Thursday, 31 December 2020

My 2020: Review Of The Year

 Let's face it, 2020 was a bad year for all of us. The pandemic has dominated everyone's lives. Either by getting the symptoms yourself, losing a loved one by it or even your job because your business has shut down due to the lockdowns that are in place to reduce the spread of the virus. There's also other things that makes 2020 a year to forget, such as the race riots. But while the world has been fallen apart, I have been trying to keep my mind from thinking about it all and try to distract myself with as much wildlife as I could in such circumstances. So here's how my 2020 went down...

January

It all started quite well. It was a new year and a new decade. The virus was still far away in China to make any impact on my life. I was more interested in starting my new challenge in finding and photographing bird species that I missed over the years. January was a great month for me as I had encounters with a ferruginous duck at Ranworth Broad, a field full of cranes outside Acle and a Slavonian grebe at Wroxham Broad. However, my thoughts weren't completely on birds that month as my granddad was taken into hospital due to heart problems. He spent a few months in hospital, but I'm glad to say that he's made a full recovery since then, at least for now.

February

February was the last full month before the coronavirus outbreak reached the UK. For me, it was a month of owls. The real highlight was travelling to Ipswich by train to see a rather special bird. I had heard of a tawny owl that regularly roosts in a tree in a park there. Although I have seen tawny owls at night before around Norwich, I had never gotten a photo of one before. In Ipswich, this individual has became a local legend, with an owl roosting in the same tree every year since 2007. Though it did disappear in 2017, it returned in 2019 and it was back again this year. It felt rather special to finally see this bird sleeping in full view high up within a hollow of a tree. It was worth the trip as a Norwich City fan into enemy territory to see this beautiful owl.

The rest of the month included a great view of an otter that came out onto land to feast on a fish and a barn owl that landed extremely close to me along the path towards the pump house at Strumpshaw.

March

There was one last adventure before the chaos truly began. During the week of my birthday (March 11th), my parents took me on holiday to Dorset. Despite the weather being a mix bag of rain and sunshine, the week-long trip was fantastic and included a visit to Durdle Door (a famous picturesque sea arch), a spot of fossil hunting and a couple of days at RSPB Arne, where we had great encounters with Dartford warblers and Sika deer. By the end of our stay in Dorset, my adventure didn't end there as I was taken to the Forest of Dean to spend the weekend with a Naturetrek group. Though it was a short extension and the weather was for the most part made things awful with heavy rain showers and extremely muddy paths, my guide made sure my group saw some amazing wildlife that made this forest home. Wild boar with piglets, hawfinches, goshawks, peregrines, little owls, crossbills, ravens, we saw quite a lot of amazing things. However, the highlight had to be seeing my first ever great grey shrike.

The week after, lockdown was announced and when I returned to Strumpshaw, the reserve was yet to decide if to close or not. In the end, after an hour of my shift in Reception Hide, they had made the decision to close up. I had one last walk around the reserve, seeing a barn owl. It would be another 9 months until I could volunteer at Strumpshaw again. 

April-October

Lockdown brought a lot of restrictions in movement and a lot of boredom from not being able to go anywhere outside of Norwich. In April and early May, I didn't really do that much other than to go out for a walk around my local park or at Mousehold Heath. Spring was in the air and for the first time, I felt that I got to experience it and fully open my eyes to what wildlife I could find on my doorstep. Norwich was as wild as any nature reserve, just a lot more overlooked. There were green hairstreaks, green tiger beetles, green and great spotted woodpeckers, a cuckoo (at Thorpe Marshes) and I even heard a lesser whitethroat and a corncrake (also at Thorpe Marshes). I spent Dawn Chorus Day in my local park and it felt like it meant a lot more to me than previous years.

By mid-May, I decided to get into something I'm not at all an expert in; plants. Throughout the summer, I went exploring around the streets and parks and other places in and around the city limits. What I discovered was an amazing array of flora. From four species of orchid and scarcer species such as arrowhead and flowering rush to hare's-foot clover and sand spurrey. I ended up with a long list of plants that I never knew existed in my home city. I have a new appreciation for plants now and I was sad when the summer ended and my list grinded to a halt. 

As the restrictions relaxed and the first lockdown eased, I was allowed to travel further away from Norwich's boundaries. From swallowtails at Hickling Broad to a few visits to the coast to search for migrants at places like Cley and Titchwell. I even had a couple of trips to Strumpshaw for the first time in months. I experienced the strange new one-way route systems at some of these reserves and being inside a hide with a mask on. It was bird watching, but not how it used to be. Social distancing twitching at Wells Wood in September as we all crowded behind a fence and a couple of hay bales looking at a red-backed shrike was something I wouldn't forget.

