Friday, 17 April 2015

April 17th Mousehold Heath

I'm back at Mousehold to help out with a group walk led by Will and naturalist Peter. It was a good sized group and included Barbara in it. We started at the car park outside Zak's resturant and watched a jay and then a treecreeper climb the tree we gathered round. Blackcaps, long-tailed tits and goldcrests sang as we began the introductions, while large whites, small tortoiseshells and a brimstone were seen flying nearby. Peter showed off his latest moths he captured in his moth trap last night. His prized capture that he produced to us from his bag of goodies was a nut-tree tussock. I don't know too much about it but it looked pretty as far as grey-brown moths go.

Nut-tree Tussock
On our walk, we came across another moth. This time it was a day flying orange underwing which is apparently rare in Norfolk. We also manage to see the first speckled woods and orange-tip of the year and got to see another treecreeper. Vinegar Pond was now full of tadpoles, but the visibility of the water was quite murky to see all of them clearly. In the gorse, parts of the branches were covered in a tent of silk, the work of  some kind of caterpillar.

Orange Underwing
Speckled Wood
Queen White-tailed Bumblebee
A silken tent made by caterpillars


The air was alive with bird song throughout our walk over the heath. The chorus included blackcaps, chiffchaffs, great tits, blue tits, coal tits, long-tailed tits, robins, wrens, dunnocks, jays, lots of willow warblers and the odd song thrush. At one point, I even heard the loud 'jep' call of a great spotted woodpecker. We also had a good view of a kestrel sitting on top of a tree, who was watching the ground for any lizards or rodents to eat.

Green Tiger Beetle
My pick of the walk was the green tiger beetle that I was desperate to show the group. After a little bit of searching on the patches of bare dry ground, I finally had one in my sights. The group gathered round after I alerted them that I found it and they all got a good look at it. This green jewel of the heath is small but beautiful. It is also deadly. This is one of the fastest insects in Britain and it uses it's speed to catch it's prey. This agility also makes them quite tricky to get close to and photograph. I couldn't get a good enough shot, so I might come back another day and have another go. Will points out the holes where the larva are to our group. The larva sits and wait inside these holes with it's jaws open like a bear trap. Once an ant walks over these holes, the jaws slam shut at an instant and the ant becomes lunch.

Birch Polypore
After lunch, we finished the walk off at St James' Hill overlooking the Cathedral and the cityscape of Norwich. Along the way, we came across a greenfinch and a pair of stock doves. Peter got his scope out and points it at the Cathedral, hopeful for a peregrine sitting on the spire somewhere. There was one but it was flying over the city at first. Eventually, it came in to on one of the four turrets around the spire and everyone had a quick peek through the scope. We end the walk with the sound of house sparrows chirping away in a bush as we made our way back to the car park.
Stock Doves
Red-dead Nettle
House Sparrow

1 comment:

  1. I like the green tiger beetle! Not sure what your caterpillars are as there are a few that make those big silken tents. The lackey moth feeds on things like apple, willow or oak and the brown-tailed moth feeds on all sorts of things, but I'm not sure either would eat gorse. Don't suppose you could see any of the caterpillars inside?
    P.S. Also saw my first speckled wood of the year today!