Saturday, 3 December 2011

Eyes bigger than belly?

Inspired by Steve Aston's Bittern pictures, and a bit fed up with finding so few birds locally, I allowed myself an excursion to Grove Ferry.

Arriving at the Feast Hide I learnt from Martyn Wilson and Mark Chidwick that they'd seen a Bittern in flight and also a Kingfisher had zipped through a couple of times, without stopping. When they left I was happy to watch the goings on on the pool, and was intrigued by what seemed a close association between a group of three Gadwall and three Dabchicks. I don't know if the Dabchicks were feeding on invertebrates stirred up by the dabbling Gadwalls or whether they just liked each others company, but, rather like Stonechats and Dartford Warblers, there definitely appeared to be relationship between the two species.

I don't seem to be able to get away from Cormorants at the moment, but there was no way to ignore this bird struggling with a large, potential meal.

I watched it for some time, and on several occasions it looked as if it was in a position to swallow the fish (an Eel possibly), but each time it ended up with it back in the water and still in tact.

I didn't actually see it give up, but I did see it swim to the raft and climb onto the right hand side, making a symmetrical pair with the bird already there. As there was no bulge in the neck and I hadn't seen it manage to get it down, I assume it had had to give up. (Just noticed Steve had an almost identical encounter, I wonder if it was the same Cormorant and the same eel.)

When the Bittern did appear it dropped out of sight in the reeds just behind and right of the water. A few minutes later it flew up and away and I failed miserably to get much more than a smudge across the screen.

As the afternoon wore on, in fact it was really quite early but a large dark cloud obscured the sun and made it seem later, there were large numbers of Fieldfare moving at the back of the marsh.

Looking into the sun, as it peeped out through a gap, some of the trees looked laden with these thrushes. At St Margaret's we watch them coming in off the sea on their migration, but they seldom hang around the area as winter draws on (a Carry On joke?). Only very occasionally have I seen one join the Blackbirds on the berry feast in the garden, but at Grove Ferry/Stodmarsh and on Worth Marshes it is possible to see hundreds gathering in pre-roost groups. Must be something to do with the farming methods?

1 comment:

Steve Ashton said...

It seems you had an almost identical experience to me Tony. In my case after 30 minutes of struggling, the Cormorant finally gave up and coughed up the huge eel into the pool. I never saw whether the eel was still alive, it could have been as they are quite resilient creatures. Fascinating to watch. Glad you got a Bittern; their numbers seem to be building quite nicely at the Grove end.