The camera trap video below shows an otter on Hoo Brook bank, close to the McDonald’s fast food outlet and Lagoon Field.
For many years I have worked, wandered, and poked about on Wilden Marsh, looked in many nooks and crannies, and investigated nature in areas surrounding it. I’m a volunteer wildlife warden. I manage the on-site conservancy, facilitate and schedule volunteer workdays, plan how, where and when the cattle graze the marsh, and physically move and supervise them on the reserve and in the new WFDC’s Falling Sands Nature Area. There isn’t much happening on the marsh that I don’t know about, and there isn’t much fauna and flora that I haven’t seen or watched there at one time or another. So, I walk through and around the Lagoon Field boundaries frequently: seven days a week when the cattle are grazing the north marsh. I’ve seen it at its best and worst in the mornings, afternoons, evenings and at dead of night, in all weathers. I have heard pretty much every sound the marsh and its inhabitants are capable of making, throughout the seasons. I have five strategically placed automatic camera traps showing me some of what’s happening to the animals when I am not on-site, and I use infrared viewing equipment to see at night. I guess I know more than most about the marsh, its fauna and flora, the importance of adjacent areas, and the local history.
The Lagoon Field is the marsh larder, a place of safety for animals to hide and build or dig a home. I think of it as a muscular Wilden Marsh organ: a womb. Snipe nesting there have risen from its long grass avoiding my boots, flying low and feigning wing damage as they zigzag away only to drop back into the long grass a short distance further; they are attempting to draw me away from their nests and chicks. I have heard chicks chirping at their mother’s alarm call when she lifts off the nest. On moonlit nights and early morning during the breeding season, I’ve listened to the drumming sound they make during their courting displays. (curlew call)
On the Lagoon Field side of the Northern Corridor stock fence, is the water rail’s pond. The rail spooks me somewhat, particularly at dusk: when surprised it lifts off its pond making a great fuss and squealing loudly like a scalded piglet as it flies away. Maybe it’s the water rail that’s responsible for some people thinking pigs can fly. (water rail call)
Near the water rail’s pond is a popular foraging area used by the marsh badgers. They have setts in the Lagoon Field and the surrounding hills; they tend to overwinter on the marsh, but there are always a few older badgers living here all year round – my favourite is a one-eyed badger I have named, unimaginatively, “One Eye”.
I’ve watched the marsh dog fox and his vixen hunt moles, pheasants, pigeons, magpies and rabbits, and marvelled at the strategies they have developed to improve and guarantee their success and survival, in times of plenty and when food is scarce.
Woodcock nest in the various patches of sallow scrub around the Lagoon Field, and many newts use the lagoons and pools, including great crested newts.
Polecats and ferrets are here, too; some have been immortalised when passing my camera traps. Ferreting is still practiced on the west side of the marsh, but not on the reserve.
Polecat at the north end of the Lagoon Field
North marsh vixen crossing the south end of the Northern Corridor, taking a magpie to her cubs in the Lagoon Field
As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are thousands of toads and frogs living in the Lagoon Field. The toads leave the Lagoon Field every year around 9th March; they walk across the Northern Corridor to mate in North Pond at the southern end of the Swamp. The Northern Corridor and North Pond Pasture are covered with them – I have to be very careful where I place my feet to avoid squashing them. After a couple of weeks of vigorous mating, they return to the Lagoon Field for rest and recuperation until the same time next year.
The toads are a food source for heron and otters, I guess mink take advantage of the glut too. The herons snip off the toads’ heads with their beaks, and turn them inside out to eat: the toad’s skin tastes horrible. Otter’s launch themselves into North Pond after dark, making tremendous splashes: they grab a toad and leave the pond to eat it.
The Lagoon Field is a productive hunting ground for buzzards, kestrels, sparrowshawks, and even an occasional Harris hawk. Buzzards are often seen circling on thermals above the Lagoon Field.
The middle lagoon is boggy with a few pools full of willow scrub surrounded by tall thick grass, reeds, sedges, brambles, etc. The southern lagoon is now a flooded wood, albeit packed full with tall, spindly willow, birch and alder trees. Many scary noises float from there on moonlit nights: growls, grunts, shrieks and screams, as well as bird and animal calls I recognise. I’ve heard all manner of ducks arguing and squabbling in the south lagoon wood; woodcock and snipe hide there and I hear the occasional curlew, redshank and various owls. Foxes, badgers and otters hunt in there. Muntjac deer lie up in the long grass both sides of the wood.
Otter making its way to south lagoon wood
I could drone on and on about many more positive nature benefits of the Lagoon Field, but I think I will end this post here. The Lagoon Field hasn’t any negative aspects as far as I’m concerned.
READ ABOUT THE PROPOSAL TO BUILD INDUSRIAL AND RESIDENTIAL HOUSING ON THE LAGOON FIELD: HERE
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