If you love an early coffee, then we have good news, as Reception will be serving you at 9:30 am instead of 10 am as we move over to our summer opening hours. For the time being our reception hide remains closed off to the public but our welcome team are operating from our outside booth which is open daily from 9.30am-5pm.  Light refreshments, snacks and ice-creams are all available.

There's more good news as the Fen Trail is now open.  You can enjoy once more a leisurely stroll around the fen, along the river to Tower Hide and along the Lackford Run and onto the boardwalk. The trail has dried up and are fully suitable to walk on at long last. It may become a bit slippery after a sudden spring shower, though so take care over the next few days!

March has been a warm month this year and full of wildlife highlights to talk about. The biggest of which (in all sense of the word) being a white-tailed eagle!! On March 28th, one was reported soaring over Surlingham and I was told it was heading in the direction of Strumpshaw Fen.  We kept watching but unfortunately the bird was not seen over the reserve. 

This is the second time we've had a White Tailed Eagle in the Yare Valley region since one visited Buckenham back in May 2017. This individual is likely to be a young eagle from the Isle of Wight introduction project as they tend to roam for many miles in their first few years until they are old enough to return back to the place they hatched to breed for the first time.

Now last month, I asked you to guess which will arrive back at Strumpshaw first, chiffchaff, sand martin or sedge warbler? The answer turned out to be chiffchaff. I started hearing one from the very start of the month, though some may have overwintered at Strumpshaw, bucking the trend of travelling to Africa. By the second week of March onwards, they are more and more vocal and numerous.

Meanwhile, sand martins have been spotted in small numbers since around March 22nd, but no signs of swallows at Strumpshaw yet though they have been recorded elsewhere in the UK. I expect it will be a matter of days until one turns up. On the other hand, blackcaps are already here and have been heard singing since late last week.

It has been a brilliant year for garganey so far. Sightings have been coming in since March 15th. Strumpshaw, Buckenham and Cantley have all had mini-invasions of these beautiful ducks, the only duck species to migrate north to the UK from Africa. The best views, though, have been from Tower Hide with up to seven of them seen at one time! Listen out for the male's croaking calls.

A Strumpshaw spring isn't complete without the boom of the bittern and many of you have been asking when to visit to hear them make these incredible sounds. Well, back around the second week of March, males were beginning to train their vocal cords with a series of grunting. By the 16th, the first boomer was heard. So, the answer is, right now. Dawn and dusk are possibly the times to hear them at their best, however there is a good chance of hearing one on and off at any time in the course of a day.

If you are keen to know more about this elusive species, and hopefully hear the boom why not join us on our 'Boom of the Bittern' guided walk on the 30 April.  Tickets can be purchased here = https://events.rspb.org.uk/events/12566 .

The reedbeds aren't just alive with the sound of booming bitterns, there are other birds to keep an ear out for. Cetti's warblers have been incredibly active and often make themselves a lot easier to see at this time of year as they explode with a loud, shouty call from a bush before slinking back into the cover of reeds. Reed buntings are just as active and even easier to see often singing their 'zip, zerp, zit' song from the very top branches of shrubs and heads of reeds.

Bearded tits have also been quite lively at times this month. I have had great views of seven of these charming birds posing on the heads of reeds in the glorious sunshine we've been having recently, the bench at the top of Sandy Wall is a great place to sit and wait.

Kingfisher and otter sightings have returned on a more regular basis. On March 2nd, I was thoroughly enjoying views of one otter surprise a swan with a nip to the leg out of curiosity, in which the swan was not best pleased! Throughout the month, we also had regular sightings of cranes and occasionally the odd water pipit and great white egret too. The latter in which provided me with a close view from Fen Hide on March 2nd and I managed to get some decent photos.

With it being a very warm month, more and more butterflies and other insects were out enjoying it. This included a colony of Clarke's mining bees that were buzzing to life by the usual bench at the start of Sandy Wall (the main path to the river and to Fen Hide) for a few short weeks. As a species of solitary bee, each one had their own burrows where they gathered pollen to feed their developing young over the coming months. Their activity often attracted some interesting brood parasites which included the very odd-looking bee-fly. These strange insects are like six-legged cuckoos as they fire their own eggs into the bee's burrow entrances whilst still on the wing!

Common lizards and grass snakes have also been making the most of the sunny weather and can be seen basking along the wooden borders of the Sandy Wall and other warm spots. Also along the Sandy Wall path, I've been enjoying the bright yellow flowers called coltsfoot, which were once used for treating coughs.

Over at Buckenham and Cantley, the geese are now departing for their breeding grounds around the Arctic Circle and their presence on the marshes are being replaced with large numbers of ground-nesting birds preparing for their own breeding season. Black-tailed godwits, lapwing, avocets, ruff and curlew are just some of the birds you can enjoy right now and of which we'll keep a close eye on.

As well as all the expected nesting waders, there has been a few other goodies seen from these two reserves, which included two little stints that have been staying quite some time at Cantley, while a glossy ibis flew over there on March 14th. I would like to point out that the marshes have also been a good place to see pintails (up to 19 in Feb) and a few are still hanging around there at the moment.

And finally, here's a quick round up on a few other notable sightings from Strumpshaw made by our visitors; woodcock (March 13th & 14th), a male hen harrier (March 18th), spotted redshank (March 14th), little owl (March 25th), Brambling (March 25th), little gull (March 28).

April should be a busy month as more birds arrive from migration and the bluebells should be in flower very soon. The warm weather, however, is forecast to change to an icy spell in the few days. So let's hope it doesn't delay the breeding season too hard like it did last year.

With the school Easter holidays starting on 2 April 2022, our team have been working hard to put the finishing touches to our Easter Family Trail which will run every day of the school holidays.  There is no need to book for this fantastic event, just turn up and pick up a trail pack (£3) from our reception team and enjoy the activities set up throughout our discovery zone.  More information on this event can be found here = https://events.rspb.org.uk/events/14643 .  As the holidays commence we will also see the return of self led pond dipping, all the kit can be hired from reception to enable your family to discover what creepy crawlies are living in our ponds.  Or if you prefer a spot of woodland minibeast hunting why not hire one of our adventurer backpacks.

We look forward to welcoming you to our reserve.

Keep a look out for my next update, due end of April.  Thanks Sean. 

All images supplied by Sean Locke

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