Sunday, 22 May 2016

May 22nd Strumpshaw Fen

Today is a big day at Strumpshaw as we celebrate the reserve's 40th anniversary with the public with a big birthday bash. Most of the event was to take place during the afternoon, but I decided to arrive for the morning to look for some more of the Strumpshaw 40 species that I still haven't found yet. Despite a damp start, it turned out to be a nice warm day, perfect weather for the two butterflies on my list; the common blue and the swallowtail. But I had no luck on either throughout the morning.

Bearded Tit (26)
As well as butterflies, I also had unfinished business with the bearded tits. I stayed inside Fen Hide for about an hour, studying the reed beds carefully for anything moving within them. They were about, I could hear them and there was the odd distant view of one. They were playing hard to get once again. I was about to give up, but then their pinging calls became more vocal, a sign that they were moving around. Sure enough, one popped up and landed on a reed stem on the edge of the nearest reed bed to me. A perfect view! It perched long enough for me to get a couple of photos of it.

This was a male bearded tit with its grey head and black moustache stripes. A handsome looking bird. Females, on the other hand, lack these features. They are both orangey coloured with long tails, resembling small parrots with tiny bills. Bearded tits live amongst reed beds in small flocks and are notoriously difficult to spot. They are a challenge, but the best way to find them is to listen out for their pinging calls that sound like a cash register. 'Keh-ching! Keh-ching!' If you hear a sudden eruption of these calls, scan the area of reeds and they may show themselves in a short flight before vanishing back into the reeds again.

Marsh Harrier
Mute Swan and cygnet
Reed Bunting
Snipe Fly
Yellow Flag Iris
Large Red Damselfly
Glow-worm Larvae
While searching for butterflies along the Sandy Wall path, I spotted several lizards basking on the wooden borders. They weren't the only ones using these borders, I found something rather special moving down it. It looked and moved like a caterpillar, black with cream spots along its back. A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon the same kind creature and thought it was indeed a caterpillar. But now I know what it is, this thing was a glow-worm beetle larva! In the summer, these nocturnal beetles glow in the dark. Females are flightless and they attract the much smaller males to fly to her by shining her abdomen using bioluminescence creating a green glow. I do know that they occur at Strumpshaw, but I have never been here at night to see this spectacle, yet.

Common Lizard
Earthworm being attacked by ants
Azure Damselfly
Blue-tailed Damselfly
Ruby-tailed Jewel Wasp
Though most of the birthday event was for this afternoon, there was one part of the festivities that was planned for this morning. Ben, one of the wardens here at Strumpshaw Fen, had left two moth traps during the night, he was now rummaging through them to see what he had caught to an audience of visitors. There were a few moths in the two traps but not many. The ones he did catch, though, were still interesting and beautifully marked. Here's what he caught...

Muslin Moth
Cockchafer Beetle with a moth that still hasn't been ID'd yet
Pale Oak Beauty
White Ermine
Clouded Border
Pebble Prominent
Pale Prominent
Chocolate Tip
Pale Prominent
At Reception Hide, I found a kingfisher, appearing twice, perching on the reed bed to my left between the two channels linking to the broad. I showed it to a few visitors, pinpointing it using the monitor of my camera. By this time it was now lunchtime and volunteers were starting to arrive to help out setting up the stalls. My parents have volunteered too with my mum helping to run the cake stall and my dad was helping out at the car park. My role was to be the I.D. expert, answering questions about wildlife and showing visitors my wildlife diaries that I have created during the past five years that I have been volunteering here.

Blue Tit
Great Crested Grebe
At my ID table
Dragonfly Nymph
Families began to arrive and the children were getting involved with the activities. There was face painting, arts and craft, a search for one of two golden tickets hidden somewhere on the reserve (and hidden well) that won them a cuddly tiger toy and so much more. The most popular activity, though, was pond dipping. They found some great things such as dragonfly nymphs, diving beetle larvae and a smooth newt, but surprisingly, no one caught a water scorpion for me. This was one of my Strumpshaw challenge targets and it has been eluding me for a while now. I was certain someone would have caught one today, but it appears my water scorpion search is not over.

Diving Beetle Larvae
Smooth Newt
Spider of some kind
Longhorn Beetle
Dad with Oscar the Otter

After finishing his duties as a car park attendant, Dad was leading a large otter around parts of the reserve to meet the children who cuddled it and posed for photos. The otter was named Oscar. But it was soon time for Oscar to go to bed (it was a hot day to stay inside that suit for too long) and Dad took him back to the office.

Otter (27)

Not to be out staged by Oscar, there was then news of a real otter swimming outside the Reception Hide. Everyone rushed to the blind next to the hide and, though it was distant, there it was swimming towards the far right channel of the broad. Then it returned some time later for one last time before everyone was starting to leave. It was a fitting end to Strumpshaw's big day.

1 comment:

  1. What a brilliant day! Love the glow worm larvae!