Beeston & Sheringham Commons                                              sssi/sac Banded Demoiselle Jewel Wasp

Summer notes from the Commons 2019

The summer was quite unsettled with cool wet days alternating with periods of hot dry days. Insects seemed to thrive, however, with many butterfly species and dragonflies noted. The following notes cover some of the wildlife that Mark Clements and I have recorded over the summer plus some sightings from visitors.

Highlights in June were further sightings of the Bishop’s Mitre Shieldbug (June 1st), Small Yellow Underwing moth and the Turkey Oak gall caused by the gall-wasp Andricus grossulariae (June 3rd). A new dragonfly for the site, Hairy Dragonfly was spotted egg-laying in the pond by Mark (June 4th). The small Red-girdled Mining Bee made an appearance among the Germander Speedwell (June 9th). This solitary bee is considered generally a southern species and is classed as Nationally Scarce. The Painted Lady butterfly ‘invasion’ started in early June and reached a peak by mid-June with over 100 seen passing over Pill-box hill in 30 minutes by Mark (June 15th). A Red-veined Darter was also seen on this day with eight males and five females present the following day (June 16th). Another uncommon dragonfly for the site, a Black-tailed Skimmer, was noted by the main pond (June 17th). The Six-spot Burnet moth, which is normally seen as a wind-blown accidental visitor to the Commons from Beeston Bump, was discovered breeding on Bird’s-foot Trefoil in the northern grassland area. A Garden Warbler in residence in scrub behind Bracken Hill for over three weeks is also likely to have bred. A Humming-bird Hawkmoth was noted (June 27th) and a Hobby flew south-east (June 29th), the same very hot day that an Adder was noted swimming in the main pond.

The uncommon hoverfly, Volucella inflata was noted (July 2nd) feeding on bramble flowers, where the following day (July 3rd) Mark spotted a White Admiral – this was the only sighting of this butterfly this year. Two Banded Demoiselles were seen by the pond (July 4th) and the Moorhens were feeding at least one chick (July 5th) also a Red-legged Partridge family of around eight chicks were seen (July 6th). A male Roe Deer was noted on Pill-box Hill (July 8th) and in a path the nests of digger wasps were being investigated by Jewel Wasps, which are parasitoids of the Digger Wasps. As parasitiods the Jewel Wasps invade other wasps nests and lay their eggs. The larva on hatching will then eat the hosts egg / larva and then go on to consume the hosts food store. Mark reported a Mediterranean Gull hawking for flying ants and a Silver-washed Fritillary (July 11th). An adult and juvenile Hobby headed west (July 17th) and a Panther Cap fungus was found (July 18th). Another Hobby passed over heading east (July 19th) and a Humming-bird Hawkmoth was watched egg-laying (July 21st). The White-letter Hairstreaks were noted (July 22nd) and a large female Grass Snake was observed ‘sun-bathing’ (July 24th), also a small Soldier-fly, known as the Delicate Soldier (Oxycera nigricornis) was found. A female Purple Emperor headed south then southeast over the Pill-box (July 29th) and was later seen by the eastern boundary hedge near Caxton Park. This is the third year that a female Purple Emperor has been seen on the Common and this year Purple Emperors have been recorded from a number of locations in Norfolk including Foxley Wood, which was Norfolk’s last recorded site in the 1970s.

There has been an unprecedented number of Wood Sandpipers visiting Norfolk this year and Mark flushed one from the small pond (August 2nd) and also found a female Purple Emperor in the Sallows nearby. He also found another interesting insect, a nymph of the Ant Damsel Bug (Himacerus mirmicoides). The following day (August 3rd) Jane Crossen found a Green Sandpiper in the main pond. A Kingfisher was seen (August 4th) sitting on top of the Moorhen ‘hotel’. The Purple Emperor female was seen again (August 6th) and in the same Sallow a Poplar Hawkmoth caterpillar was present. Dave Wright visited (August 7th) and recorded an Eyed Hawkmoth caterpillar, a Pantaloon Bee and the Flecked General, a Soldier-fly. Another Soldier-fly, the Banded General and a Silver-washed Fritillary were noted (August 9th). The shieldbug parasitic fly, Phasia hemioptera was feeding around the Water Mint (August 12th) and the following day (August 13th) Mark spotted a Large Sharp-tailed Bee, which is also a parasitoid, and targets Leaf-cutter bees. The adult bees’ slice through the leaf wall entrance of the leaf-cutter nest with the razor-sharp tip of their abdomens and lay their own eggs. The larva on hatching crushes the host grub before eating the pollen ball food store.  The first of the season Willow Emerald damselfly was noted in willows behind the main pond (August 15th). Having lost their single chick a few days after hatching the Moorhens started a new nest. Two chicks from the new nest were seen being fed by the parents (August 18th). An Adonis Ladybird and a Pheasant with at least six chicks were also seen. The next day (August 19th) was one of thunderstorms and torrential rain and the Moorhen chicks were, sadly, not seen again. The first of the autumn migrants turned up (August 20th) with three Common Whitethroats and a Redstart found by Mark in a thicket of Elder trees also the first record for the Box Bug. The Box Bug was considered very rare and was known only from Box Hill in Surrey, where it fed on Box trees. In recent years it has expanded its range and is now exploiting different foodplants. A Brown Hawker dragonfly was laying eggs in the main pond (August 21st) and this was a first for the Common although we have seen the adults for a number of years. The Small Red-eyed Damselfly which first came to the Common in 2002 has had a very good season with over 200 seen, including many pairs egg-laying in the main pond (August 23rd). A Whinchat and a couple of Willow Warblers turned up (August 27th) and visitors, Jeremy and Vanna Bartlett, found a number of interesting insects including the Tortoise Shieldbug, Red-banded Sand Wasp and the Bee Wolf (a wasp that catches Honey Bees). While retrieving some litter from the pond (August 29th) I was lucky enough to spot a Long-bodied Water Scorpion swimming by. It is also sometimes known as the Water Stick-insect which is a much more descriptive name. This is the first time it has been recorded from the SSSI. Mark spotted a Lesser Whitethroat in the Elders (August 30th) and found a Brassica Shieldbug in its yellow autumn colours (in spring they have white or red markings).

The autumn looks set fair for the first month at least but naturalists will be hoping for some east winds to bring both bird and insect visitors to our coast.

Francis Farrow

Hon. Warden –Beeston Common SSSI/SAC

Grass Snake Volucella inflata (Hoverfly)