Giant Orchids in Oxfordshire! 29 March 2022

This spot on my blog timeline has been bookmarked for a couple of weeks and saved for a rather special post. 

The site must remain secret as I have made promises but a fortnight ago I made a day trip down into Oxfordshire to pay homage to a new British orchid - the hugely impressive Giant Orchid. The origins of these plants is interesting. Some 15 - 20 years ago (stories differ as to exactly how long ago) seed was scattered here and up they popped soon afterwards. They then died out and haven't been seen for many a long year. Until this year of course when 9 flowering plants and several more non-flowering specimens emerged and were luckily spotted by a local who knew what they were. Presumably long-dormant seed had found the right conditions to germinate. Unless they have flowered in the intervening years and gone unnoticed that is. Anyway, it was a real joy to be able to see them. The sensitivity of the site and an empassioned plea not to go 'off piste' meant I saw 4 plants without causing any potential damage. Indeed, apart from 2 passers by I was the only one there. 

I relocated to a site near Charlbury as I wound my way home and beside the River Evenlode found another much wanted plant - the ghostly pallid Toothwort. Alongside were several specimens of the the scarce Yellow Star of Bethlehem

                                                                                                                                     Giant Orchids


                                                                                                                         Yellow Star of Bethlehem



Yellow-tipped Darwin Wasp while at work! 28 March 2022

Working in Dickleburgh village this week and in particular a conservatory on Monday I had a visitor join me - a Yellow-tipped Darwing Wasp on the window frame! Apart from being a really good looking thing it also has one of the coolest names! This one was a female.

Earlier, while passing the paddock at Dickleburgh Moor on the way to work there was a large mixed flock of Redwings (c30%) and Fieldfares (c70%) presumably grounded in the fog.


A Mining Bee Extravaganza! 26 March 2022

A Saturday afternoon off for good behavoir (!) had me heading towards Norwich were I had a rendezvous with Jeremy Bartlett on his allotment.

First though I had business in suburban Brundall for a couple of species of mining bee - the rare Grey-backed Mining Bee and Yellow-legged Mining Bee which occur in the same spot. I found 2-3 of the former and loads of the latter plus Dark-edged Bee-fly and a Blood Bee sp. With a bit of patience I managed to get some photos. Grey-backed Mining Bee is rare having previously only been known from Dungeness and a site in Hampshire. The species has started to spread a little with these Norfolk ones only discovered last year. 

Into Norwich to meet Jeremy next via a stop at B&Q for supplies for work next week. It was good to have a catch up and also to see his Pied Shieldbugs that are frequenting Red Dead Nettle on his allotment. A Sun Spurge plant in flower was my first of the year. While chatting Jeremy told me of another mining bee spot at Strumpshaw Fen so I decided to give it a go before heading home. At the start of the sandy wall I found the spot and luckily after a short wait a single Clark's Mining Bee appeared around the nest holes. I have since learned that the colony has been there at least 50 years! Then, by pure luck I took a quick look at the small sandy cliff in the woods and found a 4th species for the day - Cliff Mining Bee.

                                                                                                                           Grey-backed Mining Bee

                                                                                                                         Yellow-legged Mining Bee
                                                                                                                                      Blood Bee sp
                                                                                                                                     Pied Shieldbug
                                                                                                                                   Clark's Mining Bee
                                                                                                                                     Cliff Mining Bee

Wall Lizard, Felixstowe, 25 March 2022

The small Wall Lizard colony in Felixstowe has been on my to do list for absolutely ages. Finally Belinda and I decided to make the trip on Friday. 

In a total of 2 hours searching we were lucky enough to find one - just 1 mind you! Luckily it posed for the camera for about a minute before flitting back into a hole in the rocks never to be seen again. Nearby was a Marsham's Nomad Bee which was a new one on me too. A bright spring 'hutchinsoni' Comma also posed for a quick picture.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking, or rather trudging the track down to Trimley Marshes. It was largely fruitless, except for a fly-by female Orange Tip and loads of Peacocks. The first lagoon held nothing much of note except a couple of pairs of Avocets, 4 Black-tailed Godwits and a variety of common ducks of which a number of Pintail were the best. At Fagbury Point on the way back however I found a female type Black Redstart so all was not in vain!

                                                                                                                                        Wall Lizard
                                                                                                                                'hutchinsoni' Comma
                                                                                                                             Marsham's Nomad Bee

Glossy Ibis on Bowthorpe Marsh and a visit to Dickleburgh Moor, 24 March 2022

A Glossy Ibis has been hanging around Bowthorpe Marsh for a few days and being a Norwich area tick for me I poodled along there this morning. After a short search I found it feeding on the south side of the Yare at the far eastern end of the marsh. It gave some nice views in very good light, showing off it's glossyness! A Little Egret was also knocking about while I was further entertained. Earlier an 'off the lead' dog had tried to jump up me and a I had to have firm words with the owner to prevent it doing so and covering me with mud. A few minutes later that dog was attacked by another dog (also off it's lead) to the hysterical screams of it's female owner. Karma is a wonderful thing for sure, especially as she was still crying in the carpark a while later!

