Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Sep 14th Strumpshaw Fen

Sunshine in the woods
It is a really hot day today. So far September feels like an extra summer month. When I got to Strumpshaw early this morning, the day was only starting to warm up as the sun was rising higher and higher, shining bright rays of sunshine through the mist and the trees. It was a beautiful sight to start another shift at my favourite reserve.

At Fen Hide, the bearded tits were pinging loudly in the reed beds and as I sat in the hide for a while, I started seeing them flying low over the reeds before vanishing within them again. A female kingfisher made a quick appearance at the back of the pool and there were several herons around too. Two of these herons decided to perch in the same bush together. A marsh harrier circled around them and then flew really close to the front of the hide. It was so close, I thought it was going to join us inside it! It wasn't the only marsh harrier around, though. A female with green tags was soaring over the reed beds to my right and it perched on top of a bush for me to photograph its tags so that I could read it's letters. The letters were 'VH'. Now that I know the letters, it should help us find out all about this individual from where it was born to where it has been.

Grey Herons
Marsh Harrier and Grey Herons
The green-tagged female Marsh Harrier

You can clearly see the letters 'VH' on her tags

Little Egret

While I was at Fen Hide, small birds were hopping from reed stem to reed stem by the clearings behind the pool. These were whinchats and stonechats. Whinchats are the ones with the bright white stripe above the eye. They can be easily confused with stonechats. They not only look similar but also behave similar as well. Both have a habit of perching where they can be seen in full view at the tops of stems or branches. Males of both species have reddish breasts, so when I saw one individual who appears to be moulting or developing it, it could have been either. A pale white stripe by its eye made me think it was a whinchat at first, but this is actually a stonechat. The stripe is just not prominent enough. ID difficulties aside, seeing both these species here like this is a sign of migration. While whinchats are true migrants, passing through before travelling south, stonechats on the other hand tend to stay with us all year round, moving from location to location.

Peacock caterpillars
Red Admiral

Grey Heron cooling off!
The heat was beginning to build as I returned to the Reception Hide to start my shift. A draft inside the hide kept me a little bit cool, enough to keep me from melting into a pool of sweat. A heron found the heat unbearable too and submerged half its body in the water to cool off (and to be that much closer to its next meal). A kingfisher made a quick perch stop on top of the water measuring post, it too looked hot with its beak open to pant (just like dogs), which is another method for a bird to cool down as they don't have sweat glands. For the little grebe and tufted ducks out on the broad, they weren't finding the heat unbearable at all. As they had to dive beneath the surface to hunt, I expect it must be refreshing to be underwater in this heat. Lucky so-and-so's!

Kingfisher panting

Little Grebe
Tufted Duck
Cobber the Black Swan

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