Season by Season
Except for the header image, which was taken on East Ruston Common, all the photographs seen on this page were taken on the lake or island visible from the cottages at Ruston Reaches, or the area immediately around the lake. They are an attempt to indicate the wildlife you might see while staying at one of the cottages.
As Spring begins at Ruston Reaches it used to be true that the Canada Geese, who typically returned in January, would begin to nest and produce their young by the end of April. The apparently red colour of the water is just the reflection of a cottage's brickwork. More recently, especially since 2018 when swans began to nest on the main island in the lake, they have been less successful, usually being chased away by the cob with any goslings they were raising killed.
Reptiles also begin to appear at this time of year, after their hibernation. Grass snakes will move away from you as quickly as they can if disturbed. Unless you go actively looking for them you're most likely to spot them swimming in the lake.
Summer - Jun-Aug
The logo of the Broads Authority is is the Norfolk Hawker dragonfly. Some sources say it is "only found in unpolluted fens, marshes and ditches of the Broads National Park in Norfolk and Suffolk." while others claim a wider distribution. It's a large brown insect with distinctive large green eyes. There has only been one year since 2013 when they have not been spotted within the grounds of Ruston Reaches. You'll also see plenty of other species of large dragonflies around the lake. Ahead of the Norfolk Hawker in the photograph is a female Emperor, but you're just as likely to seek Southern and Brown Hawkers.
While those who live in urban areas will often be used to seeing foxes, they tend to be a lot more shy in rural areas, so it was a surprise for this one to hang about the house next door for some twenty minutes one early evening in June 2014. Wildlife cameras pick them up regularly, and you can often hear the bark of a dog fox in winter when mating takes place.
Toads are seen as regularly as frogs at Ruston Reaches. They have been found in the grounds as late as October.
Kingfishers are regularly seen between April and October, but particularly in summer months, when often the first thing you'll spot is the iridescent blue on their backs as they fly away from you. They tend to work from a perch amongst the lakeside vegetation a few feet off the water.
Around mid-July if the evening is warm and the air still you may be lucky enough to see a good number of glow worms, also known as fireflies, around the site. Look out for them partially hidden amongst the reeds around the edge of the lake.
All the cottages at Ruston Reaches are named after butterflies, and with good reason. You'll find many of the species that the cottages are named after here, including a Gatekeeper. The second photograph shows just some of a clump of Hemp Agrimony that, on an August day in 2013, had thirty or more Peacock butterflies feeding on it.
But it's not just butterflies that you'll see. The large green caterpillar, with a blue "horn" is that of the Eyed Hawk-moth. Keep a lookout for them by the willow tree near Swallowtail cottage as that's their food plant and where this one was found.
Summer is also the time to look out for common lizards. Sometimes you will see several sunbathing together. This one was found with others sun bathing on a fallen log close to a lot of ground cover. It seems to be their favourite haunt.
Autumn - Sep-Nov
If the weather is good you'll continue to see kingfishers and butterflies, such as the speckled wood in September. The brown hawker here was seen in October.
Cormorants, like herons, can be seen at any time of year, but is was a surprise to see what at first might was taken to be a squirrel until it was realised that it was far too big. Stoats are captured on our wildlife cameras, but this was the first time one had been seen in the grounds in daylight.
Winter - Dec-Feb
For the a few years now Otters have been seen in the lake and on the banks almost daily from late December and through most of January, but wildlife cameras set up around the lake capture them from time to time throughout the year.
Increasingly cormorants have been seen throughout the year, but they are often easier to spot in winter as they've taken to perching for prolonged periods in the treetops.
It may surprise some that we include a photograph of a squirrel here as they are seen in so many people's gardens. However, between 2013 and 2016 none were spotted and photographed at Ruston Reaches, in spite of there being many oak trees on the grounds around the lake. They are now seen regularly, especially in the winter months when they attempt to raid the bird feeders set up just beyond the fence beside the cottage Swallowtail.
Traditionally, Canada Geese have returned to the site each year in January. The numbers present can vary, but shortly before nesting begins one pair seem to dominate and drive away any others from the site.
Swans come and go throughout the year. In winter a lone swan will sometimes be seen, but most often it will be a pair that visits. In 2017, for the first time, a pair nested on the tip of main island in clear view from the northern terrace of cottages. They have returned to nest each each since, but not always choosing to use the same nest site. They nest a month or so later than the geese and appear to kill any gosling they find and chase the adult geese away.
Herons are, of course, regular visitors throughout the year. This one is seen immediately behind one of the cottages.
Deer also make regular visits. Muntjac are found on the grounds around the lake on a daily basis. Wildlife cameras pick them up after dark. Roe deer are much less frequent visitors. Rarely, a Chinese Water Deer has been caught on camera and groups of up to half a dozen Red deer have been captured by wildlife cameras passing by the site at this time of year.