Wednesday, 22 April 2015

April 22nd Strumpshaw Fen

Lords and Ladies
A walk to Strumpshaw from the train station in Brundall provided me with one of my favourite spring flowers. On either side of a bridge that I had to walk under were several lords and ladies plants (also known as cuckoo pint as well as a host of many other names for it) in full flower. They may not be the most vibrant or colourful of flowers but quite fascinating nevertheless. First to appear are those arrow-shaped leaves and now, for a couple of weeks, a lily-like petal has unfolded to form a sort of cloak for a brown spike called a spadix. The spadix acts as a lure for small insects and attracts them by heat and smells like something rotten. The insects crawl down the spadix and gets trapped from escaping by hairs (like a one way system), forcing them to pollinate the plant further down inside. Eventually the hairs wither and the insects are free again. Quite an ingenious trick just to get pollinated, what's not to like.

Once I got to the reserve, I went for a walk into the woods to see if the bluebells are fully out yet. Nearly was the answer. The woodland floor was mostly green with bluebell leaves with a few blue flowers poking out. It was still better than last week though. It looked like a patchy carpet at the moment. Hopefully, next week will have a complete carpet of blue.

The Bluebell display so far
Chinese Water Deer
As I continued the walk along the river, I noticed a Chinese water deer grazing in the meadow field close to my right. It didn't seemed oblivious of my presence, so I watched it for a little while, getting a few shots with my camera. It was the third deer I have seen during this morning's walk with another Chinese water deer and a roe deer in the woods fleeing from me (I had no idea they were there until it was too late).

Pheasants having a dispute
Grey Squirrel having breakfast
Ash tree flowers
Pigeon courtship
Common Lizard
Walking down Sandy Wall (the path that takes you down to the river and Fen Hide), I tend to keep one eye on the path's wooden border as all sorts of things tend to use it to warm up on. Top of the list of users are lizards. By walking slowly, I often get one or two basking themselves without a care. Today, I only found the one. Lizards, like all reptiles, are cold blooded and need the sun to heat them up to get them active. It seems lizards got to solar power before we did!


Reception Hide was a chilly place to sit in today. I think it being overcast didn't help. My hands got really cold. I wished I had brought more than just a fleece (some gloves would have been useful). Oh well! At least I had marsh harriers to watch. Two Cetti's warblers were calling close on either side of the hide. They kept making me look in their directions whenever one of them shouted, thinking they were JUST there somewhere, tantalizingly close. A coot was busy building a nest, fetching large strands of reed to it's partner sitting on the nest in the reed island in front of the hide. Pochards, greylags, Canada geese, swallows, house martins, swans and lots of black-headed gulls were also present this morning.

Nest material delivery!
"Here you go, love!"
Marsh Harrier
Marsh Marigold
Despite all this, however, it was quite tiring. Boredom and the cold was setting in. And before I wished time was up after just finishing lunch, my colleague called out one thing that instantly grabs your attention. "Otter!" In front of the group of reedy islands, a hump of an otter vanishes underwater, reappearing a second later. All eyes followed it as it moved to the centre of the broad, one moment above the surface, one moment under it as it continued it's urge to hunt. I don't know what it is about otters, as soon as your bored, one pops up from nowhere without any sign to where it came from, just to cause a commotion. The excitment lasted for a few minutes, until it vanishes down the left channel. A few moments later, though, it came back only to go up the far left channel this time. That wasn't all. A second otter joined it, again from nowhere, and disappeared together down the channel.

Peregrine having a scratch
Back at Norwich, one of the peregrines was preening itself near the top of the cathedral's spire. The latest news is that last week an intruder appeared. This was a peregrine from Bath (it was ringed) and was chased off eventually by the nesting pair. There was also news that one of the peregrines that had fledged here in Norwich has started a family of it's own over at Newcastle.


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