Wednesday, 29 July 2015

July 29th Strumpshaw Fen

It has been feeling rather autumnal this week as it has been raining a lot and even this morning, it was breezy, cold and with dark clouds threatening to pour it down. Thankfully, there were only the odd brief drizzle and better still, there were bursts of sunshine sneaking through the clouds now and then.

Swallowtail Caterpillar
The swallowtail caterpillars have grown a bit since last week. Today, I have found two by the pond-dipping pond and a third feeding on the milk parsley in front of the Reception Hide. You can now see the spots and stripes very clearly now and next week, they could double in size. At the moment, they are about quarter of the length of my pointing finger, next Wednesday, I expect them to be half the length.

Red Admiral on the 'Bee Log'
Large White
White Admiral
Swallowtails aside, another butterfly attracts the interest of local butterfly enthusiasts to Strumpshaw. Though the white admiral is widespread and does not draw quite a crowd to the reserve as our swallowtails, I still enjoy seeing them every year. This species lives high in the canopy normally, but stand by a flowering bramble patch and you have a good chance of seeing one. There is a good spot along the woodland trail that many local visitors know about that white admirals visit regularly every year. During my shift, I had a quick look. Black clouds were giving me a sign that it was going to ruin the chance of seeing any butterflies, but like a flick of a switch, bright sunshine breaks through the clouds and instantly, many insects appeared all over the brambles as if from nowhere. This includes white admirals, swooping majestically over the smaller butterflies. We even had reports of a brown argus here, but I didn't get to see it.

White Admiral (underside)
Meadow Brown
At Reception Hide, hobbies were waiting for the perfect conditions to hunt dragonflies as they sheltered from the wind on branches. They sat on their perches for quite a while at times, until the young marsh harriers decided to close in on them in curiosity. The hobbies did not like the young harriers for this and gave them a few mobbing dives before moving on to a much peaceful spot. The hobbies were using perches that were slightly out of range of my camera, but one did have a brief moment to perch on one of the trees close to the hide for one quick photo.

Kingfisher and Heron
A heron camped itself by the reed islands all morning. At first, it was busy preening itself, giving it's feathers a shake and having a stretch with it's wings. Then it had a friend pop by a couple of times. A kingfisher sat on the branch in front of the heron. I think it was a male (he had no orange 'lipstick' on his bill which females do) and he plunged into the water, catching a small fish. He then flew across the broad to his favourite perch, where a second kingfisher was waiting. This, I believe, was one of his young from this year, which has recently fledged from the nesting burrow not far from the reserve. Once the adult was finished stunning the fish on the branch he was sitting on, he fed it to junior and they then left together over the water and out of sight. It was a quiet day, but it was still a good day.
Grey Heron

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