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Thorpe St Andrew Marshes

Cattle arrived on 18th September. Despite heavy rain on in early October, usual paths are fine, though marsh track under water. Be prepared for wet conditions 18 October
Recent blogs: Beetlemania (December 2018); A Tale of Two Bugs (November 2018); 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 (January 2018) and Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s part 2 (April 2018).

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.

October: an in-between time, as flowers and dragonflies are just the last-lingering types. It's a good time to see caddis flies emerging as moth-like adults, having spent their larval stage underwater in St Andrews Broad. Few winter birds have arrived, but if you're lucky one morning, you might see flocks of redwings and fieldfares moving west along the Yare Valley, having just arrived in the UK from Scandinavia. It's often wet and muddy.

dew on a dead dock flower headguelder rose berriescaddisfly
Mists (well, dew) and mellow fruitfulness: dew on a dead dock flower head; guelder rose berries; and a caddis fly (photos 10 Oct). The caddis is probably Limnephilus flavicornis, a common species found by lakes and ponds throughout Britain. Anglers know the Limnephilus species as 'Cinnamon Sedges'.

Publications about NWT Thorpe Marshes

Key bird records for NWT Thorpe Marshes in 2018 are in James Emerson's The Birds of Whitlingham & Thorpe 2018, which includes Thorpe Marshes reserve in the area it covers.

The Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2017 includes a range of wildlife records, a review and of the year and other activities on the nature reserve. For reports for previous years, scroll down to 'Wildlife reports & guide'.

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 plus surveying and wildlife ID.

Dates for 2019, all Fridays: 30th August, 27th September, 25th October, 29th November and 20th December. All are 10am-3pm. Contact alanm@norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

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. 

Willow Emerald damselflies

Thorpe Marshes is a great place to see this damselfly in season (late July to October) and to discover more. 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.

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


18 October, guided walk: a small toad (unusual record here). 3 stonechats, rook. Spindle: 3 small bushes with berries discovered. Willow emerald damselfly (photo here on Facebook), migrant hawker (after most people had gone).

Median wasp Dolichovespula media I think; spindle berries.

17 October: willow emerald damselfly, common & ruddy darters. Red admiral. Stonechat, buzzards, meadow pipit, Cetti's warbler singing.

8 October: 3 house martins, 2 stonechats near bramble patch, skylark over; 2 meadow pipits, snipe, Cetti's warbler singing.

30 September: stonechats returned a few days ago (MB).

13 September, guided walk: 4-spot orb web spider (see right), kingfisher, willow emerald damselfly, migrant hawker and common darter dragonflies. Female southern hawker in flight. Ivy bee found in Whitlingham Lane after end of guided walk. Lots of flowers still, such as the September selection above.

willow emerald, 13 September 2019
Willow emerald, 13 September 2019.

24 August: willow emerald damselfly in three places; migrant hawkers in large numbers, brown hawker, common & ruddy darter. Lots of butterflies, especially painted ladies and red admirals.

6 August, guided walk: sparrowhawk, buzzard, heron, several lapwings, 2 eclipse plumage tufted ducks. Lots of painted ladies, red admirals, peacock, small tortoishell, female common blue butterfly. Common and ruddy darters seen well through the telescope. Small red-eyed damselfly on vegetation in the mooring basin, alongside more numerous red-eyed damseflies. Elephant hawkmoth caterpillar - see below. Square-stalked St John's-wort, haresfoot clover and skullcap among many plants.

elephant hawkmoth caterpillar
Elephant hawkmoth caterpillar walking across the bridge along the marsh track.

1 August: small red-eyed damselfly, still a few Norfolk hawkers, brown hawker egg-laying. Hemp agrimony and other high summer flowers looking very colourful.

29 July: small red-eyed and willow emerald damselflies; common and ruddy darters; last few Norfolk hawkers. Mother-of-pearl moth (DL).

23 July: Norfolk hawkers still on the wing. Marsh vegetation looking lush and colourful.

4 July, guided walk: Norfolk hawkers out late, 3 oystercatchers. Lots of plants including first (of year) marsh woundwort and square-stemmed St John's-wort.

Great pied hoverfly Volucella pellucens


Great pied hoverfly Volucella pellucens (Susan Weeks).

A good year for them, according to hoverfly enthusiasts.

