Coordinator: Mary Walker
Reporter: Keith Walker
Species List: David Laurie
Our group of eighteen were greeted at Wheatfen by warden Will Fitch and his trainee Felix who kindly escorted us for two hours round a small part of this 52 Hectare Nature Reserve. The weather was kind having cooled from the heat of the previous days and we were blessed with warm and mainly sunny conditions.
Whilst bird sightings were relatively small, the day was excellent with Will & Felix imparting lots of information about the marsh fen plants and flowers and identifying lots of insects and dragonflies.
In particular we saw eight different Dragon & Damselflies including the rare Scarce Chaser dragonflies which have a stronghold here. We also saw the larvae of a beetle, the Galeruca laticollis which was a first found in the UK at Wheatfen by Ted Ellis in 1997. It remains endangered and is currently only found in the UK at Wheatfen. The larvae feeds on the rare Meadow Rue plant, which can also host the very rare moth Marsh Carpet, with a survey
imminent to try and find it at Wheatfen We did however miss out on the Swallowtail Butterfly We were accompanied most of the way round our walk by the sound of a cuckoo and saw and heard Sedge Warblers repeatedly. Overhead we saw various raptors including Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and an unexpected Hobby.
Will was full of anecdotes and told us that during World War II it was a dummy air base with cardboard planes for the Luftwaffe to target rather than fly further inland. This led to ponds being created by bombs and a dyke being named Penguin Dyke as the Wherry called Penguin was destroyed there by bombs too.
He also reminded us of the eccentric ways of the brilliant naturalist Ted Ellis and his wife Phyllis who, after Teds' death, created some boardwalk by obtaining redundant wooden beds from Norwich prison.
It is a fascinating site and well worth a return visit for a full day’s exploration. There was a further bonus at the end of our trip when Will told us about Teles Patisserie which had opened along the track to Wheatfen and half of our party adjourned there for some amazing cakes and refreshments.
It is ironic to report that the first sighting of the Marsh Carpet moth in Norfolk in 2023 was at the writer’s home on the day following our visit.
Thanks to Mary for organising an excellent day and David Laurie for compiling the species list.
Pied Wagtail (Teles)
Damsel and Dragonflies:
Larvae of a rare beetle (Galeruca laticollis) feeding on the flower heads of Meadow Rue.
Plus, Adder's Tongue Fern
Please feel free to read through our reports from our monthly outdoor meetings.