Monday 18 October 2021

Sutton Hoo, X Marks the Trees


We spent a couple of hours at NT Sutton Hoo last weekend, once again leaving the other visitors to the mounds while we sought out the more secluded corners of the site. We hoped (in vain as it turned out) to see one or two more butterflies in the brief spells of afternoon sunshine. Sadly we failed to spot any, but were rewarded with sightings of Orthoptera (two Dark Bush-Crickets) and Odonata (a Common Darter and ?a Ruddy Darter). We also noticed a few molehills in the sandy soil. 

My previous Sutton Hoo post included a modern wood carving replicating one of the wild boar designs. The photo above shows an image that puzzled me until this evening when we succeeded in tracking it down. The bird looks a bit like a Dodo to me, but I knew that couldn't be right. The original has sometimes, though not exclusively, been classified as a duck by Anglo-Saxon scholars; it adorns the exquisite Sutton Hoo purse-lid.

Autumn was much in evidence, and we noted several species of fungi. It was a joy to watch two Dark Bush-Crickets foraging in the nettles and areas of mixed hedging. I had forgotten how large these insects are, large that is until you compare them with the 6cm+ Great Green Bush-Crickets we loved to see in Cornwall back in the 1970s and 1980s.

I wonder if you know this species? If so, do please leave a comment.

Dark Bush-Cricket

Common Darter

Over to you: Common or Ruddy Darter?

View across the river Deben to Woodbridge

Spindle berries, which trigger nursery school memories - of this

I was so taken by the shiny chestnuts that I nearly missed the insect ...

A land of many molehills

X marks the spot ... Are more trees to be felled?

A ladybird at last

One and a half Dark Bush-Crickets

A favourite spot, river Deben down to the right

More toadstools

P.S. Who noticed the Sutton Hoo question on University Challenge (BBC) this evening?

Saturday 16 October 2021

Trimley near Felixstowe: Last of the Summer ... Hops

It was certainly milder today in our part of Suffolk than it has been recently, but the day began with overcast skies and drizzle. By the afternoon it was looking a bit brighter. 
We ventured out to Trimley, above the river Orwell, near the port of Felixstowe, and were delighted to find a few decent bursts of autumn sunshine. It was lovely to see the final fling mounted by poppies and other wildflowers along the field margins. I was particularly surprised and delighted to see some hops in the hedgerow as these reminded me of the cultivated hop fields and accompanying oasthouses of my Kentish childhood. Our Harvest Festival baskets were often decorated with strands of hops, and I could never decide whether I liked or hated the distinctive scent!


I was quite surprised to find so many blackberries on the bushes

Rose hips ... which remind me of rosehip syrup, again from childhood days

What a large maize field!

You may be able to make out bits of harvested sweetcorn ...

I love to see wildflowers along those field margins ...

Hawthorn berries. It is definitely the season for hips and haws ...

... and hops!

Who can resist peering through a gap in a hedge?

Some creature, a mouse perhaps, has been enjoying this puffball!


Friday 15 October 2021

NT Sutton Hoo ... Largely Late Butterflies


We had a brief spin around the wooded path that leads to a view of the river Deben at NT Sutton Hoo last weekend. There were spells of warm sunshine, and insects were making their presence felt in the less shady areas. I rather like these carvings that appear at intermittent points along the track. The path is covered in needles and the occasional chestnut case. 

Sadly, I expect it will be some months before we find four species of butterfly in so small a patch again. And on the subject of lepidoptera, I was saddened, if not surprised on account of the cold spring, to find a very disappointing result from the 2021 Butterfly Conservation Big Butterfly Count (see here, too). The new Saving Butterflies and Moths strategic plan for 2021 to 2026 looks an ambitious one.

Common Darter dragonfly

Small Copper, 1st species of butterfly

Comma, 2nd species

Another Small Copper

Red Admiral, 3rd species of butterfly

Speckled Wood, 4th species

Ichneumonid - or possibly Amblyteles Armatorius?

I am assuming that the insect in the next two photographs is a species of Robberfly. It seems to be eating a beetle with caramel-coloured elytra. 

On a bench

Monday 4 October 2021

Mystery Solved (I think): Kite-tailed Robberfly


Photo: 17 July 2021


I have been meaning to identify and post the photograph of this rather large and ferocious-looking creature for some months. We noticed it predating smaller insects in our 'no-mow' long grass. 

I have at last discovered (assuming I am right) that it is probably the Kite-tailed Robberfly, although there are 29 species of Robberfly in the UK. Unfortunately the end of the abdomen is hidden in the green stalks and therefore of little help in identification. 

Robberflies catch insects and spiders. They inject their prey to cause paralysis. The bristles on their face comprise their mystax (think: moustache), a new word for me.

This is an another first sighting (and the 120th insect) to add to my home patch list


I am not sure whether 'Robberfly', 'Robber Fly' or 'Robber-fly' is the preferred spelling. The Wildlife Trusts seem to favour the first. The Encyclopdia Britannica site uses the second, and my Complete Guide to British Insects (Collins) adopts the third.


Tuesday 28 September 2021

Back on Dunwich Heath at last



We took a picnic to NT Dunwich Heath last weekend, hoping that perhaps there would be a few breaks in the cloud. 


You can see our picnic spot in the photo above. The white building is made up of old coastguard cottages. I took this picture with my back to the sea.



I love the archway above and have never noticed it before. The weather was overcast initially, but by about 2pm, the sun had broken through and we were able to watch a few damsels and dragons in the sheltered corners. 



As we peered into the water beneath the decking, our eyes alighted on two Great Diving Beetles. I was reminded of the giant water-beetle in The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter. 


David had his measuring card on him, so we were able to see if the beetles were three centimetres in length, the size of a Great Diving Beetle. We reckoned they were pretty well spot on, despite the fact that the remaining beetle's head had dipped down by this time. 


There were good numbers of Ruddy Darters; most, but not all (see below), were on the wing. The one in the photograph had rather ragged wings.

The dragons in the next photo were certainly making their presence felt!


We saw two Migrant Hawkers during the course of the afternoon (see above, first photo in this post), both hanging from their respective branches of twigs. They both had a blue aura about them, possibly a trick of the low light, but I think they are Migrant Hawkers as both displayed the characteristic yellow golf-tee mark.


I have seen very few damsels this year, so was delighted to find the Emerald Damselfly (update, 29 Sept. 2021: please see comments where Conehead54 has informed me that this is actually a Willow Emerald) in the photo below).


The damselfly in the next two photos was a very obliging subject.

We found the sandy bank home of some Red-banded Sand Wasps. You can just about make out the pockmarks in the exposed part of the ridge. The photos below show one of the wasps entering the nest.

I had not expected the heather to be turning brown so soon, but there were still some small patches where most the flowers were still in bloom. I have always enjoyed seeing heathland, whether in Suffolk or Cornwall, alight with the pink of the heather and the golden glow of gorse.

We were soon back at our starting point by the coastguard cottages, staring out at the ocean. As you can see, there was no need for any social distancing down below on the shore!

Since last Saturday when these photographs were taken, the weather has turned much more autumnal, which is perhaps not surprising since we are now several days past the Autumn Equinox. I can hear lashing rain outside my window as I type, and I suspect it may be many months before we see scenes like the one below again. 

Dunwich Heath is a favourite haunt. It features in my poem, 'Dunwich in Winter', which can be found on p.14 of my recent poetry collection, Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, June 2021) - see here

This poem has also been reproduced on the Suffolk Poetry Society 70th Anniversary calendar for 2022.