Knot Grass Acronicta rumicis moth larva
Knot Grass Acronicta rumicis moth larva (ID by Derek Longe).

3 July: variable damselfly pair, teneral (just emerged) willow emerald damselfly, marsh harrier (DL).

30 June, Family Fun Day: lots of good views of Norfolk hawkers, four-spotted chasers, reed bunting and more.

29 June: summer flowers coming out e.g. purple loosestrife, meadow-rue, meadowsweet. Birds fairly quiet, a few murmurs from reed warblers and reed buntings. Oystercatcher, lapwing. Butterflies including painted lady, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, small copper. Dragonflies: lots of Norfolk hawkers, four-spotted chaser, emperor, black-tailed skimmer. Second record of variable damselfly for the reserve.

variable damselfly
Variable damselfly, 29 June.

14 June: sunshine after the rain: lots of bird song. Linnet at bramble patch. Irises going over, valerian coming into flower.

12 June: nesting lapwings flooded out by recent heavy downpours (MB).

5 June: Norfolk hawkers out in good numbers. Male broad-bodied chaser. Lots of damselflies (as for 24 May). One (and only one) early marsh orchid this year. Counted 15 thick-legged beetles on ox-eye daisies on the track running up to the stile (see photo in 'look out for').

3 June, evening guided walk for South Yare Wildlife Group: a pair of lapwings appears to be nesting. Grasshopper warbler, faintly heard. Reed buntings and reed warblers. Two shelducks flew over. 8 tufted ducks (4 pairs) and gadwall on broad. Mute swans with 6 cygnets.

31 May: garden warbler in tall willow scrub by the riverside path.

24 May: 6 species of odonata: common blue, large red, red-eyed, azure and banded demoiselle damselflies, hairy dragonfly. Clouded border (below) and small china mark moths (DL).

clouded border moth
Clouded border moth (Derek Longe).

12 May: nothing new, but it sounded like there's been quite an influx of reed warblers.

8 May, guided walk in the rain: little egret on the 'flood'. At least 100 swallows over the broad, with a few sand martins and house martins. Sedge, reed, willow and Cetti's warblers singing, also whitethroat, chiffchaff and blackcap.

1 May: variable damselfly (male), first record of this species for the reserve (SW). Photos here.

21 April: whitethroat in full song, lots of sedge warblers (c.10), 2 male goldeneyes, 5 ♂ orange tips.

18 April, guided walk: good view of sedge warbler, reed bunting and chiffchaff, willow and grasshopper warblers heard. Butterflies: peacock, orange tip (several males) brimstone, small tortoiseshell, holly blue. Large red damselfly. 4 goldeneyes (2♂+2♀), pair of pochards with tufted ducks, 4 lapwings. Pied shieldbug again, alder flies.

brown-lipped snail Cepaea nemoralis brown-lipped snail Cepaea nemoralis
Same species, slightly different look: brown-lipped snails Cepaea nemoralis.

17 April: first orange tip butterfly (male). Several sedge warblers, kingfisher, 2 chinese water deer. 4 goldeneyes (1♂+3♀), 49 tufted ducks, 2 oystercatchers. Grasshopper warbler reported.

15 April: no sign of garganeys. 4 goldeneyes (2♂+2♀), 45 tufted ducks, at least 7 teals. 6 swallows, willow and sedge warbler (heard one of each). Lady's smock coming into flower.

14 April: pair of garganeys, 5 goldeneyes, swallow, little ringed plover and sedge warbler heard. MB/Drew Lyness.

4 April: many ducks have gone, no goldeneyes, though one pochard with remaining tufted ducks, 3+ teal. Lapwing displaying over the water.

29 March, guided walk: 5 buzzards, several singing reed buntings, chiffchaffs in several places. 3 goldeneyes (all females), 2 lapwings. Brimstone, peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies. Common carder bee.

Pied shieldbug Tritomegas bicolor (Susan Weeks) brimstone on dandelion ( Derek Longe)
29 March: pied shieldbug Tritomegas bicolor (Susan Weeks); brimstone on dandelion (Derek Longe).

27 March: singing chiffchaffs, song thrush, green woodpecker, linnet (Whitlingham Lane). Buzzard, male shoveler, tufted ducks and gadwalls in fairly good numbers. Marsh marigolds flowering.

