Wednesday, 6 April 2016

April 6th Strumpshaw Fen

Rain, rain go away, come back another day! The April showers are here and they have made me a bit wet as I walked around the reserve this morning. They were on and off all day in short bursts with the sun trying to sneak some bright sunshine between the showers. Some were heavy downpours, while others were light drizzles. It made hare watching a waste of time yet again. I feel like the hares do not want me to find them at Strumpshaw at all and they are even using the weather against me! My chance of seeing the penduline tit was also dashed by these wet conditions. Its a shame, because it has been posing well for hours for some people during the past few days while I wasn't around!

I took some time to shelter from the rain inside Fen Hide. Marsh harriers were active as usual, but while some were still courtship displaying through aerial dances and calling, I noticed one male carry nesting material down to one spot in a reedbed closeby to the hide. Three coots had a three way duel, fanning their wings upwards and then sitting upright on the surface to scrap with each other with their strange-shaped feet. The sound of the rain on the roof of the hide was outcompeted for a moment as the sound of a male bittern booming reverberated through my body. This was a deep, loud, low-pitched sound that sounded like it was very closeby within one of the reedbeds several metres from the hide. "Boom booom! Boom booom! boom booom!" As I was heading back to start my shift, I heard it again, though this time it sounded slightly faint from my previous position.

Marsh Harrier


Many of the spring migrants have returned to the reserve this week. The songs of willow warbler and blackcaps can be heard in harmony with the chiffchaffs that were here a couple of weeks ago. Swallows, sand and house martins swarm high in the air, feeding on what insect life that have risked the rain. When the sun breaks through between the showers, these birds returned to the air in force while the sunshine lasted, occasionally flying low at great speed over the broad.

Little Grebe (19)
Besides marsh harriers, a sparrowhawk and a handful of waterfowl and coots, there wasn't much to see from Reception Hide today. I did, however, managed to tick off one of my Strumpshaw 40 challenge targets. Little grebes (also known as dabchicks) are common, but for some reason they are being quite elusive at Strumpshaw. At this time of year, they are looking smart with their reddish plumage and white spot at the base of the bill. The males are more red than the females, but in the winter the red becomes faded and they both look similar. They are small grebes but full of character. Listen out for their loud rapid trills that they use during courtship. They love areas of open water that are bordered with reedbeds and your best bet in seeing one is from the hides, especially Tower Hide.

Artists at work!
I was in the company of artists from Norwich University of the Arts (or the Norwich School of Art as it used to be known) during my lunch. They were taking a lunch break from learning about the reedbed habitat and how it is managed as well as from the weather. I guess the reserve has given them some inspiration as most of them were busy creating works of art in their sketchbooks from what they could see outside the hide. It is a nice to see other people drawing for a change and takes my mind off the rain.


  1. Hi Sean, It was nice to meet you today! =) (I am the artist who wears the blue coat)

    1. Thank you. I hope you come back to Strumpshaw again someday. There's always something to draw here (especially when the swallowtail butterflies emerge!).