Wednesday, 24 June 2015

June 24th Strumpshaw Fen

Male Mallards looking a bit scruffy
Late June and the atmosphere of the fen has a lazy feel to it. Though at a glance, there appears to be nothing about, but when you stop and wait around for a while something will happen. Watching a few mallards can become dull very quickly, especially when their plumage is starting to fade. Male mallards are now beginning to lose the bright green from their heads and will look a bit like a female in the next few weeks. This is what is known as an 'eclipse phase', where all the feathers are in the stage of being replaced. At least the male's yellow bills will remain yellow to help us birders out in identification.

View from Reception Hide
Though the hours seem to tick by slowly, the year seems to have flown by quickly. You may remember from my photos of Strumpshaw in December that some of the reedbeds are cut and reduced to stubble. The scene is completely different now. You can hardly recognize it. Since late March, the reedbed in front of Reception Hide has grown to almost the same height as the reedbeds that weren't cut. It is beginning to cover our view out over the broad and any kingfishers or otters that could be around. This was still perfect for a heron, like this one, to hide and fish from the side of the reedbed.

Grey Heron
To stop us from boredom, the marsh harriers and hobbies flew past the hide. The hobbies in particular were causing the most excitment. They swooped low over the broad at speed and were catching dragonflies, eating them on the wing. One or two kept perching on the same bare branched tree poking out of the line of trees at the back of the broad that it was easy to point a scope at it for the visitors to look through. I also had a very short walk in the woods and had a kestrel hover right above me.

Marsh Harrier
The quest for swallowtails was stronger than ever and we were constantly asked that most frequently uttered question in person and by phone, "Where are the swallowtails?" We are coming towards the end of the swallowtail season and the sightings are becoming scarce, but still butterfly enthusiasts come from across the country. The conditions in seeing them is best around midday and into the afternoon and with bright sunshine. It is difficult to see someone disappointed after a fruitless search for one, but as soon as news of a sighting comes through, hopes become high. For a lucky few out of the many visitors today, they came back with raised smiles. For the rest, however, it is frustrating. I was heading out for home and was crossing the railway track to leave, when suddenly a swallowtail flew past and round towards the car park. I called anyone nearby over, but it was gone. I hope it came back for them after I left.
Blue-tailed Damselfly (immature)
Young Blue Tit and young Great Tit on one of the feeders
Meadow Brown

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