The year has started off with mild and windy weather…and with the wind came a North Sea tidal surge! (The image above shows one of our footpaths during the flood!)
Strumpshaw Fen has been a little on the quiet side in the past couple of weeks, apart from a thriving marsh harrier roost every evening and the odd cettis warbler shouting from the scrub around the fen. We do have the usual suspects of wildfowl on the broads, with small numbers of snipe dwelling in front of the hides. We have up to nine water pipits at the fen currently, but again they do seem quite hard to track down, four were seen together from Fen Hide on Tuesday. The marsh harrier roost has peaked at 60 birds, these are best seen coming into the roost from the riverbank or Tower/Fen Hide they come in at different times each afternoon, depending on weather conditions, but for best results watch from 15.00 on a windy day. The wind appears to keep the harriers up in the air in a group, whereas on a calm day they come into the roost straight away and slightly later as the hunting conditions are more favourable.
The birds in the woodland have already noticed the daylight lengthening and have started to clear their throats and practice their singing ability, along with the sound of drumming of great spotted woodpeckers resonating across the woodland. The woodland currently has good opportunities for seeing bullfinch, redpoll, siskin, treecreeper, marsh tit along with all of the other more common species.
The wet grassland of Buckenham and Cantley is where the majority of exciting birdlife is happening. We still have the only English flock of ‘taiga’ bean geese with 15 still present. These geese will very soon be departing their wintering grounds and heading back north, so if you have not yet seen them, it may be best to try soon to avoid disappointment. Also on the marshes are 200+ white-fronted geese, 1500+ pink footed geese, 1400 wigeon, 650+ teal and a decent array of birds of prey including red kite, marsh harrier, buzzard, hen harrier and barn owl.
Otters have been seen on Monday and Friday with a family party of three being seen last Friday, the first observation of a family group this winter as far as I am aware.
The flooding caused the reserve to completely fill up and continued to flood over pretty much the entire length of the riverbank and Lackford Run for three days. Unfortunately the water that flowed into the fen was up to 17 times more salty than our usual levels, so we have had to flush the fen as quickly as possible to reduce the salt in the fen. All paths are now open again and the water has returned to its usual level, so with wellingtons or stout walking boots the trails can still be enjoyed. The woodland trail, riverbank between Sandy Wall and the pumphouse as well as Sandy Wall and Fen Hide trail are all hard surfaces that should be accessible with any sensible footwear.
We are due a cold spell of weather over the coming weekend, this may well bring in some more finches such as redpoll, it could increase wildfowl numbers and may even keep the bean geese and white-fronts at Buckenham for a little longer.
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