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When the sun shines these rare gems fly!
Unfortunately the weather has not been overly kind so far, however they are being seen with increasing frequency each sunny day.
Today I have seen two from Fen Hide and the individual pictured above taking advantage of our nectar garden by the reception.
So if swallowtail butterfly is on your 'want to see' list come down to the fen on a warm sunny day in the next couple of weeks, you may be rewarded with one of these beauties
Posted by Ben
Four-spotted chaser and mother shipton moth, Ben Lewis
Finally a decent looking forecast for the weather for a bank holiday weekend. The next week looks like it will be kind to the swallowtails (and swallowtail watchers). They have begun their emergence now so there should be a decent chance of seeing one as long as there is sun and not too much wind. They have been seen for the past 4 days now, but a certain element of luck is still needed in these early days. My tip for spotting them is to; firstly ask at reception to see where they have been seen, secondly find nectar; they particularly like pink flowers (ie red campion/ragged robin) but I’ve also seen them on hawthorn blossom. They will be emerging from the fen and can be seen all around the reserve, but the hotspots are Lackford Run, Sandy Wall and the nectar garden by the reception.
The birds at the fen have remained the same, we still have good numbers of warblers singing from the reedbed and associated trees, kingfishers can be seen flying back and forth feeding their young. 3 cuckoos were seen along the riverbank on Thursday including one female . All of our usual migrants have returned including a ‘singing’ spotted flycatcher around the log circle by the office.
Buckenham still has good numbers of breeding waders, including lapwing, redshank and snipe. Many of the lapwing can be seen with young in tow, its always good to see them, partially for the cute factor, but also as a sign of a good breeding season. Passage waders this week have been somewhat limited due to the time of year, but have included black tailed godwit and ruff.
Dragonflies have really taken off this week with 6 species of damselfly, banded demoiselle, hairy hawker, scarce and four-spotted chaser as well as the first report of Norfolk hawker.
While surveying I managed to see a moth that could well be new for the reserve this was mother shipton, a photo is above. This moth is named after a 16th century witch from Yorkshire, her face can be seen on each of the moths wings!
Otter sightings are still confined largely to dawn and dusk, however one was seen at lunch time today at tower hide, so you never know when one may show itself!
This week should see an increase in all insect life and the birds should still be singing well, although now the leaves are out they are slightly more challenging to see. Swallowtail butterflies should be increasing in number each day, especially if we get some warm sunny days.
It is half term so there will be a family nature trail in the area near to reception as well as pond dipping, a great way to get children out and about to enjoy nature, ask at reception for more details.
Just a quick post to let you all know that the first swallowtail butterfly of the year was seen this afternoon briefly flying past the path between the fingerpost and the reception.
They are three days late this year, but given the weather I think we'd better let them off and enjoy their company once again.
We will need a few more warm days this week to encourage more individuals to emerge and then they will hopefully be ready for viewing this coming bank holiday weekend, enjoy!
Photo by Matthew Wilkinson
We are still awaiting our first swallowtail butterfly of the season, they are currently running late, but that’s not too surprising given the recent cool weather conditions. You can almost always set your calendar to the 14th May for Swallowtail emergence so fingers crossed next weekend should see a few of these beauties on the wing.
Birds at the reserve have continued to make the reedbed a lively place with all the expected warblers singing from the reedbed and scrubland surrounding it. These include reed, sedge, grasshopper, cetti’s, willow, chiffchaff, blackcap and garden warblers. Cuckoo can be heard along the riverbank as it sings and flies to its next song post, one male is covering the area from Buckenham to Surlingham so the chance of hearing it is high. Bitterns are booming, with one particularly strong individual being heard in the Tower Hide area. Bearded tits can be seen from all three hides, however they can be distant and fleeting as they head back and forth to their nests carrying food to feed their young. Kingfishers are also back and forth feeding their young, the top spots at present are reception, fen hide, the riverbank and Lackford Run. Otters have been seen with increasing frequency, however as far as I’m aware there have been no young seen yet. Marsh Harriers are feeding their young now and can be seen food passing over the fen in almost all weathers now. Swifts, swallows and martins are still a prominent feature of the sky, with the odd hobby thrown in for good measure.
