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Hickling guided walk, 20 May 2022

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The first local Honeyguide trip since overseas holidays resumed was planned with an eye on a sunny weather forecast, though as today approached that changed. It was cool at first then rain arrived for the four of us who met at NWT Hickling. On a recent visit to Hickling, Helen and Malcolm had encountered cranes and that persuaded us to return here, and to go in their direction when we arrived. That took us along the path by Brendan’s Marsh, where the mix of waders was very impressive. Avocets, redshank and lapwings were to be expected. Half a dozen dunlins were nice as was a single greenshank; a grey plover in full summer plumage showed why in North America they are known as black-bellied plover. A little ringer plover repeatedly flew around and there were three male ruffs with white, black and rufous breeding plumage. Two cranes beyond the gate; greylag & Canada geese, cormorants and gadwalls nearer. Looking down the open area just beyond the end of Brendan’s Marsh we struck luc

Three more records of hoof fungus gnats

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This Honeyguide blog is a copy of a short paper that was published in The Norfolk Natterjack, quarterly bulletin of the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists' Society. It seems apt to include it here as two of the new findings were on local (Norfolk) Honeyguide events, and previously reported on the Honeyguide blog (see links in the blog). The paper as published is here:  Natterjack 156, February 2022, pp3-5 ; it followed up   this article   about the third record of this species in England and second in Norfolk. The paper and this blog follows NNNS house style, with capital letters for species. Three more records of Hoof Fungus gnats Inspired by the account of Hoof Fungus Fomes fomentarius in Norfolk’s Wonderful 150 and knowing that the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists’ Society is studying the new Broadland Country Park, when I found Hoof Fungus in the country park I emailed Tony Leech to check that it was known from there. I also mentioned that Sarah Burston, the park’s manager, h

Brecks guided walk, 17 February 2022

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Honeyguide’s first group in the Brecks followed last week’s recce visit and last night’s Storm Dudley. There were fallen branches in places, and twice very brief showers, but generally it was dry and bright, if a little windy sometimes.   We met at the Forestry Commission’s car park at Santon Downham – from which there were brief sightings of siskin and sparrowhawk – and we walked to and then by the river Little Ouse. It’s probably worth saying at the outset that were unsuccessful in finding lesser spotted woodpecker today; perhaps it was just a little too blustery. We started with a good view of a little grebe near some mallards on the river. Robins and great tits were singing and some in the group found a marsh tit. Galls on reed. An oddly shaped gall on the left (JM), which Tim Strudwick advises is made by the 'corkscrew gall mite' Steneotarsonemus phragmitidis . On the right is a more typical cigar gall (CD). Violet ground beetle wing case. Being a group of Honeyguiders,

Brecks recce, 11 February 2022

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A bright late winter’s day was ideal to check out some places in the Brecks for a future local Honeyguide event, and Rob Lucking, Julie and I met in the Forestry Commission’s car park at Santon Downham. That’s just into Suffolk, though as soon we’d crossed the bridge to walk alongside the river Little Ouse we were in Norfolk. We weren’t the only people out today: the steady trickly of birdwatchers were mostly here as this is one of the very few places to see lesser spotted woodpecker nowadays. The reason was immediately apparent: this is nothing like the typical conifer plantations of so much of the Brecks. Instead, this river valley has a mix of open areas and deciduous trees, mostly poplars, with very obviously a lot of standing dead timber, which ‘lesser spots’ like. Little Ouse at Santon Downham. Another general view by the Little Ouse at Santon Downham. In a tangle of branches in the Little Ouse a little grebe surfaced, then two, then three. They were surprisingly close, perhaps

Potter Heigham marshes, 28 January 2022

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Honeyguide’s first ever local guided walk was at Potter Heigham Marshes, and a weather forecast suggesting sunshine prompted a return visit. The reality was a very misty start to the day, with the sun looking more like a full moon first thing, though happily the day became steadily brighter. Potter Heigham Marshes is usually a good place for birds and so it proved as soon as we were overlooking the grazing marshes, with the backs of riverside chalets behind us. A crow on the grass and rooks on wires were followed by three gull species, for easy comparison: herring, black-headed and common gulls, the last with a ‘kind face’, as Chris A noted. More on common gulls later. The nearby lapwings were looking very smart, a male with his long fascinator-style crest. A little egret flew through, and two snipe dashed away. Moving on, a flock of 70 or so pink-footed geese flew over, then returned in the other direction. Arriving at the lagoons area there were more geese, namely a group of grey

Holkham, 17 January 2022

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The sun was shining as eight of us gathered in Lady Anne’s Drive, with birds all around us. Noisiest were hundreds of pink-footed geese on the marshes to the west. There was a hunched-up hare by a bramble bush just beyond a curlew. On the other side of the road there were good numbers of wigeons and a large flock of lapwings, with buzzards on two perches. Pink-footed geese (digiscoped). After a quick visit to the loos at the Lookout CafĂ©, we headed through the pines, pausing to pick a piece of the abundant spring beauty under a bush. We turned right and headed for where several birdwatchers were coming and going, the draw here a flock of snow buntings. They were certainly confiding, often mobile with flashes of white in flight, so much so that counting them was quite a challenge: somewhere in the 85-90 range was the conclusion. With them, here some distance from the shore, was a group of 15 sanderlings. A few of the snow bunting flock (digiscoped). Holkham Estate wardens Andrew Bloomfi

Whitlingham Country Park, 14 January 2022

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Mandarin drake. A perfect winter’s day: a crisp frost, to harden muddy paths, with sun coming through to warm Honeyguiders. From the car park at Whitlingham Country Park we could see that the lone shag, here in this unusual inland setting since 3 January, was in its usual resting place on the pontoon floating in Whitlingham Great Broad. Whitlingham Woods. Winter sunshine (Ann Greenizan). However, we set off in a slightly different direction, through the picnic meadow and into Whitlingham Woods. On a January day, enjoying a walk in the sunshine was rewarding enough, though there was wildlife to steady and identify. A pile of very big logs was a good place to see fungi. Turkeytail was abundant; the biggest fungi were chunky southern brackets; also here were hairy curtain crust and the emerging yellow tips of some yellow stagshorn. Southern bracket. Turkeytail. A little further along, Ann was alert to some yellow brain fungi; this parasitic and distinctive species is always nice to see. B