Thursday 27 May 2021

Buxton Heath guided walk, 27 May 2021

A dry day, which was a relief after this cold and wet day, even if the sun didn’t come out, and the five of us were rewarded immediately by a singing willow warbler in the trees by the car park. Moving up the hill along Buxton Heath’s western edge, we were soon enjoying the sights and sounds of yellowhammer and stonechats. 

Stonechat, male.

We looked at currant galls and oak apples on oak trees. There wasn’t much in the way of flowers apart from gorse, though we did note four-petalled tormentil and some thyme-leaved speedwell. Farther on there was a fine lousewort in flower by the side of the path, and the first bloom of bell heather.

Lousewort.

By now a cuckoo was calling and we saw it fly past on about three occasions. We completed a loop through the wood at the north-west corner of the heath, encountering the site’s managers, namely Dartmoor ponies and British white cattle as we returned to the heath. We had good view of two buzzards, nowadays quite a routine sighting. The penny dropped that thin shrubs near the lousewort were alder buckthorns.

Alder buckthorn leaves.
 
Yellowhammer.

Returning to the first area with the most birds, we had more view of yellowhammers, linnets and especially some rather confiding stonechats, allowing me take some digiscoped photos. A stock dove flew through and landed in a distant tree.

Stonechat, female.

Chris Durdin

Monday 10 May 2021

Ranworth revisited, 10 May 2021

Fine weather and quite a lot of sunshine: big positives to start with compared with the previous group visit on 30 April that was cut short by a fierce hailstorm.

We followed the same route, the quiet road alongside the Bure Marshes National Nature Reserve, this time with puddles showing the volume of the rain that, happily, had fallen during the night. We took a careful look at a pair of pied wagtails on a pasture on the high land to our right, taking in the blacker back and bigger bib on the male, realising how often we see them as little more than a silhouette on a roof.

View over Bure Marshes NNR.

Over the low-lying marshes, four lapwings were displaying, calling, twisting, turning and diving in flight. They then injected additional pace and urgency as they dive-bombed a crow on the ground,
then went up to mob a marsh harrier. This was one of two male marsh harriers in the sky and a scan revealed at least two more harriers over the far reedbed, plus lots of swifts. Inevitably there were many herons and Sue was alert to a little egret that flew in. A pair of gadwalls was close by on the nearest open water and others were in flight; other wildfowl were mostly greylags. Swallows and house martins were on the wing at various times during the morning.

On the paths by the meadows and the wood that backs onto South Walsham Broad we put names –sometimes multiple names, like Queen Anne’s lace and cow parsley – to many flowers and plants. Ann was on the look-out for bees, as ever; a particularly large red-tailed bumblebee comes to mind. Julie then joined the group, having cycled from Norwich.

Back at the staithe we had a relaxed cup of coffee, some with cake, from the Granary. I then picked up my telescope before we walked to the boardwalk that goes out through wet carr woodland and fen to Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s floating visitor centre on the edge of Ranworth Broad. Warblers were singing, a good range that included sedge, reed and Cetti’s warblers, chiffchaffs and a willow warbler in view on an open tree. A male reed bunting showed well, too.

Boardwalk to Ranworth Broad.

We failed to find orange tip eggs on lady’s smock flowers; the other flowers very much in evidence, in the cut fen near the visitor centre, were marsh marigolds. Lots of marsh fern was in its early stages and discussion turned to the royal fern that is known to be here, though it wasn’t until we were walking back that Ann found it. 

Royal fern, early growth.

At Ranworth Broad, the most obvious birds were black-headed gulls settled on the platform. Common terns were in good numbers, one or two on posts, but none had yet settled to nest. Great crested grebes were there in good numbers, including a pair nest-building on the floating barrier in the water put in as part of the Tipping the Balance project to restore clear water and the aquatic plants once common in the Broads.

An odd place for grebes to nest.

Helen suggested a nice detour on the return, so we turned right then across a field to the back of Ranworth Church. In the churchyard there were clumps of meadow saxifrage growing among bulbous buttercups. The path down the hill took us past alpacas to Ranworth Staithe. Some in the group went home for a late lunch and the rest of us enjoyed our picnics on benches overlooking Malthouse Broad.

Meadow saxifrage and bulbous buttercups, on which you can see reflexed (turned back) sepals.
Ann and I returned to Ranworth Church, partly to take a photograph of the meadow saxifrage but also to search for the recently discovered Dusted Wall Yellow Lichen Calaplaca ruderum described in the book Norfolk’s Wonderful 150. Peter Lambley, lichen recorder and author of the account of the five lichens in the book, says the “photo looks like it”, viewed on a smartphone, to be confirmed later.

Dusted Wall Yellow Lichen Calaplaca ruderum (to be confirmed).
Chris Durdin 

Thursday 6 May 2021

Kelling Heath and water meadows: guided walk, 5 May 2021

No sooner had we set off from the Holgate Hill car park, an impressive minotaur beetle had cameras clicking as it clambered on one group member’s sleeve. A favourite food for stone-curlews in the Brecks, said our guide Rob Lucking.

Minotaur beetle Typhaeus typhoeus, a type of dung beetle.

Shortly after crossing the railway – later we enjoyed seeing one of North Norfolk Railway’s steam trains – we were lucky to have extended views of a Dartford warbler, in and around low clumps of gorse. The Dartford warbler continued to show well, if briefly, having crossed to the other side of the path. With it were not the expected stonechats but instead linnets, which seemed to be plentiful here and later by the coast.

We did a circuit of this part of the heath, telling stories of nightjars watched here while staying on the adjacent camping and caravan park. The route includes a fine view down to Weybourne church: what looked like crenellations on the church are part of the remains of a 13th century priory.

Lots of coconut-scented gorse in flower at Kelling Heath.

We re-crossed the railway line and on the edge of the footpath near the firebreak were heath milkwort flowers in both blue and dark pink.

Heath milkwort.

We drove closer to the coast to Kelling Reading Rooms, an appealing & eccentric mix of second-hand shop and café, for coffee and loos. Those with the group for the afternoon session had their picnics in their cars, parked by the roadside stream.

Over the coast road we walked along the alexanders-fringed path. Hearing a cuckoo was the highlight here, plus glimpses of another flying away – a russet-plumaged female. We continued to hear the male and get distant views of the female through the afternoon.

There was a white wagtail by the cattle inland of the biggest lagoon. That water body had avocets, shelducks and gadwalls. But the star bird was on the short grass on the seaward side: a whimbrel, feeding briskly, taking short flights and calling from time to time, but often still enough for outstanding views.

Whimbrel.

We clambered the shingle ridge and looked out to sea, though the best bird was behind us: a wheatear. We followed the path to complete a circuit alongside the WW2 sea defences showcased at the Muckleburgh Military Collection. 

A stonechat, lots of linnets and a soaring skylark were among the birds here, and a small hawthorn had a cluster of brown-tail moth caterpillars.

Brown-tail moth caterpillars.

Chris Durdin

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