A Summer of British Wildlife

A Summer of British Wildlife

Where: Suffolk
Targets: You could see ant-lions, hummingbird hawkmoths, bee-wolf, painted ladies, and wood sandpipers
Child-friendliness: 5 (very child-friendly)
Flexibility: Ant-lions can be seen from June to July for larvae and July to August for adults, and hummingbird hawkmoths are seen from June to August

Lions have long been part of British life and national identity. Cave lions once prowled Britain, King Henry II’s coat of arms featured a lion, and motifs of lions feature prominently among British sporting insignia.

Today, however, is about a rather different lion. Seeing an ant-lion arguably represents the apex of insect-watching. Granted, adults are benign-looking creatures, resembling slender damselflies. The larva, however, is a beast unto its own: a formidable, scary-looking predatory insect that sets a deadly trap to sate its voracious appetite.

They were only discovered here in the mid-1990s at the RSPB’s flagship reserve of Minsmere. Amazingly, the best place to see them is typically at the foot of the visitor centre wall. Look for small conical depressions in the ground, as if grains of sand were being sucked into a central vortex.

Flowering buddleia bushes between the visitor centre and north bushes seduce a paroxysm of butterflies. Red admirals, peacocks and small tortoiseshells abound; a painted lady graces you with her presence. Out of nowhere, a hummingbird hawkmoth zips in, hovering frenetically as it laps nectar with a preposterously long tongue.

Locations: Ant-lions only on adjacent Dunwich Heath. Painted ladies and hummingbird hawkmoths potentially anywhere.

Make it a weekend: Spend another full day around Minsmere. Look for otter and bittern from Island Mere hide and stone-curlew from North Wall. Wander around Dunwich Heath for Dartford warbler and woodlark.

A Summer of British Wildlife by James Lowen, published by Bradt Travel Guides, is available to buy at www.bradtguides.com, RRP £15.99.

LandLove readers can save 25 per cent off of A Summer of British Wildlife. To redeem, simply visit www.bradtguides.com, quoting ‘LANDLOVE’ at the checkout. Offer expires 31st August 2016.

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