22/23 March: little gull (MB)

10 March: 2 little grebes, 2 great crested grebes, 4 goldeneyes (but for how long?), 2 shovelers. No sign of red-crested pochard.

8 March: little grebe, 4 goldeneyes, little egret, 2 shovelers, oystercatcher, kingfisher. Coltsfoot in peak flower on the river bank. Red-crested pochard, male, origin unknown (MB).

2 March: 2 buzzards, 5 goldeneyes, 60 tufted ducks, 2 shovelers, 3 oystercatchers. First marsh marigold in flower and coltsfoot on the river bank.

23 February: 122 tufted ducks, 1 pochard, 2 Canada geese, 3 goldeneyes (2♂+♀), 4 shovelers (2♂,2♀).

22 February: 5 goldeneyes, red kite (MB).

15 February, guided walk: reed buntings singing, buzzard, Chinese water deer. On St Andrews Broad: 2 goldeneyes (♂+♀), 2♂ shovelers, teals, gadwalls, tufted ducks, pochards, mallards, little egret, 2 oystercatchers.

10 February: long-tailed duck, 2♂ goldeneyes, 2 stonechats (MB). 4 little grebes, little egret.

9 February: 4 little egrets (MB).

16 January, guided walk: 7 duck species: imm ♂ goldeneye, tufted ducks. pochards, gadwalls, mallards, teals, 3 ♂ shovelers. Redwings settled in a tree across the river. Hogweed, angelica, shepherd's purse and white dead-nettle in flower.

8 January: little egret on the flood. 3 (possibly 4) goldeneyes.

1 January: 146 tufted ducks (probably more, they kept diving!), 33 pochards, 4 goldeneyes, a scattering of teals and gadwalls.


18 December, guided walk: stonechats, 2 goldeneyes, 2 shovelers. buzzard, sparrowhawk.

13 December: 4 goldeneyes today.

11 December: 2 stonechats, male marsh harrier. Broad: 2 goldeneyes, 1 male shoveler, groups of teal, a few pochards and gadwalls, large numbers of tufted ducks though not counted. Spent time today with two beetle and invertebrate experts, Martin Collier and Steve Lane. See blog: Beetlemania. Finds included pseudoscorpions, mole fleas (the largest species of flea in Great Britain), various ramshorn snails and these:

Paederus riparius, a rove beetle false ladybird
Paederus riparius a rove beetle in ditch edge vegetation; false ladybird Endomychus coccineus under some bark.

Pseudoscorpion, species unknown (examined in a specimen tube); a tiny harvestman with two white spots Nemostoma bimaculata (on my hand).

3 December: fewer ducks today, just one goldeneye. Little grebe.

30 November: male stonechat. Good morning for winter ducks: 185 tufted ducks, 6 pochards, 4 goldeneyes, 3 teals, 3 gadwalls.

6 November, guided walk: male & female stonechat, several meadow pipits, big flock of goldfinches (c.70). Male shoveler, female tufted duck, 2 gadwalls over but overall a lack of ducks. Two nice bugs - see pictures and captions. Groundsel leaf rust fungus Puccinia lagenophorae found and ID by Roger & Jenny Jones.

Corizus hyoscyami Dolycoris baccarum
Corizus hyoscyami, a scentless plant bug called 'cinnamon bug' or 'black & red squash bug'; hairy shieldbug (aka sloe bug) Dolycoris baccarum. See also blog A Tale of Two Bugs (November 2018);

4 November: low duck numbers, single shoveler, teal, gadwall, 8 tufted ducks. Redpoll. Probable chiffchaff (call and brief & poor view). No sign of the stonechat today.

28 October: 3 goldeneye (2 ♀/imm, 1 imm ♂), 9 shovelers, teals, tufted ducks, gadwall, 7 wigeon flying over. Stonechat ♂ on bramble patch, meadow pipit. Sparrowhawk, kestrel.

27 October: 2 goldeneye, 2 stonechats, little grebe (MB).

19 October: 2 stonechats, good group of meadow pipits. 5 shovelers, teal, tufted ducks, gadwalls, 2 buzzards, snipe. Dark bush cricket and long-winged conehead. Peacock, red admiral. Ivy bee (new record for reserve and the local area) on ivy near railway bridge. Fungi: yellow field cap, brown-edged bonnet. Ruby tiger moth caterpillar and common plume moth. Marsh harrier, curlew and water rail reported.

