Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Aug 9th Strumpshaw Fen

Emerald Damselfly
My quest to see and photograph the Strumpshaw 40 continues. While I am still after common blue butterflies, water scorpions and hornets, my main focus today is to find the final bird on my list. Water rails have been seen more regularly since areas of reed beds in front of the hides have been cut down a few weeks ago by the wardens. Now that there are open areas of stubble, it draws the water rails to come out and feed on the exposed mud for worms. This is the best time of year to see them and you can find them almost anywhere on the reserve.

Water Rail Chick (34)
My search begins at the Fen Hide where a family of water rails have been seen nearly every day in the last couple of weeks. The best way in seeing a water rail is to sit and wait patiently, while listening to their strange pig-like squealed calls and watching the edge of reed beds for movement. I took the opportunity to have my lunch inside the hide while I was alone as I waited for these birds to emerge. My peace was soon short lived as the hide was suddenly full of people. At the same time, I then noticed a small black fluffy thing with legs move along the edge of a stubble patch of reed. This was a water rail chick! Then another was spotted at the other end of the hide, patrolling up and down the side of reedy bank where some ducks were resting.

Water rail chicks are some of the cutest chicks around when they are a few days old. They look like tiny black pom-poms on legs. You can not help but go "aww!!" The chicks outside Fen Hide today though, have grown considerably and are starting to look like water rails but with streaking starting to appear through their black downy baby feathers. They are now old enough to explore on their own, though mum is never far away. She was less visible than her chicks as she gave only the briefest glimpses of herself, peeking out of the reed bed edge every now and then. I was unable to get a photo of her.
Mute Swan
Common Darter

Juvenile Water Rail
After a short walk along the meadow trail looking for the elusive common blue butterfly with no success, I went to Reception Hide to see if a water rail showed up there. It seemed to be my lucky day as not only did a juvenile water rail show up and in full view, I also had a kingfisher perch in good range for my camera. I will be back tomorrow with the hope that my good fortune will continue and produce a water scorpion, common blue or hornet. Fingers crossed!!


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