Butterflies in March
The first fine days of March herald the emergence from hibernation of our early butterflies. With them comes the joy at seeing these winged harbingers of spring. Although any of five common species may be expected throughout the county, there are a few places where, on a warm March afternoon, they can all be seen quite easily. One of these is Holkham Meals where Peacock, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone are sure to be found along the main track leading west from the north end of Lady Anne’s Drive. The Comma is particularly common here. The older entomological authorities were dubious about the ability of the Red Admiral to survive our winters, but it appears that the ongoing changes to our climate offer more possibilities for it doing so.
Certainly at the Norfolk Ornithologists’ reserve at Holme Dunes, it has been recorded in every month of the year and has now become a regular sight alongside the aforementioned species at Holkham Meals. In some years, Painted Lady butterflies arrive during March. A search of the sallow blossoms at Holkham may result in seeing this welcome migrant from Africa and the Middle East.
Dragonflies and damselflies in June
The Four-spotted Chaser may be seen flying during May, but mostly in this month. Some of the most reliable sites to see this handsome, widely distributed, species are Sculthorpe Moor, Holkham Meals, Lenwade Lake, Thompson Common, Thompson Water, Strumpshaw Fen, Hickling Broad and Upton Fen. Its flight period extends to the end of July.
Orchids in June
The Early Marsh Orchid flowers throughout June, but timing of visits is critical as it blooms during different periods according to the site. At Overstrand Cliffs the plants are in full bloom during the third week of the month, and here it is represented by the beautiful deep red subspecies coccinea. At Whitwell Common and Holme Dunes it flowers a little earlier and is best seen during the first two weeks of the month. At Whitwell Common it is represented by the delicate ‘typical’ pale pink subspecies incarnata. At Holme, specimens of both subspecies are present. Great care must be taken when visiting Overstrand as the slumped clay cliffs can be treacherous – especially when wet.
Birds in August
After the summer lull, interest in birdwatching heads towards the excitements of the autumn migration. Shearwaters begin to appear off the coast, the wader passage is well under way and the first rare autumn warblers await the fortunate birder.
Cley Marshes National Nature Reserve is arguably one of the most famous birdwatching venues in the UK. There can be very few serious birders that have not visited the site. Over 360 bird species have been recorded in what is known as the ‘Cley Square’ (the OS 10km square TG04 that contains this reserve and Blakeney Point) and the list includes many rarities such as Pacific Swift, Baird’s and Terek Sandpiper, and Great Reed Warbler. There is surely something of interest to see at Cley at any time of the year. In early spring during light to moderate southwesterly winds, passage migrants such as Whinchat and Wheatear can be seen. Breeding summer resident birds include Marsh Harrier, Bearded Tit and Avocet. The shingle sea defence bank is an excellent place for the Grayling butterfly. The late summer and autumn usually allows fascinating sea watching during strong northerly or north-westerly winds and many passage waders can then be seen on the marshes themselves. During winter, large flocks of wildfowl such as Brent Goose, Eurasian Wigeon and Common Teal can be enjoyed. The site is owned and managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and has been used nationally as a blueprint for wildlife reserve management since its establishment in 1926.