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NWT Thorpe Marshes

Paths are under water in places: wellies are recommended..

common darter
Common darter, 2 November 2021

WildWalks: NWT is encouraging wildlife recording with a special focus on Thorpe Marshes and Upton Broad & Marshes for April 2021 to March 2022. More information on the project and how to take part on the NWT WildWalks webpage.

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.

November: the focus shifts to wintering birds, though it can be quiet at times, especially early in the month. Ducks on St Andrews Broad are likely to be tufted ducks, though later gadwalls may appear and sometimes an early goldeneye. With luck a wintering stonechat or two will be with us all winter, and a few meadow pipits. There can be bursts of song: Cetti's warbler, robin and wren. A water rail often calls. Common darters and caddis-flies are possible on bright days.

November view

Publications about NWT Thorpe Marshes

NEW: James Emerson's The Birds of Whitlingham & Thorpe 2020. This includes bird records for NWT Thorpe Marshes in 2020 and reports on the corncrake and Savi's warbler at Thorpe Marshes in May-June 2020. Other write-ups include a white-tailed eagle over Thorpe Marshes, notes on crossbill sightings locally and a review of lockdown on bird recording.

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.

The Thorpe Marshes wildlife report for 2018-19 includes a range of wildlife records, a review of the year and other activities on the nature reserve.

Key bird records for NWT Thorpe Marshes in 2019 are in James Emerson's The Birds of Whitlingham & Thorpe 2019, which includes Thorpe Marshes reserve in the area it covers.

There are also Thorpe Marshes wildlife reports for 2012-2017 and previous Whitlingham/Bird bird reports. For these, scroll down to 'Wildlife reports & guide'.

Local history

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

Willow Emerald damselflies

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

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

Gallery of photos of dragonflies and damselflies of NWT Thorpe Marshes on Facebook here includes several Willow Emeralds. A Willow Emerald at Thorpe Marshes on 6 November 2017 appears to be have been the last sighting for 2017 in the UK.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 October: 2 stonechats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 September: NWT cows have arrived.

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

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

4 September: 3 teals (MB). Insects on ivy in Whitlingham Lane: photos on Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 June: three juvenile stonechats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 April: little gull ...

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

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

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

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

9 April: common tern (SW).

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

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

flooding 6 April 2021
Flooding, 6 April 2021.

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

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

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

little gulls

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

Little gull (Susan Weeks).

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

little egret
Little egret, 30 March 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

path improvements

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

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

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

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

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

Smew, with teals (Stuart White).

14 February: 22 shovelers (SW)

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

8 February: great white egret (SW).

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 January: kittiwake reported on Twitter, with photo.

10 November: 6 goldeneyes (2♂) (SW).

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

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


under water, Christmas Day 2020
Thorpe Marshes under water, Christmas Day 2020.

22 December: flock of pink-footed geese over; green woodpecker; sparrowhawk; ♂ stonechat. 2 water rails heard and Cetti's warblers singing in four places. On broad: 195 tufted ducks (minimum - with diving birds and hidden corners, no doubt more), pochards (12+), teal and gadwall (small numbers), ♂ goldeneye, ♂ shoveler.

18 December, guided walk: kingfisher; ♂ goldeneye; several smart ♂ pochards with the usual tufted ducks and gadwalls; teals.

tufted ducks and gadwalls
A few of today's tufted ducks and, top, gadwalls (digiscoped).

13 December: 154 tufted ducks (minimum, as they dive); high numbers are to be expected when Whitlingham CP is busy on a Sunday. 9 pochards, 10 teals, no goldeneyes or shovelers.

11 December: one goldeneye and one male pochard with the tufted ducks.

2 December: down to 2 goldeneyes; probably many of the local wintering ducks (in general) are at Whitlingham today. Flock of c.40 wigeons flying around.

28 November, p.m.: male red-breasted merganser.

red-breasted merganser (Stuart White)
Red-breasted merganser (Stuart White).

24 November, p.m. visit: 5 goldeneyes (2x adult ♂, 2x immature ♂); 3 little grebes; heard water rail. Single ♂ shoveler.

23 November: 5 goldeneyes (3♂), 5 shovelers (2♂), little grebe; tufted ducks, pochards, gadwalls, teals roughly as 21/11. 2 stonechats.

21 November: 95 tufted ducks, 4♂ pochards, 8 goldeneyes, 16 teals, 14 gadwalls, 1♂ shoveler. Chiffchaff, stonechat. Counts by SW.

16 November: an influx of ducks: c.160 tufted ducks, 2♂ pochards, a sprinkling of teals and gadwalls, goldeneye, mallard.