The tally of breeding birds at Buckenham, and Cantley has really been excellent this year with 80 lapwing, 92 redshank and up to 18 snipe calling the marshes home. These are exceptional numbers for a relatively small reserve and shows us that the management is spot on for these species which are of high conservation concern. Lapwing broods can easily be seen from the track to Buckenham hide, they do provide a certain ‘ahh’ factor. The escaped white stork was seen again on Wednesday as well as two migrant ringed plovers and a drake garganey.
The warm spells have caused many damselflies and dragonflies to emerge now. If you find a sheltered spot it is possible to see large red, common, azure, red-eyed and variable damselflies, as well as hairy hawker, broad bodied and four-spotted chasers. This week if the sun shines I would expect the first scarce chasers and banded demoiselles to be on the wing.
The weather has picked up and today is certainly a fine spring day with warm sunshine and large black clouds moving by. The outlook is good for the weekend and following week too, so it could be a great time to come and visit.
The fen has certainly moved up a gear in terms of migrants with all expected migrants now present. Birdwise the fen is now hosting cuckoo, hobby, reed, sedge, cetti’s and grasshopper warblers. This is understandably making the fen quite a loud place to be throughout the day, but particularly at dawn and dusk. The scrub surrounding the fen is full of blackcaps, willow warblers and chiffchaffs, with the occasional garden warbler and whitethroat to be found too. The skies above the fen can be full of St Marks flies and with them are the swifts, swallows, sand and house martins happily feeding on them.
The woodland is full of song, particularly early in the morning and the purple haze of bluebells is now at its peak. The final species missing off of our migrant list is the spotted flycatcher, we are hoping that it will not be long until our pair return to the woodland.
Away from the fen the wet grassland at Buckenham and Cantley has been alive with breeding waders over the past month. Up to ten drumming snipe can be seen and heard on calm mornings, broods of lapwing can be seen all over the marshes, symbolising a productive breeding season.
There have been three noteworthy birds at Buckenham in the past week; a great white egret in full breeding plumage on 28th, a pectoral sandpiper was seen over last weekend and then just yesterday there was a temminck’s stint seen briefly. These three species are all very rare so attracted a bit of interest from travelling birdwatchers. The more routine passage wader species have also been seen; these include whimbrel, greenshank, wood, green and common sandpipers as well as the regular avocets, lapwing and dunlin. A pair of garganey have found the pools and ditches near the hide to their liking and have now been present for over three weeks.
Pectoral sandpiper and great white egret- Ben Lewis
Butterfly numbers have increased dramatically over the last week, although the weather has been a little inclement at times. It will not be too long until our swallowtails are out again, the first sighting date varies each year, but it is usually around the 14th May. I will blog their arrival when the first sighting has occurred as many people are keen to know about this enigmatic species.
Large red damselflies are still the only species of odonata that have been recorded so far, however the warm weather predicted for next week should see a showing of azure and variable damselflies as well as the first hairy dragonfly of the year.
Over the next week I would expect the number of warblers to increase in the reedbed, the hobby numbers to increase as well as passage waders to continue filtering through Buckenham Marshes.
All trails are open, fine and dry. The meadow trail is still closed, but will be opened in another two weeks or so when dragonfly numbers increase and the flora starts growing up a little more.
Spring has moved up a gear since last week, the fine weather this week with warm sunshine has caused many invertebrates to emerge. The same can be said for bird migration which has been helped by high pressure systems and some southerly winds.
At the fen we have had two bitterns booming with multiple sightings of birds flying around the reedbed, including a couple doing several laps of the fen before going down together, hopefully a good sign for later in the year.
Marsh harriers are still busy nest building and sky dancing over the fen, we have a large selection of colours and hues on each of the harriers, no two look the same when examined in detail. A red kite also drifted over the reserve on Saturday and then again on Thursday.
Bearded tits have been seen flying over the reeds with their distinctive pinging calls alerting us to their presence.
Migrants which are new in this week include grasshopper warbler on Wednesday as well as reed warbler, common tern, whitethroat and cuckoo today. This almost completes the migrant set now, we are still awaiting garden warbler and hobby.
This does mean that you can now see and hear reed and sedge warblers singing at the same time, this tricky pair are similar songsters.
Other birds that are now abundant throughout the reserve include blackcap, willow warbler and chiffchaff, these certainly add a very spring like feel to the day.
A small flock of cranes have been seen throughout the last week with a maximum of six seen on Saturday, their trumpeting call is always a joy to listen to and hopefully a sound that will become increasingly common across the broads.
