15 joined Paul for the walk at Stodmarsh today. The weather was cloudy, overcast and very windy which didn’t set itself up for the best of birdwatching days, but spirits were high. On arrival the banter was flowing freely in the car park – some folk just don’t understand the limits of a 1.2 cc car!
Birdsong noted as we gathered were wren, chiffchaff, blackcap, blackbird, whitethroat and robin. As we moved off through the woodland walk songthrush were doing remarkable nightingale impressions. We watched two robins agitated at our presence close to their nest so we quickly moved on not wishing to disturb them unduly. A family of blackcap were feeding with the youngster constantly demanding food from its hard-working parents, this gave great opportunities for all the group to see both male and female. Moving into the open areas some were lucky enough to hear little owl, whilst the challenge for others was working out the differences between sedge and reed warbler song.
Swift and great-spotted woodpecker were our next sightings, closely followed by sparrowhawk, common tern, cormorant, lapwing and cetti’s warbler. A male marsh harrier was seen by two whilst others were distracted by reed bunting and swallow. Cuckoo called in the distance and we were charged with checking for the rufous cuckoo which has seen at Stodmarsh again this year. Greylag were seen in the fields, all seemingly asleep and no evidence of any goslings (much to Sally’s disappointment). Sand martin and swift were feeding in huge numbers over the reed-beds with a few house martin and the occasional swallow joining in.
Peacock butterfly larva were spotted emerging from their nests in the undergrowth. A cuckoo was seen in one of the spindly trees and as some of us watched, a second bird joined it – neither were the rufous specimen – but we had great views as the two flew low over the reeds and appeared to be looking for nests in the reeds. We did get another fly-past a few moments later when they flew right over our heads. Three marsh harriers (two female and one male) were flying low over the reeds with one of the female birds carrying food.
As we continued along the path swift delighted us with their low flying displays, veering away at the very last moment, showing great agility and allowing us to appreciate their size at close quarters. A pristine tortoiseshell butterfly was found by Sally and several photographers tested their focusing as it was blown about in the breeze.
Banded demoiselle dragonflies were well hidden in the reeds and we spent some time getting everyone on to them. Jim made an impressive spot as a hobby sat on a distant post. Great crested grebe, mallard, grey heron, little egret and coot enjoyed the tranquil waters along with a swan and four cygnets. Further on greylag geese, shoveler and gadwall slept on the banks. Lunch was taken in the “In Focus” hide with a flotilla of coot, lapwing and mallard. A further marsh harrier hunted in the distance. We also heard a garden warbler which just refused to show itself, preferring to hide in the depths of the bushes near the track.
Hunger saited we began the second part of our walk, moving to the view point where there were reed bunting, little grebe and tufted duck. As we made our return journey a lesser whitethroat was heard deep in the undergrowth but the only birds that we could identify moving were reed bunting.
On the return journey we tried again for nightingale in the various areas we had seen and heard them previously, but to no avail. Sand martin and common tern provided some entertainment towards the end of the afternoon as the more optimistic photographers attempted to catch them in flight – my recycle bin is full of the results.
Thanks to Paul for leading this excellent walk – it may have been windy and cool but we had some great views of swifts, sand martins, hobby, marsh harrier and cuckoo – and the confirmation of the mp3 enabled us to check on our birdsong identification, especially the garden warbler, and the grasshopper warbler that insisted on turning into a sedge warbler!