Foxley Wood and Sculthorpe Moor, 9 July 2021

After several rainy days it was a relief to arrive at NWT’s Foxley Wood nature reserve, albeit after a detour via Themelthorpe, on a dry day with sunny intervals. The local butterflies must have been grateful for the improved weather: our first ringlets were in the car park and I glimpsed a white admiral flying away.

Ringlet, by far the most numerous butterfly today.

Six of us walked into the wood, where wide rides meant lots of flowers, including hundreds of common spotted orchids, and a steady string of butterfly sightings, with large skipper, large white, comma and meadow brown along these first stretches, though it was still ringlets that by far outnumbered all of these.

Common spotted orchids, Foxley.

At the main crossroads, a choice: towards where people were waiting around some tall oaks, or turn right along a wide and sunny ride. We chose the latter, taking advantage of the good weather at this point. It was a good choice as along here we soon found a lovely, freshly-emerged white admiral feeding around a patch of bramble flowers. We had excellent views through binoculars, though it proved too distant to photograph as did several others during the morning.

Silver-washed fritillary.

There was also a faded painted lady here and then a silver-washed fritillary flew by. This fritillary, then others later, were mostly on the move though one did settle long enough for good views and a photo, as did a common darter.

Honeysuckle leaf with mine of leaf miner Chromatomyia lonicerae.

Also along this ride was another dragonfly, a very fresh brown hawker that could be picked out hanging among some dead, brown leaves. We’d already seen a superb six-spot burnet moth on a marsh thistle, then Ann found another that had just emerged from its chrysalis. A cluster of hogweed flowers had a longhorn beetle, red soldier beetles and thick-legged flower beetles. There were hundreds of black, spiky peacock butterfly caterpillars on stinging nettles.

Six-spot burnet moth emerging from its chrysalis.

We continued around the wood, muddy in places on some paths, with patches of creeping jenny and a lot of enchanter’s nightshade in flower. By one track a purple hairstreak caught my eye, almost on the ground; we all saw it very well. Birch polypores and King Alfred’s cakes fungi were on birch and ash respectively.

King Alfred's cakes.

Towards the end of the circuit we reached the big oak trees and learnt from those watching here that there were no sighting of purple emperors as yet, here where they were seen last year. There were, however, more white admirals, red admirals and silver-washed fritillary again. Small white was an additional butterfly species after this.

Lovely wide rides in Foxley Wood.

Saying farewell at the car park to Tim & Cheryl, who were just with us for the morning, we learnt the hard way that the road through Foxley village had not been reopened. We returned via Themelthorpe and onto Foulsham before finding the main Fakenham road and onto Sculthorpe Moor, a route that included a patch on the edge of Fakenham where it had evidently rained.

Honeyguider Helen Young was waiting for us here at the Hawk & Owl Trust’s nature reserve, where we took advantage of the picnic tables to eat our packed lunches, while watching greenfinches on the huge feeders. New paths and habitats had been created since I last visited, near the reserve’s visitor centre, and Helen guided us through these. Ann noticed a dragonfly struggling in a new pond, and she rescued it and left it to dry out on a wooden post. It was still there at the end if the afternoon, suggesting that it had emerged with damaged wings.

Rescued common darter, though we think it had damaged wings.
Again there were lots of ringlets, a large skipper on a marsh thistle and wide ditches had banded demoiselles. Generally, the weather became greyer and there was little to see from the boardwalks in the wooded section of the nature reserve. Farther on, after Helen had left us to meet her lift home, there was more activity from birds, especially towards to the end of the afternoon, with singing reed bunting and reed warblers and sightings of whitethroat, sedge warbler and great spotted woodpecker. We also heard a grasshopper warbler and saw our first speckled wood of the day. Globular galls on alder leaves were caused by a mite, Eriophyles laevis. On the ground we found a scorpion fly, which takes some beating as a weird and wonderful insect.
Large skipper, Sculthorpe.

Scorpion fly Panorpa communis.

A red kite flew over and, once we were back in the car park, it returned to fly low over the area behind the visitor centre.

A contribution towards the Hawk & Owl Trust was included for the today's group. matched by a contribution from the Honeyguide Charitable Trust, raising £120 for Sculthorpe Moor.

Chris Durdin

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