The Green Heart of Poringland


Fish Eating Insect Spotted at Poringland Lakes 

Lakes’ naturalist Peter Aspinall has reported several sightings at Poringland Lakes of an insect that spends much of its life under water – a water stick-Insect Ranatra linearis. 

One of the country’s leading authorities on stick insects, Malcolm Lee from the Phasmid Study Group identified the sighting. 

“Although they are not uncommon, most of their life is spent underwater in lakes, ponds and streams so they are rarely seen out of water” explained Malcolm. 

“On warm days in spring and summer they will crawl out of the water and fly off, in order to search for a mate or to find new sites. That long thin thing you can see at the rear end in the photo is a breathing tube so it can remain underwater. 

“The water stick-insect is not closely related to the true stick-insects, but has adopted the same strategy of looking like a piece of vegetation. Whilst the true stick-insects do this in the hope of being overlooked and thus not getting eaten, the water stick-insect does it in order that potential food will be fooled into approaching closely. It is a strong carnivore, and will easily dispatch large dragonfly nymphs or even small fish” added Malcolm.

Woodcock Seen 

Warden Peter Aspinall has reported seeing a rare sight at Poringland Lakes – a woodcock. 

“The bird darted out from underneath the oak tree just inside the gate.  It’s only the second woodcock I have seen this year and the first I have ever seen at the lakes” said Peter excitedly. 

The woodcock is a large bulky wading bird with short legs and a very long straight tapering bill. It is largely nocturnal, spending most of the day in dense cover. Most of the birds in the UK are residents.  In the autumn birds move to the UK from Finland and Russia to winter here. The breeding population has been falling recent years because of loss of habitat including conifer plantations. 

Cannibal Bug 

We are lucky at Poringland Lakes to have some really talented photographers whose powers of observation are only equalled by their wonderful technical ability. 

Our resident photographer Liz Dack has an enviable reputation as one the county’s top camerawoman whose work is regularly featured on the Norfolk Wildlife Trust website and in publications. 

Inspired by Liz’s undoubted talent, our in-house naturalist Peter Aspinall was determined not to be outdone and captured this remarkable photograph earlier in the week.

It shows a shieldbug (Zicrona caerulea) sucking the body fluids out of a leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae). 

The species and activity was confirmed by Dr Tony Irwin, Norfolk Museum’s Senior Curator of Natural History. 

“The species is widespread, but not very common in Norfolk” explained Tony.              

Incidentally, Tony has three species of fly named after him – a dance fly from Scotland called Heleodromia irwini, a South American dune fly called Pelomyia irwini, and a scuttle-fly called Megaselia tonyirwini. 

Snake Bite 

A remarkable sequence of events was recorded by regular lakes visitor David Garrod earlier this week. 

He and others watched in fascination as a grass snake retrieved a dead roach, estimated to be in the region of six ounces, from the water and proceeded to gobble it down in one go.      

Luckily David has his camera at hand and was able to capture the action as it unfolded to produce, what I am sure you will agree, a remarkable sequence of photographs. 

Mallards on the Increase 

The lakes community of mallards appears to be on the increase. 

For several months two ducks have taken up permanent residency at the lakes.  Now they have been joined by others including a very distinctive white mallard.  It is hoped the mallards will breed again this year and produce offspring. 

Village ponds and small lakes like Poringland offer an abundant and reliable food supply.  In these situations, female mallards nest well away from the pond to avoid competition and harassment from others, often in thick vegetation which provides them enough cover in which to conceal the nest. 

The female mallard builds a nest from leaves and grasses and lines it with down plucked from her breast.  Eggs are laid between mid-March and the end of July. The normal clutch is about 12 eggs, laid at one to two day intervals. After each egg is added, the clutch is covered to protect it from predators 

The laying period is very stressful for the female – she lays more than half her body weight in eggs in a couple of weeks. She needs a lot of rest and depends heavily on her mate to protect her and their feeding and loafing areas. 

The role of the male is almost over once the clutch is laid. He remains sexually potent for a while in case a replacement clutch is needed, but gradually loses interest and joins other males to moult.  

Mallards and their nests are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird, or to take, damage or destroy its nest, eggs or young.  

Birdsong and Frogspawn

Since learning about the village’s best-kept secret, well known wildlife photographer Liz Dack has become a regular visitor to Poringland Lakes.  Armed with her trusty Nikon camera, Liz captures some stunning pictures which she is more than happy to share with our readers. 

Liz visited the lakes earlier this week and was clearly enthused with what she saw. 

