Monday, 26 December 2016

The Strumpshaw 40 Challenge

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you've all had a good one, I certainly have. Now that the big day is over, we have one week of 2016 left. As you may know, throughout this year, to celebrate 40 years of Strumpshaw Fen I have been on a year long challenge to find 40 species on the reserve. I wanted not only to see them all, but also photograph them all too. With one week remaining, I have photographed 39 out of 40 species. Only the weasel is evading my camera. However, I did see one back in January before I even began the challenge and after some discussion with my colleagues at the reserve, it was decided that I could count it. So I have technically seen all 40 species with the weasel the first off my list. Though I will still try to find and photograph one on Wednesday, today I want to look back at how I got on with the other 39 species.

1. Ash

My challenge started back in February with the ash tree being the first of my targets to be photographed. This was the easiest of the targets on the list to find and at the time I didn't think too much about it. But sadly, the deadly ash dieback disease has been discovered on the reserve this autumn, so this may be the last year I will ever see a living ash tree with many of the infected trees being planned to be removed. It is kind of sad to think about really.

2. Scarlet Elfcap
3. Great Spotted Woodpecker
4. Treecreeper
5. Teal
6. Marsh Harrier
7. Siskin
8. Marsh Tit
9. Chinese Water Deer
10. Great Crested Grebe

11. Goldcrest
After finding the first ten or so targets during the first few weeks without too much hassle (which included marsh harrier, Chinese water deer and the smallest target, the water flea), it was to get harder from here on out. As spring arrived, the search was on for the first of the several most challenging targets on the list. Between Easter and May, I scanned all over the place for hares and barn owls every week but with no such luck. But during a foggy but magical dawn chorus walk at the beginning of May, my luck came through as Dad and I came across a few hares and a cuckoo. A couple of weeks later, we were back for a dusk walk and saw the barn owls emerge from their nesting box. Other big targets were also revealing themselves during this time such as kingfishers, otters, bearded tits, bitterns, Cetti's warblers, garganey and hobbies.
12. Water Flea
13. Jay
15. Little Egret
16. Garganey
17. Cetti's Warbler

18. Common Lizard
19. Little Grebe
20. Kingfisher
21. Brown Hare
22. Cuckoo
23. Hobby
24. Cardinal Beetle
25. Barn Owl
26. Bearded Tit
27. Otter

28. Swallowtail Butterfly
Summer was a time for many of my insect targets to appear. I was expecting it to be so easy, however, it turned out to be a difficult year for some of them. Swallowtail butterflies and Norfolk hawker dragonflies were surprisingly more cooperative and easier to find compared to three of the more commoner insect species on the list. Common blue butterflies in particular were having a bad year and I was getting more and more worried as the summer was nearing its end along with my chances of finding one. Thankfully, August provided a second chance and I eventually came across one as well as a hornet and a water scorpion, which a family brought over for me to see after a pond dipping session.

29. Southern Marsh Orchid
30. Norfolk Hawker
31. Dark Bush Cricket
32. Milk Parsley
33. Willow Emerald Damselfly

34. Water Rail
35. Hornet
36. Water Scorpion
37. Common Blue Butterfly
38. Shaggy Inkcap
Autumn was a waiting game for my fungi targets. There were only two of them left to find, but it still took many weeks of searching until I finally had the chance to tick them off. The only target remaining now was the weasel and though I am still trying to photograph one before the year is up, I am extremely pleased with myself with getting a photo of 39 out of 40. Though I am not happy with two or three of these photos, I think I have done really well with my challenge and had a great time doing it. I hope that next year my invertebrate challenge will also be a great success too.

39. Candlesnuff Fungus
40. Weasel (seen only)

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