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.

UK.KEN 02May14 Cuckoo 01

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.

UK.KEN 02May14 Cuckoo 04

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.

UK.KEN 02May14 Bearded Reedling 02

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.

UK.KEN 02May14 Cuckoo 03

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.

Written by Redgannet
Redgannet worked for more than 35 years as a flight attendant for an international airline. He came to birding late in his career but, considering the distractions, doesn't regret the missed opportunities. He was paid to visit six continents and took full advantage of the chance to bird the world. He adopted the nom de blog, Redgannet, to avoid remonstrations from his overbearing employer, but secretly hoped that the air of mystery would make him more attractive to women. Now grounded, he is looking forward to seeing the seasons turn from a fixed point.