Bee-flies, sunshine and roadside wildflowers...

Carlton Marshes by Steve Aylward

Appreciating the wild Suffolk around us in our gardens, hedgerows and roadside wildflower meadows. Read on for wildlife news from across the Suffolk Broads, Carlton Marshes habitat creation updates, and to hear about the volunteers that make it all happen (or perhaps not quite).

I'm appreciating living in such a beautiful county during the coronavirus lockdown. Wild Suffolk has provided me with so many brilliant wildlife experiences in recent weeks. I've been noticing a lot of bee-flies, which I guess is because I've got a bit more time to notice them. With a bit of googling I found out that there are only a few bee-fly species in the UK, so they are not too difficult to identify. I'm pretty sure the species I keep seeing is Bombylius major or dark-edged bee-fly, you can see the dark front edge to its wings despite the bad quality picture. This is the most common UK species, with Bombylius discolour, dotted bee-fly also quite common in the south. Bee-flies parasitise solitary bees, laying their eggs in their nests, the larvae then eat the solitary bee larvae. They really are a lovely looking fly, with their long proboscis feeding on small wildflowers like ground ivy. Why not record the bee-flies you are seeing in your garden and join in with bee-fly watch 2020. Downloading the irecord app on your phone is a great way to start recording the wildlife you are seeing during lockdown, contributing to knowledge about the natural world.

Another orange-tip butterfly caterpillar foodplant is cuckoo flower or lady's-smock, which is a beautiful light pink wildflower flowering now on marshes and wet meadows. You can also see this flower along roadsides where there are wet ditches. There are so many beautiful plants to see along roadsides and hedgerows whilst heading out on walks and bike rides. Greater stitchwort is mesmerising as it waves at you with its star-like flowers. It turns out that Greater stitchwort is the foodplant for a whole host of moths too. I love discovering the interesting links between our beautiful wildflowers and other wildlife. Fumitory is another beautiful plant often found along roadsides and the tiny seeds of fumitory are a favourite food of turtle doves! Turtle doves are a rare sight now throughout the UK, but Suffolk and the east of England are a stronghold for this declining species. Turtle doves need a large supply of small weed seeds from plants like fumitory and chickweed, weeds which are often removed from arable landscape. Turtle doves are now returning to Suffolk from their African wintering grounds to breed, you might be lucky enough to hear their purring song on your daily walks. Not many of us will be able to help turtle doves in our gardens, but we can all help create a wilder Suffolk by leaving weeds for wildlife.