The Natural History of Trimingham
We are very grateful to Mike Lawrence, natural history enthusiast, photographer, artist, and resident of Trimingham, for contributing this web-page. The photographs and text are all Mike’s own work, observed and captured in his explorations of the fields, woods and sea-cliffs of Trimingham.
” Quantity rather than Quality”
When October comes round it’s a time of expectancy and hope. You know birds will be on the move and there’s always the hope of something rarer.
The weather plays a big part and it didn’t really favour the coastline most of October, but with birding you never know what will turn up. At the start of the month there were some good blustery days where the sea-watching turned out to be okay, with flocks of geese and duck on the move – I counted eighteen-plus Red Throated Divers on the sea just off front.
You will get mixed flocks of birds moving through together when it’s rough. Here you can see Shelduck and Brent Geese. There were a lot of Shelduck moving through on this day, but not just wildfowl, smaller birds also were moving along the coast and thrushes moving across the sea heading inland. My first Redwing and Brambling of the autumn turned up on the 4th.
What people may have noticed at the start of October were the numbers of Jays that moved around – a large wave of them engulfed the area with groups of eight or so at a time heading over. As of writing there are still quite a few set up around the village, their raucous call giving them away in the woodland and seeing them flying off with horse chestnuts, about to be buried away for the approaching winter.
Saturday the 5th was a memorable day, and a sight some people may have noticed – indeed this phenomenon was reported happening from Trimingham along to Cley…..”Water Spouts”. Not close like the ones I had seen here not long after moving to Trimingham but all distant as a weather system moved along. In the above photo you make out the start of the funnel as it heads towards the surface of the sea. The weather conditions must have been just right for this event of water tornadoes, as I counted six off the coast here!
Back to birds – and one week in there were reports of Ring Ouzel along the coast, so I was on the lookout and whilst watching a Black Redstart, which is reward enough, I found a Ring Ouzel literally having to just turn around.
The name is derived from the red on the tail that you can see here – such a lovely bird.
And here is the Ring Ouzel, easily identified by the broad white bib – and notice the white edging to the wing feathers.
Just getting to mid month and there was huge fall of Blackbirds – the bushes and garden seemed to be alive with them. And fantastically I was able to tick off two Ring Ouzel flying low over the garden which gave me my hundredth bird species to be recorded from the garden.
On the 15th I watched flock after flock of thrushes flying in over the sea and heading inland. There were hundreds moving over, mainly all Redwings, but later that day I did manage to get my first autumn Fieldfare.
Strong winds coming down from the north required me to sea-watch – with reports of the small Little Auk coming in I was hoping to see one at least. Being the same size as a Starling, trying to pick them out in rough waters is a challenge at times but I did manage to see just one.
Eider ducks passed in good numbers, being pushed just that bit closer to shore in the strong winds.
Staying out at sea, on the 23rd whilst walking the dogs between Trimingham and Sidestrand, Sarah and I noticed a frenzy of hundreds of gulls scattered in patches on the sea. It turned out to be large schools of fish at the surface, presumably feeding. They were leaping out of the water, which of course brought the attention of the gulls, and they swarmed on the area whenever they came to the surface. This went on for nearly an hour in different areas along the coastline.
As the month was drawing to an end, new sightings kept things hopeful. In a field between Trimingham and Sidestrand someone found six Snow Buntings, so the next morning we headed along the clifftops with the dogs again and found just three Snow Buntings. They were elusive feeding in the grassy crop but gave themselves away every now and again – and what a little beauty they are! I had seen them flying past the coast here before, but these were the first on the ground.
Starling flocks were moving in along the coast, heading in from over the sea to winter here, and I watched a group of hundreds flying around the main clifftop wood, and later on watched two groups numbering around 500 pass over the garden heading towards the woodland. If you get the chance to watch or go to see a murmuration of starlings, then do so – it’s a natural thing of beauty.
The weather and temperature played a part in not allowing me to put the moth trap out as much as I would have liked but I still managed a few new species for the garden.
Finally on the last day of the month, the birds brought a welcome finale.
The fields leading to the clifftops between here and Sidestrand had been ploughed and as I said to Sarah, “The Golden Plover will soon be showing now it’s ploughed” – and lo and behold, I found five sat in the middle of the field…feel-good factor number 1! Approaching home I then found a Firecrest foraging for food amongst a flock of Long-Tailed Tits – stunning….feel-good factor number 2! And to finish I watched a pair of Great White Egrets fly past the front over the sea….feel-good factor number 3 and a great end to the month!
“The Swifts depart and the Geese return”
September started hopeful with a few birds starting to move around. Buzzards were starting to pass overhead and a Juv Peregrine was seen hunting around the clifftop and fields on a couple of days. There were a few groups of Swifts still passing through, but the numbers were lessening. On the 3rd whilst walking the dogs, Sarah and I watched five Wheatear move from the undercliff to the field adjacent.
Seabirds and wildfowl were moving through slowly, Red throated divers were returning, flocks of Teal and Scoter increased and a few Arctic Skuas headed up the coast. I managed to get a new patch tick when a single Purple Sandpiper flew past on the 5th. House Martin numbers increased with large groups feeding over the main clifftop wood.
B2 Stealth Bomber
The 11th of the month was to be the last day I would see Swifts with two past, but something I did not expect to see “fly in off the sea” was a B2 Stealth Bomber!!! Quickly running for my camera, I was able to get a couple of shots before it banked and headed towards Overstrand. This was the first time I had seen one and it definitely left us all buzzing after watching it fly past.
Mid-month and the geese had once again started to return, a group of fifty-plus was just the start and every day we heard them pass over and in ever increasing numbers, so nice to be hearing them again – makes up for losing the swifts in the sky.
The 17th to the 22nd turned out to be a rewarding time: on the 17th I added a truly unexpected new garden tick….a Great Skua flew high over the house!! I couldn’t believe it. The bird was then seen over Sidestrand before heading out to sea. Hummingbird Hawkmoth was becoming a daily sight on the verbena and I watched two feeding together on one day. The 18th added another unexpected garden tick: whilst in the garden I noticed something shoot across the paddock behind and then it called as it flew off…..a Kingfisher!!
There was a large movement of Jays going on and groups could be heard making a racket all over the place, six over the house together was the largest flock I saw, but well into double figures of birds passing through.