In October, it was all about the spectacle of the autumn colours produced by the trees in my neighbourhood. The weather was awful though.

November and December

The final two months of 2020 were the least eventful as I barely went out. In November, a second lockdown was in place, but I did sneak in a couple of outings outside of the city. This included a trip to Titchwell where we got some strange looks but saw some great things from shimmering eruptions of golden plovers and a close encounter with a muntjac deer. While at Strumpshaw I discovered my first ever earthstar fungi.

Finally, in December, I was allowed back to volunteering at Strumpshaw since March. I was rewarded with bitterns, otters and a pintail. It was just great to be back, though it was weird helping inside the Reception Hide while obeying to the new social distancing rules and all the tape marking out where we had to stand and move around in. Just to be back and seeing the wildlife and the everchanging weather changing the landscape I was familiar with before the lockdowns, seeing all of it again made up for all the absent weeks I missed being here. And to top things off, I was rewarded with my 10 year service as an RSPB volunteer at Strumpshaw with a silver puffin badge, even though it is a few months early.

Now that Norfolk has entered Tier 4 (pretty much a 3rd lockdown), I'm unsure on how 2021 will be like. Will I ever be allowed to go on big birding outings again? Will I get the vaccine before I get the virus? Whatever happens, I'm sure that next year will be better than this one. Happy new year, everyone!

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

The Last Shift Of 2020

 Dec 30th  Strumpshaw Fen

Today is my last shift of 2020 and with the new Tier 4 system in place, I was unsure if I was allowed to return back to Strumpshaw at first. But after being told that it was my choice to make, I of course wanted to continue. When I arrived to the reserve this morning, though, I discovered that most of it was out of bounds. The hides were now closed once again and with high water levels, both routes along the river were extremely muddy. So my morning walk before my shift was very limited. All I could really do was walk to the river and back and around the woodland trail. There wasn't much to see either.

Receiving my silver puffin badge

When I returned for my shift at the Reception Hide, Ben showed up and gave me a large envelope. Inside was a certificate and two badges. One was the RSPB logo, the other was in a special box, a silver puffin. The silver puffin badge is only given to volunteers who serve 10 years for the RSPB. I was given this badge a little early than expected as next year marks my 10th anniversary at Strumpshaw. It was a special honour. A late Christmas present and a great way to end the year on.


It was a very cold day today and though the weather was good, there wasn't much to see outside of the Reception Hide. As it was very cold, I went for an extra walk in the woods to warm myself up a bit. At this point in the day, the bird life appeared to be more awake and very active. I stood by the Gnarly Oak for a few minutes and within those few minutes I was surrounded by hundreds of siskins, a few redwings, marsh tits, blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, jays and a treecreeper. I tried to spot a redpoll amongst the siskins, but I just couldn't see any at all. On the way back, I had some great views of bullfinches posing well and singing proudly. When I returned back into the hide, the view remained empty other than a flock of sleepy mallards, 3 mute swans, marsh harriers and a sparrowhawk making a quick flyby. Apparently though, while I was on my walk in the woods, I had missed a bittern. Typical! 

Sunrise over the river, Siskin and Bullfinch

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

I'm Dreaming Of A Grey Strump-mas

 Dec 9th  Strumpshaw Fen

Frost and fog outside Reception Hide
My second shift at Strumpshaw since my return was a bit of a grey day (though it was hammering down with rain when I woke up). Extremely thick fog covered much of the reserve and made it very tricky to spot anything. Outside the Reception Hide, the broad was covered in a thin layer of ice as well as the grey soup that was the fog. I spent most of the morning trying to write up the new sightings blackboard for it to go outside. Sadly, my work became a chalky mess dripping down the board. My blackboard duties is now left for someone else (it just takes way too much of my time that I could use to watch the wildlife). The situation with the chalk pretty much summed up that morning's shift as it was a bit of a waste of time with only ducks (including 40-50 shovelers) and the odd marsh harrier to be seen.





