In search of Ladybirds, Earlham Cemetery, 27 March 2024

I spent a good couple of hours in Earlham Cemetery yesterday, primarily looking for ladybirds. 

My quest was to find Larch Ladybird, a species I've never caught up with - and still haven't! Despite much scouring of the accessible branches and trunks of 3 large Larches I couldn't find one. Despite that I did find an amazing 33 Pine Ladybirds (including several mating pairs), several Harlequin Ladybirds of different forms, a Tawny Mining Bee and the dark green ant Formica fusca. While diligently checking the branches I also came across the tiny but distinctive Fringed Rosette Lichen, Physcia tenella

A vocal Nuthatch was also in the same area. 

                                                                                                                             Fringed Rosette Lichen
                                                                                                                                 Formica fusca

                                                                                                                                  Pine Ladybirds

5 Lesser Scaup at Minsmere! 24 March 2024

For once we were in the right place at the right time! Having almost completed our long walk taking in Thorpeness, Sizewell and Aldringham Walks news broke of this group of 5 Lesser Scaup on Island Mere at Minsmere. We scorched in and Belinda dropped me off at the Rhododendron tunnel from where it was a short walk to the hide. All 5 birds were bobbing about together on arrival and having no scope with me Jane Ferguson kindly lent me hers so I could have a close look. The group comprised 3 drakes and 2 females and are the same group that overwintered at Abberton and have now decided that spring is here and are moving north. A dozen or so Sand Martins over Island Mere were my first of the year and 2 Bitterns were booming away in the reedbeds. 

Earlier our walk had yielded very little apart from numerous Chiffchaffs and a handful of Kittiwakes around the platforms at Sizewell.

Leaving the house that morning however and my usual quick check of the shrubs in the front garden revealed a new hoverfly for me Hairy-eyed Flower Fly plus a skittish Chocolate Mining Bee

                                                                                                                           Hairy-eyed Flower Fly
                                                                                                                             Chocolate Mining Bee

A 'flying' visit to Norwich, 23 March 2024

We were hospital visiting in Norwich on Saturday and combined it with a walk along Earlham Road into the city for lunch. The verges on Earlham Road are covered in Glory-of-the-Snow at the moment and look lovely. Even lovelier however were a couple of Grey-backed Mining Bees, Andrena vaga at a newly discovered small colony on West Pottergate near the underpass. This species was first seen in Norfolk in 2021 and remains very rare. I only had my phone with me so will have to return for some better photos. Hairy-footed Flower Bee was the other sighting of note.

                                                                                                                     Grey-backed Mining Bee
                                                                                                                         Hairy-footed Flower Bee

Smockmill Common, 22 March 2024

I spent a couple of hours having a mooch around Smockmill Common at Saxlingham Nethergate yesterday. Concentrating on the wet areas by the River Tas I found a few items of interest amongst the dead reed stems and emerging comfrey plants. 

There were snails everywhere with White-lipped Snail, Amber Snail, Garden Snail and Copse Snail, the latter being a new one for me. On the comfrey I found the rather strange-looking and moth-like Pneumia nubila, the cranefly Limnophila schranki and Nettle Plant Bug, Liocoris tripustulatus. One Common Toad, Mistle Thrush, Tapered Drone Fly and Hairy-footed Flower Bee were the best of the rest.

                                                                                                                                     Copse Snail
                                                                                                                               White-lipped Snail
                                                                                                                                Pneumia nubila
                                                                                                                               Limnophila schranki
                                                                                                                                Nettle Plant Bug

Pot twitching, 19 March 2024

A trip into Norwich on a 'pot twitch'!

A species I've wanted to see for some while but never managed to find is Adonis Ladybird. My friend Vanna was aware of this and found not 1 but 2 in the lavender in her garden yesterday - and kindly potted them up for me. Thus it was an relaxed drive into Norwich (which I had to visit anyway) to gawp at a pair of this distinctive ladybird 'in cop'. I hope we didn't distract them too much from their important activity! They weren't the only item of interest because Jeremy produced 2 fungi specimens which he had collected in Wayland Wood and done the necessary microscopy at home - Ruby Elfcup (impossible to seperate from Scarlet Elfcup without microscopy) and Rosellinia britannica on a piece of Ash bark. Back in the garden there was a Birch Shieldbug and a Double-striped Pug.

