Wednesday, 29 March 2017

March 29th Strumpshaw Fen

Song Thrush
Overcast and slightly dull this morning with the odd drops of rain, but blue skies and sunlight did promise to open up the thick layer of clouds as the day wore on. Blossom and new leaf growth is now filling up the bare branches of the canopy along the woodland trail. The blackcaps have returned and it was nice to hear them add their voice to the chorus of song thrushes, wrens, chiffchaffs and other woodland birds. I even saw a pair of chiffchaffs by the new pond bringing nesting material into the undergrowth between the pond and the start of the Sandy Wall path. Redwings were also still about today, though they were rather flighty as I passed by.

Chiffchaff with nesting material
Long-tailed Tit
Marsh Harriers sky dancing
The sky dancing of the marsh harriers have intensified this week. I watched from Fen Hide as harrier after harrier performed their aerobatics, calling all the while. I counted at least 5 or 6 of them circling high and low over the reserve, though there could easily be more than I could actually see. Males and females were starting to pair up and the dances were becoming like an aerial version of Strictly (but even better). Rival males were also diving in, trying to break up the dance. The sky became part dance floor and part battlefield with dogfights between males occasionally happening.

Chinese Water Deer
Chinese water deer were another reoccurring feature of this morning for me. At Fen Hide, I was watching one feeding in the open clearings between sections of reed beds (as well as watching the harriers), when I heard some splashing close to the hide as if something large was wading around in the water. I looked down and there was a second deer walking past just a few metres from the hide. I made a burst of short bird-like whistles to get its attention for a few photos. It did the trick as it looked back towards me. It's teddy-bear-like eyes stared right into my own before slowly moving into a thick section of reed bed. At Reception Hide, I saw yet another deer feeding in the clearing at the back of the broad. This one was minding its own business when a marsh harrier made a dive at it talons out. It was like a bit of a surprise for the deer, but it continued to graze as if unfazed by it at all.
Jack Snipe
Apart from that incident with the harrier and the deer, it was pretty quiet from Reception Hide. Yes, the jack snipe was in front of the hide as usual as well as a common snipe. Sure, I love the challenge of finding these birds and I can't deny, the bobbing movements amuse me, however, I feel like these little guys are never going to leave anytime soon. At least this jack snipe was very showy and did something I've never seen one do before; swim! It was a very quick swimmer too as I missed out on getting a photo as I was slow on reaching for the camera!
Common Snipe

Also about today were greylags, mute swans, a few pochards, teal, shovelers, gadwall and mallards, a couple of passing shelducks, a dozen or so black-headed gulls, reed buntings, a pied wagtail and I could hear bearded tits pinging somewhere close by. There was also an amusing moment when a pheasant almost walked inside the hide to join us. It took two steps inside the doorway before it saw me sitting on a bench a tier above it and decided it wasn't worth it and left. It would've been the strangest visitor I'd ever greeted that's for sure.

Pied Wagtail
Reed Bunting
Mute Swan

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