Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Dec 7th Strumpshaw Fen

"Weasel Lane" almost delivered this week during my weekly search for a particular mustelid to complete my Strumpshaw 40 challenge. However, it was not a weasel but a stoat that appeared bounding across the path to the front of the Meadow Trail's gate. If only it was much smaller, lighter brown and without a black tip to it's tail, it would have passed as a weasel then. Of course the whole point of finding one is to get a photo of it and though it was a stoat and not my main target, I was so caught up in the excitement that I brought up my binoculars to look at it when I saw it instead of my camera. This meant it was too late when I actually reached for the camera. It was gone as quickly as it appeared. I must remember to shoot first and look later when it comes to photographing agile mustelids!

After waiting a little longer in the slim hope that the stoat would return, I went for a walk down to the river. The river trail was very muddy, but I did not need to go any further as the fallen apples littering the start of the trail provided enough hungry birds to look at. There were several blackbirds feeding on these fermenting fruit as well as a pheasant and a moorhen, but it was the fieldfares that bossed everyone around. As they were much bigger than the blackbirds, they would chase them off the apples in a blur of feathers in order to eat them alone. Fieldfares are a bit of a bully bird, but they are attractive birds, so I forgive them.


Grey Heron
A quick visit to Fen Hide was next on my agenda before making my way back to Reception Hide to begin my shift. A heron was busy fishing in front of the hide, moving stealthily through the water with its long legs. A sudden movement catches its eyes and it gives way into a short chase with its prey causing a slithery wake on the surface as it attempts to flee. But it was too late. The heron stabs through the water and hauls it up. It was then I could see what it had caught. It was a pike, a large one! It took a few minutes to position it before it was able to swallow it whole. Now that's what I call a mega breakfast!

Catching a Pike!
The look after eating a mega breakfast!

At Reception Hide, it was another one of those eventful days. We had a few kingfisher visits throughout the morning, though most of them were brief flybys. It did make a couple of visits to the perches in front of the hide long enough to get some photos of it. A bittern surprised us with a sudden flight from the reed bed close to our left, flying across the broad and over the reed beds at the far side heading further left before diving into cover. Water rails were making a lot of noise all morning, but then one flew into the nearest reed bed to my left and made a couple of appearances out into the open since then, providing great brief views. There was also a snipe feeding amongst the mud and stubble close by, which must have been there the whole time as I didn't see it arrive. So it was all in all another great day at Strumpshaw, though I regret not photographing the stoat!
Water Rail
Common Snipe
Cobber the Black Swan

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