Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Dec 28th Strumpshaw Fen

It was my last chance to find a weasel to complete my Strumpshaw 40 challenge. So, did I see one? No! Of course not. To be honest, it was just far too cold to sit outside for too long to weasel watch this morning and I could only manage 15 minutes before giving up. It was so cold in fact, that frost dominated the landscape with ice sprouting out from every plant stem and leaf like the spines of a hedgehog. It was absolutely beautiful! The warm rays of the sun glistened through these icy structures like crystals. Out on the river, the heat of the sunshine hits the surface of the cold flow of water causing a mist to gently rise, another wonderful sight to behold this morning.
Sun and Frost
Sun and mist over the river

Reed Bunting
The flooded and frozen path to Fen Hide this morning
It has been stormy over Christmas and this has caused the river to flood, overflowing into the broads of the reserve. With the freezing cold conditions to add to the mix, the result was high water levels that have flooded some paths, such as the one leading to Fen Hide, and have frozen over into a sheet of ice. This meant that the Fen and Tower Hides were closed off to the public and that the woods and the Sandy Wall path were the only places free from the flooding.

Flooded and frozen scene at the pond dipping pond

The pond near the Reception Hide today
Great Tit
Marsh Tit and Great Tit
Blue Tit and female Chaffinch
Male Chaffinch
View from the Reception Hide this morning
The sight outside Reception Hide was a complete sheet of ice with one ice free area amongst the reedy islands, where ducks, coots, Cobber the resident black swan and a mute swan took refuge. The mute swan, being heavy, acted unintentionally as an icebreaker as it tried to clamber onto the ice only to fall through it every time. Whenever the swan moved about, the ice would make a strange noise. Each movement created a wave of vibration resonating across the whole of the broad which produces this bizarre sound that sounds like a load of milk bottles clattering against one another on a milk float or the vibration of metal cables or even the sound of birds tweeting. With the other wildfowl, smaller squeaks could be heard from the ice.
Mute Swan
Cobber the Black Swan


Fog rolls in!
While watching the icy scene in front of me, fog suddenly appeared rapidly. One minute you could see the row of trees at the back of the broad, then the next minute you couldn't. During this foggy interval, a kingfisher made a quick flight over the ice as if lost and seeking somewhere to fish. It was gone as soon as we saw it and several minutes later, so was the fog. It was soon clear again. Marsh harriers soared over the icy reed beds, chasing a small bird at one point. Then a bittern flew in and landed within the reed bed between the two channels on the right half of the broad. Around the time I was having my lunch, I managed to spot it poking its head out of the same reed bed. I took a couple of dodgy distant shots of it. You can probably can just see it hiding in the reeds. This was even more frustrating to show visitors who wanted to see it as not only was it hard to see and distant, but it also only showed itself for a minute or two and was gone again.

Marsh Harrier

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