Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Dec 14th Strumpshaw Fen

A gloomy start this morning at Strumpshaw
The light was still very dim as I arrived at Strumpshaw this morning. It was very quiet, still, slightly foggy and dark, as if this part of the world just wanted ten more minutes in bed. It felt like a landscape that was half asleep. There was barely any bird song to be heard save for the caws of crows and the loud crowing of pheasants, which made me jump at times especially with the one that sneaked up behind me while I was weasel watching. Speaking of weasels, it seemed they too were still in bed as there was still no sign of any as per usual. After half an hour, I gave up and went to Fen Hide.

Gloomy scenes at Reception Hide
Pheasant

Lichen



Bath time for Mallards
When I got to Fen Hide, there wasn't much to see apart from a heron, Cobber the black swan and several mallards. The mallards were busy with an early morning bath and a preening session. It was rather entertaining to watch. To bathe like a duck, simply place your head and then your back underwater, then lift your body upwards quickly enough to force the water to fall over you and give a good flap of your wings to shake it off. This causes a lot of water to go everywhere, but at least you're clean. They did this many times just to make doubly sure. At this point other birds were starting to stir. At the end of Sandy Wall, many of these birds such as fieldfares and blackbirds and even a rat were enjoying their breakfast feast of apples. Meanwhile in the woods, the sound bird song was now in full motion with the bright twilling song of wrens breaking the sleepy atmosphere and a flock of siskins were seen atop of an alder tree feeding on the cones.
Cobber the Black Swan
Fieldfare
Mistle Thrush
Siskin
Goldfinches
Jay
When I arrived at Reception Hide to start my shift, there was a crowd of visitors and Strumpshaw staff gathered inside the hide and at the blind outside. Apparently, I had just missed out on an otter that had hung around for about half an hour feeding on a large bream on dry land (an area of recently strimmed stubble to my left)! It had left five minutes before I showed up on the scene! I could not believe my luck, at least that was what I was thinking at the time.

Kingfisher
As the morning wore on, I was beginning to suspect if I had special lucky powers. This was because so many surprises kept showing up. First a kingfisher showed up (making numerous appearances on and off throughout the morning), then a snipe magically materialised as if it was in the stubble the whole time, then a brief flyby of a bittern within the gloom of the fog over the reed beds, then a stonechat and then a meadow pipit. It was crazy! But the good fortune did not stop there.

Snipe
Stonechat
Meadow Pipit
Otter
By lunch time and as I was eating my sandwiches, the otter showed up again! It swam around the broad for some time, losing sight of it from time to time as it disappeared underwater or behind the islands and reeds. This gathered another crowd inside the hide again as the news of it's latest appearance got around quickly. After what felt like a long while, the otter was soon swimming ever closer to the stubbled area where it was seen earlier today. A heron flew over after it, landing at the edge of this area as it watched the otter's movements closely. It would peck at the otter whenever it emerged it's head from the water in aggression. The otter was not put off by the heron's antics and continued it's hunt along the water's edge. Then the otter crawled out of the water. The heron protested briefly, but soon gave in and allowed the otter to walk further along the stubbled shoreline, marking it's territory with spraint before disappearing altogether within the reeds. I felt incredibly lucky once it was all over. Now I am certain I have lucky powers, though I am not sure why it doesn't work on weasels!
Grey Heron
When Heron meets Otter!

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