Wednesday, 31 May 2017

May 31st Strumpshaw Fen

Mute Swan with cygnet
It has been an incredible day at Strumpshaw today. The bitterns were booming on and off throughout the morning. The sound of these low frequency booms could be heard all over the reserve, but was at its loudest nearby to the Fen Hide. It was a great way to start my morning when arrived for my usual walk before my shift. I made a visit to the Fen Hide and ended up in there for at least an hour. But it was worth it as a kingfisher made a short visit and perched on the nearest post to the hide. Another highlight at this hide was a cuckoo which flew over to sit on a slightly distant bare tree to my right. There were also marsh harriers, swans with cygnets, a common tern, a bearded tit and I heard a Chinese water deer barking. Then I went for a quick walk to the river finding a couple of drinker moth caterpillars and a lizard along the way as well as red-eyed damselflies on the lily pads on the river.
Marsh Harrier
Drinker Moth caterpillar
Common Lizard
Red-eyed Damselfly

Not only is it half term this week with many families bringing their children to do the activities set up for them along the woodland trail, it is also swallowtail season. This meant that it was a very busy day for us manning the Reception Hide. Crowds of people surrounded the nectar garden in hope of seeing one of these rare butterflies. Thankfully, it was nice enough for much of the morning and the swallowtails arrived to please it's adoring fans. That is until the clouds covered the sun and made it a lot cooler, causing the swallowtails to disappear for quite some time. At least I was fortunate to tick this Broadland icon off my invertebrate list as well as getting a few photos in the process.
Red Admiral

From the Reception Hide itself, it was mostly quiet, but I did get to see a kingfisher a couple of times, marsh harriers, a sparrowhawk, a banded demoiselle, a swallowtail briefly, swallows and a few reed buntings. I was also approached by an orchid enthusiast to talk about the orchids we have on the reserve. He told me if I was aware of the greater butterfly orchid amongst the area of common twayblades. I did not. So he took me to see it within one of the cages of chicken wire that we use to protect any orchids that are away from the meadow trail. He pointed at a white bud-like thing on a green stem. This was the orchid in question. I went to the office to ask about it to Ben the warden and Tim the site manager. I don't think they knew about it either as I took Tim to see it. According to the expert, it is close to flowering some time next week. If this plant does end up being a greater butterfly orchid, it could possibly be a first for the reserve!
Norfolk Hawker

After my shift was over, I decided to look for dragonflies along the meadow trail. There were plenty of them about, including the other insect icon of the Broads, the Norfolk hawker. It was another tick off my list. I also saw lots of hairy dragonflies, 4-spot chasers, red-eyed damselflies, a male scarce chaser and a swimming grass snake! Apart from the Norfolk hawkers and the red-eyed damselflies, none of the other species mentioned would stay still long enough for their photo to be taken. Looking closely to the vegetation along the edge of the ditch, I was lucky enough to find a dragonfly exuviae. This is basically the moulted exoskeleton of a dragonfly larva as it makes the dramatic transformation into an adult dragonfly.
Dragonfly exuviae
Water Vole
Walking back to the meadow trail's entrance, I pass the new pond-dipping pond that was created a couple of years ago. There was a large crowd around this pond, similar to that of the nectar garden. This time though, the excitement was over something equally rare, but ten times cuter than a swallowtail. The crowd was watching water voles! I was watching them before I went looking for dragonflies and I thought I'd continue afterwards. These charming rodents were very active, though a tad on the elusive side at times, taking us by surprise by turning up at different location along the pond without us knowing. They were quite tricky to photograph as tall grass and reeds obscured them. But despite this, they were not completely evasive to us watching, as they often swam close to the platforms we were viewing them from. This was another magical encounter for me, experiencing my first water voles at Strumpshaw with many people, some of them being children. It was a real crowd pleaser.

1 comment:

  1. Great set of photographs Sean. I was on duty today and saw most of the wildlife. What a magical,place to work.