One of our most spectacular insects – The Swallowtail Butterfly – has been spotted by one of our Skippers, Tobi, on Hoveton Great Broad.

With a wing span of up to 93mm and a distinctive forked tail that lends it its name, the Swallowtail Butterfly is not only Britain’s largest butterfly it is also one of its rarest since it can only be found on Broadland reed beds.  This is because Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars will only eat a plant called Milk Parsley, which can only grow in the particular micro climate found in our reed beds.

Hoveton Great Broad is almost completely hidden from the river by trees and has been cut off from navigation for more than 100 years.  The wildlife sanctuary has a real wilderness feel as it can only be visited by boat – simply moor at Hoveton Great Broad Nature Trail moorings.  From there you can follow a narrow boardwalk made of railway sleepers through magical reedbeds, where the Swallowtail butterfly can be spotted, passing Carr Woodland to eventually reach two bird hides on the Broad.  This has specially designed floating nesting platforms for Common Terns, which migrate all the way from Africa to nest on them.

Another magical moment came for another of our Skippers Oli, who heard the mystical sound of Bitterns booming in reed beds on Hickling Broad recently – another favourite spot for Norfolk Broads Direct customers to visit.  These rare and illusive species which were once threatened by extinction, but are slowly recovering in numbers, make an eerie booming sound similar to blowing over a bottle top.

Along the river banks we are seeing pink flashes of colour from Dog Roses, which are great for bees.  These insects need all the help they can get these days.

Dog rose

Another fantastic sight is white water lillies – Britain’s largest native flower – along the river between Wroxham and Salhouse!  Aside from looking beautiful this is particularly important because lilies are indicator species of water quality.

The more common yellow water lily which also lines the river banks can only live in clean water and white water lilies need exceptionally good water quality.  The fact that we have both types in abundance shows just how clean our waterways are nowadays.  A great sign for all types of Broadland wildlife!

White water lilly

Yellow water lilly

Words and pictures by Oliver Franzen

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