Norfolk hawkers at Thorpe Marshes

Blog post by Chris Durdin on 26 Jun, 2018
Naturalists who know the Broads all know that there are two large and distinctive insects that are special to the area. Swallowtail butterflies and Norfolk hawker dragonflies are the two species I have in mind. Both can be seen at several famous nature reserves: at Hickling, Upton and Ranworth (all NWT) and RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, among others.
 
So what about at my local patch of NWT Thorpe Marshes on the edge of Norwich? Here, with no milk parsley present – the main larval food plant of swallowtails in the Broads – the butterflies are also absent. Norfolk hawkers, on the other hand, are common and easy to see.
 
Norfolk hawker, by Chris Durdin

Norfolk hawker, by Chris Durdin

I’d go further – there is no easier place to see a Norfolk hawker than NWT Thorpe Marshes. There, I’ve said it now. Would any site manager or regular visitor to other wetlands in the Broads like to challenge this?
 
This assertion is based on regular experience of seeing – and showing people – Norfolk hawkers, backed up by actual counts. Seeing them is easy: in many places the path is right next to ditches dense with the distinctive form of water soldiers, a plant strongly linked to the distribution of Norfolk hawkers. On these we can play ‘hunt the exuvia’ – searching for the shed larval skin of a dragonfly left gripping the plant after the adult insect has emerged.
Norfolk hawker, by Chris Durdin

Norfolk hawker exuvia, by Chris Durdin


 

Three NWT Thorpe Marshes volunteers do regular counts of Norfolk hawkers. It’s not a complete count, rather numbers seen on a transect, a regular route. That route is straightforward here as it simply follows the regular path around the nature reserve.
 
There is a little gentle competition: who’ll be the first to count 50 Norfolk hawkers? That’s usually around the end of June or early July. That’s been blown away by Derek Longe’s count of 73 at Thorpe on 20 June.
 
What we see routinely is that every short stretch of ditch has a patrolling a Norfolk hawker or two, flying to and fro on its patch. A brown dragonfly in June is always Norfolk hawker. A glimpse of green eyes confirms the ID. In July it’s less clear cut once brown hawkers are on the wing. Brown hawkers tend to fly higher, though, and their amber-coloured wings are distinctive.
 
Iconic is an overused word, though as Norfolk hawkers are the emblem of the Broads Authority that word seems fair on this occasion. So for a close encounter with the iconic Norfolk hawker, do come and visit Thorpe Marshes.

Chris Durdin is an NWT volunteer and leads monthly wildlife walks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. Details of monthly walks can be found here.
Share this

Latest Blog Posts

Search for the emperor Search for the emperor
by Barry Madden on 07 Jul, 2020
Corncrake at Thorpe Marshes Corncrake at Thorpe Marshes
by Chris Durdin on 29 Jun, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes – June Norwich Nature Notes – June
by Roger and Jenny Jones and Jon Shutes on 23 Jun, 2020
Blyth's reed warbler Blyth's reed warbler
by NWT on 12 Jun, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes – May Norwich Nature Notes – May
by Roger and Jenny Jones on 21 May, 2020
Thorpe Marshes: A refuge in lockdown Thorpe Marshes: A refuge in...
by Chris Durdin on 06 May, 2020
Random Acts of Wildness Random Acts of Wildness
by Helen Baczkowska on 04 May, 2020
Deciphering the dawn chorus Deciphering the dawn chorus
by Nick Acheson on 30 Apr, 2020
Norwich Nature Notes Norwich Nature Notes
by Roger and Jenny Jones on 21 Apr, 2020
Incredible insects Incredible insects
by Tom Hibbert on 08 Apr, 2020
Working from home Working from home
by Helen Baczkowska on 23 Mar, 2020
Crafty Creations Crafty Creations
by Maya Riches (guest author) on 05 Mar, 2020
Signs of spring at Thorpe Marshes Signs of spring at Thorpe M...
by Chris Durdin on 27 Feb, 2020
Notes from the Wild Notes from the Wild
by Nick Morritt on 14 Feb, 2020
Volunteering at the Raptor Roost Volunteering at the Raptor ...
by Maya Riches on 11 Feb, 2020
Identifying dabbling ducks Identifying dabbling ducks
by The Wildlife Trusts on 29 Jan, 2020
Three swans a-swimming … on the path! Three swans a-swimming … on...
by Chris Durdin on 17 Dec, 2019
Rewilding Norfolk: Wild thinking and wild ideas (Part 3) Rewilding Norfolk: Wild thi...
by David North on 07 Dec, 2019
Rewilding Norfolk: Wild thinking and wild ideas (Part 2) Rewilding Norfolk: Wild thi...
by David North on 30 Nov, 2019
A wet day in November A wet day in November
by Chris Durdin on 29 Nov, 2019
Rewilding Norfolk: Wild thinking and wild ideas Rewilding Norfolk: Wild thi...
by David North on 23 Nov, 2019
A season of engagement at NWT A season of engagement at NWT
by Georgie Lake on 12 Nov, 2019
25 years of support 25 years of support
by Ellen Kinsley  on 09 Nov, 2019
What tangled webs we weave What tangled webs we weave
by Robert Morgan on 31 Oct, 2019