Saturday 18th August 2018

UK HOLIDAY - part 4 : WEST NORFOLK COTTAGE

The main part of the holiday was a week-long stay in a fabulous cottage in the West Norfolk countryside. The cottage was pretty isolated and was very peaceful, near the village of Little Fransham, between Swaffham and Dereham. It was a nice little area to potter around, taking photos and looking for creatures, especially as it was situated next to a pretty large fishpond.

 Holiday cottage near Little Fransham, Norfolk

Holiday cottage near Little Fransham, Norfolk

There were not huge amounts of birds in the area, probably due to being a quiet time of year, but we enjoyed watching the Swallows which were still nesting in the garage. Brief visitors to the trees and bushes in the cottage garden included a few Goldcrests and Coal Tits, flyover birds included Buzzards, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a few Jays, Yellowhammers and Red-legged Partridges were present in the surrounding fields, and a Tawny Owl was heard calling after dark one evening.

 Swallows, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Swallows, Little Fransham, Aug 18

With the ponds just yards from the door, I spent a long time looking for dragonflies. The presence of lily pads meant that Red-eyed Damselflies were present, and also Small Red-eyed Damselflies shared the same spots. The Small REDs had an extra mark of blue on the tail tip - which didn’t go all round the top - and their tails tended to curve upwards, whilst the regular REDs tails seemed to droop down (see photos below). The other species I recorded around the ponds were Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Emerald Damselflies, Ruddy Darters, and Brown and Migrant Hawkers.

 Red-eyed Damselfly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Red-eyed Damselfly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

 Small Red-eyed Damselfly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Small Red-eyed Damselfly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

 Common Blue Damselfly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Common Blue Damselfly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

The lily pad area was also covered by hundreds of Water-striders which appeared to be a pretty big species. I took photos and, using an online key, have identified them as Aquarius paludum. Also scuttling around on the surface of the water, just in one tiny spot, was a colony of Whirlygig Beetles, something that I don’t recollect ever seeing before. I did catch one of these and it keyed out to Gyrinus paykulli.

 Water striders (Aquarius paludum,) , Little Fransham, Aug 18

Water striders (Aquarius paludum,) , Little Fransham, Aug 18

 “Damsel in distress” - Water striders (Aquarius paludum) feasting on a Common Blue Damselfly.

“Damsel in distress” - Water striders (Aquarius paludum) feasting on a Common Blue Damselfly.

One evening, a Common Frog appeared at the window of the lounge of the cottage and sat there staring in. I don’t know what it was after - maybe insects attracted to the light of the windows. Smaller bats were common on the clear nights round the cottage, often passing so close it was a surprise they didn’t collide.

 Frog, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Frog, Little Fransham, Aug 18

 Frog, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Frog, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Each night, after dark, we had to close the windows to not only stop the mosquitos coming in, but to stop the Hornets too! They kept appearing at the windows looking like they were trying to break in. We also found 4 or 5 in the dining room and wondered how they got there until I realise that there was actually a Hornet nest in the chimney and the odd one was falling down and into the room. It was nice to get good looks at these massive, docile wasps that we don’t get in Guernsey. Another bitey thing we had in the cottage was a Twin-lobed Deerfly which, despite being rather attractive, apparently gives quite a nip. I escorted from the premises. I suppose when you are used to living in the country, you also get used to the local wildlife trying to move into your abode. Another vicious fly was the Cleg Fly I found resting on a fence with the crazy-coloured eyes.

 Hornet, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Hornet, Little Fransham, Aug 18

 Hornet, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Hornet, Little Fransham, Aug 18

 Hornet, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Hornet, Little Fransham, Aug 18

 Twin-lobed Deerfly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Twin-lobed Deerfly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

 Notch-horned Cleg Fly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Notch-horned Cleg Fly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

 Notch-horned Cleg Fly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Notch-horned Cleg Fly, Little Fransham, Aug 18

 Fly sp., Little Fransham, Aug 18

Fly sp., Little Fransham, Aug 18

The nights were not that warm so we didn’t have loads of moths at the windows at night but I did record a few interesting species like Orange Swift and Red Underwing. On a couple of occasions I took my net out after dark and grabbed a few flutterers, most of which were Ringed China-marks, not surprising with the water being so close. I did finally net a new species on the very last night, a rather splendid Treble-bar.

 Treble-bar, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Treble-bar, Little Fransham, Aug 18

Other new species seen whilst pottering around included a few beetles - Adonis Ladybird, Viburnum Leaf Beetle, Lesser Mealworm Beetle and Broad Bean Weevil - plus the distinctive bug, Malococoris chlorizans. There were a few plant species ticked off but mainly boring weeds. We did go to a few other spots, but these were mainly short walks with Anais in the woods, or visits to ‘attractions’ so I didn’t really see much new away from our lodgings.

 White Bryony, Little Fransham, Aug 18

White Bryony, Little Fransham, Aug 18

So an enjoyable week spent mooching around somewhere new and having a (sometimes!) relaxing time with the family.

