Horsey Butterfly Walk by the Broadland Local Group

Blog post by Jerry Simpson on 26 Aug, 2021
Norfolk Wildlife Trust's local groups are beginning to meet again and our Broadland Local Group recently got together to explore the butterfly population of Horsey Gap. The group's chairman, Jerry Simpson, reveals all on how the group got on.

On Saturday 31 July, the Broadland Group held our first event since March 2020 and it was lovely to welcome ten visitors to Horsey Gap for our butterfly walk, led by Andy Beaumont and Jerry Simpson.

Our target species was dark green fritillary and we spent a few minutes refreshing our memories of this species before heading off along the track behind the dunes heading towards Winterton. The weather was dry, albeit a little cool to start with, but bursts of sunshine came through and before long we spotted our first butterfly species of the day as gatekeeper, small copper, ringlet and meadow brown were all recorded, as well as cinnabar caterpillars on the ragwort.

Soldierfly by Jerry Simpson

Soldierfly by Jerry Simpson

Pam Taylor was keeping an eye out for dragonflies and Norfolk hawker and emperor were spotted as we went along. Before long we had added large white, small white and six spotted burnet moths to our list before a single painted lady put in an appearance. Good views of linnet, green woodpecker and stonechat were enjoyed, as well as clumps of pink coloured centaury and ragged robin. Small skippers and red admiral were added to the butterfly list, whilst Pam added migrant hawker and ruddy darter to our dragonflies. Andy spotted a species of soldierfly feeding on the hogweed later identified as an aquatic species called stratiomys singularior.

Still no sign of fritillaries apart from a few distant possibles but as we reached the part of the dunes where there are stands of yellow hawkweed, we managed to catch up with our target species. A pristine female was netted and put in a pot for all to see at close quarters, noting the patches of green colouration on the undersides of the wing from which it gets its name.

By then we had reached the steps to the seal platforms so a few of us climbed to the top of the dunes and enjoyed views of seals, mostly swimming in the sea. Sandwich terns were flying past and a small group of sanderling, still sporting most of their summer plumage, were seen feeding on the waters edge.

Soldierfly by Jerry Simpson

Forester moth by Jerry Simpson

As we set off back towards Horsey we had more excellent views of dark green fritillaries feeding on marsh thistles before adding brown argus and peacock to our species list. Another day flying moth, the bright green coloured forester, was admired feeding on ragwort and a black-tailed skimmer was added to our dragonfly list.

A group of red deer stags complete with antlers were seen on the grazing marshes before we recorded our final two butterfly species, small heath and purple hairstreak, just before the car park. The latter species was a first for this walk and is normally found on the tops of oak trees so was a surprise find, although there are a few stunted oaks near that area.

Fourteen species of butterflies recorded was a good return and good views of our target species were achieved.

Our local groups provide a fantastic opportunity to get involved with Norfolk's wildlife and conservation, explore your local area and meet new people. We have eight active local members groups which are closely involved in wildlife issues in their area and which meet informally throughout the year for talks, walks and social occasions. Find out more about the groups and how to join here.

Header image: Dark green fritillary by Jackie Dent
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