Thorpe St Andrew Marshes
Local access: the road works in Thunder Lane have finished and parking there and on Yarmouth Road is fine. Access around the marshes on foot is dry (apart from any rain or dew, naturally). 17 April
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.
Click on the red writing to see the 15-page, illustrated Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2016.
NWT Thorpe Marshes is also within the area covered by James Emerson's Whitlingham Bird Report 2016.
Wildlife in April/May: lady's smock, sedge warbler (Derek Longe) and Large Red Damselfly.
April: winter wildfowl, tufted ducks especially, are still here in the first half of the month, at least. Chiffchaffs sing and the next migrant warblers to arrive will be willow and sedge warblers. Marsh marigolds and lady's smock are the star flowers, mostly later this month. Large Red Damselfly is the first damselfly to emerge, in late April or early May.
16 April: little egret, 3 buzzards, sparrowhawk, grasshopper warbler.
11 April: common scoter and jack snipe photographed (RC).
8 April: sedge warblers (2) singing, redshank, male marsh harrier (flushed snipe), buzzard over, little egret. Great crested grebe still on nest; brood of (semi-domestic?) mallards. Several small tortoiseshells. Blackcap, chiffchaffs, linnets, reed buntings, Cetti's warbler. Shovelers gone, tufted duck numbers declining, pair of teal still, gadwall present.
3 April: marsh marigolds in flower. 92 tufted ducks, but gadwall down to one, pair of shovelers still present, 3 little grebes. 6 lapwings, 2 oystercatchers.
Sunshine brings out bees and butterflies. Common carder bee on dandelion; peacock butterfly.
29 March, guided walk: chiffchaffs, Cetti's warblers, great crested grebe on nest, little egret, 2 male shovelers, first lady's smock in flower, buzzards.
26 March: chiffchaffs singing, green woodpecker, grey wagtail.
8 March: lesser celandines flowering.
7 March: stonechat and little egret still there; oystercatchers displaying, male shoveler. Coltfoot coming into flower - see old Coltsfoot at Thorpe Marshes blog here.
21 February: 3 little grebes, little egret, oystercatcher (2 yesterday).
17 February, guided walk: little egret, 2 stonechats, 1 male shoveler, water rail heard, 2 reed buntings singing, 150 lapwings over.
10 February: black-necked grebe, present since about 1 February.
Black-necked grebe with tufted ducks, 10 Feb (Derek Longe).
24 January: 95% ice cover on the Broad, with ducks (including male pochard) concentrated in the 5%.
19 January: 90% ice cover on the Broad. A few ducks on the far side (from the viewing area) only.
Canada geese, seen on the guided walk on 16 January (Derek Longe).
16 January, guided walk:
Left: Chinese water deer on the broad's edge, from the viewing area (Derek Longe).
Reserve under water, 14 January. Left, from the footbridge. Right: from just over the footbridge, looking along the path towards the mooring basin.
5 January: 2 stonechats. Routine numbers of gadwall/teal/tufted ducks on the Broad. Water rail seen rather than heard, for a change.
Sightings from 2012 - 2016 here.
Wildlife reports & guide
Guide: click here to see NWT Thorpe Marshes map and guide.
Reports are in PDF format.
The three key habitats at Thorpe St Andrew Marshes are the ditches, gravel pit and grazing 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.
Ditches rich in water soldier (left), water mint (centre) and frogbit (right).
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, 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.
Livestock are essential to manage the open grazing marshes habitat.
Without them, thick grasses and sedges would soon dominate, 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 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.