RSPB Strumpshaw Fen was fabulous today. Last year, we spent a long time hunting for swallowtails and saw one from quite a distance. Today, there was one large, beautiful individual a stone's throw from the carpark and reception hide.
The swallowtail was close enough that I could really get a perspective of how large these butterflies actually are. Completely unphased by the number of photographers, some of whom were getting rather close to it, it stayed in the same spot for a long time. According to other visitors, it seemed to have a penchant for all things pink and red - including peoples' bags and shoe laces!
Whilst we were watching the elegant swallowtail, a shout of "otter!" went up from the reception hide. We all rushed over to be greeted with the sight of an otter bobbing its head in and out of the water. This is the first time I'd seen an otter in over a year. We were doing well - we'd been at Strumpshaw for all of 10 minutes and had already seen enough to keep us more than happy for the rest of the visit, but it didn't stop there.
Someone overheard us talking about Norfolk hawkers, another insect that we've spent a fair while looking for in the past. Every time I spot a brown hawker at Strumpshaw, I get my hopes up that I might spot those tell-tale green eyes, but never have. However, the kindly visitor who overheard us showed us to a spot where he'd seen them earlier in the day. Out of almost nowhere, a Norfolk Hawker appeared, hunting ever closer until it was nearly over our heads. It was in no mood for settling down for a photo, but very glad that we've finally seen one.
I had some doubts about our next 'big find' of the day, but I believe (thank you for your confirmations, people of twitter!) that the dragonfly below is a scarce chaser. According to my 'Britain's dragonflies' guide, this is a species which is near threatened on the red data list, but locally abundant in a few places in East Anglia.
After seeing two dragonflies which I can now 'tick' (if I had a list), we then spotted their arch nemesis, the agile and hunting hobby. We watched as it scythed through the sky, occasionally catching it's russet underside against the bright sky, over the place we'd been watching the Norfolk hawkers.
These are, of course, only a handful of the wonderful species we found at Strumpshaw, a full list can be found below:
Chinese water deer
Cetti's warbler (heard)