Dec 16th  Strumpshaw Fen

Siskins
A much nicer day than the previous week's shift, but the wildlife was still on the quiet side. Pink-footed geese were flying overhead as I made my way to the Fen Hide, which was open but not very productive. Back in the woods as made my return from my early morning walk, I encountered a large mixed flock of goldfinches and siskins (with possibly a few redpolls amongst them, though I personally didn't spot any) congregating on a couple of alder trees, some feeding on the cones, others just twittering to each other. Meanwhile at the Reception Hide, an otter showed up after a couple of hours of me just staring at the few mallards on the broad. I also glimpsed a female sparrowhawk flash by and a few marsh harriers and buzzards circling above.


Otter




Dec 20th  Catton Park

My monthly walk around my local patch was a bit of a disappointing affair if it wasn't for a low flying buzzard and the odd redwing. Other than that, it was a case of dodging everyone's dogs and not finding much of plant life or anything else for that matter.

Dec 23rd  Strumpshaw Fen

This morning was very similar to the one on Dec 9th, grey and wet. When I arrived at Strumpshaw this morning it was extremely foggy, but it soon deteriorated and made way for heavy spells of rain, which was on and off throughout my shift today. Between the showers, I was lucky enough to spot a bittern fly in and out of the reedbeds surrounding the broad. Occasionally it would land into the edge of the reedbeds to the point that you could just make it out or even see the reeds move, bending down by the weight of the bird. I couldn't get any photos sadly as the light was poor and my camera was having a difficult time of focusing on it before it eventually flew off and out of side down into a fairly distant reedbed on the far right side of the broad. 

Shortly after the bittern vanished, an otter appeared. The gadwall and mallard floating on the broad took a while to notice that it was swimming by them all until the fear finally kicked in. The otter hung around for quite some time, maybe an hour, just diving around hunting for fish. There was a moment where it was fighting with something big like a pike before carrying it off in its mouth towards a reedbed in order to eat it. A bittern and an otter, some might say that this is a perfect early Christmas present during a year plagued by a pandemic. A little bit of joy in a world currently full of woe.


Tuesday, 15 December 2020

6 Years On!

It is now 6 years since I started doing this blog and boy, has it been the most challenging year I've ever had. To be honest, I have considered quitting it. Not only has the whole lockdown thing been keeping me from really going very far, Blogger has had a bit of a makeover recently, which has taken a bit of getting used to. You have probably noticed that I don't post that much anymore and when I do, there's a different format to how I usually do my posts. I now write everything I've done collectively whenever I feel like it. However, I'm hoping that I will start a new wildlife challenge or two for next year if things go to plan, so look forward to that.

Now that it is now winter, I just haven't been out much other than work and Strumpshaw on Wednesdays (I will post update soon!). But back in May, after being bored out of my mind during lockdown, I decided to make the most of this plentiful free time exploring the city of Norwich, the place I call home, and to get to grips with a subject I'm not too good at. Plant hunting became an almost daily quest and it gave me some joy in a time which was rather uncertain. I got to visit places near my home that I barely go to and I've discovered some things I never knew I could find in this urban environment.

I only officially started this unexpected new hobby 2 months into lockdown, but I was already accumulating a large list of plants. There were still a few species that were lingering from April when I first started such as honesty, bluebells and cowslip as well as mid-May plants that were only just sprouting like bird's-foot trefoil, ox-eyed daisies, forget-me-nots, poppies and red valerian. When spring became summer, more and more exciting and colourful plants were appearing. Among them were orchids, which I managed to find 4 species (bee, southern mars, common spotted and pyramidal). There were also a few very special species like arrowhead, flowering rush, river water-dropwort, sand spurrey, cudweed and dwarf mallow.

For a city, you'd be amazed on how many types of habitats Norwich has. There's of course the grassy fields and woodlands of the local parks and the river Wensum, but there's also the heathlands of Mousehold Heath, the broads of Whitlingham and the boggy meadows of Thorpe Marshes and Carey's Meadow, not to mention the cemeteries, the tiny patches of unused land and even the between the cracks in the pavement in the city itself. Some of these plants were only found at one site, while many others I found pretty much everywhere. As I'm pretty much a novice at plant IDing, I used an app on my phone to help me out for the most part, though for how accurate it is I'm not a hundred percent sure. I have lost count on the amount of times I took a photo of something yellow only for it being either cat's-ear or smooth sow-thistle. I expect that for every hundred or so species I've found, another few hundred or so eluded me due to my inexperience. 

When autumn came around, it was all about trees. The colours on the leaves were changing and were spectacular this year, unlike the weather which was awful throughout much of October. Just like the wildflowers I've discovered throughout the spring and summer, it was an interesting mix of native and non-native species. Though I tried to exclude escapees as best I could, I only included the ones I found that weren't growing in someone's garden. In the case of non-native trees, I only included the ones along my local streets rather those planted in some of the public parks such as Chapelfield Gardens where so many exotic trees were purposefully planted. 

