Noises in the reeds



As well as our bird watching adventures, I love river fishing.  The season started again on 16th June after finishing in March for the fish to spawn.  The start of the season is for me like Christmas Day is to children – I never miss it.  But this year my birding has become as important, so I now go with my camera to pursue both interests equally.

I arrived at the bank; the river was high and flooded so I knew it wasn’t going to be a busy day for fish.  Luckily for me the reeds and rushes the other side of the river were full of marvellous birdsong.  I knew what it was, but seeing one and getting a picture was another thing.  The fishing was slow and I kept looking at the top of the reeds.  There it was – the reed warbler (top picture), a pale brown bird with a longish tail, bright buff underside, white throat, a thin pale eye ring and a long slim sharp bill.  The song is amazing: rhythmic, repetitive, with many variations, sort of a “trrik, trrik, chrr, chrrr, chrr, chewe, chewe, trrt, trrt, tiri, tiri”.  The nest is a deep cup of grass, moss and reed heads all woven around upright reed stems among the reeds.  They lay 3 to 5 eggs in two broods, that’s if they can survive the arrival of the cuckoo.  The reed warbler is a regular parent to a baby cuckoo, whose parent will lay an egg nearly identical to the reed warbler’s.  The birds will incubate, and if the cuckoo hatches it will get rid of all the other eggs, tossing them out with its back and wings so that it is the only survivor.  Sad, but that’s nature I suppose.

The following Sunday Ali and I went for a walk down the canal at Clayworth and heard a bird similar to the reed warbler in the reeds at the other side.  We looked through the binoculars and spotted it singing away balanced on a stem – the sedge warbler (bottom picture).  It was similar sounding to the reed warbler but a bit lighter.  As you can see, it differs from the reed warbler with its streaky back, dark black eye stripe and creamy white stripe over the eye.  It nests in narrow ditches in the reed beds, laying 5 to 6 eggs in a deep nest made from grass, moss, cobwebs and plant down.  The song is a rasping “tchrr” and sharp “tek”, loud, fast and varied with whistles, clicks and trills.  It was an exciting moment for us both – it sat high up, faced us and sang for ages.  We’d never seen one so close, and the difference from the reed warbler was obvious when seen and heard.  Another great birding moment.  Then on the way home we spotted a buzzard sat on a post – fantastic!  Get out there and enjoy it – we live in an amazing place and don’t have to go far to enjoy these wonderful sights.

By the way, I caught my first fish of the season – a 2lb 3oz chub!




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