A day in the reed bed

With the changing seasons things have really started to pick up pace at the reed bed site at Cranwich. Reed warblers have returned in force and their song can be heard all over the site. In the past few weeks ringing has resumed with the most recent session catching a range of returning warblers, from those reedies to sedge warblers, garden warblers, blackcaps and chiff chaff. While nesting amongst the reeds has largely been restricted to coot, moorhen and swan it will not be too long before the first reed warbler nests are active once again.

This morning mother nature seemed to have sent a little reminder that things are still early and that despite the warm sunny days we have experienced of late, winter has not quite completely finished with us. It is not quite swim suit weather just yet…

The morning dawned frosty with opaque white crystals covering the grass and the thermometer reading a rather chilly -1. Mist hung low over the pools and there was barely any wind, with the only movement coming from the small ripples created by ducks, swans and the occasional goose gliding gracefully across the smooth, dark surface and through the swirling mist that quickly began to rise like steam off a hot bath.

Morning mist at Cranwich

At this cold hour of the morning there is little in the way of food for birds awoken by the dawn. Instead they sing. Proclaiming their newly established territory, competing with each other in the most melodious of ways. Among the reed warblers and reed buntings that dominate the chorus of the reeds comes that wonderful call of cuckoo; it is a relief to have them back on patch. From the surrounding trees comes the song of garden warbler, blackcap, chiff chaff, blue tit and wren.

As the morning progresses and warms up, the skies become filled with swifts who have only just returned to the party and join the swallows and house martins who have been back for a couple weeks. Low over the tallest trees those sickle shaped swifts are joined by another, larger bird with a similar pointed wing appearance. Skimming the tree tops, before circling back up and around, high above the pools are no less than eight hobbies. They streak through the sky chasing down flying insects with acrobatic ease and superb speed. They zip overhead causing us to pause in our work and watch in awe as occasionally one reaches out and grabs an insect that is invisible from ground level.

A hobby catches a meal mid air

Our work today is to move through the reed bed setting up short mist nets to catch those singing reed warblers. A part of the ongoing study on site our aim is to catch and colour ring as many adult reed warblers as possible, so that once their breeding season does kick off in earnest we will be able to monitor nests and find out which birds are associated with which nests.

Another reed warbler colour ringed

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