Friday, 28 June 2013

Rye Meads - 27th June 13

Weather: Cloudy for most of the day but also quite humid. Rain later.

Birds seen:
Little Grebe; Cormorant; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Shelduck; Canada Goose; Mallard; Shoveler; Gadwall; Teal; Tufted Duck; Pochard; Marsh Harrier; Buzzard; Kestrel; Pheasant; Water Rail (H); Moorhen; Coot; Little Ringed Plover; Lapwing; Green Sandpiper; Black-headed Gull; Common Tern; Woodpigeon; Stock Dove; Swift; Kingfisher; Pied Wagtail; White Wagtail; Wren; Blackbird; Cetti's Warbler (H); Reed Warbler; Sedge Warbler; Chiffchaff; Blue Tit; Great Tit; Long-tailed Tit (H); Treecreeper (H); Starling; Magpie; Carrion Crow; House Sparrow; Greenfinch; Reed Bunting. Total: 46

Plus: Red Admiral, Speckled Wood Butterflies.
Plus: Azure, Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselflies.
Plus: Water Buffalo; Water Vole; Cuckoo Spit; Dark Bush Cricket; Dock Bug; Green Tortoise Beetle; Spotted Crane Fly; Thick-kneed Flower Beetle.

Another very good day today, despite the cloudy weather. It was sunny at first but the clouds soon rolled in. It was also quite humid with some light rain towards the end of the day.

The highlights today were another view of the female Marsh Harrier; 2 Little Ringed Plovers; 4 Green Sandpipers; 2 Kingfishers and a possible juvenile White Wagtail. Today was also pretty good for insects, although there were no Dragonflies.

I got to the Reserve just after 10 and immediately found lots of school children had also turned up. There was also a Work Detail starting out too, but there wasn't too much disturbance.

I had already met the volunteer on the desk, having seen him several times here and at Amwell. He gave me a quick appraisal of what was about recently.

I sorted out my gear and set off. Both the first two ponds were cordoned off for the schools visit. There was nothing much to be seen by the time I reached the Draper Hide other than hearing a few Chiffchaffs. As I sat down a Shelduck flew in onto the island.

A pair of Coot with chicks were swimming around just in front of the Hide, looking very cute. Everywhere else resembled Duck and Gull City. Dozens of Gadwall and plenty of BHGs.

Panning from left to right there were a couple of Lapwing; a male Teal and a Green Sandpiper, the first one I've seen for a while. Moving to the island there was another Green Sandpiper and another 20+ Lapwing. There rest were all Gadwall; Pochard; eclipse Shoveler and some eclipse Mallards. Most of them were preening, obviously having just finished their morning ablutions. Over by the land bridge there was a female Mallard with 11 chicks. Reed Buntings were seen flying around the far reeds. There was also a Stock Dove walking between the Lapwings. A third Green Sandpiper was seen further to the right, amongst 4 male Teal. I only spotted one Common Tern around the area. And, finally, a lone LRP was seen picking its way around the island.

Then, after about 45 minutes, one of the groups of school children turned up. A second group arrived just after the first had departed. All were very well behaved and sounded very enthusiastic about what they were being told and by what they were watching. Especially when a Kestrel appeared and put everything up. Cue lots of oohs and ahhs.

Just after 11 I decided to head off up the trail. On the route I heard a Cetti's Warbler and a Treecreeper, but unfortunately both remained invisible. Just before the steps I flushed a Reed Warbler whilst watching a Speckled Wood butterfly. Looking out over the first lake I could only see 5 Mute Swans and a few Coot. I bypassed the Ashby Hide and moved on down the track. Ominously it was already beginning to cloud over.

Then I heard a Sedge Warbler and stopped to try and locate it. When I moved closer to the undergrowth it flew off, being only a few feet away from me. I should have gone to SpecSavers! Then I spotted a lone Azure Damselfly sitting on a leaf. I carried on scanning the flora and soon found lots of Cuckoo Spit (Froghoppers) and then a Spotted Crane Fly.

Cuckoo Spit or Froghoppers
When I arrived at the walkway leading up to the twin hides I heard the unmistakeable squeal of a Water Rail from the relief channel. The sound always brings a smile to my face. Looking out from the Tern Hide brought views of mainly Coots and Mutes; a few Tufties and a sprinkling of BHGs. Although there must have been over 70 Coots swimming around with a lots of nests around the lake.

Moving on to the Gadwall Hide there was the predictably noisy BHG action, with about 10 Common Terns, some with young. The BHGs also had lots of young, at various ages and fluffiness. I noted that the dead bird I had seen earlier in the month was still lying on one of the Tern rafts. Coots; Tufties and Pochard were swimming around too. It was like Piccadilly Circus.

