Queen-of-Spain Fritillaries and some good plants, 23 July 2023

The lure of some Queen-of-Spain Fritillaries near Brantham in Suffolk was to much to ignore on Sunday. Despite the weather not being ideal and a wind blowing over their favoured flower meadow some good views of c12 individuals were obtained when eventually some decided to settle. Now, these are 99% likely to be of dubious origin despite more records in recent years but lovely to see nonetheless. The Minsmere/Dunwich ones were an awfully long time ago! The meadow itself was worth a look with Common Cudweed, Bugloss, Field Pansy (the food plant of QoSF!), Alsike Clover, Lucerne and many others giving it a splash of colour. 

Queen-of-Spain Fritillaries

                                                                                                                                Alsike Clover

After having our fill we relocated to Stutton and walked down to the Stour Estuary at Stutton Ness. Here I was delighted to find Lax-flowered Sea Lavender for only the 2nd time, Samphire sp, Common Cord-grass, Sea Aster, Sea Purslane, Lesser Sea Spurrey, Greater Sea Spurrey, Common Centaury and Butcher's Broom. On the walk back some naturalised Garden Clary held a new beetle for me - the attractive Red & Black Rhopalid (aka Cinnamon Bug). The hoverfly Volucella inaria was another new one for me on the return walk.

                                                                                                                       Lax-flowered Sea Lavender
                                                                                                                                Lesser Sea Spurrey
                                                                                                                               Butcher's Broom
                                                                                                                                Common Centaury
                                                                                                                             Red & Black Rhopalid
                                                                                                                                 Garden Clary
                                                                                                                                   Volucella inaria

Camembert Brittlegill, Russula amoenolens, Wortham Ling, 22 July 2023

Despite the inclement weather Belinda and I did a couple of walks on Saturday - at Wortham Ling and Redgrave & Lopham Fen.

In the end the weather wasn't as bad as feared and I'm glad we ventured out because I found the fungi Camembert Brittlegill, Russula amoenolens under oaks at Wortham Ling which has turned out to be the first Suffolk record! The Russulas are a large fungi genus and notoriously difficult to id. R.amoenolens is one of  relatively small number with a dark brown cap which often has a darker centre and has a ridged margin. The give away is the smell however - a strong cheesy whiff that made me want to reach for the crackers and chutney!

Even on the dullest of days there's always something to peak the interest


Broad-leaved Helleborine in Norwich as a precursor to the Global Birdfair, 16 July 2023

Sunday was earmarked for a day out at the Global Birdfair with Jus, Andy and Dave. Before our rendezvous at Jus's house I had time to nip into central Norwich for a Broad-leaved Helleborine which I'd been told about. This isn't a common species at all in Norfolk so it was good to see one at a new, if rather odd location! It has to be said it wasn't the best looking specimen I've ever seen though. Nearby was some nice Purple Toadflax.

Having got up extra early I even had time for a walk around the wet woodland/marshes near Jus's at Old Lakenham as well. Here I found Meadow Cranesbill, Common Valerian and Reed Canary Grass of interest. 

Our day at the Birdfair was punctuated by heavy downpours and a rather muddy site but nonetheless a good time was had by all. I attended nice talks about Borneo, Estonia and Bhutan, the latter done by friend Paul Varney. As ever we caught up with a few people, bought books, drank coffee and hatched plans! Several Red Kites livened up the journey in both directions.

                                                                                                                         Broad-leaved Helleborine
                                                                                                                             Purple Toadflax
                                                                                                                        Common Valerian
                                                                                                                              Reed Canary Grass
                                                                                                                          Meadow Cranesbill

Stinking Tutsan, Norwich, 9 July 2023

Having tracked down the rough area it was growing I took the opportunity of a visit to Norwich yesterday to seek out Stinking Tutsan, a plant I'd not seen before.

It couldn't have been easier to find being a big shrub by the side of a lane. Indeed I spotted it before I got out of the car. It certainly lived up to it's name having rather unpleasant smelling leaves when crushed. 


A feel good day, 4 July 2023

A while ago I posted on Twitter offering my old Canon 50d camera free to anyone who could make use of it. 

