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Rippingale nature columnist Ian Misselbrook discusses Norfolk bee eaters and summer wildlife

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After all the doom and gloom about our diminishing wildlife, it is my pleasure to report some of the upsides, writes Rippingale nature columnist Ian Misselbrook.

We seem to be enjoying a good summer for butterflies, moths and other insects, no doubt helped by the warm and sunny weather.

Only a decade ago the silver-washed fritillary was considered to be extinct in eastern England, but now these large and very beautiful butterflies can be found in many of the woods in our area. The nearest wood to our house is a good two miles away, so you can imagine how amazed we were, whilst enjoying breakfast alfresco last Sunday to spot a silver-washed fritillary on one of our buddleia bushes. Another first for the garden appeared just a few days later when I spotted a grass snake in one of our small ponds enjoying a feast of the remaining frog tadpoles that had not turned into froglets.

Bee eater in Norfolk. Photo: Ian Misselbrook
Bee eater in Norfolk. Photo: Ian Misselbrook

Another very welcome visitor to the garden was a hummingbird hawkmoth which I aptly identified as it hovers like a hummingbird and sips nectar from flowers via a very long proboscis.

Another butterfly that seems to be increasing in our area is the purple emperor. At one time Fineshade Wood was probably the only place that they could be found in our area but now a few individuals are turning up in a number of our deciduous woods. This is a very large butterfly and although it spends most of the time flying above the canopy, they do come down to sunlit rides and often land on dog or deer poo!

Ian Misselbrook column
Ian Misselbrook column

I suppose the flipside of these increases is that they are probably due to man induced climate change. You probably heard about the arrival of a small flock of bee-eaters in Norfolk – beautiful birds normally found in southern Europe around the Mediterranean. The authorities attribute their arrival in the UK to climate change and I wouldn’t disagree. I don’t normally regard myself as a twitcher, but I confess that I succumbed to the temptation to travel to Norfolk to see these beautiful birds. Maybe one day thy will nest in one of the quarries around Stamford!

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