Nothing much else to report until I reached the Kingfisher Hide. There was already someone there but just the one and he pointed out the male Kingfisher sitting on the far post. I sat down and watched him fly into the old nest for some reason and then fly back out on to the same post. Then the female turned up and flew straight into the new nest. After about 5 minutes both birds disappeared. This was in fact the only time I saw them all day. The resident pond Coots were shepherding 6 chicks; a female Mallard also had 6 young while a pair of Gadwall were trying to avoid the wrath of the Coots.

A Greenfinch could be heard, then seen sitting on top of the dead tree in the corner. Then a Wren whizzed past right in front of the Hide to the dead tree to the right of me. It was soon joined by another and then 2 Chiffchaff flew in and flew out. Woodpigeons were flying about all the time, some carrying nesting material.

Green Tortoise Beetle
Outside the Hide I spotted what I thought was my first Green Shield Bug of the year but it turned out to be a Green Tortoise Beetle. In fact once I got my eye in more insects appeared including a Dark Bush Cricket and a Thick-kneed Flower Beetle. Finally I was seeing some insects!

Thick-kneed Flower Beetle
On the stream leading up to the Warbler Hide a pair of Mute Swans were preening and trying to protect their last cygnet. Then, by the pylons just past the entrance to the Otter trail, I spotted a pair of Blue-tailed Damselflies and a pair of Dock Bugs which were mating. Further on a pair of Common Blue Damselflies appeared. It must be getting close to 15 degrees!

Dock Bugs
And further on from there a few juvenile Blue Tits and juvenile Great Tits were singing away. These were accompanied by Chiffchaffs; Cetti's and Greenfinches, while about half-a-dozen Swifts were screaming overhead. Almost a full orchestra! Just before I got to the Hide a group of LTTs could be heard tweeting away.

From the Hide there was a Reed Bunting out to the right balancing on top of a reed singing away, trying to out sing another to the left which had also started up. About 10 Water Buffalo were out to the far right. I scanned all 10 but couldn't see any Wagtails, which usually follow them about. I had to open up all the window shutters here as it was now getting very humid. There was a Buzzard was circling high up to the left. Lunch.

Then, while I was trying to decide what dragonfly I had just seen flying past, I spotted the female Marsh Harrier sitting on a post in the distance. It immediately dropped down into the grass. A minute later it flew up and started moving around the field until it was chased off by a pair of Carrion Crows. Great views! It's now been around here for a couple of weeks.

I had arrived wanting to spot a Hobby but the Harrier was even better. Then another Buzzard appeared high to the right. A Grey Heron then flew in and landed in the field just in front of a cock Pheasant which darted back into the long grass. To the right, just as I was leaving, 3 Lapwing flew up, possibly scared up by a predator?

Back down the trail I struck up a conversation with the same group of LTTs. I'm not sure what I said to them, I don't speak LTT. I just kept repeating the same 3-note song. Another Speckled Wood was trying to find the sun, while a Red Admiral was seen just outside the Kingfisher Hide. Butterfly numbers still seem to be down again this year.

In the Hide there were about 6 more people. I waited for about 30 minutes and, seeing no KFs, moved off. There was nothing extra to be seen at the twin hides either. The dark clouds were starting to accumulate above me.

Just as I reached the Draper Hide it began to rain, as predicted. There were a few more people in this Hide too, including the volunteer from this morning. This second visit yielded a 4th Green Sandpiper whilst a 2nd LRP had turned up. A 5th Teal was around plus a 2nd Shoveler, both females. The female Mallard was still about but unfortunately there were now only 10 chicks.

Nagging - not just a human thing!
The rain got heavier and so I decided to wait it out until it relented.

Reaching the walkway I stopped for my obligatory look for a Water Vole and was delighted to find two of them. A satisfying end to the day.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Amwell Nature Reserve - 25th June 13

Weather: Clear skies and sunny early on with some mist on the lakes, clouding over later in the pm.

Birds seen:
Great Crested Grebe; Cormorant; Little Egret; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Greylag Goose; Canada Goose; Mallard; Shoveler; Gadwall; Tufted Duck; Pochard; Buzzard; Hobby; Pheasant; Water Rail; Moorhen; Coot; Oystercatcher; Little Ringed Plover; Lapwing; Redshank; Black-headed Gull; Common Tern; Woodpigeon; Stock Dove; Cuckoo (H); Swift; Great Spotted Woodpecker (H); Green Woodpecker (H); Grey Wagtail; Pied Wagtail; Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Blackbird; Song Thrush (H); Cetti's Warbler (H); Reed Warbler; Sedge Warbler; Garden Warbler; Whitethroat; Blackcap (H); Chiffchaff; Blue Tit; Great Tit; Long-tailed Tit; Treecreeper; Starling; Magpie; Carrion Crow; Chaffinch; Goldfinch; Reed Bunting.
Total: 54

Plus: Grey Squirrel; Konic Ponies; Rabbit.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Large Red, Red-eyed Damselflies; Black-tailed Skimmer, Emperor, Four-spotted Chaser Dragonflies.
Plus: Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood Butterflies. Small China Mark Moth.
Plus: Caddis Fly; Cardinal Beetle; Hoverfly; Common Spotted, Southern Marsh Orchids. Various Bees and Wasps.

