogbit, Water Plantain, Tubular Water-dropwort, Branched Bur-reed, Reed Canary Grass, Water Mint, Gypsywort, Marsh Woundwort, Water Forget-me-not, Water Figwort, Yellow Water Lily, Common Club-rush, Common Fleabane, Dwarf Mallow, Watercress, Lesser Water Parsnip, Black Nightshade, Scarlet Pimpernel, Silverweed and Creeping St John's Wort amongst others. The participants were really engaged, especially the children which was lovely to see.

A quick look at the previous nights moth catchings revealed Canary-shouldered Thorn and Nut-tree Tussock Moth which were new ones to me and pond dipping gave me Water Scorpion and Great Pond Snail.

We watched the band for a while but as the heat began to rise we bid a hasty retreat. The grandgirlies had a lovely time.


                                                                                                                        Canary-shouldered Thorn
                                                                                                                                   Nut-tree Tussock
                                                                                                                                   Great Pond Snail
                                                                                                                                        Water Scorpion


                                                                                                                                 Water Figwort
                                                                                                                                 Arrowhead


     

Black-eyed Susan stalking the streets of Harleston!

I'm working in suburban Harleston this week and the road I'm in has a couple of interesting pavement plants. They have obviously escaped from a garden at some point and are now quite happy existing in cracks by the kerb. They were the attractive and curiously named Black-eyed Susan (which sounds like a drunken harlot who has just had a pub fight!) and a Greater Plantain with purple leaves which is a garden cultivar.    




A Weekend in North Norfolk, 23 - 24 July 2022

This past weekend we took our motorhome up to the North Norfolk coast for a 2 day/1 night stop. Our wild camping spot for the Saturday night was the small elevated carpark at Wiveton Downs just inland of Blakeney.

Our first stop when we got up to the coast was East Runton where we did a walk over Incleborough Hill, down into West Runton and then along the beach back to East Runton. My main aim was to see the strange parasitic plant Dodder and it was hard to miss as it was draped over big areas of Gorse on the hill. Other than some Lucerne and Corn Marigold by the road in West Runton the other plant of note was Horse Mint along Beach Road. The Sand Martins were busy around the cliffs, an early returning Sanderling on the beach and a Red Kite was also seen. 

The other place I wanted to visit was Binham Priory where the rare Wall Bedstraw grows on the old walls. It was found readily and although a bit frazzled by the hot weather was still identifiable. Also around the site were Snapdragon, Pellitory of the Wall, Hoary Plantain and Smooth Hawksbeard. We were also treated to a lovely orchestra rehearsal in the priory church there and sat in the cool interior with a cup of tea! The small 'raw milk'  farmshop and cafe there were also rather nice with a cool cheese vending machine! 

We finished the day with a walk around Blakeney but it was very busy so we did a quick lap and headed up to Wiveton Downs for the evening/night. It was a beautifully peaceful night with just 2 other vans and friendly locals.


                                                                                                                                        Dodder

                                                                                                                                   Lucerne
                                                                                                                             Horse Mint


                                                                                                                              Wall Bedstraw
                                                                                                                              Smooth Hawksbeard

                                                                                                                              Snapdragon
 

Sunday began with a quick drive down to the Cley NWT carpark to twitch a Greater Sea-kale plant before heading inland to Holt Lowes. Here we parked on the free carpark on Hempstead Road and walked down to the wet valley mire on the heath. After a while Belinda got fed up with waiting arund for me sploshing about looking for plants so headed back to the van to chill and read. That left me to search for some rather special plants - and I found Alder Buckthorn, Lesser Skullcap (at it's only East Anglian site), Marsh St John's Wort, Star Sedge, Bog Pimpernel, Round-leaved Sundew, Marsh Lousewort and then just as I was about to head back - Marsh Arrowgrass. Almost a clean up! Keeled Skimmers were everywhere and then as I got back to the carpark a Red Longhorn Beetle was on a rotten stump and a Silver-washed Fritillary in the carpark. 

After a drink in the van I persuaded Belinda that we should head back to Cley for the adult Black-crowned Night Heron which had given itself up after not being seen all week. It showed well through Chris Small's and Phil Heath's scopes (cheers guys!) on Skirts Pool from the southern end of the East Bank. My first in Norfolk for many a long year and a fitting way to end a nice trip away.


