Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Feb 3rd Strumpshaw Fen

Preparing the boat for some reed strimming!
There was a short sleet shower this morning, but it wasn't to last. In fact, it was a strange morning that kept switching from warm(ish) sunshine and overcast clouds that made it feel chilly. The weather couldn't make up its mind in being winter or early spring today. There was also a lot of disturbance at Strumpshaw this morning as two of our wardens went out on a boat from Reception Hide to do some reedbed management on the other side of the broad, down the far channels. The sound of their strimmers pretty much kept everything away outside the hide, apart from a few ducks and coots.

As it was relatively quiet due to the disturbance, I thought it would be great to start the Strumpshaw 40th Birthday Challenge this week. If you recall on Saturday, I was helping out at Norwich Castle promoting this challenge which celebrates 40 years of this reserve. What you have to do is get a sheet (will be available at Reception Hide later this month) which has photos of 40 species on it, visit Strumpshaw regularly throughout the year and tick them off. You can only tick them off if you have seen or heard them at the reserve, nowhere else. Below is the sheet with the 40 species and what I have ticked off today. How many will you find? [Note - Forgot to tick off Ash Tree! Oops!]

I will try my best in not just finding them all, but to also get a decent enough photo of them all too. If you want to participate but do not know when or where to look or what you are looking for, I will try my best to help. Whenever I will find something (and get a photo of it) that is part of the challenge, I will give you tips for each one. I will number each challenge subject I see in brackets in the order of when I find it to keep count of how many I have found and to act as a key for you guys. So if you see a number in brackets in future Strumpshaw posts, that is the reason why. Let us begin with the ones I found and photographed today...

Ash Tree (1)
Ash trees are very easy to find on the reserve. At this time of year, ash trees are identified by these seeds that hang on the tree throughout the winter months. The leaves are small and form rows on either side of a twig with one at the end that has a slightly pointed tip. We are quite lucky at Strumpshaw that the ash dieback disease has not effected these trees here a few years ago, but our wardens are keeping a close eye on them if we do find it here. This disease has killed thousands of these trees across Europe and the UK and it is still spreading.

Scarlet Elfcup Fungus (2)
I have already seen the scarlet elfcup fungi a few weeks ago, so it was easy for me to find. If you want to see these beautiful fungi for yourself, when you reach the fingerpost sign by the start of the meadow trail, head left and down the path that is alongside a dyke. Follow the path for a short distance until you come across an oak tree with many trunks close to the path. Just behind the back of this tree, on the ground are mossy decaying branches. Look carefully and you should see the elfcups. These bright red cups are only out until March, so you don't have long to tick them off.

Blackthorn in blossom (some were now in leaf!)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (3)
The woods were alive with birds this morning. Song thrushes were singing proudly at the tops of tall trees and I saw a bullfinch, goldcrests (not photographed though) and long-tailed tits. Great spotted woodpeckers were drumming away on the trees, a sound that resonates throughout the reserve. I wanted to find one for a photo, so I followed the drumming to its whereabouts and when it became silent, I used a stick to tap on a tree. It responded from atop of a tree above me. I soon located it and got these photos of it tapping at a branch.

Song Thrush
Blue Tit
Settling a territorial dispute!
Treecreeper (4)
As I was looping back round the woodland trail and making my way back to Reception Hide, I heard plenty of high pitched trilling calls of treecreepers. I found about 3 of them crawling up the tree trunks like little brown mice. They were chasing off one another, which meant they were moving about quite a bit, a nightmare to photograph. I'm not that happy with what I got and this was the best I could do. Next week, I shall have another go.

Teal (5)
Back at the Reception Hide, I saw a marsh harrier. I didn't get a photo of it either, but don't worry, I see them a lot, so there's plenty of opportunity for them this year. Another easy tick are the teal. This is a tiny duck. The males are easy to identify with their red and green heads, grey bodies, white stripe along the back and a creamy triangle at the rear. The females are brown. Both have a green patch on the wing called a speculum. Listen out for their whistled 'crick crick' calls. I have also seen a Chinese water deer, some jays and a marsh tit to add to my list. A great start to the challenge so far. I wonder what I can find and photograph next week?

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