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NWT Thorpe Marshes

Main circuit fine. Both paths to Bungalow Lane still under water or very muddy. 19 May.

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.

May: the best month for bird song, with all the warblers in. Cuckoo, marsh harrier, passage birds ... these can all be absent, or nice surprises. Marsh marigolds and lady's smock remain the best flowers in the first half of May; sheets of buttercups and yellow flag irises later. Late this month, a chance of Norfolk hawker. Ducks still appear on the broad, but few and rather sporadically.

lady's smock sedge warbler large red damselfly
Wildlife in April: lady's smock, sedge warbler (Derek Longe) and Large Red Damselfly.

Publications about NWT Thorpe Marshes

James Emerson's The Birds of Whitlingham & Thorpe 2023. This includes bird records for NWT Thorpe Marshes in 2023. Longer items include a report on a white stork over Thorpe Marshes and nesting cormorants and herons acrooss the river at Whitlingham CP.

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).
Former railway station: passenger trains ceased in September 1955 and freight in 1964, a local resident advises (22 Oct 2023).

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

2024

19 May: hairy dragonfly (about 10); large red, common blue, azure & red-eyed damselflies, and banded demoiselle. Two cuckoos, including 'bubbling' female, female marsh harrier, singing willow warbler (and various others).

Dame's violet froghopper Cercopsis vulnerata

Two interesting finds: dame's violet Hesperis matrionalis and on the dame's violet, the froghopper Cercopsis vulnerata.

3 May, guided walk for Friends of Horsey Seals on a wet morning: cuckoo seen well and singing, pair of stonechats, single gadwall, several swifts over River Yare with swallows and house martins; orange-tip butterfly and egg.

1 May, afternoon: sedge, reed, willow & Cetti's warblers, chiffchaff, whitethroat. Cuckoo calling, male stonechat, gadwall flying over marshes (breeding?), pair of tufted ducks on the broad (late winter birds?). Recent reports of grasshopper warblers.

23 April, guided walk: lesser whitethroat singing from riverside scrub, great white egret flew over, heading east. Also common whitethroat, willow warbler, chiffchaffs, blackcap, Cetti's warbler, lots of sedge warblers, stonechat pair, 2 swallows, reed bunting.

20 April: female marsh harrier, lots of sedge warblers singing, willow warbler, chiffchaff, blackcap, Cetti's warbler, reed bunting, 27 tufted ducks, 1 gadwall.

1 April: 7 shovelers, sedge warbler reported again.

31 March: 2 sedge warblers singing (SW via Norwich birdnews WhatsApp group).

28 March, guided walk: white stork reported - we missed it. Red kite over, 3 buzzards, 2 stonechats, 6 shovelers (4♂, 2♀), blackcap heard from across the river, good view of perched kingfisher. Singing Cetti's warbler, dunnock, greenfinch, chiffchaffs etc. Flowers: lesser celandine, coltsfoot, few-flowered leek. Invertebrates: 24-spot ladybird, hairy-footed flower bee, pied shieldbug, alder fly, nursery web spider.

Two galls looked at today. Left: fungi Melampsora populnea on dogs mercury. Right: fly Rabdophaga rosario on willow.

26 March: 2 little grebes (quite vocal), 3 great crested grebes, 2 ♂ pochard, 4 shovelers (3♂, 1♀). No hirundines. Sedge warbler heard (via Norwich birdnews WhatsApp group).

25 March: 2 swallows, great white egret (via Norwich birdnews WhatsApp group).

23 March: swallow (SW, via Norwich birdnews WhatsApp group), exceptionally early record.

17 March: chiffchaff singing in two places, 15 meadow pipits, 1 ♂ shoveler, cormorant carrying stick flying towards Whitlingham CP, reed bunting in song and 2 others, 2 oystercatchers flew up river.

5 March: 35 meadow pipits, 2 collared doves over (from N to S), vocal green woodpecker and song thrush, 4 ♂ shovelers.

28 February: 15 pochards (14 males), first I've seen all winter. Still 5 shovelers (4♂, 1♀), 2 little grebes. Sparrowhawk, 3 (probably 4) buzzards.