4 October: still plenty of willow emeralds, common darters and migrant hawkers. Meadow pipit, sparrowhawk; no sign of stonechat. Red admiral, ivy alive with ladybirds, mostly harlequins.

30 September: stonechat reported.

small copper

27 September: willow emerald count: 24 seen on reserve, one just off, including several pairs; egg-laying into ash tree seen from railway bridge. Still lots of common darters and migrant hawkers. Snipe, 4♀ shovelers near little group of gadwalls. Hornet, red admiral, peacock, small tortoiseshell.
Left: a rather faded small copper.

26 September: 30 willow emeralds counted by Derek Longe in 4-hour survey, plus 4 just off the reserve.

willow emerald on wire
Unusual perch for a willow emerald, on a wire fence (27 Sept).

13 September, guided walk: Little egret, about 3 snipe, buzzard, sparrowhawk, close views of willow emeralds and mating migrant hawkers (the latter usually dashing past at great speed); very nicely posing long-winged coneheads and dark bush cricket; spider Araneus quadratus. Photos on Facebook here.

ruddy darter, 3 Sept 2018 willow emerald damselfly, 3 Sept 2018
Pictures from 3 September (see them full-size on Facebook here): ruddy darter on nettle, willow emerald damselfly. Little egret still there, 3 tufted ducks.

2 September: little egret. Willow emeralds, common darters, migrant hawkers.

22 August: 10 willow emeralds in 7 places, including three from the railway bridge and one egg-laying pair. 1 red-eyed damselfly on a lily; must be nearly the season's end for these. 2 little egrets, buzzard, green sandpiper with a limp. Couldn't find red bartsia bee again, and the flowers are mostly gone over.

17 August, guided walk: 3 green sandpipers, buzzard, Cetti's warbler heard, quiet for birds. Lots of common darters egg-laying, ruddy darters, migrant hawkers, 2 willow emeralds, red-eyed & common blue damsels. Dark bush cricket. Couldn't find red bartsia bee. Lots of common hemp-nettle by path adjacent to wood that leads to Bungalow Lane.

Watching a willow emerald (DL)
Today's group in Bungalow Lane, watching a willow emerald damselfly..

11 August: lots of summer flowers, not many birds. My first willow emerald damselfly of the year, on ditch parallel with Bungalow Lane. Also red-eyed and common blue damsels. Ruddy darter outnumbering common darter, migrant & brown hawkers. Red bartsia bee: more information on the blog here.

speckled wood
Speckled wood butterfly: usually a species of mixed light and shade in woods or gardens, so a surprise to see perched on a reed today.

29 July, Thorpe Marshes Family Fun Day: 49 attended, which is pretty good on a wet day.

small red-eyed damselfly
Small red-eyed damselfly found and held by Butterfly Conservation's Andy Brazil, 29 July. Fits into recent pattern of records: singles seen on 4 August in last two years.

23 July: 25 lapwings, 2 oystercatchers. As for 21 July, plus brown hawker, gatekeepers. Peacock and red admiral butterflies on the buddleias by the reserve's entrance.

22 July: reports of a pair of scaup, provenance unknown (no sign 23 July).

Essex skipper
Essex skipper on purple loosestrife, 21 July.

21 July: minimum of 16 lapwings, little egret, grasshopper warbler heard, sparrowhawk. Dragonflies: last few Norfolk hawkers, ruddy & common darter, emperor, black-tailed skimmer. Damselflies: common blue, azure, red-eyed, blue-tailed. Butterflies included painted lady, small & Essex skippers, comma, holly blue. Silver-Y moth.

18 July, evening guided walk: little egret, green sandpiper, grasshopper warbler heard in the distance. Lots of flowers, of course; moths below.

Dingy Footman var stramineola White Plume Moth Agriphila-straminella Straw Grass-veneer
Moths on 18 July 2018: Dingy Footman var stramineola; White Plume Moth; Straw Grass-veneer Agriphila straminella.

Mother of Pearl moth Hemp Agrimony Plume
Mother of Pearl; Hemp Agrimony Plume. IDs and photos by Derek Longe.

14 July: butterflies on a hot afternoon included painted lady and ringlet. All (of many) skippers seen well were small skipper. Still a few Norfolk hawkers, plus brown hawker, emperor, black-tailed skimmer, common darter. Group of 10 lapwings on shingle exposed by falling water levels.

