The Messenger - Serving Gislingham, Mellis and the Thornhams

Nature Notes - November

Date: 7 October 2020

You can imagine my feelings when one morning I saw that some unsightly brown patches had appeared over it. To my surprise, this turned out to be due to ants that had been excavating underneath. Some research revealed that this was not uncommon, although I hadn’t noticed this before on our lawn, and judging by some photographs I came across on the Internet, we’d got off lightly. Happily, nature came to the rescue in the shape of two Green Woodpeckers that visited the lawn after a heavy downpour and feasted upon the little pests. Now the lawn is restored - nature is back in balance!

As the butterfly season draws to a close I thought it would be nice to have a pictorial summary of some favourite sightings of these colourful creatures seen this year. With the exception of the White Admiral (top right opposite), which was seen at Bradfield Woods, all of these photos were taken in our garden. Here’s hoping that next year the worst of Corona Virus will be behind us and we’ll all be able to get out and about more to enjoy the countryside, without worry.
Looking ahead, I’m looking forward to visiting the coast around Horsey and Winterton-on-Sea to view the seals and their pups. If you decide to do this too, I recommend first looking at where there’s lots of useful information about the seals, including how to view them without causing the animals distress. Regular readers will know that for the past 18 mths or so we’ve been featuring both here and on the Messenger’s website Tony Clarke’s lists of wildlife sightings within the bounds of Gislingham village. From this month, those list will be published instead on the Messenger’s Facebook site where readers will not only be able to read all the details but also able to comment upon the content as well as share their own encounters. Take a look at TheMessenger on Facebook.

Nature Notes - November

Date: 6 December 2019

I hope that you’ve been enjoying the autumn colour that’s all around us. As I write this in mid-November some of the colours of the trees and hedgerows have been stunning  and so far we haven’t experienced the winds that blows them all away. With some notable exceptions, we enjoy mild weather in East Anglia and are spared some the excesses, eg flooding, that have badly affected other parts of the country recently.

Last month I drew down the curtain on butterfly spotting for the year, but that proved to be a bit too early as shortly afterwards we had a splendid Comma in the garden on our late Verbena flowers. Whilst I think that it has been a good year for butterflies, it must be said that the long term decline of many species is of continuing concern. Happily, there are a number of things we can do to help, including planting their favourite food plants in our gardens and avoiding the use of pesticides. I’m sure that everyone knows that the Buddleia plant is very attractive to butterflies and we have also found that Honesty and Verbena plants draw in large numbers of different species. Perhaps this is something to think about when planning next year’s garden planting. Further practical advice can be found at the Natural History Museum’s web site,

In autumn, berries appear in the hedgerows and our gardens and these are irresistible to many kinds of birds that like to feast upon them. These include Redwings and Mike Heath has sent in a sumptuous photograph of one Redwing caught in the act in his garden - great timing Mike!

In late October, seals start to appear on Norfolk’s beaches to give birth to their pups - last year 1,500 were born on Horsey beach and it was there that I recently headed to view the scene. Early on in the season it’s possible to walk along the beach but as the babies begin to appear, access is restricted by the Friends of Horsey Seals to the overlooking dunes to ensure that the seals are undisturbed by us humans. There is a real risk of the mothers abandoning their babies if they become stressed so it is very important not to interfere. The seals themselves don’t waste any time on the beach - typically, the females give birth within a day of arriving and will mate shortly afterwards. One dominant male may mate with up to 20 females, so he’s pretty busy too! The seals have quite a long life; males around 20 years and females 35 years. For more information take a look at

As this is the last Nature Notes of the year, I’d like to thank those of you who have shared anecdotes and photographs through these pages - please keep them coming in 2020! And finally….. Here’s wishing you a very Happy Christmas and Happy Wildlife Watching! 

Nature Notes - November

Date: 14 November 2018

As autumn begins, lots of fantastic colours appear around us – particularly in the woods as the leaves on the trees change from green to yellow and red and every shade in between. The relatively low angle of the sun in the sky can seem to amplify the intensity of these shades, adding to the spectacle. A couple of weeks ago, I visited Lynford arboretum, which lies just off the A1065 north of Mundford, to enjoy the sights. Arboretums are a good bet if you want to see autumnal colour as their many different species of trees promise a wide palette of colour. In truth, my visit was rather early in the year to see the trees at their best but timing has to be judged against the likelihood of strong winds that blow all the leaves away! All in all, a very pleasant stroll around the grounds.

Back in the garden, we’ve had a female Green Woodpecker foraging on our lawn quite regularly over the past few months, as well as visit of a Nuthatch, the first we’ve seen in our garden. Dragonflies have been zooming around over our pond and I’ve also spotted a Red Admiral basking on a wall. The star garden species this month, though, has to be a Hummingbird Hawk Moth, which was nectaring on some Verbena flowers. These large day-flying moths are fascinating creatures to watch as they move around the flowers, keeping their bodies perfectly still as they take nectar but with their wings beating so quickly they’re just a blur.

Things to look out for in the coming weeks include all kinds of toadstools that are beginning to appear in the countryside and sometimes in our lawns. Apparently, there are over 15,000 species in the UK alone, so it’d be a poor show indeed if we didn’t spot a few! Hopefully, I’ll have some interesting photos to share next month. If you come across some please remember that they can be deadly poisonous so don’t handle them unless you’re an expert at identification and really know what you’re doing. Happy Wildlife Watching! See these and other photos at my Flickr site: