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Recent sightings

  • 12 December 2014

    Recent sightings 12 December

     It has been another cool and blustery week  at the fen, although on occasion bright and sunny with fantastic blue sky and frosts. A double low tide (without a high in between) on Tuesday saw the fen water level drop dramatically, which will hopefully have purged the last of the saline water from the fen. The path from Tower hide around to the Lackford Run remains closed due to very wet and muddy conditions, but a few more low tides and it will be reopened, although still be very muddy in places.

    The windy conditions have been favourable for marsh harrier viewing over the fen, with up to six birds in the air at the same time seemingly playing in the wind. Three otters have been seen from reception on multiple occasions this week, these are thought to be a mother and two cubs, although all three look quite similar in size now. These otters have been causing a heightened level of fear with the teal, gadwall and mallards at reception, although the otters seem more content playing with each other rolling in the water and catching the occasional fish, none the less the visitors have enjoyed their presence. Bitterns have once again been regular in flight over the reedbed from reception and fen hide, but views on the floor seem to be at a premium at the moment. Bearded tits are still here in the fen, but a pinging call and a brief flight view are more regular than a classic view on a reed stem at the moment.

    The woodland is seemingly alive with birds at present, there are a few roaming tit flocks throughout the wood. Within these flocks are great, blue, long tailed and marsh tits as well as goldcrests, treecreepers, nuthatches and the odd great spotted woodpecker. These flocks suddenly appear from nowhere and make the wood seem alive with birds, but as quick as they start they move on, much like rainforest birding, you need to be quick to see everything in the flock.

    The wet grassland at Buckenham and Cantley  has still got the taiga bean geese present as well as a family of white fronted geese, 1000's of lapwing, golden plover and wigeon. A dusk watch in the mid week saw a good number of marsh harriers pass through, barn owls quartering and even a short eared owl viewable from the river bank.


    Posted by Ben

  • 6 December 2014

    Recent sightings December 6

    After a slightly dull week the sun has come out today to reveal a beautiful crisp frosty day, a great day to be out and about.

    The cold weather movements that I have been predicting for the past few weeks have finally arrived. The continent has finally started to freeze up a little, which means that we have had an increase in our wildfowl numbers as well as many finches who have come to enjoy our slightly milder climate.

    The most notable movements were seen at Buckenham and Cantley Marshes yesterday during a wildfowl count. 2125 lapwing along with 1037 golden plover and 16 ruff were all hunkering down together out of the wind with the soundtrack of 1480 wigeon whistling in the background. The highlight of the week was finding the 32 bean geese at Buckenham, these have also traveled from Scandinavia to escape the colder conditions, helped on by the North-Easterly wind. It is great to have these very rare geese back on site once again, we are the only site in England with a flock of the 'taiga' variety of bean goose. Also on the marshes were 3 water pipits, 11 white-fronted geese, 5 pink footed geese, 4 buzzards and a peregrine falcon looking majestic on a gate post. In the late afternoon a flock of 82 Skylarks passed overhead, this is surely the largest I have seen on the reserve and is another sure sign of a cold weather movement.

    At Strumpshaw Fen this week we have seen a similar range of species to the past few weeks, with kingfishers showing along the river at reception and fen hides, bitterns have been seen frequently from reception as well as up to 17 marsh harriers gracefully enjoying playing in the wind. The otter family have also put in a couple of appearances at reception hide.  A hen harrier was a good reward for a few early risers on Wednesday morning from fen hide, where bearded tots can also be heard pinging in the reedbed. There is a very small starling roost at the fen, numbering at 800 birds, although very small it is still very nice to see them swirling around in front of reception at dusk in a mini murmuration.

    The path from Tower Hide along the Lackford run to the railway gate remains closed and the main riverbank path to tower hide is getting quite muddy due to very regular flooding of the river, however the woodland loop back along sandy wall and fen hide is all open and in good condition, so get your willies on and enjoy the beautiful winter scenes.

    My predictions for the next week are that the wildfowl, thrush and finch numbers will continue to build thanks to the cold weather and Northerly airflow, however the south-west wind will slow the migration down from Tuesday onwards. I hope that redpolls and siskins to be around the feeders by the end of the week. This all very much depends on just how much the temperature on the continent continues to fall, a continuing downward trend will see an increase for us.


    Posted by Ben

  • 29 November 2014

    Strumpshaw Fen sightings 29 November

    The water level has rapidly increased this week due to heavy rain over the weekend. This water has been entering the fen through an inlet sluice connected to the Lackford Run, the fresh water has been allowed to flood into the fen to help flush out the saline water from previous flooding events, next week the level will once again. The flooding from the high tides has meant that the Lackford Run footpath remains closed.