15 November: down to 3 goldeneyes, 2 kingfishers over the gravel pit.

12 November: 8 goldeneyes (SW), which equals the highest count for Thorpe/Whitlingham.

11 November: goldeneyes still present; ♀pochard with the tufted ducks.

10 November: 6 goldeneyes (2♂) (SW).

goldeneyes (SW)
Goldeneyes (SW).

7 November: 5 goldeneyes (1♂), single teal, 87 tufted ducks (minimum). Reed buntings, 2 stonechats, meadow pipit, Cetti's warblers vocal in the sunshine.

4 November, guided walk: flocks of starlings migrating west along the Yare Valley. Sparrowhawk, buzzard, kestrel. Meadow pipits, Cetti's warbler singing. No sign of the stonechats. 34 tufted ducks - some wintering duck at last! - and a great crested grebe on St Andrews Broad. Late flowers included hogweed, angelica, hemp agrimony, water chickweed and meadowsweet.

A late flowering meadowsweet today.

15 October, guided walk: redwing, stonechat, snipe, meadow pipits, buzzard, kestrel, cormorants. When the sun came out, migrant hawker, common darter and 3 willow emeralds. Dozens of nursery web spiders on nettle leaves by riverside path. Plus these in pictures below and all those pictured for 14 Oct. See blog: Walking again at Thorpe Marshes (Water, Mills and Marshes project).

spindle fruit dock bug, adult dock bug, late instar Hairy shieldbug
Spindle fruit, with a drop of rain; dock bug, adult; dock bug, late instar; hairy shieldbug aka sloe shieldbug.

14 October: skylarks over, heading west; an early birder reported redwings and other thrushes first thing. Water rail and Cetti's warbler heard. No sign of stonechats this morning, and still no winter ducks.

caddis fly on hogweed jelly ear tar spot
Caddis fly on hogweed; jelly ear fungus on elder near 'bridge' over tidal flap; tar spot fungus on sycamore. All 14 October.

7 October: 2 stonechats, chiffchaff, buzzard, kestrel. Lingering flowers include hemp agrimony and meadowsweet. Caddis flies.

1 October: hobby, male marsh harrier.

29 September: 2 stonechats (MB), back for the winter?

21 September: 73 willow emeralds counted (DL).

8 September: as for 4 Sept, plus Chinese water deer.

4 September: willow emerald, migrant hawker, ruddy & common darters.

ivy bee hornet hoverfly
Ivy bee, hornet hoverfly (both 4 September).

2 September: hobby. Willow emeralds, migrants hawkers, ruddy darter.

willow emerald, egg laying into a willow
Willow emerald, egg laying into a willow. At least nine this afternoon, all by the permissive path between the education gates and the cattle corral.

19 July: ruddy darter; smartly marked male linnet in song at the big bramble patch.

12 July: grasshopper warbler, 2 oystercatchers (evening).

6 July: water rail chick seen in ditch by the path, also heard.

Common red soldier beetles, also known as hogweed bonking beetles, 4 July.
Common red soldier beetles, also known as hogweed bonking beetles, 4 July.

2 July: grasshopper warbler singing. Many black-tailed skimmers: a blue dragonfly landing on a path is likely to be this species.

24 June: 2 grasshopper warblers, evening, one close to the railway bridge.

24 June: emperor dragonflies in 3 places (mentioned as not many so far); first blue-tailed damselfly seen this year.

23 June: greater water parsnip planted in newly cut areas on the edge of ditches (c.28 plants). See photos on Water. Mills & Marshes project on Twitter.

20 June: Savi's warbler reported, thought to be final day. Scarce chaser again, this time within the reserve.

17 June: Savi's warbler seen/heard by many birders today. Male scarce chaser on the edge of the River Yare. Little egret.scarce chaser
Scarce chaser, male in TG2607. Third record this year of species previously unrecorded here. See also gallery of photos of dragonflies and damselflies of NWT Thorpe Marshes on Facebook here, last updated June 2020.

16 June: Savi's warbler still here (according to birders on the reserve).

15 June: scarce chaser (James Lowen via James Emerson).

14 June: variable damselfly (Chris Lansdell, blog). Thought to be last date for corncrake: if you heard it after this date, please contact us.

13 June: Savi's warbler (a.m.), attracting birdwatchers. Cuckoo. Evening/dusk: Savi's warbler singing and showing; 3 grasshopper warblers singing; corncrake heard.