5 July, evening: grasshopper, reed and sedge warbler song in bursts. Norfolk hawkers still plentiful but past late June peak. Kingfisher, common tern over river. Swans + 2 cygnets. Lots high summer flowers e.g. meadowsweet, marsh woundwort.

tufted vetch cinnabar moth caterpillars

Tufted vetch by the marsh path; cinnabar moth caterpillars on ragwort (5/7).

28 June: 'flood' now dry. Grasshopper warbler singing, common tern. Norfolk hawkers and black-tailed skimmer in good numbers. Butterflies included large skipper, ringlet and meadow brown. Flowers of high summer: meadowsweet, purple loosestrife, marsh woundwort.

20 June: 73 Norfolk hawkers, a record count; large skipper (DL). Also comma, little egret, song thrush in fine voice, grasshopper warbler singing.

18 June, guided walk: hobby, little egret, buzzard, common tern. Good views of heron and reed bunting. Norfolk hawker (+ exuvia) & black-tailed skimmer. Sporadic song of reed, sedge and Cetti's warblers. Swans + 2 cygnets (Polish cygnet has gone). Two tufted ducks loafing (♂+♀); non-breeders or failed breeders? Mullein moth caterpillars on water figwort.

14/15 June: report of grasshopper warbler singing, evenings.

14 June: female gadwall, two male tufted ducks, two lapwings. Anyone seen any signs of any of these species breeding? One or more lapwing has been regular in May and June: non-breeder(s)? Lots of Norfolk hawkers despite windy day, black-tailed skimmer, lots of damselflies (4 species).

9 June: mute swans on the broad have three cygnets, one the white 'Polish' form. Valerian in flower.

6 June: peregrine, count of 5 early marsh orchids (well away from paths and inaccessible without wellies). Dragonflies: broad-bodied chaser inc female egg-laying, emperor, hairy dragonfly, lots of Norfolk hawkers, four-spotted chaser.

29 May, guided walk: 2 herons, 2 kestrels, buzzard, reed & sedge warbler singing, reed buntings. Damsels & dragons as noted for 24 May, with good views of four-spotted chaser especially, and a Norfolk hawker seen. Water vole droppings on a platform; silver-Y moth; orange-tip caterpillar on wintercress. See photos below of a few invertebrates today.

yellow-tail moth caterpillar hairy dragonfly close-up
Yellow-tail moth caterpillar on Rosa rugosa (also known as beach rose or Japanese rose); hairy dragonfly close-up (DL).

Norfolk hawker exuvia Downlooker snipefly Rhagio scolopaceus
Norfolk hawker exuvia (shed larval skin), gripping a water soldier. Downlooker snipefly Rhagio scolopaceus: the background colour is a walk participant's jumper. 'Downlooker' refers to how they characteristically look downwards. Non-biting (to humans).

guelder rose
Guelder rose is in flower.

24 May: water vole, common blue butterfly (SW). Damselflies in good numbers: common blue, large red, red-eyed, azure, occasional banded demoiselles. Four-spotted chaser and hairy dragonflies, broad-bodied chaser has been seen.

red-eyed damselfly
Red-eyed damselfly, 22 May 2018

7 May: hairy dragonfly, 2 ♂ gadwalls (could ♀♀ be on nests?), oystercatcher, lapwing, common tern.

orange-tip female on wintercress
Female orange-tip nectaring on wintercress, 7 May.

5 May: large red damselfly (DL) while on orange-tip survey.

4 May, evening: cuckoo flying over, also heard from Thunder Lane 5 May 07:00.

27 April, guided walk: grasshopper warbler (perhaps two), mute swan on nest. Pair of gadwalls, two pairs of tufted ducks: could they be staying to nest? Chinese water deer.

wheatear (James Emerson)

26 April: lots of bird song including sedge, reed and willow warblers, whitethroat. Oystercatcher, winter ducks gone. Marsh marigolds and lady's smock coming into flower.

21 April: wheatear (James Emerson), photo left.

7 April: water rail; several peacock butterflies; 118 tufted ducks (perhaps extras from Whitlingham on a warm weekend?); ♂ shoveler still present, but for how long?

