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Recent sightings

  • 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

  • 8 April 2014

    You know spring is really underway when ...

    Everyone has their own favourite milestone that marks the arrival of spring, and for me it’s the arrival of willow warblers from their African winter quarters. And here they are - in the last week, the soft lilting warble of the first few willow warblers has joined the chorus of blackcaps, chiffchaffs and resident Cetti’s warblers around the fen trail at Strumpshaw Fen.

    With mostly dry and often sunny weather, there has been a very strong spring flavour to the wildlife seen around Strumpshaw Fen in the past week. The first swallow and sand martins have been spotted. The fine weather has triggered a surge of activity from marsh harriers, with spectacular sky-dancing courtship displays and plenty of nest building activity involving at least a dozen birds. After last December’s surge tide inundated the fen with saltwater we had feared for the impact on our breeding bitterns, but we have been reassured to hear the booming “song” of 2 male bitterns in the last week and one has shown itself in front of the fen hide on most days. A frustratingly elusive great white egret has been reported again briefly. One of our most conspicuous and popular birds at Strumpshaw Fen are the noisy pair of nuthatches that often greet visitors at the entrance gate. These charismatic birds mysteriously disappeared from the reserve about 25 years ago before unexpectedly returning in 2012, and we currently have two pairs holding territory.

    Grass snakes and common lizards have been sunning themselves along the paths, and Strumpshaw Fen has been literally buzzing with insects in the sunshine, with more than 20 kinds of bee recorded. Colin, one of our butterfly monitoring volunteers, managed to record 68 butterflies on his first transect of the year, mostly peacocks and small tortoiseshells, but brimstones have also been seen in good numbers and the first orange tip appeared on Tuesday. Cherry plum, blackthorn and sallow blossom are providing an abundant nectar source to keep these early butterflies and bees going.

    Next door at Buckenham Marshes, the change of season is very much evident with only a few dozen wigeon hanging on from the huge winter flocks, the first avocets back on the pools and a few lapwings are already sitting on eggs.

    Like the weather, nature changes quickly at this time of year so grab the opportunity to get your friends and family outdoors and enjoy the great British countryside in spring.Cetti's warbler

    Posted by Tim Strudwick

  • 5 February 2014

    Signs of spring

    Spring is stirring at Strumpshaw Fen - the sun is shining (for the moment!), snowdrops are peeping up through the woodland floor, and woodpeckers are drumming to proclaim their territories.  But winter's not quite over yet - there are still large winter flocks of wigeon, teal, and golden plover at Buckenham and Cantley Marshes.  Peregrines and buzzards have also been spotted there.

    At Strumpshaw, bitterns and otters have been showing regularly at Fen Hide.  Nuthatches and treecreepers are showing well in the woods, while a flock of 12 bullfinches is frequently feeding along Sandy Wall. The winter marsh harrier roost peaked at 18 individuals in January, joined by a single female hen harrier. There must have been something in the air on 30 January as two rather unusual visitors turned up: a female smew outside Reception Hide and a Slavonian grebe on the river.

    Now is the perfect time to get out and spot the first signs of spring. Some of the paths are rather muddy though, so do bring a good stout pair of boots or wellies!

    Bullfinch photo by John Bridges

    Posted by Jenny

  • 30 January 2014

    Who's that girl?

    A dainty little lady has appeared outside Reception Hide at Strumpshaw Fen.  She really brightened up a damp afternoon for us.  

    She's the first one of her kind to visit Strumpshaw for several years.  Can you guess what she is?

    A few clues: she's a rare winter visitor (probably from Scandinavia or Russia); about 180 of these birds visit Britain every year; the males have striking black and white plumage.

    Photo by Ben Hall

    Posted by Jenny

  • 15 January 2014

    What's that creeping in the trees?

    If you go creeping through the woods at Strumpshaw Fen, there's a good chance you'll come across a few other creepers along the way. 

    Now's a great time of year to look out for treecreepers - today I stood in one spot and spotted four treecreepers sneaking up the trees nearest to me.  They had joined a merry flock of long-tailed tits that darted among the treetops making soft contact calls and flicking their tails as they hung from swaying twigs.  Treecreepers often join flocks of tits in winter, so when you you come across a flock of blue-, great-, or long-tailed tits in woodland it's worth scanning the trees for these small curve-billed creatures scurrying up the trunks like mice.  You'll often spot them in pairs - the female tends to forage for insects in the top half of the tree trunk while the male forages in the bottom half, each using their curved beaks to delve for insects in the cracked bark.

    With luck, you might even spot a different bird creeping down the tree head-first.  Nuthatches are the only birds that can walk down a tree - their strong toes clinging to the trunk with a firm grip.  These masked bandits are showing wonderfully in the Strumpshaw woods at the moment and even on the bird feeders. 

    A visitor said to me that she loves visiting wild places in winter because you get to "see the bare bones of a place".  That's certainly true of the Strumpshaw woods - stripped bare, you can peer deeper into the tangled woods and higher into the skeletal treetops to see life flitting and darting around you.  Just stop a moment and let yourself be captivated.