The 22nd was a manic day from the garden. During the morning I stepped out of the house to find Sarah and my Dad looking at a bird in the Holy tree outside the door. Having just flown into the tree it then took flight and landed in a neighbour’s tree….Redstart!! What a welcome garden tick that was and unlike previous Redstart on the patch this one kept still long enough for a couple of photos. There were obviously a lot of flies on the wing as the gulls seemed to be filling the sky feeding on them. A large number of Med Gulls passed over the house – all I had to do was sit on the bench and photograph them flying over. This seems to be a regular event as I had photographed the Med Gulls doing the same the first year we moved here. Sarah alerted me to a flock of large birds starting to gather high over the church amongst the gulls. A loud raucous calling started and a circling group of seventeen Grey Herons appeared all of a sudden. I have never seen such a large group of herons like this before all together.
But the 22nd hadn’t finished yet!! Scroll down for the next bird species.
With reports of Great White Egrets on the move, a group of four were seen heading east past Cley. They were then reported moving east past Sheringham towards Cromer….fingers crossed. ( I had seen 2 GWEs the year before but did not have a camera with me at the time.) Then the report came through to me that they were passing Overstrand and still heading this way…time to grab the big lens and head round to the front – well, I actually ran! Meeting my Dad there, we started to scan the skies and sure enough they came into view passing Overstrand and then Sidestrand. I then got plenty of photos before they gracefully passed down the coast.
Great White Egrets
Great White Egrets
Great White Egrets
As the month progressed, on the 26th whilst out walking the dogs along the coastal path, all of a sudden Sarah frantically alerted me ( I was checking the mobile at the time) to a Short-Eared Owl that shot up from the undercliff only to be confronted with us standing there! It flew along the cliff edge and proceeded to hunt the grasses. Unsuccessfully diving at something, it moved further along. As we carried along the path, we again watched it hunting, but this time it managed to catch a vole. It then flew out over the sea and proceeded to eat it in flight before heading back to the cliffs. A fantastic sight to end the month on.
Mothing during the month, on the other hand, was dire! The weather just wasn’t good enough on most nights here or I trapped the same previously recorded species. But I did manage to get two new year and garden ticks, the Black Rustic and Lunar Underwing, of which I trapped quite a few. Hopefully October is not a wash-out as I try to add new species still on the wing.
August seemed to fly by, but there were plenty of sights to be seen and some signs of movement as the month drew to an end.
There had been an abundance of butterflies in our garden. Some days we had what seemed just Painted Ladies everywhere and some really fresh-condition ones. But it’s nice to see some different species get a look in now and again: Peacocks looked stunning in the sun, along with the Red Admirals. Nearing the end of the month a Brimstone flew through the garden, always a welcome sight as it’s normally the first one you see on an early spring day.
This Migrant Hawker held, and still does, territory over the neighbours’ garden as well as ours.
The patterning on the underside of the Painted Lady butterfly is very intricate and lovely, as it is I think on the Red Admiral.
Along the clifftops I watched a pair of Hobby fly in off the sea – I had been noticing Hobby quite frequently and throughout August I watched them chase Swifts and House Martins. What an aerial combat they were! They are such an agile falcon (not unlike a large swift in shape) that they are one of the few birds that can actually catch a swallow or swift in flight. A pair will also work as a team by ganging up on a single bird, one pushing it towards the other. I also watched one Hobby mixed in amongst a loose group of Black-Headed Gulls catching insects on the wing with them.
During the last week of August there was a noticeable movement of Passerines. With reports of Pied Flycatcher all over the place I kept an eye out. I had seen them before from the back garden in the trees behind so it seemed a good place to start – and low and behold, one indeed showed as it fed amongst the tree canopy. But that was just the start of it – I continued seeing at least six Pied-Fly’s around the house, along with a Redstart on a couple of days. August had definitely ended well.
Mothing through August was exceptional. Not only did I add to the year list on nearly every trapping but I also added a few new species I’d not seen before. As the month came to an end it was the same suspects on the last trap and nothing exciting, but I hope to still get new additions to the year and garden list through September. The 2019 Year List now stands at 181 Macro moth species.
Tawny Speckled Pug
And my favourite moth trap of all – finally I got a Garden Tiger!
A Productive July Brought in Plenty for the Garden
July was still predominantly an insect month. There was a small amount of bird activity with a couple of Whimbrel passing over, a Marsh Harrier heading east and a lot more Swifts in the air. On one day I witnessed a pair of Hobbies teaming up against a small bird, trying to force it towards the other to prey on – one Hobby gave up whilst the other was lost to sight heading out to sea still chasing the bird. There was a lot of butterfly activity and plenty of new moths in the garden. This Buff Ermine moth above displayed a set of markings I had not seen before, depicting an elegant moustache – quite fitting for me to catch, I thought!
The garden was awash with butterflies most days. At the beginning of the month there was a large movement of white butterflies – when Wimbledon was on the previous year the same thing happened and then during the second week there were hundreds of small and large whites moving along the coast, a lovely sight to see.
If you get the chance to see a Gatekeeper up close before it flies, you can pick out the two white spots in the black marking on the underside. There were a lot feeding on the marjoram in the garden and the bramble hedges were awash with them. They can be very territorial to a favoured feeding area, chasing away other larger butterfly.
Every so often the Hummingbird Hawkmoth would visit the garden, favouring the verbena scattered around. I never get fed up with watching these.
Among the many Large and Small White butterfly I saw just this one Green-Veined White, easily recognisable when feeding with wings folded.
One of the first butterfly of the Spring to see are the Brimstone, a welcome sight to the garden. It is commonly believed that the word ‘butterfly’ is derived from ‘butter-coloured fly’ which is attributed to the yellow of the male Brimstone butterfly.
The jagged edges of the comma’s bright orange wings are a giveaway. The name comma butterfly derives from the small white ‘C’-shaped marking resembling a comma on the underside of its wings.
The Meadow Brown is larger than the similar Gatekeeper – but notice the single white dot on the black marking as opposed to the Gatekeeper’s two dots.
This Southern Hawker dragonfly was resting up on bramble early one morning along the lanes. You will see these and other species patrolling up and down a territory hunting other insects, their flight times being from the end of June right through to October.