It's been a couple of weeks since my last outing, due to various things, so I was pleased to be finally out and about again. The forecast was for sun and clear blue skies for most of the day, with clouds in the afternoon. This proved to be the case.

Today I put in some overtime at the office. It was a long stint, 6 until 4 and I was exhausted by the time I got home. I had woken up around 4am and decided that, as it was going to be sunny early on, I should make the effort and get the first train out, the 5.23. I also wanted to see if there were any early migrants to be seen passing through, as have been reported by other early risers in previous months.

I was somewhat surprised to see quite a lot of people about at this time of the day. I had expected to be one of very few up and about. The train was busy as well. Lots of traffic about on the roads. Admittedly I haven't been up at this hour too many times so I wondered if this was the norm or a sign of the times.

Anyway, it was a quick journey down to the Reserve and I arrived just before 6. There was no one else about here yet. Not even the twitchers. In fact there weren't too many people about until after nine-ish. A quick scan around Great Hardmead Lake from the main viewpoint yielded Little Ringed Plover; Redshank; Lapwing; Little Egret and Common Tern. Lots of Coot were still asleep directly in front of me, on the lake. The lake itself was eerily shrouded in the morning mist whilst the bright sun was shining right into my eyes. I was also surprised to find that my spectacles kept misting up as well, which was very annoying. Reed Buntings could be heard singing, whilst Reed Warblers were darting around the area. A couple of Sedge Warblers were quite high on the nearby reeds to my right and were giving some great views. A Cuckoo called in the distance. I spent about an hour here before moving on to the James Hide.

Great Hardmead Lake in the mist
Reed Warbler
At the Hide I unpacked my camera. Today was the first outing with a new lens and I was eager to test it out. Almost immediately a Water Rail hove into view to the left of the Hide in the channel. Then, unbelievably, a juvenile Rail appeared too. This was my first view of one of these secretive young birds. It looked exactly like a smaller version of the adult, with less colouring, but with the same orange beak. Brilliant!

A Cetti's Warbler could be heard singing and various Coot; Moorhen and Tufted Ducks were swimming around the pond. The pair of Coot had youngsters swimming noisily around with them. The Tufties, 3 pairs, were very animated, males chasing females, until they all took off and flew away. Another Little Egret flew right to left in front of me. The feeders were mostly empty but 3 Magpies were balancing precariously on one of them until they were scared off by an agile Grey Squirrel jumping between the feeder and the tree. Various Tits and Finches were having to wait until these guys had finished before taking their turn. Most of them were juvenile Great Tits. The sun was still in my eyes from the reflection in the water, making it difficult to see. But at least it wasn't raining.

The Hide itself smelt like someone had over-nighted in it so, when I left around 7.20, I left the window shutters open. Walking along the trail to the White Hide I spotted a Grey Heron flying past me, quite low. A Chiffchaff was singing its' head off close to the top of a tree. Then a Garden Warbler flew right past me and landed on a nearby bush. It took one look at me and flew off before I could bring the camera to bear.

I wanted to get to the White Hide because the sun was behind it and would give some great light in which to photograph anything that came close. But when I got there I found that most of the shutters were open because somebody had been sick in the corner and the smell was still lingering. I proceeded to open up the rest of the shutters. Fortunately, with both the doors open as well, a light breeze blew most of it away.

Looking out to the lake there were close up views of many, many Canada Geese. It looks like all their Goslings have grown up and now resemble the adults. There must have been a 100+ geese out there. A couple of dozen Greylag Geese were also swimming around. A female Mallard with two little chicks were trying to swim their way between them all. A male eclipse Shoveler was about; there were 4 more Little Egrets, juveniles, at the back of the tree island; further to the left of them a pair of GCGs were sitting on a nest.

Then one of the Little Egrets flew in quite close to the Hide. I was just walking back to my original seat after watching a pair of Reed and Sedge Warblers flying around when I spotted it. I was trying to avoid the mess on the floor as well as trying to photograph the Egret, but it spotted me and flew off. I counted at least 7 Little Egrets today, but there may have been even more about. An LRP had flown in onto the island just in front of the Hide and proceeded to move about feeding before stopping every now and then and completely disappearing. Great camouflage. Then, as if on some pre-determined signal, all the Canadas slowly moved off towards the southern end of the lake, for no apparent reason.

