Weather: Overcast and cloudy very early morning, very hot and sunny thereafter.
Great Crested Grebe; Cormorant; Little Egret; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Greylag Goose; Canada Goose; Mallard; Gadwall; Tufted Duck; Pochard; Buzzard; Moorhen; Coot; Lapwing; Black-headed Gull; Common Tern; Woodpigeon; Collared Dove; Kingfisher; Great Spotted Woodpecker (H); Wren (H); Dunnock; Blackbird; Song Thrush (H); Cetti's Warbler (H); Reed Warbler; Sedge Warbler; Garden Warbler; Whitethroat; Blackcap; Chiffchaff; Blue Tit; Great Tit; Long-tailed Tit; Treecreeper (H); Magpie; Jay; Jackdaw; Carrion Crow; Chaffinch; Goldfinch (H); Greenfinch (H); Reed Bunting. Total: 44
Plus: Fox; Grey Squirrel; Rabbit.
Plus: Comma, Large White, Ringlet, Small Heath, Small Tortoiseshell butterflies.
Plus: Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Red-eyed damselflies. Brown Hawker, Emperor dragonflies.
Plus: Bee-fly; Buff-tailed Bumblebee; Cardinal Beetle; Cuckoo Spit; Green Lacewing; Green Shield Bug; Hoverfly.
Today had been touted as the start of a long bout of really hot and sunny weather. It started out cloudy and overcast but by 7.30 the sun had broken through and had burned most of the cloud off. Thereafter it was very warm for the rest of the day.
So I thought I should try and make the most of it by arriving at the Reserve by 6.30. Exiting quite a packed train I had to walk over the bridge but spotted 2 Collared Doves in doing so. Walking down the canal and arriving at Friday lake I spotted a Kingfisher flying across. A good start.
From the Teal Hide at the Hall Marsh Scrape there was a Little Egret fishing on the pond, which was soon joined by 2 more. A Grey Heron was out to the left while a lone Lapwing was out to the right. The only other birds on view were a pair of Mute Swans; Coots; Moorhens and BHGs. It was a bit cloudy with mist over the pond plus there was lots of pollen flying about causing a sneezing fit. My spectacles also kept misting up. Oh, the hardships of wildlife watching!
I spent 30 minutes here before heading off. Just outside on the trail a pair of Chiffchaffs were busily moving through the branches, feeding. Further on a Brown Hawker flew past, my first of the year. A Song Thrush was singing somewhere in the trees, as were a pair of Wrens and a couple of Reed Warblers. Out on the lakes there were Canada and Greylag Geese, who initially followed me expecting to be fed plus a lone Cormorant. There were plenty of Damsels around here, mainly Common Blue and Blue-tailed. Then I inadvertently flushed out a GCG, which quickly swam off, keeping a red eye on me. A male Blackcap started singing but it took a minute or so to locate it. I arrived at the bridge soon after to be greeted by a pair of Dunnocks; a juvenile Great Tit and a Chiffchaff, all on the same dead tree. Looking out over the lakes from the bridge gave views of lots of Mute Swans; Greylags; Tufted Ducks; Mallards; a fishing Common Tern, another GCG and a lone male Pochard.
There was more of the same when I arrived at Seventy Acres Lake. By the time I started walking down the trail to Fishers Green the sun had well and truly arrived, the clouds finally disappearing. Another Blackcap was heard and seen. Then I stopped to try and locate the GCGs that were nesting around here last month but they had gone. Canadas and Greylags were here as well but with the addition of juveniles. Then I spotted a GCG sitting on a nest and I slowly crept up on it, not wishing to disturb it. There was only the one adult and I eventually found out that it was sitting on at least 4 eggs. The second adult was nowhere to be seen. With the sun out the GCG was very photogenic and so I hung around for a little while, hoping to catch a family photo.
Moving on down the trail I found a large family group of Greylags feeding on the path snatching at the grass. I had intended to quietly move around them but a cyclist just bulldozed past, almost hitting some of them. As I passed them myself they started to follow me, again probably thinking I had food for them.
Looking out over the lake itself I spotted another GCG; 50+ ducks, mainly Gadwall, in a group, most of which were asleep and I could also hear a Cetti's Warbler belting out its number. By now I was nearly covered by spider webs, floating on the very light breeze and there were thousands of midges, all in their own cluster clouds. Then I spotted yet another GCG on the relief channel which I suspected could be the other half of the nesting bird, so I waited and then started to follow it until it decided to turn around and swim back the other way. Sedge Warblers were showing well around this area.