The moth species started to dramatically increase in the garden – I had many new ‘year ticks’ and a few brand new species for the garden list. Hawkmoths were in decent numbers on some nights and always a delight to see in the trap the next morning.
This Silver Y is also regularly seen during the day in gardens, deriving its name from the Y pattern on the wings.
There are a lot of colourful species of moth, definitely not a boring sight.
Speaking to a friend, we discussed how there seemed to be a lot of Elephant Hawkmoths that were very much under-size, resembling a size more like a small elephant hawkmoth! I too found a Poplar Hawkmoth which appeared a lot smaller than normal.
The Buff Arches has a really intricate patterning on the wings, a stunning moth really.
This weird-looking moth gets its name from the buff-coloured patch at the end of the wings. It rests up and looks just like a broken birch twig.
This Bordered Pug was a welcome new species for the garden.
Looking more like a butterfly the Common Emerald is a stunningly coloured moth.
Another new addition for the garden and my first one ever.
This is a very easily recognised moth with its ‘woolly’ head and black spotted markings.
Lesser Swallow Prominent
I have been getting Swallow Prominents in the garden but not the Lesser Swallow Prominent pictured above, a sought-after addition for the garden and very similar to the closely marked Swallow Prominent – but the whiter marked wings and larger white triangular patch on the upper corner of the wing set it apart.
Very similar to the Common Emerald, this Large Emerald is just as beautiful and the largest of the emerald moth species.
I love the name of this moth, and my first ever.
The way to identify this moth is by its unique resting posture with the forewings held extended and covering the hindwings.
So a busy month with the winged insects. I have recorded 163 macro moth species in the garden so far, but August should start to see more birds beginning to move and still more new moths hopefully for the garden.
June soon came and went with a mixed bag of weather – it was hit and miss throughout the month but definitely a month of quantity and some quality stuff.
On the birding front I saw family groups of Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroats, young ones in tow following the movements of the parents as they zig-zagged through the bushes feeding. I was now seeing more Sandwich Terns offshore feeding, their loud calling giving themselves away over the waves. A female Marsh Harrier flew past the garden mid month – they are becoming a more regular sight. And then there were the Swifts. How lovely to see them flying overhead again – but this brings me on to a worrying concern for these birds: on the television I heard numbers were down by 50%…..not good to hear, so to see hundreds of them all heading south/southeast during the month and only just after they’ve arrived in the country is confusing to say the least. Reports of thousands of Swifts moving past the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire coasts is good in respect that hopefully numbers getting here are still healthy as opposed to the report of a huge drop! But what are they up to moving like this? Surely there are too many to be failed breeders – but why head off so early?
Other snippets close by were Bee-eaters seen over Sidestrand and Northrepps and a possible Eagle species near Southrepps?
On Sunday 2nd June I noticed at least six Painted Lady butterflies pass through the garden within an hour, another mass invasion perhaps on the cards?
As the days passed I was still seeing a few Painted Lady butterflies, but with the changing weather they were not showing every day. By mid month, however, they were everywhere; a mass invasion of these beauties had been spreading across Europe and they were definitely here – on a few flowering bushes along the side of the church I counted over 30 butterflies and there were more flying around. They are a long-distance migrant but do not always turn up ‘en masse’.
Last year it was Large and Small Whites, this year it is the turn of the Painted Ladies.
As the month moved on there were more and more Red Admirals around, and a couple of species of dragonfly were seen. This Four-Spotted Chaser (below) was along Church Lane and a Broad-Bodied Chaser made a flight over the garden.
It seemed to be a good year for Common Spotted Orchids – I found the first one of the year behind the Pilgrim Shelter and then days later they started to show along the clifftops; this year there appeared to be many more west of the clifftop wood with over a hundred counted in one stretch alone.
A special orchid to see was this Bee Orchid (below), there were just two plants on the grassy area near the clifftop where the bottle banks are located past Middle Street.
IS IT A BIRD? IS IT A BEE? – NO, IT’S A MOTH!
I love to see the Hummingbird Hawkmoths return to the garden, such energetic little things always on the move feeding.
And as the month moved on and the weather got warmer, the moths started to arrive, and one species I look forward to getting are the Hawkmoths. So far I have spotted four species and hopefully soon will have the Convolvulous returning to feed on the Nicotina plants.
This Eyed Hawkmoth was a new addition for the garden list. There’s no mistaking where it gets its name from – look at those eye-markings on the underwings to ward off predators.
Muted May ! Or was it ?
It certainly felt like May was muted, with hardly any bird photos taken and concentrating more on insects and flora it seemed that way – until reviewing everything I had listed and photographed to upload here, I realised it was actually quite busy!
The Lesser Whitethroats were active at the start of the month and then went quiet – hopefully about to start nesting and bringing up some little-uns.
Everything was paired off and looking at nesting: House Martins were buzzing around the houses, more Swallows were passing. There were still a few Wheatears being seen in the fields off the lanes, and on the 8th of the month I had my first Swift over the garden, a sight I long to see every year. The next day and even more swifts were passing overhead and then it seemed to just stop – no doubt the changeable weather had held them up further south!
Along the clifftops when Sarah and I were walking the dogs on the 13th, we encountered our first ever Wall butterfly.
A lot more plants were coming into bloom and on one occasion with the sun shining bright I couldn’t help notice a sea of light blue through the gaps in the hedgeline, and rounding a gap further along Sarah and I were amazed at the expanse of colour before us. The mobile phone camera could not match the sight our eyes saw. After asking around and researching I found it to be a crop called Lacy Phacelia (known by other names also, such as scorpion weed). It is used as ground cover for birds, while because it has a high nectar count it’s used for pollination – and also as green manure. They were definitely attracting the bees – I think I will have to get some of this for the garden.
Another new plant addition for us both was the Early Purple Orchids, found in the roadside verges along the lanes. It had eluded us the previous year but now we had finally found some.
On the 14th my first Hobby of the year flew past the back garden, awhile few more were seen heading in during the month. And on the same day an evening walk to the clifftop bench with the dogs produced at least three Harbour Porpoises close in to the groynes.
We were starting to see a few of these little green gems around Trimingham: the Green Hairstreak is a stunningly coloured butterfly.
