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Thorpe St Andrew Marshes

No access issues, though paths wet in places from river overtopping. 17 November

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.

Willow Emerald damselflies

Inspired by Autumnwatch's feature on Willow Emeralds? See it here on YouTube - the piece on Willow Emeralds starts at 16:26. Thorpe Marshes is a great place to see them in season (late July to October) and to discover more. Recent sightings: see below.

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. 

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.

Recent publications about NWT Thorpe Marshes

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.

November: the focus shifts to wintering birds. Ducks on St Andrews Broad can include gadwall, tufted ducks, pochard, shoveler and wigeon, probably teal soon too, plus snipe and meadow pipits on the grazing marsh. There can still be bursts of bird song: Cetti's warbler, robin and wren. Water rail returns - see below, right.November view

Recent sightings

2017

17 November: male stonechat. Good day for ducks: 3 wigeon (2♂, 1♀), minimum of 200 tufted ducks, pochard, shoveler, teal, mallard, gadwall. Top count of 14 cormorants (8 on/by gravel pit, 6 overhead).

14 November, guided walk: male stonechat, green sandpiper, several meadow pipits, snipe, sparrowhawk, goldcrest in riverside scrub, water rail. Pochards, tufted ducks, shovelers, gadwalls, great crested grebe, cormorants on gravel pit. Good number of late flowers - details here.


Male stonechat; recent Willow Emerald egg-laying scars (Derek Longe).

10 November: male stonechat, 45 pochards, c.23 shovelers.

6 November: male stonechat, and I hear that the female is being regularly seen but far away near the railway line. Buzzard, pochards, 1 late Migrant Hawker, several Common Darters, red admiral - and my first November Willow Emerald Damselfly.

Willow Emerald on ivy, 6 November 2017 egg laying scars of Willow Emerald
Willow Emerald + shadow on ivy, 6 November 2017; egg laying scars of Willow Emerald, on a willow in the ditch by Bungalow Lane.

3 November: stonechat, shovelers, goldcrest in riverside trees, Common Darters. Searched and failed to find Willow Emerald on a warm afternoon, so looks like their season has finished.

31 October: male stonechat. Good numbers of winter ducks: 2 goldeneye, 19 pochards, 157 tufted ducks, c.70 gadwall, 4 male shovelers, 2-3 wigeon.

tufted ducks and pochards, 31 October
Tufted ducks and pochards, 31 October.

27 October: c.70 tufted ducks, 6 shovelers, a few gadwalls, 3 redpolls.

23 October: Willow Emeralds, minimum of 4, on ditch by Bungalow Lane.

22 October: 28 gadwalls, 1 wigeon, c.25 tufted ducks. No sign of the stonechat.

16 October, guided walk, Indian summer weather: stonechat, meadow pipit, redpoll & skylark over. 16 shovelers, gadwalls, tufted ducks. 3 x Willow Emeralds, Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers. Water chickweed and meadowsweet in flower.

Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillar
Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillar; the group searches for scars created by egg-laying Willow Emerald damselflies.

15 October: Stonechat - male on the bramble patch. Back for the winter? 60 tufted ducks, 60 lapwings, water rail calling. 1 Willow Emerald - last of the season? Lots of caddis flies on hogweed blooms.

11 October: single Ruddy Darter. Buzzard, bullfinch. 1 wigeon, 14 shovelers, 41 gadwall, 26 tufted ducks.

6 October: in a brief warm spell Willow Emeralds (2), Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers still present. 75 gadwalls a high count for autumn.

comma
Comma, 'ivy corner', 6 October.

28 September, afternoon: Willow Emeralds (11 counted today), Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers all very obvious in a sunny spell. 19 tufted ducks and 10 coots are good numbers for autumn: they seem to be benefitting from low disturbance levels.

Common Darter
Common Darter, 28 September: they like the warmth of wooden gates and fences.

22 September: minimum of seven Willow Emeralds over ditch by former shingle spit. 88 lapwings.

Willow Emerald damselfly
Willow Emerald damselfly, showing why this species is called a 'spreadwing'.

