Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Oct 7th Strumpshaw Fen

A murky day at Strumpshaw!
It was a slightly murky start of the morning at Strumpshaw today. I did manage a quick walk to the river and back before the showers arrived before my shift began though. It was a very autumnal scene on the reserve today with bright reds and yellows glowing from the leaves of the trees and shrubs along the path and the early morning gloom over the meadows and reedbeds. Bearded tits were pinging from the reedbed close to the river and the simple, repetitive notes of 'chiff chaff chiff chaff' from several chiffchaffs and the alarm calls of blackcaps fooled me into thinking it was spring again. Although most of the chiffchaffs and blackcaps will head south soon, some do linger through the winter.

A wild-grown apple
Wild Plums
Autumn colour in Bramble leaves
View from Reception Hide this morning
There was a lot of wildfowl out on the lake in front of the Reception Hide this morning. They were mostly mallards, though there were a handful of wigeon and gadwall too. The heron was doing his usual thing, moving around the lake in search of a better spot to fish from. The cormorants, on the other hand, had no problem finding fish. Their method is to dive underwater, often fooling us for otters, and were more successful than just standing around staring at the surface like the heron. One of them managed to catch a large pike, swallowing it whole with ease.
Grey Heron
Cormorant eating a Pike
Black-headed Gulls
A favourite amongst visitors who come here is the kingfisher. We had one making a few visits to its favourite perch in front of the reedy islands, attracting a mini audience admiring it. This male kingfisher in the video below was performing several dives for its fans watching it, including a few belly flops on the water's surface (which is the kingfisher equivalent of taking a bath and having a drink), before I started filming it. Once the camera started it rolling, the kingfisher decides to stop and preen instead. Typical! And after a while after I decided to give up filming it, the bird launches into the air and hovers for a brief moment. Again, I was too late! The showbizz saying never work with animals comes to mind.

Marsh Harrier
Also today; a water rail sneaked in a couple of quick appearances by the islands and marsh harriers were soaring above the reedbeds. There was also a moment when a flock of mallards took off from the left channel of the lake (close to the hide). When something like this happens, it is usually caused by an otter or bird of prey. So I scanned to check, but there was no otter or bird of prey in sight. Except, there was something that briefly caught my eye... a wing of a bittern disappearing into the the reedbed closest to us! A wing was all I managed to see of it as it flew low over the channel into cover. No idea where it came from or if it will show itself after my shift, but the knowledge of it hiding just a stones throw away is quite exciting.

A large skein of Graylags
Can you see the rainbow?
The weather today was a bit topsy turvy as it switched from hints of bright sunshine to short showers of rain. There was at one point a faint rainbow over the reserve in between sunshine and rain. Just like the wildlife today, the weather was unpredictable, surprising and brief.

Grey Heron

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