Beeston & Sheringham Commons                                              sssi/sac Redwing Adder Phytomyza helibori mines Frog’s spawn

Winter notes from the Commons.

This winter period (December, January and February) has been a very wet and at times mild. There were a few wintery showers and frosts in February but overall the month has been very wet with some places in Norfolk experiencing 3x the average rainfall. The Commons are saturated with the water table very high creating very muddy conditions. The wildlife highlights for the winter period follows and are mainly the observations of Mark Clements and myself.

December started well with Mark spotting a Brambling (west), Mediterranean Gull (east) and a Great White Egret heading southeast on the first of the month. Two Firecrests were noted by Dave Billham (08 Dec) along with Marsh Tit and Nuthatch. A Fieldfare passed over West (11 Dec) and a pair of Bullfinches were also seen. Pink-footed Geese flocks passed over both east and west towards the end of the month. A Red Kite was picked up by Mark (26 Jan) as it headed west. A Brambling was visiting the feeders near Caxton Park (27 Dec) and two Mallard flew east (31 Dec).

Five Canada Geese headed east (01 Jan) and were noted by Dave Billham.  A Pale Birch Tortix moth was disturbed from vegetation (08 Jan). This moth was restricted to the Scottish Highlands but since 2004 has been recorded in Norfolk and has been found in over 50% of the 74 10K squares covering the county to date. Up to 35 Redwings were feeding in the wet wood area to the southwest of the Common (12 Jan) and a Jack Snipe was flushed from the marshes (20 Jan) by Mark. An Orange Ladybird was also noted. Finches were present (Jan 26) with eight Siskin, five Lesser Redpolls, four Linnets and a Brambling reported by Mark. Both Common and Jack Snipe were flushed from the marshes (28 Jan) and a Firecrest was present (30 Jan).

Leaf mines found in the leaves of Stinking Hellebore (02 Feb) were made by the larvae of a small fly, Phytomyza hellebore, which was first found in the UK in 2000. It has been present on the Commons at least since 2014. Another single Brambling passed west and five Lesser Redpolls were note (03 Feb). A Red Kite passed west (11 Feb) and a Pale Birch Tortrix, a Common Plume and a Gorse Shieldbug were disturbed while removing gorse from some heather areas. Two Red Kites were noted low over the recently mown central marsh (13 Feb) and 150 Pink-footed Geese headed west. Two Grey Wagtails flew southwest and 15 Lesser Redpolls were also seen. A Jack Snipe was also flushed from the recently cut marsh. An early Adder was reported by John Snow (15 Feb) and the following day (16 Feb) three Adders were found basking and four Common Frogs were in the small pond. A party of four Red Kites and 22 Redwings were seen (17 Feb) by Mark and Phil Borley reported a Woodcock. The first Frog’s spawn was noted (18 Feb), which is the earliest recorded for the site beating the previous record of 25 Feb by a week. Spawn was noted in the main pond a few days later (23 Feb) although frosty nights may have delayed the frogs.  Once the milder conditions returned (25 Feb) so did the frogs with around 100 present in the main pond. Tawny Owls were reported calling at night (26 Feb) by Dave Billham and the following day (27 Feb) two Grey Herons headed east and another single Brambling was seen by Mark.

The contractors were onsite the second week of February when they cut the grasslands, marshes and heathlands. All the work went well and there were no casualties among the reptiles or amphibians which is always a concern during mild winter weather when they tend to emerge early.

  Francis Farrow – Hon. Warden

Pale Birch Tortrix