Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Thursday 16th. June 2011

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 .


Dean said...

No, don`t give up on the moths, Greenie. That`d be like me giving up on fungi.

Great post as usual.

Phil said...

What a feast Greenie. I'm surprised there's anything more to see and tell about.
A really enjoyable read and great photos. I hope Carol is better soon, then you can take her back again.

Rob said...

Glad you intercepted the Swallowtails Greenie, and you certainly did them justice with the camera - what beauties!

ShySongbird said...

You really had me fooled with your last post Greenie! So you did see the Swallowtails after all, well done! They really are beautiful creatures as shown by your lovely photos, I particularly liked the third one!

A fascinating and absorbing read. A shame you missed the Otters and the Deer, unless of course there is something you are not telling us yet ;), but still a most rewarding visit.

You certainly made the most of Carol's weekend :)