Saturday, 18 July 2020

14th July - Baconsthorpe woods

Situated behind the castle lies Baconsthorpe woods, a thin strip of mixed woodland made up of both deciduous and evergreen trees. Access to the wood is limited but two footpaths run through it allowing one the chance to revel in dappled sunlight breaking through the canopy. Either side of the wood lie arable fields and hedgerows. A recent walk there on a sunny afternoon produced a few good birds and other goodies. The fields to the south had many Swallows, House and Sand martins feeding over them. This in turn attracted the attention of a Hobby which I watched for a good 10 minutes trying to catch these birds. In the end it settled for a smaller snack. Swooping down it plucked an Emperor dragonfly out of the air with its talons. Raising its feet to its beak it gently plucked off the dragonfly's wings which spiralled down to the ground before snaffling the body. Three Red kites, six Common buzzards a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk completed what was a good tally of raptor species.
   The woods themselves produced both Green and Great spotted woodpeckers along with Goldcrests, Treecreeper, Marsh tit and Bullfinch. Below is a selection of the smaller creatures and plants that caught my eye.

White plume moth

Close up
Riband wave

A tiny toadlet

The skeletal remains of a decayed Ash tree key

Close up
Black and Yellow longhorn beetle

Thursday, 9 July 2020

4th July - A visit to Holkham NNR

Hearing that Holkham NNR had reopened after lockdown I was keen to pay the site a visit. After paying £6 for 4 hours parking at Lady Anne's Drive we began to explore. First thing to do was to check the trunks of the Poplar trees that line the drive in search of Hornet clearwing moths. We found many exit holes which adults had emerged from but no sign of the adults themselves.

Hornet clearwing moth (a superb mimic) stock photo

From the boardwalk we headed down the Western track with butterflies constantly flitting all around us. A good selection was seen. Peacock, Comma, Red admiral, Brown argus, Essex and Small skippers, Meadow brown, Ringlet, Speckled wood, Gatekeeper, Common and Holly blue and Small tortoiseshell were all abundant, while we saw 1 single Purple hairstreak high in an ancient Oak's canopy and 4 Dark-green fritillaries.


Mating Large whites

Dark green fritillary 

Other highlights in the woods included a spectacular Long-horned beetle and a lovely Mint leaf beetle.

Mint leaf beetle

Cinnabar moth caterpillar

Black and yellow longhorn beetle

29th June - The devil's darning needles

The slender bodies of damselflies have given rise to the old country name of devil's darning needles. Much slimmer and more delicate than their larger cousins the dragonflies, they are often overlooked. There are just 26 species of this insect in the UK some of which are extremely rare and endangered.
Local walks to the castle mere and around the local lanes have produced a good number of sightings. Here are a few that stayed still long enough for a photo:
Male Common blue damselfly

Side on shot of male Common blue damselfly

Poor record shot of a male Banded demoiselle

Male and female Blue-tailed damselflies mating 

Immature male Blue-tailed damselfly 

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

23rd June - Crawly but not creepy

It's been a scorching day here in Baconsthorpe. The hottest day of the year so far with the mercury topping 27 degrees. Great weather for insects and other mini beasts! Here's a selection seen down the allotment.

The recently built and erected bug hotel has lots of vacancies

Scorpion fly


Yellow-tail moth caterpillar

Ladybird nymph

Cucumber spider

Ichneumon fly sp

Peacock butterfly caterpillar

22nd June - The Thick-thighed beetle

The gardeners among you may have noticed in the last few weeks a vivid green beetle visiting your flowers. The Thick-thighed beetle seems to be having a great year. I'm seeing them in good numbers everywhere I go.

Thick-thighed beetle 

A beetle of many names, it is also called the swollen-thighed beetle and the false oil beetle. Only the male of the species has the enlarged upper legs while the ladies are much more svelte in that department.

Female (thin legs)

Often seen nectaring on open flowers like cornflower, these beetles are important pollinators. Adults can be seen all through spring and summer on bright days, so keep a look out for them over the coming weeks.

Male on Dog rose

Monday, 15 June 2020

13th June - The flying gemstone

The imperial jeweller Carl Fabergé produced some of the most stunningly beautiful objects ever seen by mankind. I think even he would struggle to match the exquisite beauty of the Ruby-tailed wasp. With an emerald green body and a ruby red tail it really is an absolute gem to see.
   There are several species of this solitary wasp in the UK. All look very similar and as they are barely 10mm long and constantly on the move they can be hard to observe.
   Ruby-tailed wasps are also known as Cuckoo wasps. This is down to their habit of laying its eggs in the nests of other solitary bee and wasp species. Once the eggs hatch into larvae they feed on the newborn of the host species.
   I'd seen a few Ruby-tailed wasps this last month but it wasn't until this Saturday that I finally managed to photograph one in the back garden. The photos don't really do it justice, much nicer in the flesh.
Ruby-tailed wasp

What a gem
Close up

11th June - Moth trap #2

I hauled out the moth trap for another go at seeing some of our nocturnal nature. Sadly once again the weather changed quite dramatically overnight so the catch was very small.
   What wasn't small was the Privet hawk-moth I found within. These stunning moths are the UK's largest breeding species with a wingspan of 9-12cm and are brightly marked with a red and black abdomen and pink and black striped underwings.
Privet hawk-moth
Wings fully open
Look at that eye

Also of note was a White ermine moth which possesses one of the fluffiest heads you're ever likely to see. The name arises from its similar appearance to the ermine robes worn by royalty.
White ermine moth

Details of the feathered antenna

A Common emerald moth provided another splash of colour...
Common emerald

...while the Clouded border is always nice to see.
Clouded border

When running a moth trap it is necessary to get up just before daybreak to pot up any moths that haven't made it into the trap but have settled nearby otherwise the local birds soon learn about the fly-through takeaway on their doorstep. So I was up at 3.30am and, having saved many lives from hungry beaks, took a walk to the castle as the day unfolded around me. Beautiful pastel colours lit the sky as the sun slowly made its way up, while several Skylarks sung from on high and a ghostly Barn owl slowly quartered fields near the castle, and a Weasel broke cover to reveal himself fleetingly.
3.50am heading to the castle