In the late afternoon, the warm wind blows from the west and the sun shines over the wide, grazing marshes and rare, reed bed remnant of the Stour valley. The mere at the east end near Grove Ferry is full of moulting teal and shoveler and lapwings, gulls and starlings. Some of the ducks splash and dive into the water. A young hobby with its dull orange plumage tears through and throws them all up into discrete, low wheeling flocks.

From the hide overlooking a small pool in the midst of endless reeds, a flock of mallard ducks are sat on a grassy island constantly preening their freshly moulted plumage. A pair of coot in the ditch are diving for food, when the male suddenly hunches and chases off an immature bird that arrives with a strangled ‘squawk’ having been rudely pushed from a neighbouring territory; it strives in vain to find some accommodating land.

Moulting mallard endlessly preening

A kingfisher flies in low with a whistle and lands on one of the two planted sticks in front of the hide. It sits, looks hard with round glass eyes, twitches and looks some more before a sudden dive in the ditch, returning with a minnow that is tossed and swallowed head first in a second.


A high tier of cloud slowly edges in and blankets the bright light. The marsh darkens and a an osprey flaps and glides steadily across the marsh with its characteristic drooping silhouette, and the ducks and waders dash up and away again. Two snipe move fast across the sky with a screech and a green sandpiper’s liquid ‘chewit’ sounds from the somewhere within the wide marsh. Bearded tits ‘ping’ and ‘zing’ deep from within the swaying, soft pile of reeds. The flocks subside and the marsh is quiet again. Only meandering large gulls, small lines of purposeful cormorants and single woodpigeons now occupy the dull sky.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Erwan says:

    Great pictures ! The immature Hobby at Stodmarsh is a Merlin.

    1. Steve Parr says:

      Thanks – I did not think it had the jizz of a merlin but never say never

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