Aug 4th Frogs Farm
Another week off work to kick off August and it was plagued with rain which ruined my plans of going to Minsmere on Wednesday 2nd (which actually turned into an ok day to my annoyance). We decided that, to end the week off, we were to head to Frogs Farm no matter the weather for a family outing to tick off one of my display challenges which is to see a sunflower field. My parents and I were joined by my brother, Frazer, his wife, Laura and my two nieces, Ava and Willow.
Frogs Farm was a little farm in Suffolk that happens to have three sunflower mazes. It was a simple display to tick off my list, however, the mazes themselves were not so simple. Getting lost was one thing, the mud and the random rain showers was another. My boots were caked in mud, but at least the showers were short. It was worth it for the sunflowers and some family time at least.
Aug 6th Snettisham
Dad and I woke up very early to get to Snettisham in order to see the wader spectacular before the latest highest tide happened. This was to be the greatest spectacular on my list if I was to make it on time. We needed the early start to drive there and to make the long walk to the beach, which was rewarded with the sound of a turtle dove purring away in a bush on the way up.
|Sunflowers (Aug 4th),|
& Oystercatchers (Aug 6th)
Once we arrived to the beach, I was glad that we made it before the tide started to push the birds off the Wash. In fact, the tide took its time and we waited a few hours until it eventually forced the birds to fly over us. When we arrived, it didn't look like there was much about. However, as the tide slowly seeped slowly towards us, we noticed the main cast arriving in the distance. Fractured flocks of thousands of knot formed small ribbon-like murmurations in the horizon heading left to an area of salt marsh. Many, many oystercatchers were also gathering on the ever creeping shoreline and refused to leave the spot until the last minute.
The knot erupted into larger impressive murmurations every now and then with a few thousand deciding to fly over us and join the thousands that already had gathered at the pools behind us. It took until around half nine for the spectacle to really take form. The tide had finally reached the final section of exposed mud, pushing the waders into the remaining corner of the Wash. A mass exodus occurred as wave after wave of knot, oystercatcher and other waders such as dunlin, redshank and curlew rushed over the heads of the large crowds of birders that joined us with every passing minute.
Once all of them had left the Wash, the action was now at the pools where the sky above these pools was nothing but a swirling mass of birds. There were also a flock of 30+ spoonbills on the pools alongside all of these waders. As we walked back for a later than planned breakfast at a café, we passed by a smaller gathering of knot, dunlin and ringed plovers and even a brent goose on the shoreline of the beach.
Aug 7th Strumpshaw Fen
I was trying to look for fen raft spiders at the sluice gates and marsh helleborines in the meadow trail, but failed on both. At Reception Hide, there was a great white egret, a heron, a hobby, many mallards, swallows and house martins. Also seen were 2 kestrels, red admirals, peacocks, holly blues, brimstones, small red-eyed damselflies and a hornet mimic hoverfly.
|Hornet Mimic Hoverfly & Small Red-eyed Damselflies (Aug 7th),|
Slime Mould & Willow Emerald Damselfly (Aug 14th),
Wood Sandpiper & Greenshank (Aug 19th)
Aug 14th Strumpshaw Fen
I had a lift in due to a very heavy downpour and got to Strumpshaw early than usual at 7am. Once I reached the shelter that was Fen Hide, however, the rain stopped and was good enough for me to visit Tower Hide. There were plenty to see here including a great white egret, a common tern, a marsh harrier, bearded tits, teal, shovelers, gadwall and mallards. I also encountered a Chinese water deer with a fawn, willow emerald damselflies, gatekeepers and a slime mould during the walks to and from the hide. I thought I saw a fen raft spider at the sluice, but it turned out not to be.
There were some twitchers seeking a honey buzzard during my shift at Reception Hide, which had been seen for the past week. Eventually, they located it and I managed to see it, though very distant. It looked like a normal buzzard to me though. Apparently it was much lighter in colour and longer wings and the head is a much different shape. The twitchers seemed happy enough and soon disappeared.
We also saw a bittern that landed and poked out of the reed bed at the back of the broad, a heron, a kestrel, a sparrowhawk and I discovered a green woodpecker on the path outside.
The sun was now out and so were the dragonflies and damselflies. From small red eyed and willow emerald damselflies to migrant and southern hawkers. However, the best of the lot was seeing a lesser emperor for the first time. They are as big as a normal emperor dragonfly, but has a band of blue at the top of the abdomen and not the entire thing which helps to spot and identify it as it zoomed by. This is a species that had only been discovered in the UK in 1996 and seems to be on the increase.
