Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Wednesday 15th. June 2011

Back in the dark days of winter , Carol said that she would like to surprise an old school friend , now living near King's Lynn , who was reaching 'a big one' in the birthday stakes . Plans were laid , and last Sunday the plans came to fruition , joining the friend and her husband for a meal last Sunday . At the planning stage , I suggested to Carol that we should make a couple of days of it , so I booked a b&b at Brundall near Norwich . After the meal and the afternoon chatting , we made our way to the b&b in filthy driving conditions , arriving early evening . It was only on arrival that I realised that we were only 5 minutes away from Strumpshaw Fen , the home of two species that I have never seen , the Swallowtail butterfly and the Norfolk Hawker dragonfly . Whilst Carol unpacked , I did a quick rece , ready for the first visit next morning . Although the rain has stopped overnight , the skies were still leaden and again that strong wind . Not knowing the site , once we arrived in the car park , Carol stayed in the car with a book , while I made a circuit of what is a large site . The highlights of this circuit were ,in the wet meadow , lots of Southern Marsh Orchids (pictured) , along with Common Spotted Orchids and lots of Ragged Robin and Yellow Rattle ,along the River Yare , I met this male Pheasant , who I'm sure would have mugged me had I been carrying anything to eat ,from the Tower Hide , a juvenile Lapwing , who , with another youngster were well watched over by a single adult ,a bit further around , two of three Pheasant chicks , who , with their mother , showed no fear of me at all , carrying on searching for food on the pathway ,distant silhouettes of Marsh Harriers against grey skies , like this female ,the only butterfly that I found on the circuit , a Small Tortoiseshell ,a couple of Odonata , this Four-spotted Chaser ,and a Blue-tailed Damselfly , hanging on in the strong wind .
Having established that the track wasn't too muddy , Carol joined me for a second circuit , using a couple of different paths . On one of these , Carol spotted spotted this large caterpillar , that of The Drinker moth I believe . The grey skies were starting to break up a bit , and during one of the breaks we got a better view of a Marsh Harrier , a male this time . Towards the end of the circuit with Carol , we found several Hobbies , like the one above , just hanging in the wind without effort . We did however get two sightings of a Swallowtail , as they flew past us , assisted by the wind , definitely exceeding the speed limit , but we had seen them . By the time we got back to the car , Carol's foot had started to get inflamed again , too much walking over rough ground in soft shoes , as she still can't do up a shoe over the instep . So it was back to Carol with her book in the car and me heading back to the ditches around the meadow , with the sun showing more often , but still very windy . Patrolling the ditches eventually paid off , when I found this female Norfolk Hawker ovipositing on floating Yellow Flag Iris , and even in the conditions , those incredible green eyes . All the books say that the eggs are laid on Water Soldier , but looking around , there were very few specimens of that plant to be found , so it must have been a case of , needs must . Shortly afterwards , I found the male patrolling and very occassionally settling , but only for seconds . I managed to get a few shots during one of those times . Within seconds of this shot , he flew off , and , whilst no further than 2 metres away from me , in the middle of the ditch , was taken by a Hobby . It happened so quickly , I didn't even get a chance to lift the camera , never mind capture his end . As I made my way back to Carol and the car , a pair of Norfolk Hawkers were blown past me , and ended up on the vegetation on the far side of the ditch , still in tandem . After a couple of minutes , he must have said the right things , as she brought her abdomen up to complete the 'ring' or 'wheel' , hopefully ensuring that the species will be seen again next year .
Reaching the Reception Centre , I asked if any Swallowtails had been seen , and was told that they hadn't , so even though they were only 'flybys' , we were possibly the only people to seen the species that day . The local pub for an evening meal , and a couple of pints , and to sort out plans for the following day , with better weather promised , and what to do about Carol's foot .


Phil said...

Great stuff Greenie,and of course I absolutely believe you when you say you hadn't realised how close you were going to be to Strumpshaw Fen.......
Pity the weather wasn't better for you. I think the same may happen to me this weekend in Dorset. Great to see the Swallowtail and the Norfolk Hawkers, shame about it's sticky end.

Graham James said...

Hi Greenie, just found your blog - very enjoyable.
I am no expert but I think that the caterpillar you photographed is that of a Garden Tiger.

Alan Pavey said...

Excellent stuff Greenie, some really nice sightings there and great to catch up with a couple of Norfolk specialities!!

Rob said...

Glad you bumped into those local star species Greenie; you made the best of the day undoubtedly.

Hope Carol's foot gets better.

Warren Baker said...

I expect a lot of your friends live by wildlife reserves eh ?

A good read as always, none-the -less :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Graham, definitely a Garden Tiger.

ShySongbird said...

How very odd that you were staying just five minutes away from a place which held two species you had never seen...!

Well done on ticking them both although I am sure you would have loved a closer look at the Swallowtails. I have never seen one and have always wanted to but have never visited that area at all, must try to rectify that.

Lovely photo of the male Pheasant!

A great read Greenie. Sorry to read Carol is still suffering with her foot, the doctor was obviously correct when he said it would take a long time, so frustrating for her I'm sure.