I was mistaken when I thought June would be balmy in Norfolk. I soon lost my shorts in favour of something warmer and, yesterday, donned my body warmer, coat and fleecy hat. An easterly wind blowing off the North Sea was bitter at times, despite some sunshine. And, whether it was the wind to blame, I’m not sure, but there was not much about – except marsh harriers, which I’ve seen every day. Bob from NWT, Hickling Broad, told us there are fewer marsh harriers in the UK than there are golden eagles and maybe so but, this week, I’ve seen lots of harriers. Which is more than I can say for barn owls which are keeping a low profile where I’ve been.
And, Sod’s law dictated that just as I was closing the shutters at Bittern hide at Hickling Broad, a bittern flew into the reeds. I managed to get the shutters open again and my camera on it just before it landed. Not the shot I would have preferred but, bitterns being few and far between, one I’ll, nevertheless, keep.
Hickling Broad produced a few swallow-tail butterflies whose only breeding county in the UK is Norfolk. I was pleased to get one or two images of them feeding on thistles because our next opportunity for these fine butterflies was Strumpshaw Fen and, here, it was like winter so they all had their heads down somewhere.
Sticking with little creatures, at a neat little place called Sparham Pools, I happened upon what I believe was an emperor dragonfly sitting on a fisherman’s staging. I took a few pictures and then saw its larval case (exuvia) clinging to a nearby reed. Our biggest dragonfly, the emperor would have just emerged from its case minutes earlier and, having pumped itself up to around twice the size of the case, sat around for a while until it was hardened up and ready to fly. I’d never seen this before and thought at first that these were two separate and individual creatures. Check out the pictures.
Back to the marsh harriers. They are supposed to frequent, almost exclusively, reed beds but yesterday I watched one hunting over typical barn owl territory and the day before, a pair apparently nesting in a rape field, the male dropping food to its mate. For a big raptor, they don’t have it easy. I’ve seen feisty smaller birds like avocets and crows driving them off with considerable success. The harriers are great to watch. Their incredible manoeuvrability is a joy to see and I have a few decent images to put up when I get home.
Our last day and the wind kept up its appearance. The little terns on Holkham beach were struggling to make progress when flying into the wind and we managed to spot our second cuckoo of the week. We returned from our walk looking windswept but fresh and enjoyed a mediocre but expensive hot chocolate in Burnham Market. Now back home and it’s raining again…