Wednesday, 5 April 2017

7. Sculthorpe Moor

A gloriously bright day, feeling truly like spring, with chiff chaffs calling from every bush and tree, or at least that’s how it felt. Their humble song, announcing their name, whilst mostly staying hidden amongst twigs, new leaves and catkins, accompanied us on our walk from reception to the reserve entrance. A viewing panel overlooking long feeders was our first stop. Drawing back the shutters, we were greeted by a male bullfinch in full colour, his deep red feathers shining out like a jewel from the feeding station.

M. bullfinch
F. reed bunting

Following the boardwalk, through the woodland and over ‘watervole bridge’, although we saw no water voles, a pair of marsh tits alighted in a low tree, their completely black caps contrasting with the brightness of the day. When we arrived at the woodland hide, at first, all was quiet, with little to be seen or heard. A pair of muntjac deer skulked along the shadows, occasionally dashing through sunlit patches, dining on new shoots and leaves. Chaffinches, both male and female, began to descend, balancing on feeder perches and gathering on the floor below. A female reed bunting joined in, flitting from tree to ground and back again, her yellow and chocolate brown stripes seemingly out of place in the woodland. A pair of green finches dined, serenaded by the fluting and slightly scratchy song of a male black cap.

Leaving the woodland hide and continuing on the boardwalk towards fen hide, a commotion began above us. A pair of very agitated great tits shouting at a pair of nuthatches paying too much attention to a particular nest box; they continued their harsh calls until well after the nuthatches had flown. Perhaps a war over a as yet unoccupied box? Or the nuthatches trying to invade?

Fen hide was bathed in sharp sunlight, reflecting prettily off the ripples made by the little grebes, mallards and coots. The little grebes had a small nest right in front of the hide, almost invisible until they shifted vegetation, exposing a clutch of eggs, then carefully covering them over again before heading back out to forage. A pair of doves and a selection of male reed buntings had ownership of one bird table, whilst the other was swarming with more reed buntings and bramblings, with the occasional visit by a long tailed tit, bullfinch or nuthatch.

M. reed bunting
Little grebe

The newest hide at the reserve is the tower hide, built so as to be level with the canopy. Here, we had amazing views of the small birds brave enough to alight on platforms close to the hide windows. Today, a brambling was one of them, as well as an acrobatic long tailed tit, who would steal a morsel of food, hang from a twig with one claw whilst gripping the morsel in the other and feeding from it. A red poll, less brave, but no less attractive, sat on a niger seed feeder slightly further away.

Red poll
Long tailed tit
Peacock butterfly

We continued, walking along the boardwalk bathed in sunlight, towards the scrape hides, where, unfortunately, there was nothing to be seen, but a green woodpecker could be heard yaffling from nearby. The warm day had tempted out a few different butterflies; an orange-tip gliding along the path edges and peacock butterflies basking on the boardwalk or chasing each other in spirals.

A day to herald the arrival of spring.

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