East Anglia Annual Excursion

Wednesday 13th - Saturday 16th June 2012
Star bird at Welney - a female Black-winged Stilt
I spent a few days camping with Mr Masters senior recently based in Norfolk at Yaxham, near East Dereham for a third year running. The weather was relatively kind, certainly better than back in Glos, with most of the rain being at night. One of the highlights was a female Black-winged Stilt at WWT Welney, where we stopped on the way. Also here my first Variable Damselfly which was a target species for the trip. The few other Odonata on the wing here included a Hairy Dragonfly. A drake Garganey was also nice and a good supporting cast included a Greenshank, Little Egrets, the ever-present Whooper Swans, Avocets, and several lively Redshanks and Lapwings.
The Black-winged Stilt was initially at Lyle Hide but was chased by two Black-headed Gulls to Friends Pool.
Immature Variable Damselfy at Welney
Avocet at Welney
Reed Bunting, Welney
Whooper Swan, Welney
On Thursday morning I headed for RSPB Lakenheath Fen for a very early start. A male Golden Oriole sang intermittently and I got a brief glimpse as it flew through the westernmost Poplar stand. Two Bitterns were booming and I got nice views of Bearded Tits and up to eight Marsh Harriers. Two Hobbies were noted, and a Roe Deer. Courting Cuckoos, around six in all, provided additional entertainment.
Mistle Thrush, Yaxham
After breakfast we headed for the Broads. The first port of call was How Hill. I saw only one Swallowtail here, which made a brief sortie across the River Ant before flying back to the other side. The main attraction for Swallowtails at this site is Marsh Thistle, which was only just coming into flower after the unusually cool start to the month. A single Norfolk Hawker was seen.
Swallowtail nectaring on Yellow Flag, Hickling Broad
At NWT Hickling Broad later, the weather had warmed up sufficiently to produce a wider range of insect life. Five Swallowtails were dashing amongst the reeds seeking out Yellow Flag for nectar. The individuals I saw all appeared very fresh, and restless, hence not a brilliant photo (I also fumbled the camera on the one occasion I had a clear view of one next to the boardwalk and it ended up on the wrong setting!). I noted the fresh green growth of Milk Parsley, the Swallowtail's larval food-plant, which won't be in flower until July. A single Norfolk Hawker was also here and other Odonata included two Four-spotted Chasers, c8 Black-tailed Skimmers, an Emperor, and several Azure Damselflies. Bird interest included two Marsh Harriers.
Milk Parsley, Hickling Broad
Black-tailed Skimmer, Hickling Broad
Little Gull, Titchwell
Meditarranean Gull, Titchwell
On Friday, we arrived late morning at RSPB Titchwell Marsh after an unsuccessful stint earlier near Great Ryburgh (no longer an official watch-point according to a local I met) hoping for Honey Buzzards. At Titchwell, birds included 22 Little Gulls, two very smart summer-plumaged adult Mediterranean Gulls, several hundred Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits, Little Ringed Plovers, and of course Avocets. Despite a strengthening southerly breeze, it was sunny after an earlier shower and the beach was the perfect place for our packed lunch with the shelter of the dunes behind us. Lunch hour produced several fishing Little Terns, Common Terns, Sandwich Terns (plus another group of 26 along the shoreline to the west, and Gannets. A Wall Brown was on the main path on the way back to the car park.
Both adult Meds, Titchwell
Tightly-packed Knot, and Bar-tailed Godwits, Titchwell
A stop-off at Creak Abbey en-route back to camp produced two Grey Partridges, also an Oystercatcher pair on the stream. Birds around the campsite during our stay included two pairs of Mistle Thrushes, very tuneful Song Thrushes singing from early dawn, a Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker, Whitethroat and Yellowhammer.
The Windpump, Wicken Fen
We stopped off on the return journey at NT Wicken Fen for the afternoon. Although still a breezy day we we enjoyed unbroken sunshine and good Odonata photo opportunities in spots sheltered from the wind. Several pairs of Variable Damselfies were seen mating. There were good numbers of these, also Azure Damselflies and a couple of Large Red Damselflies. The only dragonflies were two Four-spotted Chasers. Orchids noted were Early Marsh, Southern Marsh, and Common Spotted. A single Brimstone was the only butterfly. Bird interest was secondary, but I noted a Cuckoo calling, and at least one Hobby.
Mating Variable Damselflies, Wicken Fen
Variable Damselfly - showing the key ID features - including broken antehumeral stripes ('fangs dripping blood') - separating it from Azure
This Variable highlights the origin of the common name - the antehumeral stripes are much more broken, and the black shape on the second abdominal segment (S2) has a much thicker 'stem' to the typical 'wine glass' shape
Azure Damselfly - complete antehumeral stripes, 'beer glass' shape on S2, and more blue on S9 near the tip of the abdomen
Four-spotted Chaser, Wicken Fen
Early Marsh Orchid, Wicken Fen
In summary, a great few days.

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