Birds Total: 38
Plus: Comma, Common Blue, Green-veined White, Large White, Peacock, Small White, Speckled Wood Butterflies.
Plus: Blue-tailed damselfly. Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: Rudd; Water Buffalo with one calf; Water Vole; various Bees, Hoverflies, Spiders and Wasps.
It's official. Today the summer became a two-bottle day. I had to break in a 3rd bottle of sunscreen. I can't remember the last time I used up two bottles in one summer.
It was again another gloriously warm, sunny day. Although the weather forecasters got it slightly wrong. The clouds were supposed to disappear after 10am but they hung around all day. Though there was also a refreshingly cool breeze too.
Today was a Bank Holiday and I was expecting a lot more people to be around. I was right, there were 3 or 4 times the normal number. But it was warm and sunny, so I had to be out and about. The rest of the week is also forecast to be warm and sunny.
Today was also all about the hunt for the Water Vole. Quite a few had been reported in recent days and I was eager to try and see a few myself. I had seen a couple on a recent trip to Rainham Marsh and I wanted to try and photograph them here too.
I headed straight for the walkway where they had been seen and waited. Fortunately I only had to wait about 5 minutes before the first one showed itself, rustling the reeds. Then another one appeared. But neither were very good views, they were partly hidden by the reeds. Then, on the other side of the walkway, I could hear another munching away. He too was partly hidden but then he moved out into the open, still munching. A further Vole also appeared further out. I'd only been here 10 minutes and I was in Vole Heaven.
Plenty of people came by, some talking loudly. They saw me with a finger to my lips and quietened down. Edging closer to me, I pointed out where the Voles were. The next thing I heard were Ooo's and Ahh's. From the visitors, not the Voles. We were all royally entertained by the small troupe of Water Voles for the next 30 minutes or so. People were also looking through the viewing gap to try to if there were any more. It must have looked like a gurning competition to the Voles!
Finally feeling all Voled out I moved on to the Draper Hide. On the way I spotted a Lesser Marsh Grasshopper; a couple of Blue-tailed Damselflies; a Blackcap; 3 Pheasants; 3 Little Egrets; 2 Lapwing and a Grey Heron. It was quite a good start to the day.
There wasn't too much to see from the Hide however. There were probably more people in the Hide than there were birds outside it. At times it was standing room only. The best on show were Little Grebe; male Shoveler in eclipse and a Green Sandpiper. I was only in there for about 10 minutes, making way for others.
On the trail there were plenty of butterflies about including a male Common Blue, Comma and lots of Speckled Woods. Plenty of Dragons too, mainly Migrant Hawkers. But again there were no other damselflies seen for the rest of the day. Further on I could hear lots of Starlings but couldn't see them. Then I spotted them high up on one of the pylons. Their superb iridescence reflecting the sun.
I eventually arrived at the twin Hides. There being nothing much to report from the Gadwall I concentrated on the Tern. And I was rewarded with views of a Greenshank; a pair of Green Sandpipers; 3 Common Terns; another Grey Heron; a Sparrowhawk flying right to left in front of the Hide plus lots Gadwall and Coot; Shoveler; Teal and Wigeon. Just exiting the Hide I heard, then saw, a pair of Sedge Warblers.
It was in the Tern Hide that a couple of visitors were making the most of their visit. They had brought a veritable feast with them, including a bottle of bubbly with associated glasses! It made my cheese sandwich and orange juice seem a bit mundane.
I then spent about 40 minutes in the Kingfisher Hide. Unfortunately, although a KF had been seen just after 10 they weren't seen again until the end of the day. This could be bad news. It was generally agreed last week that the 3rd brood eggs had hatched but on today's evidence it looks like a failure to launch. Early days yet but predators of either the brood or one of the parents seems likely. One of the RSPB volunteers that was also present had photos of diseased Stickleback that could also have been a cause. That would be very disappointing. I'll keep an eye on reports.
Whilst I was in the busy Hide I spotted another Sparrowhawk fly-past, just as I was eating lunch. I made a mental note to try and make a more adventurous lunch next time. Greenfinches and Blackcaps were the only birds around, apart from the resident Coots and Gadwall. Dragons were also around, Common Darters, Migrant Hawkers and a female Brown Hawker ovipositing right in front of the Hide.
On the trail down to the Warbler Hide there was plenty of Lepidoptera and Odonata action, some of which gave a few poses. But most didn't. The Warbler Hide area didn't yield very much, other than a Grey Heron and lots of Wood Pigeons. The odd Little Egret flew up in the distance.
The walk back, via the same Hides, provided similar action but with the addition of an early instar Shield Bug. Back at the Draper Hide there was again the same fare but with an appearance of a pair of Green Sandpipers and yet another Grey Heron. I could also hear lots of splashing but couldn't pinpoint where it was coming from. After a few minutes a Mute Swan with 5 Cygnets appeared just in front of the Hide. It was the Swans having a noisy meal.
I ended the day as I started it, photographing the Water Voles. And again pointing them out to various people walking past. All were delighted. Looking out over the Meadow I spotted the usual Water Buffalo but this time with a calf which had just been born overnight.
Lots of good weather; lots of people; lots of fun.
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