This Wolf Spider was in my garden. Its resting position, stretched out as in the second photo, is characteristic of this spider. It is a webless spider (except for when the female spins a web for the nursery of its young) due to the fact that it is such a fast-moving spider, so it can chase down its prey with ease.
It is great to find out about nature that you didn’t know had an interesting background or history. This Fumitory plant is one such subject. I have found it along the lane verges and on the edge of a crop field, and when reading up on it I was amazed at its meaning. The name “fumitory” is derived from a medieval Latin word meaning “smoke of the earth”, because pulling a plant from the ground will cause the roots to give off an acrid/gaseous smell recalling the fumes of nitric acid. This is the origin of the North American name for the plant “fume root”, and if that wasn’t enough background knowledge, if the sap gets into your eyes it will make them water as if affected by smoke! Amazing!
Back to birds now, and mid month I had a cuckoo calling from the scrub near the Pottery and then along Middle Street on a couple of days, apparently awaking people there with its early morning calling!
I saw a group of Mediterranean Gulls pass the back garden and was happy to once again see the swifts passing over. On one morning at the end of the month I saw two Common Cranes out to the western edge of Trimingham circling up on thermals before heading southwest, a welcome addition to the patch list as normally when the Cranes decide to have a day out as it were from the Broads region, they previously seemed to cut off this corner and head further along the northern coastline before turning back to where they came from. Perhaps this month they were blown more this way by the winds – they were a welcome sight. To finish off the bird reporting, the night silence on the 30th was broken by the very welcoming sound of a Tawny Owl. It had been at least a year or more since I regularly heard them nearby, so it was nice once again to have one around.
And last but not least, the mothing was producing different species for the year as the month progressed, so that on a few occasions I took over a lot of room in our fridge with the pots! With a few new species for the garden and indeed some firsts I’ve not had before, hopefully this year will be a productive one for the moths.
Rustic Shoulder Knot
Lime Speck Pug
Least Black Arches
As April got underway there was a hope of new arrivals on the patch. The weather during the month was a bit changeable but there were some nice sunny days and decent temperatures. It wasn’t long before we encountered our first male Blackcap singing away near Woodlands. The Peregrines were seen on a few occasions over the house – one was seen to make a swoop at a Kestrel that was mobbing a Common Buzzard hunting along the cliffs. During the first three weeks of April, Sarah and I both got a horrendous Flu virus/come chest infection/sinus problems etc etc….I have never been so bad in my life and so everything took a back seat whilst trying to get over it. Thankfully I didn’t really miss much except for a few Hooded Crows that headed past.Once I did manage to get out and about I set about finding what had come into the area during my layoff. There was plenty of Fulmar activity along the cliffs – I had seven pass me one morning, hugging the cliffs as they flew within feet of me.
You can see from this picture of a Goldcrest and the picture from the previous month of the Firecrest how more striking the Firecrest is.
Smaller birds were more numerous, with quite a few Goldcrest about and definitely more Blackcap had arrived around the village, the first female seen mid month. More Swallow passed as the days progressed along with Sand and House Martins, the latter inspecting the eaves of a neighbour’s house already. Common Whitethroat had now moved into the area so I set about getting some images of these, but no sign of any Lesser Whitethroat at this time.
More Wheatear were passing through – I found four together early one morning, and normally the Yellow Wagtails I see are fly-overs along the front so a distant one actually on the ground with two Pied Wagtails was a nice sight. As the month drew on it got busier, Chiffchaffs calling all over the place, and Lesser Whitethroats were now in and a very rewarding time started with a few new additions to the patch list and also the garden list!
By now I was checking every corvid that flew over or past the garden in the hope of connecting with a Hooded Crow. There had been quite a few moving along so I was hopeful, and sure enough on the 24th I had not one but two Hooded Crows fly over the garden….result, a tick for the Trimingham patch and best of all the garden list!
Two Days later whilst taking a tea break from my artwork, as I stood in the kitchen doorway waiting for the kettle to boil, I saw a couple of crows pass behind the trees towards the cliffs. I was still checking all the crows for more Hooded in the hope of getting a photo, and I noticed something behind the crows over the sea… I knew from the size it was a raptor, so I ran – yes, ran to the bottom of the garden to grab my bins off my camera tripod. As I focused in on the bird to my excitement I was looking at an Osprey! I couldn’t believe it, so I grabbed a couple of distant record shots as it headed inland off to the southwest. To finish the day I added another Hooded Crow over the garden and a couple of Whimbrel heading east.
Well if that wasn’t good enough, the very next day I got news from Overstrand from fellow birders about the previous day’s Alpine Swift over their houses!! It headed east (my way!) at first but then could have moved towards Cromer as it was lost to sight when it hit the ridge that way. By now I was already in the garden and scouring the skies. It was a god-awful morning with horrid weather – no wonder the Swift was on the move. Then it happened – I couldn’t believe my luck…. All of a sudden I saw the Alpine Swift to the front of the house….shouting out “Alpine!” to Sarah who was also in the garden, and we watched the bird fly up and over the church opposite and head off eastwards. To say I was buzzing after the last two days was an understatement….You could have renamed me ‘Bumblebee Lawrence’!!
Compared with the Common Whitethroat the Lesser appears greyer toned. It shares the same habitat but is usually more skulking than the Common which is commonly seen atop a bush calling its scratchy song. I finished the month off with photographing Lesser Whitethroats. But this was just the birds – I still have the moths to add.
New additions to the Garden Moth List: Powdered Quaker, Mullein, White Point. It was a weird month with regards to numbers caught in the trap. Some nights I would get just a handful and then on another I filled up the fridge with 42 pots! But the year list was increasing and with plenty more good stuff to arrive.
Other moths trapped during the month:
A real blustery start to March 2019. March started off a disaster what with the high winds that seemed to go on and on! During the second half things looked up and proved more productive, although I just missed out on the White-tailed Sea-Eagle by a matter of minutes! I had just been talking to the gentleman who indeed saw it fly over just along at Sidestrand, as Sarah and I were walking the dogs through Woodlands! He tried to contact me but was unable to get through on my mobile due to no signal….grrrrr! Never mind – they are a passage bird through this way most years so I will await the next one and hopefully tick it off for the garden list.
