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June 2013

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CCommon Poppy
, Sheila Sims
Common Poppy, Sheila Sims

Alexander or Poppy? Which is Norfolk’s county flower?

The Alexander is the first of the umbellifer plants to bloom, easily recognisable by the yellow-green flowers; the Poppy needs no introduction.

Whichever camp you support, your heart cannot fail to be lifted by the sight of a field of scarlet Poppies. They start to appear this month, sometimes where you may not have seen them before. Their seeds can lie dormant for years, to be brought into life when the ground is disturbed. The best known example of this was on the battlefields of the First World War. The massive upheaval of the soil resulted in an extensive flowering of these delicate blooms and, of course, they have been used as a symbol of remembrance ever since.

Hoverfly, Sheila Sims
Hoverfly, Sheila Sims

That little helicopter hovering and darting round your flowerbeds is a Hoverfly. There are many species and all are nectar feeders and some larvae, the immature stage of development, do a useful job by eating the aphids that infest our roses. Birds know that black and yellow means danger and many hoverflies mimic wasps and bees to avoid becoming a snack.
Dragonflies will be flying this month; look out for the Norfolk Hawker, in Britain specific to the Broads. It is recognisable by its pale brown body, transparent wings and bright green eyes and is associated with the floating Water Soldier – the larvae lurk amongst the dense cover the plant provides.

June is the beginning of the birthing season for the Common Seal and pups will be resting on the shingle banks at Blakeney Point.

A Little Egret is still visiting Briggate Mill Pond and they have been seen at Pigny’s Wood, near North Walsham. Also spotted there, another member of the Heron family – a Bittern! This rare   and secretive bird is difficult to see on the ground – the streaky plumage and habit of standing with its beak pointing skyward makes it almost indistinguishable from the reeds it inhabits. In flight, though, it is easily identifiable.

Try not to disturb your compost heap, now, as Grass Snakes may have laid their eggs in this nice warm nursery.

Fledgling Blue-tit, Mike Sims
Fledgling Blue-tit, Mike Sims

Some fledglings will be leaving their nests this month and may appear to have been abandoned. They rarely are, so resist attempts to ‘rescue’ them – the parents will be close by and bringing food.

Our cathedral Peregrines have hatched all four eggs and the young are growing fast. Watch their progress on the webcam.

The Muntjac deer has changed its grey-brown winter coat for summer russet-red. This is the smallest of our deer standing a maximum of 52 centimetres at the shoulder. Reeves Munjac, to use its full name, is also known as the ‘barking’ deer because of the repeated dog-like sound it will make, especially when disturbed. Not a native species, this ‘little dear’ (sorry, couldn’t resist that!) was imported from China by the Duke of Bedford, at Woburn Abbey, in the early twentieth century. From there it was either released or escaped and is now found virtually all over Britain. Norfolk has a large population in the countryside and they are also seen in urban gardens where, I’m afraid, they often come into conflict with keen gardeners – they feed on a large variety of vegetation, fruit and nuts and they love flower heads!

Muntjac deer, Mike Sims
Muntjac deer, Mike Sims

The male (buck) has short antlers, with single points, which are shed at this time of year, and long tusk-like canine teeth, used to fight with other bucks when defending his territory. Both the males and females (does) have rounded rumps giving a ‘tucked up’ appearance. They have scent glands on their faces and hind feet which are used to mark territories and their tails are held erect when alarmed, showing the white undersides.
Muntjacs are solitary animals, except when mating or rearing young, and are seen throughout the day with peak times of activity around dawn and dusk. Unlike other species of deer they have no set rutting season and will breed at any time of the year. That’s probably why there are so many of them!

Activities this month:
• Warden walks at Cley, including ‘Birds for Beginners.’
• ‘Moths & Natterjack Toads’ at Holme Dunes.
• ‘Moths’ at Hickling Broad.
• Walks at Weeting Heath. or ring 01603 625540.
• Deer discovery and wildflower walks at Holkham or ring 013128 713111.

© Sheila Sims 2013