Showing posts from June, 2015

The Boys Done Great

Our slice of Broadland, a rich mosaic of reed fen and low lying sedge beds where on the slightly higher ground lily carpeted ditches crisscross the lush grazing meadows, is proving to be a magical place to spend a couple of hours. When I say 'our' slice I mean rather the area we are lucky enough to be able to wander across looking for that most majestic of Norfolk insects the swallowtail butterfly. We, my fellow volunteer Roger and I, splattered, splodged and splashed our way through the thick reed bed a couple of weeks ago, getting hopelessly lost in the uniform, chest high luxuriantly growth to no avail. No swallowtails and perhaps more importantly no sign of the larval food plant, the delicate, quite unassuming, milk parsley. On our reconnoitre (see Willing Volunteer) we did find a few wisps of its frail feathery foliage fighting for living space, but it appeared that these plants had been out-competed by the far more vigorous Phragmites australis, or common reed to you and…

Animal Encounters

With the soft, warm breeze from a sultry June evening wafting the subtle scents of summer over us from the open window, gently rippling the curtains as it slid refreshingly into the room, we listened to the mystical sound of David Bowie's ‘Starman’ periodically fading in and out from the radio on the windowsill. And I thought I want to dress like him; David Bowie, that mystical, carrot haired alien. So I bought a pair of red boots, knee high boots, not so much red as burning bright scarlet. They looked cool when I saw them in the catalogue, and to this day I don't understand why I failed to read the printed description fully. I really should have done because they turned out not to be the soft leather heeled jobs that would normally bedeck a shapely female leg, but motorcycle boots more suited to bedecking a hairy, beleathered biker. Blazing red and Bowiesque they may have been but they were also very heavy and rather uncomfortable. Undaunted I boldly stomped around in them sm…


Do you feel connected? I don't mean technologically with iPad, smartphone, Twitter and all things digital, but naturally connected and in touch with the wild side of life? There is a whole world out there to enjoy but somehow it seems so many of us have become disconnected, to spend our lives in some sort of sensory vacuum; a bubble providing insulation and isolation from the outside. In our wi-fi driven age we have perhaps forgot to look out of the window.
The value of taking time to stand, stare and wonder cannot be underestimated I think. This happy circumstance is brought home to me every Monday when I volunteer as a welcomer at Norwich Cathedral (I know, I'm just as amazed that they let me in). Here, between April and July, we are just as likely to be asked 'which way to your peregrines' as 'which way to the presbytery'. People are galvanised to take an interest in the phenomenon of being able to witness part of the soap opera which is the Norwich peregrine…

Grumpy Old Git

What is this twitching lark all about? We’ve all heard the term and no doubt some of us have been branded as such, in which case if you’re anything like me you bite your lip, smile sweetly and through gritted teeth point out that calling me a twitcher is akin to telling me that my flies are undone; embarrassing, and making me realise why I’ve been feeling a draught for the last 2 hours.No, twitching is a disease, a serious emotional and psychological problem that in my opinion needs at least strong medication and probably a lobotomy. If I had anything to do with it ‘twitching’ – a condition where mainly single men (and women) dress in military fatigues, and loiter around a bush waiting for a small, frightened, hopelessly lost bird (which somebody else had the good fortune to find), to show itself whilst all the time wishing they were somewhere else, where someone else has had the good fortune to find another equally small, frightened, hopelessly lost bird in another bush, preferably o…

Rain Stopped Play.....Almost

The sun rose as a deep orange ball casting its welcome rays of golden light on the scene around me; dew laden spiders webs festooning every bush, the dead heads of myriad reed stems waving gently in the post dawn breeze, and…….no hang on, that’s not it! Let’s picture ourselves instead insulated in thick fleece waiting to undertake a swallowtail survey in the middle of the morning, in the middle of Broadland in the middle of June.Cold, grey, lowering cloud and a chill wind powering from the north. There would be no butterflies today; any self-respecting winged insect would be tucked away in deep cover awaiting more clement conditions. There was no option but to call the whole thing off – better luck next week perhaps. This, regrettably, has been a feature of spring with its disproportionate number of cool, cloud shrouded days. Even when the sun has poked its nose out from behind thick curtains of stratus in an attempt to warm us for a spell, it has often been thwarted by having to compe…

The Eyes Have It

It is all too easy to spend your life unknowing of the wealth of spectacularly colourful, fantastically shaped small creatures that festoon every bush, tree and shrub at this time of year. But during our summer months the countryside is alive with insects and other minature inhabitants of the undergrowth. Time spent peering into the depths will reward you with the sight of some quite fascinating and bewildering characters.
It's simply about looking. To take time to stand and stare at that clump of grass, that gnarled old tree stump, the swath of ditch side vegetation. To use your eyes, peer into the depths and see. To concentrate your senses, notice slight movements or changes in texture; the twitch of a beetles antennae, the flash of reflective light from a dragonflies wing or the stealthy movement of predatory spiders. To scrutinise every blade of grass or gently trembling leaf; seek the secret dwellers of the lush verdant growth and you will find.
I don't do this kind of thi…


It's swallowtail time! Despite the appalling weather the first brood of these classic Broadland butterflies are now on the wing. Having spent the winter as pupae secreted amongst the dense acres of last years reed chaff, these enigmatic and startlingly beautiful insects emerge in late May and early June to gracefully float around the waterlogged fens seeking nectar and a partner with whom to mate. The swallowtails we have here in Norfolk form a distinct race brittanicus whichisslightlysmallerand has subtle variations in wing pattern when compared against the continental race gorganus. However our pure-breds may soon have a real problem in that their cousins from across the English Channel seem to be getting a hold in south England and may soon move north to hybridise with our natives and therefore eradicate the form. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand there is no doubt that having something special living only in our region is a real boon to us all, enhancing the re…