Aug 19th Cley
Mum and I made our way to Cley for my 8th visit this year. We started with lunch at the visitor centre, eating our bacon rolls as a small toad looked in from outside the window.
Though it didn't seem like it, there was actually plenty to see on the reserve. The pools had mostly godwits and ruff with several ringed plovers, a few turnstones, common and green sandpipers, the odd avocet and a curlew sandpiper, a marsh harrier, a sparrowhawk and a great white egret. I also had good views of a greenshank from Bishop's Hide.
I was told by a birder inside Bishop's Hide that a lot was being seen from the East Bank and on the sea. So, I made my way there next. I found a wood sandpiper creeping along the edge of the Serpentine and three spoonbills as I neared the shelter overlooking Arnold's Marsh where black terns were being reported. I couldn't spot any of these terns amongst the distant colony of sandwich and common terns, you really need a scope to pick them out, which I didn't bring.
I joined a group of sea watchers on the beach and apparently a flock of juvenile black tern flew across just off the shoreline as I joined them. I wasn't as confident in identifying them as they did. I've only seen one many years ago, so it isn't a species I'm as familiar with. I was more used to spotting the auks like the two razorbills I could see floating on the surface than these terns.
Heading back from the beach, my luck was in. The terns on Arnold's Marsh took to the air, spooked by something. Amongst them was an adult black tern. It was far smaller and darker in plumage. It was fairly easy to pick it out. A moment later, the culprit of what spooked them all up in the first place appeared. A young peregrine swooped over my head and tried to catch a teal or something on the marsh in front of me, but failed. It was incredible! It was an amazing way to end our visit on.
Aug 21st Strumpshaw Fen & Cromer
A nice, hot day, but the ground was wet with dew. I went to Tower Hide and saw teal, gadwall, shovelers, a great white egret, herons and marsh harriers. At Reception Hide, another great white egret, a little egret, a hobby, 2 Canada geese, willow emerald, small red-eyed and common emerald damselflies.
|Common Emerald Damselflies, Speckled Wood,|
Marsh Woundwort & Sunset (Aug 21st)
I then went to Cromer later that day to experience a sunset over the sea as part of my challenge. It seemed to be a good night for it and it started pretty well with sunlight streaking over the incoming tide as we watched from Cromer pier. However, up until 8pm, the sun sank behind a large cloud that was blocking the view, making us miss it sinking into the sea. It was a disappointing end, but I did technically watch a sunset over the sea, so it is enough to tick off my list.
Aug 28th Strumpshaw Fen
I wanted to do something different. I wanted to learn, find and draw the trees of Strumpshaw Fen as a taster of a project I want to do for next year. I've bought a decent sketchbook and I want to draw as many plants I can find at Strumpshaw month by month. As trees and shrubs are here all year round, I thought I'd start with them first. Trying to figure out what is on the reserve, where about I can find them and roughly how abundant they are here. I've already started drawing the species I know already over the weekend.
I decided to begin my tree hunt along the Lackford Run. I'm an amateur at trees at best, I know my oaks, willows, rowans, ashes and birches, but to separate the turkey oaks from the English oaks, for example, is where I will struggle. I took pictures on my phone to identify them later. Most of them were crack willows, English oaks, hawthorns and elders. While searching the Lackford Run (and getting soaked by the dew covered plants in the process), I heard the loud bugling calls of a pair of cranes before seeing them fly off towards Buckenham around 8am. I expect this is the pair that hatched a chick here earlier this year.
Continuing my search down the Fen Trail, stopping at Tower Hide along the way, I found a lot of fruit trees. Not only did I find more elderberries and blackberries of elders and brambles, I also found crab apples, plums, dogwoods, guilder rose and one rowan tree brimming with red berries. From Tower Hide, other than a great white egret and the usual gathering of mallards, gadwall, teal and shovelers, there wasn't much of interest.
The Sandy Wall and in the woods on the way back to Reception Hide for my shift, produced spindles, alders, oaks, willows and a few Norway spruces, hollies and yews. During my shift, a small crowd of birders were scanning for the honey buzzard which was spotted around the same time the cranes took off. It didn't show itself while on my shift though. All I could see were marsh harriers, buzzards, a bittern, a great white egret and swallows.