Autumn Notes from the Commons
September remained mainly dry, sunny and warm, which meant that insects were still plentiful. A Sand Wasp was watched carrying a large green caterpillar to its ‘nesting’ burrow on the Bee Bank (01 Sept). Also seen was an Epeolus bee which is the cleptoparasite of the Ivy Bee which also nests in a colony around the Bee Bank. The Willow Emerald – a recent colonist of the UK – was noted near the pond as were larger dragonflies such as the Ruddy Darter and Migrant Hawker. A Lesser Whitethroat was present (02 Sept) and a Brown Argus butterfly was seen exhibiting a ‘blue sheen’. This is like the bluish sheen seen on steel and is in fact a ‘trick of the light’ and can only be viewed from a certain angle as the Brown Argus has no blue pigmented wing scales. Another migrant, a Whinchat, was spotted by regular observer Mark Clements (03 Sept) as were five Common Buzzards that were passing overhead. Later in the day two Whinchats were present in the central marsh. Two birds of prey, a Marsh Harrier and a Hobby were noted by Mark (04 Sept) and a Grass Snake was seen also. Another Hobby turned up (06 Sept), two juvenile Reed Warblers were seen with an adult and six Grass Snakes were found by Mark during the day. A third Hobby headed west over the Common a couple of days later (08 Sept). The first Pink-footed Geese (13) of the autumn overflew the Common (15 Sept). These were a few days earlier than last year. As part of a two-year project on commons the Norfolk Wildlife Trust held a ‘Walk with the Warden’ (22 Sept) which was attended by over 40 people. A total of seven Common Buzzards, nearly 200 Pink-footed Geese passed over the Common and three Willow Emeralds were noted by Mark (25 Sept) also a Slow Worm was seen. The following day (26 Sept) Mark recorded six Willow Emeralds and a Dark Bush-cricket.
A Woodcock was observed to fly in to the Back Marsh by Mark (01 Oct) and Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Small Copper butterflies were still ‘on the wing’. A Tree Pipit called and alerted Mark to its presence as it flew over the Common (02 Oct) and eight Redwings were seen. A juvenile Mediterranean Gull and five Skylarks overflew and a Common Snipe was also seen by Mark (04 Oct). A late Common Blue butterfly was noted (05 Oct). Seven Brambling headed west (07 Oct) and four Common Buzzards were noted by Mark as well as a Spiked Shieldbug and Dark Bush-cricket. Also that day two Fieldfares flew south and a large hoverfly, Sericomyia silentis was spotted. Some 10 Small Coppers were seen (10 Oct) and a male Ring Ouzel was feeding on Rowen berries (16 Oct). A Muslin moth caterpillar was also noted. Mark reported a Yellow-browed Warbler (18 Oct). These warblers were formally very rare but are now increasingly annual migrants in the autumn to the east coast. The nearest breeding area to the UK is the Ural Mountains in Russia. A Fungus Foray organised by the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists’ Society (20 Oct) found over 30 different species including Yellow Fieldcap, Blushing Bracket and Greasy Waxcap. An Adder and a juvenile Marsh Harrier were also seen. Peter Beard also reported a Yellow-browed Warbler calling by the main pond. Some 20 Blackbirds were feeding in the Rowens (25 Oct) and few Ivy Bees were still around the Bee Bank. A party of 10 Crossbills were spotted by Mark as they flew over (26 Oct) as were a Brambling and two Mistle Thrushes. A Woodcock was flushed from scrub (29 Oct) and a number of skeins of Pink-footed Geese headed east.
With the weather continuing generally mild into November, but with cooler nights and more rain, butterflies were no longer seen, however the odd Common Darter was still around. A number Fly Agaric fungi were present (06 Nov) and a Water Rail was reported by Mark (09 Nov) with a Common Darter and Grass Snake also seen. A Red Admiral, Diamond-back Moth and Common Darter were still flying the following day (10 Nov). A Firecrest was spotted by Mark moving with a mixed tit flock (11 Nov) and also seen were seven Bullfinches and five Stock Doves. Two Tawny Owls were calling later that evening. Five Lesser Redpolls and two Chiffchaffs were noted by Mark (17 Nov) and the following day three Sparrowhawks were seen. A flock of 25 Redpolls were observed by Mark (21 Nov) as were two Marsh Tits and 35 Pink-footed Geese. A Woodcock was flushed and two Chiffchaffs seen as well as around 250 Pink-footed Geese overflying (23 Nov). During some mowing of flower-rich areas (24 Nov), a Common Shrew and a Water Shrew were disturbed and ran off. A call from an overflying Woodlark gave Mark an unexpected ‘late in the year’ observation (27 Nov) and a flock of 40 Fieldfares heading east was also noted.
The autumn period ended with very few frosts having been encountered and many trees still retained their leaves. Further wet and windy weather is expected for December but short cold spells are also forecast. If you would like to keep up with the sightings please visit www.beestoncommon.org.uk for daily updates.