Firstly , still being unable to edit published posts , I would like to thank Alan/Sissinghurst Birds and Dean/DDD , for identifying the moth from two posts back as a Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix .
Also many thanks to Graham James for correcting my mis-identification of the hairy caterpillar on the last post , which is in fact that of the Garden Tiger moth , not the Drinker as I stated , and also to Dean/DDD again for his confirmation of the same .
I think it's time for me to give up on moths and their caterpillars !
The second day of our stay brought better weather , but no improvement for Carol's foot , as she had been awake much of the night with it . I was up early to get a couple of hours before breakfast , hoping that Carol would at last snatch some sleep , which she did .
Arriving at the Fen hide , I was welcomed by several Reed Warblers , just outside , searching for their breakfasts . During the stay , many more Reed Warblers were seen than Sedge , and really good numbers of Cetti's were 'exploding' into song all around the reserve . It didn't take long for the Marsh Harriers to get into the air , no doubt encouraged by the spells of sunshine , this female also looking for it's first meal of the day . An unexpected sighting from the hide was this male Ferruginous Duck , and talking to a local birder later , it's been around for a few weeks now and isn't ringed , so it could be a true 'wildie' . During the two full days spent on the reserve , it was never longer than 15 minutes to hear a Cuckoo calling , and although I tried several times to find the individual/s , especially along the River Yare , before I reached the spot where it had been calling from , it had moved on some distance . I did get 3/4 fly by sightings , and a couple of shots , as usual for me , as the bird had flown past , this one from the hide .
After breakfast at the b&b , Carol did come down to the reserve , but spent the morning reading in the car , whilst I went off 'on a mission' , to photograph a Swallowtail . Across the railway from the reserve is the 'Dr's house' , with a front garden full of cottage garden flowers , which the Swallowtails visit to nectar on . Like everything else this year , many of the flowers had already gone over , and things didn't look too promising . I crossed the railway into the reserve to check the area used for breeding by the Swallowtails , but failed there too . I did however find some interesting plants , these three new to me . Water Avens/Geum rivale , a relation of Herb Bennet or Wood Avens/Geum urbanum , found in woods and the like , and members of the Rose family .The foodplant of the Swallowtail , Milk Parsley/Peucedanum palustre , a member of the Carrot family , and Marsh Pea/Lathyrus palustris , a tall growing member of the Pea family . I decided to head back across the tracks , and on the way found another male Norfolk Hawker , sunning himself , and looking in better condition that the specimen taken by the Hobby yesterday afternoon . As I reached the track below the Dr's garden , I met a local dog walker with a camera , and asked if he had seen any Swallowtails ? He said that he had been photographing one a few minutes ago down the track . He also said that they were very few and far between , having been on the wing since April , and peaking in mid May . Just my luck I thought , had it been a 'normal' year , they would be peaking right now . The topic turned to dragonflies , when from nowhere , a Swallowtail flew between us , heading for a large Bramble patch between the track and the railway . Feverishly , I got the camera and tripod ready , praying that it would stay , as I could see a grey cloud just about to move across the sun . With everything still crossed , I got my first shots , and I was able to breath again . Well I needn't have worried , or half starved myself of air , as the butterfly danced , hopped and skipped over the Bramble patch for the best part of half an hour . Not always in range or view , and as there was no way around the back of the patch , it seemed to enjoy being out of range/view for long periods of time . When it finally did go , it flew high over the trees alongside the railway and was not seen again . Heart still pounding , at least I could relax now , or should that be for the time being ? I had noticed a scrubby meadow walking along the track when I arrived , that was still in shade , but went back to see if the sun had reached it as it contained lots of Thistles , Nettles and the like . Sure enough , the sun had reached part at least of the meadow , and whilst looking through the vegetation , found this immature Scarce Chaser , a very fresh specimen , a species I hoped I might find on the reserve , warming up in the sunshine . Like most of the Chasers and Skimmers , both male and female immatures are the same colour , the adult male looking very similar to the adult male Black-tailed Skimmer with a blue abdomen and black tip , but having the dark patches at the base of the wings like the Broad-bodied Chaser and the adult female remaining this colour . After a few minutes , a large yellow shape appeared over the trees , and after a few quick laps around the meadow , settled on one of the Thistles , a second magnificent Swallowtail , that was prepared for 3/4 minutes to pose for any shots that I wanted to take . A long spell of cloud followed , and the insects sunning themselves disappeared , fearful of the cloud bringing rain , and with them , the Swallowtail .
