Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Feb 4th Strumpshaw Fen

The woods seems to be the place to be lately at Strumpshaw. This morning, I watched two nuthatches pecking at the moss and bark of a twin trunked tree (one on each trunk) and were very active today. I also heard a great spotted woodpecker drumming close by. So, I decided to test a method to try and attract it over to me. I picked up a stick and drummed it against a tree trunk every time I heard the woodpecker. It worked! It kept replying back to me with the sound getting closer and closer, until I saw it fly to a nearby tree. It was a male. You can tell because of the red patch on the back of it's head. Unfortunately, he was too obscured by branches to get a photo of him.

Reflections on the ice
It was once again frozen over at Reception Hide, apart from one patch of open water at the far back, where a large group of coot were swimming in circles. A series of short showers poured over the ice, polishing it into a reflective surface like a large mirror and was beautiful when the sun briefly came out.

Marsh Tit
There were also plenty of marsh harriers and greylags out today. A cormorant made a brief stop over at the coot's pool, scaring them to the other end of this patch of open water. At the feeders, the usual visitors were there including a few marsh tits. These small birds often confuse people with it's identical relative, the willow tit. The thing is, marsh tits are more common here than willow tits, so you are more likely to see a marsh tit here than a willow. One method I use, is the white spot on it's bill which (as far as I know) only marsh tits have (this method is best observed in photos or close up though). The best method to use in the field, however, are the calls. Listen out for distinctive, loud, 'pit-chew!' calls made by marsh tits when you next visit Strumpshaw (willow tits make a deep, buzzing, 'charr charr charr', if your optimistic).

Deer Prints
Back at the hide, news arrived about a sighting of a male goosander along the river. I have never seen a goosander at Strumpshaw before, so I went out to find it for myself. Along the way, I came across a pair of bullfinches and a Chinese water deer. To find the goosander meant I had to take the river path down towards Tower Hide. This path should only be taken by people wearing wellies at this time of year, as it is extremely muddy. I traipsed through the slippery mud that caked my hiking boots and trousers, only to find men with saws on a boat chopping trees down along the river bank. No goosander, just mud, lots and lots of mud. But at least I wasn't the only fool to use this path as there were many footprints in it. And it wasn't just people using it either. There were many prints of deer (more likely to be Chinese water deer) in the mud too. By the look of it, they were also losing the odd footing in this stuff as much as I was!

Rainbow over the reedbeds
Alder catkins

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