All paths are in good condition.
A couple of unusual visitors this week; two common crane were seen at Buckenham on the 18th, and a ring ouzel was seen on the riverbank on the 15th.
The swallows have been joined by house and sand martins- good numbers can be seen over the whole of the reserve.
Many of our migrant warblers have started to arrive, including sedge, willow, grasshopper and garden warblers, as well as blackcaps and whitethroats.
On the mammal front, a grey seal took up temporary residence in the Yare near the sluice on Lackford run on Monday the 15th. Otters continue to be seen regularly, particularly at fen hide and on the riverbank, and there have been a high number of weasel sightings near reception and on the Lackford run. Pipistrelle bats are abundant on warm evenings; one of the best places to watch them feeding is at the finger post or near the pond dipping area.
Tower hide had sightings of the first hobby of the year on the 16th, as well as a female garganey and a red kite over the weekend.
Many bumblebees are now out and about, including buff-tailed, red-tailed and carder bees.
The first of the swallows have returned, and have been seen all over the reserve.
Chiffchaffs can be regularly heard in the woodland, which is also currently awash with woodcock; twelve individuals were recorded on the last point count.
We’ve been getting excellent daily sightings of marsh harriers - look out for males parading bits of reed around to show off to the females.
Otters have been seen fairly regularly from fen hide, as have kingfishers.
Bitterns have also been showing well from fen hide, and last night we recorded our first two boomers!
Up to three snipe have treating visitors to excellent views from reception hide, preening and feeding in the reed stubble. There are also large numbers at Buckenham, which can be easily viewed from the track. Lapwing and avocet can also be seen on the marshes.
A brambling has been regularly visiting our bird feeders, along with the usual nuthatches.
Barn owls have been regularly spotted in the early morning near the edge of the woodland and have been hunting in the meadows near the pumphouse.
A red kite was seen from tower hide on Tuesday 9th April.
Sunny days have seen our first sightings of brimstone, peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies, and a beautiful weekend provided views of common lizards and grass snakes near the boardwalk.
With our first bitterns beginning to boom, it looks as if spring is finally getting through the biting cold to make itself apparent. To celebrate, we have two copies of Birds of Norfolk on DVD to give away, kindly donated by wienerworld.com. All you need to do to win is send us a short blog (no more than 300 words) about your experiences with wildlife in the broads; anything from sky dancing marsh harriers to interesting earthworms. We have a DVD for the two winning entries, and the top three will be published on our blog to be generally admired.
To view a trailer of our wonderful prize, go to http://www.wienerworld.com/birds-of-norfolk-a-bird-watch.html. Send your entries in to Strumpshaw@rspb.org.uk. The competition closes on Friday 3rd May. Good luck!
Blog by Melanie Beck, Strumpshaw Fen Volunteer
As April began, Strumpshaw Fen’s first big family event of the year had arrived. Sadly spring hadn’t arrived with it but a hardy group of staff and volunteers braved the cold to welcome around 40 children and their families. We had an afternoon packed with activities to keep out the cold.
On arrival the children were set the challenge of following our treasure hunt. They had to solve each clue and follow the arrows in the right direction to the next one. The clues led to a special password needed to collect their prize. A little detective work was needed as some clues were harder than others – well we couldn’t make it too easy could we! There was also the chance to have a go at pond dipping and bug hunting as everyone made their way around the reserve.
It proved to be a little too cold for many of the smaller creatures who live at the reserve as they were still taking shelter. It was quite cold for us too - it’s not so easy to go pond dipping when you have a big coat, a hat, scarf and gloves on! Minus the gloves, we became quite the experts. Some of the children had been pond dipping before, while for others it was something new, but everyone – and I must say parents and grandparents included!- enjoyed sifting through the pond weed to see what lived there. Among our finds were midge larvae, blood worms, a leech, damselfly nymphs, water boatmen and what turned out the be the star attraction, caddis fly larvae that kept popping out of their homemade protective cases.
In the bug hunting area insects were proving quite hard to find too. Several millipedes and centipedes were discovered under some logs, and finding a newt was a real treat. This was also where the final clue of the treasure hunt was to be found so the children were eager to claim their prize – what else but some chocolate eggs!
It was a great day for everyone with much talk of families coming back - hopefully in warmer weather - to have another go at pond dipping and bug hunting to see what other creatures could be found. There are lots of other events at the reserve throughout the year for adults and children – so why not come along and join in the fun!
There have been some welcome signs of spring today at Strumpshaw Fen with 3 kinds of butterfly on the wing and dozens of mining bees swarming along the footpath. These little bees are waking up just in time for the short-lived abundance of willow pollen which the females collect as food for their young. The willow catkins will be finished by mid May so it is a short busy life for the female bees. For the males life is even shorter so there is no time for sophisticated courtship; as each female bee emerges from the ground for the first time a succession of males quite literally throw themselves at her. The one that manages to hold on the longest gets to father her children. There are over 100 species of mining bees in the UK and about half are likely to be seen in gardens where they do a great job of pollinating many wild and garden plants. Sheltered sunny patches of bare ground or short grass are their favoured nesting areas so look out for them where you live.
And the snipe is still posing at reception - just look how the pale streaks on its back and sides match the sedge and reed stems.