20 September: hobby. Recent report of otter (MB).

16 September, guided walk: peregrine, little egret. On Broad: 58 lapwings, gadwalls, tufted ducks and mallards. 5 white cattle, recently arrived.

1 September: whinchat (MB).

28 August: a water vole scampers across a ditch on a carpet of frogbit. Willow Emeralds from railway bridge.

Railway bridge, Whitlingham Lane
Bank holiday Monday: a crowd gathers on the railway bridge to see the Tornado steam train replica on its way to Great Yarmouth.

25 August: warm day, good for dragonflies: lots of Migrant Hawkers, many Brown Hawkers, Common and Ruddy Darters. 3 Red-eyed Damselflies on lilies in river - they'll soon be gone. Big lapwing flock on shingle.

24 August: 2 teals on 'flood' - sign of autumn.

23 August: Willow Emeralds galore: a count of 27 Willow Emerald Damselflies by Derek Longe. Afternoon is the best time to see them.

Willow Emerald Damselfly
Willow Emerald Damselfly on purple loosestrife (DL)

4 August, guided walk: a colourful variety of flowers, including all those pictured above. 37 lapwings and 4 oystercatchers on the gravel bank.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly Ruddy Darter
Small Red-eyed Damselfly on floating vegetation at the mooring basin and common frog (Derek Longe) were both notable records. This Ruddy Darter (right) allowed very good telescope views while perched on a plantain, despite the wind.

19 July, guided walk, evening: 2 x Willow Emerald Damselflies, kingfishers, late-flying Norfolk hawkers.Willow Emerald Damselfly
A Willow Emerald Damselfly lands on ... Derek Longe's paper in Atropos about egg-laying choices for Willow Emeralds (DL). See also Derek's NWT blog.

17 July, guided walk for RSPB Norwich local group: common redstart, juvenile, open area by mooring basin. Lapwing flock still present, oystercatcher too. Notable plants: arrowhead and marsh sowthistle. Full report here.

brown hawker linnet
Excellent views of Brown Hawker and linnet on today's walk.

12 July: Ruddy and common darters. Orange balsam in flower, also square-stalked St John's-wort.

kingfisher

Close encounter with a young kingfisher. Not quite as close as this looks - the photo is zoomed and cropped.

7 July: black-tailed godwit (below), from early afternoon until it flew south with lapwings (37 in total) at 18:27. 53 Norfolk hawkers on survey (DL); brown hawkers and ruddy darters (DL). Grasshopper warbler.black-tailed godwit with lapwings

6 July, evening: grasshopper warblers (2) still singing, though muted. Cinnabar moth caterpillar found on marsh ragwort as well as even more on common ragwort.

2 July: 51 Norfolk hawkers on survey transect.

smalll skippercinnabar moth caterpillarsringlet
Small skipper; cinnabar moth caterpillars; a tatty looking ringlet, all 2 July.

27 June, another guided walk, in the rain: grasshopper warbler still singing. Ragwort has cinnabar moth caterpillars.

grasshopper warbler (Derek Longe)

22 June, NWT guided walk: good view of grasshopper warbler singing (left, photo by Derek Longe). Norfolk hawkers.

21 June: at least six Four-spotted Chasers. Large skipper.

15 June: male marsh harrier.

14 June: count of 35 Norfolk Hawkers (SW).

4 June: female Broad-bodied Chaser a highlight in six species of dragonflies: others were Hairy, Norfolk Hawker, Emperor, Four-spotted Chaser and Black-tailed Skimmer. 5 damselfly species including many Red-eyed Damselflies on ditches, not just the river lily pads. 3 lapwings, 2 oystercatchers, 1 common tern. Skullcap in flower.

1 June: Norfolk Hawkers out in force; marsh harrier (DL).

31 May: early marsh orchid; clouds of damselflies; lots of bird song.

26 May, guided walk: little ringed plover, lots of singing warblers, little egret. 6 damselfly species (as 25 May). Hairy dragonfly and four-spotted chaser (below). Common blue butterflies.

Four-spotted chaser

25 May: lapwing, 2 oystercatchers. Hairy Hawkers and 6 damselfly species: Common Blue, Azure, Blue-tailed, Large Red, Red-eyed and Banded Agrion. Yellow flag irises looking superb.

