Sunday, 29 May 2016

May 29th Strumpshaw Fen

It was very cloudy first thing this morning, looking glum and unpromising. But by 11am, the sun was breaking through and it was suddenly the right conditions for butterflies. I had to make an on-the-spot decision to go to Strumpshaw or not. I decided to risk it. I got the next bus to the city of Norwich, then a train to Brundall and walked down to Strumpshaw, dodging the traffic heading to the steam engine rally event at the Strumpshaw Steam Museum along the way. In just within an hour, I had managed to travel miles using public transport and my own two feet. I had earned my lunch, sitting out in the sun on a bench overlooking the nectar garden, but I could only see brimstones, holly blues, orange-tips and green-veined whites. No sign of any swallowtails or common blues.

Then, people started coming back from their walks around the reserve with great news to tell me. The swallowtails were about! They were seen in a few locations and I was going to decide which one to go to first, when suddenly another person came up to me and said that there was one seen just a few minutes ago just before the turn to Fen Hide. Well that's that decided then! I was off to find this swallowtail for myself. On the way, along Sandy Wall, I found another of my targets; a hornet. Annoyingly though, this large wasp did not hang around and left as soon as I saw it.

Swallowtail (28)
As I neared the turn for Fen Hide, I noticed a crowd of people standing in front of some yellow flag irises. It was like a crowd of twitchers but for butterflies instead of birds. And then, there it was. Gliding majestically down to one of the irises, a swallowtail appeared. Its wings were brightly coloured like a pair of stained glass windows and with no sign of any rips and tears. This was a recently emerged individual, the perfect specimen!

Swallowtails are a Norfolk icon in the UK as you can only find them here around the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. The ones found here are a subspecies to the ones found on the Continent. Unlike those swallowtails, who lay their eggs on several plant species found in meadows, our British swallowtails are fussy breeders and only lay eggs on milk parsley, a rare plant only found in reed beds. But due to water pollution, the distribution of milk parsley, and with it the British swallowtails, became restricted to only to the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. This makes our subspecies well sort after amongst butterfly enthusiasts across the UK. As I came back from my swallowtail sighting, a man came up to me and I directed him to where I saw it. He had travelled all the way from Newcastle complete with Geordie accent. That is a long way to come just to see Britain's largest butterfly!

Male Broad-bodied Chaser
With the swallowtail in the bag, I was now trying to find the common blue butterfly but with no success. Then I heard that the first Norfolk Hawker dragonfly was reported along the meadow trail this afternoon. So I went to see if I could find one for my challenge list. At this point, the sun had vanished and the thick clouds from earlier this morning had returned. The warm sunshine was replaced with a chilly breeze, which meant dragonflies and butterflies were now hunkered down into hiding somewhere. It was time to head home, dodging an almost endless amount of traffic heading out of the steam rally event as I walked along the country road leading out of Strumpshaw. It was a nightmare to walk down and the journey home felt a lot longer than the journey up.

I also found this eggshell today. I think it belonged to a song thrush, but I'm not 100% sure
Large Red Damselfly

Azure Damselflies
Slender Groundhopper
Common Lizard

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