Buckenham and Cantley have seen a further increase in its breeding species, with redshank, snipe and lapwing now displaying well. Avocets can be seen on the pools alongside a handful of ruff and various duck species including two drake and one female garganey.
This display of wet grassland species is an amazing experience early in the morning, especially if you catch the odd sounds of a drumming snipe.
Just this morning I saw a white stork enjoying the pool near the old mill, this bird is an escape but still fantastic to see such an interesting bird so close.
Insects have been increasingly abundant as the week has progressed and has culminated in the first large emergence of large red damselflies.
Butterflies are also increasing by the day, the first orange tips of the year now on the wing alongside brimstone, small tortoiseshell, peacock, holly blue, comma and green-veined white, the first speckled wood of the year was seen yesterday.
Grass snakes have been seen at various places around the reserve, the fingerpost and woodland trail are hotspots at present.
Otters have finally made a reappearance at the fen with singles seen on Sunday and Tuesday as well as two together on Wednesday.
Within the next week I would expect the migrants to continue going through, the reedbed warblers will increase dramatically, cuckoos will start to be heard more frequently as well as common terns arriving in numbers. Garden warbler should hopefully be added to the migrant tally by the next sightings update too. With the recent warm weather I would not be surprised to hear of sightings of the blue damselflies and an outside chance of an early hairy dragonfly. In the woodland, the bluebells will be out in force by the coming weekend, so take a look at their hazy purple glow.
Cetti's warbler; Ben Lewis
First of all, an apology for the lack of recent sightings updates for the past few weeks, there was an update to the community pages which prevented one blog, since this date the phone lines have been down due to a tree falling on the two weeks ago so we have been without internet too.
Since the last update the spring migrants have been passing through in small numbers. The last few days have seen a large increase in numbers of blackcap and chiffchaff numbers. Today we have had sedge warblers and willow warblers singing from around the fen, still in very small numbers, but these will increase due to the current weather conditions. In the air we have had small numbers of swallow passing over as well as sand martins adding an even more spring like feel.
The marsh harriers are now busy building nests and courting each other, we now have many more males on site. We have our very well contrasting male back again for at least the third year in a row, this bird is so pale and has a white rump so it is mistaken for a hen harrier occasionally, it has paired up once again with the dark female with the pure white belly.
Other non migrants have been busy singing, birds such as reed bunting are now easy to see singing away on the tops of the reeds. As predicted the cetti's warblers are going through their showy part of the year, if you have never seen one before this is the time to get out and give it a go. Bearded tits are also busy nest building, I would have thought that the very strong recent winds will have ruined any early nests so there is some haste with the building.
There are two bitterns booming occasionally from the reedbed, but they are still working up to their full voice, they are usually heard early in the morning and later in the evening. In another three weeks they should be heard more frequently in the daytime too.
Otters have been very scarcely seen for the past few weeks, I take this as a good sign that they have young and are laying low for the time being, possibly taking on a more nocturnal habit, we should see the new families in a month or so, depending on how old the young ones are.
The wet grassland now has many lapwing displaying, redshanks and oystercathers are adding a slight seaside feel to the soundtrack. There are still 35 ruff at Buckenham which are beginning to look more and more colourful by the day, hopefully they will stay for long enough to look like the images in the field guide.
I have just come back from Buckenham and managed to see 3 yellow wagtails and 1 little ringed plover, these are fresh in migrants and hopefully just the start of the passage waders on the scrapes.
The next week looks as if the migrant flood gates may be opened a little more. I would expect birds such as willow, sedge and grasshopper warbler to be heard from the reedbed. Swallows, sand and house martins will all increase and there is the possibility of an early cuckoo, ospreys are also on the move so there is always a chance of catching one of these expert anglers stopping off for a quick meal
What a difference a week makes! In stark contrast to last week it has been cool, overcast and had a moderate breeze from the North and East, dropping the temperature and insect life considerably.
The fen has had a selection of stand out species such as two cranes today, these flew in and landed in front of Fen Hide giving the visitor inside superb views along with a selection of comical shots as they stared eye to eye with a Chinese water deer. The other species of note was a ‘herd’ of 50 Bewick’s swans, again these flew over the reserve this morning, their beautiful soft calls alerted us to their presence. Other species which have been seen at the fen include marsh harriers displaying, although much reduced in the cooler air, bearded tit has been seen fleetingly in various places and an otter was seen from Fen Hide on Wednesday morning. Kingfishers have been busy on the river once again this week, they appear to be pairing up and sorting out boundary disputes, it looks as though there are at least four birds present. While at the river also look out for the great crested grebes, these are now in fine plumage and can be seen displaying if you are very lucky. A hen harrier was seen on Monday evening at a similar time to a bittern tuning up for the booming season.