“It was lovely to hear the Chiffchaff singing nearly all the time I was there” said Liz.  “The sand bank was buzzing with bees and also a Green Shield bug.    The sunshine had brought out the Peacock and the Small Tortoiseshell butterflies.  


“One of the anglers showed me the frogspawn but it had started to turn out lots of little black tadpoles.  Then a lovely frog came swimming along the lake showing us how the breast stroke should be done!  While we were watching it two Robins serenaded us marking their territory.” 

Stoat Visitor 

A recent fishing session at Poringland Lakes was interrupted while anglers watched a stoat (Mustela ermine) busily hunting along the bank at the rear of Lake Duffield. 

The stoat seemed unperturbed by the presence of the anglers who watched in fascination as it hunted in a distinctive zigzag fashion.  The stoat is a skilful predator, typically feeding on rabbits and small rodents.  They easily kill adult rabbits that are much larger than them with a bite to the base of the skull. 

Although they are found throughout the country, reports of stoats at Poringland Lakes are relatively rare. 

Frogs Return 

Despite disruption caused by contractors working on site for best part of a year, frogs have reappeared at Poringland Lakes.            

A healthy deposit of frog spawn was noticed today, raising hopes that the colony has returned to their natural breeding ground. 

Winter Landscape 

With the forecast of some wintry showers the midday sunshine was too good an opportunity to miss so a decision was made to finish off clearing the bramble patch in the car park extension area. 

The Large Conservation Pond [LCP] is rather featureless at this time of year so a few strategically placed logs and drainpipes have been positioned around the edges. These in turn will be utilised by resting birds and sunbathing insects as the year progresses. 

A tree branch was already in the water on the far side and so some silver birch 'toppings' have been added so as to create a natural raft which might be used by the 'resident' mallards or moorhens as a nesting site. 

Whilst this work was being done and with the camera safely locked away, a female muntjac scurried down to the LCP and hesitantly made its way out towards the car park. By standing still and being downwind of it, the deer was unaware of any human presence. 

Moments later a grey heron was spotted stalking 'Lake Duffield' for any likely meal.

On returning to the car to ensure that the bonfire was safe to leave a sudden hailstorm turned the ground white and helped to douse the flames. 

Peacock Butterfly Spotted


Even though it was rather overcast, the slightly warmer temperatures brought out one of our over-wintering species of butterfly, the peacock [library photo]. A lone individual was seen by Peter Aspinall as he chatted to an angler. This species will regularly awake from its semi-dormant state as it becomes warmer with the onset of Spring.

Snowdrops Signal Spring

The strong north-westerly wind made it feel a lot colder than the 7 degrees C registering on the thermometer in the car.

Snowdrops in the Dell were a welcome find by David and the lords-and-ladies or cuckoo pint leaves have pushed up through the leaf litter in the car park area. Even though foxgloves leaves are deemed to be toxic to humans, they don't appear to have this effect on the browsing deer or rabbits. The gorse flowers will be a good source of nectar to any stirring insects should a warm snap in the weather occur.

Bird-life today included a couple of magpies and a jay along with both great and blue tits. About 10 black-headed gulls swirled and chased around the site especially if a morsel of food had been found by an individual. A pair of mallard were on the large conservation pond with two moorhen close by. A grey heron had put in an earlier appearance. 

See our sister Facebook site for accompanying photo album. 

Sparrowhawk Pays a Visit

A cold sunny dry day proved to be a good time to continue with the clearance of the bramble patch in the car park extension area. A bonfire was contemplated but the south-westerly wind would possibly have caused annoyance to our near neighbours. 

Some of the willow brash which has been lying in the wildflower area near to 'Lake Noble' was chopped and stacked in readiness for a suitable day for burning. 

Bird sightings today included a sparrowhawk which may well have been on the lookout for a ready meal of one of the flock of mixed tits that are regularly seen among the many trees. 

The lakes resident mallards enjoy an early morning swim.

A pair of mallard appear to have set up residency on the lakes and a moorhen patrolled the site. Robin, wood pigeon and black-headed gull were also recorded. 

A spontaneous visit by Robert, a well known South Norfolk natural history enthusiast, was a good opportunity to gain some advice and tips on the future wildlife management of this reserve. His knowledge comes from many years of practical experience and his input was most welcome. 

Blustery Showers Curtail Work

Intermittent blustery showers tended to curtail much work at the lakes today.  A bumblebee species was of note when it visited the gorse flowers next to the main gate. 

There were a few brief interludes when it was possible to plant a buckthorn sapling - Rhamnus cathartica. This deciduous tree is an important plant to the brimstone butterfly who lay their eggs on the leaves, which are the food-plant of the caterpillar. This species of butterfly is amongst those that overwinter as adults. 


