Saturday, 10 June 2017

June 10th Whitlingham Broad

Whitlingham Broad today
The last time I was here at Whitlingham Broad was on a miserable, wet November afternoon last year looking for a velvet scoter, getting absolutely soaked while also having the parking metre against us. Thankfully, things have changed since then. Not only is it a gorgeous summer's day, the parking metre system has been improved for the better. Lots of people were here today, enjoying the sunshine. There seemed to be a running club going on as we were continuously dodging a lot of runners as Mum and I went for a short walk along part of the broad.

Mute Swan with cygnets

Mum's knee was playing up, so we didn't go the whole circuit of the broad this time around, but the shorter distance was more than enough to satisfy my wildlife needs. There were common terns, mute swans with four cygnets, hundreds of fish fry sheltering within the gaps between sections of vegetation, some distant great crested grebes, tufted ducks and lesser black-backed gulls.

Mute Swan cygnet
Common Tern
Fish fry
Greylag goslings

Norfolk Hawker
But it was the dragonflies and damselflies that really had us in awe. They were everywhere. I don't think I've ever seen so many Norfolk hawkers at this site before. There were also several emperor dragonflies patrolling the edge of the broad too, but not a single one would stop to pose for me for long enough. Of course, there were plenty of other species such as black-tailed skimmers, red-eyed damselflies, a banded demoiselle as well as the numerous blue damselflies that always have me scratching my head to which species is which. The damselflies pretty much dominated the water's edge as they fluttered their dainty bodies all around us, covering most of the vegetation with some pairing up to mate, forming love-heart shapes as they do so.
Azure Damselfly
Mating Damselflies
Black-tailed Skimmer
I love dragonflies. They are not just beautiful, but also fascinating. Dragonflies are ancient creatures. They have been around on Earth long before the dinosaurs. Millions of years ago, they were also much bigger than they are now due to an atmosphere with high oxygen levels with a wingspan of two feet (60cm) and a body length of 17 inches (40cm)! Fancy seeing one of those flying over the broads! Though these beasts are no longer with us, modern Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are equally fearsome. They are masterful aerial predators and even as aquatic larvae, nothing is safe from their ferocious appetites. They are also very territorial creatures, attacking other dragonflies that get in their way with aerial dogfights. I saw plenty of this behaviour today. Aren't dragonflies awesome?


  1. Hi Sean. Just to let you know I saw two Xanthogramma pedissequum hoverflies at Whitlingham on Sunday. I think they are one of your target invertebrates this year, although I think you have drawn Leucozona lucorum instead. The first Xanthogramma was on the south shore, quite close to the eastern corner where the gorse first starts, and the second one was near the bench that overlooks the path down to the bird screen. If nothing else, it means they are flying now! James.

    1. Thanks James. You're right, I did get them mixed up. That is because when I was drawing it from the photo from my Collins Complete British Insects, both species were in similar looking boxes on top of each other, I got them mixed up on the text page. I actually want the one I illustrated. To be honest, I only placed it on my list because I felt like I was neglecting the hoverflies.