This week has seen mixed weather conditions, starting off with a very humid plume of air sitting over us from southern Europe, this gave way to a largely cloudy and cool week. The weekend looks like its set for another mini heatwave though, so should be a great time to be at Strumpshaw Fen!
The last few swallowtail butterflies are still on the wing, there has been an obvious decrease in the past week, but with the weather predicted for this weekend I would expect a few to still be seen, however this is last chance saloon for the first brood! They will hopefully be flying in the sunshine, but it may be trickier to connect with them than in previous weeks due to the dwindling numbers.
In other butterfly news; the painted lady invasion is still going strong, with plenty of these fantastic migrant butterflies still being seen across the reserve. The first few silver washed fritillaries and white admirals have been seen in the country, so it is possible that our populations will emerge in this warm weekend coming, let’s hope so!
Bitterns have been seen fairly regularly throughout the week, with the three hides being the top places for viewing them, on Thursday an apparent female bittern was flying back and forth in front of reception hide affording some very nice views. We have confirmed one nest on the reserve (our first for three years) and it looks as if there could well be another female conducting feeding flights, keep the bittern reports coming to the reception volunteers, all records are valuable to us.
Marsh harriers are still busy bringing in food and passing it to the females in mid-air across the reserve, it will not be too long now before we start seeing some of the juveniles flapping about on the low shrubs in the reedbed.
Kingfishers appear to still be feeding their young in the nest, we have not seen any family parties so far this year so it looks likely that the first brood failed. I would hope the second brood young should be fledging in the coming weeks, so the perches at Fen Hide should be ready for action.
Dragonflies and damselflies are to be found in abundance when the weather conditions are good, Norfolk hawkers can be seen particularly well in the meadows, scarce chaser, black tailed skimmer and four-spotted chasers can be found on any of the trails as well as many blue damselflies, banded demoiselles and the first few ruddy darters of the season.
There are too many other invertebrates on site to mention, however at least 170 species of moth were found in the traps on Sunday night (that’s nearly three times the number of butterfly species found in the whole of the UK!) and there are a very large number of beetles, hoverflies and other jewels out there to be found. A plea from me, if anyone makes species lists of these more obscure species I would really appreciate a list of species encountered, please send to email@example.com This includes clearwing moths (which I have not received a single record from any visitors, despite knowing that people are looking).
The meadow trail has finally come into bloom, there are a good variety of special fen meadow plants on display now including common spotted and southern marsh orchids, ragged robin as well as a large variety of sedges, grasses and flowering plants. The meadow is wet, so waterproof footwear is recommended, I have added a few boardwalk bridges to take you over the wettest areas, but the peat retains moisture very well, so it is a little soft in other places too. In the two meadow compartments open for the meadow trail, you are free to wander off the trail to enjoy the wildflowers and insects, just tread carefully as there are many delicate plants throughout the meadow.
The reserve should be alive this weekend so make sure you come along and enjoy the fen in full flow!
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