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Grasshopper Warbler, Portbury Wharf

This is like a lifer for me. I have one dodgy heard-only record from Rutland Water in 1999 but today’s bird by the South Hide, although still not seen, was unambiguous – a noise I can’t recall hearing before. It was more strident than I’d expected. A whopper of a grasshopper would be needed for that volume – bigger than we get in this country anyway.

True to form I was about to give up when the bird called. The morning had been good all the same with redstarts, one peregrine powering over and a brief glimpse of a barn owl, which alone would have made the day. One greylag goose was new for the reserve, as of course was the gropper. A singing garden warbler made it a hat-trick.

That took a few moments to identify but when it sank in, I realised that I’d heard one at Ham Wall on Friday. There’s a trick to separating it from blackcap that the field guides don’t tell you about. Yes, the song is quieter and more complex but I think the clincher is when you can’t decide whether you’re listening to a blackcap, song thrush or sedge warbler. The species manages to whistle through the repertoire of all these birds.

Swallows aplenty, a handful of sand martins and my year’s first house martin completed the roster for the visit.

Now the bad news. The monstrosity in the top picture is a new bridge that connects Port Marine to the Wharf. Behind it are a few of the extra houses that have sprung up in my time here. The bridge has been threatened a while and one had grown complacent that it wouldn’t happen. Now here it is. I’ve largely stopped going to the reserve because it’s already overrun with fucking dogs. Now the floodgates will truly open.

Just as bad will be the onslaught of people. The second picture shows the state of the middle hide when I got there – every single window and door open. The same was true for the tower hide. No log books in either; benches missing from the latter. We can expect worse.

And it’s certainly the end for the wildlife value of the site.

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