23 February: at least 9 shovelers (8 ♂, 1♀); water rail calling in two places.

16 February, on (cancelled) guided walk: singing linnet, greenfinch and green woodpecker; 3 shovelers still, 3 buzzards over.

15 February: coltsfoot and cherry plum in flower. Flock of 18 linnets. Song thrush, Cetti's warbler, robin, dunnock, wren in song; water rail calling in two places. 96 tufted ducks, 35 gadwalls, 12 teals, 3 shovelers, 3 mallards, 1 coot (minima).

cherry plum
White flowers now are cherry plum, not blackthorn.

12 February: 2 male shovelers, good numbers of tufted ducks, gadwalls, teals (not counted), great crested grebe, buzzard.

6 February: little grebe, great crested grebe in breeding plumage. Ducks in lower numbers now: 62 tufted ducks, 13 gadwalls, c.10 teals, 4 mallards, pair of shovelers.

2 February: marsh harrier, great white egret (WhatsApp reports); buzzards, 2 stonechats (pair).

1 February: few ducks than yesterday, though at least 8 shovelers still present.

31 January: great white egret on edge of broad, flew west towards Whitlingham CP. 2 wigeons, 10 shovelers, c.150 tufted ducks; teals and gadwalls not counted.

26 January: 1+5 snipe flying from marshes. 40 teals, 13 shovelers, c.250 tufted ducks, gadwalls not counted (c.40), all ducks very mobile this morning.

24 January: milder weather and duck numbers have mostly dropped, though still 146 tufted ducks, 2 male shovelers, a few teals calling; little grebe, great crested grebe. Siskin in trees by railway bridge.

19 January: smew still in SE corner of broad 12.45pm, 178 teal, 21 shoveler, marsh harrier (Stuart White).

18 January, guided walk, restricted to riverside path: redhead smew, far end of St Andrews Broad. Male shoveler, good numbers of teal, a few gadwalls, some tufted ducks (not counted). Snipe, buzzard, heard pheasant, water rail and Cetti's warbler. reed bunting. Fungi: yellow brain, coral spot, turkeytail, King Alfred's cakes and jelly ear.

Smew (Stuart White)
Today's smew (Stuart White).

16 January: 53 teals, 67 tufted ducks, 15 gadwalls. Female sparrowhawk, snipe.

10 January: chiffchaff, trees by railway bridge. 19 gadwalls, c.30 teals, 2 mallards, just 9 tufted ducks (must all be at Whitlingham CP). Buzzard.

3 January: 227 tufted ducks. A few mallards and teals, no other duck species. Song thrush singing.

2023

19 December, a rather damp guided walk: fungi included at least 20 lumps of yellow brain (=witches' butter), common bonnet, coral spot, the usual jelly ear and King Alfred's cakes. Snipe, heard water rail and Cetti's warbler. A small number of gadwalls, teals, tufted ducks and mallards. Flowers on hogweed and white dead-nettle.

common bonnet yellow brain
Common bonnet, on a tree near the sign at the entrance; yellow brain on dead ash.

14 December: juvenile hen harrier, seen from riverside path flying over flooded permissive path, disturbed teals, headed east, mobbed by two crows.

12 December, late pm: male goldeneye still there.

10 December: murmuration of c.5,000 starlings at dusk, then flew east (SW).

8 December: Thorpe Marshes: 1 male goldeneye, great white egret flew in from Whitlingham CP direction, little egret on river, 2 little grebes.

5 December: 2 male goldeneyes with tufted ducks and gadwalls on St Andrews Broad. Buzzard.

28 November: water rails calling in three different places, also Cetti's warbler heard; 5 tufted ducks, 8 teals.

23 November: kingfisher, 2 green sandpipers on edge of broad, kestrel.

9 November: 2 green sandpipers flew over then west from St Andrews Broad.

5 November: little egret on flooded path, water rail and Cetti's warbler heard.

3 November: single rook flying over (unusual here, despite being common nearby), buzzard, sparrowhawk, kestrel. No ducks. Cetti's warbler, robin, wren, green woodpecker all heard. Below all by riverside path on morning of cancelled guided walk.

ruby tiger moth caterpillar
Ruby tiger moth caterpillar; red admiral.


