Broadland Country Park and Buxton Heath, 23 September 2021

There were just three of us on today’s Honeyguide outing, but what a perfect day it was as we arrived at the very new Broadland Country Park – announced in just March this year – between Horsford and Felthorpe. We started by looking over the heathland by the new picnic benches, which was colourful with heather, bell heather and western gorse. We didn’t go onto the heath as it’s fenced for grazing, part of the conservation management of the site.

We took an anti-clockwise circuit around the country park, past another area also fenced for grazing and with sheep on view. We also heard cattle somewhere, but we didn’t see them.

Dock bug (left) and spiked shieldbug (right).


Garden or cross spider. Like a hot cross bun with legs, says Tessa.

To start with we looked at the ID of various wild flowers, then swiftly switched to bugs on finding the two species in the photographs, names added after looking them up later. And we found a grey dagger moth caterpillar. 

We moved into a large area of pine forest and bracken, finding lots of common earthball fungi.

Common earthball, Broadland Country Park.

We turned left into a long and wide trackway, with banks on both sides, through deciduous forest now, mostly birches and sweet chestnut. The track’s origin is not known, but it seems likely it was an old and well-used route, perhaps between Horsford and Felthorpe. Birches at the start had witches’ brooms, a gall caused by a fungus. There were damp, open areas here and there, and on one we took time out to enjoy confiding common darters that perched on the trunk of a downy birch. Indeed we stopped to feel the twigs of many a birch, to find if they were soft (downy birch) or hairless (silver birch). It was a pretty route, especially in today’s autumn sunshine.

Common darter, male, on a fallen downy birch.

Broadland Country Park.

Reaching the far side of the country park, on the Horsford side, we stopped several times to look at fungi on birch trees. Birch polypores were quite common, on both upright and fallen dead birch trunks. I re-found a very large hoof fungus, about 10 inches across, on a high, standing stump, that one located from a recce visit. I was pleased with that alone, given it’s a species only rediscovered in Norfolk in 2008, albeit now quite widespread, especially in the north and west of the county. For that reason, hoof fungus is featured in the publication Norfolk’s Wonderful 150.

Hoof fungus (AG).
Then Ann pointed out another tall, standing birch stump, this time with several, darker looking hoof fungi Fomes fomentarius. We counted and made it 12 ‘hooves’ on that one trunk.
Several hoof fungi on this tall stump.

There was more to come. The third trunk we found had many more smaller, lighter and no doubt younger hoof fungi. I counted 30. Better still, most of these had cocoon-like objects on or near them. These matched perfectly a picture I was carrying sent to me by Norfolk fungi recorder, Tony Leech, also from Broadland Country Park. These had been identified as the cocoons of a fungus gnat Sciophila rufa, only the third record for England and a second for Norfolk, the first being at Thompson Common.

Cocoons of a fungus gnat Sciophila rufa, under the right hand hoof fungus.
We returned across a small piece of open heath, part of St Faith’s Common. I found a single cross-leaved heath here, and we learned later that there is more in the mire area behind the fence on the main heath. An oak tree had four gall species, all created by gall wasps: cherry, knopper and spangle galls, plus a fourth with the splendid scientific name Andricus inflator, though no English name.

We ate our picnic lunches on a bench by the heath. It was happy accident that the country park’s manager, Sarah Burston, came past, with a visiting councillor. It was a chance to say how much we appreciated the new country park and how it is being managed for wildlife.

Next stop, just a short distance away, was Buxton Heath. The sunshine was as warm as ever and we started by going into damper areas. Here there was lots of cross-leaved heath, marsh lousewort, devilsbit scabious and tiny – but lovely – flowers of eyebright.

Marsh lousewort, Buxton Heath.

Eyebright, Buxton Heath.

Devilsbit scabious, Buxton Heath.

Tessa impressed Ann and me with the English name of tiger hoverfly, and from the picture you can see why it’s called that. Susan Weeks advises that Helophilus pendulus is the most common hover with vertical stripes and she has also heard it referred to as ‘The Footballer’.

Tiger hoverfly Helophilus pendulus.
Next find was a pretty fungus, blackening waxcap, with thanks to James Emerson for confirming the ID. James says that though very variable (and possibly several species), the shape is relatively constant and an occasional name for them is ‘Witches' Hat’, although that name is typically only used whimsically rather than for recording.
Blackening waxcap Hygrocybe conica.

We’d hoped to find bog bush-cricket but didn’t, though we did find several coneheads. The conehead pictured seems to match photos of long-winged conehead, despite the upward curved ovipositor more associated with the short-winged conehead, which has a long-winged form. If any Orthoptera specialist can advise, please do! It seemed genuinely content to perch on my hand, though that may or may be connected with only having one long back leg.

Long-winged conehead, I think.

A nice surprise was a good patch of grass-of-Parnassus in flower, the first time I have seen this species here. There were various spikes of gone over orchids, too.

Grass-of-Parnassus, Buxton Heath.

With a little time left, we walked a little way up the slope into the dry part of the heath and were rewarded with views of two roe deer, us watching them watching us, and two stonechats.

Chris Durdin

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