Normal For Norfolk

There are some creatures that really don’t care. They’re not fussed what they eat and they’ll call pretty much anywhere home.

Crow Crows: not bothered

Rats are similar. They just get on with it and they’re massively successful. Here, there and everywhere.

Around continental Europe there are a couple of intriguing species that do fairly well because they’re not very particular about their habitat. Green-eyed hawker dragonflies and Swallowtail butterflies are both quite numerous and widespread. “What’s that?” you say, “a Swallowtail? Aren’t they really rare?” Well, yes, in Britain they’re only found in Norfolk and then only in tiny pockets, thanks to their pernickity insistence on Milk parsley. Happily, RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, my favourite local reserve, has just the ingredients to satisfy fusspot Swallowtails and today I finally saw one for the first time in the wild. They are very beautiful.

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This one had literally just emerged and was sitting in the sunshine drying its wings, so the markings were super fresh. Once on the wing, they flap about resembling small birds and are rather tricky to photograph, so big thanks to that one for holding still.

The Green-eyed hawker, rather like the Swallowtail, is so much of a diva with its demands in Britain that it too is only found in a few select locations. We don’t even call it the Green-eyed hawker – in Britain it’s known as the Norfolk hawker. It has an obsession with the Water soldier plant (again, highly localised). It does have tremendously green eyes though.

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It has a special pattern of flight in which it hovers perfectly still for about 1/1000th of a second less than the amount of time it takes to focus a camera, before shooting out of frame and reappearing somewhere either slightly closer or slightly further away. Getting a picture requires patience, forward planning and lots of luck. Just occasionally, it stops and perches on vegetation, which makes things easier. They are wonderful things to just watch though. Those eyes are so big they seem to encompass everything and the body is a lovely warm shade of gingery-brown. There were three or four flitting about above a dyke at Strumpshaw and I could have watched them all day had there not been other things demanding my attention.

So, two special creatures that we can pretty much call our own in Norfolk, even though really they’re just silly versions of boringly commonplace continental species. No, not silly. Just “Normal for Norfolk”.

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