Two views of what seems to be 24-spot ladybird; caddis-fly.

coral spot fungi
Coral spot fungi on small dead timber.

30 October: 2 x willow emerald damselflies, water rail calling, buzzard over. Not possible to walk round marsh due to high water levels.

22 October: bearded calling from reedbed adjacent to railway line, Called twice, one fleeting view in flight, typical of bearded tit. Skylark over, meadow pipit, single reed bunting (often absent in winter), water rail calling in 3 places, buzzard, kestrel. At last some winter ducks on St Andrews Broad: 46 tufted ducks, 15 gadwalls.

Peacock butterfly, hornet, common carder-bee, migrant hawker, common darter, caddies flies.

migrant hawker, female jelly ear fungus
Female migrant hawker; jelly ear fungi have sprung into life in the past few days following wet weather.

caddis-fly on hogweed
Caddis-fly on hogweed.

18 October: path through marshes still flooded, though OK with wellies. Several willow emerald damselflies by river, at least four. Migrant hawker, caddis-fly, nursery web spider, harlequin ladybird. Winter plumage great crested grebe, 3 cormorants, 3 mute swans on Broad, no ducks at all. Buzzard.


Two different male willow emerald damselflies, 18 October. Note the colour difference: the left hand image shows an indivual with late-season bronze colouring, the right-hand damselfly is much greener.

17 October: kingfisher over flooded path and heron on it! Migrant hawker, common darter.

flooded path
Flooded path, 17 October.

3 October: 2 stock doves flying over, plus young bird - see photo. Male stonechat, great spotted woodpecker, water rail called, buzzard, 4 gadwalls.

stock dove
Very tame young stock dove by a path.

British whites

Six British white cattle arrived during September to graze the marshes.

8 September, guided walk: singing Cetti's warbler and chiffchaff. Great spotted woodpecker, plus green woodpecker and nuthatch heard from the other side of the railway line. Migrant hawker, ruddy darter, willow emerald and common blue damselflies ... and lesser emperor, see photo and caption, first record for Thorpe Marshes. Two interesting spiders, see photos below, plus garden spider.

lesser emperor, Thorpe Marshes
Lesser emperor, Thorpe Marshes, digiscoped: best fit is blue form of female, on which the blue saddle stands out less than on a male (post-event ID from photo.) This is the 23rd species of dragonfly (13 species) or damselfly (10 species) recorded at NWT Thorpe Marshes.

ivy bee
Terrestrial form of amphibious bistort; ivy bee in Whitlingham Lane.

Stomorhina lunata
Locust blowfly Stomorhina lunata photographed by Susan Weeks on buddleia.

Marbled Orb-weaver Spider
4-spot orb web spider, Araneus quadratus; marbled orb-weaver spider Araneus marmoreus.

19 August, early evening: red bartsia bee, dozens of small china-mark moths over ditches. Broad: 2 teals, 2 great crested grebes, 2 herons.


Red bartsia bee, 19 August.

8 August, guided walk: 2 kingfishers over river, great spotted woodpecker. Brown hawker, red-eyed damselfly (river), 1 small red-eyed damselfly in Commissioner's Cut, common blue damselfly. Peacock, gatekeeper, green-veined white. Lots of flowers e.g. see photos for August. Red bartsia bee, third year in a row.

Susan Weeks was photographing hoverflies, and says the first two are the more unusual and nice to see: Chrysotoxum verralli, a wasp mimic (photo below); Sericomyia silentis, which favours wetland habitats; Volucella inanis, one of the hornet mimics.

