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NWT Thorpe Marshes

Paths are dry now, except the 'marsh path'. June 2022

Blogs list in the right hand column.

Thorpe St Andrew Marshes – NWT Thorpe Marshes for short – is one of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s newest nature reserves, established in 2011. It's in the Norfolk Broads yet on the edge of Norwich in Thorpe St Andrew. It also happens to be my local patch – just down the road from home and the Honeyguide office, writes Chris Durdin.

June: bird song continues, though less so than in May. Usually a good month for dragonflies and damselflies. Not much to see on the Broad: swans with cygnets, great crested grebes, sometimes a common tern fishing. In early June, yellow flag irises are common in parts of the grazed marsh.

ragged robin yellow flag iris Norfolk Hawker
Ragged robin, yellow flag iris and Norfolk hawker, at its most numerous in June.

Publications about NWT Thorpe Marshes

James Emerson's The Birds of Whitlingham & Thorpe 2021. This includes bird records for NWT Thorpe Marshes in 2021 and reports on the little gulls regularly at Thorpe Marshes in March-April 2021.

Updated version (June 2020) of Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Whitlingham Area, which has a lot of records and photos from Thorpe Marshes. Report on spiders and related species (April 2020): Arachnids of the Whitlingham area by James Emerson, also includes records and photos from NWT Thorpe Marshes.

There are also Thorpe Marshes wildlife reports for 2012-2019 and previous Whitlingham/Thorpe bird reports. For these, scroll down to 'Wildlife reports & guide'.

Local history

These two blogs give an insight into Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s.
Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s
(January 2018) and Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s part 2 (April 2018).

Willow Emerald damselflies

Thorpe Marshes is a great place to see this damselfly in season (late July to October) and to discover more. Willow Emerald egg-laying scars are clear if you know where to look throughout the winter. A local discovery at Thorpe Marshes (January 2018) is Willow Emerald egg-laying scars on domestic apple - a first for the UK. More about this and other unusual places for scars here.

Blogs about Willow Emeralds:
What are the chances of that happening? (August 2017) [by Derek Longe].
Pretty damsels (September 2016).
Willow Emeralds return to Thorpe Marshes (October 2015).
A Gem of an Emerald (September 2014).

Gallery of photos of dragonflies and damselflies of NWT Thorpe Marshes on Facebook here includes several Willow Emeralds. A Willow Emerald at Thorpe Marshes on 6 November 2017 appears to be have been the last sighting for 2017 in the UK; there was an even later sighting in 2021, on 9 November.

Willow Emerald Damselfly paper, featuring Thorpe Marshes: "WILLOW EMERALD DAMSELFLY CHALCOLESTES VIRIDIS OVIPOSITING INTO BRAMBLE" by Derek Longe (10MB pdf). In Atropos Issue 58, 2017, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the editor. See also Derek's NWT blog. Autumnwatch's feature on Willow Emeralds is here on YouTube - the piece on Willow Emeralds starts at 16:26.

Recent sightings


21 June: 7 lapwings dropped into the flood. Little egret, sparrowhawk, juvenile stonechat. Count of 23 Norfolk hawkers from main circuit. Lots of small tortoishells, red admiral, comma.

10 June: Cuckoo heard 05:00. PM: marsh harrier, stonechat, 16 Norfolk hawkers, azure damselflies. Evening guided walk: sparrowhawk, stonechats, cuckoo, kingfisher. Norfolk hawker; blue-tailed and common blue damselflies. Hairy shieldbug (=sloe shieldbug).

29 May, afternoon: male stonechat, perched buzzard, exceptional view of little egret, thick-thighed flower beetle and soldier beetle below.

buzzard Cantharis nigricans, a soldier beetle.
Buzzard; Cantharis nigricans, a soldier beetle.

26 May a.m.: cuckoo seen & heard, stonechats, 3rd early marsh orchid. 3 Norfolk hawkers, first of the year.

chicken of the woods meadowsweet rust Triphragmium ulmariae
Two very different fungi today: left, chicken of the woods, Bungalow Lane. right, meadowsweet rust Triphragmium ulmariae.

Lesser stag beetle

Evening guided walk: cuckoo, including bubbling female, grasshopper warbler, male marsh harrier, kestrel. Muntjac.

Lesser stag beetle (photo, left).

24 May: 4 stonechats (♂,♀, 2 juveniles), 2 sand martins, male marsh harrier, sparrowhawk. Thick-legged flower beetle reported this morning.

23 May, guided walk: two cuckoos, including female's bubbling call, 2 stonechats, 8 warbler species singing inc. garden warbler. Views of great spotted woodpecker. Orange tip egg on wintercress. Star botanical find: 2 x early marsh orchids by the edge of the path (one had been found by another guided walk over the weekend), in two shades of pink.

Early marsh orchids.