After a good ending to February I was all set for a interesting March, so I ventured out on the 1st of the month and once again saw Peregrine. As the month drew on I wondered if they were the pair that had set up residence on Cromer Church and Trimingham became part of their hunting patch? Hares were chasing around, the Kestrels displaying to one another….but then the weather took a turn for the worse and we were bombarded with high winds for a couple of weeks. The relentless winds put a stop to birding and indeed most things, except for maybe watching the gulls surf the waves.
Finally the winds eased and I was able to get back out and about again on the 18th. Birds were moving along the coast – I noted quite a few Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits and an increase in corvids among which I saw a few Rook, which was only the second time I had seen Rook on my patch since moving to Trimingham, and of course the floodgates opened and they soon put their name on the garden list.
On the 19th I received a call from a friend about a pair of Firecrest in the main clifftop wood. Coincidentally, Sarah and I were gearing up to take the dogs for a walk, and this quickly made our decision of where to walk very obvious, and a short while later I was indeed connecting with these little beauties. They compete with the Goldcrest as being the UK’s smallest bird, but are a brighter more strikingly marked bird. They have very distinctive stripes on their heads with the centre of the males’ being a vivid orange. After the walk I decided to head back with the camera and try for some images, and with luck on my side I managed to grab some nice shots.
Later as the light was fading, whilst talking to my neighbour, we both watched the first bat of the year!
On the 22nd I managed to find a lone male Wheatear on the clifftop fields.
On the 24th I got news of a Black Redstart in one of the paddocks along Church Road opposite – I didn’t hesitate in rushing in for my camera and trotting off down the lane as this would be the first Black Redstart on my patch to see. This was a female bird – the males are a darker grey with white in the wing forming a patch, the face and breast being black, the tail on both birds a rusty red colour from where the name Redstart is derived.
Later that day whilst walking back down the lane with Sarah and the dogs I found a White Wagtail feeding with a couple of Pieds before it moved to the same paddock the Black Redstart was frequenting. The Redstart was seen over the next couple of days by others but I was unable to connect with it any more.
As the month came to an end the birds continued to arrive. Raptors were increasing on the thermals with double figures of Buzzards and four Red Kites. On the 29th I saw my first Swallow and Sand Martin of the year.
Once the winds had eased right down, I was able to put the moth light out on a couple of nights, adding a couple of new species to the garden moth list, namely March Moth and Oak Beauty.
With birding being very quiet I hadn’t been rushing to get out, instead checking when we have been taking the dogs for a walk and checking feeders during the afternoon. The gull numbers had been very quiet whenever the front was checked out, but I decided to get up early on this day and indeed get some coast watching in. There had actually been quite a few rafts of red-throated diver on the sea the previous day but as I started to scan the sea I noticed a distinct lack of divers except a group of four – seems that they are all migrating north?
For once there was a decent number of gulls moving past to keep my interest, and then came into view on its own a lovely Iceland Gull. There had been a distinct lack of winter gulls this time round so I was chuffed to bits to have found one. It headed along the shoreline towards Sidestrand and was seen by another birder on the beach just along from me, before being chased off by Great Black-Backed Gulls.
After finding the Iceland Gull on the 11th Feb, things quietened down a tad but there were definitely more birds around – I had flushed a couple of Woodcock and there was an increase in Meadow Pipits. Out to sea I picked up on a single Curlew and a Fulmar passed every time I birded off the cliffs. Also on the same day as the Curlew I saw a Red Kite heading east out to sea, followed by another one some time later but his one was hugging the coastline and flew overhead.
In the photo below I was watching a Muntjac deer creep through the reeded area below feeding away. It was then that I picked up on a Water Rail squealing, no doubt unhappy about the intruder heading its way. Can you find the deer?
On most days one or two Muntjac could be seen along the cliff slopes or resting up under a bush. I presume this is the same pair that are leaving hoof imprints all over the place!
The male, shown in the photograph below, is identifiable by its fangs, which you can see protruding out, and obviously by its antlers when they have grown. The Muntjac is also known as The Barking Deer, on account of its barking type call which I have heard during the day and night around the village.
During February we had some stunning warm weather, and with that came a lot more bird activity. Chiffchaffs started to call, Stonechats were on the move and scattered around, butterflies took to the wing with Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell seen. Out to sea I picked up on two Ringed Plover heading east, and nearing the end of the month a couple of Peregrine Falcons flew in over the sea and headed inland, followed shortly thereafter by a lovely female Marsh Harrier scouring the clifftop scrub before heading inland. On a morning dog walk we saw a pair of Grey Partridge, the first for the year and nice to see they escaped the winter shooting.
Female Marsh Harrier (above), told from the male by its chocolate brown plumage and cream coloured hood.
My garden mothing got off to a start too: I managed to get just 4 moths but 3 different species. To think that February last year brought knee-deep snow around the Trimingham lanes and we had been basking in glorious sun! Let’s hope the change back to normal weather doesn’t risk those species brought out by the heat.
2019 started pretty much as the last year finished, very quiet and not much change. There were glimmers of hope: things were changing but they didn’t last. We had some windy weather on a few days, which gave rise to a movement of Red Throated Divers flying past out to sea and quite a number were on the water feeding in smaller groups too; but as birding has been recently, the very next day would be void of any birds or divers out on the sea! The finch flocks had started to gather in numbers, though, including mainly Chaffinch and Goldfinch but the numbers of Greenfinch were up to around 14 plus – which is nice to see as they can be scarce in areas. Common Buzzards were more noticeable around the clifftops and over the fields, and Wrens seemed to be in good numbers, flitting around the hedgerows. I watched one looking for food on a frozen flooded area. It spent a lot of the time skating around on the ice moving from one grassy clump to another. On the clifftop fields between Trimingham and Sidestrand a flock of around 50 Golden Plover hunkered down in the furrows, and lastly, what was very noticeable all around the place when on my walks, the scent of Fox – I presume it is the same one and if so it is definitely putting in a lot of miles around the village!
December turned out to be a very quiet month, I was hoping for some winter birding additions with Great Northern Diver, Black Throated Diver and maybe Glaucous and Iceland Gull, but unfortunately most of my walks seemed to be birdless! This was the view of other birders in neighbouring areas too, there were smaller numbers of gulls present on the seafront and the only birds seen inland were groups of the usual tit species, namely Blue, Great and Long-tailed. Despite it being a winter month there are still species of moth that are out and about, I saw Winter Moths and Mottled Umbers on lights around the Woodlands Holiday park. The Mottled Umbers are a lovely looking moth and can vary in the colouration, the moths photographed here are all males as the female of the species are wingless and look more like a hairy beetle!