Red bartsia bee (Susan Weeks) wasp mimic hoverfly Chrysotoxum verralli (Susan Weeks)
Red bartsia bee; wasp mimic hoverfly Chrysotoxum verralli (Susan Weeks).

29 July: ruddy darter, 4 Norfolk hawkers still on the wing, red-eyed damselfly (river), banded demoiselle. 3 small red-eyed damselflies in Commissioner's Cut (the mooring basin). And this impressively big beetle (also rather clumsy in flight):

musk beetle
Musk beetle Aromia moschata

7 July, guided walk: on Broad, female gadwall with two ducklings, 4 tufted ducks, 8 great crested grebes. Reed bunting, reed warbler, kestrel, common tern.

28 June, afternoon: possible male scarce chaser (probably two) over and perched by one of the ditches dug out last winter, many Norfolk hawkers, black-tailed skimmers on paths, emperor dragonfly. Damselflies: common blue, azure, red-eyed and banded demoiselle on the river. Common tern, 2 great crested grebes, little egret (same place as 2 days ago). Still a little song from whitethroat (Whitlingham Lane) and willow warbler. Ringlet butterfly on riverside path.

26 June, guided walk: singing cuckoo, brief bursts of singing from willow, Cetti's, reed & sedge warbler and chiffchaff, whitethroat seen, little egret, 2 buzzards, kingfisher flying over broad, single great crested grebe, immature cormorant, common tern fishing. Norfolk hawkers. Super mix of wild flowers.

Beetles Plateumaris sericea Thorpe Marshes 14 6 23
This fascinating photo of two leaf beetles is by Susan Weeks, from Thorpe Marshes on 14 June 2023. Susan writes:

"The different colours led me to an ID of Plateumaris sericea which “shows amazing colour variation” according to beetle guides. It also favours locations near its larval food plant bur-reeds (Sparganium sp.) which seemed right. I put the photo, with my tentative ID, on the Beetles of Britain Facebook page and it was verified by Michael Geiser (Curator of Coleoptera at the Natural History Museum, no less)."

Branched bur-reed grows in ditches at Thorpe Marshes.

12 June: 2 cuckoo, water rail heard, water vole. Broad: 2 adult swans with 3 cygnets.

4 June: male marsh harrier, cuckoo, c.20 sand martins. Lots of dock rust: see photo from May 2022, below.

30 May, evening: barn owl, cuckoo, 60+ swifts over broad (SW).

24 May: 4 stock doves, sparrowhawk, singing reed & willow warblers. Hairy dragonfly, many common blue damselflies; St Mark's flies. Spindle in flower by the cattle corral: several larval tents of spindle ermine moth caterpillars.

10 May, guided walk: 2 cranes flying over, heading west. Buzzard, sparrowhawk, kestrel. Lesser whitethroat singing all morning near railway bridge; also sedge, reed, willow & Cetti's warblers, blackcap, chiffchaff and common whitethroat in field by Whitlingham Lane. Swifts, sand martin, house martin, 2 gadwalls. Many reed buntings on show, no sign of stonechats, Common blue damselflies (tenerals). Butterflies: orange-tip (egg found on garlic mustard), brimstone, small tortoiseshell, red admiral, peacock. Pied shieldbug, whirligig beetles, crab spider Xysticus cristatus (below) and nursery web spiders.

orange-tip egg
Crab spider Xysticus cristatus. Orange-tip egg on mustard garlic (Ann Greenizan).

Early May, various WhatsApp reports: up to nine species of warbler, cuckoo, barn owl at dusk.

Hoverfly Anasimyia interpuncta Hoverfly Anasimyia interpuncta
Hoverfly Anasimyia interpuncta photographs and ID by Susan Weeks (also checked by experts) on guided walk, 25 April. It's a wetland species, listed as “Nationally scarce” by Ball & Morris (2014, JNCC Species Status No. 9).

