Friday, 1 August 2014

Rye Meads - 4th July 14

Weather: Very hot, slight cloud, cool breeze.

Birds Total: 38
Plus: Green-veined White; Large Skipper, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White butterflies. Cinnabar Moth caterpillar.
Plus: Blue-tailed, Common Blue damselflies; Black-tailed Skimmer, Broad-bodied Chaser, Brown Hawker, Emperor dragonflies.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Mirid Bug; Pond Skaters; Soldier Beetle.
Plus: Konik Ponies.

What a day! You could say that it was a 'Chris Packham Rub Your Thighs' day!

My fourth day out in a row and I wondered where to go. RM was next on the list and it turned out to be an inspired decision.

The beautiful hot, sunny weather continued and so, smothered in factor50 and insect repellent I set out for the Reserve. On the way down I spotted a small flock of Lapwing, put up by the train; a pair of Great Crested Grebes and a lone Grey Heron. No sign of the two Little Egrets this time.

At the first pond I could see Green-veined White and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies; Blue-tailed and Common Blue damselflies; a few Soldier Beetles on duty and quite a lot of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on the Ragwort.

Ratty didn't make an appearance all day, possibly because no apples had been left out. Or he had breakfasted on them already. Looking out over the Meadow all I could see were the Konik Ponies. There was a very interesting damselfly though, looking very green in the sunshine but was probably a Blue-tailed.

Just before I reached the Draper Hide I found what turned out to be a newly emerged Mirid Bug, a first for me. A 7-spot Ladybird was seen and a Chiffchaff could be heard singing in the trees.

There weren't too many people in the Hide and, despite the really nice weather, I didn't see very many around the Reserve all day. From the Hide I could see a couple of Mallard broods, each with 8 little ducklings; a Coot family; a pair of Mute Swans with 5 Cygnets; pairs of Common Terns, Lapwing and Little Grebe; a couple of male Shovelers in eclipse plumage; a few female Pochard; Black-headed Gulls with lots of juveniles; a lone Stock Dove on one of the Owl boxes and a few Swifts in the distant sky, heading south.

I headed off up the trail, seeing Comma butterflies as I went, some settled on a leaf, some getting to know each other. A Cetti's Warbler screamed out nearby but I couldn't locate it.

I reached the twin hides and entered the Gadwall Hide first, to see the Black-necked Grebes. About half-a-dozen people were already here and they excitedly pointed out the Grebes, who were all swimming just in front of the Hide. I quickly changed lenses and started taking a few photos.

For the next 20 minutes or so the family put on a wonderful display for us. The little chicks looked like little humbug fluff-balls as they floated on the water, waiting to be fed. They didn't appear to be bothered at all by the noise of our cameras firing off. While I was watching the Grebes a Green Sandpiper flew past us, from right to left, while an Emperor dragonfly skirted the edges of the reeds.

They eventually swam further out and so I headed off, reasonably happy with the shots I managed to get. There wasn't much to report on the trail to the Kingfisher Hide.

Soldier Beetle on guard duty.
Where I expected to have to fight for a seat again but I was pleasantly surprised to find only around 5 or 6 people there. A couple of usual faces were present. Within minutes of sitting down the male Kingfisher arrived and did his usual stint of flying in on the far post; entering the nest; flying out to the middle post; bathing and flying off. 10 minutes later he flew back in to the nest and promptly stayed there for nearly an hour.

In that time we were entertained by 2 or 3 Kestrels on the box on the pylon. Reed Warblers were flying back and forth in front of the Hide, while another Cetti's sang out. A Brown Hawker was circling the lagoon, while the resident family of Coot swam about, trying to scare everything else off.

Then the male KF returned. I feared that he would do exactly the same as usual. But this time he surprised me by flying back out of the nest and on to a protruding stick, nearer to the Hide. Then he flew to a post even nearer. Unbelievably, he then flew onto a nearer post, almost in front of the Hide. Another few minutes later, he flew to the post right in front of me, almost to within touching distance! I was gob-smacked but remembered to carry on taking photos.

A Grey Heron then flew in, squawking away and tried to land. The Coots became very agitated while the KF flew up and around the lagoon before flying off. Somewhat satisfied, as was everyone else there, I headed off up the trail.

On the trail, beside the stream, lots of dragons and damsels flew around. One, a Brown Hawker, landed nearby, allowing a quick photo. Another, a Broad-banded Chaser, also landed, also allowing a shot or two. Lots more Warblers were singing around the area, some of them fledglings.

I sat down in the Warbler Hide and had lunch. There wasn't much out over the Meadow. A few Woodpigeons flying back and forth; a lone Common Tern flying overhead. Then, out to the left, a bird in the sky caught my eye. At first I thought it might be a Hobby, then a Buzzard. But, looking through my Bins, I could see it was a female Marsh Harrier. That was the good news, the bad news was that she kept heading left, above the tree-line and eventually went out of view behind the pylons.

But I was having a really good day!

The walk back to the Kingfisher Hide gave me more dragons and damsels, but I didn't linger too long, the urge to get back to the KFs was proving too strong. Back in the Hide, there were only 3 other people, all waiting patiently for the KF to return. Apparently he was doing much the same thing as earlier.

After about 30 minutes he returned again and, to my delight, he did exactly the same thing as before, eventually sitting on the nearest post to the Hide. He was also facing into the sun and the light was brilliant. Sometimes you find that everything eventually falls into place. Today was one of those days.

Having had my fill of Kingfisher action, I made my way back to the Gadwall to try and get some more BNG action. I could see them about a 100 yards out to the left, along the reed-bed. A pair of Little Grebes decided that they had stepped over the borderline and attacked them. There was a bit of commotion for a few minutes. After about 10 minutes they eventually swam up close again and gave another wonderful display.

I decided to call it a day and headed back down the trail. Just before I got to the meadow I spotted a Black-tailed Skimmer and a Broad-bodied Chaser, alternately posing and fighting.

At the Meadow a Pied Wagtail was hopping about, around the cowshed. I waited for about 5 minutes to see if Ratty would show up but the only thing I saw was a Large Skipper.

A brilliant day at RM and it now climbs back up the medal table.