I have always loved Norfolk from an early teenager staying at Hemsby in my friends parents Static caravan, and fishing the broads for Tench and Bream, it seems crazy now but at Martham we as 14yr olds could hire a rowing boat for the day without escort (adults) and no life jackets. for as little as 25p for the whole day.
My Piking trips from 2006 to 2010 were mainly done from a boatyard in Brundall. I would tow my boat all the way and stay B/B overnight and once with a mate we hired a riverside chalet for a long w/e.
Anyway's this week my wife and I had a jaunt to Great Yarmouth where we stayed in a hotel and journeyed out to several NNRs. It was decided that on the way we would visit Upton Fen, so as to not waste a whole day travelling to the Hotel. This site is controlled by
THE NORFOLK WILDLIFE TRUST, I have not visited Upton Fen before so the priority was a good look about. Its was mid afternoon by the time we arrived the car park is quite small which was pleasant enough and not full. Placing a couple of quid in the fund box and through the gate to be met by some high flying Norfolk hawkers. there were a few ponds around and I was very please to see my first target species the VARIABLE DAMSELFLY. I managed a few shots and walked around the site it was very tidy and very pleased with FSCs and BBCs all over but I was dissapointed with no Swallowtail sightings, One of my target species was the variable damselfly, I therefore hunted around and soon found some to photograph, job done! I decided a revisit at some time was a neccessity.
below is the Variable damselfly
Day two, we decided to visit Strumpshaw fen, we had previously visited this site (RSPB) in 2014 on that occasion we were lucky with dragons, but after extensive searches we could not get near the Swallowtail Butterfly. However this trip was to be the reverse. We were informed in the car park that a favourite part of the site, namely the doctors house was out of bounds, unfortunately the doctor had died. Therefore as sign of respect all visitors were requested to stay away. Luckily as we entered the site just after crossing the railway lines and before reception we noticed a crowd around a flower bed all observing at close quarters a swallowtail Butterfly. Normally on these occasions I would give these situations a wide birth but after the failure of the 2014 trip with this species I jumped right in with both feet.
Swallowtail on flower bed
Having filled my boots with the swallowtail. I then moved on trying for some dragons down by the fen there were plenty to see but to difficult to photo. We had our picnic and moved on walking through a deserted wooded area we came upon an opening and there before me was another Swallowtail this time on a nettle. I could not believe that I had this swallowtail all to my self! Heaven!
In the late afternoon we went back to Upton Fen for a quick look around the small ponds near the entrance Speaking to other visitors no swallowtails here yet. so With time getting on I stayed at the ponds taking more shots of Variables and Dragons. I then noticed another Swallowtail come into the area and was defending his territory. so i took advantage of this. the in flight shots were poor but i managed to get him on a Thistle>
Day three the today we embarked on a trip to Hickling broad on arrival we went to reception this is another site managed by NWT. This is an expensive site in my eyes £4.50p each to enter and what did not help shortly after arrival the sky was to cloud over and it tuned rather chilly Admittedly this was the afternoon. We had spent the morning in Great Yarmouth to check out the shops and market day (boring) but we both were on a break and the wifes tastes must be catered for, after all she had followed me around thus far. Right back at Hickling fen We walked around for about an hour or so I managed to see my first of the year Black Tailed Skimmers along with plenty of FSCs Until it started to get overcast, we returned to reception to the garden area and had tea and sandwiches. The wife was cold so took refuge in the car to read. whilst I continued on my own and made my way back onto the fen. the wind had got up to a a fair breeze by now and was chilly I managed to observe several Marsh harriers a couple of spoonbills did a few circuits but all were out of camera range After another Hour I went back to the car and we called it a day. next morning we were due home.
I visited Bramshill today this site is fantastic even amid dark clouds occasional rain and sunshine there is always something to see. My main Aim was to try out a polariser that I bought secondhand from Wex It is the Hoya HD Low light model Usually retailing around the Hundred pounds or so range when new I picked it up for £44 and also a 72mm to 77mm step up ring making sure the total came to over £50 to qualify for free postage. By the way there service is great and no I have any allegence to them. I do normally always buy new but this was a bit of a test and gamble on wether my idea would work. Photographing Odonata is fascinating, but I have found occasionally that due to the dragons being near water that I have had some lovely shots that are ruined by water reflections and or specular highlights, due to the time of day with the sun overhead etc, although most can be removed in post processing its hard work and sometimes I just scrap the image after all my work. Maybe I am getting to fussy? I will report back on my findings. speaking of which On my previous post ( MAY ) I mention the Olympus Em1 in combination with the tamron 180MM macro and pixel peaking The problem has now been fixed and must admit to user error! I was accidentily pressing the the movie button instead of the focus peaking which I had assigned to FN2 these two buttons are on top of the camera so whilst looking through the EVF I was hitting the wrong button DOH . Lets get back to bramshill I observed my first Black Tailed Skimmer for this sight today along with the Emerald Damselfly. Also I had great views of both male and female Emporers the latter was ovidepositing.