My list was pretty big to really count or mention fully here, but here's a few other highlights; lords and ladies, wild strawberry, field pansy, ivy-leaved toadflax, groundsel, heath groundsel, common fumitory, meadow saxifrage, celery-leaved buttercup, large bittercress, viper's bugloss, common broomrape, clary sage, biting stonecrop, bell and ling heather, vervain, enchanter's nightshade, hare's-foot clover, dark mullein, fig-leaved goosefoot, amphibious bistort, centaury, soapwort, gallant soldier, sun spurge, pellitory-of-the-wall, corn spurrey, autumn crocus, genko tree, mistletoe.

Now that it is December, the plant hunt has ground to a halt. I will continue the list up until next May to make it a complete year. If you know any plants I can look for from now until next spring, let me know. I would love to find something new before Christmas. Thank you all for all your support on this project so far. I know many of you have enjoyed my urban plant hunting adventures and I'd love for them to continue.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

The Return

 Nov 22nd  Strumpshaw Fen

While the second lockdown was still going on, I haven't really been doing much other than video games and work. With the days getting shorter and my plant list being on hiatus due to a lack of new plants to add with it being winter, I just haven't had the same enthusiasm for nature as I did in the previous lockdown. So, Mum decided to drop me off at Strumpshaw for a walk to get me back into the mood. 

Earthstars
The latest lockdown meant that all the hides were once again closed off to the public. And with the river flooding the path to Tower Hide, turning it into a muddy mess as it does every winter, there weren't many routes left open to explore other than the circuit leading through the woodland trail and pass the pumphouse. To be fair, there wasn't much to see anyway. I saw more families out for a walk than wildlife sightings on this occasion. However, the real highlight was finding a few earthstars. I've never found this fungi on my own before, let alone at Strumpshaw, so I was extremely pleased with myself. I'm not an expert on fungi, but there was no denying that they were very beautiful to look at, resembling like fungal versions of flowers. I also found plenty of candlesnuff fungi as well as siskins, marsh tits, marsh harriers and a Chinese water deer.

Dec 2nd  Strumpshaw Fen

Today, I have returned to Strumpshaw not as a visitor but back as a volunteer. It was finally time to wear the RSPB uniform once again, the first time since March on the day the reserve closed due to lockdown. It has been a long time waiting and now I had to get back into the habit of getting up at the crack of dawn, using public transport (which I had been avoiding since that day in March) and the walk to the reserve from Brundall station. When I arrived, the moon was still bright in the sky as the sun was rising. A thin layer of mist and frost cloaked the landscape and it was a tad nippy as I made my first walk around the reserve as a volunteer in a while. The view outside the hides was rather flooded, while the hides themselves weren't quite open yet for me to enter (the Fen Hide officially reopened later that morning). There were pheasants everywhere and I had a few encounters with muntjac and Chinese water deer and I even startled a hare that ran pass me along the path to the pumphouse. I also saw pink-footed geese fly over, a snipe and some redwings.

Checking in for my induction into volunteering under Covid-19 restrictions, I was taught how to operate in the Reception Hide safely and even got back into refilling the bird feeders (no sign of Percy the persistent pheasant though). My role now was to make coffees for visitors and place them on a tray for my colleague, Tricia, to collect. I have to keep my distance, sanitise every time I make a coffee as well as wear a mask while I make them and before I leave, I have to sanitise everything I touched in the hide. It was utter madness! If a time travelling birdwatcher from the past was to see how this set up was like, they'd probably think we've all gone insane and I wouldn't blame them. But this is  how things are now. I was just happy to be back despite all this crazy nonsense behind the scenes.

Otter, Frosty Sunrise at Fen Hide and Pintail

While everything inside the hide was bonkers, everything outside it was a welcoming distraction. It felt like the wildlife was welcoming me back in style as a good chunk of my first shift back in the hide was dominated by the presence of an otter that was hunting out on the broad. It even caught a couple of fish during its long stay, feasting on one of them (possibly an eel) within the reedy islands. And the otter wasn't the only big highlight celebrating my return as I had 2 sightings of 2 separate bitterns fly out of the reedbeds and across the broad to land in a different section of reedbed and amongst the mallards and gadwall in front of the hide was a male pintail. The pintail was a bit scruffy in the plumage, but it still topped off a memorable day back at Strumpshaw as a volunteer.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

No-Go-November?