7 June: corncrake & cuckoo calling this morning in the rain (R&JJ).Water rail chick seen (G).

5 June: corncrake calling at 15:00 & 15:30. Water rail and cuckoo heard. Hobby, little egret, male marsh harrier. House martins, a single sand martin, swifts: as usual, aerial feeders present when weather is poorer. Chinese water deer. Emperor dragonfly (first of season): all in a productive walk in a sunny break between rain.

4 June: morning: cuckoo. Lunchtime: lots of house martins in cool conditions over the broad. Evening: corncrake calling between 20:45 & 21:50 (at least), 2 grasshopper warblers reeling.

3 June: hunting hobby, cuckoo calling, grasshopper warbler heard.

1 June: corncrake calling 11.50am up to around 12.20pm (now recorded daily for 14 consecutive days); 71 Norfolk hawkers counted; female or teneral scarce chaser dragonfly (now confirmed, though photos not of publishable quality), new for the nature reserve (DL).

Oedemera nobilis thick legged flower beetle
This good-looking fella was by the benches today: thick-legged flower beetle Oedemera nobilis (CD).

30 May: corncrake calling often 16:00 - 16:30. Lapwing reported.

29 May: lapwings absent today. Corncrake still heard daily.

27 May: corncrake calling 15:25 and reports also at other times this afternoon. 2 lapwings - please keep an eye out for any signs of nesting activity e.g. mobbing jackdaws .

26 May: first Norfolk hawkers, hairy dragonfly ovipositing. Large numbers of red-eyed damselflies on branches hanging into the river; azure & common blue damselflies (numerous); banded demoiselles; variable damselfly recorded in much the same place as first record last year. Corncrake called at 15:10; no calling late evening. early part of the night; very vocal again at night (23:52, SW; 05:45 via SW).

spindle ermine moth caterpillars
Spindle ermine moth caterpillars Yponomeuta cagnagella.

25 May: corncrake, evening. 24 May: evening and after dark. Now farther east within reserve. Also water rail calling after dark. 23 May: corncrake only heard after dark.

21 May: corncrake heard morning, evening and night. One local resident heard it at 10:00. Up to 12 birdwatchers this evening: I was pleased to see social distancing carried out.

20 May: corncrake heard yesterday evening was again vocal this morning between (at least) 06:00 and 07:30 [recording here]. A bird originally released at Pensthorpe is quite likely its origin, though seeing colour rings is impractical as the bird was (mostly) out of sight. This news is noted here given that (1) news of the bird is on the grapevine (2) the few birdwatchers [4 max] attending were impeccably behaved (e.g. no playback used) (3) the bird is very vocal and conveniently heard from a main path and it is on the other side of ditch.
Cuckoo mobbed by jackdaw. Hairy dragonflies; first four-spotted chasers and banded demoiselles of the season.
Corncrake [coronacrake?] calling in the evening. Birdwatchers are requested to follow social distancing conventions: there were clear failures this evening.

Corncrake (Dave Farrow)
Right place, right time: corncrake at Thorpe Marshes, 20 May (Dave Farrow). See blog: Corncrake at Thorpe Marshes (for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, June 2020)

11 May: in cool, blustery conditions, c.100 martins (c.5 sand martins, the rest house martins) feeding over the broad in the lee of trees at the eastern end.

9 May: lesser whitethroat singing, scrub near bend of riverside path. My tenth warbler of the year. Two grasshopper warblers singing, more reported. Hairy dragonfly, singles in three places. Large red & common blue damselflies. Orange-tip eggs on wintercress.

7 May: hairy dragonfly, a few common blue damselflies. Garden warblers: I've heard one in four different places, though how many there are is less clear.

4 May: nightingale heard from SE corner of reserve (MC via SW; a dog walker).

1 May: 4 swifts with sand & house martin flock; cuckoo calling.

30 April, Whitlingham CP: at least 7 swifts and a hobby with c.100 swallows and martins.

29 April: c.40 hirundines: sand martins, swallows, house martins. These seem to appear when the weather is bad, presumably attracted to feed over the Broad.

27 April: c.30 sand martins, early evening, with them c.3 swallows. Garden warbler singing.

26 April: good view of garden warbler (one of nine warbler species here), oystercatcher, little egret. Pair of great crested grebes. Sparrowhawk in display flight. Cuckoo calling!

25 April: 6 grasshopper warblers (early a.m., SW).

24 April: 5 grasshopper warblers (early a.m.); lesser whitethroat (SW). Cuckoo (AP). Large red damselfly, alder fly, loads of St Mark's flies. At least 46 tufted ducks, numbers having dropped off for a while; ♂ shoveler, ♂ pochard, great crested grebe. Orange-tips mysteriously absent during CD's visit!

