Friday, 21 October 2011

Messing about on the nature reserve

This morning's Spanish class was cancelled and I rather wasted the whole morning, so was determined to make better use of the afternoon.

I spent the first part working on the wooden carving I'm preparing for exhibition in Curwens, the local High Street solicitors, in November.  On a sunny day like today, it's good to get the piece out into the sunshine where I can see the imperfections better, and the end result was that I think the piece is actually ready for final sanding, followed by French Polishing.  Hoorah!  It's taken over two years, but I'm really pleased with it.

So at about 3:30 I decided to reward myself with a wander around Fowlmere, and I'm really pleased I did.  I didn't walk all the way around, just went straight to Reedbed Hide, and quickly realised that had been a good decision.

A pair of greenfinches glowed in the sunlight as I approached the hide, their yellow breasts much brighter than in this photo, and once I was installed, I was delighted by a merlin, obviously in hot pursuit of something small and tasty.  It flashed across from left to right almost at eye height, a blur of grey, with pointy wings, phenomenally fast.  It veered sharply left, gained height, then turned right, finally vanishing from sight before I could tell whether or not it had caught its supper.  None of the pictures I've found on the web show the grey tops of the wings the way I saw it, so you'll just have to take my word for it!

Soon after that I got a brief glimpse of a marsh harrier, mobbed by corvids.  It disappeared beyond the reserve and that was the last I saw of it.

There were 10 teal on the mere, and I just love watching them.  Resplendent in newly-moulted winter plumage, they were pin-sharp pretty.  I apologise that the link is to an American hunting website, but their pictures are much better than all the birding ones I found.  The second of the shooters' photographs is rather unlike the birds I see, but the other three match quite well.

There was also lots of activity in and above the reeds, with reed buntings and warblers flying back and forth, mostly too quickly for me to positively identify them.  I tend to think that if it's small and brown and has white outer tail feathers as it dives into the reeds, it's probably a reed bunting, but if the tail is shorter and lacks the white outers, it's probably a reed warbler.  With such a vague ID, I don't actually tick them off, of course.

As the gloom increased and I started to feel a bit chilled, I headed off, but did spot a few starlings circling ready to dive into the reeds to roost.  Too few to be worth waiting around for, even though sparrowhawks are known to lurk, waiting to pick the odd one off.  One day soon there'll be a few hundred, and that will be more worth watching.  It would be nice if we got thousands, but we don't.

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