Wednesday, 4 March 2015

March 4th Strumpshaw Fen

Despite it feeling like a blustery winters day, there was plenty of signs that spring is on the way. Not only were there snowdrops and catkins in the woods, there were a few other plants beginning to bloom. Blackthorn blossom has emerged on a few trees with a few new leaves are growing amongst these white flowers. Sometimes confused for hawthorn, blackthorn blooms in early spring, while hawthorn is in May (which is why it is also known as Mayflower). Periwinkle has also emerged with it's purple flower head poking out from the undergrowth of some shrubs.

Scarlet Elf Cup
Further into the woods, beyond the fingerpost on the left, I was looking for something nearing its season end. After a careful scan along each rotten log on the ground close to the path, I found a tiny shape, the thing I was after. It is a rarther pretty fungus called a scarlet elf cup. The top of it is bright red, while the curled up underside is a more subtle shade. They come in many sizes and where you find one, turns out to be more and more in the same area, slightly covered up by bramble and leaf litter. You can easily miss them as you walk by.

Lilly the Marsh Harrier
Marsh harriers were still skydancing. I watched them carefully. It seems Lilly the white-bellied female has paired up with a male. He is also an interesting looking marsh harrier as he is much paler than the other marsh harriers. Together, Lilly and her mate were displaying through an aerial dance throughout the morning. Every now and then, she would swing herself upside down to clasp his talons. This is a sign that they are a couple. It is a bit like holding hands. I also see talons hanging down, a threat display to other harriers. It does amaze me on how much bigger she is compared to him. He is almost a quarter smaller than her, which is normal in birds of prey. At least he is a good dancer, as he produces loop-the-loops and high dives.

As well as harriers, the local sparrowhawks and buzzards were also displaying high in the sky. The sparrowhawks, in perticular, soared in circles together close to the Reception Hide a few times.

Spring cleaning Strumpshaw style
Another thing that happens in spring is the spring clean. Now if you thought dusting your house was a chore, dusting the cobwebs from the eaves of the Reception Hide will make your duster seem puny. Ben, one of the reserve's wardens comes in with a broom and a long plastic pipe. He slides the broom down one end of the pipe and starts to sweep the ceiling. We had to watch out for things from the rafters from falling on our heads.
Finally, the feeders were very busy with hungry blue, great and marsh tits.
Blue Tit, Great Tit and Marsh Tit

Great Tit feeding under the bark

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