Friday, 8 April 2016

April 8th Strumpshaw Fen

As Wednesday was plagued with wet weather, I am back at Strumpshaw today on a nicer day. I wanted to find more of my targets on my Strumpshaw 40 challenge list. I am only one away from reaching the half way mark of the challenge and I was hoping that with more free time today, I could get target number 20 and perhaps a few more. While most of the remaining targets are yet to emerge or arrive from migration, there are still about seven species on my list that I can still search for at this time of year. The problem is that they are perhaps the trickiest to see or photograph. Weasels, hares and barn owls as you know have given me the run around with little success, but I am more comfordent on finding otters, kingfishers, bearded tits and water rails. These were my main targets for today.
Chinese Water Deer

My plan was to wait inside the Fen Hide for a couple of hours. But before that, I had a look outside the Reception Hide. A Chinese water deer was feeding at the edge of the reedbed closest to the hide and Cobber the black swan was busy preening himself. As I made my way to Fen Hide, chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps were singing proudly. The remaining tawny miner bees were still making burrows next to the bench at the start of the Sandy Wall path.

Cobber the Black Swan

Willow Warbler
Tawny Miner Bee
Another Chinese Water Deer
From Fen Hide, I saw another Chinese water deer, marsh harriers, greylag geese, shovelers, coots, pochards, mallards, a buzzard and reed buntings. As I waited inside the hide, people came and went, including some children who are still on their Easter holidays. As children don't know the meaning of the words 'quiet' and 'patience', they caused a bit of noise and were constantly bugging their parents. All I could do is to tolerate them and try to get them interested in what they can see.

Marsh Harrier
Male Pochard
Female Pochard
Kingfisher (20)
Suddenly, a familiar high pitched whistled call carried to my ears and caught my attention. Then, a bolt of blue that was a kingfisher whizzed past the hide. A short while later it returned, hovering for a moment before perching on one of the posts that was placed purposefully for it for another brief moment until vanishing once again. I managed to get a few shots of it before it left. Unfortunately for the other person in the hide with me at the time, her camera decided to run out of battery just as the kingfisher perched on the post! Oops!

Kingfishers are usually what everyone who visits Strumpshaw wants to see, that and bitterns and otters. Can you blame them? They are beautiful little birds about the size of a starling with striking blue and orange plumage. So how can you get to see one here? Well, there is no one good place to see one as you can find them almost anywhere, from the river to the broads and pools. The best places though are from the three hides, especially Reception and Fen. All it takes then is time and patience and you should get one eventually. It also helps to learn their distinctive call as when you hear it, one is somewhere nearby. Finally, learn where their favourite perch sites are as it will save you time from scanning for it blindly.

Shortly after ticking off my 20th target, I almost got target 21 in the bag too. A few bearded tits were calling somewhere in the reedbeds surrounding the Fen Hide and I managed to get a glimpse of them darting by. Then I noticed one posing well just a short distance from the hide. Annoyingly, while trying to relocate it with my camera, it disappeared into a reedbed across the channel of the pool. I narrowly missed out on it, but I won't give up. I have plenty of opportunities remaining this year to get a photo of one.
The old pumphouse by the river

Grey Heron
In the woods, a few bluebells are starting to bloom. I also came across this rather obliging goldcrest which posed for me for a couple of minutes. Still no sign of any hares, etc, so my search still continues for them. Let's hope they will show up next Wednesday when I will return.

Lesser Celandine

1 comment:

  1. Lovely photos again. I love the marsh harrier, kingfisher and goldcrest. They all seemed to posing nicely for you. I'm always trying to get photos of the goldcrests in the garden but they're so tiny and never sit still for me!