Dock rust Puccinia phragmitis on broad-leaved dock
Dock rust Puccinia phragmitis on broad-leaved dock. Life history is curious: first stages on Rumex (dock) species, later stages on Phragmites (reed), hence scientific name..

19 May: c.5 hairy dragonflies, my first red-eyed damselflies and banded demoiselles. Buzzard, 2 stonechats, water rail calling, 2 swallows. Frog swimming in a ditch - quite an unusual sighting here. Brimstone, red admiral, 2 painted ladies. See pictures for more invertebrates.

spindle ermine moth caterpillars
Spindle ermine moth caterpillars.

Alder fly painted lady
Alder fly, with harlequin ladybird; one of today's two painted ladies.

13 May: 2 hairy dragonflies, spindle ermine moth caterpillars. Garden warbler singing. Ragged robin and yellow flag irises coming into flower. Stonechats: 1-2 juveniles, presumably locally fledged, reported since 6 May; today there were three stonechats on show.

6 May, guided walk with Thorpe Marshes volunteer group: water vole, outstanding view of cuckoo, again; only (!) 8 species of warblers; lapwing, 2 stonechats, little egret, marsh harrier. Large red and common blue damselflies. Orange tip butterflies and eggs, brimstones, comma, small white, peacock.

drinker moth caterpillar
Distant digiscoped cuckoo; drinker moth catepillar.

red-headed cardinal  Pyrochroa serraticornis
Red-headed cardinal beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis on cow parsley, long-jawed orbweb spider Tetragnatha sp (extensa? = common stretch spider).

4 May, guided walk: water vole seen! Nine warbler species, today including garden warbler. Cuckoo seen and heard well. Little egret, 1 coot, 3 gadwalls (2♂,1♀), 2 shovelers flying around, 3 stonechats (2♂,1♀). Dozens of grey, teneral common blue damselflies; 2 large red damselflies. Common carder bee, alder fly, pied shield bug, hairy (=sloe) shieldbug. Orange tip butterfly and eggs found on both lady's smock and garlic mustard.

large red damselfly
Large red damselfly today, probably recently emerged and with more colour to develop.

lady's smock with orange tip egg
Lady's smock with orange tip egg (arrow); 14 spot ladybird.

peacock butterfly caterpillars
Peacock butterfly caterpillars on stinging nettles.

3 May: eight warbler species singing, as for 25 April (+ garden warbler also reported in recent days). Kingfisher, sparrowhawk, swallow. Orange tip butterfly eggs.

25 April:  eight warbler species singing: Cetti's, sedge, reed, grasshopper and willow warblers, whitethroat, blackcap, chiffchaff.

23 April: sedge, reed and willow warblers, whitethroat all singing. 6 tufted ducks, 4 great crested grebes.

8 April, guided walk: several buzzards (up to 4), red kite flew west from Whitlingham. 2 stonechats ♀&♂, many reed buntings, oystercatcher flew over. Same ducks + 4 great crested grebes as 8/4. Chinese water deer. Lady's smock in flower near railway bridge. Small tortoiseshell and male orange tip butterflies; pied shieldbug, nursery web spider, common carder bee.

orange tip
Today's orange tip butterfly (Ann Greenizan).

5 April: little egret, buzzards; shoveler, teal, gadwall, coots, tufted ducks all present; chiffchaff and Cetti's warbler singing. 4 great crested grebes on St Andrews Broad and a 5th on the river.

4 April: sand martin reported by NWT reserves team.

31 March: c.150 redwings flying west (flocks of c.80 and c.70) at 10:30; snipe, oystercatcher, little egret, 2♂ shovelers, teal, gadwall, coots, tufted ducks all present. Chiffchaff and Cetti's warbler singing.

corkscrew gall mite
Gall on reed made by the 'corkscrew gall mite' Steneotarsonemus phragmitidis. We also found 10 cigar galls on reeds, then stopped counting.

22 March: ♂ stonechat; buzzard; two great crested grebes on gravel pit.

21 March: shoveler, teal, gadwall, tufted ducks all present p.m. Kingfisher; chiffchaffs singing; meadow pipit. Marsh harrier and stonechats reported a.m. (MB/TB).

7 March: 55 tufted ducks, teal, gadwall, 2 water rails calling. Coltsfoot and lesser celandine beginning to flower, river bank mostly.

26 February: 2 stonechats ♀&♂. 4♂ pochards, ♀goldeneye, little grebe, ♂ shoveler (probably more than 1), gadwalls, tufted ducks.

15 February, rainy guided walk: Chinese water deer, meadow pipit. On St Andrew's Broad: 5 shovelers, 1 ♂ pochard, tufted duck, mallard, gadwall, reduced number of teals on the fringes, cormorants. Black-headed gulls still in high numbers, some gaining dark heads, herring gulls. Fungi: jelly ear on elder and King Alfred's cakes on ash (see photos in December) still easy to see.