    PHOTO: Nuthatch by Melanie Beck

    Posted by Jenny

  • 23 December 2013

    Recent sightings at Strumpshaw Fen, Dec 2013

    Okay, it's blowing a gale today, so not the best day to visit.  But when it all calms down you'll be wanting to blow off those xmas cobwebs with some good old fresh air and exercise. 

    So here's an idea of what might be in store if you visit Strumpshaw Fen for your post-xmas walkabout:

    Bitterns and otters have been appearing regularly at reception and fen hide, including a female otter and her cub.  Chinese water deer have been spotted swimming more often than usual!

    Large flocks of finches have been a winter highlight for many visitors – flocks of around 80 goldfinches have been joined by around 20 siskins, 14 lesser redpolls, and one mealy redpoll. They like to feed on the alder seeds and tend to move around in the trees near the pond-dipping platform, birdfeeders and car park.  There's also a good chance of spotting nuthatches and treecreepers in the woods (thanks to volunteer Brian Tubby for this lovely photo of a treecreeper).

    The harrier roost has built up to 21 marsh harriers and a single hen harrier.   Look out for the marsh harrier with the green wing tags - this was tagged by the Hawk and Owl Trust at a farm near Reedham as part of a project to monitor their movements. 

    Happy Christmas from everyone at Strumpshaw Fen!!

    Posted by Jenny

  • 19 December 2013

    A wild winter wonderland

    Buckenham and Cantley Marshes are fantastic at the moment. The marshes are a real hive of activity, with thousands of wintering ducks, geese and wading birds swirling in great flocks above the open expanse of marshes. The wardens and volunteers have quite a challenge to count the birds, but here’s a taste of what’s out there:

    • Wigeon – 2500
    • Lapwings – 2000
    • Pink-footed geese – 2500
    • Golden plover – 700
    • Teal – 200
    • White-fronted geese – 100
    • Taiga bean geese - 49

    Imagine the scene when a peregrine falcon swoops in, sending all of those birds clamouring into the skies in a great panic!

    Buckenham Marshes is a great place to spot birds of prey. Two peregrines have been hunting there regularly, and there’s a good chance of seeing marsh harriers, kestrels and barn owls. Visit towards dusk and look out for hares and Chinese water deer in the surrounding farmland. If you stand on Buckenham station platform as darkness falls, you’ll be in for a rather atmospheric treat. Take a torch and wrap up warm!

    Path conditions: The recent floods caused a breach in the riverbank between Buckenham Marshes and Cantley Marshes.  You can visit the two sites separately, but it's best to avoid the section of riverbank path that connects the two sites as the path here is very steep and slippery.

    Posted by Jenny

  • 27 November 2013

    Wildlife round-up

    It's been another typically autumnal week on the wildlife front at Strumpshaw Fen, possibly with a hint of winter. Bitterns have been showing daily around the reserve, with an impressive 3 together at the fen hide today. Otters and kingfishers have also put in daily appearances. The biggest surprise of the week was a rare great white egret on monday - seen by a lucky few. The harrier roost has built up to 19 marsh harriers with a single hen harrier.  With water levels still reasonably low, the usually elusive water rails have been showing well at the fen hide. Chinese water deer are also showing themselves, often in the mown areas of reed. These deer are not native to the UK but thankfully do not seem to harm any native species, and with the Chinese population under threat the UK population may even be globally important. The sunshine last saturday brought out what might be the last butterfly (a peacock)  and dragonfly (a migrant hawker) of the year. The feeding station has been entertaining visitors with brambling, marsh tits and nuthatches starring among the commoner tits and finches.

    The last winter visitor to arrive in the Yare valley is often the bean geese and the first 30 birds arrived at Cantley Marshes about a week ago, joining around 60 white-fronted geese and a few hundred pink-footed geese. Strangely, all these big birds can be hard to locate in the vast grassland landscape of Buckenham and Cantley Marshes, but are well worth tracking down. The sight and sound of hundreds of wild geese on a bright winter's day makes the search worthwhile. 

     If anyone knows there there is a big starling roost in Norfolk or Suffolk then please let me know as we are getting a lot of phone calls asking! Sadly we still do not have a significant starling roost but have been able to consol ourselves with some excellent orange-pink-purple sunsets.


    chinese water deer photo: matt wilkinson


    Posted by Tim Strudwick

Your sightings

Grid reference: TG3406 (+2km)

Avocet (4)
27 Jul 2014
Little Ringed Plover (1)
27 Jul 2014
Kingfisher (1)
24 Jul 2014
Cetti's Warbler (5)
24 Jul 2014
Spotted Redshank (1)
23 Jul 2014
Common Sandpiper (1)
21 Jul 2014
Yellow Wagtail (1)
20 Jul 2014
Black Tern ()
20 Jul 2014
Water Rail (1)
17 Jul 2014
Grasshopper Warbler (1)
17 Jul 2014

Contact us

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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Note: Some reserves are not served directly by public transport and, in these cases, a nearby destination (from which you may need to walk or take a taxi or ferry) may be offered.