A few days into my recent two week holiday I decided to make a late afternoon visit to RSPB Fowlmere. The weather was not promising. Rain threatened and the sky was heavy with cloud but that aside the reserve was as beautiful as ever. Crouching in the farmland in South Cambridgeshire, RSPB Fowlmere is a reedbed oasis surrounding a natural chalk spring that feeds a stream that meanders through the west of the site and the reedbeds that surround it. Trees encircle all and produce a feeling of seclusion from the the more managed country landscape of the area.
Unless you are very good at spotting small birds in leaf filled trees or reedbeds, inland bird spotting can be a challenge in the summer so I didn’t anticipate a long list of sightings on the visit, though I was hoping to see a rather special raptor which for me is the star of the place. I followed the boarded path through the wooded area out to the reedbeds. On sunny days there would be the prospect of seeing dragon and damselflies as the path reached the reeds, but I received no such treat today. I kept eyes peeled as I headed first to the Spring Hide where I settled myself for a few minutes to watch a Water Rail and Moorhen explore the pond edges and then on to the Reedbed Hide with its lofty position giving the most expansive view of the site.
Crows picked their way through the cut reed stand to the right, later joined by a Grey Heron that fished the shallows close by. A flight of Swallows passed through and stayed for a while, wheeling above the water and dipping down to take insects or a drink from the pond’s surface.
These, and a Wood Pigeon were my only confirmed sightings save for one, that put in an appearance later on as I returned back along the walkway. Powerfully circling above the reeds a Marsh Harrier thrilled me with its controlled flight, moving high then swooping low around the outcrops of trees and bushes in the reeds.
I returned to the car park before the rain really came down, happy that I’d seen the Marsh Harrier and hopeful of seeing Kingfishers and a bit better at identifying small brown birds on my next visit!