Wednesday, 19 July 2017

July 19th Strumpshaw Fen

I woke up this morning to a thunderstorm. Thunder and lightning was not something I wanted to experience before setting off on my way to Strumpshaw nor did I want to stand waiting for a bus in the heavy downpour that was hammering down outside. So I was given a lift today, but it took a little longer than expected. We had to go the long way round once we discovered that the bridge at Brundall was badly flooded underneath. Another nightmare journey to Strumpshaw two weeks in a row!

Swallowtail Caterpillar
When I eventually got to the reserve, I didn't have time for my usual early walk. In the end, I decided to make a short visit to the part of the Lackford Run to look for willow emerald damselflies and swallowtail caterpillars during my shift instead. There were plenty of dragonflies and damselflies, such as brown hawkers, southern hawkers and black-tailed skimmers, but there was no sign of any willow emeralds yet this morning. However, I had more luck finding the swallowtail caterpillars feeding on milk parsley, but after what happened at Hickling Broad recently (someone stole their caterpillars!), I can not tell you exactly where they are. I also found some cinnabar caterpillars, which I can tell you are on the ragwort opposite the toilet block.
Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar
Hoverfly Syrphus ribesii?
 Digger Wasp (Ectemnius sp)
Sparrowhawk (female)
At the Reception Hide, there was no way you could miss the main stars of the week. The sparrowhawk chicks have fledged and were perching on the dead trees to my left. They were so noisy as they constantly called for their next meal to arrive, that you could here them from the Lackford Run on the opposite side of the reserve. Occasionally, one of the adults would come back with something and the two youngsters rush over for an aerial food pass. These two youngsters were of different sizes and you could easily distinguish them as male and female. The male is much smaller than his sister and though he is still has his brown juvenile feathers, there is a hint of orange peeking through. His sister, on the other hand, is almost as big as her mother and looks much streakier in the breast. She looks big enough to take down prey for herself, but it will take a lot of practice until both of them will be expert hunters like their parents.
The young male

Also today, a kingfisher made a few appearances by the front of the hide, perching on the measuring post for a few brief moments at a time. The marsh harriers were about, but were more distant than usual, perhaps avoiding the competition of the sparrowhawks. A heron and a little egret were busy fishing around the edges of the reedy margins of the broad, while swallows were flying low above the surface. It turned out to be a nice hot day, a shame the flood at Brundall has caused headaches for many visitors to get here.

Little Egret
Female Mallard

Monday, 17 July 2017

July 17th Titchwell

A young Robin
A rather warm day out at Titchwell today and the horseflies were at their worst! We ignored these biting nuisances as best as we could, despite forgetting the insect repellent back at the car, as we continued onwards towards the hides and the beach. It turned out to be one of those days where most of the wildlife were as far away as possible with the heat haze distorting most of my photographs today. So I apologize in advance on the quality of my shots that I took during this particular visit.
Wall Brown Butterfly
Common Toad (which made Mum scream out in terror as it hopped by)
Bearded Tit
This month, the staff at Titchwell are trying to raise money to build a new hide at Snettisham to replace the two that were destroyed by the surge of 2013. Today, they were raising money from bearded tit spotting at the Island Hide. Bearded tits are a bit of a star species here and they are more than likely on many people's wish list. Thankfully, there were a few young birds hopping around the mud along the reed bed edges adjacent to the hide and the staff were pointing them out to visitors for a small donation fee. A worthy course if it means you get good views of a few great birds.
The Parrinder Hides
Out on the pools, there was a large patch of black and white near the Parrinder hides, nearly all of them being avocets, while elsewhere there were large flocks of bar-tailed and black-tailed godwits with dunlins, ruffs, oystercatchers and redshanks feeding alongside them. I also saw a little gull, a couple of little ringed plovers, a few linnets and reed buntings and a family of marsh harriers. But as I mentioned earlier, most of these birds were a bit distant and a heat haze did make it difficult in getting many decent shots of them all. On the beach, the tide was in and a small group of sanderlings were patrolling the tideline for a quick morsel to eat. It wasn't the most memorable of days at Titchwell, but I did see a few decent things here and there.
Godwits and other waders
Black-tailed Godwits
Juvenile Black-headed Gull
Common Tern

Little Gull (left) with young Black-headed Gull
Juvenile Little Ringed Plover
Dog Whelk?
A mermaid's purse (egg case of a ray or dog shark)
Shore Crab carapace
A winged Black Ant queen
Back home, I noticed a swarm of chunky ants with wings by the gate leading to my flat. I then noticed that one of them was sitting on the outside of my living room window. So I caught it with one of my bug pots for a better a look. It seems that today is a flying ant day as this is a young queen black ant. During a few brief evenings every summer, hundreds of winged queens and males emerge from their colonies and they set of to mate and start new colonies of their own. Once mating is complete, the queens will shed their wings and retreat back underground, while the males simply die. These swarms can be quite a nuscence to some people, but to other wildlife, this is a bonanza of food not to miss out on.