Friday, 6 January 2012

Fowlmere

Yesterday, being maintenance day and quite windy, we were mostly clearing fallen trees, and cutting and burning reeds.  It was a great day as the weather steadily improved through the day, and we got masses done.  Finally left the site at about 4.30, completely knackered!

Getting home, I realised I didn't know when the new term starts, ie, when my next Spanish class is, so phoned the school and picked up the recorded message stating that it's next week.  That gave me an unexpected spare morning and it being a most beautiful, if chilly, day, I slid rapidly off to Fowlmere.

I saw more or less nothing as I walked around the reserve, though there were several tempting calls coming from the bushes, but nothing I recognised.  Well, apart from various sorts of tits, robins, wrens, blackbirds, of course.

At Reedbed Hide I saw nothing much for quite a while.  A grey heron, half a dozen greylag geese, a couple of mallard and a lone female teal.  But hey, the sun was shining and I was quite content to sit and watch the world pass by.

A couple of folks came in and as they were setting up, a raptor flew down from behind us and landed on the other side of the mere.  It was the size of a buzzard, but I thought that was unusual behaviour for a buzzard, since it didn't have any prey.  It spent several minutes on the ground, drinking, amongst other things, but possibly bathing, too.  We'd just about decided it was the female hen harrier that's been seen on numerous occasions over the past week or so, when it flew off northwards and settled in a willow right in front of Drewer Hide.  If there was anyone in there, they'll have had a fantastic view of it.  Bastards!

Then a small flock of teal arrived, so now there were ten of them, seven males and three females.  The males were in real showing-off mode, stretching their necks skyward briefly, then doing much the same with their backsides. Male teal have brown heads with a broad irridescent green eye stripe, and a yellow patch on the side of the tail, and a blue green panel on top of the flight feathers, both of which are visible in the swimming ducks.  When the males pointed their backsides skywards, the yellow and blue green flash in the bright sunlight was quite..er..flashy! (Corrections are because I can never remember whether they're blue or green.  Mallard have a blue panel (speculum) while teal have a green one.)

More folks arrived, some of whom pointed out a couple of common snipe which I had looked for but completely failed to spot.  Now I know where to look, I won't miss them again, I promise myself!

And finally a buzzard flew over, giving a great view of the underside.  At that point, my lunch was calling me home, so I left, but I'm just about to return, as the sun is still shining!  Maybe I'll see the hen harrier again, who knows?

Later: Yep, hen harrier gave several good displays, though I wasted quite a lot of the view trying failing to photograph her. She didn't come that close, however, frightened off by the clatter of camera motor drives, I reckon!  There was a couple of guys with the most enormous penises telescopic lenses attached to their cameras.  At one point, the bird was visible for about 5 seconds, not too far away, and one of these guys shot of what sounded like 50 frames in a series of short bursts.

I couldn't find the snipe, despite knowing where to look!   

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