Tuesday 31 May 2022

Guided walks, May 2022

Who doesn’t love spring? May can be one of the loveliest months and it’s been a busy one for guided walks at NWT Thorpe Marshes and elsewhere.

Spindle ermine moth caterpillars, NWT Thorpe Marshes, 19 May.

The blog is a slightly lazy way to share sightings and photos with Honeyguiders, mostly from NWT Thorpe Marshes in May, where I led several guided walks. Elsewhere, the Honeyguide blog has two other reports of walks, namely from NWT Hickling, a Honeyguide event on 20 May, and a ‘guest blog’ after a nature ramble at Eaton Park, Norwich, on 23 May.

Lady's smock (also called milk maid or cuckoo flower), with orange tip egg, 4 May.

14-spot ladybird, 4 May.

The ‘official’ guided walk for May at Thorpe Marshes was on 4 May (Star Wars day – you can do the quote). Water voles are always present though rarely seen, so a good view for a group was a delight, and one group member was still raving about it a few days later, I hear. Identifying singing warblers is always a feature of walks this time of year and today we had the complete set of nine: sedge, reed, Cetti’s, grasshopper, willow and garden warblers plus whitethroat, blackcap and chiffchaff. We found eggs of orange tip butterflies on both lady’s smock and garlic mustard.

Red-headed cardinal Pyrochroa serraticornis 6 May.

Cuckoo: dead tree tops were a favoured perch in May; this one is on 6 May.

You always hope for a cuckoo in May and on both 4 May and 6 May, the latter occasion for the Thorpe Marshes volunteer group, it showed well, as it often did this month. The digiscoped image doesn’t really do it justice.
Painted lady, 19 May. There seem to have been quite a few around this May, suggesting an early year for this migrant butterfly.

From the middle of May to the month’s end, a spindle tree growing by the cattle corral was a regular stop, not for the somewhat underwhelming spindle flowers but for the webby ‘tents’ holding the caterpillars of spindle ermine moths (picture at top of blog). This is a species that also featured in the first programme of this year’s Springwatch. Hairy dragonflies were regular over ditches on sunny days in the second half of the month.

Guelder rose flower, 19 May.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust ran a week of guided walks and other events starting on 21 May, called ‘Take a Walk on the Wildside’, with events being well supported all week. Stonechats have wintered at Thorpe Marshes for several years and, like last year, they also bred. 24 May was my best day as four were on show: male, female and two juveniles. Marsh harriers don’t breed here, though they cannot be far away: this was a lucky day when a male was hunting.

Early marsh orchid, 23 May.

Early marsh orchids have been absent for a few years, and three were found during the week of events, a welcome return. This nicely coloured specimen was by the main path – sometimes they are much paler. The date and the folded back lip are useful ID features. Norfolk hawkers appeared for the first time on 26 May.

Meadowsweet Rust Triphragmium ulmariae 26 May.

We also noted two very different fungi on 26 May: meadowsweet rust showing bright orange on its host wetland plant, and a large chicken of the woods on an old willow. King Alfred’s Cakes, a staple of winter walks, were still on their usual ash stump, now getting overgrown with bramble.

Chicken of the woods, 26 May.
On an evening guided walk on 26 May, the calling male cuckoo was joined by a bubbling female. Muntjac are mostly hidden though not tonight, and perhaps it was the cool and damp which brought out a lesser stag beetle as an overcast evening became gloomier.
Lesser stag beetle, 26 May.

Cantharis nigricans, a soldier beetle, 29 May.

With a barbershop friend and his family, on 29 May, for once a buzzard perched rather than fly over. Alert boy’s eyes found a beetle I didn’t know: we named it later as Cantharis nigricans, a soldier beetle. Easier to name was thick-legged flower beetle: these green jewels seem to like ox-eye daisies.

Buzzard, 29 May.
Finally, away from the marshes, a local ‘twitch’ all the way to Norwich Airport produced a lesser grey shrike on 28 May.

Lesser grey shrike, Norwich Airport perimeter fence, 28 May.

There are more reports and more photos  on www.honeyguide.co.uk/thorpemarshes.htm

Chris Durdin

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