No Redshank flew over this time, no doubt because of the resident Lapwing that was here, which would scare them off. A couple of single GCGs swam regally past. A lone Starling was picking its way between everything on the island. Then it all went quiet so I decided to have an early lunch and move on.

On the path going back a gang of Park Rangers had turned up and were noisily busy working around the area. But this was the only time I saw and heard them.

I then arrived at a pair of lakes where I knew the Red-eyed Damselflies should be. Unfortunately there was a lady with a big dog there too, encouraging it to jump into the lake to retrieve a thrown ball. I restricted myself to a corner of the lake where the lilly-pads were. This was where the damsels should be. But unfortunately, despite the warm, blue skies with no breeze and being the end of June, there didn't look to be anything about. So I decided to wait it out. The temperature needed to be at least 15 degrees before anything emerged. It certainly felt warm in the sunshine and, sure enough, after about a 20 minute wait, with the sun higher in the sky, a lone Blue-tailed and a pair of Common Blue came out of hiding. Then a few minutes later a couple more Blue-tails appeared.

Out on the pond two pairs of Coot with perhaps 10 or 11 juveniles with them were swimming around, begging for food from the adults. At one point there must have been a territorial line crossed because suddenly all four adults exploded into conflict, with claws extended and with lots of noise. The youngsters all scattered, desperate to avoid injury.

The pollen was everywhere today, especially right up my nose and my hay-fever was finally starting, so I popped a pill to fight it. My handkerchief was being overworked and it was probably time to make the monthly change when I got home. Sitting there I spotted a few Bees; Hoverflies; a Small China Mark Moth, which I had seen on a visit to Rye Meads; various spiders sitting tight in their webs and even a few bunches of Forget-Me-Nots flowering.

Azure Damselfly
Out on the lilly-pads more and more Damsels were appearing, some Blues ovipositing. Azures were now appearing too and it seemed as if everyone was starting to pair up. Scanning the lilly-pads I spotted my target, a lone Red-eyed Damsel, just sitting quietly on one of the lillies. And when my eyes became accustomed I started to find more. A couple of pairs of them were also ovipositing. It must be 15 degrees!

Red-eyed Damselflies
Just then a guy with two dogs turned up and disturbed everything. He asked me what was about and then pointed to a GCG with 2 humbugs out on the pond. I hadn't noticed them in my eagerness to photograph the Damsels. The adult swam quite close but the humbugs kept their distance. Soon after a Large Red damsel flew past, my first of the day.

Time to move on and head to the Dragonfly Trail where I was eager to finally spot some Demoiselles. On the trail down I met up with a familiar face, a woman who I sometimes see on my visits but have yet to find out her name. On the trail, by the ponds, I was at last delighted to find some Dragons about. A few Four-spotted Chasers were around, doing their chasing thing. A few Hawker-type dragons were also flying around. Possibly Hairys but maybe the first of the Commons or Southerns. It is still a bit too early for Migrants and anyway they are the only ones which hover, giving you the eye. Lots more Damsels were about again too. A far cry from the previous visit.

Four-spotted Chaser
A few people were about here, all delighting in the show. The Orchid Garden still had a few flowers on show but it was now a little overgrown with other, intrusive, flowers and weeds.

By the river on the hunt for Demoiselles I spotted my first Red Admiral butterfly of the season and lots of Speckled Woods. But no Demos. So I again decided to pick a spot by the river and sit and wait. While I was waiting a Treecreeper uttered its thin, high-pitched call and I saw it fly in onto a dead tree stump and work its way up, feeding, before flying off again. Then a flock of Great Tits flew past, obviously on a feeding highway. One of them looked to have had mites as most of its' head feather had disappeared, poor thing.

Speckled Wood
After about 30 minutes there were still no Demos, so I made my way back to the dragonfly ponds. Here a couple pointed out a dragon on one of the reeds. It looked like a newly-emerged Black-tailed Skimmer. I quickly shot off some photos only to find that, after a breeze, it fell off and onto its' back on the pond. It was dead! On closer inspection it didn't look injured or damaged and must have succumbed to the early morning frost. But there was no time for mourning as, just then, a male Emperor made an appearance. The daddy of them all, flying regally around and around, surveying its domain. It came into conflict with another Four-spotted Chaser a few times before seeing it off.

Black-tailed Skimmer, unfortunately it was dead!
Emperor Dragonfly
Later on, by the lake itself, I spotted a female Emperor as well. A pair of Large Red damselflies were busy making more Large Reds. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly then appeared and settled long enough for a photo. This was in an area with a wooden bench which I had fancied having a rest on. But a family were already there having a picnic, so I moved on. Just before the exit to the trail a cock Pheasant walked right past me, without a care in the world.

