Sunday, 20 May 2018

Hatched!

They've hatched!
I was taken completely by surprise tonight. I was watching TV when I noticed the pot containing the eggs that I received from the mail yesterday was now crawling with tiny black lines. My caterpillars have hatched! Apparently, my eggs were only laid on Wednesday before they were sent to me. So within five days, they've gone from egg to caterpillar. I was so excited, but also unprepared. I needed bramble leaves, their foodplant, which I didn't have at that moment and I was panicking. So, despite it being past 10pm, Mum quickly popped over with some fresh bramble leaves from her garden and I placed the caterpillars and the leaves into the container that was provided along with the eggs (gently moving the caterpillars using a paint brush). Fingers crossed that they will feed on them and don't die as I was worried it had to be the native bramble and not the garden variety. I'm feeling like a first time dad right now!

My Emperor Moth caterpillars checking out the Bramble leaves

Saturday, 19 May 2018

My Late Birthday Present!

A very special package came through my mail today. Written in orange on an empty envelope taped onto the small brown box is the word 'FRAGILE'. If you remember in my 32nd birthday post back in March, I mentioned that I was getting my present later this year. Well, here it is! My late birthday present. Inside, is a small plastic container and inside that is letter with a tiny pot taped onto it. Inside the pot are thirty tiny emperor moth eggs that my mum has bought me from a butterfly breeder.







My Emperor Moth eggs
Last year, I had wanted to raise some moth eggs that I had found. Sadly, it never happened as the eggs dried out. So this year, I wanted to try again, but this time I decided to buy them. It wasn't cheap (about £30) and I had to wait for the breeder's moths to emerge and for them to breed before I could get hold of them. And now, they have arrived and I am excited to see if any will hatch. I have never done anything like this before and of course, I will let you all know of their progress. For now, however, all I can do is wait.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

May 16th Strumpshaw Fen

Common Lizards
 It was dull and grey this morning with a chilly breeze that made me feel rather cold. This nippy wind was enough to ground many of the insects from taking to the air and making them sluggish. Amazingly, though, it was not enough to put off the lizards from sun bathing (well, as they're cold blooded it is essential for them to do so) despite the lack of sun. It was really a day for the birds.
Drinker Moth Caterpillar
Some kind of bee
Cuckoo
I was trying to listen for the Savi's warbler that had been singing somewhere between Reception and Fen Hide this week, but I could not hear it at all. I think you need to be here at dawn and dusk to really get a chance of hearing it. The cuckoos, on the other hand, were stealing the limelight on this occasion as I saw one fly to a bare branch of a tree, while others were calling from various points along the river. Various species of warbler were also making themselves heard within the reeds accompanied by the odd pinging from bearded tits.

Goldfinch


Black-headed Gulls nesting on an old Swan nest
Great crested grebes were seen swimming together as a pair on the river as I made my way to the Tower Hide for a rare, yet brief visit. I lifted up a flap to view out and the sound of many wings and the sight of fleeing waterfowl greeted me as I unexpectedly spooked them from their slumber along the bank beside the front of the hide. Peace soon returned and the birds settled back to their daily routine with breakfast being the main thing on the mind after their rude awakening. The broad was dotted with pochards and tufted ducks, shovelers, 2 great crested grebes and a pair of shelducks, while black-headed gulls crowded their makeshift colony on top of an abandoned swan nest (complete with abandoned swan eggs) adjacent to the front of the hide, making quite a raucous.
Great Crested Grebe
Pochard
Tufted Duck and Shoveler
Tufted Ducks
Shelducks
Greylags, Cobber the Black Swan and House Martins
Back at Reception Hide, the landscape felt more and more bleak with the sky looking more like it was going to threaten to rain, while the wind made it feel as if it was April rather than May. Swarms of house martins, swifts and swallows dominated the view of the broad, as swirled and swooped over the water and high into the grey skyline. I was mesmerised by them as they became blurs as they whizzed pass at speed. Lapwings and marsh harriers joined them now and then with aerial performances of their own. And if that wasn't enough to take your mind off the cold, then there was also a few appearances from a kingfisher, too.
Marsh Harrier
Kingfisher

Monday, 14 May 2018

May 14th Titchwell

Breeding season at Titchwell
Today, Mum and I were at Titchwell. The sun was out, but it was a bit sparse on the bird front. Half the reserve was surprisingly lacking with them, especially the 2nd and 3rd of the main pools leading to the sea. The first pool, however, was more productive. The birds here were in breeding mode. One corner of the pool, where an island was fenced off to land predators, was covered in black-headed and Mediterranean gulls, sandwich terns, avocets and other birds as they used the island to build their nest and raise their chicks. With so many birds in one spot doing the same thing, they formed a very defensive colony and were able to chase off the approaching marsh harriers with no problem.
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Mating pair of Sandwich Terns
Common Tern
Canada Goose with gosling
While the waders, gulls and terns were still on their nests, the wildfowl (ducks and geese) were already parents. Many of them were taking their small fluffy offspring around the pool with them, leading them to places to feed. Some of the mallards here had large broods averaging between 9 - 13 ducklings. With so many ducklings, it was hard for the mother duck to keep an eye on all of them at once and there were constantly a few stragglers getting left behind and into trouble from neighbouring ducks that bullied the ones that got in their way.

Greylag with gosling
Mallard with ducklings
Little Gull in front of a Black-headed Gull
As well as nesting birds and baby birds, there were also a few other highlights. At least 4 or 5 little gulls wandering around the least busy half of the freshwater pool, dwarfed by it's black-headed cousins. Black markings on their wings as well as their size were a big give away in telling them apart. I had no problem spotting them, but it was Mum who was the one who spotted two little ringed plovers as well as a spoonbill before I did. The spoonbill was a bit distant and half hidden behind a dip over on the far side of the saltmarsh fields. I dismissed it as a little egret at first, but Mum was positive that it was indeed a spoonbill and she was right. And then, as if to rub it in, she also pointed out a kestrel high in the sky. I'm getting bested by someone who's still a novice at birdwatching, when did this happen?
Little Gulls
Little Ringed Plover
Little Egret and Spoonbill (a rubbish and distant shot)
Spoonbill (again, very distant shot)
Kestrel
Avocet
Shoveler
Gadwall
Shelduck
Pied Wagtail
Oystercatcher
Brent Geese
Wind surfing
Jackdaw on a feeder
Large Red Damselfly
Variable Damselfly?
Speckled Wood