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Recent sightings

  • 26 August 2016

    Recent Sightings Strumpshaw Fen 26 August 2016

     Glossy Ibis by Ron McIntyre



    This week’s star bird was the fine looking glossy ibis. This rather lost bird has been finding the Tower Hide scrape much to its liking throughout the week. It has been feeding well on the muddy edges, usually on the opposite side of the broad, but occasionally comes and rests on the spit, it also flew onto Reception Hide island for a quick snooze on Monday afternoon.

    An osprey has been seen regularly throughout the week, occasionally fishing from Tower Hide, but also disappearing to Rockland, Buckenham and Cantley at times.

    On a loop of the fen trail today I managed to see bearded tits from Reception and Fen Hide, kingfisher from tower hide as well as the glossy ibis, 15 ruff, three garganey, a water rail and a green sandpiper. The wildfowl are beginning to move now with shovelers beginning to make themselves known, we often get a good peak of shoveler in September, let us know how many you have seen!


    Willow emerald damselflies have been increasing in number with this hot sunny weather and at least three to five second brood swallowtails have been seen from the trails in good conditions.


    The birds are beginning to increase in number and volume as we have now passed through the quietest part of the summer. We should expect wader passage to continue, goldcrests to begin to increase and the wildfowl numbers to increase in the next couple of weeks too.

    The trails are all dry and in good condition, the water level has nearly reached its target level so the mud should stay for a couple of months now, unless we flood or it rains very heavily (as seems to happen most autumns!). The water level is dropped to this level every year so that we can get into the reedbed and get the management carried out; it also replicates the historical levels, which benefits the very important fen flora including milk parsley.

    Posted by Ben

  • 21 August 2016

    Recent Sightings Strumpshaw Fen 21 August 2016

    The second generation of swallowtails has begun, we have had at least 2-3 individuals emerge over the past week. From the look of the weather forecast it would appear that Tuesday may well be a good day to come and try to see them as it may be warm and sunny.

    A glossy ibis has just been reported from Tower Hide, this is another of the species that is pushing north quite quickly. It would be great if this bird hangs around for all to enjoy.

    This week we have continued to see kingfisher regularly as well as bearded tits from reception, ruff, green and common sandpipers from Tower hide alongside at least eight garganey.

    Other birds of note include the spotted flycatcher family in the wood on Tuesday, an Osprey flyover on Wednesday and a greenshank on Thursday.

    The dragonflies are still increasing in number with migrant, brown and southern hawkers being readily seen around the fen, an emperor dragonfly was seen on Sunday morning from Reception Hide. The smaller damselflies have included small red eyed, azure, common damselflies as well as common and willow emerald damselflies. There are still a few scarce chasers hanging on with black tailed skimmers vastly outnumbering them at present.

    Otter was seen at the sluice on Wednesday along with at least 200 rudd/roach.


    After a rainy day on Tuesday, the forecast set to improve and we will get a bit more summer for the rest of the week, this should be good timing for the second generation swallowtails, migrant waders may drop in on Tuesday and the glossy ibis may be lurking somewhere on the reserve for an added touch of the Mediterranean.

    Posted by Ben

  • 18 August 2016

    Second generation swallowtails 18 August 2016

    I will do a fuller update at the weekend, however I wanted to let you know that there have been two swallowtails in good condition seen in the past couple of days. The second generation is always very variable, so the two individuals may be it for the second generation... or we may get many more, we'll just have to wait and see.

    Other brief news for this week has included a little stint at Buckenham and an osprey over Strumpshaw meadows on Wednesday. Tower Hide has seen a flock of up to 15 ruff, two green sand pipers and a common sandpiper, while reception has been a good place to see kingfisher and bearded tits have been showing near constantly all week feeding in the base of the reeds.

    Posted by Ben

  • 12 August 2016

    Recent Sightings 12 August 2016

     This week had quite an autumnal feel, with low temperatures and a fresh northerly breeze, however by Friday it was back up to 25 degrees hot and sunny with blue skies.


