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 

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