I arrived at the Bittern Hide and found it empty. As I opened up the windows I scared off a Grey Heron. The feeders were also empty and so consequently there were none of the garden birds about. In fact, unusually, I didn't see a Robin all day. But Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings were showing well, with a male Bunting being particularly accommodating. A female was also about, flying around with nesting material. Then I was delighted to see a male Banded Demoiselle fly in and land on a leaf just in front of me. Not long after a Grey Squirrel jumped onto the feeders looking for a free handout but he was soon to be disappointed.
Looking out over the lake there were about a dozen or so Common Terns on one of the Tern Rafts; lots of BHGs with young of various ages on the other rafts; the usual Coots and Mutes were also around. When the Demoiselle left I decided to head off too.
Walking through the picnic area I spotted a Speckled Wood butterfly. In fact there were quite a few SWs flying around today, together with Ringlets and Small Tortoiseshells. Entering the trail towards the Weir and the Grebe Hide I found more Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs singing in the trees. Then I flushed a Jay, which flew off before I could get the camera on it. I visited a few fisherman platforms and was rewarded with dozens of Blue-tailed Damsels. Common Terns were fishing along here and also a few Dragons which I couldn't ID as they didn't settle. Another Demoiselle was seen but I couldn't get near it as it was very skittish. Greenfinch and Goldfinch could be heard. A male, eclipsing, Mallard swam past.
There were quite a few dog-walkers around today, as well as cyclists and a couple of joggers. There were nearly as many Fishermen as well. A few other Birders were also about, some of which I spoke to. Especially a guy called Pete who I met towards the end of the day. We discovered we lived quite near each other and he kindly gave me a lift home in his car a little later on. Small world! Well, in Hertfordshire anyway.
More Ringlets and Speckled Woods were along this trail and then I spotted a Small Heath, another first of the year. A Garden Warbler was seen and then heard. Then I could hear a Jackdaw flying over. 30 more Canada Geese then swam over to me and then swam away, finding out they were also to be disappointed in the feeding stakes. Then another first, a Comma butterfly landed. Then another. Then I could hear lots more Jackdaws. A Commotion of Jackdaws? Further along another Demoiselle was seen but was again very skittish and flew off before I could get near. Arriving at Holyfield Weir only Canadas and various ducks, including a Mallard with 3 chicks were about.
From here to the Grebe Hide a Treecreeper could be heard squeaking its high-pitch tone. More Blackcaps and butterflies and damselflies were all along here. I sat down in the Hide and took my bag off, my shirt wet with sweat. At the Hide itself, looking out over the lake there was only one GCG to be seen, feeding, while more Mutes and Coots and Canadas were again in evidence. I could hear a GSW from the left while the Cormorant colony was quite loud to my right. More GCGs began to turn up, in all I saw 7 from this Hide. A Grey Heron was fishing on the distant shore as was another Common Tern close in. Then I was delighted to spot my first Green Shield Bug of the year fly in and land just in front of the Hide. As I was looking at it I caught sight of a Red-eyed Damselfly. As I continued to scan the area in front more Red-eyes were seen.
I broke for lunch which of course attracted a GCG, which swam up close but I encouraged him to catch his own lunch, a huge fish, which he took a minute or so to swallow. Then another Demoiselle flew in and landed near the GSB, allowing a couple of photos, before flying off.
I left the Hide and almost immediately spotted another male Demoiselle and then a Hawker, which looked like an Emperor, but I couldn't be 100%. I 'stepped' down another fishermans area and sat for a few minutes in the sun and soon more Demoiselles turned up, one very close, as did a couple of Red-eyed damsels. Then a female Banded Demoiselle turned up and I feared she was too quick for me and flew off, but a minute later she flew back and allowed a few photos. Typical female!
Moving on there were 50+ Jackdaws circling high above me, making their characteristic chack calls. I wasn't sure what was happening. Soon after, across the relief channel I spotted a Fox looking right at me, before lazily wandering off. Then a Whitethroat flew up onto a branch giving a great photo opportunity but was scared off by a cyclist.
I had broken out into another sweat by the time I got back to the Bittern Hide, only to find it locked and closed for some reason. So I sat on a wooden bench in the shade by the viewing area just outside. There were a few people feeding the ducks, attracting a territorial Swan which tried to chase off everything else and then I saw a Buzzard flying over. LTTs were feeding and flying around while I could hear Goldfinches about.
I decided to head back to the Grebe nest to try and get a family portrait in the sun, but when I got there only one GCG was around again. I sat down and waited. This is when I met Pete, who had turned up for the same reason. About 10 minutes later we were rewarded by a show of at least 4 eggs when the Grebe got up and stretched.
After a few more photo-calls we headed off home, but not before seeing another Kingfisher flash past and land on a nearby dead tree on the river. Unfortunately, it was only there for a few seconds before flashing off again.