There is always a certain anticipation of what will be seen on a wildlife survey, and the recent Butterfly & Damsel and Dragonfly transect did not disappoint. Although we weren’t particularly looking for other species, as we walked through the kissing gate to the Meadow Trail, a cuckoo sat in a nearby tree.
Last year, Paxton Pits Nature Reserve was made a hotspot by the British Dragonfly and Damselfly society for being easily accessible and a having a good selection of these ancient insects. Paxton Pits was also the first place outside Norfolk to have the Norfolk Hawker dragonfly. We were wondering, whether there were going to be any, with the wet cold May. Fortunately, the sunshine in June has brought them out with abundance. A walk along the Meadow Trail saw the expected blue damselflies- common, azure, variable, red-eyed, with the banded demoiselle being seen as we became closer to water. The attached photo of a banded demoiselle is a little more unusual, as it is sitting on a buttercup! Thanks to Ann Miles for taking this and many other glorious photos. The dragonflies seem to be emerging all at the same time. If you look on the water soldier on Hayling lake, there are literally hundreds of exuvia (their dried cast-off skin from when they emerge from the under the water). This was the first area, that Norfolk hawkers were seen on the Pits. If you are unsure what a Norfolk hawker looks like, they are also called the green-eyed hawker for their striking eyes against their otherwise brown bodies.
Progress on the transect was very slow, due the quantity of large dragonflies, particularly scarce chasers, 4 spot chasers and black-tailed skimmers and no butterflies were seen until we reached the Ouse Valley Way. Then in the shaded areas we started to see speckled woods. A relief in a way, as we were unsure what damage the earlier floods had caused. As we emerged into the sunlight again, red admiral, yellow brimstone showed themselves and then on the area known as the Redlands with the short swards of vegetation, small heath and brown argus were seen.
Other sightings along the way were plenty of common spotted orchids. Although not seen on the transect, bee orchids are also doing well on the reserve this year.
An excellent, all be it, long morning was enjoyed by the group. Lunch and a cup of tea back at the visitor centre much appreciated.
Earlier this month, the breeding bird survey took place. At this time of year, identification relies a lot on bird song, as the trees are well greened up. Many birds quieten and change their song as they are breeding. However, everybody came back pleased with something they had heard or seen. There are lots of male cuckoos making their expected “cuckoo” sound with several females answering with their rich bubbling chuckle. A nightingale was heard and seen at Wash-Out Pit. With scrub being managed in the reserve for these ground nesting birds, the hope is that we will see more again of this iconic bird. You also don’t have to go far to hear some of the warblers. There has been a chiff-chaff singing in the Visitor Centre Garden this season!
As always, if you have any wildlife sightings at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve or if you would like to join us on a wildlife survey, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. No knowledge is required; just being interested in wildlife is enough!