 Anais and me discussing the finer points of damselfly ID by the cottage pond

Anais and me discussing the finer points of damselfly ID by the cottage pond

Saturday 11th August 2018

UK HOLIDAY - part 3 : EAST NORFOLK

After being chased by the rain all day, it was great to arrive at Andy’s place for a rest. However, we didn’t rest for too long as I still had new species to tick off and we went for a walk round the village. The sun came out and I enjoyed the splendour of rural Norfolk. One of the first things we saw was another new species of Odonata with a Willow Emerald Damselfly in the lane near Andy’s house. This species is a recent coloniser to the UK and is now apparently pretty widespread. Another invasive species we saw evidence of was the Elm Zig-zag Sawfly, which had made characteristic feeding patterns on many elm leaves round the village (although we never saw a live ‘un). This species has only been discovered in the last couple of years and has expanded its range exponentially in the last year or so. Coming to a tree near you! A search of the marshy areas of Shotesham Common found quite a few new plant species for me including Angelica, Fen Bedstraw, Meadowsweet and Spear Mint. I couldn’t stop smelling the leaves of the latter as they transported me right back to my childhood and unwrapping strips of ‘Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum’.

 The Norfolk countryside

The Norfolk countryside

 Willow Emerald Damselfly - Shotesham, 10 Aug 18

Willow Emerald Damselfly - Shotesham, 10 Aug 18

 Willow Emerald Damselfly - Shotesham, 10 Aug 18

Willow Emerald Damselfly - Shotesham, 10 Aug 18

The next morning (11th August) we had planned to join a moth-trapping session at Strumpshaw Fen where I hoped to get some decent wetland species, but the overnight weather was peculiarly cold and the traps were practically empty, so it was cancelled. Andy’s moth trap was also pretty empty which was disappointing. We headed for Strumpshaw anyway and we had a lovely morning walking around in the sun. I saw lots of marshland plants I’d never seen before - 21 new species - some of which are quite range-restricted and don’t grow in many places away from the fens. The full list: Frog-bit, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Fern, Water Chickweed, Yellow Loosestrife, Water Dock, Marsh Pea, Cowbane, Milk Parsley, Great Fen-sedge, Marsh Cinquefoil, Guelder Rose, Yellow Water-lily, Common Hemp-nettle, Orange Balsam, Golden Dock, Water-soldier, Everlasting Pea, Aspen, Bullwort, Rigid Hornwort. We had a look around the Milk Parsley for Swallowtail caterpillars but we couldn’t find any, but there were lots of insects on the wing in the sun. We disturbed a Beautiful China-mark which was indeed pretty beautiful and no doubt very common here, but new for me. Many species were not identified but we had the common marsh-loving beetle Anthocomus rufus, a large leaf-cutting bee Megachile ligniseca as well as plenty of common butterflies and dragonflies. Perched on the lily pads along the edge of the slow-moving River Yare, we saw a few Small Red-eyed Damselflies - my 8th new dragonfly of the week. We saw a few birds but they were not really what we were looking for. Plenty of Marsh Harriers soaring about, a great Hobby circling above the car park and a few Marsh Tits in the large trees by the lanes. I took photos of some fish which were showing well in the sunlight and they turned out to be Rudd according to the internet. We had a fabulous morning’s walk round the reserve and could have stayed all day - a great place.

 Strumpshaw Fen - it’s quite wet.

Strumpshaw Fen - it’s quite wet.

 Water-soldier - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

Water-soldier - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

 Frogbit - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

Frogbit - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

 Beautiful China-mark - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

Beautiful China-mark - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

 Southern Hawker - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

Southern Hawker - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

 Azure Damselflies - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

Azure Damselflies - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

 Small Red-eyed Damselfly - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

Small Red-eyed Damselfly - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

 Anthocomus rufus - a common beetle at Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

Anthocomus rufus - a common beetle at Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18

 Rudd - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18 - Although my fish ID is non-existent, the internet indicates that these must be Rudd due to colouration, especially the bright red fins, the upward pointing mouth and the relative position of the fins.

Rudd - Strumpshaw, 11 Aug 18 - Although my fish ID is non-existent, the internet indicates that these must be Rudd due to colouration, especially the bright red fins, the upward pointing mouth and the relative position of the fins.

Around lunchtime we had to depart and I managed two more plant ticks - Hoary Mullein along the Norwich by-pass and Stinking Hellebore back in Shotesham. I then made my way south to Stansted to pick up the family from the airport to start our holiday proper. So many thanks to Andy for showing me lots of new stuff. In the 48 hours we had pan-listing in four counties, including a few post-trip identifications, I managed 92 new species which was superb.

 Some people may assume that this photo shows a senior BTO official attacking a family of swans with a sweep net - I disagree with this point of view.

Some people may assume that this photo shows a senior BTO official attacking a family of swans with a sweep net - I disagree with this point of view.