Apologies for lack of recent updates!!
Savi's warbler still singing from Reception and Fen Hide, best heard at dawn or dusk.
Swallowtails have started to emerge now, so pick a nice warm day and you may be rewarded, warm weekends are likely to be busy, so if you can make it during the week it would ease any potential car park issues.
Migrant birds all here now, currently there are 8+ hobbys hawking insects above the fen, large flocks of swifts and (late) house martin flocks, 3 cuckoos, 6 grasshopper warblers and plenty of other migrants in song, the kingfishers nest has hatched and the male can be seen frequently from Reception hide fishing.
Spring at Strumpshaw Fen was a little slow to get going, when it did start, we had several hot days followed by a week of cool and wet weather! As I write this we are looking at having a rather hot run of weather; over the fen migrants are streaming through, butterflies and dragonflies have taken to the skies and spring is definitely back on the cards.
As is tradition for the spring edition I will run through the arrival dates of our migrants at Strumpshaw Fen;
March A small wave of chiffchaffs on 14th March kicked off the migrant tally although, these birds may have been wintering closer to home? The first long distance arrivals were a small flock of sand martins on 28th march, these should be the first migrants that are seen at the fen, however nature doesn’t always run in order! A day later we had a beautiful pair of garganey right in front of reception hide, these sub-Saharan migrant ducks are usually very good at hiding so it was especially lucky to have them so close and out in the open for the day, this pair relocated to Buckenham, where they are still present in early May.
April The first arrival of warblers came on 4th April with willow warblers and blackcaps very much in evidence, we also had our first few swallows of the year on this day too. At least three whimbrel were heard migrating over the fen on the evening of 5th April and then a day later we also added common tern, house martin and sedge warbler to the list. The first reed warbler arrived on 10th April, although it was notable that they were present in very small numbers throughout April and did not really arrive properly until early May. On 18th April grasshopper warblers arrived, again a little later than in previous years, we also had a very vocal lesser whitethroat along the riverbank on the same day. 19th April ‘cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo’ greeted us as we came to the office, nothing quite says spring like this song. We then jump forward a little to 23rd April when we were treated to our first swifts giving their amazing flying displays.
May our first hobbys were seen on 1st May, this species often appears shortly after the swifts and swallows as they like to snack on them as they travel north!
So there you go, that’s how this spring has occurred so far in terms of migrants. It’s fair to say it’s been a bit stop-start in terms of migrants and I was not until early May that the reedbed began to sound up to its normal volume. We are still awaiting the first reports of garden warbler and spotted flycatcher, both of these should hopefully appear within the first two weeks of May. Bitterns have been booming well throughout spring and marsh harriers have been busy building their nests, while kingfishers have been darting back and forth taking fish to their nesting burrows. One bird that is very much noticeable by its absence is the bearded tit, usually by early May we have logged up to 30 nests, but this year no bearded tits have been seen or heard at all on any of the surveys! This species is very susceptible to cold winters and are well known for crashes in the population, luckily they seem to recover from these crashes in just a few years, but for now it is largely absent.
Other interesting sightings this spring have included three spoonbills in breeding finery in mid-April at Buckenham, a savi’s warbler has been singing from Fen Hide from 5th May, a Temminck’s stint was seen at Buckenham on 10th May and a pair of black-winged stilts briefly touched down on the marshes too, red kites hanging around the area throughout the period.
The first major insect emergence occurred in the first few days of May and now there are a good number of dragons and damsel on the reserve including large red, blue-tailed, red-eyed, azure and variable damselflies followed by hairy dragonfly, scarce chaser, broad bodied chaser and an early Norfolk hawker. Butterflies have been slow to emerge, but are now present in good numbers and are being seen throughout the fen. The first swallowtail of the season emerged on 15th May, so the coming weekend could see a larger scale emergence depending on the weather.
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