East Anglia in two days 25 and 26 /06/2013

June 28, 2013 in Holiday and Trip Reports by Jim Steele

I took the campervan to Norfolk and Suffolk for two days to try and catch up with some more of the British butterflies and dragonflies I’d like to see.

First port of call was Upton Fen by the Broads, and what a beautiful reserve this is – fens, woods, streams and grassland. I was lucky by all accounts to catch a Swallowtail butterfly given that others weren’t seeing them and whilst I have seen them abroad I was just stunned at the size, shape and colours of this beauty. The other ‘target species’ was Norfolk Hawker and I eventually saw four of these very rare insects. Both Swallowtail and the Hawker are restricted to the Broads area more or less. Variable Damselfly put in an appearance as did a Hobby, whilst the fen was full of Marsh Orchids. A female Cuckoo made that weird bubbling noise – ages since I have heard this.

RSPB Strumpshaw Fen was next but by this time the sun had all but deserted me. Three Marsh Harriers were great to watch as always and I caught up with a Bittern flying along the River Yare (of Yarmouth fame!). Brief views of Norfolk Hawker here, too. A tip from the volunteer at the Centre sent me scurrying up a small lane to someone’s garden where a bed of impressive flowers yielded very close and truly awesome views of another Swallowtail – see pic below.

The next day required an hour’s drive to the very attractive Redgrave and Lopham Fen near Diss. I was told this was an impressive place and I wasn’t disappointed. Target species here was Scarce Emerald Damselfly – very rare – but I was a bit early in the season and the ‘Lestes’ damsels were only just emerging; in addition, they are very hard to separate from the common Emerald Damsel! I definitely saw some Emeralds, and I think I saw a teneral, female Scarce, but in any case the place was alive with Four-spotted Chaser, Emperors, a few Southern Hawkers, a single ovipositing Brown Hawker and a few Hairy Dragonflies. Calling Water Rails accompanied me and Little Egrets were fighting. No sign of the very rare Raft Spider – which is huge – but you have to be lucky for this. Two Hobbies were catching insects above the woods and Reed Warblers were everywhere. Lots of butterflies including my first Painted Lady of the season completed my visit to a very special place.

Finally, in a suitably exhausted state, I had an hour at the amazing earthworks Devil’s Ditch (or Dyke) near Newmarket racecourse but no sign of the speciality Lizard Orchid. I will have to go back…