And last but not least for the year, on New Years Eve whilst walking the dogs along the lanes, Sarah and I saw a pair of Red Kites fly over the fields towards Woodlands Holiday Park, and a short time later were both seen nearby behind someone’s garden feeding on Turkey remains
November was definitely one of two halves with the first half being the most productive. On the 2nd Nov whilst Sarah and I were walking the dogs along the clifftop path, we encountered a Peregrine Falcon sat up on the cliff edge. After photographing the Long Eared Owl at the end of October, and with reports of many Long Eared and Short Eared Owls arriving, it was lovely to find one along the front on the cliff slopes. No doubt the warm southern weather was the reason why Swallows were still present and being seen during the first week of November – I saw one fly west on the 3rd with House Martins still present nearby!
From my back garden on the 4th I was lucky to see two Waxwings perched in a tree for a brief while before they headed inland. This was the start of quite a few moving into the UK. In the second week I tried to look for a couple of Shorelarks that had been reported the day before in the clifftop fields between Trimingham and Sidestrand but with no joy there. During this time of the month with warmer southern air dictating our weather there was an influx of Pallid Swifts in the UK, with reports of possible birds coming in from all over the place.
Sight of Swifts at this time of year are always worthy of a good look as the chance of a different species is high; indeed trying to identify what type of swift it is as it flies past you at high speed is a challenge, but with good views and knowledge of them you could get lucky, so when one was identified just along the coast at Overstrand/Cromer Golf Course I could not resist going and having a look. Indeed it or another probably flew past Trimingham as one was reported at Mundesley. Being very similar to Common Swift, it was paler on the throat and head with a “dark mask” appearance on the eye, while on the underside it had a pale scaly look to the feathering. As seen in the photo, the underside of the wings appear darker on the outer feathers, paler nearer the body, but you have to have good views to pick it out in differing light conditions. The Pallid Swift was also keeping company with a single House Martin as it fed over the sea and cliffs.
As for the second half of the month, the weather worsened and became colder and with it the birding became quieter. On the sea there were Divers increasing in numbers, mostly Red Throated, and three Harbour Porpoises on the 23rd were a nice sight. Hopefully December will bring more Diver species and some winter gulls.
Late October 2018
Late October. “The North Wind Doth Blow And We Shall Have…..Birds,Birds,Birds.”
Well, the wind did turn and blow down from the north and with the cold weather it brought birding to life along the coast here. There were some lovely birds to be seen, out to sea and also on land. There was a huge influx of owls along the coast, both Short Eared and Long Eared. I got a call about this Long Eared Owl and headed along the short distance to see it with my Dad. It had come in off the sea exhausted and duly landed straight on the cliff face to rest up. The Short Eared Owl Sarah and I encountered was along the back lanes whilst walking the dogs.
Out to sea there were hundreds of wildfowl moving by. Frustratingly I missed out on seeing Pomarine Skuas – even though there was an abundance of them they were no doubt too distant when I was watching. I did manage to see some Velvet Scoter which was a welcome addition to the patch.Then I received news of a Richards Pipit along the clifftop path, and immediately I set about grabbing the camera gear and legged it off! Five minutes later and it flew into view along the pathway a short distance away. It proved to be an elusive bird and stayed well hidden in the longer grasses, every now and again giving itself up as it came out onto the track further along than expected, only to then disappear back in the grass. I managed to grab a few record images before it headed off towards Sidestrand. And then to top off the excursion, a Little Auk sat out on the sea, doing its best to avoid the unwanted attention of a Great Black Backed Gull.
Late September 2018
Over the last few days there have been a few Mediterranean Gulls off the front catching flies/flying ants, and good numbers being reported further down the coast too. The Mediterranean Gulls are around the size of Black Headed Gulls. At this time of year the adults are in winter plumage and appear all white winged. What I pick up on when viewing them are the “smudged dark eye mask” which is seen on the younger 1st winter birds through to the adults. Yesterday, Sat 29th Sept, I was able to add them to my garden bird list, as a group of them descended over the trees and scrub picking off the insects in flight. They continued to loop round and complete another run before drifting inland or along the coast. This carried on for some time and also paralleled another large movement of birds, namely Common Buzzards which were being reported moving over in large numbers. I counted 11 overhead in just a short time with many more counted just along the coast. There have been more smaller birds passing over too – there seem to be a lot of Skylark moving around at present and more Meadow Pipits than a couple of weeks ago, as well as more Chiffchaff about. On a couple of days recently I have sea-watched for a few hours – 3 Arctic Skuas was a nice addition as they chased a Tern, trying to get it to disgorge its food. Wildfowl numbers have been much on the increase, along with groups of Divers, while good numbers of young Gannets moving past make it look like they have had a good breeding season.
Just over half way through September and it has been very quiet around Trimingham, but not without adding a couple of new patch ticks. At the very end of August I managed to connect with a Juv’ Arctic Tern, feeding along the front for some time with a Juv’ Common Tern.
Sea watching was slow going but I was starting to notice Common Scoter and groups of Teal and Wigeon moving West at the start of the month. Sandwich Terns moved through in good numbers, and my first new patch bird was an Arctic Skua – there were plenty of reports of Arctic and Great Skuas along the coastline but none had been seen by myself off Trimingham so it was good to get one of them. In the first week of Sept’ I spotted Red Throated Diver on the sea, a sign of them returning for the not too far off winter! I also watched Harbour Porpoises feeding. There were still numerous House Martins around with numbers passing along the coast with Swallows, but a single Sand Martin had been the first in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately the last Swifts seen were on the 26th Aug’.
During the last week I have seen a few more birds moving through – Blackcaps scattered along the clifftop scrub, a Med Gull on the front, and on the 14th I had the second new patch addition…a pair of Whinchat! I knew there had been Whinchat just along the coast at Cromer but I had not been able to connect with any moving through here, so it was a great addition and a shame I didn’t have the camera with me! The next morning on our dog walk we found a Wheatear sat up in a ploughed field and the only one seen this autumn so far. And over the last few days has come the returning sound and sight of the Pink Footed Geese, over 200 every morning and watched from the bedroom window whilst still in bed!