    The bird news this week is once again a little thin on the ground, however as always there is still plenty to see. Kingfishers have once again been seen frequently form Reception and Fen Hides as well as being seen all along the riverbank and in the pools around the reserve. Bearded tits are still feeding low down in the reeds but have been showing well from Reception Hide on occasion. The garganey numbers are still fluctuating on a daily basis but today 10 were seen at Tower Hide along with 15 ruff and a redshank. Water rails have been seen from all hides this week, with the subadult at Tower Hide being most frequently reported. A juvenile little ringed plover has been seen on Tower Hide spit on a number of occasions throughout the week, it is fairly unusual to see this species here, so is quite a notable sighting. The most recent report of bittern came on Wednesday, although I’m sure they have been seen here on a near daily basis. The spotted flycatcher was seen again in the woods on Tuesday too. Marsh harriers are still using the fen, however the majority of the juveniles have now departed and many of the adults are out hunting further afield during the day.

    Buckenham and Cantley have started to attract a few more waders now with this weeks peaks being 13 ruff, 4 avocet, ringed plover, dunlin and snipe. As well as the waders there have been up to four yellow wagtails and a juvenile cuckoo have at Buckenham.


    Butterflies have taken the headlines this week, with a silver washed fritillary being seen in the woodland on Tuesday, another was possibly seen on Wednesday too, so its worth checking the commas for a larger prize. The other notable butterfly of the week was a purple hairstreak, this was seen on our bug hunt around the log circle. Purple hairstreaks are usually found high up in oak trees so are very much under recorded, so nice to see one on the brambles for a change.  There is no sign of a second brood of swallowtails just yet, but if any are reported to us I will do a special post.


    Plenty of dragonflies are on the wing at the moment, the sheltered areas of the reserve (during these blustery conditions) are full of migrant hawker, brown hawker, common and ruddy darters. Also beginning to increase in number are the willow emerald damselflies, I have seen them near the fen boardwalk area, along sandy wall and at the pool near reception so far this year. Small red-eyed damselflies have been seen from Reception Hide and the pool next to the hide.


    Otter has been seen on Wednesday at reception, Chinese water deer have been showing well around the fen, including some very small and cute looking youngsters.


    Paths are all open, the Lackford Run went underwater a number of times this week so there are a few wet patches, but not particularly muddy yet. We have started our fen management so you may well see us out in the reedbed piling up reed or even having a fire.


    The weather is set to improve over the weekend and the start of next week before going downhill again, so get over here and enjoy the fen.

    Posted by Ben

  • 8 August 2016

    Recent Sightings Strumpshaw Fen 8 August 2016

    Wildlife on the reserve:

     Summer is well on its way, as we have all felt from the recent high temperatures, and the breeding season is drawing to a close. The spring symphony has passed and an aural tranquillity has settled over the reserve. However the quiet is not to be mistaken for inactivity, there is still plenty happening at Strumpshaw Fen!

    Increasingly emboldened, families of birds are venturing further from nest sites and into view. A family of bullfinches can be seen moving around the fringes of the woodland near the wood circle and juvenile blackcaps have been seen perched above the first picnic benches. Out in the fen, young bearded tits are becoming more visible as they cautiously emerge from the depths of the reed. Fen Hide is a great place from which to view bearded tit, reed bunting and reed and sedge warblers as they flit between the channels, keeping an eye on the periphery of the broad for a family of water rail.

    Marsh harriers have had a good year at Strumpshaw Fen, with we believe 20 juveniles fledging. Now a little older now and more practiced at flying, the young birds will travel further afield; however they can still be seen regularly across the reserve. Keep an eye out for food passes, for as it is with any young teen, they might be initially motivated to leave the nest, but more so to return home for dinner. Last week a female marsh harrier carried a weasel over the yard and reception broad where it made a food pass to a juvenile butterfingers - more practice required.

    It has been a hard year so far for butterflies with the cold spell in late spring; however, there are currently a number of peacock, red admiral and large white on the wing. The woodland path is still a good place to look for the rare white admiral, though it can be seen anywhere around the woodland areas of the reserve. Last week a white admiral was loitering around the pin badge table, petitioning for adequate representation no doubt.