22 April: whitethroat; 4 linnets flew through. Pheasant is regular at the moment. Little egret (TN).

20 April: 2 reed warblers singing; snatches (for a 3rd time) of possible garden warbler, but so far not enough song to be sure. 37 tufted ducks.

19 April: reed warbler singing.

17 April: 2 house martins, 4 sand martins, 3 swallows (all minimum figures).

16 April: at least 58 tufted ducks today. Always present at the moment; this is more than usual.

14 April: 2 sand martins over.

13 April, mid-afternoon: c.35 swallows, 1 sand martin, 2 common terns, all of these over the broad. Early morning: ring ouzel (SW - photo on Twitter here).

12 April: gadwalls, tufted ducks, 1 teal (at least) still present. [No date, but about now - common lizard (JD).]

11 April: 2 oystercatchers, 2 lapwings. First lady's smock in flower. Muntjac near viewing point.

9/10 April: 3 singing grasshopper warblers (SW - film on Twitter here). Lots of sedge warblers. Mute swan on nest. Marsh marigold in flower.

8 April: first willow warbler singing, and my first sedge warbler (also reported from two days ago). Possible grasshopper warbler heard (JD) and reported on 6 Apl (SW). Reports of swallows and martins on previous days, but they are not regular. Orange tip butterfly (male), first of the season here (though also in my garden in late March).

5 April: at least 5 Cetti's warblers singing.

3 April: pair of shovelers, kingfisher. White-tailed eagle over, reported (SW)!!!

2 April: water rail called; regular in winter, perhaps staying to breed? Pheasant, kingfisher, later winter ducks still present. Chiffchaffs, of course, but no other spring warblers yet.

26 March: shelduck; still quite a few tufted ducks, teals and gadwalls. Kingfisher on the river. Peacock butterflies, small tortoiseshell. 3 x little gulls reported (SW - @stuart_white73)

24 March: wood mouse, on the riverside path. Presumably these are numerous here but in reality records of small mammals are few and far between, relying on a bit of luck, like today.

wood mouse

8 March: chiffchaff singing, female stonechat, reed buntings, little egret, 41 tufted ducks, teal, gadwall, great crested grebe in breeding plumage, 2 oystercatchers. Chinese water deer. Lesser celandines and peak time for coltsfoot.

25 February: stonechat and a similar range of other wildlife as on 18 Feb.

18 February, guided walk: excellent view of female stonechat, cormorant in breeding plumage (white thigh patch), little egret seen well, a handful of tufted ducks, teals and gadwall, water rail heard, singing reed bunting and song thrush. Lesser celandine, coltsfoot, cherry plum and deadnettles in flower.

Good views of the female stonechat today, despite windy conditions.

ivy with browse line
Ivy with clear 'browse line' at Ivy Corner, probably on account of muntjacs.

14 February: 2 pied wagtails flew over, 2 stonechats, pheasant, still low duck numbers. Coltsfoot and cherry plum in flower.

6 February: stonechat, water rail heard, low duck numbers in this mild and sunny weather, bits of bird song e.g. robin, great tit, Cetti's warbler. First Coltsfoot in flower near the river (see 'look out for'). The link is to an old blog dated late March, which shows it's early this year.

29 January: 2 stonechats (♂&♀), sparrowhawk. Wildfowl as follows: 50 tufted ducks, 9 gadwalls, c.8 teal (mostly hidden in vegetation), 3 mallards, 1 great crested grebe, 2 cormorants, 1 moorhen. Fairly typical for a mild spell.

26 January: mild weather continues. Duck numbers still relatively low. Pheasant, ♀ flew in from south of the river.

15 January, guided walk: buzzard, little egret, ♂ stonechat, low numbers of teal, tufted duck and gadwall. Water rail, pheasant & Cetti's warbler heard. 2 song thrushes singing; excellent view of great spotted woodpecker. Jelly ear fungus still easy to see.

St Andrews Broad 11 Jan 2020
Gulls and ducks gathered at the more sheltered western end of St Andrews Broad on 11 January.

9 January: 1♂ wigeon with a few tufted ducks, gadwalls and teal. 2 stonechats (♂&♀), pheasant. Buff-tailed bumblebee on this very mild day.

1 January: c.300 gulls, mostly black-headed, also common, herring, lesser black-back. 2 pochards, several gadwalls; teals gone this morning. Sparrowhawk.

Sightings from 2012 - 2019 here.

Wildlife reports & guide

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

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 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, provide reports and note wildlife sightings.

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

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

Livestock in trouble? NWT emergency grazing number here.