Absolutely elated , I set off around the reserve , to meet up with Carol in the car park . On the way , a stop at the Tower hide produced a Common Tern , fishing right outside , a bit closer view of a female Marsh Harrier , and on the waters edge , a pair of Shoveller , the male already moulting feathers as he goes into 'eclipse' . Further along the bank of the Yare , a Common Whitethroat was still in good voice , as were the Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers , all doing their bit to make the walk really enjoyable . When I reached the car park , we decided that the best place for Carol for the afternoon would be back at the b&b , no Warren , I didn't make her walk back , after dropping her off , I returned to do another circuit , the reverse way around this time .
Plenty of Common Blue , Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies were found in the ditches through the meadow , along with Large Red Damselflies , Four Spotted Chaser , a few Hairy Dragonfly , Black-tailed Skimmer and more Norfolk Hawkers , given the better conditions , but still windy . Butterflies were at a premium all around , the odd Brimstone , a pair of mating Green-veined Whites , a few Large Whites , a very fresh Comma of the form 'hutchinsoni' , with it's golden underwing . This form is produced from early Spring caterpillars , the later normal form having a dark underwing . On two Nettle/Bramble patches , I found several Small Tortoiseshells on each , which was most encouraging . When I reached the 'Dr's' house , there was no sign of any Swallowtails , but the Dr. himself was there , doing a bit of gardening . I thought he must get fed up with people interupting him , when he was trying to get on , and was going to leave him to his work . But , as I approached , it was he who looked up and spoke , and thus started a most enjoyable chat with a very knowledgeable man who looks upon the Swallowtails of the Fen as 'his Swallowtails' , doing everything he can to take care of their welfare , planting their favourites , and making sure that there is a succession of nectar for them all through their flight period . He too told me that they had emerged very early this year , and he was worried that the Milk Parsley was not high enough amongst the reeds for the females to be able to find to lay their eggs on . I must admit , I searched for some time in the breeding area of a sighting of the colourful larvae of the species , without success . Twenty minutes later , I went on my way , the Dr. , back to his gardening . Further down the track , I passed a couple heading towards the Dr. , no doubt another halt to the work . In the wet meadow , I found several Grass Snakes , all of which were sunning themselves , and all evaded the camera , as they were very quick off the mark when they saw/scented me . Outside the Fen hide however , where vegetation had been cut down and left last Autumn , a Grass Snake had used the rotting vegetation to lay her eggs in , and the people at that end of the hide were watching an adult and at times 3/4 juveniles . By the time I got a look , just the adult was showing , and that was on the move too . As early evening approached , the Marsh Harriers were up looking for their tea , and on the water , just outside the hide , the Little Grebe was having a quick 'wash and brush up' , before heading off to roost . Seen , but unfortunately not photographed , was a very quick sighting of a Bittern as it moved from one ditch to another , and a very distant view of a Water Rail . All in all , a brilliant day , but it could have been even better . On reaching the Tower hide on one occassion , I was greeted by the occupiers with , 'you should have been here 5 minutes ago , we had two Otters swim right past in front of the hide' , just what I wanted to hear ! When I returned from dropping Carol off , the car park was full , but a couple I had spoken to earlier were just changing boots and leaving , so I stopped and chatted as they did so . Their opener was , ' we stopped for a coffee in the reception hide before coming to the car , when two Otters swam by' . It's not that far between the two hides , so could have been the same pair , but I wish I had witnessed either sighting . And finally , as I walked along the Yare , a couple approaching told me they had just seen a Deer 'swimming' in the water , just around the bend . There are a number of Chinese Water Deer on the site , and although introduced , I would have liked to have seen it . Needless to say , when I reached the spot they described , there was nothing to be seen !
If the weather stays as it is at the moment , raining , I'll finish off the trip tomorrow , with just a couple of hours before breakfast again , before we headed back home .