A month or so before this trip there was a real possibility of having to cancel it due to few members booking. This would have been a shame but numbers picked up and 36 people got to enjoy Hickling Broad, the largest of the Norfolk Broads. North of Great Yarmouth the reserve is based on the Upper Thurne river system and is managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
The weather was dry, fairly overcast but with brief sunny intervals though very blustery which wasn't so good for insect observations.
As is typicalof most East Anglian wetlands these days Marsh Harriers were omnipresent and much enjoyed as they hunted over the marshes. At one point a Red Kite was flying with two of theMarsh Harriers. Hobbies were seen several times, usually hurtling past at great speed, ignoring Swifts but chasing insects. Other raptors seen were a Sparrowhawk carrying a small bird in its talons, Buzzard, Kestrel and a few saw a Peregrine.
Reed Buntings and Reed Warblers were often heard singing from the reedbeds while a few of us had brief sightings of Bearded Tits. As we looked into the distance to the broad where there were boats we saw a large flock of Mute Swans and Greylag, some Common Terns fishing and also Avocets flying up. After lunch Jenny and her friend enjoyed one of the organised boat rtrips which they found relaxing.
Around the muddy margins of many of the pools were the very distinctive yellow appropriately named flowers of Buttonweed. This neophyte hails originally from South Africa and was dominant in the margins.
Entering the first hide I saw my first Swallowtail of the trip as it flew low over the reed tops. Hardly a great view but at least it was one, having failed to see them on our last trip to Strumpshaw Fen. As we left the hide other members had located one along the boardwalk in front of us as it nectared on a small yellow crucifer. This gave excellent views and then another individual was settled on a Yellow Iris a little further away. A brief chase then ensued between them. Despite ther strong winds it turned into a good day for seeing Swallowtails with maybe ten or so sighted. Marsh Thistles was another favourite nectar plant and some good photogrphs were taken by some members.
A few people also saw Painted Ladies by the thistles on a day when there was quite an influx into the country with good numbers passing through Portland and many sites on London Birders reporting them. Red Admiral and the declining Wall were also noted.
In the shelter of marginal vegetation quite a few Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies were seen in the pools and just a solitary Large Red Damselfly. Dragonflies were largely represented by abundant Four-spotted Chasers though Broad-bodied Chaser and Black-tailed Skimmer were about in small numbers.
As we walked around the path Joan was convinced there was a distant Lion sitting under a tree! Given this was Norfolk and not the Serengeti I wasn't convinced. It was certainly a large mammal but eventually revealed its true identity as a horse. Konik Ponies and other types of horse were being used for grazing on the reserve. A single Chinese Water Deer was seen by most of the group.
A plant I don't see too often was quite dominant in a couple of places - Climbing Corydalis. More surprising was a single Corn Marigold in full flower by a gate. I'm not sure where this came from as there were no cornfield mixes seen nearby.
Close to a gate a pair of Red-legged Partridges showed well while on the other side of the road was a pair of Oystercatchers in a cultivated field. A lucky few managed to see a pair of Cranes with a chick. Little Egrets were plentiful here as in many places these days.
Hickling Broad is a magical place with lots to offer a naturalist so maybe join us on the next trip here. Everybody had an enjoyable day out.