13 May: hobby (DL). Also recent reports of sanderling and whinchat.

10 May: sunshine at last. First Common Blue Damselfly, common sandpiper, buzzard.orange-tip eggs on lady's smock
Orange-tip butterfly eggs on lady's smock.

9 May, evening: grasshopper and willow warblers. Great crested grebe chick or chicks hatched and on parent's back.

28 April, guided walk: water vole, 2 swifts, house martins and swallows.

water vole (Derek Longe)

Seven warblers: grasshopper warbler heard distantly; sedge, Cetti's & reed warblers, whitethroat seen well, chiffchaff & blackcap. Orange-tip egg on a lady's smock.

Water vole (Derek Longe).

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.

common carder bee peacock
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
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:
3 shovelers, 2 little grebes, Chinese water deer, lots of gadwalls, teals and tufted ducks on the Broad. Water rail and Cetti's warblers noisy today.

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.

2016 Click on the red writing to see the illustrated 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 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.

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.

Grazing marshes

Livestock are essential to manage the open grazing marshes habitat.

cattle at Thorpe Marshes

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 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 and report recent 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.

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.

Wednesday 13 December 10am

Walk meeting point: by the bridge in Whitlingham Lane.

Look out for


water vole platform

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

guelder rose

Autumn colour on guelder rose, 27 October.

stonechat (Ricky Cleverley)

Stonechat (Ricky Cleverley), back in the bramble patch area off and on since 15 October.

Calocera cornea

Small Stag's Horn fungus Calocera cornea

water rail

Water rail: often vocal, always tricky to see.

Events

Monthly walks led by Chris Durdin

2017
Wednesday 13 December 10am

2018
Wednesday 17 January 10am
Monday 19 February 10am
Thursday 29 March 10am
Friday 27 April 10am
Tuesday 29 May 10am half-term week
Monday 18 June 7pm
Wednesday 18 July 7pm
Friday 17 August 10am
Thursday 13 September 10am
Friday 19 October 10am
Tuesday 13 November 10am
Tuesday 18 December 10am

All 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.

Simply turn up and enjoy. Remember to bring binoculars and a camera if you have them.

Boots are recommended as paths can be wet in places, though path improvements two winters ago mean wellies are not normally needed.

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

Watching a goldeneye: some of the group on December 2015's guided walk (Derek Longe).

Dyke dipping at Thorpe Marshes

AUGUST DYKE DIPPING CANCELLED

On the last Sunday of the month between May and August, 10:30am* – 12noon.
28 May • 25 June • 30 July • 27 August

* note change of start time

"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: NWT Thorpe Marshes, pedestrian railway bridge at the end of Whitlingham Lane
Cost: free, no booking needed.

News and features

Gallery of photos of dragonflies and damselflies of NWT Thorpe Marshes on Facebook here. Last updated June 2017.

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.

Norfolk Hawker movie, an egg-laying female at NWT Thorpe Marshes, on YouTube here.

Blogs

Mostly by Chris Durdin about Thorpe Marshes on the NWT blog.

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

Local accommodation

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

Kingfisher bungalow, self-catering chalet adjacent to the marshes.

Old Rectory hotel and restaurant

Oaklands Hotel, Yarmouth Road

Other links

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

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

The Norfolk Cranes' Story - a plug for the book for which I am co-author.

whinchat (Ricky Cleverley)

Whinchat (Ricky Cleverley), 1 Sept

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).

Norfolk Hawker

Norfolk Hawker: regular in June and July.

Oedemera nobilis, thick-legged flower beetle. This one is on an ox-eye daisy by the benches.

Meadowsweet Rust Triphragmium ulmariae

Orange rust growing on meadowsweet Triphragmium ulmariae.

Azure Damselflies

Azure Damselflies, here egg-laying.

velvet shank

Velvet shank: one of a range of fungi on the woodland edge, seen on the guided walk on 17 Feb.

comma on ivy

November butterfly: comma on ivy (1 November 2015)

water rail

Water rail: often vocal, always tricky to see.

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