25 April, guided walk: willow warblers (2 singing), grasshopper warbler, many sedge warblers, cuckoo heard. Snatches of reed warbler and whitethroat. Chiffchaff, blackcap and Cetti's warbler make eight warbler species heard today. c 50 house martins, c.50 swallows, 1 sand martin. 3 tufted ducks, 1♂ shoveler. Common tern and 3 unidentified 'commic' terns. Pair of stonechats; 3 buzzards, kestrel, pheasant, reed bunting, 2 collared doves flying over. Hoverfly: see above.

21 April: lots of sedge warblers singing, still wintering tufted ducks, buzzard, marsh marigolds in flower. Grasshopper warbler and cuckoo reported on Norwich WhatsApp group.

6 April: adult kittiwake flying over (also seen at Whitlingham CP). At least 8 male shovelers (18, 11♂+7♀, reported on 5 April). 3 swallows reported.

4 April: peacock butterfly, still 40+ tufted ducks and few gadwalls and teals. Linnets again, in the birches and bramble across the ditch from the riverside path.

31 March, guided walk for the volunteer group: pair of stonechats, chiffchaffs and Cetti's warbler heard, water rail heard, noisy green woodpecker (mostly from across the river), 4 linnets, kingfisher! 3 shovelers (2 ♂, 1♀), gadwalls, teals, tufted ducks, great crested grebe, herons, cormorant. Alder fly, nursery web spider, lady's smock in flower.

lady's smock
A patch of coltsfoot by the riverside path; lady's smock by the river.

30 March, guided walk: pair of stonechats, chiffchaff, reed bunting, Cetti's warbler heard. 1♂ shoveler, 44 tufted ducks, 4 teals, gadwall, mallard, great crested grebe. Sawfly Aglaostigma aucupariaem.

29 March: c.6 sand martins, chiffchaffs singing, water rail calling, Cetti's warbler heard, 2 buzzards. c.6 gadwalls, 1 pochard, c.30 tufted ducks, mallards on territory.

23 March: chiffchaff singing, c.30 tufted ducks. White stork reported over St Andrews Broad on local WhatsApp group (said to be a Dutch-ringed bird). Coltsfoot and lesser celandines in flower.

10 March: single male shoveler and pochard.

jelly ear fungi
Jelly ear fungi looking very smart on the dead elder near the tidal flap.


Flooding by the mooring basin, 10 March.

7 March: pair of stonechats, little egret reported, pheasant, Cetti's warbler. Broad: 4♂ shovelers, 4 coots (a high count, of late), teal still present.

Cherry plum
Cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) flowering in several places,

25 February: siskin singing in Whitlingham Lane. Broad: ♂ goldeneye, c.220 tufted ducks, 2♂ pochards, great grested grebe, little grebe calling. Also calling/singing reed bunting, green woodpecker and Cetti's warbler.

15 February: 3 little grebes on the gravel pit, 2♂ pochards with at least 60 tufted ducks.

10 February, guided walk: buzzard, snipe. 7 shovelers (3 ♂, 4♀), tufted ducks, gadwalls, a few teals.

7 February: 6 pochards (5♂, 1♀) and 4 shovelers (3 ♂, 1♀), c. 110 tufted ducks. A few gadwalls and teals.

5 February: 2 stonechats, broad had 1♂ shoveler, great crested grebe coming into breeding plumage, gadwalls and tufted ducks, the odd teal, heron & cormorant.

3 February: ♀stonechat, 3-4 shovelers (2-3 ♂, 1♀), mistle thrush flying over heading north and over railway line. Handful of gadwalls and tufted ducks; c.15 Canada geese over, flying east.

17 January: count of 143 tufted ducks, mostly males; 30 teals. Both likely to be underestimates especially as teals tuck into the edge of the broad. [Zero pochards or goldeneyes.] Little grebe on broad, ♂ shoveler (♀ hidden, perhaps?) Water rail heard.