Small Tortoiseshell
Just before I got to the bridge a male Blackcap was noisily making its way threw the trees, making the sound of two pebbles knocking together. At the bridge itself I stopped and looked down at the stream. I knew from earlier seasons that this was also a place to see the Demoiselles. And, after about 10 minutes of looking over both sides of the bridge, I was finally rewarded with a pair of mating Banded Demoiselles! The male resplendent in his metallic blue body, flying around the equally gorgeous metallic green of the female. I delighted in watching them for about 20 minutes. People were walking past with only a few of them asking what I was looking at. They were all equally enthralled with the performance.

Banded Demoiselle male
Banded Demoiselles mating
With a big smile on my face I moved back to the Red-eyed damsel lake. By now large numbers of Damsels were flying around, mainly on the lake itself. Azure, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Large Red and Red-eyed damsels were all about now, basking in the warm sun. They must number in the hundreds now. A Holly Blue joined in the display, fluttering by. I sat down again to enjoy the marvellous show, staying for about 30 minutes before reluctantly moving on.

Back at the James Hide juvenile Reed Warblers and juvenile Great Tits were everywhere. The GTs on the feeders and the RWs begging for food from the adults. A Chiffchaff was singing somewhere close, but not close enough to reveal itself. I hung around for about 20 minutes, mainly to rest and, not seeing much else, decided to trek around to the White Hide again. On the way I spotted a Buzzard circling high in the sky.

There wasn't anything new here apart from a couple of Pied Wagtails and a lone Grey Wagtail. About 30 or 40 Canadas had settled on the island in front of me and were having a siesta. A lone LRP was here again, picking off flies between the geese. Then another Little Egret flew in close again and this time it didn't spot me. It walked up really close and gave me some great views, also allowing a few photos. After about 10 minutes it flew off to join the others on the nest. A little while later they all took off, one by one, settling on nearby branches. I wondered if this was them fledging?

I left the Hide around 3-ish and walked back to the viewing point. On trail I spotted the only Bombardier Beetle of the day, plus a flying insect on a leaf which I found out later was a Caddis Fly.

Caddis Fly Limnephilus lunatus
From the viewing point I was delighted to spot a pair of Redshank chicks, just in front of the VP. The parents were also present. A bit too far for a photo though. And soon after a Whitethroat flew in, not 5 meters away from me. But, predictably, when I brought the lens up it flew off. Out on the lake a Hobby flew around the tree island, putting up most of the birds.

It was now around 4pm and I was starting to feel exhausted. My feet started to ache as well. So, after a 10 hour stint, I headed home. But not before spotting a lone Oystercatcher just past the lock, feeding. A great end to a brilliant day!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Amwell Nature Reserve - 10th June 13

Weather: Cloudy and overcast all day. Quite cold.

Birds seen:
Great Crested Grebe; Cormorant; Little Egret; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Greylag Goose; Canada Goose; Mallard; Wigeon; Shoveler; Gadwall; Tufted Duck; Pochard; Hobby; Pheasant (H); Moorhen; Coot; Oystercatcher; Little Ringed Plover; Lapwing; Redshank; Black-headed Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Common Tern; Woodpigeon; Stock Dove; Swift; Kingfisher (H); Great Spotted Woodpecker; Green Woodpecker (H); Grey Wagtail; Pied Wagtail; Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Blackbird; Reed Warbler; Whitethroat; Blackcap; Chiffchaff; Blue Tit; Great Tit; Long-tailed Tit; Starling; Magpie; Jay; Carrion Crow; House Sparrow (H); Chaffinch; Greenfinch; Reed Bunting.
Total: 51

Plus: Konic Ponies; Rabbit.
Plus: Azure Damselfly.
Plus: Soldier Beetle; Scorpion Fly; Common Spotted, Early Purple, Southern Marsh Orchids.

Please don't tell me that last week was our summer. Today was back to being overcast, cloud and cold again. Which in turn kept all the insects; butterflies; dragons and damsels hidden. The only things I saw all day were a couple of Azure damselflies; a few Soldier Beetles and a Scorpion Fly. There weren't too many people about today either.

The day had started well enough, on the trail upto the Reserve. A Narrowboat flushed an Oystercatcher up and away; a Jay flew past; a Blackcap was singing and I counted upto 37 Canada Geese on the canal. There were also a few LTTs in the trees and I could already hear some Redshank out on the lake.

When I reached the Viewing Point I found the usual crowd ensconced and one of them kindly pointed out a Hobby perched in a tree over the lake. The Redshank were still calling, three of them flying around the lake almost continuously. I spotted a fourth busy feeding, not seeming too interested in what was going on with the others. There were also 2 LRPs on the mudflats, later joined by 2 others. Reed Warblers were flying in and out of the reeds, some balancing precariously on top of them. I heard, then spotted, Reed Buntings doing almost the same thing. There were at least 4 Lapwing plus 2 chicks; a couple of Little Egrets and at least 4 Common Terns. A couple of Shovelers were swimming around by the island, together with the requisite Tufties; Gadwall and Pochard. I also counted upto 18 Greylag Geese and a further 26 Canada Geese. There were at least 2 pairs of GCGs at the far end of the lake. The lone male Wigeon was visible early on. 20-plus Swift were busy flying and feeding overhead.

