Wednesday, 20 May 2015

May 20th Strumpshaw Fen

The wildlife at Strumpshaw are always welcoming
The news at Strumpshaw this week is that the first swallowtail was seen on Sunday. Unfortunately, the weather since then has been awful. Today is a bit iffy too, as it is cold and overcast with showers appearing later on during my shift. That means there were no swallowtails today. Maybe next week.

Common Twayblade
I saw my first orchid of the year today. Here at Strumpshaw, we keep an eye on our scarcer orchids and protect them with chicken wire cages. I have been checking on them every week since their cages were installed. One of them is the common twayblade. Since I first started volunteering here in 2011, this green orchid has always failed to flower or grow due to pests eating them. To my surprise then that I got to finally see one for the first ever time with a couple of small flowers on it. It is still in development, but hopefully next week, I will get to see it with a complete set of flowers.

The flowerbed was still full of insect activity despite of the cold weather. Blue-tailed damselflies, orange-tips, hoverflies and bees were busy pollinating or resting on the plants the staff have put out for them. The 'bee log' had many solitary bees, like red mason bees, were searching for nesting holes. I also found a small caterpillar trying to cross over to another leaf, so I gave it a hand but only for it to be blown off by a gust of wind moments later.
Blue-tailed Damselfly
The caterpillar I 'helped'

Mallard with ducklings
There was drama at the Reception Hide today. It all revolved around a family of mallards. We counted 9 very young and fluffy ducklings. They were going to find life tough this morning. It all began when their mother took them along the developing reedy edge by the hide. This took them into an angry male mallard's personal space and he chased her and the ducklings away. She tried again but was chased into the air. She disappeared for some time, leaving her babies alone and vunerable. They were clearly wondering where their mother was and they searched for her. As they explored the edges of the reedbeds, calling in hope of a response, they attracted danger.

Looking for Mum!
I was showing a one year old girl and her brother and mum the ducklings, when a marsh harrier flying closeby over a different area of reedbed got my attention. I showed the children the big bird flying towards them. My hands were full as I held the one year old toddler to see over the blind beside the hide outside and was unable to use my camera to capture what happend next. The male harrier heard the peeping duckling and dived down to successfully grab one and carried it off over the reeds. I think the children were too young to understand what had happend, but for us grown-ups, it was an incredible moment, though a bit sad for the duckling. Eventually, the mother duck did return and they were reunited. The harrier did came back hoping for another, but this time failed. With their mother, they were safe, for now.

The Marsh Harrier returning for seconds 

Also today; swallows and swifts swarmed over the reserve in great numbers, pochards were looking good with their striking red heads, buzzards circled from high above, a pied wagtail made a visit in front of the Reception Hide and the coots were about with two bald-headed chicks. Back in Norwich, there was sad news as the youngest of the peregrine chicks had died. I was reassured that he didn't go to waste as it was fed to it's siblings. Yikes!
Coot and Chick
Yellow Flag Iris
Red Campion
Lady Fern (Athyrium)


  1. Sounds like you've had a very dramatic day! Poor duckling and peregrine chick. A couple of years ago one of the red kite chicks died when they were nearly fledged (actually there was something wrong with it and the parents pecked it to death), then the other two ate it. Nature can be a bit brutal, can't it!
    Not sure what your fern is. I can Id some of the more peculiar looking ones, but I'm not very good at telling the ferny ferns apart from each other (if you know what I mean).

    1. Thanks anyway. Got it ID'd as Lady fern by a British plant site on Facebook.