Weather: Mainly cloudy, some sunshine. Quite warm.
Bird Total: 47
Plus: Grey Squirrel.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue damselflies; Broad-bodied Chaser, Hairy dragonflies.
Plus: Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Large White, Peacock, Small White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Black-headed Cardinal Beetle; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Click Beetle; Common Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Hoverflies; Mayfly; Midge; Red and Black Froghopper.
The day was forecast for clear, sunny skies early on, clouding over a little later. So I made a decision to head down to the Reserve a little earlier than normal, arriving just before 9. Which meant that it was a packed commuter train, having to stand all the way. All I could see outside was a lone Little Egret, as we whizzed by.
There was nothing much out on Friday Lake, only a few Coot. A Cetti's Warbler sounded off somewhere, while a few Long-tailed Tits flew by, twittering away. As I approached the Teal Hide I noticed the sun drop behind a cloud, which was probably the reason why not many insects were about. But I did notice a few Red and Black Froghoppers; plenty of spiders and lots of bees, which is a good sign.
Looking out from the Teal Hide, which was almost full of litter, there was only a few more Coot; pairs of Mute Swans and Mallards; and a lone Moorhen. But I could hear a Cuckoo calling. Then, a few minutes later, I spotted a couple of Little Egrets, one out to the right and one out to the left. Just behind the one out to the right, a pair of Grey Herons could be seen.
Then a female Banded Demoiselle damselfly flew in and landed on a grass stem, just 2 or 3 yards away from me. I could also see several blue damsels as well, mostly Blue-tailed. Then a Hairy dragonfly flew past. A Chiffchaff was calling out and then I heard, then spotted a male Reed Bunting.
Unbelievably, we then had a short, light rain shower. Thankfully it was the only one of the day. A Green Woodpecker yaffled off somewhere in the distance. Just before I left a pair of Lapwing flew up in one of their display flights.
Just outside the Hide I was looking at a few male Banded Demoiselles, beside the stream, when I caught sight of a family of Blackcaps, mostly females, flitting through the branches. When they disappeared I tried to locate the Demos again, but failed. Blue-tailed and Azure damsels were very prominent now, in the sunshine that had reappeared. More Froghoppers were about.
I started off around the trail. But I was constantly attacked by Pollen and Midges. The pollen especially seemed to be targeting me, homing in and trying to turn me into a snowman. If it wasn't pollen it was the midges. I'd even managed to remember to put on my insect repellent. Maybe it was the repellent that was attracting them! And not only was I having to dodge the twin evils, I was also trying to dodge all the poo on the trails. There was some dog poo, yes and some of it was again tied up in neat little bags, onto branches, but most of it looked like Geese poo.
Unfortunately there wasn't much to see around the trail today. Mostly blue damsels and a few Holly Blue butterflies. Surprisingly, given the good weather and a light wind, I didn't see many butterflies all day, maybe less than a score of them.
Just before I joined the main trail I finally spotted a pair of Great Crested Grebes, with at least one humbug. At the Bridge I could hear another Cuckoo, or maybe it was the same one.
Being a nice sunny day brought out lots of people. Unfortunately, most of them were dog-walkers. At Hooks Marsh Lake, in the car-park, I spotted a van advertising their speciality in walking dogs. I was tempted to let their tyres down.
Just as I entered the trail towards the Bittern Hide I spotted another male Banded Demoiselle. I'd seen a few by now, which was encouraging. I was hoping to see and photograph some more later on.
The Bittern Hide was empty when I arrived. Out on the lake, other than the usual, were 3 Egyptian Geese, a pair of Great Crested Grebes; a couple of male Pochard and several Common Tern. On the pond directly in front were the usual Coot and Moorhen. A few Blue and Great Tits were on the feeders. Both Reed and Sedge Warblers were flitting around the reeds in front, together with a couple of Reed Buntings.