Moving on to the James Hide I spotted at least 10 LTTs on the trail, busily feeding amongst the branches. A Pheasant was screeching out his call to the right of the Hide. There was a Grey Heron standing on the little island preening while a pair of Great Tits were the only birds visible on the feeders. More Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings were in and around the adjacent reedbeds. Another Little Egret was seen flying from right to left in the distance. Then what looked like a Chiffchaff flew into the trees beside the Hide, then flew straight off. Then a male GSW also flew in to the same tree, took one look at me and flew off. Must be the new aftershave.

There was nothing to see on the way to the White Hide. And from the Hide I immediately spotted a Redshank making its way towards me. An LRP was also quite near. A family of Greylags with young were off to the left. A couple of Pied Wagtails then flew in and fed for a few minutes before flying off again. But then unfortunately a Lapwing scared off the Redshank. This proved repetitive for the whole time I was at the Hide. Then I thought I saw the Pied Wagtails again but they proved to be Grey Wagtails. 25 more Canada Geese noisily flew in and landed on the lake. Then I witnessed the LRPs mate for a few minutes. The male began by standing behind the female and then started kicking his feet up against her tail before jumping up on to her back. Another Redshank flew back on to the island and fed, getting nearer before the Lapwing flew over and again scared it off.

The action continued with a Little Egret flying in and landing just in front of the Hide, giving some great, close-up views. It hung around for at least 25 minutes in the area before flying off. Both Grey Wagtails were then scared off by one of the Pied Wagtails and flew over to the mudflats in front of the Hide. It was all happening! The Canada Geese that had landed earlier then flew off en masse, wings flapping, all looking like B52s. Then 2 Hobbys gave me a great aerial display as they flew round and round the big island, catching prey in the air.

After lunch I moved off towards the Dragonfly Trail, but I wasn't too hopeful of seeing anything because of the poor weather. Before I got there a Whitethroat was seen singing on top of one of the trees. When I got to the trail I was right about the dragons and damsels. I didn't see any dragons and only a few Azures. But I did hear a Green Woodpecker in the distance. And whilst trying to photograph a Damsel I heard a Kingfisher a couple of times.

As it was still cold and there didn't seem to be much else about I decided to head back to the Viewing Point and then head home. At the VP the Hobbys were still displaying, as were the Redshanks. I then got a phone call from the guy I was at Rye Meads with last week - he was currently sitting in the White Hide! He let me know that the Kingfishers fledged at RM yesterday. Only about 5 days late!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Rye Meads - 7th June 13

Weather: Very warm, sunny, blue skies. Slight cloud.

Birds seen:
Little Grebe; Cormorant; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Shelduck; Canada Goose; Mallard; Shoveler; Gadwall; Teal; Tufted Duck; Pochard; Marsh Harrier; Kestrel; Hobby; Pheasant; Moorhen; Coot; Little Ringed Plover; Lapwing; Black-headed Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Common Tern; Woodpigeon; Collared Dove (H); Swift; Kingfisher; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Pied Wagtail; Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Blackbird; Cetti's Warbler; Grasshopper Warbler (H); Reed Warbler; Sedge Warbler; Chiffchaff; Blue Tit; Great Tit;
Magpie; Carrion Crow; House Sparrow (H); Chaffinch; Greenfinch; Reed Bunting.
Total: 46

Plus: Large White; Orange Tip; Peacock Butterflies.
Plus: Hairy Dragonfly.
Plus: Water Buffalo; Cardinal and Soldier Beetles; Scorpion Fly.

4th time lucky today? I'm afraid the pigs were standing by for their maiden flight. They still didn't fledge. Probably over the weekend now which I won't be attending as it will almost certainly be packed out. A pity but that's the way it goes.

But they did put on a pretty good display today, especially the male, which flew up to the closest perch giving some great views. Everyone in the Hide was delighted. They fed the young every now and then and we witnessed both mating and fish passes throughout the day.

Otherwise it was a pretty good day out again, similar to the previous visits. The Marsh Harrier showed well again from the Warbler Hide and a Grasshopper Warbler sounded off its familiar cricket-like trill again, this time from the left-hand side of the Hide; the Draper Hide provided the best of the action - 2 Shelduck appeared towards the end of the day; a 3rd male Shoveler turned up, as did a 2nd LRP. In fact the LRPs gave quite a good flying display around the island, with the female continually singing and seeming to be a little agitated. She ignored the males puffed up advances and was even seen to chase off a couple of Gadwall. Possibly protecting eggs? A lone Pied Wagtail was again busily feeding on the island. Both male and female GSWs were seen from the KF Hide and most of the usual Warblers were heard along the trails.