    Dragonflies are putting on a fantastic show at the moment. A stroll through the meadows will uncover hundreds of damselflies, including the beautiful willow emerald that has just begun to emerge. Since the tall vegetation has been cut back in front of the hides, the small red-eyed damselfly can be seen around the border of the broad and pond by reception. Walking anywhere on the reserve southern and migrant hawkers are patrolling the skies so remember to look up!

    In the coming weeks we will be expecting to see the beginning of passage migrants and more waders arriving at Buckenham and Cantley marshes; last week saw in particular an increase in numbers of black-tailed godwit, ruff and green sandpiper.

    However the most exciting report of the week is the 11 garganey seen from Tower Hide, the largest number recorded in Norfolk since 1998.


    What we’re up to:

     Looking into the middle of the fen this week you may have spotted a somewhat rare species in an unusual habitat, the mud-coated warden. Now that the breeding season has finished we are able to perform management in the reedbeds. Cutting on rotation, this essential management creates variation in age and height of the reedbeds, opens up areas and creates border habitats that are vital for the maintenance of biodiversity and stops succession to scrub. We also cut back the view points in front of all the hides to prevent a succession of reed into the broad and to allow a better view of the fantastic wildlife that call it home.


    What you can get up to:


    Whatever the time of year, there is always plenty to enjoy in the Mid Yare Valley.


    Wild Fridays: Come and have a wild time with the RSPB at Strumpshaw Fen. For the duration of the summer holiday are offering free guided activities including pond dipping, mini-beast hunting and art and crafts (mud included). Suitable for the whole family, everyone can get up close and personal with nature. For more information have a look at the events page on the RSPB website:


    Bike hire: Get active in nature by hiring a bike from Strumpshaw Fen. Bike hire is available on Saturdays and Sundays. Whether a quick trip down the road to Buckenham reserve, or venturing further afield, the gentle gradient and quite country lanes offer great scope to explore mid yare valley by bike. For information about pricing and availability have a look at the website:


    Enjoy the peace and quiet: Slow things down a little and enjoy a peaceful wander about the reserve. Open dawn until dusk, why not linger by the viewing screens and watch a kingfisher hovering over the broad; find a bench to relax on and look up to a sky filled with dragonflies; or pause a moment to take a closer look at the flora and the insects feeing on the rich nectar. All the trails are currently open and the paths in good condition, although suitable walking shoes are advised.


    Whatever you get up to this week, whether it is wild, active or peaceful, have a great one!



    Laura Shelbourn

    Posted by Ben

  • 30 July 2016

    Recent Sightings Strumpshaw Fen 30 July 2016

    A largely fine, warm week with warm nights, dry except Thursday afternoon when there were heavy showers.


    This weeks star species has to be garganey, for the past week we have had up to 11 of these migrant ducks in front of Tower Hide. They are currently in eclipse plumage so not the dapper looking ducks that we had in April, however they are close enough to see very well and we have a range of males females and juveniles.

    Hot on the heels of the garganey for rarity value, with add ahhh factor are the very small juvenile water rails in front of Fen Hide. While this species is not at all unusual at the fen, seeing the black fluffy juveniles with their white bills searching for food just in front of the hide is certainly a noteworthy sighting.

    Also around the fen; the kingfishers are being seen well all around the fen, anywhere there is water and a perch is a possible location for this brightly coloured beauty. Bitterns have been seen on and off from Fen Hide throughout the week and the marsh harrier young are beginning to depart the fen and fend for themselves, so are not being see as frequently as in recent weeks.

    Bearded tits have started to climb to the top of the reeds to feast on the new seeds, as well as being seen feeding low down in the reeds from all three hides. The bearded tits have been showing particularly well from Reception and Fen Hide, where they can be seen feeding low in the recently cut reed edges.

    The spotted flycatcher family has been seen on and off through the week between the main railway gate and the woodland path, but they are difficult to see and surprising secretive. The bullfinch family continue to be seen regularly around the reception and railway crossing area, favouring the ripe cherry trees.


