Thursday, 15 June 2017

A Trip East - Swallowtails and Norfolk Hawkers

Friday 9th June and it was off to Suffolk for a few days to visit my family. The journey was fraught with traffic jams on the M3, M25 and A12 and along the way I saw 2 red kites by the M3 and the usual roadkill - fox, badger, pheasent, hedgehog and rabbit - although the A12 provided more variety with muntjac deer, lesser black backed gull and barn owl also noted.

Saturday 10th June was hot and sunny but breezey and it was off to my nephew Jacks school sports day where I saw flyover kestrel, sparrowhawk and great spotted woodpecker between races. When the sports day was over we headed off with Jack for the afternoon to the beach at Felixstowe where we ate ice cream and doughnuts, skimmed stones across the waves and played crazy golf where I saw 2 holly blues flitting about in the bushes.

Sunday 11th June and myself and David drove up to the RSPB reserve of Strumpshaw Fen near Norwich in Norfolk on a hot and humid day despite the strong breeze. It was mostly sunny but eventually it clouded over and I wasn't sure if we would be successful in seeing the main purpose of our trip but as we sorted out our admission tickets at the visitor centre one of the volunteers called a swallowtail butterfly flitting past which we managed to get a good but brief view of - result! It was larger than I expected, beautifully marked and very flitty and floaty as it passed by and quite exotic looking.

We walked off from the visitors centre and out onto the reserve and along the route we found 3, possibly 4, swallowtails flitting about in a sheltered area near the Doctors garden - we had some very nice views of them although photographers with massive cameras kept trying to get within inches of the them when they rested on the vegetation only for them to unsurprisingly fly off which was most annoying as I was managing to get some decentish snaps with my little automatic camera.



Swalowtail - with a damaged right tail


Swallowtail - underside record shot


I have never seen swallowtails before despite living in Suffolk until I was 18 and regularly returning to visit friends and family over the last 30 odd years. It was lovely to see them but it felt almost a little contrived, not helped by the masses of people and especially photographers present although not unexpected on a visit on a Sunday.

We moved on around the reserve and I eventually managed to get good views of Norfolk hawkers, another species I was hoping to see and a new dragonfly for me. They were very active and fast in the warm conditions but as it cooled down slightly and clouded over they were easier to see including an ovipositing female.

 Norfolk Hawker - Aeshna isosceles

 Norfolk Hawker

Norfolk Hawker - ovipositing female showing yellow triangle on the 2nd abdominal segment which gives it its Latin name

There were plenty of other dragonflies buzzing around too - banded demoiselle, scarce chaser, four spotted chaser and "blue" damselflies were all seen along with the Norfolk hawkers - and a hobby flying acrobatically low over the reeds was enjoying snacking on them.

 Four Spotted Chaser

 Scarce Chaser

Other birds seen were marsh harriers, a whitethroat, a pair of Egyptian geese, gadwall and brief views of bearded tits buzzing low over the reeds before diving into cover as they "pinged" away. Chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps were heard and reed warblers were seen.

Egyptian Geese

Comma, brimstone, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, peacock and red admiral were all seen along with bee orchids and southern marsh orchids and before heading home I had another quick look at the swallowtails again although they were less active and soon disappeared out of sight.


Bee Orchid

And so it had been a very successful visit to an RSPB reserve I have never visited before and I had managed to get some great views of the swallowtails there along with some good birds, dragonflies and orchids - an excellent day out.

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