Well, right now I should not be here, in front of the laptop, tapping out another post. I should in fact be 500 miles away and enjoying a weeks holiday in Berlin, probably sitting in a bar overlooking the River Spree with Mrs H and the Lemming enjoying a nice cool pilsner (or three). For obvious reasons (unless you have been on another planet for the last few months) the vacation is binned 😢.
Friday dawned warm and sunny. I still have ten days off work and frustration is starting to build, so I jumped in the car and drove the ten miles to one of my favourite sites in the Norfolk Broads. The joy and relief washed over me like a wave as I stepped out along the footpath between reed bed and wet woodland. The rich, dank smell of bog, ditch, mud and water plants is nicer than the finest perfume. Greeted by the excited chatter of Sedge Warblers marking their territories among the reed. They finish their song by fluttering up several feet and parachuting back down. In the alder trees, Willow Warblers sing their sad descending refrain and from a bush by the dyke a majestic Marsh Harrier eyed me with suspicion before gliding off. As quick as a flash a Hairy Hawker appeared, snatched an insect then sped away, my first dragonfly of the season.
During the winter scrub clearance had been taking place. A couple of areas looked pretty sad but the short term loss is the long term gain. The Broads are not a natural feature. They are the result of flooded medieval peat diggings. Over the centuries nature moved in and some of this nature is rare and precious. Left to it’s own devices the Broads would eventually silt up and revert to wet woodland or carr. The reed beds (another man made feature to supply thatching material for roofs) would be lost and so too those iconic creatures that have made it home, Bitterns, Harriers, Bearded Tits, the unique Swallowtail butterfly and a whole host of others overlooked by all except the conservationists and naturalists.
It took a little while to get my eye in. The winter had left my observation skills a bit rusty. Eventually I picked out the weak flutterings of damselflies. Most had yet to attain full colour and are known as teneral. They are difficult to track at the best of time and even harder in this form and they tease and torment as they settle, allow you to get in position to get a shot, then fly off a couple of feet away.
I walked the path enjoying every sighting, a Kingfisher on a branch over the Dyke, Buzzard cruising above the wood, various spring butterflies and more Hairy Hawkers though it was far too sunny for any to settle. As I turned around to retrace my steps I was stopped in my tracks. On the path ahead sat a Swallowtail butterfly, so fresh not a mark on its wings. This is the 8th of May, even if the weather stayed fair I would not have expected to see this stunning beauty for at least two weeks!
A fantastic ending to my ‘escape from lockdown’. The weather is about to change for the worse and I expect the Swallowtail will succumb but there will be others and more mornings like this one. It can’t replace the hollow feeling of not seeing my daughter but it put a smile on my face.