Wednesday, 17 June 2015

June 17th Strumpshaw Fen

Southern Marsh Orchid
I was having a bit of an orchid and dragonfly day today at Strumpshaw. To start the morning off, I went for a walk along the meadow trail looking for them. There were more orchids here this week. They were mostly southern marsh orchids, but it can be quite hard to tell the difference, especially when some of them are hybrids. The dragonflies were obviously still warming up as I saw just a few this early in the morning.

Southern Marsh Orchid
Black-tailed Skimmer
Yellow Rattle
Mallard with ducklings
Female Bearded Tit
Male Banded Demoiselle
Female Banded Demoiselle
Painted Lady
Along the river, I had a bank vole cross my path and also had just missed a shrew as it vanished into the long grass with a squeak. There were a couple of new butterflies for my year's list during my walk this morning, including a large skipper and, best of all, a painted lady. The latter is a summer visitor and has travelled as far as Morocco. This one looks a bit worn from it's travels as it is missing a hindwing! Every few years, Britain gets a mass invasion of these butterflies and it looks like it could be another painted lady invasion this year. Fingers crossed!

Large Skipper
Common Blue
Small Tortoiseshell
At the nectar garden outside the Reception Hide, Ben (one of Strumpshaw's wardens) did a moth trap session last night and placed four of the best moths he had caught onto the 'Bee Log' for everyone to see. All four are hawkmoths; 1 eyed hawkmoth, 1 elephant hawkmoth and 2 poplar hawkmoths. This gave our visitors, who many have pilgramaged to Strumpshaw for a swallowtail sighting, something to look at.
Eyed (top), Elephant (the pink one) and two Poplar Hawkmoths
Common Twayblade

I was surprised to have fewer people asking for swallowtails today. I was even more surprised that there were several orchid fanciers visiting and was asked where to see them. I ended up making a few short tours of some of the orchids around the Reception Hide area before pointing them to the direction of the meadow trail where the marsh orchids were. I showed them the bee orchids by the nectar garden that everyone seems to be oblivious to as they walk past for the hide. Then I showed them a common spotted orchid hidden in the long grass and the common twayblades, all near the start of the woodland trail as you set off onto the reserve.
Common Spotted Orchid

Between tours, I somehow managed to sit down to spot anything note worthy for visitors outside the hide. I am glad to say there was. I saw three flybys of bittern, two of which are of the same individual as it eventually settled in the reedbed closest to the hide! Several hobbies swooped low over the water to catch dragonflies, which were eaten on the wing. One kept landing in a tree, using it as a vantage point for it's next meal. There were many marsh harriers in the air today. Some, I believe, are the youngsters testing out their flight muscles for the first time. I also had a surprise visit from my Aunt Barbara towards lunch time and I showed her a bittern and the hobbies flying by.

Norfolk Hawker
After a spot of lunch, I took Barbara along the meadow trail. It was much warmer than it was this morning, so the dragonflies should be more active now. I was proven right as we saw plenty. Dragonfly enthusiastes were here too watching them patrol the ditches bordering the trail. There was one species in particular every one of these enthusiasts have come to see. In Europe, they are called green-eyed hawkers, but here in the UK, they are known as Norfolk hawkers as they are found only in the Norfolk (and Suffolk) Broads. These dragonflies are widespread and common in Europe, but thanks to water pollution, they were driven back to only the Broads and are rare. There are, however, signs of recovery and maybe one day they will spread into other counties.

Norfolk hawkers a large brown dragonflies with green eyes. They are pretty much the dragonfly equivalent of a swallowtail as in they are only found in Norfolk and Suffolk, are rare and are quite lovely to look at. Norfolk hawkers are also quite territorial and we watched them patrol up and down a small section of the ditch, chasing off other dragonflies with ferocious aerial fights.

Red-eyed Damselfly
By the river, Barbara and I looked over a jetty and we had a closer look at some lilypads. I wanted to show her red-eyed damselflies. These blue and black insects with red eyes breed on lilypads and we could see a few sitting on them this afternoon. There were a pair mating with the male's abdomen grabbing ahold of the back of her head as she submerged herself underwater to lay her eggs under the lilypads.

A mating pair of Red-eyed Damselflies laying eggs

Bee Orchid
As my shift came to an end, I told Barbara to drop me off at Carrow Road in Norwich. No, I wasn't there for the new fixture list that had just came out. I was here for the Big Yellow storage building across the road. I read in a local paper recently of a great story and I wanted to see for myself. On two sides of the building is a lawn bordering it and the public path. For many years, this lawn was mowed over. Last year, though, a member of staff from the building noticed several bee orchids growing there. They ended up mowing around the orchids. This year, they decided to not mow at all. Now there is a beautiful wildflower meadow with plants such as ox-eyed daisies and red campions growing alongside the bee orchids. It is a wonderful sight and praise should be in order for the decision to stop mowing. The UK is losing so much of it's wildflower meadows and there is something anyone with a garden can do to help. Just stop mowing your lawn! At least leave a patch of it to go wild!

Ox-eyed Dasies
Don't mow your garden and it will look like this too!

1 comment:

  1. Another wonderful post. The orchid pics are lovely and I'm really glad they didn't mow the Bee Orchids! Hawkmoths are great, aren't they - 3 different types in one night is good going. Fingers crossed for the Painted Lady invasion.