A Tale of Two Bugs

November’s guided walk at NWT Thorpe Marshes was on a lovely mild morning. Stonechats are overwintering on the reserve for the third time and both of the pair showed well for the group of 20 people. However winter birds, such as ducks on the gravel pit, St Andrews Broad, were all but absent.
The riverside footpath isn’t always the nicest with some muddy patches, but it feels sheltered and lush. Keen eyed group members found two interesting bugs tucked into the stinging nettles and white dead-nettles.
I guess any experienced bug observer would know them, but I couldn’t name them straight away and that feels like a good reason to share their names and pictures. Much as most of us would know blackbirds and chaffinches, or red admirals and large whites, common bugs feel like a learning curve worth tackling.
Thorpe Marshes regular Susan Weeks showed herself to be that experienced bug observer and came up with the right IDs on the spot. Well, I was impressed.
The red and black bug is Corizus h…

Brochure wrap

The Honeyguide brochure for 2019 will drop on doormats soon. This year it will be in an envelope rather than polythene wrap. The colourful covers will be hidden, but the aim is straightforward – to avoid single use plastic.
I’ve used the same local mailing house, Cavalier, for many years. I also meet my main contact there from time to time on the youth football circuit, another reason to stay loyal. Magazines from the National Trust and RSPB now come in a see-through wrap made from potato starch, like the material used quite widely for food waste bins, and these compost readily. Could the same, I asked, be arranged for the Honeyguide mailshot?
They had reservations. Starch wraps have short shelf-life. If there’s no demand, there is soon a decomposing pile in the warehouse.
Secondly, will they be widely used? They cost about 3p each compared with about 1p each for plastic. That’s a modest difference in cost for a small mailshot – of about 1,000 – for Honeyguide. Others may not think the …

Nosey grasshoppers

It’s not uncommon in southern Europe to come across a grasshopper that looks like a stick insect. A quick browse in Chinery’s book on insects and there was a species that matched it well – Acrida ungarica. This book gives no English name but more recently names that crop up are nosed grasshopper or cone-headed grasshopper, from its look, and Hungarian grasshopper, from its scientific name.
Insect ID often isn’t that easy and that’s the case here. Paul Tout, Honeyguide leader in Istria and Slovenia, sent me a link to an Italian picture showing two species. Some internet sources show three subspecies.
Then Paul Brock’s book ‘A photographic guide to Insects of Southern Europe & the Mediterranean’ was released late in 2017, and a visit to Crete in April was an ideal time to test this fine new book in the field.
The insects in Crete match perfectly what Brock calls Truxalis nasuta or Nosey Cone-headed Grasshopper (using Brock’s style of capital letters). The IUCN* calls this species Splen…

Nature in the heart of Norwich

For several years I have kept track of the fortunes of some bee orchids in urban Norwich. It all started by accident when I was cycling past and noticed both a bee orchid and a man with a strimmer. 

That conversation led to an annual visit to a patch of grass - now a wild flower meadow - outside Big Yellow Self Storage on Canary Way, opposite Norwich City FC’s football ground (for exampleBig Yellow bee orchids are back, June 2016).
Fast forward ten seasons and leaving the flowers to grow and bloom has become routine here – in a good way. Never mind the orchids – the show of ox-eye daisies is reason enough to stop and take a look. 

Of course ox-eye daisies are common on roadside verges, but somehow sandwiched between a garage and a supermarket alongside the inner ring road they have extra appeal. Not surprisingly the flowers were buzzing with bees when I took a close look on 5 June 2018.

Bee orchids like thin turf and have a way of popping up opportunistically in surprising and often infer…

Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s (part 2)

In a previous Norfolk Wildlife Trust blog [Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s, January 2017] I wrote about Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s. That was after meeting John Rushmer who, during that decade, had a herd of cattle for milking on what is now the NWT nature reserve - Honeyguide's local patch. At that time I had no pictures from the 1960s to illustrate the story.
John Rushmer has now located two slides taken at the time. The Kodachrome slides are undated, but they are of a design used by Kodak from 1959-1962. John was offered the grazing in 1960 and started grazing livestock there from 1961; these slides show the marshes after ploughing and sowing with rye grass so they will be from 1961 at the earliest and more likely from 1962. The slides were scanned and cleaned up by Thorpe Marshes volunteer Derek Longe.
The first is a view of Thorpe Marshes from the pedestrian footbridge over the adjacent railway line, looking south. The most striking feature of the landscape is its openness. There’s…

A bird in the hand

There are good reasons why Andalucia, Extremadura or the Pyrenees are often the first places in mainland Spain visited by wildlife enthusiasts. However two Honeyguide holidays in Valencia have shown that this region also has much to offer, with the right local knowledge.

Pau Lucio provides that local know-how as well as plenty of experience of the Honeyguide style. Pau is a member of local ringing group Pit-roig (Valencian for the robin), supported by this holiday’s conservation donations. One of the group’s regular working areas is Pego Marshes, not far from our hotel tucked away in an orange grove outside the town of Oliva.
On our first visit to Pego Marshes in 2018 the late afternoon sunshine provided perfect conditions to see low-flying pallid swifts, often a tricky bird to see well.
The Honeyguide group in March 2018, as in March 2016, was also privileged to see the results of a ringing session at Pego. High winds meant the first date was called off but all was well when we arrived…
Beavers in Poland In his third bulletin on mammals in Biebrza National Park, Artur Wiatr, Honeyguide’s leader in Poland, writes about beavers. Photos by Piotr Dombrowski. "Beaver: the second largest rodent in the world and the biggest one in Europe, known for its very interesting behaviour. Biebrza the river was named after the beaver and in old Polish language Biebrza means ‘beaver's river’. Considering that now it is a very numerous mammal it may be hard to believe that in the beginning of the 20th century beavers became extinct here. They were reintroduced to Biebrza again from Russia after WW2. "Beavers have a high sense and knowledge of water engineering, reflected in building dams, creating ponds, building lodges and digging corridors and chambers in the ground. Doing this process, beavers improve local environmental conditions for other animals yet sometimes may be in conflict with what man would not like to see, such as flooded meadows or broken trees. "Beavers…