Wednesday, 15 March 2017

March 15th Strumpshaw Fen

Cetti's Warbler
A glorious day at Strumpshaw. The birds were in great voice this morning. Amongst them were chiffchaffs, who have finally arrived from migration as they announce their presence with a chorus of 'chiffchaff, chiffchaff, chiff, chiff, chaff!' However, they were out shouted by the sudden outbursts of the Cetti's warblers. March is when they are at their loudest and most showy as they sit within the tangle of exposed branches of shrubs. This one was in the trees at the sluices by the river. I always find this is the best spot on the reserve to see a Cetti's warbler as it seems to have claimed this patch of territory every year. It often sits at the centre of one of the trees, make a quick, yet ear-ringing outburst, moves to cover before returning to do it again. If you stay still long enough, it may perch to a branch just an arm's length from your face, like this one did for me!
Reed Bunting

It was such a nice day that it brought out plenty of insects. Hoverflies hovered in mid-air, chasing off anything that got too close to it's spot (including me!), as it attempts to woo the females with it's aerial mastery of hovering as still as it can be in the air. Butterflies were also active and in good numbers. I saw a couple of peacocks and the odd comma, but the vast majority of the butterflies seen today were brimstones. I think I saw at least ten or more of them just flying around the Reception Hide. Brimstones are often thought as the first butterfly, because it is one of the earliest to emerge each year. It is also believed that this species is where we got the word 'butterfly' from. Male brimstones have butter-yellow coloured wings, which made people call them butter-flies and soon they started calling every other species the same thing and we've been calling them butterflies ever since.

Black-headed Gulls
Outside Reception Hide, black-headed gulls were taking over the broad. Breeding season appears to be here now and the gulls won't shut up about it through their consistent loud screeching, which can give anyone a headache. I estimate that there were 120+ of them either gathering on the broad's surface or in the area of reed stubble to the left of the hide. They used to breed as a colony in front of the hide when I first became a volunteer at Strumpshaw until they moved to a different location on the other side of the reserve for the previous two years. It seems like they may return to breed in front of the Reception Hide once again. Oh great! I'd better bring some earplugs next week.
Mute Swan

Marsh Harrier
The marsh harriers were also in the mood to find love. Many of the males were now sky dancing, an aerial display to show off to any potential mates. I watched a really great performance from one male this morning. He circled higher and higher into the sky before plummeting downwards and then up again. It was like an aerial rollercoaster, but with backflips! It was amazing to see. Hopefully, somewhere, a female was also watching and was equally impressed as I was and want to pair up with him. With skills like those, who wouldn't?

Jack Snipe
The jack snipe was still hiding in the same patch of reed stubble as last week, but this time, it has a couple of friends. Two common snipe had joined it this week. When I arrived to the Reception Hide this morning, I could see only one of the common snipes just visible in the stubble. Then it started to move around a bit and an hour later, someone spotted the second common snipe. By lunchtime, the jack snipe was spotted with the other two snipe now moved on within an area of much denser patch of reeds. I had no idea it was even there and thought it was just one of the previous two. But then, the bobbing started and I could see the differences. It was still very difficult to see and it wasn't until a greylag wandered into the stubble and caused the jack snipe to move did I get a clearer view of it.
Can you see it?
Common Snipe

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