                                                                                                                                 Lesser Skullcap
                                                                                                                                    Alder Buckthorn
                                                                                                                                   Bog Pimpernel
                                                                                                                              Marsh Arrowgrass
                                                                                                                           Round-leaved Sundew
                                                                                                                                 Star Sedge
                                                                                                                             Marsh Lousewort
                                                                                                                               Marsh St John's Wort
                                                                                                                                    Keeled Skimmer

                                                                                                                                   Greater Sea-kale
                                                                                                                                Red Longhorn Beetle
        

A Broads Blitz, 15 July 2022

I got up early on Friday and set out on a trip to the Norfolk Broads and 3 sites in particular.

First up was a quick stop off at an old stomping ground Coltishall Common - here I found what I was looking for in lightening quick time, mainly because there was loads of it - Marsh Ragwort. A Kingfisher was also heard calling from the River Bure there. The eary morning dew meant I had a soggy walk back to the car with soaked trousers!


                                                                                                                                 Marsh Ragwort
 

The main site of the day was one I wanted to to take my time exploring - Barton Fen just north of Barton Turf. It's a place I've never visted before and it was amazing. On the walk out to the fen I walked the track of Fen Lane and just after stopping to admire the plentiful Corn Marigold plus Fool's Parsley along a 'managed' field edge I spotted a dragonfly that looked promising. Eventually it settled and confirmed my thoughts - a superb Lesser Emperor. My day was made already! Along the same field edge I also found an unseasonal but pristine Swallowtail and c6 Painted Ladies before I ventured on and down to the fen. The area is open access land so I had a good walk around along the rather overgrown paths. This is really a pristine piece of untouched broadland fen habitat and within a short space of time I'd found Greater Bladderwort, Frogbit, Great Fen Sedge, Greater Water Parsnip, Marsh Yellow Cress and Sharp-flowered Rush. Some seriously good plantage! Into the bargain there were also Norfolk Hawker, Brown Hawker, Variable Damselflies, Cereal Leaf Beetle and Orange-legged Darwin Wasp plus calling Bearded Tits, Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler to keep me amused.

                                                                                                                                      Lesser Emperor
                                                                                                                                        Swallowtail
                                                                                                                                      Painted Lady
                                                                                                                                                  Frogbit

                                                                                                                                  Greater Bladderwort
                                                                                                                                  Variable Damselfly
                                                                                                                                  Corn Marigold
                                                                                                                                 Great Fen Sedge

                                                                                                                          Greater Water Parsnip
                                                                                                                             Marsh Yellow Cress
                                                                                                                            Sharp-flowered Rush
                                                                                                                   Square-stalked St John's Wort
                                                                                                                           Broad-leaved Pondweed
                                                                                                                               Cereal Leaf Beetle
                                                                                                                    Orange-legged Darwin Wasp
 

My last broads site was the south side of Hickling Broad near Rush Hills. I had 2 targets but in the end found only 1 - the uber rare Fen Mason Wasp (Musk Beetle was missed) but that was more than made up for by finding c6 Yellow Loosestrife Bees around a clump of their host plant. These are very scarce insects. Also there I latched on to a confiding Hornet having it's lunch (!), 24-spot Ladybird, Black-tailed Skimmer, Ruddy Darter and Blue-tailed Damselfly of the rubescens form

                                                                                                                              Fen Mason Wasp
                                                                                                                            Yellow Loosestrife Bee
                                                                                                                                  24-spot Ladybird
                                                                                                                          Black-tailed Skimmer
                                                                                                     Blue-tailed Damselfly (form rubescens)
                                                                                                                                Brown Hawker
                                                                                                                                  Hornet
 

With time to spare for a quick detour on my way home I ventured to the UEA Broad where I connected with another plant target - Fringed Waterlily plus White Waterlily and strangely the pink Hybrid Waterlily too. On the walk back through the woods the distinctive hoverfly Leucozona laternaria was on some Hogweed flowers 


                                                                                                                           Fringed Waterlily
                                                                                                                             Hybrid Waterlily
                                                                                                                          Leucozona laternaria