The Natural History of Trimingham
We are very grateful to Mike Lawrence, natural history enthusiast, photographer 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.
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.
December 2017 Bulletin
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: