Summer notes from the Commons.
It was not the long hot summer that was expected although there were a few hot and sunny days among a large number of very cloudy ones. Mark Clements and I recorded the wildlife most days and the following are some of the highlights.
The month of June opened with a Lesser Whitethroat and the day-flying Mother Shipton moth present (01 June) and was followed by Brown Argus (02 June) and a Cockchafer. Mark spotted another day-flying moth, the Lattice Heath (03 June) and a number of Marsh Click Beetles were seen as well as the Bracken Sawfly. The first Keeled Skimmers were ‘on the wing’ (07 June) and a Reed Warbler was singing (08 June). Three Red Kites passed over heading east and a Roe Deer was spotted (09 June). A Hobby was noted heading east and the first Large Skipper of the season was seen (16 June). Later that night a Nightjar was heard ‘churring’ – the distinctive sound has been likened to the sound of a two-stroke motor - cycle engine. The bird is hard to locate from its ‘churring’ as they are skilled ventriloquists. The very striking hoverfly, Volucella inflata, was found (21 June) and Mark sported a Peregrine (22 June) and a male Banded Demoiselle. A Deadly Nightshade plant was found (24 June) as was a female Black-tailed Skimmer, a dragonfly that is not often seen on the Common. Another Hobby passed over the area (29 June) as did a Fulmar.
An Emerald Damselfly was found at the small pond (02 July) and a Banded General (Soldierfly) was seen the following day (03 July). Mark saw another Hobby (05 July) and a Blackneck moth was found. A Norfolk Wildlife Trust walk, celebrating Commons took place (07 July) and Bog Bush Crickets were seen as well as Bee and Marsh Fragrant Orchids. The first White-letter Hairstreaks appeared (12 July) and a male Black-tailed Skimmer was noted. A male Silver-washed Fritillary (17 July) and Purple Hairstreak (18 July) were new for the year and a moth trap ‘captured’ a Small Elephant Hawkmoth, a species that has not been recorded since 2012. A Little Egret was noted heading east (19 July) and the strange hairy-eyed hoverfly Eristalinus sepulchralis was present (21 July). Four Red Kites headed west (22 July) and a female Pantaloon Bee (24 July) was collecting pollen from Cat’s-ear. These bees are so-called because of the over-sized, bright yellow pollen baskets they have on their hind legs. In Norfolk it is probably at its northernmost range. A Six-spot Burnet moth was seen (29 July). This is again an uncommon occurrence for the area, however, they are plentiful around the cliff-top near Beeston Bump. Its caterpillar’s food plant is Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil.
A White-letter Hairstreak was seen nectaring on Bramble at the north end of the Common by some scrubby Elms (02 August). Elm is the food plant for this butterfly’s larvae and it has been long suspected that the butterfly should be found in this area so it was great to see one. Also in this area of scrubby Elms a Willow Emerald Damselfy was noted (06 August). A Tortoise Shieldbug was found by Mark (10 August) and two male Banded Demoiselles were noted. The first Bee-wolf of the year was present (15 August). The females of this species of solitary wasp attack Honey Bees and carry them off to underground nests, where several paralysed bees will be placed with an egg. On hatching the wasp larva will then eat the prey alive! Another insect with a gruesome life was also noted (17 August). This is the large bumblebee-sized parasitic fly Tachina grossa, which parasitizes moth larvae – it lays its egg inside a living caterpillar and then on hatching eats it from the inside, eventually killing it. A Raven and Little Egret were seen by Mark crossing over the Common (19 August) and later that day a female Southern Emerald Damselfly was found on the central marsh. This was a first for the Common of this rare insect from the Continent. It is generally considered a migrant from the Netherlands and was first recorded in Norfolk at Winterton in 2002. The following day (20 August) a Scarce Emerald Damselfly was reported by Simon Chidwick, who also observed two Green Sandpipers overflying. A flock of 15 Greenshank were noted overflying southwest (23 August) and later in the week (29 August) one of the most beautiful and scarce hoverflies turned up, Sericomyia superbiens, which is a bumblebee mimic. Apart from a limited distribution in Norfolk it is generally found in the north and west of the country.
Despite being a somewhat dull summer there has been quite a few good records and to keep up to date with the sightings please visit www.beestoncommon.org .uk for daily sightings and images.
Francis Farrow – Hon. Warden.