A male Hairy dragonfly was patrolling the pond and then a Broad-bodied Chaser whizzed past. A Speckled Wood butterfly fluttered by. The Black-headed Gulls were making a right racket, as they always do at this time of the year. And then a family of Magpies turned up, one of which attacked the feeders. Junior was nearby, calling out to be fed.
I decided to head up to the Grebe Hide and just as I entered the trail I spotted a Feral Pigeon. Which was a bit of a surprise, there not being many sightings of them around here. It was usually either Woodpigeons or Collared Doves. Then a 'Manky Mallard' swam past, all white, together with a normal looking female.
I started to check all the fishing areas for dragons or damsels, finding several Banded Demoiselles. Unfortunately, none of them were in a good enough position for photos. There were also lots of other blues, of course, plus one Hairy dragon.
There were one or two butterflies along here, notably more Holly Blues, a couple of Green-veined Whites and a single Peacock. Further on I could hear Goldfinch; Jackdaw and Song Thrush and then I finally came across a male Banded Demoiselle perched up nicely, with the sun behind me.
I arrived at the Weir to find only Canada Geese and a few Coot. A little earlier I had heard, seen and photographed a Chiffchaff and a few Long-tailed Tits. As I walked across the car-park a Cardinal Beetle flew towards me and promptly crashed into my chest, before falling on to the asphalt in front of me. I thought it was a red-headed one and, although I had already photographed a few in recent weeks, decided to photograph this one too, for posterity. It wasn't until I arrived home and looked at the photos on my laptop that I found it to be the rarer Black-headed species. My first one and I was highly delighted.
There was no further excitement until I reached the Grebe Hide. Outside I could see several pairs of Great Crested Grebes, a few pairs of which were sitting on nests, with one quite near to the Hide. There was also a multitude of Canada Geese and Coot, with a few Greylag Geese and Mute Swans, all swimming around.
Then I witnessed a few bits of odd behaviour. The first was a female Mallard with two ducklings, swimming into view from the right. They were soon followed by a male, who proceeded to harass them. The female then promptly flew off, leaving the two little ducklings alone. The male had soon followed. A few minutes later, out to the left, I could just make out the male forcing himself onto the female. The ducklings floated over towards them. I didn't see any of them again.
Meanwhile, the nearest Grebe nest was right next to a Coot nest and both Grebe and Coot began to have several face-offs. As did a wandering Cormorant, who was shouted at by the Grebes. Nothing actually happened and I wondered, if it did all kick off, who would prevail. Several other Grebes were also have contretemps.
It was so fascinating to watch I promptly broke for lunch.
I noticed that most of the foliage from previous years had been cut back, just in front of the Hide. But on the few branches that were left, a couple of Blue Tits landed and began pecking up lots of nesting material. Then another Cuckoo began calling.
Little Egrets flew past, from right to left, then a Common Tern flew from left to right. Another pair of Great Crested Grebes began building a nest to my right.
I headed back, immediately seeing a Jay flash past, followed quickly by a Green Woodpecker. There were several more Demoiselles along the trail, but nothing to compare with the earlier male.
When I arrived back in the Bittern Hide I inadvertently came upon a young couple, who quickly left, with embarrassed faces. They were both juveniles, adjusting their summer plumage, probably checking out possible courtship and nesting sites.
The only addition from this Hide was a Jay flypast. I left soon after myself and headed back along the trail towards the Station. The main reason for coming down to the Reserve was to check out a pair of Great Crested Grebes, who were nesting along the relief channel. Somehow I had missed them coming in, but I managed to spot the female sitting on the nest on the return route.
I had to wait for around 40 minutes before there was a changeover. I was eager to see if the chicks had hatched out, but, surprisingly they were still sitting on eggs. They can take upto 4 weeks to incubate and hatch, so they must have just laid them the last time I turned up. I'll have to return in a week or so, to photograph the chicks.
I headed off home soon after. A good day, made better by the discovery of the Black-headed Cardinal Beetle.
'Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today, if you do, it may lead to sorrow, 'cause if you do it today and you like it, you can do it again tomorrow.'