First to respond was a guy from Cambridge who's 6-year old daughter has started taking wildlife photos. Due to me being away it was this week until he was able to collect and due to work I missed his visit. Belinda met him however and when I got home I was delighted to find a thankyou card from his daughter Poppy and a book by way of thanks.

A completely unexpected and lovely gesture that made my day!

I really hope Poppy enjoys her new camera and look forward to seeing the results on Twitter.


A rather 'different' day twitching! 2 July 2023

Readers of this blog may have realised that my birding in the UK and even locally haven't been what they once were. I have become a little jaded with the UK birding scene. Maybe it's an age thing, maybe it's the fact I've been at it for so long, maybe it's because there are now far more birders chasing far fewer birds. Whatever it is I have turned to other strands of natural history and have been really enjoying the learning process. 

So, when news of a first for Norfolk in the form of an eclipse drake Lesser Scaup at Colney GPs broke a few days ago I wasn't in a massive hurry to go. News from the field was that viewing is difficult, the bird distant etc didn't fill me full of enthusiasm. But I cracked and went early on Sunday having spent the previous two days laid up with a flu/cold shitty thing. Yes, I saw said bird and it is an addition to my Norfolk list but did I enjoy the moment - not a huge amount! 2 Common Sandpipers and 1-2 Common Terns were almost as enjoyable to be honest.

Heading off down the A11 to Attleborough I began 'phase 2' of the day - a train ride to Cambridge for some botanical twitching. Why the train? Well at just 20 quid return it was cheaper and more relaxing than driving! I literally bought my ticket online on the platform and 10 minutes later was boarding. The subject of the trip was a long-wanted plant Ivy Broomrape that thanks to a contact in Cambridge  I knew was flowering in the spot I asked him to check for me. It was a 3km walk from the station but on arrival I was amazed to find hundreds of plants, all growing on Atlantic Ivy under a single Holm Oak in some very unnatural-looking surroundings! See the pic below. 

With time to kill before my return train I had a good mooch around Cambridge including a good read in the natural history section in Heffer's bookshop. Cutting through Parker's Piece I noticed a corner which has been left to go wild (and probably scattered with 'wildflower' seed) and it contained Cornflower, Forking Larkspur, Ladies Bedstraw, Wild Carrot and Musk Mallow.

                                                                                                                      Ivy Broomrape and location
                                                                                                                          Musk Mallow
                                                                                                                                 Forking Larkspur
                                                                                                                            Ladies Bedstraw


Another visit to Market Weston Fen, 30 June 2023

I trundled along to Market Weston Fen yesterday morning, primarily in search of the scarce 'ochroleuca' form of Marsh Heleborine. I found that virtually all the Marsh Helleborines there were at the pale end of the the spectrum with quite a few spot-on for ochroleuca. Having seen the 'alba' form before this is very similar but shows pink veins inside the flower as shown on the photos below.

Suffering from a heavy summer cold I didn't venture far but in the usual area of fen saw quite a bit of interest with Common Spotted Orchids, Southern Marsh Orchids, Marsh Fragrant Orchids and the usual confusion of dact hybrids. A single 'ocroleuca' Early Marsh Orchid was still out but obviously a bit past it's best. Other good fenland plants incuded Fen Bedstraw, Bog Pimpernel, Marsh Lousewort, Marsh Valerian, Great Fen Sedge and Marsh Thistle as well at both Milk Thistle and Cotton Thistle in the cow meadow. 

Insects were good too with a couple of new ones for me - the attractive fly Waved Picture-winged Fly and the elongated Common Twist-winged Hoverfly plus Roesel's Bush Cricket. Small Skipper and Meadow Brown were the only butterflies seen.

                                                                                                                 'ochroleuca' Marsh Helleborine

                                                                                                                        Marsh Fragrant Orchid

                                                                                                                                  dact hybrids
                                                                                                                              Great Fen Sedge
                                                                                                                                  Fen Bedstraw

                                                                                                                              Bog Pimpernel

                                                                                                                               Marsh Valerian

                                                                                                                                 Cotton Thistle
                                                                                                                                Milk Thistle
                                                                                                                                      Small Skipper
                                                                                                                        Waved Picture-winged Fly
                                                                                                                               Roesel's Bush Cricket
                                                                                                                 Common Twist-tailed Hoverfly