    It has been a relatively quiet week for sightings, however; bitterns and bearded tits have been seen from fen hide fairly regularly, kingfishers have also been seen all around the fen and have been especially noisy on the river all week. Otter sightings have continued throughout the week with a mother and cub seen yesterday on the river, they were calling very loudly so an interesting bit of behaviour occurring, was she tying to ween her cub or warn of a predator nearby?

    I watched 14 marsh harriers leave the roost this morning from fen hide, these included a couple of the wing tagged individuals, numbers reached 18 on last sunday's roost count, but still no hen harriers to be seen in the valley yet.

    Goose numbers are very variable on the wet grassland, but 1000 pink footed, 80 white fronted and 2+ taiga bean geese remain. At Buckenham the Wigeon flock has increased to the 1000 mark and are showing very well from the main track towards the hide, they are especially impressive when chased by a peregrine falcon!

    On Friday there was a notable passage of winter thrushes passing over my riverbank work station with 80+ fieldfare 100+ redwing and a fairly impressive 38 blackbirds all in a flock. Other in migrants from the continent included five redpolls and at least two water pipits.

    The easterly wind and a cooler feel this week could see an increase in the thrushes, finches and wildfowl numbers, but we are still waiting for the cold to hit Scandinavia and move many birds across to us here in Norfolk, it will happen soon.

    Posted by Ben

  • 21 November 2014

    Strumpshaw Fen sightings 21 November

    At long last our penduline tit decided to reveal itself to a few lucky observers. I first heard the bird on 11 October and it has taken up until this Wednesday for anyone to see it properly enough to fully confirm identification and what's more is that there are actually two birds present. They both flew into view on reedmace stems in front of fen hide for a total of ten seconds and have not been seen since, despite extensive searching by the masses. I am very pleased that they have finally decided to show themselves, however they are by no means easy to see at all. Penduline tits are native to the majority of Europe but only occur in the UK in very small numbers each winter, I believe when it was first heard it was just the second reported this year in the country, so quite a rarity! I hope to attach a photo of these next week, (for now the photo is the second best rarity of the week)

    While trying to see the penduline tits the hopeful observers managed to get good flight views of bittern, bearded tit and water pipits as well as the marsh harriers swooping over the reedbed. An otter appeared with her two cubs in front of reception on Wednesday and a single dog otter at the same location yesterday, pleasing many visitors including Dawn our new staff member who finally connected with her first otter . Kingfishers have also been seen around the reserve in the usual places, they are searching for the best fishing places as the water levels are still up and down due to flushing salt from the fre sh water habitat.

    As hoped last week the easterly winds have produced the first sightings of taiga bean geese, just two were seen on Wednesday at Cantley with the 87 white fronted geese. I hope more will arrive over the next week as it is starting to cool down rapidly on the continent now. Also on the marshes at Cantley was the reserves 3rd record of brent goose, this common coastal goose is a very rare wanderer inland. The brent was quite happy feeding with up to 450 Canada geese, its size difference was very noticeable.1100 lapwing, 350 golden plover, 1000 pink footed geese, 1250 wigeon and a pair of stonechats were also present at Buckenham.

    The next week should see more winter birds such as fieldfare, redwing and brambling coming across from the continent, hopefully an increase in taiga bean goose numbers and general wildfowl in the area. The first few waxwings of autumn have started to appear on the coast now so check the berry bushes in your gardens, towns, cities and of course along sandy wall.

    Posted by Ben

  • 15 November 2014

    Strumpshaw Fen Recent Sightings 15 November

    A slightly cooler week caused a small movement of wildfowl across the reserve, this was most noticeable at Buckenham Marshes. On the marshes the pink footed goose numbers rose to the 1000 mark along with 80 white-fronts, 200 Canada, 25 Barnacle, 17 Egyptian and 140 greylags, this has produced a mini goose identification challenge and quite a spectacle at Buckenham. We are still awaiting the first returning taiga bean geese, but their arrival should be immanent now, their arrival will certainly further the challenges of identification. Also on the Marshes the wigeon numbers have increased to 800 and a water pipit has been seen near the hide. Buckenham is not yet fully open after the river bank works, however the path is open the majority of the way to the mill, providing ample viewing.

    At Strumpshaw the highlights have been a family group of three otters in front of reception, kingfishers from reception, fen hide and the sluice and bitterns seen in flight from various locations across the fen. Bearded tits are still visible for lucky observers and audible to those who know the calls, these have mainly been between fen and reception hides. wildfowl numbers have risen slowly here, partially due to water levels being at their annual low point, partially due to the saline nature of the water thanks to the flooding in previous weeks. The wildfowl highlight of the week (for me) occurred just a few minutes ago, when a fine drake pintail landed in front of reception, after having a female recently, the drake was most welcome. Other duck species such as teal, gadwall and mallard are all still present and the drakes are thinking about next years breeding already, if you watch the species groups you will notice the drakes displaying and calling to the females.

    Marsh harriers are still very evident at the fen and thanks to wing tags and their individual markings we can see how frequently they move around the broads. This week a new tagged bird appeared in front of the reception, its tag number being Green P3, this bird was tagged at Buckenham. Although not a long distance travelled, it does show that some birds stay where they were hatched for their fist winter, in contrast to three of the other tagged birds which look like they will be spending winter in northern England. We have our monthly harrier count this Sunday so next weeks update should have a better figure of just how many harriers are currently using the reserve.

    Finally- we have had a digger at strumpshaw for two weeks, I'm glad to say that it has now completed its objectives, in the two weeks it managed to increase the water flow and connectivity at bradeston marsh, repair a sluice, clear some chocked ditches and create the first step of a wet reedbed creation project, so it achieved a lot in a short space of time! The photograph above shows one of the newly created islands, we will see more of these in the broad, these combined with the new ditches should give good opportunities for many reedbed species such as bitterns.

    The footpaths at Strumpshaw fen have been subject to overtopping by the river in the past two weeks, as a result the lackford run remains closed as it is very muddy. This means that there is currently no access beyond the tower hide through to the railway gate at tinkers lane, the circuit through the wood, along the riverbank and back via fen hide remains fully open. We will keep an eye on the path and open them when it becomes possible, please ask at reception when you visit for more up to date information.


    Posted by Ben

  • 14 October 2014

    Strumpshaw Fen Sightings

    Autumn has now fully arrived at the fen, I even changed the sightings sheets in the hide to winter today! With the arrival of some cooler air and easterly winds we have seen our first visible migration over the fen in recent days. Visible migration is quite an amazing thing to witness when you get your eye, and ear into the movements. This morning over 800 redwings, 150 Chaffinches 50 Song thrushes, 40 Meadow pipits and 5 Bramblings were seen passing overhead! If you get to the fen early in the morning on a clear day you may also witness these movements. Bearded Tits are still irrupting from the fen, with groups of 5-30 still being seen from various places as well as at Buckenham, I hope this will continue for another couple of weeks, but is difficult to predict, as always calm sunny conditions are best. Ducks have certainly started to arrive in numbers now with Teal, shoveler, Tufted duck and even a fine female pintail all on show today. The wigeon numbers have slowly started to build and with a northerly airflow more will be expected in the coming weeks. Snipe built their numbers at Tower Hide to 37 during the weekend and a small number of ruff are also visible feeding busily in-between the ducks. A Jack snipe almost flew into Fen Hide on Sunday but veered over at the last minute and continued east. Also at Fen and Reception hides water rails have been showing in full view on the muddy margins, giving a rare chance to study these spectacular waterbirds. Otters have been seen with some regularity from Reception and Fen Hides as well as kingfishers and bitterns at the usual places, I expect an influx of bitterns over the coming months as Scandinavia begins to cool down. The Harrier roost is slowly starting to build with up to 15 birds now spending the night at the fen, a coordinated count on 19 October will give a more accurate count. 2 wing tagged birds are currently using the fen Green DZ is from Haddiscoe and a bird with a red tag is most probably a returning individual from the Isle of Sheppy, Kent. While waiting for the harriers on Saturday evening I was aware of a thin seep call from Fen Hide, my initial thoughts were that it was a penduline tit, but the bird has yet to be seen to fully confirm it. So the birds are certainly on the move at the moment, its a great time to be out and about and enjoy all that the Mid Yare has to offer.


    Posted by Ben

  • 12 September 2014

    Early Autumn Update by Ben Lewis

    The autumnal feel on the reserve has been backed up by a few typical autumn species emerging or migrating through the reserve in the past few weeks.

    An Osprey has spent just over a week in the Strumpshaw/Rockland area, last being seen on the 9 September. Tower Hide has provided a very good spectacle of birds over the past few weeks due to the water levels being lowered creating a good amount of mud at the edges for waders including Ruff, Greenshank, Common and Green sandpipers as well as providing a hint of just how many Water rail are on the reserve - one morning 8 individuals were seen on one scan. The muddy fringes and shallow pools have also provided regular flocks of herons and egrets with 12 and 6 seen respectively. The pools themselves have also attracted large numbers of wildfowl with 414 Shoveller, 82 Teal, 34 Gadwall, 25 Mallards and a Garganey being seen on one count alone. A pectoral sandpiper and 3 Little Stints were seen at Buckenham briefly on 2 September. Bitterns have been seen in the usual places, while Kingfishers are being seen all over the reserve, with 3 seen together at Fen Hide and 2 regularly being seen from reception as well as singles from Tower Hide. Bearded tit family parties have been seen at the river end of sandy wall and from reception, they often flock together in noisy groups at this time of the year before the young ‘explode’ from the reedbed to populate new areas.