    New dragonflies on the wing in numbers now are the migrant hawkers, these small dragons can be seen congregating in groups at many pen areas around the fen and surrounding fields. Willow emerald damselfies are emerging in small numbers and small-red eyed damselflies can be seen in front of reception and in the small pool next to reception.


    Butterflies are continuing to have quite a poor year, although we do have regular sightings of white admiral throughout the woods. A very late swallowtail butterfly was seen on Thursday near Tower Hide, this was a late individual, judging by its battered wings, rather than a second generation butterfly.

    We carried out our annual swallowtail caterpillar survey, searching the selected 10 points around the fen. The results found 80 swallowtail caterpillars compared to 93 last year, so slightly down, but far better than I first feared given the cool conditions and very heavy showers.


    Buckenham Marshes have seen the first wave of passage waders return, with a flock of 71 black tailed godwits, six green sandpiper, four dunlin, seven whimbrel and four avocets all seen this week.


    The competition with Frampton Marsh RSPB reserve, to see who can see the most species from their reception hide is beginning to hot up now. We have seen 122 species from the Reception at Strumpshaw now, but are still missing a few species which can be added in August. The full list is on the reception desk at the back of the black clipboard, see what you can add.


    All trails are open and in good condition, the vegetation in front of all hides has now been cut extending the viewing pleasure too.


    Posted by Ben

  • 19 July 2016

    Recent Sightings Strumpshaw Fen 19 July 2016

     After a few weeks without an update (apologies!) the weather has finally broken and we are currently basking in 35 degree heat.


    Since the last update there have been a number of notable species seen; firstly on my way into work on 29 June I heard a Savi’s warbler reeling, this stayed until 3 July. Half an hour after finding the Savi’s warbler a bee-eater flew over me, unfortunately this beautiful bird did not linger though, I’ll have to leave my car at home more often! Other notable species included garganey; we were aware of two pairs in the spring at Buckenham, but to get news that there were two broods in the ditches along the track at Buckenham was very welcome news indeed, three were seen on Sunday from Fen Hide too. The spotted flycatcher family was seen on Sunday and again on Tuesday, they were seen near the manned railway crossing towards Buckenham and also at the rail crossing coming onto the reserve at Reception.


    Insects have included some very late Swallowtails; it is possible that there are still one or two on the wing, with one being seen today. While the swallowtail butterflies should be very few in number at this time of the year, the caterpillars should start to be seen now. White admirals have been performing well in the woodland and along the pumphouse track, this super butterfly is the only member of the glider family in the UK and nectars mostly on bramble flowers.

    The first few willow emeralds have started to emerge, they were found in multiple areas last year, but the first sighting of the year has come from the ‘usual’ area near to the fen boardwalk, they will increase in number over the next few weeks, peaking in early August.


    Otters have been seen fairly regularly over the past two weeks from various locations around the fen as have Chinese water deer, water vole and grass snake.


    Marsh harriers are still very obvious around the fen, the juvenile birds have now largely fledged but are still being fed by the adults so it is not unusual to see the very dark brown juveniles with their orange crowns on the tops of bushes with their other siblings bickering. There are at least 20 juvenile birds on view at the moment, including a couple who regularly sit on the Lackford Run path itself!

    Kingfishers have fledged at least two young this year and they have been reported from Fen Hide and Reception on a number of occasions, although I’ve not seen the youngsters, the adults have certainly been showing well this week.

    The songbirds around the fen have almost all stopped singing now, so it can seem like a fairly quiet place, particularly on the hot summer days, but the reedbed and trees still house plenty of family feeding parties, flocks of juvenile birds group together for safety and possibly company at this time of the year. Bearded tit feeding parties can be heard from Fen Hide at the moment but seeing them is quite a challenge as they are feeding on small insects at the base of the reed stems, it will be another month or so until the reed seed heads are ready for eating, which is the time when the flocks of bearded tits can be seen very well indeed.


