As anyone who has visited Minsmere in summer will know, when you plan a "quick walk to East Hide" it usually turns something more akin to a "slow meander along the North Wall." That was certainly the case today.
I skipped quickly past the pond, with little but a quick glance at the sand martins and a scan for dragonflies - there were four-spotted chasers, azure damselflies and blue-tailed damselflies, but no Norfolk hawkers this time.
I paused briefly along Digger Alley to investigate the newly opened holes. Although I didn't find any bees or wasps there were several parasitic flies around, hinting that the season is just about ready to begin. A whitethroat serenaded me as I walked.
Once I reached the North Wall, the pace slowed considerably. First my attention was drawn to butterflies - painted ladies and meadow browns, then to a busy cluster of cinnabar moth caterpillars feeding on the soon-to-flower ragwort.
Another caterpillar was difficult to miss too, as several mature peacock butterfly caterpillars marched across the path in search of somewhere to pupate. When I say marched, they certainly moved at some speed for such a tiny creature. I may post a video to our Facebook or Twitter pages later in the week.
I was looking for one of our special moths, the day-flying six-belted clearwing. This moth is easily overlooked as it is quite small and at first glance may look like a bee or hoverfly, but once you've got your eye in they can be surprisingly easy to pick out. The trick is to walk slowly and check among the bird's-foot trefoil. The problem is that it is easy to get distracted by grasshoppers, beetles and bees. I wish I knew what they all were, or was quick enough to photograph them, especially as I saw a couple of beautiful, but tiny beetles. I think this is a seven-spot ladybird larva.
But I'm not sure what type of bee this is.
Eventually, though, I found my quarry, resting obligingly on a windblown stem.
I did, eventually, tear myself away and make it East Hide, where I enjoyed great views of kittiwakes, Mediterranean gulls, common and Sandwich terns, avocets, lapwings, redshanks, spotted redshanks and black-tailed godwits, many of which which had young. There were a couple of green sandpipers present, too.
On leaving the hide I searched for an eyed hawkmoth that been found earlier in the day by one of our volunteer's son. Luckily, he arrived just in time to re-locate this huge moth for me but I could only get photos on my phone - look out for these on Facebook and Twitter later. Whilst looking I did find some hungry sawfly larvae munching away at alder leaves - I'm guessing they might be alder sawflies, but am happy to proved wrong.
As we reached the beach we met a photographer who was trying to get a picture of one of our most attractive beetles, the wonderfully named golden-bloomed grey longhorn beetle. Believe it or not, it's scientific name is just as long! I was rather pleased with the result of my efforts.
The walk back along North Wall was not quite as slow as the outward one, but there were still more insects to attract my attention. This damselfly, in particular, caught my eye, appearing darker on the thorax than the azure and common blue damselflies that I am most familiar with. My suspicions were confirmed when Paul, our dragonfly-expert warden, identified this as a male variable damselfly, with blue exclamation mark markings on the thorax.
I was also pleased to find one of the violacaea forms of the blue-tailed damselfly, with its delicate lavender-coloured thorax. I haven't seen this form for a few years, so to get a photo was a bonus.
All in all, not a bad collection of insects for a summer afternoon stroll.
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