I leaned the bike against the fence to photograph this farm pond at Shepreth - the place of sheep. And there are still some sheep to be found around the village.
Just across the road is the little River Shep, just a couple of yards wide and not very long either. It rises from springs in a strange nook of land between the villages of Melbourn (the mill on the stream) and Fowlmere (the mere of the birds).
These days the mere of the birds is a nature reserve, RSPB Fowlmere, though it has had other uses in the past and may have once been seen as less charming - an old document records it as Foul Mere ! Lets park the bike and have a wander around.
The shallow mere and the reedbeds surrounding it are a magnet for birds, mostly fairly common ones though you never know what might turn up. In the past this area was used to produce watercress. Springs bubble up here in many places making it ideal for wildlife.
The warden and volunteers have recently cleared and opened up many of the ponds and streams around the reserve. Robins and Blackbirds were singing in the bushes and close by I heard the pig-like squeal of the elusive Water Rail, a secretive bird of the reedbeds.
The Water Rails are here all the time, though you don't usually see them unless the mere freezes up when they become a bit reckless and venture from cover. Other birds like Marsh Harriers and Bitterns turn up from time to time.
This wet land is ideal for alder trees which provide food in winter for flocks of small birds including Siskins and Redpolls.
The clear streams are home to many small fish, at least until the Kingfisher finds them!
Some of the birds spotted today:
Wigeon, Teal, Snipe, Greylag Geese (noisy things!), Green Woodpecker, Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Siskin, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Barn Owl.....
I also saw some Fallow and Muntjac Deer.
Oh, and Mallards of course! But the sun was declining in the west so I climbed back on the bike and headed for home.