 Nov 4th  Mousehold Heath

A second lockdown was about to occur, though with a few differences to the one in the spring as schools were allowed to continue. For me, it meant I was likely back to being restricted to searching for plants and other wildlife within the city for at least another month. Of course, plants are thin on the ground at the moment as we move into winter. Even the trees were losing their leaves, providing me with very little to photograph for my lockdown plant collection for November. However, the lack of leaves on the trees can actually be a good thing if I was to seek out one of the most festive and fascinating plants around.

Mistletoe
Walking down to Mousehold Heath along Wall Road, I discovered clumps of green balls hanging within the bare branches of a few trees lined beside the end of the road. Mistletoe. They were all very high up to get any clear close up, as typical of this parasitic plant. I noticed a few white berries that weren't eaten by the birds already. It is the birds that got the mistletoe up there in the first place. When they eat these berries, it causes very sticky poops when they pass through their digestive systems. When it comes out, it sticks to their glands and the only way to rid of them is to wipe their bottoms to a bare branch. With a new location and instant fertiliser from the bird dropping it came out as, the mistletoe is then able to sprout and tap into the host tree to leech out all its nutrients without needing to set root into the ground. Despite all this success in manipulating the birds to carry its offspring elsewhere, I haven't actually found that many clumps within the city or even around Mousehold itself.

At Mousehold, I was only able a few trees that I hadn't added yet, such as hazel. I felt that my visit was more of an escape from the reality we're currently in for at least a few hours. I was able to forget about lockdown and surround myself with the visual beauty of autumn as well as the smells and sounds that accompany it at this time of year. The colours of the leaves, the fungi sprouting out here and there and the foraging activities of squirrels and jays and even seeing the several moths that are found on the wing during the winter months are enough to lift my mental state for at least a few minutes. 

Nov 8th  Titchwell

Travelling many miles to Titchwell during this second lockdown with my parents was not exactly my idea. It goes against what the government wants us to do in keeping the virus from spreading any faster. The way I see it though, as long as you stay within your 'social bubble' and keep your distance from other people, I can't see why you can't visit nature reserves. As much as this second lockdown is important, keeping yourself from going mentally unstable is also important. Being out and enjoying nature is the best medicine of battling depression and other mental illnesses. It has been proved that being amongst nature gives you the endorphins you need that help relieve stress, even if it is just a short walk in the park. Still, that didn't prevent us from getting some disappointed looks from the few volunteers left manning the reserve that made us feel rather guilty for our visit.

To begin with, it felt like no one else was around. Walking around the boardwalk section of the reserve, we encountered a muntjac deer grazing near the path and we managed to get within a few metres of it without scaring it off. In fact it never ran away when we got too close while trying to pass it, the deer just casually backed away, focusing more on its grassy meal than at us. 

Muntjac Deer, Golden Plover and Pintail

As all the hides were closed off again, we could only view the birds on the pools from the main path. This was fine by me. We sat on a bench overlooking the freshwater pool and had a little picnic, while watching hundreds, maybe thousands of golden plover take to the air and swirl above our heads, unsure if to land back down or not. A fantastic display to entertain us while we were eating. During our visit, we also saw grey plover, ringed plover, redwings, brambling, brent and pink-footed geese, marsh harriers, avocets, bearded tits, curlews, oystercatchers, redshanks, little egrets, turnstones, sanderlings, linnets, stonechats and 3 handsome pintails with one female. Out at sea, I scanned up a great crested grebe and a red-throated diver as well as a blackbird flying over the waves and landing into the dunes behind us. All in all, it was a great day at Titchwell, guilty or not.

Nov 17th  Catton Park

Today, I decided to make my monthly walk around my local park to search for plants. A bit of a waste of time, I know, but I did find a few plants that I've seen in the spring and summer that for some reason got their seasons wrong and decided to bloom now. Buttercups, green alkanets, mayweed, bramble, the list goes on. Though it's just a handful of each (up to a single plant to a small group of 2-3), it is still a very odd sight. Besides that, it was just another walk to keep my sanity from going over the edge and enjoying what was around me.

Friday, 30 October 2020

Wet-tober

 Oct 10th  Cley

October has been a rather wet month this year. It has been raining so much that I haven't had too many days in which I could do a lot of wildlife watching. Due to this and the whole Covid-19 second wave thing, I have been feeling rather fed up and a bit depressed lately. To cheer me up somewhat, Mum took me and my brother, his wife and little Ava to Cley on a rare sunny day earlier in the month. The wind was slightly chilly while we were having a picnic before we head out onto the reserve, but at least it wasn't raining. 

