Stodmarsh in May – my favourite reserve at the best time of year – what could be better? A merry band of seven met up and, despite the chilly weather, Stodmarsh once again delivered some great birds, although in some cases with tantalisingly brief views.
We started off in the wooded section and proceeded around the reserve in an ‘anti-clockwise’ direction (i.e. heading off towards the Marsh hide). We gradually tuned into the singing birds : wren, robin, song thrust, blackcap, great, blue and long-tailed tits, goldfinch, chaffinch, greenfinch, chiff-chaff, Cetti’s warber (with our first tantalisingly brief view) and a possible garden warbler (note to party : could that have been our ‘mystery’ warbler?). Then, as we moved into the reed beds, the songs changed to that of sedge warbler, reed bunting and whitethroat, with swifts (my first for the year) overhead and marsh harriers gliding effortlessly in the distance.
A stop at the Marsh hide provided a welcome break from the wind and our thoughts turned to an early lunch. A few loafing greylags, grazing Konik ponies and displaying lapwings were joined by our first hobby, flying in low and landing on a fence post where it remained for some time. (This presumably is why it is more difficult to see these aerial masters when conditions are not great).
As we left the hide, Hazel spotted some movement in the reedbed margins and there, seen without the aid of binoculars, was a water rail. We called back to Peter, who had left the hide first and who had water rail on his ‘list of birds to see at Stodmarsh’, but it melted back into the reeds as he returned. The challenge was now on! Our spirits were lifted as the sun started to come through and the wind began to drop. More hobbies, up to three at one time, were seen in the air as we made our way to the next hides and onto the viewing mound near the Grove Ferry end.
We picked up sightings of sand martin, a well-camouflaged snipe, grey heron, avocet, gadwall, teal, shoveler and a wood sandpiper, (identified after some discussion). That’s the joy of birdwatching with others: firstly there being many eyes to find an interesting bird and then many opinions on what it is!
A quick visit to the Grove Ferry facilities – this is always worthwhile and not just for the obvious reasons! We found green woodpecker and mistle thrush there
and coming back along the Stour heard a turtle dove purring and snippets of a nightingale song. It is great to know that the turtle doves are still around here.
A pleasant stroll back along the river ending with one of those tantalising views of a kingfisher – this time Peter was happy! Up the tower hide, for views of great crested grebe, common terns, shelduck and a fascinating study of a cormorant and an eel. It was a very big eel, needless to say it eventually, after much effort on the part of the cormorant, ended up inside the cormorant, but only just! Our observation was accompanied by a variety of eel-inspired quips. All I can say is that I have a totally different theory of why cormorants stand with their necks held up and their wings held wide apart – they are trying to keep their meal down and telling their neighbours “it was this big”!
Our final teaser of the day was a brief view of bearded tits foraging at the reedbed margins as we made our way back along the lampen walk.
In total, 60 species were seen, heard (or had to be imagined!) and we went home with the sun on our faces and good memories of another great day at Stodmarsh.