Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Dec 16th Strumpshaw Fen

Mallards, Shovelers and Gadwalls
It was a morning of ducks and raptors at Strumpshaw today. From Reception Hide, there were ducks everywhere. Mallards, gadwalls, shovelers and teals mingling together in large numbers. Winter is when these birds look their best. The white and chestnut brown of shoveler drakes impresses my collegue the most. I am more in ore with their shovel-like bills and the sounds they make, a deep sounding 'took took, took took'. I love the sound of mallards quacking too. It brings back memories of feeding them bread as a child. To me, they sound like they are laughing, 'waak waaak waak wak wak!' These sounds are amusing to me and makes me feel like laughing back.

Marsh Harrier
Marsh harriers were patrolling the reedbeds against the wind, occasionally swooping over the water and spooking the ducks to one side of the lake. We counted about 6-7 harriers in the air at once. A couple of these harriers decided to sit in the trees for a lengthy period of time at the back of the lake, taking it easy by watching the ducks and the other harriers. A kestrel appeared a few times this morning as well.

Marsh Harrier taking it easy
The feeders
The feeders were busy as per usual with many hungry blue, great, marsh and coal tits, chaffinches and a robin visiting them. I stood watching them for a while. But then, there was panic and all the birds fled the area. Within a flash of a second, a large bird came in to attempt to 'land' onto the feeder on my right, before vanishing behind the tree cover. I had witnessed an unsuccessful raid by a male sparrowhawk. By using cover to hide its approach, it had attempted to catch one of the birds by surprise. It had failed this time round, but because so many birds are drawn to these feeders, it will be back again. But the threat of a sparrowhawk raid did not seem to bother these smaller birds. As soon as the hawk left, they returned instantly!
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tits

Back in the Reception Hide, a kingfisher made a short stop over, sitting on a perch by the reedy islands. If you look closely at the bill, you should see an orange patch on the lower mandible. This means this kingfisher is a female. Lady kingfishers wear lipstick! At least that is how I remember it. I am still waiting for one to perch closer to the hide for some better shots this year. They have teased me a lot this year by perching as far away as possible and when they do perch close to the hide, they fly away as soon as I get my camera zoomed onto them! I still have two more weeks until this year is over, so I may yet get the Christmas present that I want the most!

Watching the ducks for a few hours may seem boring for some people, but watch long enough and you may get a surprise. It certainly paid off for me today. Suddenly, the ducks fled to one side yet again. What spooked them this time? Otter? Marsh harrier? Nope. This time it was... a red kite! The iconic forked tail was a big give away. I have seen red kites at Strumpshaw before, but only on rare occasions. I almost got a shot of it as it flew closer and closer to the hide, but it flew out from view at the last second! Drat! I needed to be outside to see it better. It was gone by the time I got out of the door though. Just my luck!

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