Guillemots
Bird wise, the trip wasn't the most memorable in terms of rarities, seeing mostly common species I've seen many times such as wigeon, curlews, little egrets, etc, but at least I was out in the fresh air. While the rest of my family skimmed stones across the waves as they entertained Ava, I did a bit of sea watching. Gannets were easy to spot with their size, shape and plumage colours, the guillemots, on the other hand, were less obvious as they bobbed up and down on the waves close to shore. Even though they were right in front of us, they made things hard to locate them especially when they decide to dive suddenly. On the way back, the sunny day that we thought was going to last for the remainder of the visit disappeared and was replaced with a short shower that lasted until we returned to the visitor centre's car park. Typical!

Oct 19th  Catton Park

The weather continued to be a bit of a downer for the most part since that trip to Cley. The physically demanding aspect of work was taking a toll on my body, so I took a week off at the same time my parents took the same week to visit my younger brother in Cheltenham. However, I decided to stay in Norwich instead of travelling with them, partly because my bedroom window was scheduled to be repaired with a new hinge. Left to my own devices, I had to think up things to do. I decided to spend a couple of days during my break to continue my plant list. 

Because the weather had been rubbish this month, I haven't really had much opportunity to go out and add anything new, not that there's much to add at this time of year. The flowering season is pretty much over now, so I decided to focus my attention to trees. Though I have already included the more commoner species such as oak, beech, lime, London plane and silver birch, I have saved plenty of other species for this moment right now. It is autumn and the city is awash with a variety of colours on the trees. Armed with a camera and my phone's app, I took a walk around the block and to my local park to see what I could possibly can find. 

Many of the trees in my area were planted many years ago and half of them are non-native. If I thought the wild plants were hard for an amateur like me to identify, these trees were even worse as my app was suggesting all sorts of things. Many of these strange alien trees originated from either Asia or North America or even elsewhere. Along the streets as I walked towards the park included American red gum (though it could also be oriental sweet-gum), white poplar, scots pine and ginkgo to name a few. The park itself had a good mix of sweet and horse chestnuts (with their spiky conker capsules littering the ground), maple, holly, beech, yew, oak and spindle (with their bright pink and orange berries on full display). 

Spindle Berries, Yellow Stagshorn & American Red Gum Leaf (possibly?)

As well as trees, there were plenty of fungi sprouting from the ground and out of tree trunks. Plants are hard enough, fungi are even harder. I'm not making a fungi list any time soon. There are just way too many of them and a lot of them look similar to one another. However, that doesn't stop me from admiring them. There were plenty of interesting fungi in the woods, but none were as spectacular as what I believe is a yellow stagshorn sprouting like a coral on a couple of stumps. The colouring was so vivid that it was hard to miss amongst the dark shade of the woodland floor. Buzzards, jays and squirrels were also seen today.

Oct 20th  Norwich

Continuing my tree search, I took a stroll into the city armed with just the camera on my phone. The plant app on my phone was telling me what my findings were along the way including sweet cherry, Japanese crab apple, American ivy, pin oak, Norway fir, sallow, Babylon weeping willow, mountain elm and one by the Norwich Playhouse theatre that the app got confused as a fern. After lunch at the market, I visited Chapelfield Gardens. This park had plenty of foreign trees, many of which the app couldn't put a confident name too. I'm not sure if I should add any of them to my list anyway. However, I could add the autumn crocuses, that formed a wonderful display in the grass at one corner of the park, to my list with complete confidence. These crocuses were a little bigger than the ones I see growing in the spring and as their name suggests only grow in the autumn.

Autumn Crocuses

And that was the last real wildlife-based outing I've made this month. I was going to visit Strumpshaw today (Oct 30th), but annoyingly I have developed a cold and I don't want to risk making it worse out in the damp cold. I'm at least thankful that it isn't Covid, but it really sums up this month to me. I really have felt down in the dumps this month with reports of rare birds showing up along the coast (including a 'mega' of a sighting in the form of a rufous bush chat in which thousands of people gathered at Stiffkey like some mass pilgrimage with the social distancing rules seeming to be thrown out of the window) and I just couldn't travel to any of them and not to mention all the torrential rain and the threat of Covid-19 keeping me from wanting to go out in the first place. And now I'm sick with a cold. It has not been a great month for me has it?