Wednesday 31 May 2023

A Norfolk Weekender - Day 2 - 21st May 2023

A adventure: 

The Sunday dawned grey but the prospect was for some warmth later in the day but still with that pesky north-easterly so with the north coast somewhat quiet I opted for a day in the Broads and so we met at Hickling at 8am for a walk with the vague hope that the Caspian Tern would still be around.  I have a terrible track record with this species in Norfolk and was in no way anticipating seeing it.

No sooner than we were alongside Brenden’s Marsh that the beast flew in and landed in front of us! Result! It was clearly a 1st summer bird with a patchy cap and black tipped monster bill and when it got up and flew you could see the hint of dark in the tail and hindwing but its age did not detract from the spectacle of this huge Tern languidly cruising around in front of us before departing towards Horsey after twenty minutes! It looked Mallard sized when on the deck and the two closest ducks were trying the pluck up the courage to get it to move off the little island it was sitting on but were somewhat intimidated by that bill.

Caspian Tern

An immature Spoonbill sieved the waters and two adult Cranes slowly flew low across the pools.  We walked on and soon had more Crane views as birds moved across the landscape and one posed in a flooded run while a Bittern moved between pools before dropping back in.  It was a magical spell that had a very non British feel to it but the biting wind that got tis between the shelter of the hedges soon reminded us of where we were.



Retracing our steps we continued around the trails which were fairly quiet in the cool conditions but I was surprised to discover 'more' Spoonbills that I anticipated… A Hobby went through but at this stage there were only a few low level Damselflies about but there were Swifts for it to go after if it was feeling energetic.  Marsh Harriers were a constant and the odd Reed Bunting and Reed and Sedge Warbler were heard before finding a pocket of Willow Warblers nearer to the visitors centre.  Two Kingfishers did not stop though.

Lipara lucens - again

Azure Damselfly

Sentinel father

This fly was keeping a very close eye on the Garden Tiger cat below...

Garden Tiger cat 

Four Spotted Chasers started to emerge as we reached the final section but were lethargic and Blue Tailed damselflies were also noted but I could not find any Variables.

Four Spotted Chaser

Blue Tailed Damselfly

Time for coffee and cake and then off to the coast to look for Little Terns off Waxham.  We slogged up through the sand but the sea was rough and the wind and sun in our faces and a single Cormorant was the only bird seen!  A singing Lesser Whitethroat was the only passerine heard as we marvelled at the cost of renting Shangri-la for four nights.

Inland now to Strumpshaw hoping that inland the wind would be less and the insect life more prolific.  I had high hopes of finding the first Swallowtail of the season.  Lunch in the car park with Orange Tips and Brimstones flying around was a good start and just past the visitors centre we found a spot with the three Damselfly species actively hunting around a Nettle and Bramble patch while a Hairy Hawker, as usual, almost but did not quite land for better views.

Large Red Damselfly

Azure Damselfly

Azure Damselfly

Pyrochroa serraticornis

Merodon equestris

Phyllobius sp Weevil

A Glow-worm crossed the path and was helped on its way before we popped out into the meadow where some very fine Highland Cattle grazed.  It was too breezy for Butterflies but we did see Broad-bodied and Scarce Chasers along with a couple of Chiffchaffs before 

Sand Wasp sp - happy to have help please 15mm long


Yellow Flag

Angie suggested that we need to walk the other way entirely.  So it was back out onto the road and down to the next lane and as if by magic in the nettley paddock just before the last cottage there was a gleaming fresh as can be Swallowtail.

It’s chosen spot was sheltered and it allowed a close approach and we were afford the most amazing views possible of this most tropical looking of native butterflies.  I had only ever seen them briefly in the UK and not for about 30 years I think, so it was a doubly special moment.

British Swallowtail

A family of Marsh Tits were encountered on the way back to the cars before we moved just around the block to Buckenham to look for Garganey and Yellow Wagtails.  We may have seen neither but it was a pleasant spot to spent the end of our day out with the Chinese Water Deer looking all svelte in their summer coats and two late Pink-footed Geese grazing out with the Greylags. 

A chunky boy...

The following day I was meant to be up in Norfolk again but I think the recent exertions had got the better of me and I had to bail on the plans.  We were meant to be at the Wrens that evening and so went there early where I then just slept.

There are always moths at Antony's - Dewick's Plusia

Great Prominent

Waved Umber

Alabonia geoffrella

However in the evening Antony had to go down to Westleton to pick up a moth lure and the chance of a Nightjar encounter was too good to miss.  It was only just gone 9pm when the first bird started churring.  The next 20 minutes were very special with incredibly close views of both male and female as they hawked around us.  It was light enough to see pattern and colour and when the male perched up you could see his white throat puff out when he sang!  I have waited a very long time to see our own Nightjar this well.  The female came and wing clapped past our heads and then landed on the path for a few moments. 

volume up

Stone-curlews wailed, Nightingales serenaded the incoming dark and Stonechat, Tree Pipit and Dartford Warbler all gave a last burst of song to round up a very special end to my epic few weeks away from home.  

I am not quite sure of the exact total but between the 20th April and 22nd May I was only at home in Kent for two days and between Lesvos, Spain, Finland and this East Anglian excursion I managed to see or hear 343 species. Quite remarkable.

I have now had a breather for a week with just a fantastic Orchid day out last Friday but in a few hours I head off to the Pantanal in Brazil for my next adventure.  People ask if I have any regrets about leaving the RSPB?


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