Thursday, 26 March 2015

Nothing to see here, move along!

Rye Meads - 2nd March 15

Weather: Some sun, with cloud. Very cold wind.

Bird Total: 40
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Water Vole.

It was my first visit of the year to RM. Unfortunately, not a lot has been happening there of late. They have had one or two excellent recent sightings, including Bittern, but, to be honest, other local Reserves have seen the same birds, only more of them. And for longer periods.

But I bit the bullet and travelled down to see what was about. sadly, not a lot. Not many species; not many birds; not many visitors.

On the journey down I spotted a lone Little Egret and on the walk up to the Reserve there were a few Long-tailed Tits about.

But it was very, very quiet once in the Reserve. The feeding area, just outside the Visitor Centre was feederless. And birdless. But there was a nice bunch of Snowdrops growing in the picnic area.

There was nothing at all to see until I got to the Draper Hide. Nothing over, in or around the HMWT Meadow. No Ratty at Water Vole Corner. Not a thing to be seen on the trail to the Hide.

The lagoon outside the Hide was still quite high. Plenty of Shoveler were about, plus a couple of pairs of Teal, which were mostly asleep. A Little Grebe wailed out somewhere unseen and a pair of Stock Doves flew in, landed but immediately flew out again. But, aside from Coot; Gulls and Ducks, nothing else.

View from the Ashby Hide.
I quickly decided to emulate the Doves and moved on up the trail. It was still eerily quiet until I reached the Ashby Hide. I didn't expect to see much from here and I was right. Only 3 Tufted Duck; 2 Mallards and a Little Grebe. All of which, except the Grebe, were asleep. I started to yawn myself.

So I moved on. Just outside the Hide a Jay flew overhead. The cold wind was starting to bite, so I tightened my magic scarf, muttering a few incantations.

A few Great and Blue Tits flew past as I reached the twin hides. Surely there would be something to see here? Sandpipers and Shelduck have been reported here recently.

I sat down in the Gadwall Hide and looked out. The cold wind was blowing in from the lagoon, so I wimped out and kept the window closed. I was a little surprised to see the water levels quite high here as well.

Consequently, there were only a few small islets out on the lagoon, where about 20 Lapwing could be seen, amongst approx 100+ Gulls of various colours, shapes and sizes. All of them facing the same way, into the wind. There were a few Tufties; Teal and another Little Grebe at the back of the lagoon, all asleep, sheltering out of the wind. But, not a lot else. Even Coot numbers were down here.

But then, just as I was about to leave, a lone Shelduck suddenly appeared out of nowhere, head bobbing down, feeding every few seconds. It was towards the back of the lagoon and it didn't look like it was going to get any closer to me. It must have been a female.

A quick look from the Tern Hide proved even more disappointing. Outside of the Tern season it was always the Coot and Gull show on this lagoon. But today there were only 3 Coot to be seen.

The only interesting thing that could be seen out on this lagoon was the strangely weird patterns the strong wind was making on the surface of the water.

With a growing sense of dread I moved on up the trail, towards the Kingfisher Hide. At this rate, it would be the quickest visit ever. I was even thinking of being home before 1pm.

Just before I walked up the steps to the Hide, feeling a little like a condemned man, I heard a Greenfinch calling out its' wheezy call.

Inside the Hide, Brian, one of the 'RM KF Crew' was sat in his favoured position, at one end of the Hide, poised, as usual, camera and long lens at the ready.

He pointed me to the, probable, resident pair of Kingfishers, sat sitting on the branches, outside the KF Bank.

Just then, another 2 members of the 'Crew' entered the Hide. Mary and Katy. A few more people came and went over the next 90 minutes, including an irate woman from the ground floor tier, complaining about the noise we were making. Pardon us for breathing.

We were entertained by the Kingfishers for most of the period I was in the Hide. Both were continually calling to each other and both were flying around, from perch to perch. Every now and then, one or the other would check out one of the nest-holes.

In between all this excitement we also had a fleeting glimpse of a Water Vole, to the left of the Hide; a Kestrel, which flew over; a little Wren moving around and finally we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker at the far end of the lagoon.

We were all expecting the Kingfishers to get the mating season off to a flying start, but both exited stage left, probably to feed. So I decided to move on, towards the Warbler Hide.

Sadly, it was back to seeing nothing again. The only thing of note before I returned to the KF Hide was the horrifying sight of most of the trees; bushes and shrubs having been cut down, all along the trail up towards the Hide.

I'm not too sure what the Reserve is trying to achieve here but this used to be the best place for Dragonflies and Damselflies. They would use the flora to soak up the sun before getting on with their busy day. It will be interesting to see what happens here when the flight season starts.

The only birds seen in between KF Hide visits were 2 Coot; 2 LTTs and a Robin, for which I left a handful of birdseed. It seemed grateful for the handout.

Back at the Kingfisher Hide, the Kingfishers showed up again, doing much the same thing as before. There was also a good sighting of a Chiffchaff and a Goldfinch, out of the right-hand window. I could also see a pair of Redwing behind and to the left of the Kingfisher Bank.

On the return journey I took a quick, fruitless look from the Gadwall Hide, seeing nothing extra, before arriving back at the Draper Hide. From here the only addition was sightings of 3 Common Snipe, towards the back of the lagoon, 2 of which were asleep. I was beginning to think that I should have stayed in bed today.

And that was it. I have never seen so few birds on the Reserve before. It could possibly be put down to having just entered the migration period. Our birds having moved on, with the incoming birds not having arrived yet.

Either way, I probably won't be back until the next quarter, for the possible re-appearance of the Black-necked Grebes. And possibly for the fledging Kingfishers. If I can manage to get into the Hide.

One last thing happened before I left. I was reprimanded by a staff member for feeding the birds. It's a bird reserve, isn't it? And it was bird-seed, not white bread.

'It's best to have failure happen early in life.' Anne Baxter