    The water levels will be decreasing over the next month which will allow muddy edges for wildfowl to loaf on and potentially for passage waders and water rails to feed on. The water levels dropping and the sun shining is likely to result in a large amount of visible blanket weed on some of the broads, this is due to high nutrient levels combine with the sunlight and there is unfortunately little we can do to combat it. Other habitat management news is that the hay meadows have had their cut; we cut half of the fields for hay each year, continuing the 400 year old management of these particular meadows. Cutting for hay takes nutrients off the site so that the rare assemblage of plants can continue without being out competed by more dominant nutrient loving plants. The meadow trail should remain open throughout the hay making operation but there will be some diversions while the cattle are in place.

    The next few weeks will see an increase in dragonfly numbers, brown hawker, common darter, migrant hawker and willow emerald have now been seen, which are usually good indicators for mid summer!

    All paths are currently open and are fairly dry, the Lackford Run is still susceptible to high tides, but is fine for all types of sensible footwear.

    Posted by Ben

  • 27 June 2016

    Quick update 27 June

    We still have a few swallowtails on the wing with two seen today near the pond dipping platform, plenty of dragonflies as well as kingfishers and a few bittern sightings.

    The heavy rain has made quite a few of our paths a bit soggy so if you are visiting please wear stout footwear.

    The first field of the meadow trail is closed for this week as the highland cattle have been put in for conservation grazing. They will spend the week targeting the rush and reed that grows in this compartment, the removal of which is very important to continue to allow the important fen meadow plants to thrive. These meadows have been cut for hay for the past 400 years so we are continuing the same management to achieve the best habitat we can. The meadow trail should be open again for the weekend.

    Posted by Ben

  • 24 June 2016

    Recent Sightings 24 June 2016

    A warm week with a wet start and a humid end, very heavy rain on Thursday night left much surface water on the trails and roads.


    A week with all the expected summer species seen including a late(ish) cuckoo on Tuesday, two bitterns in flight together on Friday, marsh harriers feeding young and at least two hobbies visible from Reception Hide. The reedbed warblers are still singing, but showing signs of slowing in their vigour, while chiffchaff and willow warbler both are still singing well in the woodland. A red kite was seen on Wednesday along with a few buzzards flying over.


    A dog otter has been seen a few times throughout the week from reception, fishing and on show for up to an hour at a time. A water vole was particularly brave along Sandy Wall on Friday morning, showing several times as it dragged an enormous cow parsley stem into the reedbed.


    Swallowtails continue to cling on, however it would appear as though numbers are tailing off now, just two or three seen on Friday despite decent conditions. The first brood of swallowtails are usually over by now, so we are lucky to still have some flying at all. Large skipper has emerged, but common blue butterflies have proved illusive for the 40 species challenge listers.


    Dragonflies are still present in good numbers with Norfolk hawker, scarce and four-spotted chaser, black tailed skimmer and hairy dragonfly being the most obvious of the larger insects. The damselflies are well represented with azure, blue tailed, variable, red eyed, large red and emerald damselflies all still on the wing as well as the elegant banded demoiselle. The next few species to make themselves known will be brown hawker and southern hawker, with small red eyed damselfly not far behind.


    The moth traps have been better this week and have finally begun to push up to around 80 species. Day time observations of red tipped clearwing can be had by checking the flowering brambles and we had a white barred clearwing on Friday, which is a first for the reserve.


    All paths are open, but the meadow trail is particularly wet in places after last nights rain storm, Lackford Run was overtopped in places thanks to a high tide on Friday too.

    Posted by Ben

Your sightings

Grid reference: TG3406 (+2km)

Glossy Ibis (1)
28 Aug 2016
Garganey (3)
28 Aug 2016
Marsh Harrier (1)
28 Aug 2016
Ruff (11)
28 Aug 2016
Green Sandpiper (1)
28 Aug 2016
Kingfisher (1)
28 Aug 2016
Water Rail (1)
28 Aug 2016
Bearded Tit (2)
28 Aug 2016
Whimbrel (1)
24 Aug 2016
Cetti's Warbler ()
24 Aug 2016

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Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 52.60577,1.45595
  • Postcode: NR13 4HS
  • Grid reference: TG341065
  • Nearest town: Norwich, Norfolk
  • County: Norfolk
  • Country: England

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