12 February: single oystercatcher.

8 February: burst of siskin song from alder, and greenfinch, on marsh side of railway bridge. 2 stonechats ♀&♂, buzzard, 2 snipe. 180 black-headed gulls, 25 herring gulls. Many teal on broad edges, a few tufted ducks and gadwalls.

27 January: c.35 teals (maybe more).

25 January: on the broad, single males of wigeon, pochard and shoveler. 2 coots, mallard, 22 gadwalls, 13 tufted ducks, 14 teals. A few ducks may have been missed, especially teal. Small siskin flock flew through. No stonechat. Muntjac, unusually well away from the wooded edge of the reserve.

12 January, guided walk: great white egret flying west over the railway bridge, c.10:15. Cetti's warblers & 2 water rails heard. Flock of 30 teals plus a few on the broad's edges, 1 male shoveler, tufted ducks and gadwalls. Herons, cormorants. Good views of perched male kestrel and green woodpecker.

11 January: ring-necked parakeet from the reserve, just beyond the railway line. Male reed bunting. A scattering of gadwalls and tufted ducks.


30 December: 2 stonechats, c.20 siskins, 18 teals in flight.

23 December: 50 fieldfares flying west along Yare Valley, c.100 siskins in flock, riverside trees of Whitlingham CP. Influx of ducks: c.250 tufted ducks, 50 gadwalls, 1 teal (at least). Green & great spotted woodpeckers.

17 December, guided walk on a misty morning: flock of goldfinches, flock of c.60 siskins across the river, water rails heard in 3 places, snipe, Cetti's warbler heard, wren singing, bullfinch, heron, cormorants, gadwalls. Surprisingly good day for fungi: jelly ear, King Alfred's cakes, coltsfoot rust (as pictured earlier this month) yellow brain, sycamore tar spot and velvet shank.

velvet shank
Tiny fungi on a stump (ash?), probably velvet shank, early stages of this winter species.

16 December: Chinese water deer. 2 water rails calling, 2 Cetti's warblers singing.

15 December: 2 stonechats. Great crested grebe, 3 tufted ducks.

Coltsfoot rust Coleosporium tussilaginis

14 December: stonechat, reed bunting, green and great spotted wodpeckers. Singing Cetti's warbler and dunnock; water rail called. A few gadwalls.

7 December: 11 tufted ducks, a few gadwalls. Flock of c.60 siskins. Kestrel.

jelly ear fungus King Alfred's cakes fungi
Two fungi, 7 December: jelly ear on elder and King Alfred's cakes on ash.

Flooding, 2 December 2021. Flooding, 2 December 2021.
Flooding, 2 December 2021

29 November: 20 tufted ducks, 13 gadwalls. Water rail and siskin heard.

23 November: two stonechats, male and female. Water rail called; singing Cetti's warbler, robin and wren. 14 gadwalls the only ducks, cormorant. Mixed flock of long-tailed and blue tits. No late dragonfly in the sunshine.

9 November: male stonechat. Willow emerald damselfly, by open ditch opposite eduction area gates. Latest ever record for Thorpe Marshes (previous latest was 6 November 2017). To be expected this warm autumn. Common darters.

common darter, 9 Nov 2021
Common darter, 9 Nov 2021. Weird background is rubbish from a riverside boat.

3 November, guided walk: several groups of starlings and one redwing flock flying west along the Yare Valley. Cetti's warbler and wren singing. Tufted ducks, gadwalls and mallards on the broad, plus cormorant and heron. Pair of stonechats, great spotted woodpecker. Too misty for insect life. Spindle and guelder rose in fruit, late cow parsley in flower.

2 November: male stonechat, 2 buzzards, 12 tufted ducks. Heard water rail, Cetti's warbler and chiffchaff contact call. Male migrant hawker and several common darters, including two pairs in tandem; several caddis-flies.

30 October: livestock have left, having arrived on 21 September. 2 stonechats, 30 tufted ducks.

19 October: 2 stonechats.

9 October: male stonechat, 3 tufted ducks on the broad. Scores of caddis-flies. Chiffchaff contact call heard again.

5 October, guided walk, dry with occasional sunshine missing early and late rain today: great spotted woodpecker, mistle thrush, Cetti's warbler singing, 3 meadow pipits (first of winter), chiffchaff contact call heard. Lots of caddis-flies when it was sunny. Knot grass moth caterpillar.

tree wasp hogweed with caddis-fly
Unusual wasp: best fit seems to be tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris. Hogweed with caddis-fly, one of the cinnamon sedge types.

Knot grass moth caterpillar (Neil Rogers). Larval food plants include plantain, dock, knotgrass, bramble, sallows and hawthorn.