Lots more visitors to the Reserve today, again mainly in the KF Hide where there was again standing room only. It clouded over a little towards the end of the visit but it remained very warm and dry. A full week of great weather and about time too!

I left my contact number with one of the volunteers and if I don't hear from him over the weekend I'll assume the Kingfishers haven't fledged and I might try again on Monday. Otherwise it will be Amwell.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Rye Meads - 6th June 13

Weather: Very warm, sunny, blue skies.

Birds seen:
Little Grebe; Cormorant; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Canada Goose; Mallard; Shoveler; Gadwall; Tufted Duck; Pochard; Kestrel; Hobby; Pheasant; Moorhen; Coot; Lapwing; Black-headed Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Common Tern; Woodpigeon; Stock Dove; Collared Dove (H); Swift; Kingfisher; Great Spotted Woodpecker (H); Pied Wagtail; Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Blackbird; Grasshopper Warbler (H); Cetti's Warbler; Reed Warbler; Sedge Warbler; Whitethroat; Blackcap; Chiffchaff; Blue Tit; Great Tit; Long-tailed Tit; Starling; Magpie; Carrion Crow; House Sparrow; Chaffinch; Goldfinch; Greenfinch; Reed Bunting.
Total: 48

Plus: Brimstone; Holly Blue; Large White; Orange Tip; Peacock Butterflies.
Plus: Azure Damselfly, Hairy Dragonfly.
Plus: Water Buffalo; Bombardier Beetle; Scorpion Fly.

The 3rd instalment of the great Kingfisher fledgewatch commenced today. But again no young emerged. Very frustrating. There will have to be another visit tomorrow.

But it was yet another gloriously, hot, sunny day. Hardly a cloud in the sky. If there was a minus it was that the sunshine was a bit too harsh for photography. I played around with the settings today, some ok, some not so ok.

It was another 10-5 day at the office. The staff at Rye Meads are starting to call me FILO - first in, last out. Actually, the gates were open about 10 minutes early so I got to the Kingfisher Hide dead on 10. I met one of the familiar faces on the trail going in and we still found one guy already in there!

The Hide soon filled up and was packed by 11. The usual photographers were in plus a few new faces. All of us enjoying the displays by both parents as they flew in with fish. During the first hour, both parents fed the youngsters, which was a bit disappointing. It meant already that there probably wouldn't be a fledging today. But the male did actually fly up to one of the nearby perches and gave us a really good close-up view. With all the shutters firing off it seemed as if Princess Di had walked in. We also witnessed a mating and both birds checking out a new nest hole.

After about 2 hours I felt that we wouldn't see anything and so I moved off, back to the Draper Hide as I did yesterday. At the Draper there were plenty of birds, as in previous days. This time there were no Little Ringed Plover or Oystercatcher. But there were plenty of Gadwall and Tufted Duck; about a dozen Pochard and a couple of Shoveler. Two pairs of Little Grebes had a couple of disagreements quite near to the Hide. Small numbers of Moorhen; Lapwing; BHGs and Common Tern were seen plus the usual amount of Coots. A Mute Swan swam up close and allowed me to watch it duck its head under the clear water, feeding.

I walked the usual route again but there seemed to be nothing new to report over previous visits. Tern, Gadwall and Warbler Hides were visited but there was not too much to inspire. At the Warbler Hide it was a case of 'After the Lord Mayor's Show' as I only saw one Hobby. The Marsh Harrier never showed. But I did hear a Grasshopper Warbler.

The Trails yielded little, one Azure damsel and a couple of Hairy dragons. A few butterflies were around but not really in any number, despite the windless, warm weather. Warblers were in evidence everywhere, singing away. A Whitethroat and a group of LTTs flew by, busy feeding and chattering away, some of them looking down at me, checking me out.

Back at the KF Hide it was as busy as usual. The Kingfishers will probably have fledged by the start of next week and I wondered how many people would be here then. In fact, today's visitor total seemed well down on previous days. Obviously apart from the KF Hide. My second visit saw one of the Kestrels visit the box a few times; a GSW in the area and the resident Coot chasing off anything that landed on the pond. The Kingfishers continued to come and go and we even witnessed a fish pass. But no fledging. The male again flew up close and posed for a few minutes, showing us his gorgeous colours.

Back at the Draper Hide the resident Pied Wagtail turned up. I also managed to get a few close-up views of Tufted Duck and Pochard.

I kept an eye open, again, for any Dragons and Damsels and even any Shield Bugs today but was again disappointed. But I did managed to get a shot of a Crab Spider.

So, Round Four tomorrow and my last chance. The weekend will see the Reserve packed. And anyway, I fancy a few weekend beers.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Rye Meads - 5th June 13

Weather: Warm, sunny, blue skies. Slight breeze.

