Coming in where we left off in Nature Notes 3
, with the partial lifting of lockdown, we were free to spread our wings somewhat and go beyond our immediate surroundings. It’s funny though that you become somewhat attached to the walks enjoyed so frequently over so many weeks. One of our regular walks was (and still is) along the River Wensum to the New Mills sluice. Almost without fail, we got used to seeing one or two kingfishers flying by and disappearing into vegetation by the river. We were usually alerted by excited peeping sounds from the birds. With the comings and goings, we got the impression that it was the adults feeding chicks. By walking the opposite way along the river, we got to NWT Thorpe Marshes
. It is well recorded elsewhere that a grasshopper warbler was joined by a corncrake and a Savi’s warbler. It was a sad day when the last two of these seemed to disappear together in the middle of June.
Turning to our more usual preferences, our freedom to travel gave us the opportunity to go out orchid hunting. Success was variable. When viewing some of them it was difficult to establish whether the season was early or late. Southern marsh orchids in several places seemed to be having an early season when we arrived at some known sites, only to find them going over. We might put this down to the extremely dry weather at the start of the year. By contrast, other species confused the issue by coming late, fragrant orchids for example.
We have been following the fortunes of an unusual parasitic plant, the common broomrape, in the Rosary Cemetery this year. It is known to have numerous host plants but, in the Rosary, many of them have taken to using winter heliotrope as their favoured host. This was cut early in the season but, nevertheless, we have recently counted 56 spikes of the broomrape. There has appeared another patch of around 15 spikes which seem to host on red clover. The two lots of broomrape look different and we wonder if they are different variations, which are known to exist. The things one can start pondering when there is time to do it!
We have a final conundrum. Is 2020 a good season for butterflies or not? Around about home (near the Rosary) we have seen very few – both early broods and more recent summer ones. Yet people not too far away, Acle for example, are saying what a marvellous year for small tortoiseshells and peacocks. Even our buddleia in full flower seems to attract single numbers of peacock and red admiral. We are currently being visited by meadow browns, gatekeepers and a single small Copper.
By contrast, our garden is being visited by numerous bumble bees, hoverflies and grasshoppers which all seem to appreciate in particular the patches of marjoram on our lawn. Perhaps we should go for snakes instead. We have come close to stepping on both grass snakes and adders in the last couple of weeks. On both occasions, we stood back and watched as they quickly disappeared into the vegetation.
Jon and Angie Shutes report from their home in Aylsham that it seems such a short time since May when the swifts arrived. And, already they are setting off for Africa leaving behind the swallows and house martins who still have another brood to raise.
In early June our garden was full of fledged birds. The tit families have obviously done well. Not so the robins, dunnocks and song thrushes. A local nest of magpies had seen to that and had plundered every nest of its young. Our robin nest was only three feet from our front door, but it did not escape an early morning raid.
Now is the time to enjoy the butterflies, and a trip to NWT Foxley Wood was a delight with every ride mass of wild flowers and fluttering Aurelian delights. White admiral and silver-washed fritillary were numerous and, yes, we did see His Imperial Majesty, the purple emperor, sipping oak sap from a severed bough.
Now is the time to go to see them. The Northern Isles are already reporting the return of our wintering birds from the Arctic. But, hey, we still have 2 good months to get outside and retrieve our disrupted year, and there is so much still to see.
If you have any observations or sightings or behaviour that you would like to share about nature in your area then please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Header image: Wild marjoram by Finn O'Riordan