The woodland continues to thrive with birdsong, all the regular species can be seen and heard on a walk through including; treecreeper, nuthatch. Marsh, blue, great and long-tailed tits, goldcrest, great-spotted and green woodpeckers, song and mistle thrush as well as redwings singing in number.
The wet grassland at Buckenham and Cantley has been busy again this week. The lapwing have one job in their mind and can be heard displaying throughout the day, similarly skylarks are also singing seemingly non stop at present too. Two short-eared owls have been seen on the other side of the river from Buckenham at Claxton, these can be seen from the riverbank behind the hide along with at least two barn owls too.
On the wader front 78 ruff, 86 curlew, 43 dunlin and a small flock of golden plover were all seen this week. A water pipit was noted at Cantley on Tuesday and the pair of peregrines remains in residence. Wildfowl numbers have decreased although there are still 300+ wigeon present and a pair of pintail were a nice surprise on Tuesday.
Insects have been few and far between this week and there was not a single butterfly seen. March can be a funny month for insects, one minute you think its spring-like the next it plunges back into winter!
The long range forecast shows the wind swinging all over the compass so I would not expect too much in the way of migration over the coming days, although as was proven this morning with the swans, there are still a lot of birds to head back #North before we start seeing migrants in good numbers. The forecast looks as if it could be good for the moth trap tonight and Friday night so it may be time to dust off the trap and get back to grips with the quakers!
A fine mainly sunny week with temperatures rising up to near t-shirt weather and a very spring like feel .
The bright sunshine had certainly caused the birds in the woodland to up their volume, today this included a very fine chorus from the redwing, this is usually a rare occurrence as they migrate North before properly singing. Other species which have been added to the woodland chorus over the past week include chiffchaff and blackcap, the woodpeckers have upped their tempo and the drumming has certainly increased along with the short but perfectly formed treecreeper song now ringing out all over the woodland.
The fen has seen increased harrier displays with talon grabbing and sky dancing becoming a daily occurrence. 19 marsh harriers were seen going into the roost on Tuesday and also two hen harriers were seen over the reedbed in the evening.
Male reed buntings are now in fine voice in the reedbed, these charming black white and brown species are easiest to hear right now as their subtle song can be lost in the cacophony of reed and sedge warblers later in the year.
Another of our favourite characters who is also gearing up for their ‘singing’ season are the bitterns, they have begun to ‘grunt’; this is essentially where the birds are building up their throat muscles so that they can perform their loud booming, this clearly takes a lot of effort.
Two cranes were seen around the fen Monday to Tuesday with four together on the ground at Buckenham on Tuesday afternoon, what a site and sound!
Cetti’s warblers are just entering their most showy period of the year, these are usually nearly impossible to see well, however at this time of the year they are singing to get noticed. This means with luck and patience very good views can be obtained of this illusive of reedbed bird.
A pair of garganey were seen sleeping at Tower Hide on Sunday afternoon, these wet grassland and reedbed ducks are usually some of the first long distance migrants to arrive.
The wet grassland has seen increases of passage waders such as dunlin and ruff where on Monday there were 109 and 60+ respectively. Shelducks have increased in number and the first returning avocets have graced the marshes, while the soundtrack of displaying lapwing and skylarks ring through the air. Another migrant of note was a little ringed plover from Buckenham Hide on Wednesday evening, there have also been at least two short-eared owls present.
The warm weather has produced our first butterfly sightings of the year with small tortoiseshells being the most abundant at present, these will soon be taken over by brimstones which have just started emerging. Three other species have also been recorded this week including peacock, red admiral and comma, taking the weeks tally up to five butterfly species.
A small number of grass snakes have also been seen in the woodland area, these will begin to be increasingly common if the weather continues.
In the coming week I would expect to have the first reports of sand martins, possibly even a swallow, there should be a large arrival of chiffchaffs very soon and blackcap numbers should also rise, there is also the possibility of a wheatear or two at Buckenham. There is an easterly wind for the weekend which will mean lower temperatures, this may slow the migration a little but it may well bring in something interesting from the East.
Grid reference: TG3406 (+2km)
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