A great find by my neighbour John was this Convolvulus Hawkmoth which he found when clearing stuff in his garden. I had seen these on quite a few evenings recently but as always when the light goes on as we step out of the house, they fly off, so to see one in the hand was a real bonus. The Convolvulus Hawkmoth is a migrant from Southern Europe. They have a large wingspan of 5 inches and huge eyes to detect their favourite plants to feed on, notably Tobacco Plants.
Mid-month saw a lot of Swifts and Swallows moving off – 23 were counted on the morning of the 19th as Sarah and I sat on the clifftop bench with the dogs for a spell of around 20 minutes. A few Common Terns were seen heading east, which were my first here since moving to Trimingham! Chiffchaffs were seen in a few locations as were a few Hobbies. Whimbrel were passing over in numbers, giving themselves away by their call as they approached. On the 21st I found a Pied Flycatcher (possibly 2 birds) along the stretch of trees behind our house, later adding it to the garden list also…Result!
A couple of Golden Plover were seen – won’t be long before they are gathering in the clifftop fields again! I was informed about a Merlin taking a Swift just along the coast off Vale Road, and the next morning whilst on our morning dog walk Sarah and I saw what was probably the same small falcon fly over the playing field and head inland. Whimbrel were almost daily now and I counted a flock of 20 head out to sea.
During the middle part of the month Sarah and I had a tour of June and Patrick’s garden along the coast from us. The number of Common Blue butterflies, together with the invitation to return when I wanted, was enough for me to grab the camera and pay a visit. I recorded a few species in their garden along with some other insects/bugs:
Dock Bay Adult and Late Instar Nymph
Long-Winged Conehead Male
The middle of July turned out to be memorable not just for the World Cup or Wimbledon but for a mass invasion of Small and Large White butterflies. There must have been plenty of people across the country noticing, not just in North Norfolk, vast numbers of these white butterflies appearing in gardens. The skies were littered with them – I counted 50 plus in just 2 minutes flying over the back garden; as many as 600 an hour were counted passing Sheringham, with numbers going into their thousands.
Other than young fledged birds following the parents around, the birding was quiet except for the lovely screaming Swifts overhead once again. Nature and Mothing kept me busy through June. The clifftop verges were covered with Common Spotted Orchids.
During the month I trapped a lot of new species of moth to the garden and also some new moths I had never seen before – such stunning colours and markings on our moths and wonderful names to match. On one walk along the cliff path I found a day flying moth called a “Mother Shipton”, the markings on whose wings resemble a long-nosed face, which is why it was named after the 16th Century Yorkshire Witch Mother Shipton.
A few images of moths from my garden included here are the golden-coloured Burnished Brass, stunning when the light shines on the wing, the Lobster moth which is very fluffy but gets its name from when it is a caterpillar, resembling a crustacean from the sea!
The stunning pink colours of the Elephant Hawkmoth – the name, like the Lobster moth’s, refers to when it is a caterpillar which resembles an elephant’s trunk!
And finally something that may have been noticed by people in their gardens or walking the pathways around Trimingham, a mass arrival of the migrant moth, the Silver Y. When in my garden or walking the dogs, Silver Ys were everywhere. They are a day-flying moth which you may have noticed continually fluttering very quickly around the flowers, feeding or taking flight from the grassy verges along the lanes as they are approached.
Late May 2018
Some Moth images from earlier this month as promised. Not been able to get the light out much what with the cooler evenings and the northerly breeze blowing in. Hopefully some lovely species soon when it warms up.
The birds have definitely eased off moving through. May has become very quiet at the moment. Here are a few images of birds that have passed through or indeed are now settling down to breed.
The Frog. I found this Common Frog sitting on the track through a wooded area near the cliff, most likely feeding overnight and off to find somewhere to rest for the day.
Early May 2018
Here is some more birding news for May. The pictures of the Red Kite are from the end of April but I have seen them on a few occasions in May too. The spring migration brought in some good new additions at the beginning of the month.
Red Kite A pair of Red Kites circled low over my garden whilst checking the neighbouring paddock which had just been cut, looking for any casualties on which to feed.
Fulmar I have been seeing Fulmars regularly flying along the cliff fronts which is perfect habitat for these sea birds.
Pied Flycatcher (female) This little bird, a bit under sparrow size, was found feeding on insects near the cliffs right next to its close relative the Spotted Flycatcher! Just seen on migration here April/May as it moves to its breeding grounds further to the West of the UK. It spends the winter in Africa.
Spotted Flycatcher Seen with the Pied Flycatcher just mentioned, this bird also migrates from Africa after wintering there. Unfortunately they are becoming a sight less seen with lower numbers of birds breeding in England.
Late April 2018
It’s been a busy time since the last input from me. The birding got busy once the fog lifted earlier in the month. Also I managed to get the moth light out and record a few species of early flying moths.
Hawfinch This finch is the UK’s largest, and an elusive and shy one at that. There has been a major invasion of these lovely birds, arriving in the country in 2017 looking for food after crop failures in Eastern Europe. I spotted three of these finch giants in trees behind the house of neighbours who were lucky enough to have them visit their garden.
Wheatear A stunning bird and one to look out for among the first arrivals returning after wintering in Africa, stopping to rest and feed on their journey along the cliff slopes and fields.
Chiffchaff Even more Chiffchaff have arrived and seem to be singing everywhere.
Lesser Whitethroat This shy and elusive warbler has turned up in good numbers along the coastline. Feeding in the dense scrub, they sometimes put in an appearance but most often only give themselves away when making their loud chattering type call.
Ring Ouzel This thrush has been arriving in good numbers along the coast but had been eluding me, until now that is – as a lovely male bird landed in a nearby tree just long enough for a photo. Just like a blackbird really but there is no mistaking that white crescent on the breast.
MOTHS Top to bottom: 1 Small Quaker; 2 Common Quakers; 3 Early Thorn; 4 Clouded Drabs; 5 Earl Greys; 6 Hebrew Character
The Hare This is a young Hare, seen feeding along the edge of a field. It slowly moved towards me before deciding to rest up among a couple of ploughed up mounds of earth, doing a good job of blending in from potential predators.
