February is usually the month of love, but this year it was the month of storms. Valentine's Day was soon followed by three storms in one week. The worst of these being Storm Eunice which absolutely battered the country. At Strumpshaw, the reserve was closed for the day as several trees were toppled over, including the tree by Reception Hide, which fortunately fell away from the building. All hides and facilities from Strumpshaw and Buckenham have survived with no damage and are open once again.
Floods continue to force paths and hides to temporarily close this month. Of course, this will mean a lot of mud, especially along the river. Best to bring your wellies! At the time of writing Fen hide is open, but the riverbank pathway to Tower hide is closed. Woodland trail is open.
Otter, bittern and kingfisher sightings are thin on the ground right now, but that doesn't mean they are not around. Of course, these three species are not the only things to see on the reserve. This February, there has been a few exciting highlights to talk about.
The big sighting of the month has to be the glossy ibis seen from the pumphouse in the early hours of Feb 22nd. Apparently, it was a fairly distant bird and was heading towards Rockland Marsh, where it ended up staying for most of the day. In fact, it has been hanging around there for some time now and is possibly still around as I write this.
Glossy Ibis - viewed from the footpath at RSPB Rockland Marshes - Photo credit: Barry Madden
During the weekend of Feb 12th & 13th, up to four cranes flew over Strumpshaw and by Wednesday of that week, two were seen briefly on the marshes of Buckenham. At least one great white egret has made a couple of visits that week, as well as one lucky person having a woodcock fly past them along the woodland trail.
Marsh harriers are already beginning to show signs of performing their courtship displays, which is known as 'sky dancing' and involves the male showing off their aerial skills by flying high and stooping down and back up again. Hopefully, we will have another successful breeding season.
And it's not just our harriers showing well up in the sky right now. Buzzards are doing their own displays too and, if you are lucky, a red kite may soar by. I've been fortunate enough to see these forked-tailed wonders two Wednesdays in a row, with one flying right over my head!
Red kite soaring overhead - Photo credit Norman Norris RSPB Images
Signs of spring are increasing by the day. Blossom is on the trees (despite the strong winds), butterflies are starting to take to the wing (the first being a brimstone on Feb 8th and I've seen a peacock on Feb 23rd) and the birds are singing ever louder.
Newly emerged peacock butterfly - Photo credit: Sean Locke
Blackcaps have been seen recently, but I believe these could be some of the few that overwinter from Germany and Eastern Europe that refuse to travel to Africa. The siskins and redwings are still present in the woods, but my pick of the month has to be the treecreepers that you can see spiralling up tree trunks and are showing really well at the moment.
Buckenham continues to shine, even during a rain-lashing, stormy day that I've visited on recently. I was soaked, but was worth it as marsh harriers spook up the mass of lapwings, golden plovers, wigeon and starling into the more than blustery air!
Lapwing and plover take to the sky at Buckenham Marshes - Photo Credit Elizabeth Dack
230 Russian White-fronted geese remain to be seen at Buckenham, as are the pink-footed geese which had been numbering around 300 strong. Finally, at Cantley, 2 Bewick's swans were reported flying by on Feb 19th.
As you can see, even with all the stormy weather, it has been a fairly productive month for our reserves along the Yare valley. During March, I hope you can help me with more wildlife sightings. The migration season will kick off soon and I wonder which will arrive at Strumpshaw first? Chiffchaff, sand martin or sedge warbler?
A great way to celebrate Spring is to take part in a dawn chorus walk, our warden led events are live on the website so for a chance to experience Strumpshaw Fen as the sun rises and for more information on our full programme of events and to book tickets, please visit events.rspb.org.uk/strumpshawfen
Thanks to everyone who contributed sightings this month, Sean Locke.
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