Wednesday, 13 April 2016

April 13th Strumpshaw Fen

Spider web
It has been an eventful day at Strumpshaw. Not only was the sun out and it felt like summer, there was also something unexpected on the reserve this morning that created a buzz of excitement amongst everyone that was there at the time. But before I tell you all about it, let's start at the beginning.

Song Thrush
I went on my early morning walk around the reserve and failed to see a hare yet again (what a surprise!), but I did see my first sedge warbler of the year. At Fen Hide, a kingfisher was showing well. It posed for me on a couple of perches and made a few hovers high above the water, staring down at it before making a plunge dive with some success. I could also hear a bittern booming, but it was barely audible than it was last week. Marsh harriers continued to display above the reserve, while bearded tits and reed buntings were calling beneath them within the reedbeds or on top of a shrub.

Willow Warbler
Black-headed Gulls
The light over Reception Hide was magnificent. The surface of the broad had a golden glow to it from the reflections of the reedbeds surrounding it. It made the impression that the birds were floating on liquid gold mixed with blue sky. A great crested grebe was the most eye catching on it with its orange-red crest and elegant body features. Swallows skimmed across the water for a drink whilst still in the air flying at great speed, so fast that they made me felt slow with my camera in comparison.

Great Crested Grebe
Reed Bunting
Common Lizard
It was so warm today that I noticed the stump in front of the hide was alive with lizards warming themselves up on it. They were everywhere! I tried to show visitors them, but they couldn't see them until they moved or until I guided them with the zoom of my camera with the image on the screen.

Common Cranes
While I was busy watching the lizards, there was a sudden gathering of staff and visitors at the blind just outside the Reception Hide. Apparently, there was a pair of cranes spotted flying over the woodland trail and was coming our way! Then suddenly, the many eyes made short work of finding them flying high in the blue sky. They gradually decended lower and lower until they made a landing behind the tree line, somewhere in the direction of the Tower Hide. It was the talk of the town (or nature reserve in this case) after that.

 It wasn't until midday when we saw them again. The sound of bugling announced to us of their presence, I looked up and there they were flying towards us! They circled over the reserve a few times before flying back over the woods and beyond where we can see. It could be the same pair or a different pair, I don't really know. All I can say is that everyone out on the reserve has apparently seen them. It was quite exciting! This isn't the first time that I have seen or heard cranes at Strumpshaw, but who knows, perhaps it is a sign that these large birds will get to breed here in the not so distant future. Fingers crossed!

Great Silver Diving Beetle
Lastly, there was one final surprise for me today when someone arrived to Reception Hide holding a large beetle with him. He found it while walking to the hide from the car park crawling along the ground. We placed it in a pot for a closer look. He wanted to know what it was, so I got it identified as a great silver diving beetle. This is the largest of the UK's aquatic beetles and is also pretty rare. I have seen larger specimens than this, but this was still an impressive looking insect with its body reflecting a silvery sheen all over. After everyone had a good look at it, I took it to the pond dipping pond and released it.

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