Wednesday, 2 March 2016

March 2nd Strumpshaw Fen

I was up at Strumpshaw a lot early than usual this morning. At 7:30 am to be more precise. I was hoping that being here even earlier than usual would give me an advantage in finding hares, barn owls and weasels for my Strumpshaw 40 quest. It didn't. I scanned the fields for any hares and owls, but I couldn't find anything. Out of all of the 40 species on my challenge list, barn owls, hares and weasels are probably three of the hardest to find in my opinion. I only see them on rare occasions and even then very briefly. All I can do is try again next week and hope I get lucky. At least I know roughly the best places to see them. Hares and barn owls are sometimes found on the fields near the pumphouse and the meadow trail area, while weasels can be seen darting about the Sandy Wall (the main path that leads to the river).

Jay (13)
I may have failed in finding hares, owls and weasels, but there was one slightly easier creature that I can now tick off twice finally (remember, I am ticking them off once if I can see or hear them and twice if I get a photograph of them). Jays are not the hardest species to find as I regularly see them flying about all over the reserve, but for some reason, since I started doing this challenge, I just haven't had the opportunity to get a shot of one. They are easy to identify with their pink plumage and blue wing bars and you can often hear their screeching calls that sound like fingernails down a blackboard. Jays are more notably active during the autumn, where they are busy collecting and storing acorns for the winter months.

In the woods, I also managed to see this bullfinch, but as you can see, it was hiding between some branches which distorted my shot. This was the best I could do. The scarlet elfcup fungi are looking amazing at the moment. I found a few patches of the ground where they were pretty much everywhere. Have a look at the photo below and see how many of these tiny red fungi you can find.

How many Scarlet Elfcups can you see?
Scarlet Elfcup Fungi
Greylag Goose
With plenty of time to spare before my shift began at the Reception Hide, I went inside Fen Hide for a short while. A few of my regular visitors were aleady in the hide when I entered. During the weekend, there had been reports of a penduline tit making an appearance on both Saturday and Sunday. There were a few visitors today hoping that it would show itself again, but it never did. I have to admit, I was more interested in the marsh harriers, greylags, mute swans and the reed buntings than this penduline tit to be honest. Oh, and by the way, the jack snipe was about again after I had left. Typical!

Marsh Harrier
Mute Swan
Reed Bunting
At Reception Hide, there was a good mixture of species of duck on the broad today. Pochards, mallards, teal, gadwall, tufted ducks and shovelers, all mingling together. The coots were a bit feisty this morning, fighting everything from ducks to moorhens to other coots. They were also building their nests with one collecting materials for it, while the other was sitting on it. The marsh harriers were very active and kept swooping close over the ducks to spook them into the air as if teasing them. We also saw a couple of bitterns flying over the reedbeds in the distance (only a single tick on my sheet for them this time).

Shovelers (and Pochard)
Coot collecting nesting material
Pochard and Tufted Duck
Gadwall and a Tufted Duck

Dark clouds approaching!
The weather was being rather strange today. Most of the morning was fine with one short hail shower. By lunch time though, dark clouds were approaching and it began to rain and hail up until I got back home in Norwich. Now, as I write this, it has started to snow!


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