Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Aug 11th Sculthorpe Moor

Painted Lady
Sculthorpe Moor is Norfolk's youngest nature reserve and since it opened in 2003, it has become a great place to visit. The Hawk & Owl Trust owns this reserve and they have made it feel like a mini Springwatch site with cameras placed everywhere, which you can watch the live feed at the reserve's visitor centre. The main attraction here are the birds of prey, especially marsh harriers. For me, this is a great place to see a host of other great wildlife and we started seeing some as soon as we arrived. In the car park, the flowerbed was attracting many bees and butterflies which included painted ladies.
Painted Lady
Red Admiral
Harvest Mouse

Before setting off for our walk, we had a look at the harvest mice that they kept on display inside the visitor centre. These tiny mice are very cute and were climbing around their enclosure, using their prehensile tail to help them grip the stems they were climbing on like a monkey. They are the UK's smallest mouse at 5-8cm and how I would love to see one in the wild one day.

Free-ranged Hen with chicks
I took Mum to the hide in the woodland, seeing a kestrel along the way. From the hide, two feeders were attracting juvenile great and blue tits, chaffinches and a marsh tit. I was watching them through my binoculars, when suddenly a big bird zipped past the magnified vision created by my lenses. I took my binoculars away from my eyes at an instant. Between the time it took me to see the bird from my binoculars to my own two eyes, I managed to see a sparrowhawk fly to the feeders, reach out to grab a marsh tit and fly off again, disappearing beyond a crowd of trees, all in a matter of seconds! Its not clear if the stealthy bird was successful or not, but that was an exciting brief moment to witness.

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker
There are feeders everywhere in this reserve and not all of them were in front of a hide. We found two feeders adjacent to the main path in the woods and it was luring many small woodland birds. This also included a nuthatch and this juvenile great spotted woodpecker. You can tell that it is a juvenile as it has a full red cap on its head.

Juvenile Robin
Galls on an Alder leaf
After returning to the visitor centre for lunch, we continued our walk to the other hides. One of them was by a scrape and had two bird tables on either side of it. These bird tables had so many birds visiting it, that you could sit and watch them all day. Most of these birds were chaffinches, greenfinches, blue and great tits, a blackbird (who kept knocking the seeds off the tables and to the hungry mallards below), a nuthatch and best of all, bullfinches!! If you visit Sculthorpe, I guarantee it that you will see a bullfinch here. I have only been to this reserve a few times but on every visit, I see a few bullfinches at these bird tables. They are very shy and very colourful birds, especially the males which are bright red, and I rarely get as close to them as I do here. It is a wonderful sight to see!
Male and Female Chaffinch
Bullfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch
Bullfinch, Greenfinch and juvenile Blue Tit
Sculpture of food-passing Marsh Harriers
At our last hide, we saw another sparrowhawk swoop by, a heron fishing and we also saw a little egret nearby. No marsh harriers though, but plenty of great wildflowers instead to enjoy. It was a rarther pleasent visit to this reserve, especially after seeing those bullfinches. It also seems like there will be more work to making it as good as Strumpshaw is with a new tower hide nearly completed in construction. Worth another visit at some point in the near future.

New Tower Hide under construction
Water Mint
Dark Bush-cricket
Water Forget-me-not
Purple Loosestrife

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