The past two weeks will be remembered for the unseasonably warm sunny weather. The temperatures rose to 17 degrees here and with unbroken sun, it really did feel warm. The temperature increase certainly caused a mass emergence of insects and it felt more like April at times! While this was very welcome warmth, I cant help but be a bit concerned by the timing of the warmth, after all it was February!

 This week we recorded good numbers of butterflies, all of the species recorded were overwintering insects rather than freshly emerged. Brimstones made up the vast majority of sightings with up to eight seen at once along the railway line. Other species on the wing included peacock, red admiral, small tortoiseshell and comma. Other newly recorded species for the year were several grass snakes, several bee and hoverfly species feeding on the blossom, really adding to the spring like feel.

 Birds continued to increase in the fen during this period after a relatively quiet winter it was good to see many of our spring species returning. Spring species at Strumpshaw are perhaps a little bit subtle at first, but shelduck, pochard, tufted duck and black headed gulls have all returned already. On the marshes the first returning redshanks have been seen alongside the lapwings which are now well into their display flights and nest building. A bittern was heard grunting on Wednesday, which is the earliest we have heard the bitterns warming up for some years.

 Marsh harriers continue to display over the fen, many visitors have been missing the harriers as they are not looking quite high enough, it is amazing how high they go to display if there are thermals available. Also high up over the fen, the buzzards have been pairing up and defending their territories. The red kites have been far less frequently seen than last year so far, but they are still being put on the board each week, so must be somewhere local to the fen still.

Reed buntings have really started singing in earnest now that the weather has warmed up, they have relatively little singing competition in the reedbed at the moment as the reed and sedge warblers are still a long way south of us, this means that they are quite easy to hear and see and are not lost in the ‘noise’ that will be emanating from the reedbed in a month or two.

 The woodland has also continued its chorus with all the usual suspects heard singing this morning, including marsh tit, bullfinch, green and great spotted woodpeckers, song and mistle thrush as well as goldcrests, treecreepers and somewhat surprisingly a small number of singing redwings.

 Thanks to the warm dry weather and the low tides, the riverbank trail has dried out considerably over the past two weeks. It is currently passable with sensible footwear, but not necessarily wellingtons. Of course, this could change quickly in the event of tidal flooding or heavy rainfall so always ask in reception for the latest path conditions.

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