Beeston & Sheringham Commons                                              sssi/sac Willow Emerald Migrant Hawker Wasp Spider (female)

Autumn Notes from the Commons


The autumn months have been notably stormy, wet and on occasions warmer than average. Throughout the months of September, October and November, regular contributor Mark Clements and I have recorded the wildlife almost daily and the following notes are some of the highlights that we have encountered.


There was a definite autumnal feel to the weather as September started, although (01 Sept) saw some six species of butterfly still flying, including Gatekeeper and Common Blue. Willow emerald Damselflies were also about as were four dragonflies including Brown Hawker. When opening the Common Lane gate (02 Sept) I disturbed a Convolvulus Hawk-moth, a large migrant species that visits the UK in varying numbers each autumn from southern Europe. Some bird migrants were seen (03 Sept) which included eight Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler. The ground-nesting Ivy Bees were beginning to emerge with some 30 individuals present at one nest site (04 Sept) and the large spiders, such as the Four-spot Orb-weaver and Garden Spider were more noticeable. More migrants arrived (06 Sept) with 25 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, a Pied Flycatcher and a Marsh Harrier recorded. The first Pink-footed Geese were seen overflying east (08 Sept). This is about a week earlier than last year. Mark spotted 14 Common Buzzards and a Marsh Harrier (09 Sept) followed by a juvenile Peregrine (10 Sept). Another Willow Emerald was also present and a troupe of fungi known as The Blusher was noted. This is similar to the more common Fly Agaric but having a dull purplish-red  cap rather than scarlet. Both species have a varying number of white ‘spots’ on the cap, which are in fact remnants of the membranous veil that encloses the young developing mushroom. Another Marsh Harrier and a Hobby passed over the Common (13 Sept) and among the insects still around were a Black-horned Nomad Bee and an Ornate-tailed Digger Wasp. A female Redstart was reported by visitors, Doug and Jenny Cullern (15 Sept) and again by Phil Borley (18 Sept).  A Fox was seen (19 Sept) and a moth trap run overnight included among its captures, Pink-barred Sallow, Rosy Rustic and Lunar Underwing. Another great find was made (20 Sept) by Mark Webster with the first site record of a Wasp Spider. This impressive spider with its yellow and black stripes has steadily been colonising Norfolk over the last few years as it spreads up from the south coast. Originally it was a continental spider which ‘jumped’ the Channel and was first found in the UK at Rye, East Sussex in 1922. The following day (21 Sept) Mark C had a good visible migration with 16 Common Buzzards (east), 80 Siskins (in small flocks west), a Hawfinch (west) and two Redwings (north). We both managed to see the Redstart and I also found a second Wasp Spider plus an egg-sac. Nick Borrow also reported a Pied Flycatcher from the Common on the North East Norfolk Bird Club website. A Red Kite, Brown Argus, Fox and around 10 Lesser Redpolls were noted (24 Sept). The next three days (25-27 Sept) were somewhat memorable for the northerly gale that gusted locally to 70 mph. This caused localised flooding in Sheringham but the combination of heavy rain and strong winds ripped large boughs off trees, snapped trunks of others and in some cases uprooted 40- 50 year old Oaks on the Commons. Some 50 trees were affected and in many cases where these fallen trees are not dangerous or blocking paths they will have been left to decay naturally, which will provide homes to many invertebrates and fungi. A Kingfisher flew north (28 Sept) and the last day of the month (30 Sept) was good for Mark as a Great White Egret headed east  and the first Yellow-browed War


bler of the autumn was found. In addition a Tree Pipit headed east and Redwings and Bramblings were seen feeding on Rowen berries.

A Yellow-browed Warbler and the Redstart were present (01 Oct) and two Reed Buntings were noted (06 Oct). A female Hen Harrier headed south-east and three Crossbills flew over west (07 Oct), two Brambling and a Brown Argus were also seen. A Kingfisher and Common Snipe were noted (10 Oct) and Peter Emerson reported that a Badger had been seen on a trail camera located at Beeston Back Common. Six Crossbills, two Brambling flew over and Mark also had an unexpected sighting of a Goosander plus 45 Redwings (11 Oct). The following day (12 Oct) Redwings were coming in off the sea and over the Common at around 500/hour. Fieldfares and a Ring Ouzel were also seen. The influx of Redwings and Fieldfares continued the next day (13 Oct).  A Box Bug was found (17 Oct) and another Yellow-browed Warbler (18 Oct). Two Yellow-browed Warblers were present (19 Oct) and remained until the end of the month also an unprecedented number of Lesser Redpolls, estimated at over 300, were busily feeding on birch seeds. A Migrant Hawker and a pair of Common Darters were also seen. Two Foxes were noted (23 Oct), two Red Kites, the reappearance of the Giant Willow Aphid and a Kingfisher (26 Oct) and a single male Bearded Tit was seen in the reedbed on the central mire and was still present two days later (28 Oct).  A still and warm late afternoon (30 Oct) saw two Noctule Bats feeding along the woodland edge in the south of the Common. These are the UK’s largest bat species and often roost in holes in old trees.  A single Bearded Tit was again present in the reed bed (31 Oct).


The month started with the Bearded Tit still in residence (01 Nov) as was the Yellow-browed Warbler (02 Nov). An unusual sighting (04 Nov) was of a Mute Swan circling around the Common and coming down to the Top Common pond. Four Crossbills passed over heading south-east (07 Nov) and many Starlings were flying west. Mark was also lucky to see two Great White Egrets (08 Nov) heading west and also 16 Egyptian Geese moving west as well plus two Woodcock flushed by dogs. In the night a Brent Goose was recorded flying over the Common.  A real surprise was when Mark found a Dusky Warbler and a Siberian Chiffchaff in an area of Willows (11 Nov). Later a second Siberian Chiffchaff was identified by John Furse. Both these species are from east of the Urals and summer in Siberia. They attracted a number of birders during their one week stay. A Red Admiral was seen fluttering around an Oak tree (13 Nov) and a Kingfisher flew North over the marsh (16 Nov). An unidentified harrier species flew west (26 Nov) and two Brambling were reported (27 Nov) feeding on Rowen berries. A Kingfisher seen at the main pond, a Firecrest in the southern wooded area and four Eqyptian Geese heading south (29 Nov) completed a rather exceptional month for birds on the Commons.


Remember, you can keep up to date with the sightings by visiting www.beestoncommon.org.uk where daily listings and images are posted.

Francis Farrow

Hon. Warden


Siberian Chiffchaff Pink-barred Sallow