Early April 2018
With the weather improving, Spring is definitely here in Trimingham. Over the last couple of days I have found Chiffchaffs, Swallows and today singing Blackcaps. There are a few butterflies now on the wing, so hopefully photos will follow of them, although at the moment they are too active. Nice to see the arrival of new stuff with hopefully plenty more to come.
Blackcap This morning I watched two male Blackcaps trying to out-sing one another. The female bird despite its name has a rich brown-coloured cap so the name was no doubt given after seeing the male!
Chiffchaff When I start to hear the song of the Chiffchaff I know Spring has arrived.
Iceland Gull Along with the Glaucous Gulls, this Iceland Gull is still happy to overwinter along our coast.
Glaucous Gull This is one of the two Glaucous Gulls still hanging around our coastline. Notice the black tip to the bill and compare to the image of the Iceland Gull with its all dark bill.
What with all the starfish, crabs, lobsters and fish washed up along the shoreline it was bound to draw in the gulls! Along the shore from the large stretch of woodland beyond the Pilgrim’s Shelter all the way along towards Vale Road, there must have been close to a thousand gulls waiting to feed on what washed up. And luckily for me I picked out with my lens an Iceland Gull, which is generally regarded as rarer than the Glaucous Gull which I had found before in literally the same area!
Despite its name the Iceland Gull actually breeds in Greenland! This is a younger bird, known as a white-winged gull similar to the Glaucous Gull but slightly smaller and with what I would describe as a softer look than the Glaucous variety.
Part of the gull congregation waiting to pick off small fish and crabs etc that were washed up due to the weather last week – this occurred all along the Norfolk coast. The Trimingham stretch alone held close to a thousand gulls.
Kittiwake This small gull is a juvenile bird, marked out by its distinctive wing markings and black collar. I usually see Kittiwakes passing by in groups when the weather is worse so it was nice to see one lingering around if only for a couple of minutes.
It’s been a quiet month with very little around: common birds are coming into the garden to feed more as the temperatures have fallen, and with the recent heavy snowfall are relying on garden feeders to keep them going. Here are some images of regular garden visitors taken in February here in Trimingham:
Dunnock – also known as the Hedge Sparrow or Hedge Accentor because of its fondness for life in the hedgerow. Best way to spot the Dunnocks at the moment is to keep an eye on any brown birds flitting around with one following the other closely whilst flapping its wings continuously as if dancing to impress. They are relentless at this courtship display at the moment (early April).
Pink-Footed Goose A regular visitor to Norfolk over the winter months, arriving here to feed on the sugar beet stubble in their thousands.
Kestrel A familiar sight hovering in the sky over the cliff edge looking for prey – amazing how they just hang in the sky even during very windy days.
Bullfinch Despite being so colourful it can be an elusive and shy bird, often only giving itself away when calling.
Wren Slightly larger than our smallest bird, the Goldcrest, but with a voice louder than birds twice its size.
Strange though it may seem, this is the time of year that grey seals come ashore to have their pups. I visited Horsey twice in December: the first time there were around 950 adults and 550 pups but the second time, a week later, the count was 1750 adults and 1350 pups along the 4 mile stretch of beach. They do a count every Thursday, so the number of pups had almost trebled in a week. You can see them without taking a boat trip. Simply drive 20 miles to Horsey, park in the Pay Car Park behind the dunes and walk about 400 yards to the viewing area and there they are, from new borns just hours old to adult males waiting for a chance to mate.
A recent report tells of a decline in the numbers of insects in our countryside over the past 10 years by as much as 75% with the consequent reduction in wild bird populations across most of Northern Europe. (When did you last hear a cuckoo?) This seems to coincide with the increased use by farmers of Neonicotinoids sprayed on crops in the fields.
I regularly stay in Suffolk on a farm whose owner produces organic beef from his 100 or so cattle. He uses no chemicals for pest control and his animals eat only untreated and unfertilised grass and hay produced on his farm and, guess what, there is an abundance of birds and insects on his land. Richard is now 82 but his sons run the farm on the same principles. The beef by the way is excellent…
As the days are now slowly growing longer, it’s time to start thinking about new plants and seeds for Spring.
Stormy Skies from Trimingham Beach, taken in July 2017. (Colour of the sea looks tropical!)
BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly A common and colourful butterfly seen in good numbers around here this year. August 2017.
Comma Butterfly A lovely bright butterfly. The butterfly gets its name from the white marking on its underside, which resembles a comma. September 2017.
Hummingbird Hawkmoth A small day flying moth normally seen hovering whilst feeding on nectar, not resting up as in this image. A migrant moth from warmer climates, always a delight to see in your garden. September 2017.
Red Admiral Butterfly It seems to have been a very good year for this butterfly. September 2017.
Common Buzzard Seen here hovering like a Kestrel over the clifftops looking for food. September 2017.
Wheatear At this time of the year they are moving south to winter in Africa. October 2017.
Redwing A lovely but shy thrush which overwinters here in numbers. During October there was a large fall of these thrushes alongside numerous Blackbirds, brought down by the fog. Regular flocks of these can be seen flying in off the sea and then stopping to feed before moving on. I counted at least 50 birds in one flock in the paddock behind my house!
Yellow browed Warbler This little Siberian beauty is seen arriving in the UK during September and October, a scarce visitor but regularly seen around Trimingham.
Nature Notes by Mike Lawrence
15th November 2017
Yesterday I found a Glaucous Gull down on the beach amongst the large gulls.
Glaucous Gull: A large “white winged” gull that breeds in the arctic region but is a scarce but regular visitor to the our shores during winter months.
23rd November 2017
Golden Plover These birds gather in large flocks on farmland during the winter: the flock on the western edge of Trimingham has grown close to 200 birds recently.
Skylark Warming itself up in the early morning sun.
Early December 2017
Watercolour! December started with this colourful sight as rain clouds moved in off the sea.
Brent Geese These geese would have moved from their breeding grounds in Russia to spend the winter months here in Norfolk.
Harbour Porpoise After seeing a number off Trimingham during the summer they seemed to have moved away – so finding a pod of these hunting off the coast about 400-500 metres offshore today was a welcome sight.
Further pictures and notes on Natural History can be found on Mike Lawrence’s blog, “Back in Birdland”, which you can access from this link: