The Butterfly Safari

We’re now travelling back in time. It’s back to Monday morning this time, to a time before the Sheringham Fish and Chips. I put the the postcode for Strumpshaw Fen into the sat-nav and was once again mesmerised by its capacity for random navigation and time travel.

It started off by leading me in what I thought was the wrong direction and then took a turn for the worse as we took in a selection of narrow roads with grass growing down the centre. It was like taking a trip into a time of more relaxed transport and I’m sure I saw a Hay Wain in the distance.

The main butterfly at the reserve is the Swallowtail. There were, according to reports, several still to be seen on the reserve. We also had hopes of seeing White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries.

From the lack of Swallowtail picture in the header you may be able to deduce that things did not exactly go to plan. You may also search in vain…well, you’ll find out in good time. For now I will keep the tension building.

The first thing we saw as we crossed the railway line to the reserve was a bat, which fluttered down into a bush. They have Pipistrelles in the roof of one of their buildings, though they don’t usually fly in daylight. It might, we agreed, be suffering from the heat.

Pipistrelle Bat, Strumpshaw

Pipistrelle Bat, Strumpshaw

We took a walk through the woods, looked at the wire contraptions that used to shelter orchids, saw a few surviving orchids, pointed a camera at several butterflies and muttered bad words at my lack of success in actually photographing them. Ditto for dragonflies.

We did see a Marsh Harrier, but, to be fair, they are hard to miss. The Canadian lady who was in the hide at the time was ecstatic at seeing one, and the conversation moved on to her difficulties in seeing Polar Bears in Northern Canada. It was nice to think of a cold place while burning up in the middle of a Norfolk reed bed.


Marsh Harrier over Strumpshaw Fen

Whilst listening to tales of the frozen north I noticed that a Comma had settled next to the path. As soon as I pointed the camera at it, it flew away. It’s a common butterfly and I have lots of shots of it, but it was still vexing to miss yet another shot.

I also missed a White Admiral – twice. We had good views of them, but they didn’t settle long enough for a photograph.

I was able to get some damselflies, some blurred dragonflies and, after returning to my primeval origins, hunt down a darter.

This is a Ruddy Darter. Probably.

These are Damselflies – possibly a Common Blue and a Blue-tailed.

Finally, as we sat under an ivy-covered tree, drinking tea and (in my case) restocking my calories with a big chunk of flapjack, I noticed a butterfly. It was the tomato soup red colour of a Comma, which was a poor second prize for a day of butterfly spotting in Norfolk.

However, as I zoomed in I noticed it was a completely different shape to a Comma.

And that was how we managed to take a photograph of a Silver-washed Fritillary.

That evening, after chips, we took a ride out into the marshes, where I enjoyed myself taking blurred photos of larks and pipits, missing a shot of a female Marsh Harrier and, eventually, getting some shots of sitting people and moored boats. They move slowly so I can manage them.

I’ll post them later as I have to go out now.


20 thoughts on “The Butterfly Safari

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  4. beatingthebounds

    Never seen a Silver-washed Fritillary and haven’t seen a White Admiral since I moved up to The Grim North. When we were in Norfolk, a few summers ago, our satnav went completely loopy and repeatedly showed that we driving around in the Wash. Interestingly, it still gave us directions, though they didn’t relate in any way to where we were. Maybe satnavs and East Anglia just don’t mix?

  5. derrickjknight

    Ruddy Darter and Silver-washed fritillary bigify well. The first time we used a satnav to take us from Downton to Mapperley we realised, somewhat belatedly that it was taking us to my previous London flat. That was the last time we used a satnav.

  6. jfwknifton

    I think you might have been a bit late in the year for Swallowtails. If you want especially to see them, it’s worth using Google and you will turn up blogs and forums where people will give up to date news. This one is bit old, but it’s a good example of what I mean. It has a lot of links to places to get information, but always check the date:
    Perhaps the best is:

    1. quercuscommunity

      Thanks John – useful info. There were a few about according to the sightings board but the general view was that they were winding down. We might have to plan a holiday around the butterflies next time, rather than booking a few days and looking for things to see. 🙂

    1. quercuscommunity

      I was beginning to think I had made it up when I couldn’t find any reference to it. Then I realised I was spelling it with a e where there should be an a. 🙂


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