James Lowen 

Explorations away from home, usually connected with bird surveys, have produced the odd moth of interest. A new area for 'Geoff' (Hedge Beauty Alabonia geoffrella), with three leks found in sheltered hedgerows. The same site produced a new moth for me, Argyresthia curvella, adjacent to a wild-growing apple tree. A couple of gorgeous Cream-spot Tigers in a estuary-side Essex wetland, plus a wondrous male Psyche casta(Common Bagworm) there too. And a Coleophora amethystinella in a meadow of ox-eye daisies, planted next to a new-build housing estate: check out its ruddy eye and orange 'eyelashes'. The latter got me excited, as there are only two Norfolk records. Accordingly, I wondered whether it might be rare in Essex too. Nope! There are over 160 records from nearly 30 hectads, so the species has well and truly colonised that county. That said, mine was only the second location in the specific 10km square, so that's something. I suspect we are still overlooking it in Norfolk. Perhaps that might be said of Military Orchid too...

A week later I took my wife to see the orchid, and couldn't find it. At the time I wondered whether it might have been nicked, but was later shown a photo of the stem and leaves still present, but the flowers gone. Now, this might have been because someone wanted a pretty flower for their vase - or - perhaps more likely, a Muntjac had a taste for orchid. But this fairly rapid 'disappearance' does cast a smidgeon of doubt on my assertion in the previous paragraph: perhaps the orchid is nibbled each year before people spot it? Perhaps it has long been there, after all? Perhaps, just perhaps, it is native? Many questions, but no firm answers. 

Let's move on. It has been a remarkable spring for scarce migrants on the east coast of Britain, with Fair Isle - for example - have scores of Red-backed Shrikes, Icterine Warblers and Marsh Warblers. One particularly promising Saturday, Dave Andrews invited me to walk Blakeney Point with him. I declined, because summer Saturdays are all about cricket - while I am still physically able to play? inevitably, Dave found a Thrush Nightingale and a Red-backed Shrike. I kicked myself. The following Saturday, conditions were promising but wet. A group of younger birders invited me to join them to walk Blakeney Point. I reckoned it looked better for Norfolk's east coast... and found a female Red-backed Shrike between Winterton and Horsey. I was reasonably chuffed with this - until Stuart White found a singing Blyth's Reed Warblerin essentially the same spot the following day. It was probably there during my visit, but certainly wasn't singing. Damnation. 

Type your paragraph here.

It has been a really poor spring for moths: low temperatures, lots of rain, lots of wind. Everyone is grumbling, and pretty much nobody is catching anything. I had commitments that prevented me from twitching the two Willowherb Hawk-moths in Kent (and I am thinking that my pot-twitching days are over, anyway). The best garden catches have been Elachista argentella(actually in an unmown stretch of lawn), Puss Moth (only the second here, after the first - long-awaited - record last spring) and Large Nutmeg (increasingly rare here, it seems). Red-belted and Currant Clearwings are still present (those lures now put away for another year). 

The same site also produced a really lovely, close encounter with a Roe Deer. I am seeing plenty of these on my farmland bird surveys (plus Chinese Water Deers far from any water...), but rarely do they allow prolonged views - normally scarpering quickly. 


9 June 2024 Military bearing

A couple of springs ago, on the outskirts of Norwich, Man Orchid was found growing. The nearest to Norwich that this rare orchid grows is Holme Dunes, so there was quite a bit of local interest (albeit without revealing the location publicly - so much so that I felt obliged to not point them out to a socialmediaholic visiting birding friend as we walked within a metre of them). The habitat seemed plausible for a long-undiscovered or long-dormant plant - a scrubby verge on a grassy slope above a river valley. This year there are three plants flowering, of which this is one.

This spring came the twist. A Military Orchid was discovered flowering not 200 m from the Man Orchids. Now Military Orchid is a proper rarity, growing at just two UK sites, I think: Homefield Wood in Bucks and Mildenhall in the Suffolk Brecks. So this would be new for Norfolk and a major record. But it stinks. Although there was no obvious digging to suggest that it might have been planted (unlike the Dorset Sawfly Orchid, which I twitched but don't trust for one minute), it is surely not conceivable that this could be undiscovered site right next to a well-used footpath in a city full of naturalists. And that doubt, in turn, now extends to the Man Orchids. So who has been planting and why?