Posted by: Ross Gardner | May 13, 2012

Friday at Fowlmere

Fowlmere in May. Ross Gardner 2012

Fowlmere is a very fine place, all the more so at the head of a weekend when dry, settled weather has for once predominated.  It is an RSPB nature reserve, not far from Cambridge.  Covering some 40 hectares, this is a wonderful wetland, of open water, reedbed, wet woodland and scrub.  It is an echo, perhaps, of the expansive wetland of the fens that once covered great tracts of the flat lands of East Anglia.  Attempts were apparently made in the 19th century to drain the area, which thankfully proved unsuccessful, presumably due to the springs that rise within the reserve.  Although having long known of it, Fowlmere is a place that I only discovered a few years ago.  I now endeavour to make at least a couple of visits year and it has become somewhere that I am very much enjoying getting to know more intimately.

That intimate knowing of a place, for me, involves accumulating a knowledge of its fine detail, something of the minutiae of its existence, as well as those more obvious components of its being.  We would see some of this today; the spring has had plenty of rain to fuel its abundances and now, in spite of the flotilla of clouds in the sky, it was getting a decent dose of warmth and sunshine.  But those ‘more obvious components‘ were today more than ably filling the small spaces with their own presence.  We were greeted with a proverbial cacophony.  The reeds were full of the grating (but not unpleasantly so) calls of reed warbler, while the similar sound of the sedge warbler emanated from sallow that grew among the reedy ranks.  A chiff chaff rang out his two, happy notes from the tops of the fringing alders, while a wren whirled away beneath him.  The mellow cascade of the a willow warbler drifted in from across the reedbed; a Cetti’s warbler stuttered explosively, hidden away in the willow scrub; the familiar notes of a chaffinch offered a warm welcome.

Even in silence, the sight of birds filled the air, just as the sounds of the others filled the vegetation.  Dozens of swift were hawking low over the water, alongside the bands of sand martin and house martin.  Two marsh harrier provided their languid, imperious grace to the scene; a hobby its verve and vigour.

Common Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina). Copyright 2012 Ross Gardner

And among it all, the small things were filling their own spaces with no less an urgency.  A stretch of path-side vegetation, no more than half a dozen metres in length epitomised the mood of the day.  Green shield bug (Palomena prasina) were out in number, seeking mates and warming rays.  Damselflies settled to bask: large red and azure, not long from the water.  A common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) bumbled past, preoccupied by the copious blooms of ground ivy.  All manner of small wings flickered in and out of view.

This it what May is all about.

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