Wednesday, 27 May 2015

May 27th Strumpshaw Fen

The Meadow Trail
This morning at Strumpshaw, I went for a walk on the recently opened Meadow Trail. Our Highland cattle has done a great job keeping the meadow in good condition for the last couple of months and now it is time to see what has been growing here. This is a wet meadow, meaning that the soil is slightly boggy and it is a perfect place to see marsh orchids later in the summer. For now, though, I find ragged robins, cotton grass and bog bean, which is my favourite as it looks fuzzy and different to the other plants growing here. The trail follows a series of ditches, home to many species of dragonflies including the rare Norfolk hawker, but I fail to see any today.
Cotton Grass
Bog Bean
Peacock feeding on the Bog Bean
Red Bartsia?

Along the river, I spot a mother pheasant with a few fluffy chicks. They don't look very old, perhaps a day or two since they hatched. I also got to see common blue butterflies and the twayblades are looking fantastic now.
Pheasant Chick
Common Twayblade
Soldier Beetle

It is another bank holiday this week and we are keeping the children busy with yet another activity trail for the children to do. It includes a set of butterflies with a letter on the back of them for them to find. They could also build a bug home which they can take home with them.
Hunting for butterflies on the activity trail
Building a bug home

Reception Hide was busy this morning. An otter with a cub was swimming along the far reedbed for a few minutes before climbing ashore and vanishing into the reeds. A bittern flew over the same area and dived into a reedbed by the far left channel. Reed buntings, swallows, swifts, pochards, marsh harriers, the family of mallards and the family of coots were also about today.

Coot family
The Mallard family
But the star of the day was the one thing that everyone visiting today seems to be after. The questions on everyone's lips was "Are the swallowtails about yet?" and "Where can I see a swallowtail?" Most of the morning we had to answer "They are about, but you never know where they'll show up". Then finally, a swallowtail turns up on the nectar garden (flowerbed) outside. If you have never seen a swallowtail before, it is a magnificent and majestic butterfly. It is the UK's largest butterfly species and it flutters with a few flaps of it's wings around the flowers and it's admirers who watch in awe at it. It's wings glow with yellow and black markings, a sign that it is fresh from emerging.

Strumpshaw is popular for it's swallowtails because this is one of the best places to see one. The swallowtails that you find here are special as they are a sub-species from the ones on the European mainland and are only found on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. In recent years, the Continental swallowtail has hit the headlines with an invasion on the South Coast of England due to climate change. They differ to our British swallowtail as they are slightly larger and are not fussy were to lay their eggs. Our swallowtails on the other hand, have blacker stripes and will only lay their eggs on milk parsley and are restricted to wetland habitats. It is also one of the reasons why it is so rare  compared to their Continental cousins.

The rare factor and the fact they are so stunning to look at is probably why so many people are coming to Norfolk from as far away as New York just to see them. But the smiles on their faces after they do find one makes it all worth helping fulfill their butterfly dreams. Just as I was about to leave for home, a swallowtail returns to the nectar garden and to make sure everyone sees it, I call out loudly "Swallowtail!!" and a crowd quickly circles round it. Even a couple who had been searching all morning without seeing one and were just about to cross the railway line to leave, ran over and got to see their first swallowtail. I was giving a lot of praise and handshakes with delighted smiles on their faces for that. A swallowtail does that to people. It will happen all over again throughout the next few weeks with the car parks full of swallowtail watchers.


  1. Very jealous - they're beautiful!

  2. Nice post Sean and great shots of the swallowtail. Must make a trip to Strumpy soon to try and see them.