Hunting Dragons

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.

Mini dragon! This is a freshly emerged or teneral Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum). Over the next couple of days it will acquire it’s blue colouration

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.

A male Variable Damselfly in full colouration

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.

Male Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella). One of our most abundant odonata but a joy to see the first of the year

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!

So beautiful and so early. Swallowtail (Papillo machon ssp britannicus). There are many Swallowtail species around the world, this one can only be found in the Norfolk Broads

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.

36 thoughts on “Hunting Dragons

  1. Fantastic shots – I think the Swallowtail would look great on a wall! Sorry about the missed vacation (err rather delayed hopefully), but glad to see you getting in some field time. Weather went cold here into the high 30’s and the forceful winds kicked in again so all the birds are hunkered down – did have three migrants hit the area earlier in the week so nature is back in business.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Weather’s changed here too B, strong northerly winds and temps half that of yesterday but not quite as cold as you. Yes glad to get out even though I was flirting with the lockdown rules, just had to do it.
      Doubt we will boarding any aircraft until a vaccine is found, time will tell.
      Keep well and enjoy the migration!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, you are not alone in the fact that everything is not going as planned anymore. I myself have had plans to leave Malta and move to another country before summer. Today I do not even know when or if it will ever happen. Time flies far too fast..

    Your images are superb, as always Brian. The dragonflies are magically beautiful and even the smallest detail appears so nicely. It is also a pleasure to read your description, so well written.

    I seen quite a lot of dragonflies recently but they fly away too fast and so does the butterflies. But tomorrow is another day and I’ll try to capture at least a few before summer ends and summer has not really started yet.
    Stay safe & Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Anita so sorry your plans are, at the moment, in ruins. When you have your heart set on something it is so depressing. No one could have predicted this situation but it is here and we must except it until a vaccine is found.
      Thank you for your kind comments. Keep safe, keep well.


  3. Great shots. I wonder why we don’t have shallow tails here in this side of the channel? I miss these Spring time visits I would have in the states… oh well.

    We are getting those North winds too. Pretty darn strong! We needed rain with it as it is dry as heck here.

    Hold tight to hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Swallowtails over on the Continent are a species of warm, dry landscapes and can be found in gardens, it’s caterpillars feed on a variety of plants like fennel whilst the Norfolk version eats only milk parsley. Basically the two look identical.
      Had a little bit of rain but it’s still blowing a gale!
      Great news from our PM last night, I can now travel to my favourite sites without fear of being stopped by the police.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is great news!!! Don’t need a criminal record in search of butterflies. The damsel flies and dragon flies hold a very special meaning for me so when I saw your post I kind of teared up a bit. Thanks for the wonderful images.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. “The rich, dank smell of bog, ditch, mud and water plants is nicer than the finest perfume.”

    You have described it perfectly, Brian! A totally refreshing experience.

    What superb photographs! The damselflies are always so frustrating. Hard for me to even see them at all, then, as you say, get one in focus and off she flits to a blade of grass a few feet away! Lather-Rinse-Repeat for the rest of the morning.

    A truly perfect swallowtail! Harbinger of better days ahead.

    Your post has been like sitting by an open window with a cool breeze eliciting a deep sigh.

    Be well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If there was one couple who I knew would understand that feeling, you’ve just dropped by! Thank you my Florida friends for your lovely comments, now let’s see what you have been up to!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gorgeous photos. These days we have to make do with what we have, don’t we, and it seems like you are not bad off with your outings options. Yes, travel is not in the cards nowadays. I should have been in the States right now, but for the same reasons, that is not happening. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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