A wet, muddy but beautiful evening walk at the Strumpshaw bird reserve, Norolk. I grew up here, in Strumpshaw not in the reed-beds themselves, and the smell of the dykes, emotive call of the coots and the cough of the pheasants are all familiar and take me straight back to a childhood spent exploring with my friends, binoculars and fishing rod. We talked to our friend John, RSPB warden in the hide, and he let us scan the reed fringes with his telescope in the hope that we might spot an evening bittern. Others have seen bittern and otter within the last 24 hours and the excited scrawls on the clip board records in both hides bear testament to the close proximity of these wonders, but today they eluded us. We took the bold decision to walk to the river (Yare) and then on to the tower hide, the best part of a mile into the deserted reserve. With children largely carried and skidding in the mud we made it to the hide and climbed the wooden steps to look out over the sunset and the birds coming in to roost. Geese, ducks, small waders and a flock of excited lapwing were all settling on the small pools. The highlight of the walk was watching 5 marsh harriers tumbling in the wind over the reed-beds. We saw them a number of times over the hour before the sun set, briefly hunting over the beds on the south side of the river towards Claxton before returning, harried by rooks, to their roost. Perhaps they are parents and young, or a group of young birds working together in some way ? We trudged and slipped through the mud on our return to the van, arriving home in the dark.