I do love a trip to see the Bartletts!  

                                                                                                                           Adonis Ladybirds
                                                                                                                               Birch Shieldbug
                                                                                                                         Double-striped Pug
                                                                                                                                Rosellinia britannica
                                                                                                                             Ruby Elfcup

A super exciting find! Wilby, 18 March 2024

The churchyard at Wilby near Attleborough was a new spot for me on Monday as I dragged myself out. I was buoyed by the fact that it's not far to drive, or walk once there as I ease myself back to life! The first singing Chiffchaff of the year serenaded me as I left the house.

The reason for wanting to go was that Jeremy and Vanna had found Bristly Millipedes on the walls of south side of the church - a lovely little species I was keen to see. It took me some while to find a couple. I knew they were small but didn't have any real appreciation as to how small! Nonetheless they are perfection in miniature which I hope shows in my photographs below. Also on the wall was a very small metallic bee which I photographed and have since been able to narrow down to Smeathman's Furrow Bee (with the help of Steven Falk), one of 4 very very similar metallic Lasioglossums. What a fantastic learning curve!

                                                                                                                                  Bristly Millipede

                                                                                                                        Smeathman's Furrow Bee

After that success I turned my attention to the rest of the churchyard and it didn't disappoint. Along the north side around Lesser Celandines and flowering Ivy I found Pied Shieldbug, Pine Ladybird, Harlequin Ladybird, Seven-spotted Ladybird, the sawfly Aglaostigma aucupariae, my first Dark-edged Beefly of the spring, Yellow Dung Fly, Brimstone and Short-fringed Mining Bee.

                                                                                                                                    Pied Shieldbug
                                                                                                                           Aglaostigma aucupariae
                                                                                                                                  Pine Ladybird
                                                                                                                               Yellow Dung Fly
                                                                                                                        Short-fringed Mining Bee

As I turned to leave I spotted one more flowering shrub at the east end of the churchyard so wandered over to have a quick look - and struck gold! A largish and very distinctively dark 'pied' bee was nectaring  and luckily stuck around for a few photos. At the time I didn't know what it was but being so distinctive was sure I could id it from photographs. And it has turned out to be the very rare Ashy Furrow Bee, Lasioglossum sexnotatum. A mega exciting find of a species with just a handful of records from just Norfolk and Suffolk at an exceptionally early date and new location. That made my morning, if not my whole spring! The same shrub also had a nice Grey-patched Mining Bee

                                                                                            Ashy Furrow Bee, Lasioglossum sexnotatum
                                                                                                                         Grey-patched Mining Bee


Garden inverts, 16 March 2024

I'm currently struck down with the lurgy and now entering my 9th day without going further than the end of the drive! With the sun out yesterday I had a wander around the garden and found a few inverts of interest that had been lured out with the warm temperatures. Best for me was a new hoverfly Meliscaevea auricollis (with the typical dark colouration of early individuals which have developed in cold conditions) but I also found my first Comma of the year, Green Shieldbugs, Nursery Web Spiders, Ichneumon stramentor, Tapered Drone Fly, Seven-spot Ladybirds, Two-spot Ladybird and Yellow-legged Mining Bee. The scarce micro moth Black-spot Buff was also a surprise find on the wall of our landing the previous evening. With only 3 county records in 2023 I was rather pleased to find one.

Singing Greenfinches, Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Dunnocks hint that resident birds are gearing up for spring...

                                                                                                                              Meliscaevea auricollis
                                                                                                                       Yellow-legged Mining Bee
                                                                                                                             Ichneumon stramentor
                                                                                                                                Tapered Drone Fly
                                                                                                                           Black-spot Buff

Little Gulls at Dickleburgh Moor, 8 March 2024

The find of 6 Little Gulls down at the moor by John Marchant was perfectly timed for a Friday lunchtime when I was just about to finish work!

A quick change at home and I dashed out on the short drive down to Dickleburgh. The birds were seen almost immediately and entertained by coming pretty close to the near edge of the water frequently while feeding. All were adult winters with a couple starting to get a pink flush on the breast. Also there were a Red Kite and Common Buzzard up in the air together, Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and a lone Fieldfare on the path.

Later on I returned with Belinda to watch the Starling murmuration which we estimated at 8-10,000 birds strong. The Little Gulls had departed by then.

                                                                                                                               Little Gulls