It turned out to be a superb morning’s visit to the RSPB reserve at Strumpshaw Fen, a few miles from Norwich, in Norfolk. We couldn’t believe our luck, for we saw the stunning swallowtail butterfly and also the Norfolk hawker dragonfly, both rarities. The butterfly is only found in the Broads area of Norfolk.
We started spotting dragons almost as soon as we’d left the reception area on our visit at the beginning of June. And, a few paces further on, there was a tantalising early glimpse of a yellow and black butterfly as it fluttered across our path. Would it be our only sighting?
As we walked on, I stopped to look at a four-spotted chaser perched on plants to my right. My daughter had gone a little further ahead and called to me that there was a dragonfly over there, too! We didn’t know which way to look – there was so much to see in this beautiful wildlife haven.
The weather was perfect for our first visit, sunshine and the temperature in the low twenties, with very little wind. The reserve is sandwiched between the railway line from Great Yarmouth to Norwich and the River Yare. Strumpshaw Fen, a SSSI, SPA and SAC, lies in the mid Yare Valley and is part of the Norfolk Broads.
We walked by the River Yare and through woodland, on the way seeing a male marsh harrier soaring below the clouds and spotting some mute swans, one of which had small cygnets nearby. A brimstone butterfly sipped nectar from woodland flowers as we walked past.
At the end of the morning, we decided to go along the meadow trail and thank goodness we did. for it was here that we had fantastic views of certainly two swallowtail butterflies as they flew around the colourful meadow, alighting on various flowers, including ragged robin.
And, then, turning towards the ditch behind me, I watched a dragonfly land on some reeds. Through the camera viewfinder I saw the creature had green eyes and it flashed into my mind I was looking at a Norfolk hawker for the first time!