1 October: 2 stonechats. Chiffchaff with mixed tit flock.

24 September: water rail walking across the path. Cetti's warbler singing. Willow emeralds, common darters, migrant hawkers.

21 September: NWT cows have arrived.

13 September, guided walk: 2 little egrets, great spotted woodpecker. Painted lady. Migrant hawker, common & ruddy darters, mating pair of willow emeralds. Several ivy bees on ivy in Whitlingham Lane. Lots of flowers, including greater water parsnip in seed, nodding bur marigold and skullcap.

red admiral
A season of numerous, perfect red admirals: this one (13/9) on ivy in Whitlingham Lane.

4 September: 3 teals (MB).

26 August: count of 13 flowering/seeding plants of greater water parsnip. Migrant hawker, gatekeeper, both a surprise on such a cloudy day.

12 August, NWT guided walk: common lizard on railway bridge step. Common sandpiper, brief view over R Yare. A great show of flowers (like those above). Too overcast for many butterflies or odonata.

9 August: green and great spotted woodpeckers. 5 lapwings, 1 little egret. 12 flowering plants of greater water parsnip, a success from last year's introduction project (see news in right hand column).

5 July: red kite overhead. Stonechats, still some song from sedge, reed and Cetti's warblers and whitethroats. Thick-legged flower beetle. Guided walk for RSPB Norwich Local Group visit.

red-eyed damselfly reed bunting Carrion beetle Oiceoptoma thoracium
Red-eyed damselfly on fishing float (Doug Arkell); reed bunting; carrion beetle Oiceoptoma thoracium, all on 5 July.

25 June: male marsh harrier, singing grasshopper warbler, two juvenile stonechats. Meadow-rue and meadowsweet both in flower.

15 June: at least two juvenile stonechats. Norfolk hawkers and black-tailed skimmers in good numbers. Valerian is in flower, as are water soldiers.

6 June: three juvenile stonechats (SW).

4 June: first red-eyed damselflies on vegetation in River Yare. Two pairs of mute swans with cygnets: 2 cygnets on St Andrew's Broad, 3 on the river.

28 May, NWT event: stonechats with two recently fledged young. Now we know why the stonechats have stayed - which is unusual on a marsh. 2 common sandpipers over St Andrew's Broad, 1 lapwing, male marsh harrier. Garden warbler by railway bridge. Large red damselfly.

King's Alfred cakes
King Alfred's cakes (fungus) on a dead ash by the river, 24 May

24 May, guided walk: eight warbler species and the ninth (grasshopper warbler) heard by an early arrival. Buzzards, 2 stonechats. Hairy dragonfly, red soldier beetle.

16 May: 2 stonechats still (also yesterday), silent cuckoo, male marsh harrier reported, grasshopper warbler (evening).

6 May, guided walk in the rain: common sandpiper on river, c.50 swallows over St Andrews Broad and perching on dead ashes, swifts, usual warblers including grasshopper warbler.

3 May: red kite over; pair of stonechats, swifts mingling with swallows, grasshopper warblers singing mid-morning.

30 April: sightings of little gull at Whilingham CP and Thorpe Marshes (DL, SW on WhatsApp).

29 April, NWT guided walk: grasshopper warbler singing for the first to arrive; Cetti's, sedge & reed warblers and whitethroats among other warblers. Common terns, 3 hirundine species, kingfisher, still 37 late-staying tufted ducks.

27 April: stonechats still here. Reed warblers singing in two places, ditto grasshopper warbler in the middle of the day. Garden warbler heard (SW).

26 April: male and female stonechat! 7 warbler species: Cetti's warbler in view for a change, whitethroats, sedge warblers, brief burst of grasshopper warbler, willow warbler, chiffchaff, blackcap. 5 common terns, 110 black-headed gulls. 15 swifts, all too briefly - for late April swifts, the Yare Valley is often a good place for sightings. Swallow, house martin. Kingfisher seen mating. Blog here.

Lady's smock with orange tip egg
Lady's smock with egg of orange tip butterfly - see middle of photo.

25 April: male stonechat; several recent sightings (TB). Big flock (100+) of hirundines, all 3 species, including a lot of house martins.

23 April: 5 grasshopper warblers; hobby (SW). "Little gull drifted across to Whitlingham" (DR on WhatsApp). This is the final little gull sighting in this sequence, so far as I know; that's 25 days at Thorpe Marshes since since first seen on 30 March. How many birds were involved is unknown. Little gulls did not stay overnight at Thorpe: it's likely they left with black-headed gulls and roosted overnight at Breydon Water.

