Monday 28 June 2010

Silver-washed Fairies at Oaken Wood

After six days in the Norfolk Broads with Swallowtails and other butterflies, I wondered what I would see on Neil Hulme’s Oaken Wood tour yesterday. Thirty  people were not disappointed on this promised hottest day of the year. It was a relief to be walking  along woodland paths that were sometimes shaded, especially later in the day. Although the Purple Emperor was not about yet, we had an abundance of butterflies, the most surprising being over a dozen Wood Whites, including a mating pair.
Silver-washed Fritillaries and White Admirals were everywhere, though few settled. The large fritillary was my main memory of the day as they flashed past us all day, a large bright orange shape that was easy to follow though difficult to photograph. Both the Admirals and Fritillaries had enough of the heat by ealry afternoon and were seeking shelter and starting to settle.
The little stream under the path was a settling place for the Fritillaries and a Comma. 
White admirals
Meadow Browns were mating and and we also saw many  Large Skippers,and Ringlets, some Common Blues and Speckled Woods and a Purple Hairstreak.
 Large Skipper
Purple Hairstreak
Hunters in the technology age

A few of us stayed on after lunch but left in time to listen to the first half of the fateful England-Germany match on the car radio. I watched the second half at home, not a pretty sight with a blind ref and an English defence that was in disarray. No doubt we will kid ourselves again in four years time...
Thrush bashing snail on stone

Wheatfen Reserve and Hickling

Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni

Friday June 25
This morning we visited Wheatfen Reserve, the opposite side of the River Ant from Strumpshaw. It is run by the Ted Ellis Trust, set up by to remember the radio broadcaster and curator of the Norwich Museum who lived here. The warden, David Nobbs, was very helpful and the trails were well signposted and with the map enabled us to navigate the series of pathways easily. There were plenty of seats on the trail which Sue appreciated…

Speckled Wood
Milk Parsley, food plant of the Swallowtail caterpillar

Small Tortoiseshell
Large Skipper

 Large Skipper
 Large Skipper 
first Ringlet of the year
Fen Longhorn, Strangala maculata
Swallowtail on Yellow Flag Iris
I called it Tortoiseshell City as they were everywhere, together with Red Admirals, Large Skippers, male and female Brimstones and the a Ringlet which the warden said was the first reported this year. We also saw plenty of Milk Parsley, food plant of the Swallowtail caterpillars. We saw three Swallowtails to finish an excellent morning. The reserve has plenty of variety, we enjoyed it very much.

We lunched nearby at the New Inn, Rockland St. Mary, NR14 7HP, excellent fish and chips.
After tea at the Clippesby cottage I returned to Hickling Reserve for the last time, arriving at 4:30. I saw two Swallowtails at the usual boardwalk area then I completed a tour of the reserve. I observed two Red Admirals fighting aloft around an oak tree. One kept landing on then path and attacked the other every time it came near. I also saw the wrens again in the woods.
Black-tailed Skimmer, Orthetrum cancellatum

male Red Admiral

Horsey seals & butterflies and Catfield Fen

Common (Harbour) Seal, Phoca vitulina
Horsey beach was our coastal visit. We passed the National Trust site, a restored windpump and parked by the Nelson Head pub in the car park opposite by the melting barn as Sue has named the decaying structure. Postcode NR29 4AD
A lovely walk along the path to the sea dyke provided flowers and butterflies:

Common Blue

Large Skipper

Small Tortoiseshell

There were many old, tattered Common Blues
Convolvulus by the dyke
Common (Harbour) Seal, Phoca vitulina
A pair of common seals, male and female, entertained us for thirty minutes. They would sit up in the water, look all around, then dive and disappear for several minutes.
We had lunch at the Nelson Head where I had my usual pint of Wherrys. The steak and kidney pie was the best I have eaten since Mum used to cook them. When I told the landlord he said the cook has them in the oven for seven hours. Sue’s vegetable chilli was also very good.

In the afternoon after our usual cup of tea at the cottage I went off to Catfield Fen, the Butterfly Conservation reserve managed for the Swallowtails. The walk along the raised rond (bank) takes you through wild fen and past a derelict wind driven waterpump tower  used tod rain the fen. It leads for about 1.5 miles to the River Ant then you return on the same track. I saw one Swallowtail in flight. This is a very wild reserve and not set up for tourists.
Reeds are cut for thatching
derelict windpump

I was hissed at...
I observed what I assume was a Small Tortoiseshell courtship display on the ground. The male fluttered its wings while the female’s wings remained folded. but  nothing happened.