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.