The top two images of the Emporer female ovidepositing are typical of the problems of specular light these are very small bright light that occur are all over the pond the top image is what I was hoping for. with the middle image especially on the seed head which the subject is standing on, was a near success as I still needed to work on the seed head. I could of got lower to take a shot at ground/water level but the bankside reeds and foliage prevented an uniterupted view. work still in progress.
The weather has been rather dull lately, seemingly to get better as late afternoon early evening is upon us. I had waited for a few days for the weather to improve but decided to go anyway! the venue had been decided and the subject was SCARCE CHASER ( Libellula fulva) this is as the name suggests scarce! There are very few sites for this Dragon, with information recieved from Paul of HAMPSHIRE DRAGONFLIES we were off.
On arrival the usual clouds were loitering with intent, and I was concerned that we might not see any SCARCE CHASER ( Libellula fulva) at all. To my surprise as soon as I entered through the gate with tall umbellifiers all around I sighted my first SCARCE CHASER ( Libellula fulva). A female immature and very fresh dragonfly. Although it was very overcast the only way to observe and get some images was to flush through the bushes just waving your arms as in a demented person then wait for them to land due to the conditions they never flew more than a few yards. Try as I may I could not get a male to photograph a revisit is on the cards.
It was to be a short trip with the wife, we were going on to Bournemouth for fish and chips and an icecream along the promafterwards. Yes I know its to be frowned on these days with health etc but I dont believe it hurts once in a while.
WHIXALL MOSS (Shropshire)
Whixall Moss in Shropshire is well known amongst the Dragonfly community, being one of the small amount of sites for the rare WHITE FACED DARTER (Leucorrhinia dubia). I was quite fortunate in that I was going to visit this site in early July, however my son lee had recently purchased a brand new camper-van and was eager to get dad to try it out. This was very convenient and to good an opportunity to turn down! therefore a plan was hatched to go on the Friday night and return sometime Sunday.
I booked a small and very close campsite and made arrangements that we would be arriving late on the Friday
evening. The traffic on the Friday evening about 7.30pm was hell at the junction 9 on the M40. we had 6 miles of tailbacks down the A34 and must of lost 45mins of our 175 mile trip. The m40 was very busy for the first 5 miles but to our surprise we flew round Birminham. Arrival time at the campsite was 11.15pm.
Saturday morning we arrived on site to an overcast and quite breezy morning, with the occasional shower so we made the most of what was presented to us by walking around this vast site to search out the area that was sign posted. There are numerous small ponds? puddles of bogs including an area named on a post as raft spiders. we did a long circular tour returning by way of the Shropshire langollan canal towpath where I saw our first dragon alight and off into the distance it was a Brown Hawker and my first sighting of one this season. getting back to the car park and a well received sit down rest and a cuppa! We then moved the camper nearer to the section of bog we wanted ready for a shorter walk.
The afternoon turned much better with more open skies and a real rise in temperature. with a much shorter walk to the site we stayed round the the marked (sign posted Area) try as we may we saw lots of four spotted and freshly emerged Black darters but no white faced darters. we returned to the van for another cuppa. and rest at about 5.30pm very disapointed. two others returned to their cars that we had met earlier on the site and a conversation was had. To my surprise they had found them at the raft spider area that we had visited in the morning. with no more ado we went back to the raft spider area but the White faced darter had retired for the day. having now gone on site three times we were KN------ed. We then retired for the day defeated.
Sunday morning we hatched a plan if it rained we would go home via Stafford and a campervan show or we would try again for this elusive White Faced Darter. Luckily although overcast it had the promise of a few blue patches of blue. Lee at this time was more optomistic than I. we knew where to go and duly arrived as a blue patch opened up and the sun shone. The White Faced Darter was there at Last. We then filled our memory cards. Although the Darters were not perching on our bank of the bog, but opposite about 15ft away I was quite fortunate to get an obliging pair in the cartwheel position and sights of the female ovidepositing we left fulfilled and the journey home was kind to us as we left at about 1.pm PS MORE IMAGES ON THE WEBSITE