Wednesday, 4 May 2016

May 4th Strumpshaw Fen

Hot air balloon over Strumpshaw Fen
With no need to walk around early for hares anymore, I can relax a little more to look for some of the other species on my Strumpshaw 40 list. Though barn owls and weasels are still high on the 'to do' list, I decided to spend a lot more time in the Fen Hide to look for bearded tits. They were about, but they were too distant and only showed themselves for a second at a time as they flew between the gaps in the reedbeds.

Willow Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Sedge warblers were much easier to spot with one constantly singing from the head of a reed stem before shooting up into the air and parachuting back down again. The marsh harriers were also very active this morning. The males were flying all over the place as they defend their territories and hunt for prey to give back to the female. I watched one female fly up from her nest to catch a rodent in mid-air which the male had passed down to her. She caught it successfully and flew back to her nest deep within the reeds. I also heard the grasshopper warbler again this morning, this time near the sluice gates.

Another Sedge Warbler
Marsh Harrier
Female carrying food back to the nest

Today turned out to be a bit of a cuckoo fest, as I managed to see several males all morning. I saw one singing at Fen Hide before a second came in and chased him off. Then I walked down to the sluice gates by the river and saw one singing from the same tree as Sunday on the other side of the river and then I was alerted to the presence of another bird on my side of the river in a tree a few yards from me. However, as soon as I spotted it, it had flown to the other side to chase the other off. I also heard the bubbling call of a female during this dispute. As I was making my way back, I found one of them again calling from a different tree but still on the opposite side of the river, this time a little further up the river. Then at Reception Hide, I kept finding a cuckoo sitting in various branches in the trees aligned at the back of the broad all morning before it too was chased off by a rival male. I expect they were the same individuals, but it gave me the opportunity to point them out to visitors, some of which had never seen one before. What a cuckoo crazy day it has been!

Azure or Variable Damselfly?
Male Orange-tip
Orange-tip (wings closed)
Female Orange-tip
Female Pied Wagtail
Away from cuckoos, it has been a very good day for other birds too. Outside Reception Hide, a pair of pied wagtails were pretending to be kingfishers as they posed atop of the perches set up for them. They were very entertaining throughout the morning as they kept returning time and again to these perches. As wagtails are nothing like kingfishers, their eyes were set on what was above the surface than what was beneath it. They were constantly flying up into the air or a short distance away from the post it was perching on before returning again with a beakful of flies and a wag of their tail. Meanwhile, a kingfisher was forced to perch on a 'V'-shaped dead tree out in the reedbeds briefly, looking out of place. Also about was a pair of great crested grebes which enjoyed annoying the greylags by diving underwater and pecking them to move from beneath.

Male Pied Wagtail

Common Tern
Coots with chicks
Great Crested Grebe
Red Mason Bee
Reed Bunting
Grey Heron
Grey Heron and Mute Swan
Hobby (23)
Swarms of swifts have returned to the sky above Strumpshaw, whizzing around like scythed-winged fighter jets. But there was one other bird up there with them that could easily have a swift for breakfast. It is also another of my targets on the Strumpshaw 40 list. The hobbies are back! Hobbies are one of my favourite birds on the list and it is a top predator, able to catch and eat its prey on the wing. You can see them anywhere on the reserve, all you need to do is look up. They are reminiscent of a large swift with long wings. They are grey above and white below covered in black streaks and a red patch near the tail. This dodgy photo is the best I can do today (it was just too fast and distant for my camera), but I will try again next week.

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