In the woods by the carpark it would have been a shame not to pay the Purple Toothwort another visit. This time a Garden Bumblebee was visiting this early nectar source. Bullfinch, Greenfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker were also in the wood and Chiffchaffs were singing all over.

Back closer to home I popped in to Dickleburgh Moor where 3 Little Ringed Plovers equalled my earliest date for the species. 5 Snipe, 2 pairs of Gadwall and a single Little Egret were also present but a Dunlin I'd seen the previous evening had departed.

                                                                                                                                         Glossy Ibis

                                                                                                Purple Toothwort and Garden Bumblebee


Hairy Violet, 23 March 2022

An after-work trip (probably the first of many this summer!) down into the Suffolk wilds to look for a species which has eluded me so far - Hairy Violet. Although relatively frequent in other parts of the country this chalk-loving species is rather scarce in East Anglia. Suffolk has a handful of records and Norfolk very few indeed.

Meg had given me a location near Lavenham so I headed there. And along a field-edge footpath found several patches with no bother at all. I'd expected them to be tricky to find! The very hairy stems, longish, pointed leaves, blunt sepals and distinctively paler and bluer flowers were all noted. Interestingly, in an adjacent shady area of trees there were Sweet Violets.

On the way home I stopped for a walk along Shaker's Lane in Bury St Edmunds which is supposed to hold Barberry. I failed to find any but did record the very similar Oregon Grape and on it a new fungi for me Mahonia Rust. Appearing as rusty-brown spots on the underside of the leaves. In the woods near the lane there were plenty of Early Dog Violets in bloom.

A brief stop at Mickle Mere en-route home was very quiet - a Painted Lady did fly across in front of the hide though.

                                                                                                                                     Hairy Violets
                                                                                                                                     Oregon Grape
                                                                                                                                       Mahonia Rust

                                                                                                                                 Early Dog Violets

Plant chasing and walk at Kessingland, 19 & 20 March 2022

Saturday saw me do some local plant-twitching. I've been wanting to track down the plant that goes by the strange name of Abraham-Isaac-Jacob (aka Oriental Borage) and a friend had found some at Brundall. I was waiting some details from him as I headed towards Norwich. Passing through Tasburgh on the A140 something caught my eye as I drove past so I stopped in a side road and walked back. And to my very pleasant surprise there was a big area on a steep bank covered in exactly the plant I wanted! I paused to take some photographs with the traffic whizzing past my lug-hole and moved on via loads of Danish Scurvygrass which is now lining our roads. 

With no need to go to Brundall any more I stopped at Shotesham Ford where I very quickly found what I wanted to see - Almond Willow growing by the waters edge. Due to a barbed wire fence I was unable to get as close as I wanted so thank goodness I had my bigs lens with me. 

Next stop was somewhere I have previously been at Bowthorpe but as it was a few years ago I wanted another look at the strange alien-like lifeform that is Purple Toothwort. I found it excatly where I remembered. 

Finally I headed arund the southern bypass and out towards Loddon where unfortunately my luck ran out as I failed to find Butterbur. Possibly it's too early but I live to fight another day with that one. 


                                                                                                                                    Almond Willow

                                                                                                                                    Purple Toothwort

Fast forward to Sunday and Belinda joined me for a walk south from Kessingland to Benacre and back. The northerly breeze was cold and migrants almost non-existent. 5 Stonechats, a few Meadow Pipits and Linnets on the move was about it on the outward walk. Stopping in a sheltered spot by the sluice for lunch on the walk back was a good call though as we were graced by a Black Redstart around the buildings. Botany-wise I found Field Wood-rush, Climbing Corydalis and Spring Beauty with loads of Knotted Wrack washed up all along the beach. 

                                                                                                                                 Climbing Corydalis
                                                                                                                                    Field Wood-rush
                                                                                                                                    Knotted Wrack

Sweet Violet var. sulfurea - at last! 18 March 2020

Having received a tip-off a while ago about some Sweet Violets var. sulfurea in Norwich I have looked for them 4 times with no luck. Admitedly a couple of visits were just quick drive-bys. It seems I was just a bit too early for them because on Friday I pulled up at the spot and there they were in all their splendor! This butter-yellow variation still retains it's purple spur making the colouration unusual and very attractive. Belinda took great delight in seeing me laying on the pavement in a busy urban street photographing them!