    On the non-avian front Willow Emerald Damselflies have put on a good show this year, with relatively modest numbers seen in the ditch edge near the fen boardwalk for nearly 2 months now, they have also been spotted at the pond dipping pool this year for the first time, hopefully indicating that they are spreading further around the reserve. Otters have been seen regularly in the past 2 weeks, however the sightings are not quite daily so an element of luck is still required to connect with them. Swallowtail butterflies had a very poor second brood this year due to a cool, cloudy August, just a few individuals were seen throughout August, hopefully this means it will be a bumper first brood next year, we’ll have to wait and see!

    Over the coming weeks we should expect the wildfowl numbers to increase, particularly at Buckenham and Cantley where Wigeon, teal, greylags and Pink footed geese should start to return. On the fen we may get an increase in Bittern sightings due to continental migrants, waders should continue passing through and the Marsh Harrier roost will increase. Come and have a look at the reserve and see what you can find, in the autumn anything is possible!

    Posted by Rachel F

  • 25 July 2014

    Sizzling summer sightings at Strumpshaw Fen

    The breeding season is coming to an end now and most of our marsh harriers have fledged and many have dispersed from the site, but there is still plenty of high quality wildlife action to be found. One female bittern nest is still feeding young but the other nest seems to have fledged, with male, female and juvenile bitterns popping up daily in the last week. Kingfishers are also busy feeding their second brood in the nest and regularly seen fishing from the hides, and the newly fledged young should appear in front of the hides any day now. After their usual spring lull, otters are now being spotted most days, with male, female and young all being seen from reception hide in the last week. As the water level in the fen has fallen, up to 6 little egrets have been fishing in the shallow water and water rails have appeared on the muddy margins close to the hides.

    Next door at Buckenham Marshes the recent rainfall has provided lots of shallow pools, and these have already attracted a variety of waders, including spotted redshank, greenshank, ruff, wood and green sandpiper and black tailed godwit. These waders are all heading south from their northern breeding grounds and we can expect even more over the next few weeks.

    The reserve has been alive with butterflies, dragonflies and other insects recently, enjoying the abundance of both sunshine and rain that we have had.The main spring brood of swallowtails is now over (though the odd one might still be seen), but if you missed them keep an eye on the blog as we are expecting a better than average second brood in August. The wardens have seen plenty of swallowtail caterpillars in the depths of the fen, and yesterday we noticed five of them chomping thought the fennel in the nectar garden just outside reception hide, providing a great photo opportunity for visitors. if you want to see them, get here quickly as they are growing up fast. 


    Posted by Tim Strudwick

  • 22 May 2014

    The nectar garden is back on form!

    The nectar garden at Strumpshaw Fen has been looking a little threadbare since its revamp earlier in the year, but in the last few days it has really filled out and is starting to bloom. Dame's violet, thyme and geranium all pulling in nectar hungry insects. The star of the show is always the swallowtail, and today one visited just long enough for me to grab this photo. The thyme was literally buzzing with at least eight different kinds of bumblebees. We added a new "bee post" during the revamp - a recycled chestnut post with more than 100 holes drilled into it - and already plenty of bees and solitary wasps have been taking an interest. Some have already moved in and one of these is the sleepy carpenter bee. The "sleepy" bit of its name comes from the habit of the male bee sleeping in buttercup flowers in cloudy weather. While it might not match the swallowtail in looks, this is a scarce bee in Norfolk with less than 10 recent records. If you want to get some inspiration for helping insects in your garden or you want to get that perfect swallowtail photo, now is the time to visit Strumpshaw Fen.

    swallowtail on geranium

    the new "bee post"

    sleepy carpenter bee

    Posted by Tim Strudwick

Your sightings

Grid reference: TG3406 (+2km)

Bean Goose (Taiga) ()
14 Dec 2014
Marsh Harrier (2)
14 Dec 2014
Water Rail (1)
14 Dec 2014
Bittern (1)
13 Dec 2014
Kingfisher (1)
10 Dec 2014
Water Pipit ()
7 Dec 2014
Barn Owl (2)
5 Dec 2014
Barnacle Goose ()
14 Dec 2014
Wigeon (1000)
14 Dec 2014
Golden Plover ()
14 Dec 2014

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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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