The seasons are slowly shifting once again, and we have departed from the bustling reedbeds full of bird song and feeding flights and find ourselves in amongst a world of young birds quietly moving like shadows in the fen.
That said, there is still plenty of life in the fen to enjoy! I hope to do a full breeding summary in the next update once all the sightings are in and all the maps are analysed.
The clear highlight of recent weeks has to go to a black-crowned night heron, flying along the river at dusk on Thursday, this species is hard to see as it spends most of its day hidden asleep in dense vegetation and then feeds much like other herons and egrets under the cover of darkness, it would be great if we can see this one again. As our water levels have dropped we have had our late summer gathering of egrets and herons, this is only just getting going but from Tower Hide this week we have had two great egrets, 4 little egrets and up to seven grey herons all feeding in the shallows.
Another typical late summer species that is often viewable from Tower Hide are garganey, there have been at least two on show in amongst the eclipse plumaged teal, mallard and gadwall, its always a fun challenge to try to identify these in amongst the crowd.
Our marsh harrier nests have now fledged and we can see the chocolate coloured ginger crowned juveniles practicing their acrobatic flying, mobbing and catching skills over the reedbed.
As previously mentioned, there are numerous juvenile warblers, bearded tits and ducks throughout the reedbed, they often flash past the hides or bushes by the trails but it can be challenging to get a good look at some of the species. We still have a small number of hobbys hunting over the reedbed, these may still be feeding young as they often arrive late. Also in the skies we have recently seen buzzards, red kites, sparrowhawks and kestrels, a honey buzzard was seen over Brundall on Sunday so always worth checking those buzzards, just in case.
Kingfishers have been showing well from Fen Hide on some mornings and bitterns continue to give occasional flight views as well as being seen sunbathing at the back of Reception Broad on sunny mornings if you are lucky.
Kingfisher, Kingfisher and Bittern by Elizabeth Dack
Buckenham has started to see a trickle of passage waders passing through feeding on the muddy edges of the pools. This week we have had wood and green sandpipers, ruff, avocet, little ringed plover, snipe, greenshank, redshank and black-tailed godwit. This passage should continue to build throughout August as birds head towards their wintering grounds.
Butterflies have finally seen a good surge in numbers over the past week or two. The silver washed fritillaries and white admirals have had a good season with good numbers observed in the woodland rides. Purple hairstreaks have been seen at the tops of the oak trees while white letter hairstreak have been typically hard to see around the elm trees and feeding on the bramble flowers. Other species regularly encountered are large, small and green-veined white, red admiral, painted lady, brimstone, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, peacock, comma, ringlet, meadow brown, small and large skipper, so plenty to see on a sunny day in particular.
Dragonflies have also seen a good period of emergence and we now have the last few Norfolk Hawkers clinging on, brown, migrant and southern hawker, emperor, banded demoiselle, four-spotted and scarce chaser, black-tailed skimmer and both darters. On the damselfly front we have red-eyed, small red-eyed, common blue, azure, blue-tailed and willow emerald all on the wing! On Monday while on a boat on Rockland Broad we also saw a lesser emperor dragonfly, this rare species appears to be slowly increasing in abundance in this country but as far as I am aware this is the first record for the Mid Yare Valley so was quite a privilege to find and see. The dragonfly was seen in an area called 'The Slaughters' on the west of the broad and would only be visible by boat.
All trails are currently open as is the den building area. There is a special ‘Big wild summer’ trail on for families which can be purchased any day of the week from reception, pond dipping hire is also always available for hire. So come and have a walk around the reserve to see what will show itself for you, will you be lucky and see some lizards, flocks of bearded tits, swallowtail caterpillars or just immerse yourself in the wild landscape of the broads.
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