Norfolk Dragon invades Suffolk

Millennium Green came up trumps again today. Whilst on our almost daily walk, Scott Guiver (creator and writer of the blog 27butterflies) and I came across the wonderful Norfolk Hawkers patrolling the reeds.

These have got to have been the most aggressive dragonflies I have noticed the behaviour of so far. I noted that at least one of them was willing to tackle anything from moths, butterflies, damselflies and also the Four-spotted Chaser that dared to cross its path.

Norfolk Hawker - Millenium Green
Norfolk Hawker – millennium Green
Norfolk Hawker - Millenium Green
Norfolk Hawker – millennium Green

The Norfolk Hawkers with their green eyes and a yellow triangular mark on the second abdominal segment stood out and looked very different to the Chasers and the Hairy Dragonflies that we had been seeing on a regular basis throughout the last month or so.

The Four-spotted chasers didn’t want to miss out on the photo shoot and were happily sitting waiting for a piece of the action

Four-Spotted Chaser - Millenium Green
Four-Spotted Chaser – millennium Green

Dragons and Damsels

Today the sun was shinning and I only had a couple of hours spare, so I decided to have a stroll around my local patch. Its been a warm day in the twenties, with little or no wind and very little cloud cover. For me this meant one thing, Dragonflies and Damselflies. These have become my new obsession, so I set my self the challenge of looking down, instead of looking up which I invariably do on most of my walks.

Within the first 15 minute of my walk I came across this Dragonfly. This was about as far away from the Lakes as I could be without being sat in my home. I spent a while watching its activity in a woody area just behind the latest housing development. It eventually settled long enough for me to get a few photos before it vanished into the distance over field of barley.

Southern Hawker
Southern Hawker

I continued my walk to the lake, and on route I was distracted by numerous butterflies. Tortoiseshell’s in large numbers, Meadow Browns and one Large White, and there was also a Five Spotted Burnet posing nicely on a thistle. This has now got to be the most photographed day flying moth in the county.

Six spotted Burnet
Five Spotted Burnet

When arriving at the lakes I notice plenty of activity in the water, with Carp rolling on the top with lots of smaller fish jumping. There was no sign of the local Kingfishers but there were lots of Damselflies and Dragonflies. Around the lake there were plenty of Azure and Common Blue Damselfly, many of which were in the process of reproducing. I Also had the pleasure of seeing Male and Female Broad Bodied Chasers patrolling the margins. I have seen Large Reds before and there were a few today, but I also added some new species Red-eyed, Blue Tailed Damselflies to my newly created Dragonfly and Damselfly list.

I also had the pleasure of the elegant Banded Demoiselle which are stunning when seen in the right light, the colours are truly amazing.

Banded Damioselle
Banded Damioselle

On the walk back I stumbled across a small patch of long grass in and amongst the nettles which had several Essex Skippers, which kept me amused for several minutes. Once they stopped battling with each other and settled they were suitably snapped for possible several frames too many.

Essex Skipper
Essex Skipper

Now this is where I thought the highlights of the walk would be over, but there was one more new tick for the patch list and this was the Common Blue butterfly. This took the total butterfly count to 8, which matched the Damsel and Dragonfly count for the day as well.

Common Blue
Common Blue

When someone next says there’s nothing to do. I would suggest getting up and going for a walk. There’s plenty to see and even better its free!

Barcelona

I’m lucky enough to work in the world of conservation and in this role I get to meet some pretty inspiring people. On 5 June I was asked to visit one of the charities project partners Accionatura who are based in Barcelona. They wanted to discuss many things and one of those was an interesting project called CompensaNatura. I met the Team Francesc and Stefan who have had to cope with lots of changes in the organisation but seem to still have them motivation and drive to work on for something they really care for and believe in. I had never been to Barcelona and I can say now after a couple of days there I will certainly being going back. The architecture is quite frankly amazing. Obviously one of the big influences on the city was Gaudi and the Modernist movement. Due to the lack of time available I had to do the full on tourist bit and I took a bus tour of the city taking in many sites including the home of Barcelona FC. I was most interested in seeing the Gaudi though and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The bus went past Sagrada Familia basilica, Casa Batlló and then finally onto Park Güell where I departed.

Sagrada Familia basilica
Sagrada Familia basilica

Park Güell is a strange place. It’s very obviously unique and this is when you start to question was Guadi genius or just quite frankly crazy. I think to be honest he was a bit of both. I told that he was heavily influenced by nature and that’s why lots of his structures have an organic appearance to them. The buildings in Park Güell just don’t look real, even like gingerbread houses and the mosaics a beautiful.

Park Güell Barcelona
Park Güell Barcelona

This is when the birding started. Whilst in Park Güell I saw Barcelona’s Monk Parakeets, Hoopoe and my first life tick of trip Alpine Swifts. Once Francesc heard of my excitement he invited me to his place in the mountains that overlooked Barcelona, with the promise of several more life ticks before my flight on the Saturday morning.

View from Francesc's
View from Francesc’s

I took the early train out-of-town to where I was told to meet Francesc. I was a beautiful day, the train follows the coast which added to the journey. We then took a short drive to his place and I can say I stunned. The views were incredible and straight outside his house were more Hoopoes and at least 4 Turtle Dove calling. In his ‘garden he regularly gets Golden Oriole which I was very excited to hear. However on this morning there was no sign of them and I thought this isn’t going to go well. However within 5 minutes of being there I had another lifer, the Sardinian Warbler. Just round the corner there was a Bonelli’s Warbler calling, which we would later see (life tick number 3 of my trip). We continued our walk and came across a pair of Woodchat shrike (Tick). We then heard Crested Tits and then found them showing well in the pines in the image below (Tick). Then there was the Subalpine Warblers (Tick) and we also heard Fan Tailed Warblers calling.

Francesc's Pine trees
Francesc’s Pine trees

We watched dragonflies and damselflies by the pool that has been created as part of the filtration system. We ended our walk back at the house eating Nectarines straight from the tree in the amazing veg garden that he has on the go.

Veg patch
Veg patch

Francesc rents part of his place out to birders and with regular ringing parties going on there is certainly plenty to see. I fell in love with the place, and maybe the fact I had so many life ticks added to that but it was beautiful and he is a true gent. I say that, he did text me when I was at the airport to tell me that I had missed out on yet another Short-toed Eagle

Birthday Surprise

4 June and it’s absolutely pouring it down with rain. I was determined not to waste the day. Armed with Ginger beer, cake and a map, along with all usual optical equipment I decided to try somewhere new and headed for Thompson Common and Lake. I had heard it was good for Odonata and wanted to take a look. I had also been reading another blog that said it was a cracking area for birds as well.

On arrival I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the correct place as it’s not well signpost which made it all the more appealing. Thompson common is part of the Pingo trail which makes for an interesting landscape with many pools for wildlife to inhabit.

Once I had made it through the trees I came to the first pool which had lots of Damselflies in the tall grasses and plenty of Marsh Orchids scattered about a little way from the pools.

Southern Marsh Orchid at Thompson Common
Southern Marsh Orchid

I managed to get a photograph of a few Damselflies one being the image below. I tried to ID the species myself when I got home but had no idea as to what it was. I contacted the British Dragonfly Society and was informed that it was a Scare Emerald Damselfly which are limited to only a few areas in the UK one of which is Thompson. It is listed as rare and recognised as vulnerable by the UK and at one time thought to be extinct.

Scarce Emerald Damselfly
Scarce Emerald Damselfly

I continue my walk all the way to Thompson Lake. This took me through Thompson Covert which was just stunning. It look like a place time had forgotten.

Thompson Covert
Thompson Covert

On arrival at the lake I sat down ate some birthday cake, had a ginger beer and watched the Swan family as they went about their business. Thompson has to be one of my favourite places to visit. Also the pub in Thompson itself is pretty good as well.

Swan family at Thompson lakes
Swan family at Thompson lakes