Introduction

Wild Time

Spring

Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries

Summer

Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties

Autumn

Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi

Winter

Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Spot our largest butterfly

Swallowtail butterfly © Chris Mills

Head to Norfolk to catch a glimpse of our largest butterfly, the rare swallowtail.

The swallowtail is certainly a beauty and well worth waiting for.

Mid-summer on the Norfolk Broads, at least on sunny days, brings swallowtails flitting over reed, sedge and fen, and wetland flowers, hemp agrimony, loosestrife, ragged robin and marsh orchid brighten the edges of secluded paths. The largest and one of the most localised butterflies in the UK, the swallowtail is certainly a beauty and well worth waiting for. Their small dark chrysalises overwinter in the reedbeds and when the temperature is right, the adults emerge and dry their wings in the safety of the vegetation before taking flight. The adult butterflies feed on all species of flowers but prefer yellow and purple ones so can often be found on red campion and yellow iris.

When mated, the females lay their eggs singly on the leaves of milk parsley and a few weeks later, the small, blackish caterpillars emerge to feed on the host plant. The large, fully formed caterpillars are impressive green beasties with bulging horns to frighten predators. If the caterpillar feels threatened, two horn-like bright orange scent glands emerge from the back of its head producing a smell, which has been likened to pineapple. The swallow-like tails of the swallowtail butterfly play an important part in the butterfly’s survival by mimicking antennae. These, plus two red and blue ‘false eyes’, confuse predators into thinking it is a two-headed butterfly.

How to do it

If you can’t get to the special places listed below…On rare occasions, migrant swallowtails arrive here from the continent, and in 2014 they were spotted hatching in Sussex. These continental arrivals prefer downland, where they lay their eggs on wild carrot. So keep your eyes peeled along the south coast, as you never know, you might spot a rare European wanderer.

Special spots

The British race of the swallowtail butterfly is now limited to the Norfolk Broads, choosing sites with a vigorous growth of milk parsley, where it lays its eggs on the tallest plants. Although a rare British insect, if you visit one of the special places where they still fly on a windless day, from late May to mid-July, then with luck you will spot one. 

Make Hickling Broad your first port of call, where marsh harriers, bearded tits and common crane could all add to your day’s highlights, or try Ranworth Broad where you could even spot a swallowtail before leaving the car park.

Norfolk, Upton Broad and Marshes

Norfolk, Alderfen Broad

Norfolk, Barton Broad

Norfolk, Cockshoot Broad

Swallowtail butterfly© Brian Francis

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