Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Water, water everywhere....

....but hardly a bird in sight!

It does seem a shame that a huge reserve like Strumpshaw can't set aside a couple of lagoons where a muddy fringe or a few islands could be created and maintained. Just a mile downstream there's Buckenham, which has had numerous excellent waders and other water birds in recent years (Pacific Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, American Golden Plover, Temminck's Stint, Crane, Great White Egret etc etc) The problem here is that the hide is in the wrong place: it doesn't overlook the distant pools!

Strumpshaw has the excellent (and expensive!) Tower Hide situated in exactly the right place (facing north) but which typically holds just a few Greylags and Mallard. The only 'island' is crowded with Black-headed Gull nests and, as is usually the case, there is absolutely no mud or gravel fringe for wading birds at all. Fen Hide is scheduled for replacement (when???) but there doesn't seem a lot of point spending large sums on a hide overlooking a shallow pool that is frequently barren after 6.00am.

There are several large 'hidden' areas of open water and numerous dykes criss-cross the whole reserve, so it is strange that the bird density comes nowhere near other inland reserves such as Lakenheath, Carlton Marshes or Potter Heigham Marsh. I've been told off in the past for voicing these sort of thoughts, but as I walked around today I noticed that similar comments had been written on record sheets by several frustrated recent  visitors. The reasons often cited are that high water levels protect the Fen from occasional salt incursions and protect the nests of breeding Bitterns from foxes. Hmmmm.... There are at least seven Bitterns at Lakenheath at the moment, and at least the same at Minsmere: they seem to manage! And in any case, Otters are probably equally cunning predatators and high water won't deter them!

I walked around the whole reserve twice today, starting at 5.00am, seeing a single Kingfisher, a Hobby and two Cuckoos. It's a lovely place, but it could be soooo much better - not just for birders, but for birds, too!

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