A young Norway spruce - Christmas tree - was planted in the small copsed area next to 'Lake Gudgeon ' and should offer a different habitat suitable for some of our smaller birds such as coal tit.

A Cold and Frosty Morning 

A brief visit on a cold frosty afternoon revealed how much damage the deer are doing by nibbling away at the young shoots of the newly planted saplings, ivy and sedges etc. 

Robins, blackbird, jay, magpie, along with great, blue and long-tailed tits were busy around the site. A sleeping mallard was hiding away on the far shore of 'Lake Duffield’ close by.

A couple of local visitors spoke of their interest in the lakes having been increased by the recent distribution of the flyers throughout the neighbouring villages. 

Poringland’s Wildlife Haven 

With the ever increasing pressure and demands on our countryside, whether it be from housing developments or agricultural intensification, it is pleasing to find a wildlife sanctuary which can be appreciated and visited by the local community.

Housing development creeping ever closer to the conservation area.

At Poringland Lakes we have just such a place in our midst.

With the rather unusual mix of grassland, woodland and the varying sized water bodies, there is the opportunity to find some of those specialist plants and animals which thrive in these habitats. 

With this site being located on a generally acidic gravel base layer it is possible to find indicator plants such as sheep’s sorrel. 

Previous wildflower surveys have recorded a good variety of plants and it will be interesting to see which of these have survived the recent upheaval and those which have arrived as ‘pioneers’ and will become additions to the floral list.

Summer observations recorded about 10 species of dragonfly and damselfly including the nationally scarce Norfolk hawker. 11 species of butterfly have been photographed and this number should increase over the coming months and years. The caterpillars of the cinnabar moth are clearly evident on the stands of ragwort dotted around the site and a proposed moth-trapping evening should prove illuminating. 

Along with the rabbits, which act as invaluable lawnmowers, some deer species, including muntjac, have been seen although their presence can be less beneficial as they tend to browse on young saplings and other recently planted wildflowers. A few years ago otters were seen - but probably wouldn’t be so welcome now that the lakes have been re-stocked. Three species of bat have been ‘discovered’ by using an ultrasonic detector. 

With the chance of an easy meal, grey herons often visit the site and kingfishers have bred here in the past. A dead little grebe was found in the old lake two when it was being cleaned out for the re-lining process. Robins, blackbirds, bullfinches and members of the tit family are regularly seen throughout the year with whitethroats and blackcaps being amongst some of our summer visitors. By increasing the variety of trees it is hoped that other species can be encouraged to visit and maybe breed. 

The wooded areas have proved fertile for a number of fungi whose ‘fruiting bodies’ can usually be seen in the autumn and winter.

Norfolk is lucky enough to have a wealth of very well informed natural historians who willingly share their knowledge and any finds can usually be identified via the wonders of the internet and social media. Some specialists have already attended and have helped to add to the list of flora and fauna. Ideally these surveys will continue so as to monitor the numbers and species of wildlife at the lakes. 

Recent near catastrophic events have highlighted the importance of this site and thankfully a group of dedicated individuals, with differing skills, have gelled to save this haven for future generations. 

Hopefully the local wildlife will adapt to the many changes which have occurred. Their very presence in an area which is under the threat of urbanisation, will ideally bring some relief and enjoyment to the various visitors over the coming years. 

Looking Back on 2014

2014 certainly turned out to be a significant year for those of us involved with Poringland Lakes. 

The sad loss of Glenn Duffield, one of the lakes’ stalwarts, a trustee and a friend, was a particularly low point for those people who had a long standing association with him.

The late Glenn Duffield, supervising operations to the end.

The continuing dilemma of what action to take in order to successfully manage the site due to the drastic water loss was a major concern to the committee.  Ironically the water issue became a catalyst for a number of enthusiastic people to get actively involved in saving this important place. 

The determination of the trustees and committee members to save the lakes paid dividends when Norfolk Homes came to the rescue by lining and profiling the three largest lakes.  Without their invaluable input there would now be very little chance of any fishing and the diversity of wildlife could have been greatly reduced. 

The hard work and variable skills of so many people have proved a great success and visitors will have seen how the site has been transformed into such a pleasant and peaceful place where they can spend a few hours fishing or watching the varied wildlife. 

All of the hard work will probably never be finished as such places often evolve over the years but it does appear that we are on the right track. 

Without the commitment of so many good people and willing organisation, the lakes could have fallen by the wayside. 

There is now enough energy to make sure this never happens.  Thank you to all concerned.