Rye Meads - 16th December 14
Weather: Sunny all day, with very little cloud. Very cold.
Bird Total: 40
There have been periods of alternate weather lately. Fine, sunny days followed by overcast and rainy ones. Today was another fine, sunny day. Next up on the visit list was Rye Meads.
A Bittern had been spotted from the Ashby Hide the day before, while I was at Fishers Green. But, again, I was 24 hours too late and there was no sign of it.
Being a Tuesday, it was volunteer work day and there were the sounds of reed cutters everywhere and a work party of around a dozen people were busy strumming away, trying to make the Reserve look its' best for when Spring arrives.
My birding day had started early. Whilst waiting for the train I could hear, then see, a Cetti's Warbler on the trees on the other side of the tracks. It then flew over, right past me and landed behind me on another tree. Unfortunately(?), the train soon arrived and I headed off. On the journey down I spotted the same Buzzard, on the same branch, on the same tree as I had seen on an earlier trip. Harry the Heron also made an appearance.
On the walk down to the Reserve several Goldfinches flew over.
Whilst setting up my stuff in the Visitor Centre a familiar face, usually seen at Amwell, showed up. He had heard about the Bittern and had come down to try his luck. I hope he had better luck than I did.
Looking out from the Draper Hide I immediately spotted a Green Woodpecker, on the side of a tree, right next to the Kingfisher Bank. It looked resplendent in the sun, its' bright red cap, olive green body and golden tail reflecting the rays. It was busy preening and I watched, amused, as every time a Magpie flew close by it edged its' way around the trunk and then back in to the sunshine again. I would have thought a Green Woodpecker would have held its' own against a Magpie. I watched it for about 15 minutes until it flew off.
I peered out over the lagoon. It was still flooded for the winter and there were only a few, small islands, upon which several Shoveler could be seen, asleep in the sunshine. A few Coot and Moorhen could be seen around the area. A lone Stock Dove was perched up on one of the Barn Owl boxes.
There were also quite a lot of Teal out there. The males looked especially good now, in their full breeding plumage. Across the lagoon, at the far end I could see a pair of Common Snipe and a lone Water Rail, feeding out in the open. A few Moorhen were nearby and I expected them to chase the Snipe and Rail off, but they just ignored them and wandered past.
I then sat in the Ashby Hide for a while, hoping to see the Bittern. But it was in vain. I did see another Water Rail scamper past, from one reed-bed to another, but, other than a few Coot and ducks, nothing else was seen. A few people came in, asked the usual question and then wandered off.
I eventually decided to concede defeat and headed off to the twin hides. The usual fare could be seen from the Tern Hide but the drake Pintail was still about outside the Gadwall Hide. Again, it was swimming around at the far end. A lone Pied Wagtail was hopping around the islands, while another Grey Heron was immobile out to the left.
I had seen 70+ Lapwing go up around here while I was sitting in the Draper Hide, but they were now absent. It was actually quite cold in this Hide so I opted to head around to the Kingfisher Hide.
I had been in there for a few minutes when Vicky, the Reserve Manager walked in. I had spoken to her outside, on the walkway. They were all still working away but she had snuck away to have a look for the Kingfishers.
They had also done some work outside this Hide, cutting down a lot of the reeds, while also trimming back the reeds from outside the Kingfisher bank.
Initially, there was one a lone Coot outside. The Lapwing had again been put up, over the Gadwall Hide. Then a female Kingfisher flew in and sat atop one of the branches out to the left. She looked to be in full hunt mode but never dived down to fish. I was sat there watching her when, inexplicably, she just seemed to disappear into thin air! One second she was there, the next, nothing. It was as if 'Scotty' had just beamed her up!
About 10 minutes later she reappeared and sat on nearly the same branch. This time I watched a bit more closely. She flew to a few more branches, looking down at the water but decided that there weren't any fish here worthy of her. She then flew off, past the Hide, never to be seen again.
Shortly afterwards a Sparrowhawk flew up and towards the Gadwall lagoon. Predictably, all the Lapwing went up. Then another Grey Heron flew in, squawking away and alighted on to the camera.
There was nothing much else to report after that until I got back to the Draper Hide. I had ventured down to the Warbler Hide, seeing nothing. Even the Pintail had disappeared, although the Lapwing had returned.
The sun was almost done for the day but it was giving off some of the best light of the day. There were a few more birds out over the lagoon now and some of them swam in close, allowing a few shots. A Kingfisher, the same one(?), flashed past, from right to left, while the Snipe count here rose to three.
But then it got quite dark and the volunteers wanted to close up for the day so I headed home.