Wednesday, 23 March 2016

March 23rd Strumpshaw Fen

Goat Willow catkins (I think)
Another early start at Strumpshaw and another failed attempt in finding a hare. I am starting to think that they don't want me to find them. I may have to come up with another tactic as walking non-stop from train station to Strumpshaw, then walking to the fields at the far end of the reserve and back in time for my shift at the Reception Hide every Wednesday morning is starting to tire me out. Perhaps I should stay after my shift and stake out these fields for one afternoon? At least there were signs of spring around the reserve to enjoy this morning, from primroses and catkins to chiffchaffs and singing wrens.

Mute Swan
Reed Bunting
Blue Tit yellow faced from feeding on catkins
Walking along the river from the pump house building, I managed to spot a bittern fly across to the other side of the river pursued by a marsh harrier. It was very quick and disappeared into a reedbed before I could reach for my camera. All the paths are now open and accessable again throughout the reserve with the mud almost fully dried up, so I decided to walk down to the sluices for a short while. On the way, I heard a call I have never heard at Strumpshaw before. It was a distintive, far-carrying whistled note that I can best describe as like an echo rebounding off a wall. "Psieee!" This was the call of a penduline tit!

Penduline tits are small black masked birds with pale grey, buff-coloured breasts and brown backs that live in wetland habitats. This is a scarce visitor to the UK and is a common summer visitor across mainland Europe. They are hard to spot and I expect it was hiding in the reedbeds somewhere. I was fortunate enough to just hear it, but I did have one visitor that I knew who came back to Reception Hide and told me that she saw it. Apparently, it caught her by surprise and perched on top of a tree, called and then vanished from sight. She was the only person around to see it in that short moment. If only I was there!

Greylag rebuilding the coot nest!
It was rather quiet at Reception Hide with very few waterfowl out on the broad. Greylag geese with a few Canada geese had the water almost to themselves save for a handful of teal, gadwall, mallard, tufted duck, coot and Cobber the black swan. The greylags were very territorial, chasing each other across the broad in fierce disputes. One pair has even bullied the coots from their nest in the reeds close to the hide and have taken over it. The weeks of hard work that the coots have done into constructing it have come to nothing. The greylag pair were busy rebuilding it to make it more suitable for their own eggs. The coot pair were now building a new nest just a few yards to the left of their old nest site. I also saw marsh harriers and a sparrowhawk this morning.

A white Greylag
Cobber the Black Swan
Marsh Harrier
Sparrowhawk (distant)
Black-headed Gull
Red Fox
As my shift was nearing to its conclusion, it was so quiet I could have dozed off if it wasn't for the sudden cry from a visitor sitting at the blind outside. "Fox!!" It made me alert and in that instant, I saw it running right in front of the hide, just within a few feet from the building's wall! It was a beautiful looking animal. Its fur was neat and as red as can be. It was also fast. As soon as I saw it, it was gone as it rushed past us heading left. What a way to end a dull overcast day! If only the hares surprised me like this!

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