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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Wicken Fen [20100324|16:29]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
[the weather today is |wonderful electric]
[with a hint of |Goldfrapp - Strict Machine]

I awoke irrationally early last Saturday. Eventually, my pottering around the kitchen and the mewing of cats woke the bloke up, too. In his usual good-humoured fashion, he suggested we take advantage of my improbable energy by making a trip to Wicken Fen, a National Trust property in the heart of Cambridgeshire. We went there last year at the height of summer and he wanted to see it awakening for spring, when migrating waterfowl flock there.

For those not familiar with the local geography, East Anglia is flat. Really, really flat. Most of the area used to be covered in the kind of wetland that's now protected by Wicken Fen, but it was drained for human use. A fen is rather like a bog, except it's neutral or alkaline rather than acidic. It's just as squidgy to tromp through, however, and when you're up to your knees in mud, you don't really care about its pH.

A constant sideways drizzle would have dampened our spirits more if we hadn't been so fortunate with our observations. At the first hide we entered along the trail, we saw a muntjac deer, chaffinches, blue tits, great tits (hee.), a moorhen and a rat in the space of five minutes. All were looking glossy and bright for mating season.

Muntjac deer

Female chaffinch

Male blue tit

Male great tit


We continued walking past the groves of silver birches to the Godwin plots. These were established to track the variation in growth of fen flora. One plot is never cut, the next is cut yearly, the next biennially, the next triennially and the last quadrennially. Last year was the year when all of the ones that get cut were razed simultaneously. It should have been disappointing, since not much new growth was yet visible, but we were intrigued by the discovery that the biennial plot contained fatter, denser scrub stumps than the triennial plot despite having more discontinuous growing time.

White birches

Map consultation by the Godwin plots

Further along, we climbed into a hide to watch the long-beaked pipers wheeling above the bleak landscape. As we rounded a corner, we startled a bittern. This beautiful brown bird looks a little like an oversized heron with elaborately patterned feathers and is a rare visitor to Britain. The NT workers were excited when we'd seen it and wanted to know exactly where and when we'd sighted it. I was so shocked when it shot out of the reeds in front of us that I could barely get my camera up in time to grab a few shots of its departure. Its powerful legs propelled it high in the air and a few strong flaps sent it soaring to the level of the treetops with a speed that probably leaves ducks apopletic with envy.

Goodbye to all that

An event of such magnitude left us much in need of calming sustenance. Tea and cake had to be applied immediately. And so they were.

[User Picture]From: flexagain
2010-03-24 17:22 (UTC)
I've cycled through there, and stopped for tea and cake, but I singularly failed to notice anything exotic in terms of flora and fauna.

I manage to miss Parakeets in Richmond Park however, so it's not entirely surprising that I miss things more native to the British Isles!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-03-25 22:34 (UTC)
You just have a different focus, that's all. You prioritize the tea and cake.
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[User Picture]From: ursarctous
2010-03-24 18:12 (UTC)
wonderful pictures! you always manage to make me feel so homesick for lovely flat marshy east anglia with posts like this.
i didn't actually realise that bitterns were a rare sight, they seem to quite like hanging around martham broad, so we get to see them quite often; now i'll know to appreciate them more!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-03-25 22:37 (UTC)
Thank you. East Anglia is a lovely place. I'm growing very fond of it.
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[User Picture]From: sanat
2010-03-24 20:27 (UTC)
Yay, birdies! That muntjac is surely not native, though...
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-03-25 22:40 (UTC)
Yes, they were imported from China quite some time ago. They escaped, naturally, and are now pretty widespread.
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[User Picture]From: swerve
2010-03-24 20:53 (UTC)
Muntjac are impossibly adorable, as are the tits (hee). Sounds like a good day.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-03-25 22:44 (UTC)
They're tiny! I'm used to rather majestic, elegant deer so it's peculiar to see this little portly things pootling around.
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[User Picture]From: victorine
2010-03-25 00:03 (UTC)
What a lovely day! (really pretty Tits) The only wildlife we noted while in England was a moor pony who tried to get in the car with me. Either he really wanted to come home with me or he was trying to eat the upholstery.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-03-25 22:44 (UTC)
Aww, you must have been tempted to take him with you. Moor ponies are adorable.
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[User Picture]From: cosmiccircus
2010-03-25 02:17 (UTC)
Your journal is obviously fun to read, but it's also so educational!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-03-25 23:22 (UTC)
I'm just surprised the second attribute doesn't negate the first!
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[User Picture]From: painted_dreams
2010-03-25 02:25 (UTC)
I would love to see that place in person.. It looks lovely and all that wildlife... Definitely will be on my list of places to visit when I am in the UK.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-03-25 22:49 (UTC)
It's quite unusual, even among National Trust properties. I think it's worth making time to see.
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From: lunar_alchemy
2010-03-25 08:35 (UTC)
muntjac deer have to be one of the sweetest creatures on earth :)

your great tits (heh) look a lot like our chickadees :)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-03-25 22:53 (UTC)
They are adorable.

I think chickadees are a bit smaller - closer to the size of the blue tits.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-03-25 22:52 (UTC)
The rat was looking pretty happy. The muntjac, on the other hand, was experiencing some frustration as the length of its tongue wasn't quite sufficient to reach the big pile of seed.
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[User Picture]From: wiggyfish
2010-03-26 03:15 (UTC)
Excellent post -- thanks for taking the time to post all this!

I'm kind of surprised the muntjac is called a deer. I mean, if it's related to our whitetail, then great, but ... really?

Also, ObHuhHuhGreatTit. Slightly dirty puns are even better than puns.

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2010-03-29 19:28 (UTC)
Thank you for reading! The muntjac is really tiny, too. It's not anywhere deer-sized, in my opinion.
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