Friday, 22 May 2015

Little Bit of twitching

Lakenheath Fen is a vast network of reedbeds and pools, and in the last few years it has attracted some real european reedbed specialists. Some announce their presence with great vigour, calling loudly or flying overhead skillfully catching insects, but the latest foreign visitor is a skulker– a gruff-voiced bird that is doing its best not to be there at all. It doesn’t even cause the reeds to move as it works it’s way through the dense phragmites forest. In over two hours I saw it once– for three seconds as it flew to a new clump of cover. The only way you could tell it was there was its constant calling, like a small terrier clearing its throat ,repeatedly trying to dislodge an irritating hair. A bizarre effect of it's “song” was to make the bird seem further away than it was. When I first arrived I could have sworn it was calling from across a fairly big pool, about a hundred metres away, whereas in reality it was no more than twenty feet from where I stood. What advantage this voice throwing gives the Little Bittern is anybody’s guess.  

Meanwhile the dry straw-stems frothed with activity. Reed Warblers emerged and disappeared, confronting rivals and snapping their bills, catching small flies and churring contentedly. On the drier banks Whitethroats scattered their discordant song, leaping into the air only to float down further along in a joyful warbling arc- begging for the attention that the Bittern was ungratefully receiving.