4 April: paths flooded in places. Chiffchaff singing; little egret.

29 March, guided walk: chiffchaff singing (but a late year so not the many you'd expect); Cetti's warbler, which had gone quiet; buzzards; fast-flying kingfishers for an alert few.

A few lingering ducks including shovelers, teal and pochard; 2 lapwings.

Small tortoiseshell butterflies tempted out by a sunny morning. Coltsfoot, cherry plum (read Wikipedia here about this naturalised shrub) and lesser celandines in flower.

Right: small tortoiseshell taking nectar on a willow catkin (DL).

small tortoiseshell on willow catkin

6 March: female smew on St Andrew's Broad (also here yesterday, from reports, & previously at Whitlingham). 3 wigeons (1♂, 2♀).
Left: digiscoped smew (James Emerson)

3 March: 2♂ pintails flew round and headed west; ♂ goosander round over the gravel pit and headed west.

2 March: 4 pintails, brown rat (MB). 1 March: 2 redshanks (MB). 28 Feb: 6 wigeons (MB).

27 February: good day for raptors in the snow: marsh harrier, kestrel, buzzard. Good numbers and variety of ducks and gulls on St Andrews Broad, which is about 5% ice.

snow at Thorpe Marshes
Snowy conditions today.

19 February, guided walk on a wet morning: stonechat, several singing reed buntings, several snipe. Good selection of wildfowl species: tufted duck, pochard, shoveler, teal, mallard, gadwall, great crested grebe in breeding plumage, coot, moorhen, cormorant. 4 lapwings, 1 oystercatcher.

17 February: chiffchaff, stonechat, ♂ wigeon, 2 little grebes. Recent scrub management work by the ponds.

2 February: 2 wigeons (1♂, 1♀), reed bunting in weak song.

25 January: great black-backed gull, 7 lapwings. kingfisher, stonechat. Duck numbers much reduced from yesterday on a still, sunny and mild day.

24 January, walk with Bure Valley Conservation Group: stonechat, grey wagtail, a few snipe, Cetti's warbler singing. Fungi: oysterling sp on bramble, common jelly spot. Big and jumbled concentrations of ducks mostly sheltering on a windy day at west end of gravel pit: impractical to count while with a group but in the region of 250 tufted ducks, 100 gadwalls, 20 shovelers, 50 pochards, 100 teals. Lapwings, 3 stock doves, c.15 cormorants. 1 of 2 great crested grebes in spring plumage. Unidentified object on the Whitlingham side of the river could be a dead seal.tufted and other ducks (Derek Longe)
Tufted ducks (mostly), pochards, gadwalls, 24 January (Derek Longe).

19 January: male stonechat, pochard x ferruginous duck.

17 January: bearded tit seen by one of the guided walk group ( I missed it, again!)

16 January: 18 shovelers, kingfisher.

12 January: noisy great spotted & green woodpeckers on a bright day. 2 x pochard x ferruginous duck hybrids with usual mix of ducks. 2 lapwings.

1 January: great black-backed gull, bearded tit (JL), pochard x ferruginous duck (x 2 reported, JL), 29 shovelers, 4 lapwings, kingfisher.

Sightings from 2012 - 2017 here.

Wildlife reports & guide

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

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 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.

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 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.

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.

Thursday 14 November, 10am

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

Look out for


Caddis fly  on hogweed

Caddis fly: on hogweed is a good place to look.


Monthly walks led by Chris Durdin

Thursday 14 November 10am
Tuesday 17 December 10am

Wednesday 15 January 10am
Tuesday 18 February 10am
Friday 27 March 10am
Thursday 30 April 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. 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, 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).

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.


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.

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 2017).

Norfolk hawkers at Thorpe Marshes (June 2018).

Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s (January 2017)

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

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.

News and features

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 October 2018.

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.

Local accommodation

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

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

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.


Norfolk Hawker

Norfolk Hawker: regular in June and July.

Oedemera nobilis

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

Azure Damselflies

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

stonechat (Ricky Cleverley)

Stonechat (Ricky Cleverley), in the bramble patch area October-February.

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

water rail

Water rail: often vocal, always tricky to see.

marsh marigold

Marsh marigolds.

Araneus quadratus

4-spot orb web spider, Araneus quadratus

nodding bur marigold

Nodding bur marigold, especially by the dry 'flood'.

Ruddy Darter

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

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