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 .