Wednesday, 28 June 2017

June 28th Strumpshaw Fen

A wet, gloomy morning at Strumpshaw today!
Not the nicest of mornings to be at Strumpshaw this week, but look past the gloom and the rain, it was actually very eventful. As it was raining, I stayed inside Reception Hide all morning and I am glad that I did as there was a lot of activity out in front of the hide.

Coot feeding a chick
Another Coot building a nest
Juvenile Moorhen
Marsh Harrier
Grey Heron

Reed warblers, reed buntings and bearded tits were flitting around the reed beds close to the hide and this brought the attention of a pair of sparrowhawks. One caught us by surprise and plunged into the reeds from nowhere and in an instant it came up with a warbler in it's talons. A successful hunt! It flew behind the hide before reappearing moments later carrying it's prize into the woods to our left. I was later found out that there was a nest not too far away from the hide, so it was no wonder that I kept seeing sparrowhawks throughout the morning. They seem to prefer this one bare branched tree, in which both the male and the female took it in turns to perch on and to dry out their feathers from the damp weather.

Reed Bunting
Bearded Tit

Another of today's stars were the kingfishers. We had at least three turn up at one time during the course of the morning. They were quite distant, most of the time either perching on posts by the islands or darting over the broad like a blur of blue. After a while, they then started to perch much closer to the hide. I believe the three that we saw today were all siblings adventuring far from the nest. I managed to get a few photos of  at least two of them and from the look of their black bills, I can tell you that both are males.

Kingfisher with a Woodpigeon

Rowing out for a water sample
It wasn't all wildlife activity from the Reception Hide today, we also had a short spell of human activity, too. For a few minutes, a team of my colleagues brought a boat out onto the broad. Two of them volunteered to paddle towards the back of the broad to collect a water sample. This is vital work in order to monitor the conditions of the water, though, I have to admit it was rather entertaining to watch them row up the broad and back, while a common tern was busy hunting around them. It is rarely dull at Strumpshaw Fen!

Monday, 26 June 2017

June 26th Earlham Cemetery and Whitlingham Broad

Earlham Cemetery in summer
June has been a very quiet month for my invertebrate challenge so far. Though I have added quite a few interesting species to my list, I haven't been able to tick off any of the remaining main targets this month. Despite my efforts, I just cannot find any of them. Thankfully, I have been tipped off recently to where I can find a couple of them by one of you guys (thank you James Emerson). Today, I decided to check them out. First up was a short ride to Earlham Cemetery for wool carder bees.


Grey Squirrel

Wool Carder Bee
I was told to look for lamb's ear that was planted behind the hedge of the war graves area. Once we located these grey, hairy, purple-flowered plants, it wasn't long until I found what I was looking for. Wool carder bees are fond of these plants because they collect the hairy fuzz on the leaves to build their nests with, which is crafted within a hole in a tree or wall. The bee itself is like a large, furry honey bee that has a yellow wasp-like head. They also have rows of yellow spots lined down either side of the back of it's abdomen. This is the first time that I have seen one of these bees before and I have to admit, it is rather cute in a way. So if you have hairy plants in your garden, keep an eye out, you may have these fuzzy bees visiting them.

Hoverfly Myathropa florea

During our short walk in the cemetery, we also saw a few other insects, such as brown hawker dragonflies, hoverflies and moths. But the other main highlight besides the wool carder bee was a green woodpecker. I heard it first, sounding rather alert as if in alarm. Then I managed to spot it taking off from a tombstone and into a tree. We had a couple more brief views of it flying from tree to tree, but it just wouldn't come down for us to get a better look at it.

Tachinid Fly

Hoverfly (not sure which)

After lunch, Mum and I then went for a walk around Whitlingham Broad. I was told that my hoverfly target (or targets since I muddled up the name with the drawing on my tick-sheet) was seen somewhere around here. Though I don't think we saw either a Xanthogramma pedissequum or a  Leucozona lucorum, we did, however, saw a few hoverfly species that were pretty similar. I also saw plenty of other insects from butterflies to dragonflies as well as a whitethroat and the family of mute swans again.

Another Hoverfly that I don't know

Some kind of Wasp (I didn't get the long antennae in shot)
Alder Galls
Dock Bug
Azure Damselfly
Male Black-tailed Skimmer
Female Black-tailed Skimmer
Mute Swan
Canada Geese