Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The delights of Minsmere continued

Following on from Duncan's eulogising the sights of RSPB Minsmere, I would add that the sounds of the place also spoke of the abundant wildlife. Chiffchaffs, great tits, chaffinches and other woodland birdsong serenaded our walk through the woods to the bittern hide, where I first heard the 'boom' of the bittern.

I've never knowingly heard this before and it was only Dunc's pointing it out that drew my attention to it. There must be something about the sound - its frequency or lack of attack - that makes it fade into the background, as does the bird itself into the reeds. I suppose there is an advantage to making a distinct but unobtrusive sound, that others of the same species can hear for territorial or mating purposes, but that does not draw undue attention to itself. Either way, I had not 'tuned in' to it until that point - I then realised that I had in fact heard it that morning when I'd popped in to the hide but had not identified it. Unfortunately I was not able to record the sound but you can hear it on the RSPB page about the Bittern.

The other sounds that stood out were the ear-splittingly loud call of Cetti's Warbler which was singing out across the reed beds, piercing and unique. Again, no recording of it, but the sound that I did capture, and which formed a constant background to the day was the cacophony of gull squawks, goose honks and duck quacks produced by the massed ranks at the scrape. It's not the most beautiful sound in the world (certainly not as beautiful as the skylark song I recorded recently) but is quite overwhelming and really stood out for me.

The irony is that possibly the most reclusive creature that we saw, the water vole, is only usually heard as a loud 'plop' as it enters the water, but we didn't hear this. It was quite by chance that I leant over to see where a wren had just flown and saw the water vole swimming across a narrow dyke. It was clearly a day of technical inability on our parts however, as my attempt to photograph it resulted only a blurred grey blob - you'll just have to take my word for it! A day that will live long in my memory.

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