14 January: scaup (photo by Stuart White)

scaup (Stuart White)

11 January, guided walk: 2 stonechats (♂&♀), male reed bunting, kestrel. Broad: tufted ducks, gadwalls, teals, 2 shovelers, (♂&♀), mallards, cormorants, great crested grebe. 2 little grebes on R Yare tucked into branches on the other side. Muntjac seen well, close to woodland. Cigar galls on reed; sunburst lichen; jelly ear and King Alfred's cake fungi.

ash bark beetle
Watching stonechats (Susan Weeks); patterns on a dead ash trunk, digiscoped, likely to be an ash bark beetle Hylesinus sp (there are three species, pinning down which one is tricky).

2022

20 December: stonechat, buzzard, Cetti's warbler. Broad has tufted ducks, gadwalls, teals, 2 shovelers (♂&♀), cormorants, heron, 2 great crested grebes.

2 December, guided walk: 2 stonechats, c.100 pink-footed geese over flying north, snipe, long-tailed tits, heard water rail & Cetti's warbler. Good views of herons. Goldeneyes gone, a few gadwalls and tufted ducks, teal heard.

1 December: 3 goldeneyes still there. 2 stonechats, great spotted woodpecker.

Hairy curtain crust
Freshly growing hairy curtain crust, I think, on an ash. Jelly ear and King Alfred's cakes still easy to see, if you know where to look.

29 November: some ducks at last with 3 goldeneyes, 3 tufted ducks, 1 pochard, a few gadwalls. Snipe, siskin & linnet flying over, water rails calling, Cetti's warbler, long-tailed tit.

ditching, 29 November
Ditching work underway, 29 November.

26 November: snipe in 2 places; how many more are hidden on the marsh? Buzzard, Cetti's warbler, late-flowering hogweed. Still a lack of ducks, just the odd gadwall (lots at Whitlingham CP, though).

16 November: water rail in 2 places, Cetti's warbler (both heard), dunnock singing. 2 little grebes, ducks absent today. Male stonechat.

2 November, guided walk: 3 stonechats, kestrel, heard Cetti's warbler, overflying siskin, little grebe, a few gadwalls, kingfisher seen by one group member. Many nursery web spiders sunning themselves on nettle leaves, 2 caddis-flies on a hogweed. Other invertebrates in photos below.

common darter spiked shield bug
Common darter sunning on a bench, spiked shield bug (Susan Weeks).

Marmalade hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus Female Hoverfly Eristalis tenax Female Hoverfly Eristalis tenax Male
Marmalade hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus, female; hoverfly Eristalis tenax female; hoverfly Eristalis tenax, male (Susan Weeks).

1 November: a quiet morning. Heard Cetti's warbler and water rail, teal on broad.

28 October: 2 male stonechats, heard Cetti's warbler and water rail. Gadwall flock still on broad, also 2 shovelers and teal.

19 October, guided walk: snipe, buzzard mobbed by jackdaws and a crow, kestrel, little egret, extended view of a heron on the main footpath, c.35 gadwalls now on St Andrews Broad, great crested grebe, the usual cormorants. Invertebrates included common carder bees, caddis-flies, nursery web spider and the three species below. Lingering flowers included water mint, hemp agrimony and water chickweed.

22 spot ladybird dock shieldbug spiked shield bug
22 spot ladybird Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata; dock bug Coreus marginatus and spiked shieldbug Picromerus bidens (Susan Weeks).

18 October: meadow pipit, stonechat; heard water rail and Cetti's warbler. On broad: 2 little grebes, great crested grebe, cormorants, teals, gadwalls, mallards, coot, moorhen.

British white cattle guelder rose
NWT's British white cattle; leaves of guelder rose (18 October).

2 October: ivy bee (Whitlingham Lane), migrant hawker, 1♀pochard, water rail and green woodpecker calling.

29 September: water rail calling in two places, Cetti's warbler singing. On the broad: 3 great crested grebes, 1♂ tufted duck, 1♀pochard.

9 September, guided walk: 5 gadwalls, juvenile great crested grebe on the broad. Jelly ear fungus showing again on elder near tidal flap; also sycamore tar spot and King Alfred's cakes. Common blue damselfly, despite some rain. Berries on spindle, guelder rose and woody nightshade.

