Please excuse an indulgent “been here, saw this” post. It was my first time to Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve and I fell in love almost immediately. The crime is that it is less than 40 miles from my home and since I moved to the area 12 years ago, I have ignored suggestions that I visit. On this maiden trip, I only walked about a quarter of the circuit that takes in lakes, reedbeds, meadows and the River Stour before I had to turn back.
To save you the rigours of a step by step and bird by bird account, I shall relate just 2 minutes of my day. Within that very limited time frame, I was treated to fly-pasts, call-outs and pop-ups from some of my favourite UK birds and they all came together to create a perfect few moments that I shall remember for a long time.
Common Cuckoos had been calling through the morning and two of them had alighted in a Willow just ahead. One called with its fruity, melifluous “Whu-coo“. The second bird was in full view and chuckled in response. As I lined up on the cuckoos, a “Booming” Bittern began its low moaning call from the reedbeds to my right. As I turned to see if the Bittern was in the open, a Eurasian Hobby flew past, chasing a cold dragonfly.
The Bittern was further into the reeds than I had hoped. It was beyond seeing and the cuckoos had left as I returned to my scope, but the excitement continued. A call, from the left this time, drew my eye to the reeds as a Bearded Reedling popped up to the top of a stem to feed from last year’s seed head. They had been keeping low out of the wind all morning, but I had fortunately stopped in a sheltered spot and the male sat proudly as his mate fed behind him.
The Cuckoos were still calling and flashed back and forth a couple of times, landing back in the willow for another clear shot. The Bittern was still booming behind me and the reedlings only dropped down as a European Marsh Harrier passed over.
Any of these birds would warrant a special mention in my notebook, but to have them all in such close succession was fantastic and I now have a new favourite place to play. You can go there too by cutting and pasting these co-ordinates into Google Earth – 51 18 37.36N 1 11 15.63E.