Wednesday, 15 July 2015

July 15th Strumpshaw Fen

Mosquito feeding from my leg!
After two weeks away in Cornwall, it is good to be back at Strumpshaw. The weather wasn't exactly bright and cheery, in fact there was a bit of drizzle in the air when I arrived this morning, but it wasn't enough to put me off my early walk. Walking around the reserve in shorts though was a risky decision and it soon backfired on me. Mosquitos were attracted by my legs  and began to plague me. They need my blood as these are females who need warm blood to develop their eggs inside them. If I thought the mozzies were bad, it then got unbearable as I felt a painful bite on my thigh. The horseflies have joined the feast! I was overwhelmed by biting insects to the point that I could not take it any more. I abandoned my walk to Fen Hide, sprayed my legs with insect repellent and ran back to the office. Next time I will wear trousers for my walk and change into shorts afterwards!

View from Reception Hide today
Hedge Bindweed
Yellow Loosestrife
Young Great Spotted Woodpecker

Marsh Harrier fledgeling
I felt safer inside the Reception Hide. I was not pestered by any more mozzies for the rest of the morning, thank goodness! Instead, I had marsh harriers for company, as they were soaring around outside all morning. This year's chicks have all fledged now and were testing out their wings. You can tell them apart from the adults (especially from their mothers) as they are darker brown with a pale cap that is more ginger than the blonde caps that adult females have. They are also constantly calling with their whistled 'weeea!' calls. The parents respond by bringing over something to eat. They fly above the youngsters and makes a food pass that one of them catches.

A successful food pass!
In today's Eastern Daily Press (EDP), there is an article on Strumpshaw's marsh harriers bringing in something unusual to feed the fledgelings, a little egret! This would probably be a dead egret that the harriers have found and carried. Marsh harriers don't catch live prey at that size, such behaviour has never been witnessed before, but they do scavange dead animals. Unless someone can prove this was a living egret and was killed by a harrier, we will never know the truth, but it must make the little egret I saw outside the hide this morning very nervous! Though this egret had over problems like being bullied off from it's perch by a rude heron.

The EDP article
(Note: The person writing this was wrong with harriers nesting in trees, they nest in reedbeds. Also, the harrier in the photos are of a female passing to one of the chicks not the male who is paler in plumage.)

Little Egret
Grey Heron
The heron approaches the egret...
...And bullies of off the egret to take it's spot!
Also seen today were hobbies, common terns, swallows and reed warblers. You can hear the song of the reed warbler in the video below. Lastly, we had a couple of visits from a kingfisher. It did perch on the water measuring post close to the hide, but only for a few seconds, not even long enough to reach for my camera! I had to settle for some long distance shots of him sitting on a perch by the reed islands instead. Wasn't a bad return to Strumpshaw, despite leaving for home with itchy insect bites on my legs!
Common Tern
Cherries ripe for the picking
Mating pair of Soldier Beetles


  1. Great blog Sean, you are making me tempted to visit Strumpshaw Fen one weekend....congrats on all your hard work producing your updates, great stuff :)

    1. Thank you very much Warren. If you visit on a Wednesday morning, you will see me in the Reception Hide. :)