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Nature notes for Radio Norfolk

This page has some pictures and notes relating to nature discussed on air with Honeyguide's Chris Durdin on BBC Radio Norfolk's Drivetime Show - in this case on 28 February 2011 ... plus an early March update on spring butterflies.

Quiz question - and now the answer, too

Here's a weather forecast. "The sun is out, the sky is blue, there's not a cloud to spoil the view." Which native British tree does this suggest?

For the answer to this and also today's Rural Riddle, scroll down to the bottom right hand corner of this web page.

Flowers for early March

Keep an eye out for sweet violets (above) and lesser celandines (right). Lesser celandine on Wikipedia here.

Mediterranean gulls at Great Yarmouth

The name suggests there are in the wrong place, and Mediterranean gulls really are found in the Mediterranean, but there is also a substantial and growing population in the North Sea and English Channel. These include several pairs nesting in Norfolk and nearby counties in recent years. But the 'Med' gulls at Great Yarmouth - arguably the best place to see them in the UK - are non-breeding birds. While a few may be seen at any time of year, the adults go to Belgium and Holland to nest - we know that from the rings on the legs of some, which you can see if you look closely.

March is the best time to enjoy them, I think. That's because the adults are coming into their breeding plumage with a full, black hood - really black, unlike the chocolate brown head of black-headed gull and a proper hood, extending farther down their necks than the brown on a black-headed gull. When the head is up - not in this picture - it looks like it's wearing a balaclava.

Mediterranean gull black-headed gull

Mediterranean gull . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Black-headed gull.
Pictures from www.rspb.org.uk

Also look out for the clean-looking, unmarked, rather rounded wings on the adults, without the black on a black-headed gull's wings. The legs are a deeper red colour.

Fat balls

The RSPB doesn't sell fat balls - suet and seed mixed - in mesh due to reports of birds trapped in the plastic mesh. Here are three ideas so you can keep using this great bird food but reduce the risk.

1) Buy fat balls that are not in a net

2) Put fat balls in a feeder, so birds grab the feeder and not the net. Feeders take fat balls with or without nets - see picture on the right.

3) Tie your fat ball against a small branch so that birds can perch on the branch and not the net.

Robins and blackbirds will take advantage, though tits may still land on the mesh.

Small tortoiseshell

Finally, a couple of pictures to celebrate spring. This small tortoiseshell butterfly, here on elephant's ears flowers Bergenia cordifolia, was in my garden on 7 March. Next butterfly, with any luck, will be a brimstone. (So it proved: one flew past at Hillside Rovers on Saturday 12 March and soon after in my garden.) Both species overwinter as adults so emerge on bright spring days.

small tortoiseshell

More Honeyguide nature notes

Another early March flower

Scroll down for its name ...

winter heliotrope

Winter heliotrope, which flowers from Dec - April. Have a sniff - there's a strong scent of almonds.

winter heliotrope

Winter heliotrope, photographed in Norwich's Rosary Cemetery. Note the big, round leaves, growing in a patch.


Where to look for Mediterranean gulls

Almost anywhere on Great Yarmouth's 'golden mile'! Between the Wellington Pier and Marina Centre is a good area. Tip: take some bread or chips to feed them!

Naturally, they can be seen elsewhere, such as Breydon Water or North Denes, but the beach is easiest.

Read more about Mediterranean gulls on the RSPB's website here.



Bird feeder with fat balls - with or without plastic mesh.



small tortoiseshell



Quiz and Rural Riddle answers

The answer was Holly, as these are the first lines of 'Raining in my Heart' by Buddy Holly.

The Rural Riddle was a singing siskin. Siskins winter in good numbers in Norfolk and a few breed, especially in the Brecks, but also wintering birds sometimes sing for a few days in a bright spell in late March / early April before they head across the North Sea to Scandinavia.

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