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

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