Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Woolly Bears and an Artful Cuckoo

19th May 2014

Another visit to Lakenheath Fen, this time hoping to photograph some harriers as they should be feeding young in the nest by now. First stop was the area by The Wash to try and get some shots of Whitethroats and Sedge or Reed Warblers. Plenty of Reed Warbler song although buried deep in the reeds and the only Whitethroat in residence was this one which gave me a burst of song flight.

On to the New Fen watch-point, which was very quiet apart from the odd Bearded Tit making high-speed excursions from one side of the pool to the other. The main interest here was the dragonflies. Azure Damselflies were plentiful, wafting slowly amongst the vegetation right in front of the bus shelter and there were some Red-eyed Damselflies out on the floating vegetation, but too far away for a photo. However, the reliable Four-Spotted Chasers were all zooming round, occasionally perching on a convenient stem for their picture to be taken.

The journey from New Fen to Joist Fen was dominated by insects with more dragonflies including Hairies over the pools, spiders on their webs in the vegetation and a couple of caterpillars. This Woolly Bear or Garden Tiger caterpillar was chancing its arm in crossing the path, hopefully relying on people to watch where they were treading, but the Drinker caterpillar was sitting fairly inactive in the side.

Joist Fen itself was fairly quiet this time with no sign of any feeding of young activity. There were, however, a couple of female harriers in the air which would suggest that their nests had either hatched or possibly failed. The main activity behind the bus shelter was this energetic Sedge Warbler which was quite happy to sit high on a twig in front of an assembled audience and belt out its song for all to hear.

Back on the fen two of the Cranes were being more cooperative than usual and, although buried up to their waists in tall grass, did allow some better than usual shots to be taken. I am not sure whether the sight of these two birds together was good or bad. The main concern is that they are away from their nest which could either mean that the nest has failed, or perhaps they have a couple of chicks running around their ankles which we could not see.

But the most baffling part of the day was when I saw a bird gliding across the path fast and low. It was either a cuckoo, Kestrel or Sparrowhawk, but I only had about three seconds to raise my camera before it would disappear behind a tree. Thank goodness for auto-focus is all I can say. I looked at the two shots that I had managed to take and the bird was indeed a female Cuckoo. But what was more astonishing was that it had obviously just laid an egg in another birds nest and had taken another egg from the nest and was carrying it in its mouth to discard somewhere. Superb. What is the chance of photographing that again?

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