Sunday, 27 August 2017

9. Ted Ellis Nature Reserve, Surlingham

A russet brown coat glistening in the sunshine and tail aloft with the fire of summer, an apparition guided our way along the path to the nature reserve entrance. Our first visit to this reserve, and what better way to start the journey than with a stoat sighting. The Ted Ellis Trust was founded to preserve Wheatfen which, as the visitors guide states, “is one of the few remaining areas of the once extensive Yare Valley swamp” and is a SSSI. It’s not quite like any of the other reserves we have visited, with a mixture of habitats and a diverse array of insect life, and, I would imagine, bird life at any other time of year.

I don’t expect to see or hear many birds in August and walks can seem eerily quiet at times. The summer silence was broken today by the half-call of a cetti’s warbler, the explosion of a woodpigeon from a tree, or the gentle dabbling of a family of mute swans. A pair of buzzards circled silently and lazily over the summer-bleached fenland. The only other sounds were those of rodents rustling in the undergrowth, the buzz of bees or the flit of dragonfly wings as they deftly avoided a face-on collision.

Dragonflies and butterflies were the stars of the show today. Speckled woods darted through the woodland, unusually fast and direct flights for a member of the Lepidoptera. Peacocks sunned themselves along the board walk and a single brimstone nectared on the beautiful purple flower spikes bordering the water. Many members of the Odonata order were on the wing today, taking advantage of the blazing sunshine and warmth to show off their aerial acrobatics to the full. Brown hawkers patrolled their territories, often flying low along the paths in front of us. Southern hawkers, dressed in their bright disco colours alighted on leaves momentarily before resuming their hunting. Common and ruddy darters basked in the sunshine, or couple up in-copu. Willow emeralds were in a similarly amorous mood, with more in tandem pairs than singletons (this adds to my list of dragonfly species spotted this year, bringing the current total up to 15). They were everywhere along the latter parts of the walk.

Ruddy darter
Common darters
Common darters
Willow emerald damselflies
Willow emerald damselflies

We tried to explore as much of the reserve as possible and ended it with a dash through Surlingham Wood to avoid the mosquitoes (not altogether successfully). A beautiful reserve that we will definitely be visiting again.


  1. What a terrific post. Wheatfen used to be one of my local reserves... Such a rich area to explore. Adding you to my bloglist. Thank you, Caroline

    1. Thank you Caroline! It is a really beautiful place, I don't know how or why I haven't visited it before. Thank you - I will do likewise :)