The creature pictured above is a Mink. It came rustling through the undergrowth alongside us, on the bank of a water filled ditch off the Lampen wall and swam across to the main reedbed, much to the disgust of a couple of Coots, who followed it for fifty yards or more as it made its way along the reeds, probably searching for nests with eggs, or anything else this fearless predator might find. As an alien species they have had and will continue to have, a devastating effect on birds and Water Voles in particular, wherever they are found. I reported it to one of Natural England's wardens later, but i'm not sure what their policy is regarding them.
I think the flower above is Lady's Smock, or Cuckoo Flower as it's also called, this one was growing on the banks of the Gt Stour and is the first i've seen this Spring. There's now a great piece of water meadow habitat on the way towards Grove from Stodmarsh, we paused for a while in the sun and watched as Lapwings, Grey Wagtails, Teal, Grey Herons, Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Mute Swans, Mallards and Gadwalls all enjoyed the flooded fields. All this to the accompaniment of singing Chiffchaffs and Cetti's Warblers, one or two of which even allowed a short but appreciated view.
It's quite difficult to go to Stodmarsh and not see Marsh Harriers and wednesday was no exception, I lost count of how many we saw, probably quite often they were duplicated anyway. The one pictured above drifted fairly high overhead as we sat on a bench for lunch, another couple of Sparrowhawks were also seen as well.
The view from the Feast hide was pleasant but unremarkable. A single Shelduck preened lazily on the island, a handful of Tufted Ducks, below, argued sporadically. A Coot carried sticks from one end of the pool to the other for nest building, there were plenty of perfectly OK looking sticks close to the nest site but hey, what do I know about building nests? Comedy was supplied by a Little Grebe who delighted in flying at water level to and fro the lake with its feet pattering along the surface at a rate of knots, then stopping for a stretch and a preen before repeating the process all over again. I could have watched it for hours.
The Marsh Frogs were quite vocal around the reserve and as we walked towards the marsh hide we saw loads of them. Some, like the one pictured below, were jumping into the water filled ditch as we approached while others basked in the relative safety of the floating weeds.
The area in front of the marsh hide is also now a water meadow. There were ten or more Snipe feeding in the soft muddy margins as well as a couple of Redshanks and a Little Egret. But best of all was the male and female Garganey pictured below. The male in particular looked fantastic in the clear light, but as usual they were a bit distant for my lens. Still, a great bird to see and not one that i've seen much before. Click on the picture for a better view.
I couldn't resist the picture below of a Lapwing, it looks as if it had just dived head first into the mud, but it hadn't. This seemed to be some sort of displaying behaviour, but I've never seen it before and I don't know if it was the male or female. Either way, the bird being displayed to, bottom right in the picture, was playing hard to get, you could almost see it yawning, despite the other's best efforts. Once again, click on it for a better view.