Friday 14 July 2023

Wildflowers and Meadows in Eaton Park, Norwich, 13 July 2023


Guest blog by Sarah Scott, Friends of Eaton Park

Walk arranged by Friends of Eaton Park, with Chris Durdin, Thursday 13 July 2023 6pm.

We were lucky again with the weather: a few spits and spots of rain at the start, but clear and dry for the rest of the walk.  Twelve of us set off from the Rotunda and first stop was the wildflower area between the two model railway enclosures.  This area was originally planted with heathers, but they deteriorated some years ago and the Friends of Eaton Park - in collaboration with the City Council - replaced them with an area of seeded wildflowers.  The beds were a riot of colour for our visit, and we identified: Musk Mallow, Betony, Clary, Greater Knapweed, Ladies Bedstraw (an exceptionally tall version), Wild Carrot and Restharrow.  There was also some bright pink Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea, and Chris used one of the flowers to show us the characteristic structure of pea flowers – the upper petal (the standard), two side petals (wings) and two lower petals, fused together (the keel).

Betony was in both its usual reddish-purple colour and several in this white form.

Broad-leaved everlasting pea.

Restharrow: like several of the flowers in the first area, unusually tall.
Our next stop was inside the large enclosure of the model railway. Before the railway extended into this area of the park, it was the site of a row of clay tennis courts.  In order to lay the railway lines, the courts were broken up and the debris was piled up in mounds. No other preparation, or seed sowing took place, so the meadow growth in this area is entirely natural and utterly different from the previous stop.  We spotted Haresfoot Clover, two kinds of Trefoil (Birdsfoot and Hop), Cranesbills (Dovesfoot) and Yarrow. Bee Orchids are thriving in this part of the park but they are best seen earlier in the year (first weeks of June).

Time was running out at this stage, so we headed straight to the main meadow (on the North Park Avenue side of the park) pausing enroute to look at: Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Procumbent Pearlwort, Knotgrass, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantains (Buckshorn and Ribwort) and Burdock. Most of these were growing out of cracks in the concrete next to the boating lake.  We also spotted a fern (Polypody) growing in the gutter of the old putting green hut!

Common polypody, in the gutter of the old putting green hut.

The North Park meadow is now well established and there was lots to see there: Lesser Knapweed, Yellow Rattle (largely gone to seed with visible – rattly - seed heads), Ladies Bedstraw (the usual, shorter version), Common Ragwort (complete with Red Soldier Beetles, aka Hogweed Bonking Beetle!), Hedge Mustard and grasses (Cocksfoot, Timothy, Yorkshire Fog), White Campion and Catsear.

We discussed the maintenance of the meadow, which is cut just once a year and has clear paths for public access. This year, in September, it will be cut by a party of scythers (in conjunction with Norfolk Wildlife Trust) and – as in previous years – an area will be left overwinter as a ‘refuge’ for insects.

The grasshoppers were very active during our visit but, sadly, we didn’t spot any wasp spiders on this occasion – maybe later in the summer. Despite not finding the spiders we finished up with a fascinating discussion about the ‘stabilimentum’ which is a wide, white, zig-zag strip running down the centre of the web. There are various suggestions as to its purpose – attracting a mate? Attracting prey? Visible at night? But the jury is still out on this one.  The wonders of nature!

Thank you, Chris, for another entertaining and informative ramble.

Sarah Scott

Group members around an area sown with wild flowers.


Saturday 8 July 2023

Cley Marshes, 7 July 2023

It was a glorious day – as the forecast had said – as eight of us gathered in the car park of NWT’s nature reserve centre at Cley a little before 10 o’clock, where a whitethroat was singing. We learnt that opening time is exactly 10 am, so it was a very short wait to get our members’ stickers and to use the loos.


As we headed into the marshes, a Mediterranean gull flew over, and soon after about three were on view on the scrape viewed from the first hide. We paused to look at blue-tailed damselflies in ditches, a reed bunting, a common darter dragonfly and various insects on hogweed, especially a tiger cranefly. Flowers studied included perennial sowthistle with its yellow globular hairs, then hairy buttercup Ranunculus sardous. The latter is similar to bulbous buttercup, including reflexed sepals, but its distribution is strongly linked to coastal grazing marshes.

Tiger cranefly.

The many gulls in front of the hide included some Mediterranean gulls and a single immature little gull, alongside more familiar species and some Sandwich terns. There were lots of black-tailed godwits, some russet-coloured, many avocets and lapwings, plus ruffs, greenshank, redshank and little ringed plovers. The waders all took to the air for a moment when a hobby came through. Many of the shelducks on view were this year’s birds – well-grown shelducklings, if that’s a word. Sand martins were feeding over the water, then scores perched on reeds on the skyline.

Black-tailed godwits, Mediterranean gull (centre), lapwing, black-headed and herring gulls.

Birdwatching this morning wasn’t just a question of looking out of the viewing slots as adult swallows were constantly coming into the hide to their nest. There were three well-grown chicks in the nest.

Swallow and nest in the hide at NWT Cley Marshes.
Moving to the next hide, at first sight there seemed to be about 25 little egrets on the far side of the lagoon. Then the penny dropped that several of the white birds were spoonbills, in addition to three more obvious spoonbills to their right.

Walking on, we passed a hunting marsh harrier then a Norfolk hawker perching on a reed in a ditch, with not a single water soldier (as you’d expect in the Broads with this species of dragonfly) to be seen. The Norfolk hawker left its perch to mob a much bigger emperor dragonfly that was passing.

Our next viewing stop was Bishop’s Hide, in front of the island where the spoonbills had gathered: 14 in total, plus around 20 little egrets. A green sandpiper fed on the far side of the lagoon, and very close to us was a pair of eclipse plumage shovelers, their beaks obvious even though they’d lost their distinctive plumage.

There’d been a scattering of butterflies all morning – such as ringlets, gatekeepers and commas – and as we walked back towards the visitor centre, a red admiral landed on Ann’s binoculars. We had our picnic lunches overlooking the reserve.


There was a ‘bonus’ afternoon stop at Stonepit Heath, Kelling. This was mostly to see silver-washed fritillaries, and there were several of these fast-flying butterflies around a big buddleia and patches of bramble. Other butterflies were common species: perhaps we were a tad early for white admirals. 

Silver-washed fritillary.

Denise pointed out a hoof fungus on a birch, and that led us to another tree where there were several more, in various sizes. Under two of these we could make out the larval cases of hoof fungus gnats (the link is to a previous blog about these from March 2022), and this may well be another new site for this little-recorded invertebrate.

Hoof fungi, with cocoons from hoof fungus gnats under the lower fungus.

On another fungal note, Rob pointed out a piece of wood stained blue-green. The jade coloration is the mycelium of the green elfcup fungus, once used in the manufacture of Tunbridge ware, a form of decoratively inlaid woodwork.

Staining caused by green elf cup fungus.
Chris Durdin

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