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

NWT guided walks

NWT monthly walks led by Chris Durdin

Thorpe Marshes guided walks restarted in April, with booking 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.

Friday 17 December 10am

Wednesday 12 January 10am
Tuesday 15 February 10am
Thursday 31 March 10am
Friday 8 April 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 shouldn't be needed for wading, though can be useful when grass is wet or paths are muddy in winter.

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

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

Other events

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

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

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


Norfolk schools get a taste of rare parsnips

NWT Thorpe Marshes features in greater water parsnip introduction project.

Dog issues: Local news story here.

Look out for

orange balsam

Orange balsam.


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.

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

Corncrake at Thorpe Marshes (June 2020)

Thorpe Marshes, a refuge in lockdown (May 2020)

Signs of spring at Thorpe Marshes (February 2020)

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

A wet day in November (November 2019)

October at NWT Thorpe Marshes (October 2019)

Notes from Thorpe Marshes (August 2019)

Beetlemania (December 2018).

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

In Praise of Ivy (written October 2018).

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

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

Norfolk hawkers at Thorpe Marshes (June 2018).

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

Thorpe Marshes in the 1960s (January 2018)

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

Sedge warblers return (April 2017).

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

Gathering gadwall (January 2017).

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

Pretty damsels (September 2016).

Trapped! (May 2016).

Pop goes the weasel (February 2016).

Winter access to Thorpe Marshes (December 2015).

Willow Emeralds return to Thorpe Marshes (October 2015).

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

Coltsfoot at Thorpe Marshes (March 2015).

A Gem of an Emerald (September 2014).

Bartsia, mint and combing bee (August 2014).

Damsel delights (July 2014).

November flowers (November 2013).

Half moon highlight (October 2013).

Purple haze (August 2013).

Tree bumblebees at Thorpe Marshes (July 2013).

February at Thorpe Marshes (February 2013).

January at Thorpe Marshes (January 2013).

bee orchid

Other NWT blogs by Chris Durdin:

Bee Orchids get my vote, June 2017.

Cranes and Hickling Broad, November 2016.

Big Yellow bee orchids are back, June 2016.

The Meadow in the City, June 2015

Dyke dipping at Thorpe Marshes

Dates for 2019 (for illustration). We hope to resume in 2021.

Sunday 28 April, 1pm - 2.30pm

Sunday 26 May, 10.30am-12.30pm

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

Sunday 28 July, 10.30am-12.30pm

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

Venue: The dipping platform at NWT Thorpe Marshes

Cost: free, no booking needed.

nodding bur marigold
Nodding bur marigold.

NWT Thorpe Marshes Volunteer Group

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

Dates for 2020, all Fridays: 27 March, 24 April, 29 May, 26 June. All are 10am-1pm. Contact alanm@norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk Cancelled until further notice.

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

Recording wildlife at Thorpe Marshes through NBIS

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

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

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

Willow Emerald (Derek Longe)

Willow Emerald, 17 August (Derek Longe).

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

Old news and features

new bench

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

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

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

pintail x domestic mallard

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

Mediterranean gull, 1st winter

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

Local accommodation

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

Oaklands Hotel, Yarmouth Road

Hill House bed & breakfast in nearby Hillside Road.

Other links

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

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

water vole platform

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

common blue damselfly

Common blue damselfly, including on paths such as here.

salix gall

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

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

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

ID, words and picture: Jenny Jones.

whinchat (Ricky Cleverley)

Whinchat (Ricky Cleverley), 1 Sept 2017

Buff-tip moth caterpillars

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

tachinid fly Phasia hemiptera

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

comma caterpillar

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

common redstart (David Porter)

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

Meadowsweet Rust Triphragmium ulmariae

Orange rust growing on meadowsweet Triphragmium ulmariae.

comma on ivy

November butterfly: comma on ivy (1 November 2015)

guelder rose

Autumn colour on guelder rose, 27 October.

Ruddy Darter

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

velvet shank

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

Calocera cornea

Small Stag's Horn fungus Calocera cornea

Caddis fly  on hogweed

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

marsh marigold

Marsh marigolds.

Araneus quadratus

4-spot orb web spider, Araneus quadratus

water rail

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

Azure Damselflies

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

common blue damselfly

Common blue damselfly - big numbers.

Norfolk Hawker

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

Oedemera nobilis

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

jelly ear fungus

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

sedge warbler

Sedge warbler

hairy dragonfly

Hairy dragonfly - the first dragonfly of the season.

stonechat (Ricky Cleverley)

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

great spotted woodpecker (Derek Longe)

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

Guided walk, January 2020.

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