Sunday, 25 April 2010

Early Spring Butterflies

Male Orangetip [sorry haven't got a Green Hairstreak picture - yet]

The warm weather of the past week has brought out the early spring butterflies in NW Norfolk. Last weekend I saw my first Orangetips at Courtyard Farm near Ringstead. These fast flying white butterflies with their citrus orange wing tips are a real sign of spring emerging in mid / late April with the first warm weather and all but gone for another year by the end of May. Go and look for them now and get your annual fix.

Yesterday another walk at Courtyard Farm with a definite butterfly 'target' in mind, the Green Hairstreak. I have seen these elusive butterflies here in most recent springs and with the air temperature hitting 20 C yesterday thought it worth a punt.

So late afternoon my wife, small child and I walked up a ride coming off the Ringstead road and around Wharton's belt. Initially it didn't look promising with very few butterflies on the wing, but then at the top of the ride where it joins the end of a narrow belt of woodland, butterflies started to appear. A Speckled Wood first and then a lovely male Orangetip.

Then above us high up a pair of small butterflies who were either having an aerial duel or dancing a wonderful duet. Eventually these came lower and for a second I had them in my binoculars and they looked to me like wafer thin slivers of emerald each given life by the early spring sunshine - a pair of Green Hairstreaks and cause for a little celebratory dance.

We also saw a splendid Red Admiral here and our first Holly Blues of the year.

Birds were good with a single Common Buzzard, about a dozen Whimbrel and singing Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff and Blackcap.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Lakenheath Magic

Mute Swan, Lakenheath Fen

I ended this Easter Weekend down in the Brecks at one of my favourite places Lakenheath Fen RSPB nature reserve.

Lakenheath is special, not just because it is an amazing place to experience some of the UK's most special wildlife including our only nesting Golden Orioles and the first Cranes to nest in the Fens in four centuries. It is also special because it is a landscape restored. Hundreds of years ago the Fens here would have supported a wonderful array of wildlife and a local community, then gradually over time they were drained for agriculture, until today only a small remnant remains.

So when a dozen or so years ago the RSPB purchased some rather large carrot fields with the expressed intention of turning them into a world class wetland, it was a inspiring statement of hope. Today the Fen is a wonderful landscape to walk in. Later this month the sound-scape will pick up pace as hundreds of pairs of Sedge and Reed Warblers take up their summer home in this new wetland and the wonderful fluting song of the Golden Oriole will echo around the Poplar plantations.

Today though it was cold and grey and windy. But still you could tell what a special place this is, Marsh Harriers quartered the new reedbeds, a bird of prey which is still rarer in the UK than the Golden Eagle.

But best of all the Craniac in me was given a fix as, three times I saw a single Common Crane get up from in amongst the tawny reeds and fly around, it even did a circuit over the river, in the process placing itself on my Norfolk year list. This bird has some smudgy brown feathers on its back, so an immature bird, so probably the young bird that fledged last summer the first to do so in the Fens in 400 years. Never mind the weather pleased to make your acquaintance.