Pole Dancers

On reflection I should possibly have chosen a better title for this post.  I can imagine all sorts of ‘interesting’ people being directed here by search engines!  Hey-ho let’s run with it anyway, might get some interested in nature.

I have managed to get out and do a bit of dragonfly watching this past week or so.  It was a slow start but is picking up nicely.  Mike over in the States ( https://michaelqpowell.com/?wref=bif ) has been posting images for some weeks now, so we are playing catch-up.  Started by checking out Hickling Broad and on Sunday we went to Upton Fen.  At Upton I had to use my zoom lens to get the images and was pleasantly surprised at the detail.  A great lens for drag racing but after a lot of pretty poor butterfly images I was reluctant to use it.  You can see the link in the images and the reason behind the dodgy heading.

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Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) at Hickling. These are the smallest and earliest of the Hawkers to emerge and are forever on the move. If a bit of cloud covers the sun they will settle as happened here. The name ‘Hairy’ is because of the fine hairs on the thorax which you can see in this image
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Also at Hickling this male Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum). It was bending it’s abdomen in almost a complete circle
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The Norfolk Hawker (Anaciaeschna isoceles). This is a scarce species in the UK and as the name suggests are mostly confined to my home County, though they are spreading their range. This one was at Upton and is another dragonfly that rarely settles
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Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) The most numerous of the early dragons at some sites they can form ‘swarms’. This backlit one at Upton is beautifully marked with the colour on the outer spots (pterostigma) ‘bleeding’ into the wing, this is form praenubila.

Something Local

“Ha yew orl gittin on tha tgether?” Translated from the Norfolk dialect “Everyone ok?”  It seems just lately I’ve been spending an awful lot of time travelling on the potholed, crumbling, congested joke of a road network we have in this country.  But to see new, exciting and rare species that is the price you have to pay.  It’s stressful but you can unwind when you reach your destination.

There is always something to see if you stay local however.  Get out in the garden or just a couple of miles down the road.  Within a few minutes I can visit the Broads, heathland, woods or coast.  Plenty of subjects to point my camera at!  Here is a selection from the last few weeks.

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Could have picked a more comfortable resting spot! Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) at Hickling Broad, not a species that stays still for long
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Aliens have landed! Really pleased to find this at Hickling. It is an exuvia, a discarded shell of a Four Spotted Chaser dragonfly. This species spends at least two years underwater as a larva before emerging to hatch. The adults only live for a few months.
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Aliens really have landed! This remarkable looking creature is a Soldier Beetle, just look at those fantastic feet!

Of course my blog wouldn’t be complete without a butterfly (or two).  On a heath just 2 miles from home is a small colony of Silver Studded Blues (Plebejus argus) one of only four colonies in the whole county ( also click on HOME & tab ‘Buxton Heath Blues’)  I had been unable to find these before but struck lucky last Thursday when I discovered a freshly emerged male flying weakly among the heather and gorse.

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This stunning male Silver Studded blue is so fresh the wings still have a wet, oily sheen
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Sparkling! The underwing of the Silver Studded Blue. The name derives from the small metallic marks in the outer row of black spots
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A species I’ve not managed to get a good image of before the Small Heath poses beautifully, not hidden in the grass as usual!

As I write this post I am looking forward to the emergence of the magnificent Purple Emperor, another trip to Northamptonshire!  Then the Summer Nationals at Santa Pod (ditto)  Finally a few days in Cumbria mid-July, but there is always something local.

Norfolk’s Swallowtail Butterfly

The Queen of the Broads is on the wing and surveying her realm!  A visit to Hickling Broad this morning and I discovered that the sun has brought out the first of our largest and most spectacular butterflies, the Swallowtail (Papilio machaon ssp britannicus).  With a wingspan of 76-93mm (3-3 3/4 inches) (the males are smaller) this is a beautiful insect.

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A fresh Swallowtail on campion

In the UK this butterfly can only be found in the Norfolk Broads where it’s mostly seen gliding over the vast reedbeds.  The caterpillars eat only milk parsley which grow among the reeds, the pupae can survive the winter partially submerged, and the adults will emerge late May till July and prefer warm days with little wind.  As it has been rather cool and windy the last few days I was surprised to see at least eight.

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As the butterfly is much heavier than the campion they will often take nectar by hovering

I had gone to the Broad to look for dragonflies and got rather side-tracked, but there were good numbers of Four Spotted Chasers and Hairy Hawkers about.

Also check out https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/portfolio/swallowtail-encounter/

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Four Spotted Chaser

Swallowtail at Hickling

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Swallowtail butterfly. A Norfolk treasure

15th June 2017.  Lovely walk at Hickling Broad this morning. Only a couple of sightings of our beautiful Swallowtail butterfly, unlike ten days ago when they were all along the Weavers Way.  I spotted this one in dappled shade nectaring on bramble and thought it made a nice shot.

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Broadland icon, what’s not to like?

There was a good number of Norfolk Hawker dragonflies on the wing but they would not settle.  However I stopped at East Ruston Common on the way home and got the image of the one below.

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Norfolk Hawker at East Ruston

Off to Cumbria for the weekend, hopefully some new sightings to image.

Hickling Dragons

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Marsh Harrier over a hot and hazy Hickling Broad

May 26th 2017.  Today I decided to keep local and pay my first visit of the year to Hickling Broad.  For any visitor to Norfolk ,or if you are local, this is a lovely walk at this time of the year.  I use the Weavers Way footpath on the south side of the Broad.  Starting at Decoy Road and head east to Rush Hills, for a longer walk you can carry on to the River Thurne.

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Female Broad Bodied Chaser

There is lots of different wildlife to see along here in late spring especially if you go fairly early in the morning.  The reed beds are alive with the song of Reed and Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings and the ping of Bearded Tits.  Overhead magnificent Marsh Harriers hunt and today I was lucky to see Common Crane and a dashing Hobby.

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Male Hairy Dragonfly

I spent most of my visit watching and photographing dragon and damselflies.  There were lots of Four Spotted Chasers and several Broad Bodied Chasers.  I noticed a few Hairy Dragonflies, a species not that common,  this is the earliest and smallest of the hawkers to emerge, and they rarely settle, the image above is the only shot I managed.

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Blue Tail damsels

There were lots of damselflies in certain areas, Azure, Blue Tail and Large Red.  Its great to get images of these delicate creatures, when enlarged the detail is stunning.

I had hoped to see my first Swallowtail butterfly of the year but it was not to be despite the clear blue skies and hot temperatures.

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Sedge Warbler at Hickling