Norfolk holiday

Last week I spent 7 days on the North Norfolk coast with my parents. We were staying in Stiffkey, and walking the coast paths, visiting lots of fantastic saltmarsh habitats and reserves along the way. Here are a few of the better finds from the week, including plenty of saltmarsh specialist bugs and beetles!

On the evening we arrived, I managed to catch this Saltmarsh Plume moth (Agdistis bennetii) by hand whilst wandering through the Sea-lavender. A new species for me, which was quickly followed by another new micro moth: Eucosma tripoliana.

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Saltmarsh Plume (Agdistis bennetii) in its distinctive ‘y-shaped’ resting posture

Over the week, I visited the local birding site Stiffkey Fen on a few occasions. It gave some good birding, with up to 31 Spoonbills present at a time! Other birds included 8+ Green Sandpipers, a Hobby, tens of Ruff, Greenshank, Redshank etc. and hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits.

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Stiffkey Fen

One of my main target species for the holiday was the Apionid Weevil Pseudaplemonus limonii, a nationally scarce species that feeds only on Sea-lavenders (Limonium spp.). I found several individuals from a couple of sites, but saw it first at Holkham gap, by grubbing around at the base of Sea-lavender plants. Despite its magnificent metallic colouration, it can be a little hard to spot at only 3mm long!

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Holkham gap: heaven if you’re a Sea-lavender feeding invertebrate
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Pseudaplemonus limonii
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Pseudaplemonus limonii

During the search, I also found two species of Sea-lavender new to me: Lax-flowered (Limonium humile), and Matted (L.bellidifolium), along with several more new invertebrate species.

Two Saldid bugs new for me from Holkham gap. Left: Saldula palustris. Right: Red-listed Chiloxanthus pilosus.

On a walk around Salthouse and Cley, I found a few more scarce invertebrates, and a marine isopod new to me: Idotea chelipes.

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Bembidion ephippium, a nationally scarce ground beetle which I saw hundreds of at Salthouse! This is an unusually dark and poorly marked individual

Two more Carabids new for me. Left: Bembidion varium. Right: Nationally scarce Pogonus littoralis.

Two colour forms of the Saldid bug Halosalda lateralis. New to me, both found by mum!

I spent quite a while looking for insects on the saltmarshes at Stiffkey itself, finding a few of the above species in the process. A couple of things new for me that I couldn’t find anywhere else are below. 

Left: Planthopper Prokelisia marginata found on Cord-grass (Spartina). This species was found new to Britain in 2008, being native to the USA. Right: The only thing I found during a short nocturnal beetling session, the Carabid Dicheirotrichus gustavii.

A visit to RSPB Titchwell gave some good birds (more below), and a few nice insects.

Left: Woundwort Shieldbug Eysarcoris venustissimus, new for me. Right: Yellow-tail moth caterpillar.

In the garden where we were staying, I came across a winged queen Myrmica ant caught in the web of a young (and tiny!) Walnut Orb Weaver (Nuctenea umbratica). The spider didn’t seem to have powerful enough chelicerae to break through the tough cuticle of the ant, but the next day I saw the ant dead in the web, with its wings removed!

A live queen Myrmica ant caught in the web of Nuctenea umbratica.

Though birding was slightly on the back foot for the holiday, I kept my eyes and ears open, and managed a list of 103 species. Highlights included 31 Spoonbill and a Hobby at Stiffkey Fen, actually wild Pink-footed Geese (mega August-tick) and 2 Spotted Flycatchers at RSPB Titchwell, and a family of Grey Partridges plus Barn Owl views down to 6ft (!!) at Stiffkey. The bird I was most pleased to find however was a pale-phase Arctic Skua from a 45 minute lunchtime seawatch at Titchwell!

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The holiday bird list

Thanks for reading!

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