21 April: 3 little gulls, 2 adults, 1 immature. 6 Arctic terns came through but didn't stop (SW).

20 April: 2 adult little gulls reported, now three weeks since the first appeared.

18 April: now 3 little gulls, one adult with a black head and two immatures. Whitethroat, 3 lapwings, oystercatcher.

17 April, dusk: water rail heard, noctules, a single roosting black-headed gull. Little gull reported daily still.

15 April: little gull. 2 cranes over, whitethroat (from info on WhatsApp).

14 April: little gull ...

13 April: little gull still there, now a fortnight since it was first seen. Grasshopper warbler heard this morning (SW).

12 April: little gull, 2 stonechats still here. Sedge warblers singing in two places; willow warblers reported (local WhatsApp group). Swallows, sand & house martins.

10 April: kittiwake, adult! Perhaps the bird that has been at Whitlingham CP. Adult little gull with most of its black head; different bird to the wintry ones seen previously, or a remaining bird coming into spring plumage? Swallows, sand martins, house martin, coming and going; lapwing landed. Lady's smock, marsh marigold in flower.

little gull, James Lowen
Today's little gull (James Lowen www.jameslowen.com).

9 April: common tern (SW).

7 April: 2 stonechats, little gull (SW).

6 April: 1 little gull, dozens of swallows, viewed from the railway bridge due to flooded paths.

flooding 6 April 2021
Flooding, 6 April 2021.

5 April: 1 little gull, several swallows and at least one sand martin, two oystercatchers on the 'beach', all viewed from the railway bridge due to paths going under water.

4 April: ♀&♂ stonechats still present, blackcap singing, pair of shovelers and a few teals still around. Evening: crane flew over (SW).

31 March: 3 little gulls. See photo below, cropped from this one on Facebook.

little gulls

30 March: little gull! Adult moving from winter to spring plumage. Dusky underwings, some dark on hood, a hint of pink on the underside in flight.

Little gull (Susan Weeks).

About 6 toads in one ditch. Many peacock butterflies, small tortoiseshell, buff-tailed bumblebee, pied shieldbug, Eristalis pertinax hoverfly. 2 stonechats, chiffchaffs, green woodpecker calling, buzzard, 2 lapwings. 2♂ shovelers with tufted ducks, teal, gadwall on broad. Little egret on 'flood'.

little egret
Little egret, 30 March 2021.

29 March: stonechat, reed bunting, Cetti's warblers and chiffchaffs singing, pair of linnets, kingfisher on river. Little egret, shoveler, tufted ducks, teal, gadwall on broad. 3 sand martins reported on 27 March. First lady's smock, next to Japanese rose Rosa rugosa by riverside path.

dry path
Even the 'muddy corner' is dry now; 29 March 2021.

23 March: 2 oystercatchers, 3 shovelers (1♀,2♂), sparrowhawk. Blackcap song reported (SW). Peregrine over, seen from Thunder Lane.

22 March: chiffchaffs, reed bunting and Cetti's warbler singing; stonechat reported (I missed it). 2 male shovelers.

11 March: 47 tufted ducks, gadwalls, shoveler, teal, mallard, coot, 2 little grebes. Water rail called; chiffchaff contact call. Coltsfoot in flower on riverside path near the houseboat.

9 March, late: 2 barn owls (SW).

4 March: little egret. Tufted ducks, gadwalls, shovelers. Water rail called.

path improvements

Path improved in previously very muddy SE corner of the circuit around the reserve; still wet though, 4 March 2021.

23 February: 5 shovelers (1♀,4♂), little grebe on St Andrews Broad. Stonechat, 2 reed buntings, Cetti's warbler singing. Barn owl seen early today (TB).

22 February: single crane seen flying west (SW and MB).

17 February: smew has gone (so has the ice). 158 tufted ducks (count by Geoffrey Kelly). 4 shovelers, gadwalls mating, a handful of teals, pochard reported but had gone when I was there. 1 Cetti's warbler singing; 2 reed buntings; single tail-less stonechat; small group of siskins over, by railway bridge. 20 lapwings over, flying SE.

15 February: redhead smew (was previously at Whitlingham); barn owl at dusk (16:55), also reported several times recently (MB); water rail calling.

Smew, with teals (Stuart White).

14 February: 22 shovelers (SW)

12 February: no diving ducks with c.98% of the gravel pit's water surface frozen. Group of gadwalls and teals near the viewing point, and ♂ shoveler by opposite shore; 2 stonechats reported.

8 February: great white egret (SW).

Flooded path through the marshes, 1 Feb 2021
Flooded path through the marshes, 1 Feb 2021.

1 February: male siskin in alder by railway bridge. Two shelducks flew over. No egrets.

29 January, morning: great white egret showing well, with little egret. Male goldeneye again.

great white egret
It won't win any prizes — record shot would be a polite description — but you can just about make out, from left to right, great white egret, little egret and two mute swans.

28 January, late afternoon: great white egret (MB); male goldeneye.

26 January: 3 stonechats (2♀,1♂); first I've seen this year, but then it's largely a matter of chance on timing. Cetti's warbler singing. 3 pochards (1♀,2♂), pair of shovelers, little egret.

25 January: kittiwake reported on Twitter, with photo.

10 November: 6 goldeneyes (2♂) (SW).

17 January: fairly low numbers of waterfowl: 51 tufted ducks, 11 gadwalls, 2♂ pochards, 23 teal (probably more), 2 coots, 2 great crested grebes. 2 herons, 1 little egret.

4 January: tufted ducks, gadwalls, teal & pochards on St Andrews Broad, plus great crested grebe and cormorants. Little to see on the marshes; just mute swans on flooded paths.

Sightings from 2012 - 2020 here.

Wildlife reports & guide

Guide: click here to see NWT Thorpe Marshes map and guide.

2021 James Emerson's The Birds of Whitlingham & Thorpe 2021

2020 James Emerson's The Birds of Whitlingham & Thorpe 2020

2019 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2018-19  
James Emerson's The Birds of Whitlingham & Thorpe 2019

2018 James Emerson's The Birds of Whitlingham & Thorpe 2018.

2017 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2017.
James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2017

2016 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2016.
James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2016.

2015 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2015.
James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2015.

2014 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2014.
James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2014.

2013 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2013.
James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2013.

2012 Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2012.
James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2012.

Reports are in PDF format.

Wildlife habitats

The three key habitats at Thorpe St Andrew Marshes are the ditches, gravel pit and grazed marshes - see below.

Other habitats, which are all part of the rich mix, include:

  • rough marsh of willowherb and nettles, attracting many sedge warblers
  • sallow (pussy willow) scrub, good for Cetti's warbler
  • the adjacent tidal River Yare
  • adjacent wet woodland
  • areas of reed, including a reed rond on the river, attracting reed warblers.


Many ditches – also called dykes in Norfolk – have abundant water soldier and frogbit, both aquatic plants. These are indicators of good water quality.

In the Broads, the occurrence of the Norfolk hawker dragonfly, which is the symbol of the Broads Authority, is strongly linked to water soldier. The best place to see these is over the ditches close to the cattle corral.

Water rails and water voles use the ditches, though both are difficult to see.

water soldier watermint frogbit
Ditches rich in water soldier (left), water mint (centre) and frogbit (right)

Gravel pit

Gravel extraction – as at Whitlingham Country Park across the river – has led to the creation of a lake, which has filled naturally with river water. Some may call this a ‘broad’: the true broads are man-made, too, though from flooded peat diggings, and typically are much shallower.

gulls over the gravel pit
Gulls over the gravel pit, December 2011

The gravel pit here attracts wintering ducks, especially tufted ducks (picture below), pochards and gadwalls, moving between here and the Country Park. Unusual ducks call in at times, including smew, goldeneye, red-crested pochard and ferruginous duck over the 2011/12 winter.

Gravel beaches attract ‘loafing’ ducks and wading birds, which include little ringed plovers in spring/summer. Stock doves often feed on plant seeds on the gravel.

Grazed marshes

Livestock are essential to manage the open grazed marshes habitat.

cattle at Thorpe Marshes

Without them, thick grasses and sedges would dominate even more, and would in time be taken over by scrub.

More heavily grazed and trampled areas have a distinct structure of lumps and hollows that attract feeding snipe, and have flowers such as marsh marigold and lady’s smock.

the flood

The flood: the grazing marshes include a 'flood', periodically under water, then drying out, here with a greylag goose and mallards in March 2012. The bright green shoots are emerging yellow flag iris plants.

More Honeyguide nature notes

This is an unofficial web page supporting the reserve, to show pictures, promote events, provide reports and note wildlife sightings.

For the official NWT web page, click here or on the logo. Also, the NWT blog has reports from Thorpe Marshes (scroll down for a list and links).

For official information or policy, please contact the NWT directly.

Livestock in trouble? NWT emergency grazing number here.

There is no parking in the private road of Whitlingham Lane. If coming to Thorpe Marshes by car, please park on Yarmouth Road or Thunder Lane.

NWT guided walks

NWT monthly walks led by Chris Durdin

Since the lockdown gap, Thorpe Marshes guided walks are best booked, to keep track of numbers and to help contact people if there is a change of plan (e.g. severe weather or flooding).

Booking via NWT - bookings are made online via Eventbrite.

Thursday 7 July 7pm
Tuesday 2 August 10am
Friday 9 September 10am
Wednesday 19 October 10am
Wednesday 2 November 10am
Friday 2 December 10am

NWT walks are free of charge and last about 2 hours at a slow pace. They start from the pedestrian railway bridge at the end of Whitlingham Lane.

Remember to bring binoculars and a camera if you have them.

If you'd like to borrow binoculars, please contact Chris: I usually bring one spare pair but more than that is heavy to carry if they aren't needed.

Boots are recommended as paths can be wet in places. Wellies are rarely needed for wading, though can be useful when grass is wet or paths are muddy in winter.

Walk meeting point: just over the bridge at the end of Whitlingham Lane.

This is the Whitlingham Lane off Yarmouth Road, opposite Thunder Lane, postcode NR7 0QA.

Other events

26 June: NWT Family Fun Day.

If the above NWT guided walks dates don't work for you, or are oversubscribed, you can contact Chris to see if additional guided visits are planned for other groups or can be added.

Talks: we can offer a talk about NWT Thorpe St Andrew Marshes. Please contact Chris.

See also section about dyke dipping below. Plans for 2022 are undecided.


Norfolk schools get a taste of rare parsnips

NWT Thorpe Marshes features in greater water parsnip introduction project.

Dog issues: Local news story here.

Look out for

lady's smock

Lady's smock


Stonechat: staying to breed for a second year.


Mostly by Chris Durdin about Thorpe Marshes on the NWT blog. Links below the line take you to the previous 'blogger' site for NWT blogs.

Guided walks, May 2022. On the Honeyguide blogspot.

Walking again at Thorpe Marshes (Water, Mills and Marshes project, November 2020)

Corncrake at Thorpe Marshes (June 2020)

Thorpe Marshes, a refuge in lockdown (May 2020)

Signs of spring at Thorpe Marshes (February 2020)

Three swans a-swimming ... on the path (January 2020); earlier version from December 2019.

A wet day in November (November 2019)

October at NWT Thorpe Marshes (October 2019)

Notes from Thorpe Marshes (August 2019)

Beetlemania (December 2018).

A Tale of Two Bugs (November 2018, on Honeyguide blog.

In Praise of Ivy (written October 2018).

Red bartsia bee discovered at Thorpe Marshes (September 2018).

Oasis in the drought (July 2018) plus photos on Facebook.

Norfolk hawkers at Thorpe Marshes (June 2018).

Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s part 2 (April 2018, on Honeyguide blog)

Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s (January 2018)

What are the chances of that happening? (August 2017) [by Derek Longe].

Sedge warblers return (April 2017).

The times they are a-changin’ (February 2017).

Gathering gadwall (January 2017).

Ovington Ramblers visit Thorpe Marshes (November 2016) [not by CD.]

Pretty damsels (September 2016).

Trapped! (May 2016).

Pop goes the weasel (February 2016).

Winter access to Thorpe Marshes (December 2015).

Willow Emeralds return to Thorpe Marshes (October 2015).

In for the count (September 2015), on Norfolk hawker and orange-tip surveys.

Coltsfoot at Thorpe Marshes (March 2015).

A Gem of an Emerald (September 2014).

Bartsia, mint and combing bee (August 2014).

Damsel delights (July 2014).

November flowers (November 2013).

Half moon highlight (October 2013).

Purple haze (August 2013).

Tree bumblebees at Thorpe Marshes (July 2013).

February at Thorpe Marshes (February 2013).

January at Thorpe Marshes (January 2013).

bee orchid

Other NWT blogs by Chris Durdin:

Bee Orchids get my vote, June 2017.

Cranes and Hickling Broad, November 2016.

Big Yellow bee orchids are back, June 2016.

The Meadow in the City, June 2015

Dyke dipping at Thorpe Marshes

Dates for 2019 (for illustration). Kept here in the hope that these resume.

Sunday 28 April, 1pm - 2.30pm

Sunday 26 May, 10.30am-12.30pm

Sunday 24 June, 10.30am-12.30pm, extended dyke-dipping as part of Thorpe Marshes Family Fun Day.

Sunday 28 July, 10.30am-12.30pm

Join us and learn about the wonderful wildlife that can be found in the dykes. The experts will be on hand to help you tell your boatman from your beetle larvae.

Venue: The dipping platform at NWT Thorpe Marshes

Cost: free, no booking needed.

nodding bur marigold
Nodding bur marigold.

NWT Thorpe Marshes Volunteer Group

This group meets once a month on a Friday at the pedestrian railway bridge at the end of Whitlingham Lane, Thorpe St Andrew.  Activities vary and are a mixture of practical conservation work (especially in winter) plus surveying and wildlife ID.

Contact alanm@norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk to go on the circulation list about these, and to receive invitations to book a place.

Thorpe Marshes are at the end of Whitlingham Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, NR7 0QA, OS Grid reference TG 266 083.  Please note that this is the Whitlingham Lane which is North of the river, NOT the one accessed from Trowse. 

Recording wildlife at Thorpe Marshes through NBIS

As part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Water, Mills & Marshes project, Norfolk Wildlife Trust is encouraging wildlife recording on the nature reserves at Upton Broad and Marshes and Thorpe Marshes.

This is through the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service through an online process (click on red writing to see the 'wild walks' information).

We particularly welcome records of all/any mammals, amphibians and reptiles. For more experienced naturalists, reference to Thorpe Marshes wildlife reports (see this page) will also reveal where there is potential for new information, for example a wide range of invertebrates.

Willow Emerald (Derek Longe)

Willow Emerald, 17 August (Derek Longe).

Gallery of photos of dragonflies and damselflies of NWT Thorpe Marshes on Facebook here. Last updated June 2020.

Old news and features

new bench

New bench (December 2016) at the viewing area over St Andrews Broad, in memory of the two young people who lost their lives in the broad in summer 2015.

Changes at Thorpe Marshes, May 2016: new fences and gates are installed, plus a pond-dipping platform for education work. The shingle spit is now fenced off, on the advice of the Health & Safety Executive and police following drownings in summer 2015.

Drake domestic mallard x pintail at River Green, Thorpe St Andrew: photos here.

pintail x domestic mallard

Nightingale: hear and see the bird near the reserve on YouTube here (Ricky Cleverly, 23 May).

Mediterranean gull, 1st winter

Mediterranean gull photos from suburban Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, January 2015, here on Facebook. Seen with group, 19 Jan. Last seen 10 February, not there in second half of February.

Local accommodation

Coming from some distance and visiting NWT Thorpe Marshes? Options for accommodation include:

Oaklands Hotel, Yarmouth Road

Hill House bed & breakfast in nearby Hillside Road.

Other links

More wildlife records from the Yare Valley on Yare Valley Wildlife.

Birds and beer blogspot from James, with sightings from Thorpe Marshes and other local spots.

water vole platform

Water vole platform - a survey is underway. Please leave alone!

common blue damselfly

Common blue damselfly, including on paths such as here.

salix gall

A cluster of leaves on the end of a willow twig, 29 March 2018, is a gall.

The gall is caused by a gall midge called Rabdophaga rosaria which forms camellia galls on the terminal bud growth of various willow species. Each gall consists of 30 or more closely packed leaves which are initially green but as they mature turn brown in late summer but unlike the leaves they stay on the tree throughout the winter with the pinkish midge larva still inside. The larva emerges in spring. The gall is apparently easier to spot than the gall midge.

The willow species will be easier to determine when in leaf.

ID, words and picture: Jenny Jones.

whinchat (Ricky Cleverley)

Whinchat (Ricky Cleverley), 1 Sept 2017

Buff-tip moth caterpillars

Buff-tip moth caterpillars on sallow, 23 August. Photo and ID by Derek Longe.

tachinid fly Phasia hemiptera

Tachinid fly Phasia hemiptera - a parasite, usually on bugs - on angelica, 14 August. Photo and ID by James Emerson.

comma caterpillar

Comma caterpillar on nettles by the concrete pad, 4 August. It is said to resemble a bird dropping.

common redstart (David Porter)

Common redstart, juvenile, 17 July (David Porter).

Meadowsweet Rust Triphragmium ulmariae

Orange rust growing on meadowsweet Triphragmium ulmariae.

comma on ivy

November butterfly: comma on ivy (1 November 2015)

guelder rose

Autumn colour on guelder rose, 27 October.

Ruddy Darter

Ruddy darter: note the narrow waist and the black legs, which can be seen against the pale stone.

velvet shank

Velvet shank: on the woodland edge, this one on the guided walk on 17 Feb 2017.

Calocera cornea

Small Stag's Horn fungus Calocera cornea

Caddis fly  on hogweed

Caddis fly: on hogweed is a good place to see them in autumn.

marsh marigold

Marsh marigolds.

Araneus quadratus

4-spot orb web spider, Araneus quadratus

water rail

Water rail: often vocal, always tricky to see. Several sightings of chicks this year.

Azure Damselflies

Azure Damselflies, here egg-laying, typical posture 'in tandem'.

common blue damselfly

Common blue damselfly - big numbers.

Norfolk Hawker

Norfolk Hawker: regular in June and July (also late May this year).

Oedemera nobilis

Oedemera nobilis, thick-legged flower beetle, 29 May 2018, on an ox-eye daisy.

jelly ear fungus

Jelly ear fungus, lots on an elder by the riverbank.

sedge warbler

Sedge warbler

hairy dragonfly

Hairy dragonfly - the first dragonfly of the season.

stonechat (Ricky Cleverley)

Stonechat (Ricky Cleverley), in the bramble patch area October to early April, though this year staying into May.

great spotted woodpecker (Derek Longe)


orange balsam

Orange balsam.


Great spotted woodpecker on an ash tree from the railway bridge (Derek Longe).

Guided walk, January 2020.

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