Wednesday, 1 April 2015

April 1st Strumpshaw Fen

Its been a funny old morning in more ways than one. The windy weather remains and the destruction caused from yesterday is causing problems today. A powerline has been downed by a fallen tree and this means the reserve had no power to the computers and phonelines in the office. We even suffered from a minor power cut in the Reception Hide and the toilet block. The woods had a little clear up work being done to make it safe for visitors and on top of this, the river flooded causing closure of two paths and the Tower Hide.

Miner Bee
I went for a short walk around the wood before the work of clearing was done to it (which didn't take long). I found the usual culprits; robins, marsh tits and blue tits, but there was little about in these blustery conditions. There is a bench just as you turn the corner towards the river and at this time of year miner bees are very active on the sandy ground in front it. They are emerging from holes in this small area to mate and breed. They only have a few days to live in this adult form, so the urge to mate is high. When I arrived to the bench, there was only one bee braving the wind, but near to the end of my shift, I had a report that more had emerged when the sun's warmth had brought them out.

Blue Tit
Bee Orchid - a sign of things to come
Easter Trail
This week happens to be the first week of our Easter Trail for families with several activities for the children to do. There were pictures of Easter eggs in the woods for them to find, magnifying glasses to look for insects, materials to make mini bug homes and more. However, because it was so windy, few families came. Understandable really, but the trail is on for another week if anyone did fancy to come along.

There was little about at Reception Hide. A few harriers skydanced in the strong wind, not put off by it, and a few coot, greylag, pochard, shoveler and a couple of Canada geese were on the broad which looked like a rough sea. With little around, I decided to go look for a firecrest that has been reported for the last two days. My guess was that it was in the second woodland trail that takes you to the water pump building. A pair of visitors passed by and told me that they heard a loud, high pitched song by a pond with yew trees. I waited at the spot and met one of my regulars called Richard.

No firecrest at this spot, but we knew another spot further down where the path comes out of the wood and meanders towards the river. Along the way chiffchaffs distract us with good views but not settling for a picture. We didn't follow the path all the way to the river, only to the end of the wood where a field bordered by trees often favoured by firecrests. Still no firecrests, but we did see some fieldfares and we heard a strange call thats like a squeak. I reckon it was a tawny owl hidden somewhere in an ivy-covered tree in front of us being unsettled for a few moments. I had to return to Reception Hide, so I left Richard to it. On the way, I stopped by at the pond again and I watched a nuthatch climb along tree branches pecking at the bark for a meal. It was then I heard a loud, high pitched, rapid trill of possibly a firecrest. The strangest thing was that it was coming from the direction of the nuthatch. But it can't be the nuthatch as it was far too high pitched to make him the culprit.

Today is April Fools Day and my colleague wanted to play a trick on the serious birders amongst our visitors. We came up with a bird that would get people excited, but was also a more possible thing that you could come across. We then wrote it on the sightings board like we would to any other special sighting of the day. When we normally write up a special sighting, we put the intials to the spot where it was seen (for example 'Kingfisher (RH)' - RH meaning Reception Hide). So for our little prank, we wrote "Eagle Owl (AF!)" with the AF standing for April Fools! One of my other regulars was reading the board and got excited when he saw Eagle Owl written on it.

"Where's this eagle owl?" he asked. "You see those initials?" I replied. "Yes!" "Well it is at... April Fools!" He was ashamed that he was so easily tricked, but me, my colleague and the visitor's wife just laughed at him.

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