Summer Notes from the Commons
The summer months of June, July and August have been pretty good although there was a bit of a ‘wobble’ in July and then again in early August. We cannot, however, forget, ‘Flaming June’ with its sun-filled days and high temperatures – what a contrast to June 2016!
Mark Clements and I have been around the Commons most days and have recorded a rich diversity of plants and wildlife. A Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat started the month (2 June) and were observed by Mark as was a Broad-bordered Bee-Hawk moth and a Red-veined Darter, a migrant dragonfly that appears to be gradually establishing itself in the UK. The second generation of Small Tortoiseshell made an appearance (4 June) and Moss Taylor spotted a Hobby (5 June). A large and uncommon hoverfly, Volucella inflata was noted (7 June) and a juvenile Grass Snake was seen in the small pond by Cherry Farrow (9 June). A Garden Warbler turned up (10 June) and stayed around the Pill Box hill area for a few days. Another Red-veined Darter was present (11 June) and the first Bee Orchid was found. Two Foxes were noted as well as ‘the first of the year’ Brown Argus butterfly by Mark (13 June) also found were two Puss Moth caterpillars on a broken willow branch. If the branch had not broken the caterpillars would have remained out of site at the top of the tree. A single Lesser Butterfly Orchid flowered this year – the first since 2015 and that was subsequently eaten by a deer. To prevent this happening again a wire ‘cage’ was placed around the orchid, which could be easily removed and replaced by the numerous photographers that came to visit the flower. A visit by the Norfolk Branch of Butterfly Conservation (17 June) produced a list of 12 butterfly species and another Red-veined Darter. A rare bird for Norfolk, a Marsh Warbler, took up residence around the pond for a day. When it sang it mimicked some eight different birds including Nightingale. Marsh Warblers are normally found in southern UK where they remain uncommon and local. Small Red-eyed Damselflies were out (20 June) and Mark also noted a Grass Snake and five Adders. A Yellow Wagtail was heard flying over the site by Mark (25 June), which was the first record for some 40 years. The month ended (30 June) with the sighting of a ‘pink’ Field Grasshopper – this is caused by a rare genetic mutation known as erythrism, which means the grasshopper produces more of a reddish protein.
In early July a study on the attraction of pheromone lures for Burnet moths was started for the University of Canterbury and as well as attracting Five-spot Burnets two Six-spot Burnets were noted (7 July). The imposing Hornet Hoverfly was also seen. Banded Demoiselles and a Purple Hairstreak butterfly were spotted the following day by Mark (8 July). A winged form of Roesel’s Bush-cricket and the large yellow and black soldier-fly, Stratiomys potamida were present (11 July). Last March, storm ‘Doris’ blew down a large hybrid Elm that had been ‘home’ to a small colony of White-letter Hairstreak butterflies. With the loss of the tree it was thought that the butterfly would also be lost. This may not be the case, however, as a fresh individual was found nectaring on Ling (27 July) and this may mean that there is another colony close by, possibly using Wych Elm suckers along the southern boundary. A few days later an extreme rarity for Norfolk, the elusive Purple Emperor butterfly, was seen (31 July). The butterfly was a female and was found feeding on the ground (imbibing mineral salts from the soil). Two Purple Emperor butterflies were seen in Sheringham Park in mid-July and the butterfly has been seen in ones or twos for the last three years in the Sheringham area. Prior to this the last resident population, which was in Foxley Wood, disappeared in the 1970s. The butterflies were reintroduced into Suffolk some 10 years ago and have been very successful and one theory is that the population is expanding its range and some of the butterflies are reaching north Norfolk.
August started a bit unsettled but gradually improved towards the middle of the month. A Firecrest was present (1 August) in a Holly tree along the southern boundary and was spotted by Mark. Visitors, Jeremy and Vanna Bartlett found two new solitary bee species for the site (3 August). They were the Heather Mining Bee and the Red Bartsia Bee. A Ruddy Darter was also seen that day. An unusual hoverfly, Eristalinus sepulchralis, which has both hairy and spotted eyes was noted (6 August). Next day (7 August) the ‘purring’ of a Turtle Dove was a surprise as these former breeding birds are now very rare on the Common. A Brown Argus (first of the second generation) was also seen. A Kingfisher and another Firecrest was spotted by Mark (10 August) at the southern end of the Common. A juvenile Grass Snake crossed a path on the central marsh and Corizus hyoscyami, a brightly coloured bug (red with black markings) was also seen (12 August). The Turtle Dove returned (13 August) and a very large Grass Snake (over a metre in length) was watched crossing a path. A Hobby was noted hunting dragonflies over the marsh (15 August) by Mark, who also spotted a ‘black’ Adder (16 March). The Ivy Bee was first seen this year (25 August) and is the second year that this recent colonist has bred on the Common. The bee first arrived in Norfolk in 2013 and was first seen on the Common in 2014. Another recent colonist which was first seen on the Common in 2016 is the Willow Emerald Damselfly and one was also spotted at the pond this year by Mark (28 August).
The summer has proved to be an exciting one for wildlife on the Commons and the autumn looks to be good also with bountiful berries and sloes awaiting the migrants.