Wednesday, 29 June 2016

June 29th Strumpshaw Fen

Highland Cow
It was a bit breezy and slightly cold at Strumpshaw this morning, though there was the odd sunny spell on and off until it started to rain as my shift came to an end. This meant that I was unable to find that many butterflies. Of course, this also means that it is another week without success on finding a common blue butterfly!

Dark Bush Cricket
During my walk before my shift, I made a quick search for dark bush crickets in the vegetation around the sluice gates by the river to see if there were any large ones about yet. Once I had gotten my eye in, I could see several of them sitting on every few bramble and nettle leaves. They still look rather small still, though they do seem to be getting there. I also found this large spider, spanning the same size as the leaf it was sitting on!

Nursery Spider
Blue-tailed Damselfly
Large Skipper
Back at Reception Hide, I had some news from Ben that I should keep an eye and an ear out for a bee-eater. He had heard one briefly from Reception Hide earlier this morning, but it doesn't appear to be around any more as no one has managed to locate this brightly coloured bird since then. For me, seeing the hobbies have more than made up for not finding the bee-eater. They were rather entertaining and were in great numbers flying over the reserve. There were about four of these falcons in the air at one point, while one of them kept sitting at one of its favourite perching spots in the row of trees at the back of the broad. Marsh harriers were also very showy today, but the hobbies did not seem to like them much and would dive bomb at them a few times whenever they got too close. It was quite a sight to see as a hobby is only half the size of a harrier, but they made up for it in agility and speed. A David vs Goliath affair. And the hobby won!

Marsh Harrier
Great Crested Grebe with chick
Elsewhere, the great crested grebes have one humbug-striped chick left and it has grown so big that it was having trouble climbing on board of mum's back to hide from the lesser black-backed gulls that were swooping about. No matter how hard it tried, it could not get on her back, slipping off with each attempt like a fat child trying to climb up the wrong end of a slide. A heron was also seen today, flying in circles from one reed bed to another.

"Let me on!"
White Duck
Grey Heron
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Mason Bee
Jewel Wasp
Bee Orchid
As my shift was about to end for the changeover, I noticed that the mass of ducks, that were lazily hanging around the far right channel of the broad all morning, were suddenly moving away all at once. Unable to fly as they were now moulting into their eclipse phase (the stage where ducks lose their wing feathers and look scruffy in appearance), they were making way for something big. This could only mean one thing, that an otter was here! And then I saw it! Appearing and then disappearing in the water like a small furry whale, it patrolled the edge of the raft of ducks, moving towards the right channel. It was clearly busy hunting and as then, it made its way from the right channel to the reedy islands, a big splash was created. It had caught something big! Its hard to make out what exactly, but I think its a huge pike!