After an absolutely awful day of wind and lashing rain that kept us firmly ensconced in our caravan, today’s forecast suggested 20°C accompanied by a good amount of sunshine. Well, after a pathetic spring like this, we’d take anything we could get. We would, however, have too be very careful about the ground which was already waterlogged even before yesterday’s biblical drenching.
One of the nicer wildlife havens in this neck of the woods is How Hill NNR, which we chose to head for. With spring being this late, there were only likely to be two species in evidence but after a desperately boring English winter, that was worth a go.
We managed to negotiate the single track approach road and were stunned by the amount of cars in the car park. We’ve never seen it this full. All the stir-crazy folk in Norfolk were out on an isolated sunny Sunday. Who could blame them? Mercifully, they all seemed to be picnicking on the grass rather than invading the wildlife reserve which you must pay to enter. We happily paid our fee in Toad Hole and left all others behind – just us and the critters. Well, us, the critters and a salted caramel ice cream for Francine.
No more than 10m inside the gate we saw our first customers and our second species of the season: Variable Damselflies (Coenagrion pulchellum). They weren’t cooperating well but it was great to see them, especially as they are as rare as rocking horse shit back home. Later on our circuit we did find a more cooperative female [don’t say it – I won’t if you won’t].
Our Wellington boots served us well as we squelched our way around parts of the reserve. This place can be boggy at the best of times and these were definitely not the best of times. Half way around we hit the motherlode of Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). Among a series of record shots, one of these was clearly a damselfly with a sense of theatre and struck for me a wonderful pose. Such things happen rarely but they are a joy when they do.
Nothing more of note happened until we returned to our car in the crowded car park. As we were changing back into comfortable foot wear from wellies, Francine announced that she had picked up a hitchhiker. ‘T was a beetle and a new one to us at that. I had, of course, packed away my cameras but this was worth getting them out again, wearing one wellie and one shoe. This chap (or chappess) rejoices in the name of Oiceoptoma thoracicum, a.k.a. Red-breasted Carrion Beetle. It apparently likes dung and carcasses so quite why Francine’s jeans appealed, I know not.
What a relief today was after the week we seem to have suffered. We even managed to barbecue some more of our local butcher’s well hung sirloin steak and, of course, some more of their excellent sausages.