8 September: 2 buzzards, kingfisher, chiffchaff. Ruddy darter, willow emerald, migrant hawker. Ivy bees on ivy in Whitlingham Lane.

26 August: blackcap eating blackberries, chiffchaffs. Willow emerald damselfly.

tasteless water-pepper
Tasteless water-pepper: a big patch on the path by the wood leading to Bungalow Lane.

Some additional records from 18 August, from James Emerson, who took these photos:

Tenthredo omissa Tortoise Shieldbug nymph Water scorpion
Sawfly Tenthredo omissa, on angelica; tortoise shieldbug nymph; water scorpion. On the water scorpion, James says he was checking a ditch where he noticed in the shallows, scooped it out for a quick look and, "Only then did I realise it had a pondskater in one claw!"

18 August, guided walk for Hickling Broad U3 group: 4 x hanging migrant hawkers from a willow. Black-tailed skimmer, red-eyed damselfly, mating common blue damselflies, banded demoiselle. Red bartsia bees still present; rust fungus on red bartsia is Coleosporium tussilaginis, same as occurs on coltsfoot. Whitethroat, chiffchaff, robin in autumn song, great spotted woodpecker, juvenile stonechat, cormorant, buzzard. Bee wolf - my first for Thorpe Marshes; also recorded in 2021 by James Emerson. Blog here.

bee wolf
Bee wolf on angelica.

Migrant hawker
Migrant hawker hanging in a willow.

13 August: water rail calling, little egret (broad), hummingbird hawkmoth on buddleia.

5 August: water rail, kingfisher (River Yare), little egret (broad). Red bartsia bee again.


Red bartsia bee again today.

2 August, guided walk: brief view of kingfisher and common sandpiper on river, heron. Dragonflies: emperor, common darter, brown hawker. Damselflies: common blue, red-eyed, banded demoiselle. Hornet hoverflies Volucella zonaria & V. inanis. Flowers: found two more plants of greater water parsnip in flower. Wild carrot and tansy may be new records for the reserve; skullcap by Bungalow Lane; angelica coming into bloom.

Red bartsia in profusion: red bartsia bee (more info in blog from 2018) seen with many common carder bees.

Square-stemmed St Johnswort Dingy Footman Eilema griseola
Tachina fera parasitic fly (Susan Weeks); we discussed the bristles on its abdomen (especially) and thorax; square-stemmed St Johnswort (we also saw perforate St Johnswort); dingy footman moth Eilema griseola.


Red bartsia bee Melitta tricincta, courtesy Mike Ball (also on Twitter).

21 July: sand martin, kingfisher on river, two plants of greater water parsnip in flower.

7 July, evening guided walk: at least 2 grasshopper warblers singing.

red soldier beetles
Red soldier beetles on hogweed, doing what red soldier beetles do,

3 July: still some bird song: sedge & reed warblers, whitethroat, blackcap, chiffchaff, reed bunting. Linnet, buzzard. Four-spotted chaser egg-laying into water. Worth checking buddleia bushes near the bridge for butterflies & bees, comma there this morning.

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.


Sightings from 2012 - 2021 here.

Wildlife reports & guide

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

2022 James Emerson's The Birds of Whitlingham & Thorpe 2022.

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.

Ditches

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.

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 should be 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.

2024
Tuesday 23 April 10am
Wednesday 22 May 10am
Friday 21 June 7pm
Monday 8 July 7pm
Tuesday 6 August 10am
Wednesday 11 September 10am
Friday 11 October 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.

Additional guided walks can be arranged for small groups.

Other events

Dyke dipping: see NWT events listings e.g. 28 August 2022

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

News

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

spindle ermine moth caterpillars

'Tents' - like webs - for spindle ermine moth caterpillars, by cattle corral.

Blogs

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.

Thorpe Marshes, 18 August 2022, U3A group. Guest blog on the Honeyguide blogspot.

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

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.

nodding bur marigold

Nodding bur marigold, photographed 7 September.

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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