Guest blog: Nicola from Old Moor

Strumpshaw Fen & the Broads

Strumpshaw Fen & the Broads
Discover the amazing wildlife and landscapes of Strumpshaw Fen and the Broads. Find out what's about and share your highlights, photos and feedback.

Strumpshaw Fen and the Broads

Guest blog: Nicola from Old Moor

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Guest Blog

 Hello there. I’m Nicola and I’m more usually found volunteering and blogging for RSPB Old Moor in Barnsley, South Yorks. It’s a great little reserve should you ever find yourself in South Yorks!

I’ve just had a few days away staying in Limpenhoe and RSPB Strumpshaw Fen was very close. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, especially for the swallowtails and over the course of the week, I had 3 great visits.

I started off by having a couple of hours wandering around in the late afternoon. I went to the Fen Hide and then up and down the boardwalk nearby. Common lizards were doing a spot of sunbathing/lounging around on the sides of the boardwalk which got my visit off to a good start. Lizards are not something I see very often and so to see a fair few of them, of varying sizes, was great.

Here’s one of them.

On the way back I suddenly saw a quick movement. It was a bank vole! Or was it? I did a quick tail check and it was long, so bank vole. It was scurrying along the path looking for something to eat and it didn’t seem to mind that I was standing there. The best bit of this encounter was when it found a squashed blackberry. It literally pounced on it and gobbled down a bit mouthful. I have a video of it which will hopefully get inserted here at some point. In the meantime, here’s a photo. I know, the blackberry does not look very appetising….

One of the things that I found out on my first visit (very helpful staff in the centre, thank you) was that there was a moth trap opening the next morning. I love moths so to say that I was a bit extremely thrilled to find this out was no exaggeration. However, a thunderstorm was forecast, and did indeed happen overnight and I wasn’t all that hopeful of many moths.


I had definitely underestimated that. Warden Ben Lewis has built a fabulous moth trap which holds many, many layers of egg boxes. If you’ve never seen a moth trap, it’s basically a box-like container which has an MV (mercury vapour) light or an actinic light to attract the moths. The light is placed above a hole/gap in the trap and switched on. There is usually some kind of perspex covering on top of the box and around the light. Egg box trays are in the trap and are there for the moths to rest on when they fly in. They are then let go after Ben has opened the trap and ID’d the moths.

This moth event concentrated on the macro moths. There are also shed loads of micro moths which Ben did tell us about and identified a few of them. If I remember correctly, there were 95 different species of macro moth in the trap. 95….and that’s after a night of thunder and lightening…

I’m just really getting into being obsessed about moths and so there were quite a few species that I had never seen before. Here are a few photos of some of the 95 species.

The gorgeously yellow, ‘Canary Shouldered Thorn.’

The very striking, ‘Garden Tiger’ warming up so it can fly off.

It’s sitting on my finger- which is something I love about how obliging some moths can be.

Many people on this event loved the next moth. It’s quite a large moth and is called ‘Large Emerald.’

Here’s the beautifully patterned ‘Poplar Kitten’ moth, again on my finger. J

A very similar moth is the ‘Sallow Kitten.’ This is where an ID book is a must for a novice like me to make sure of patterns, colours, spots and so on…

My final favourite moth was the ‘Yellow Tail.’ As you can see, it does indeed have a yellow tail!

Should these moths have grabbed your attention/imagination and you’re thinking you’d like to see a few, then you are in luck! There is another ‘Marvellous Moths’ event on August 26th. Here’s the link and I thoroughly recommend that you go along.


The Hides

I had good views of various birds from the hides. I visited the Tower Hide twice, and each time I saw a kingfisher fly away as I opened the window. From this hide I also enjoyed watching 2 common terns feeding their juv on one of the little islands, swifts zooming over the water, a juv water rail being chased by a moorhen and close little egrets and herons.

On the corner of the path by the river and the boardwalk I was surprised to see a water rail out in full view preening. At the same time I heard beardies pinging away but didn’t get to see them.

From the Fen Hide I was surprised to see a black swan. It preened and then swam away. Also from here were more common terns fishing, a kingfisher fly past, a male and female marsh harrier, a fishing cormorant and another water rail.

One of my first sightings at Strumpshaw was of a young Chinese water deer from the hide at the Visitor Centre…aww!

People that I met in the hides were always very helpful and kind. Thank you.

On my 3rd visit I was thoroughly delighted to see a swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on the milk parsley. I’d never seen one before in real life. Stunning! This was quite large and probably in the last instar before it goes off to pupate.

I did get a quick glimpse (not a really good look though) of a swallowtail butterfly as it flew past me on my 2nd visit.

  • Thanks Clare, we've had a bit of an issue with the photos, so hopefully more photos will arrive soon. I didn't manage to see a jay here and I will definitely be back.

  • Glad you had such a great time, Nicola!  You'll have to return to the area as it has so much to offer.  I usually find Strumpshaw a good place to see jays - did you manage to see one?