Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Aug 1st Strumpshaw Fen

Red Admiral
After the walk to Strumpshaw from the train station in Brundall early this morning, I decided to keep walking, this time via the Lackford Run entrance. The main reason why was that there had been a couple of great white egrets been reported at Tower Hide since last week, but I also wanted to check on the latest batch of swallowtail caterpillars at the boardwalk area. It was rather wet from the morning's dew that covered every inch of every plant and it appears that if there were any caterpillars they were more than likely hiding away deep within the densest part of the reed bed further down until the dew had evaporated. I felt like I had wasted my time and wished I had went the normal route to the Tower Hide instead.

The Mute Swan family that was in the way!
With failure in finding any caterpillars, I did not turn back the way I came for the drier alternative route, instead I kept on moving through the dew soaked grassed pathway of the long winded Lackford Run. My boots were getting damp and my feet were feeling the moisture seep into my socks, but it was the least of my concern as I encountered a greater obstacle just a few metres around the corner of the boardwalk. A family of mute swans was blocking my path. The two adults raised their heads aloft from their wings as I slowly approached them and their cygnets sleeping behind them. The female was in full hissing mode as I attempted to shimmy along the edge of the right side of the path to get passed her. I really thought she was going to attack me, but I stood my ground and made myself look big. I'm not sure if it really did anything, but somehow I managed to inch passed them without too much trouble. Phew!

I almost stepped in this!!
My feet were now pretty wet by the time I reached the end of the Lackford Run. I sighed in relief to get that part out of the way. However, as I turned the corner to follow the river trail to the Tower Hide, I pulled my foot away from its next step. I almost stepped in something foul without realising it. It was a half eaten corpse of a large fish partly hidden in the grass, most likely left by an otter. If I had stepped in it, I would probably had screamed loudly in horror. A few steps later, I almost did it again. This time it was a decapitated head of a pike! This walk was starting to feel like the stuff of nightmares. There better be great white egrets after all this, I wondered.
A decapitated head of Pike!
View from Tower Hide
Finally, after all the obstacles and wet feet, I was at Tower Hide. Was there an egret? Only little egrets! I waited a bit. Sweat seeped into my eyes stinging them temporally. The heat from my face fogged up the lens of my binoculars, forcing me to wipe them clean continuously. Between wipes, I managed to see that this dried up scene had some good birds on it. Three common sandpipers, a ruff, lapwings, a cormorant, a couple of herons and a snipe made things interesting for a while, but then my prayers were answered. It was brief and I only managed a single bad photo of it, but there it was flying over the horizon of reed beds, a great white egret! Annoyingly though, it vanished, plunged into a section of the reedy sea. But at least I can say that I saw it and the eventful walk was worth it in the end after all.
Little Egret
Great White Egret (honest!)
Gadwall and Ruff
Mute Swan
Grey Heron
Common Sandpiper
Stock Dave
Great Crested Grebe
Female Southern Hawker
The Tri-hammock
Thankfully, the walk along the river trail and to Reception Hide was much drier and feet were feeling slightly drier, too. Visitors were already arriving when I entered the hide. As it is now the summer break, the staff here at Strumpshaw has now set up and opened activities in an area of the woodland trail. Though the yurt has been at the reserve for families to use for the last few years, the newest addition, that my colleagues seemed most excited about, was the tri-hammock. This large triangular hammock can hold two adults or one adult and two children or four children at a time. I had a go and as I am a big guy, I felt myself drop alarmingly close to the ground. The worst part was trying to get myself out of it. As well as the hammock and the yurt, families are also encouraged to build nests, shelters or whatever out of logs and to roll logs as well as other activities.
The yurt
Someone made this nest at the family area
One of the other activities that families can do
Silver-washed Fritillary
Just before returning to the Reception Hide from my sneak peek of the family area, I noticed an orange butterfly fluttering around a buddleia bush. It was a silver-washed fritillary! This species are nearing the end of their season and it shows with this individual as it is looking worn and tatty around the edges. Despite this, I'm still happy to see it and so close to the entrance of the reserve, too.

Common Darter
Cobber the Black Swan and Little Egrets
Throughout the remainder of my shift, I spent it inside the Reception Hide spilling facts about wildlife out of my brain to families who were interested, including a discussion about exuviae (the discarded skin of a dragonfly as it transforms into a winged adult) to a young girl who brought one in to show us. Outside the hide, three little egrets (not great whites sadly) lounged together by the reedy islands, a kingfisher sat on a reed by the front of the hide but was too quick to leave before I could take a photo of it, swallows and house martins swooped over the broad as they have been for weeks, and there was a last minute appearance of a male Chinese water deer. It has been quite an eventful day!
Chinese Water Deer

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