Wednesday, 13 May 2015

May 13th Strumpshaw Fen

Walking to Strumpshaw from Brundall Station has its perks. One of them is passing by paddocks that are now covered in buttercups. It is like walking past a place bathed in sunshine, the bright yellow flowers glow over the green of the grass. It is enough to make me stop for a moment.

On the reserve, I take my walk along the river. Conditions are much improved since last week, as warm sun replaces cold, noisy wind, I can hear myself think. Though the dawn chorus is at it's end, there are a lot of bird sound. Warblers, such as reed, sedge, Cetti's, willow, blackcap and garden, make up most of what I could hear, but two bird stars stood out of the crowd. The first was the loud, short bursts of booming bitterns. They sounded close almost like they were adjascent to me within the reedbeds somewhere. I could feel these low frequency booms vibrate my eardrums, it is that loud!

Male Cuckoo (from last year)
While the bitterns remained hidden, another bird was not quite as elusive. "Cuckoo! Cuckoo!" One of the most celebrated sounds of spring, but one that is sadly on a massive decline, the cuckoo. It is the male cuckoo that makes this call and after finally pinpointing his whereabouts, I saw him fly from a tree on the otherside of my stretch of river closeby to a slightly distant bare branch of a shrub. I watched him calling and then I noticed a browner bird flying towards him. It was a female! I don't think he was interested though, as he took off soon after she arrived. However, they went out of my sight behind trees that obstructed my vision, so I have no idea if they mated or not. What I do know is that she will look for a reed warbler nest not long after to be foster parents to her chick, which will kick out the warbler's eggs and chicks and make the adult warblers work hard for it.

Reception Hide was busy today. A lot of them were treated to a sighting of a kingfisher. It was a male and it made a few visits throughout the morning. He wasn't going to give us a closer look of him though, as he kept patrolling the reedbeds at the far side of the broad, perching on the reed stems now and then, or flying to one of his favourite perches along the left reedbed between two channels. To help our visitors get a good look at him, I used the reserve's scope for them to use. He kept coming back to his favourite perch with a fish and he hammered it to death on the branch he sat on. But then he made a decision. On some visits to the perch, he ate his catch, but on others, he maneuvered the fish in his bill so that the head points out and flew off with it across the broad and over the reedbed on my right. This means he has a nest nearby!

Also around today; pochards, tufted ducks, herons, reed buntings, lots of damselflies and butterflies (including my first common blue of the year), swallows, a Chinese water deer, I heard some bearded tits pinging and I watched a rat climb a post (recently planted as a bird perch for photographers to use) and jumped onto a feeder hanging from a bridge of wire. That amused me, but it was all over before I could get a shot from my camera.
Female Pochard
Marsh Harrier
Female Azure Damselfly
Peregrine at Norwich Cathedral

Back at Norwich, all the peregrine chicks have long since hatched and are now slightly large bundles of white fluff. The parents were circling around the cathedral spire. You can watch the action here on their webcam.

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