Reed Warblers

There’s a tiny patch of reeds alongside a drainage channel. It follows an A-road dual carriageway. There’s a pedestrian bridge over the channel with a public footpath either side. There’s the roar of the traffic, the sounds of families walking.

There’s also the song of the Reed Warbler coming from the reeds. It’s like a malfunctioning robot from a 1970s sci-fi movie. I’ve seen them before, only fleetingly, down at the Town Quay.

I’d love to observe their nest and see them beneath the surface of the reeds. I can hear the song. I can also see the twitching of the tops of the reeds as they hop from cane to cane below the canopy. I can see them making their way along the river, hidden in their reed-world.

It takes me two weeks of going out after lunch, when the light has changed direction, trying to get a photograph of them and failing, and going out in the evening, trying to spot their nest, until I have any success. I see one heading out of the reeds at a furious pace carrying a faecal sac. With growing chicks the birds have to do something to get rid of the mountains of poo building up which would attract flies and predators if left unchecked.

Then I spot two sets of quivering reeds heading towards one another. They meet. That’s where the nest must be. It’s just below me. I’m standing on the pedestrian bridge and the nest must be only 5 metres away.

I’ve spent two weeks watching the equivalent of Michael Bentine’s footsteps in the sand made by invisible people in Potty Time.

The next day I take a tiny remote-controlled camera and place it in sight of the nest without disturbing them. Here’s some glorious footage:

I watch them bring in flies, beetles, lacewings, moths and even a ringlet butterfly. They are hypnotically busy. Do you love them enough for me to post more videos of their intimate family moments? I captured more hidden delights just ripe for sharing.

I won’t be going back though. That’s enough; they’ve had their 15 minutes of fame.

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