Birds seen:
Little Grebe; Cormorant; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Canada Goose; Mallard; Shoveler; Gadwall; Teal; Tufted Duck; Pochard; Red Kite; Marsh Harrier; Buzzard; Kestrel; Hobby; Moorhen; Coot; Oystercatcher; Little Ringed Plover; Lapwing; Black-headed Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Common Tern; Woodpigeon; Stock Dove; Collared Dove (H); Swift; Kingfisher; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Pied Wagtail; Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Blackbird; Cetti's Warbler; Reed Warbler; Sedge Warbler; Blackcap; Chiffchaff; Blue Tit; Great Tit; Starling; Magpie; Carrion Crow; Chaffinch; Goldfinch; Greenfinch; Reed Bunting.
Total: 49

Plus: Brimstone; Large White; Orange Tip; Peacock Butterflies.
Plus: Broad-bodied Chaser, Hairy Dragonflies.
Plus: Water Buffalo; Bombardier and Soldier Beetles; Scorpion Fly.

Another very warm, sunny day. And another visit to RM. Yesterday the Kingfishers failed to fledge and so I turned up to try and see if they would fledge today. But they failed again, which means I will have to pay another visit to RM tomorrow! On the road to the Reserve there was a close-up view of a Chiffchaff. Earlier I had spotted a Shelduck from the train.

As I was trying to witness the fledging today I decided to spend most of the day in the Kingfisher Hide. I met the same volunteer again when I arrived and we marched straight around to the Hide.

Others soon joined us and in a short while there were about 7 or 8 of us, all with various makes of cameras and lenses. There were some pretty big lenses sitting on bigger tripods, making my setup seem quite inadequate.

Indeed, when the KFs appeared, which were on a regular basis, it seemed as if everyone else was clicking away except me. Because, unfortunately, the birds didn't fly up as close today as they did yesterday. So, whilst everyone else took dozens and dozens of photos, I limited myself to just one, both birds sitting on one of the far perches. Today they just flew in, perched on the far post, flew in to the nest, fed the young, flew out to the post, washed themselves a few times, then flew off. That was the story of the day as far as the KFs were concerned.

Other birds seen whilst sitting waiting for the KFs to appear were a male GSW; a pair of Blackcaps; a pair of Gadwall and the resident pair of Kestrels. A little Wren kept flitting across the pond to and fro, keeping us entertained.

There was lots of chatter in the Hide, in between KF sightings, all comparing recent photos of the birds, many of them complaining and deleting photos. It's not just me then.

Around midday I decided that the young were not going to fledge today, at least not for the next couple of hours. So I packed up and walked back to the Draper Hide, to start the visit proper. Here I found pretty much the same birds as yesterday. One of the guys already in the Hide said that he had seen an LRP and a Green Sandpiper earlier.

I moved on down the trail taking the usual route. I was looking out for Dragons and Damsels again. Unfortunately, I didn't spot any Damsels today and only one Broad-bodied Chaser. But there were about half-a-dozen Hairy Dragons around. A few Orange Tips and Brimstones and various Whites and a couple of bedraggled Peacock butterflies were around the Reserve.

There not being much in the way of interesting birds from the Tern and Gadwall Hides I quickly moved on to the Warbler Hide. Unusually I found this Hide full of people, including one of the RSPB staff. She mentioned that the female Marsh Harrier had been seen earlier. While we were waiting I had lunch and halfway through it a couple of Hobbys were seen. Then the Harrier suddenly appeared from the left and flew right across the field hunting low, giving some great views through the Bins. Then, if that wasn't enough, a Red Kite appeared high in the sky and we watched it fly over the Visitor Centre. Two Buzzards joined in the fun in the distance and then another couple of Hobbys appeared dodging the electricity cables. Raptor heaven!

I decided to make my way back along the trails as time was getting on. There were quite a lot of people about today, some familiar faces amongst them. And the Kingfisher and Warbler Hides were quite busy.

There wasn't much going on again in the other Hides until I got to the Draper. Before that, on the trails, I spotted another close-up view of a Chiffchaff; 4 Dunnocks allowed me to get close to witness their feeding behaviour and there were the usual sightings of lots of Warblers.

After just 5 minutes in the Hide an Oystercatcher flew in and stayed around for at least 25 minutes before departing. The LRP was again in view; I counted 4 Lapwings around the lake; a pair of Teal were floating around; a few Common Terns were alternately sleeping and flying; a couple of Stock Doves were inspecting one of the Owl Boxes and a lone Pied Wagtail flew in and was promptly chased off by one of the Lapwings. It was a very entertaining last 45 minutes before I packed up and headed home.

Another day at RM beckons tomorrow, hopefully to witness the Kingfisher fledglings.