Notes from Thorpe Marshes

Blog post by Chris Durdin on 24 Aug, 2019
Reed bunting with food for its young, by Brian Shreeve

Four-spotted chaser, by Chris Durdin

In late June, Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s education team ran a family fun day which attracted more than 100 people. There were happy smiles from those who took away craft items and the usual glee from various finds in the pond-dipping area. In my role as a nature guide there were two things that particularly stood out, and my telescope played a part in both.

Dragonflies are amazing to look at but can be tricky to see well. Norfolk hawkers patrol a stretch of ditch, usually flying quite low, so seeing them in flight was straightforward. Other dragonflies may come and go in an instant. The star of the show was a four-spotted chaser in an area of ditch right by where we were meeting and greeting. It hunted, as dragonflies do, but the bonus of this species is that it often returns to the same perch. A frame-filling view of the four-spotted chaser in the telescope on its regular perch led to a few oohs and aahs from all ages at the event. This picture follows the same theme: it was digi-scoped – photographed through the telescope – much as was enjoyed that day.

Reed bunting with food for its young, by Brian Shreeve

Reed bunting with food for its young, by Brian Shreeve

The other immaculately behaved wildlife, from my perspective, was a singing male reed bunting. From a distance it’s a little brown job and its rather insipid, repetitive song isn’t one to inspire someone new to nature. What they have got going for them is that they often stay on the same exposed perch for long periods. This is ideal for a nature guide: you can line up the telescope for everyone to get frame-filling views. Then it’s obvious that a reed bunting can be a seriously smart-looking bird, with its black head and collar framed by a white edge and elegant streaking on its brown back.

In high summer, the ungrazed marsh is colourful with purple loosestrife and pink hemp agrimony. But it’s something more obscure that we often talk about on guided walks. Gipsywort, usually growing on the water’s edge, could easily be dismissed as a stinging nettle at first glance. That’s explained by being a labiate, the same family as dead-nettles. The stem is square, like all labiates, and with difficulty you can see that the tiny flowers, in a ‘whorl’ or ring around the stem, have a dead-nettle like lip. However, it’s the name that raises eyebrows: what’s the connection with gypsies? The answer is that the root of gipsywort contains a dye, and people believed – though there is some dispute about how true this is – that gypsies used it to make themselves look more mysterious, perhaps as part of fortune-telling. The dye can certainly be used for textiles, including tartan.
 
Chris Durdin leads monthly wildlife walks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. Details of monthly walks and recent sightings at the nature reserve can be found here.
Share this

Latest Blog Posts

The secret world of fungi The secret world of fungi
by Norfolk Wildlife Trust on 18 Sep, 2020
White herons: A pleasure to see – a warning to heed White herons: A pleasure to...
by Robert Morgan on 17 Sep, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes – August Norwich Nature Notes – August
by Roger and Jenny Jones on 14 Sep, 2020
Help for hogs Help for hogs
by Helen Baczkowska on 31 Aug, 2020
The magic of Thompson Common The magic of Thompson Common
by Barry Madden on 29 Aug, 2020
The Great British Snake Off The Great British Snake Off
by Tom Hibbert on 24 Aug, 2020
Grazing goats Grazing goats
by Robert Morgan on 17 Aug, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes – July Norwich Nature Notes – July
by Roger and Jenny Jones on 04 Aug, 2020
Summer in the meadows Summer in the meadows
by Helen Baczkowska on 28 Jul, 2020
Search for the emperor Search for the emperor
by Barry Madden on 07 Jul, 2020
Corncrake at Thorpe Marshes Corncrake at Thorpe Marshes
by Chris Durdin on 29 Jun, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes – June Norwich Nature Notes – June
by Roger and Jenny Jones and Jon Shutes on 23 Jun, 2020
Blyth's reed warbler Blyth's reed warbler
by NWT on 12 Jun, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes – May Norwich Nature Notes – May
by Roger and Jenny Jones on 21 May, 2020
Thorpe Marshes: A refuge in lockdown Thorpe Marshes: A refuge in...
by Chris Durdin on 06 May, 2020
Random Acts of Wildness Random Acts of Wildness
by Helen Baczkowska on 04 May, 2020
Deciphering the dawn chorus Deciphering the dawn chorus
by Nick Acheson on 30 Apr, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes Norwich Nature Notes
by Roger and Jenny Jones on 21 Apr, 2020
Incredible insects Incredible insects
by Tom Hibbert on 08 Apr, 2020
Working from home Working from home
by Helen Baczkowska on 23 Mar, 2020
Crafty Creations Crafty Creations
by Maya Riches (guest author) on 05 Mar, 2020
Signs of spring at Thorpe Marshes Signs of spring at Thorpe M...
by Chris Durdin on 27 Feb, 2020
Notes from the Wild Notes from the Wild
by Nick Morritt on 14 Feb, 2020
Volunteering at the Raptor Roost Volunteering at the Raptor ...
by Maya Riches on 11 Feb, 2020