Reg Snook's "park jottings" have been a special feature of the friends' noticeboard since early in 2010. He publishes a new one each fortnight, providing a naturalist's insights into the lives of the birds and animals of our park.

Jottings – 5 September 2017 – Beccles, Woodpeckers and Hornets

Perhaps someone reading this might be interested in visiting a lay-by to the south of Tuddenham where they will find two very large white sofas!

hornet.pngEvery so often I suggest something for you to add to your bucket list. In the past, I have mentioned RSPB Minsmere, the seals at Horsey and the deer rut at Helmingham Hall. Here is another one – Beccles. What, you say, Beccles, why Beccles? I travelled to Beccles during last winter and revisited the town last week. It was super. Beccles means 'meadow by the stream' and is an old Saxon river port full of charm and quaintness. Of course, Beccles is the gateway to the Norfolk Broads. It was once a busy port dealing with tanning and fishing. The quay is still important for holiday boats moored all along this charming waterway. From this location, there are lovely views of the Georgian gardens which slope down to the River Waveney. The town itself centres around the magnificent bell tower which is next to St Michael’s church. The tower is a free-standing, Grade I listed edifice, thirty metres high. Building began in 1515 and was completed in 1540. The architecture is English gothic and perpendicular gothic. Two important people were married at the adjacent church of St Michael’s – Admiral Nelson's mother married the Reverend Edmund Nelson and the poet, George Crabbe, married Sarah Elmy in the 18th century. Have I whetted your appetite? I hope so.

My farmer friend, Keith from Grundisburgh, grows cabbages on his patch but, this year the brassica has been ravaged by large white butterfly caterpillars. (That's why he calls them cabbage white butterflies.) When I was a boy my dad would pay me to pick off caterpillars from his greens but Keith did not pay anyone and so his cabbages are now row upon row of stalks. From my recollection, these caterpillars like to pupate under eves or window ledges. Keith's vegetable garden is approximately 40 metres from his house. These caterpillars have migrated/crawled all that way to his house to attach themselves underneath his window ledges. Quite an extraordinary feat considering that they had to cross his rough allotment, crawl under a hedge and then make their way through 35 metres of grass in order to climb up the walls of his house.

I read an article in a national newspaper last week which said that woodpeckers were destroying wooden electricity poles, the type of woodpecker responsible not being disclosed. I doubt whether the reporter would know that there is more than one species of woodpecker. However, a filler has been invented to fill these holes that contains a fragrance that is harmless but repellent to woodpeckers. Yeah, right! On the subject of woodpeckers, no doubt many of you have 'bug houses'. These are open boxes packed with cane of various thickness to encourage insects to set up home therein. I have watched great spotted woodpeckers in my garden systematically moving from one hole to another eating the contents. Are these bug houses really woodpecker feeders?

In Portrait of a Park published in 2011 I wrote about the hornets that built a home in my studio wall. There were hundreds of them and at the end of that summer I saw many new queen hornets on the wing. The hornets again built a nest in my studio wall the following year but since then not a sign of these wonderful insects. That is until now. This week I discovered a hornet's nest in an adjacent stable. I am so pleased since as yet I have not been stung by a hornet but I suppose that there is a first time for everything. The hornets were nesting in a hole in an overhead old beam. A group of worker hornets were busy chewing the timber and making the hole larger. The ground was covered in small heaps of sawdust. Hornets are undoubtedly very beautiful creatures and I look forward to seeing the new queen hornets emerge in the autumn.

Reg Snook