Wednesday, 15 April 2015

April 15th Strumpshaw Fen

It was a glorious morning and was perfect for an early walk around the woods, pump house and back. Today turned out to be quite a warbler day as I managed to see and photograph four species. I also saw a Chinese water deer amongst the bluebell leaves (only a handful of flowers are out at the moment), a fleeting glimpse of a stoat by the river and plenty of butterflies (including peacocks, small tortoiseshells and brimstones) and other insects about.

Male Blackcap
As I said earlier, it was a bit of a warbler fest today with chiffchaffs, willow warblers, blackcaps and Cetti's warblers singing in the trees with sedge warblers (heard but not seen) in the reedbeds. As I have four species captured on camera, I thought it would be a good idea to help you identify them as warblers cause a lot of confusion for new birdwatchers. Blackcaps are the easiest to begin with as males are grey with black caps. Females have orange-brown caps. They have this loud, rich song that is like a blackbird's song but faster paced and much louder. You might get them confused with the similar sounding garden warbler, but they are brown all over and are more secretive.

Willow Warbler
Chiffchaffs and willow warblers are the troublemakers to most  birdwatchers. They look so much alike that you wonder how anyone can tell them apart. The answer is easier when they are singing as they both have different songs. Chiffchaffs simply call their names over and over, 'chiff chaff chiff chaff chiff chiff chaff'. Meanwhile, willow warblers have a bright and cheerful song which starts with loud notes and falls into a flow of softer, quieter ones. I often compare this song to a chaffinch but is much more fluent. Willow warblers are also a brighter shade of yellow compared to chiffchaffs and the legs are fleshy coloured, while chiffchaffs are blackish.

Cetti's Warbler
Cetti's warblers are elusive birds, hiding in the reedbeds. But at this time of year, they are more obliging as they defend territories with their very loud but short, shouty outbursts. They can surprise you without warning. The bird itself is chestnut brown with a pale eyestripe and a long rounded tail. When I look for them at this time of year, I listen for their outbursts and then look low down around half way up a bush, they don't often sing from the top. They won't hang around though, so you need to be quick. Also beware, as they tend to make themselves sound like they are in one place when they are actually somewhere else.

Greylag with goslings
At Reception Hide, a family of greylags with six fluffy goslings was in front of the hide all morning. They don't look more than a few days old. There was also a family of mallards, but they were too distant to see them properly.

Marsh Harrier
The marsh harriers were active as usual, but only a few of them were still skydancing. Most of them are now preparing for the next generation. The females should be on the nests deep in the reedbeds. The males are the ones who have to hunt for her and the chicks when they hatch. I watch one male make several patrols low over the broad and the reedbeds close to the hide. Hope he doesn't spot those gosilings! Also about today were pochards, tufted ducks, swallows, canada geese, a cormorant, a shelduck, another Chinese water deer and a sparrowhawk.

Grey Squirrel
Tufted Duck
Coot on a mission!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the help identifying warblers. I thought I had a chiffchaff in the garden, but now I wonder whether it's a willow warbler! Picture on my blog if you wouldn't mind taking a look ...