Friday, 18 May 2012

Rye Meads under a cloud

Graham, Shane and I arranged an impromptu visit to Rye Meads yesterday. It was a rather grey day but very enjoyable nonetheless to wander around this lovely RSPB reserve.

Shane and I arrived 45 minutes before the gates opened (whoops) but the staff let us into the car park, so we could go into the Lapwing hide. This commands a fine view across a large rectangle of marshy grassland, over which flew Lapwings (well, of course) and Black-headed Gulls. A pair of Shovelers near the hide looked dismayed when we arrived (this is one of the problems with the very large hide windows that seem to be everywhere these days) and flew away. Threesomes of Gadwalls periodically took off from the marsh and flew a circuit around it before pitching back down again. Over a distant ridge I glimpsed a Fox - could it have been Alice, the famous Rye Meads Vixen? Oh yes, and this Sedge Warbler was giving it some from the scrubby edges.

 We stayed in the Lapwing hide til 10am, adding a distant Pheasant to the day list but not seeing the Marsh Harrier that was here yesterday. Comic relief was provided by a Magpie and a Woodpigeon, the Maggie chasing the Woodpig around and trying to topple it off the fence posts.

On to Draper hide (can you tell I'm checking the reserve map?). Now, I don't know if any fans of the sci-fi animated series Futurama are watching... well, there is an episode where we briefly get to see what Leela, the one-eyed space captain, would look like with two eyes, when her reflection is distorted in a rippling puddle. The same effect has happened here with this Pochard, but I'm not sure if having two eyes on the same side of the head is a good look for a duck.

 There are several pairs of Little Grebes at Rye Meads, two of them uneasily sharing the small lake on view from Draper hide. No Great Cresteds though, for some reason.

We carried on along the trail, through avenues of fragrant hawthorn and other springlike vegetation, to the Kingfisher hide. This hide attracts lots of visitors on a good day, as it provides guaranteed (though not particularly close) photo opportunities of the Kingfishers that are breeding in an artificial sandbank. There is plenty of other stuff to see while you wait, including this handsome male Gadwall, and a pair of Tufted Ducks that seemed to be in courtship mode despite the male beginning to moult into eclipse plumage. A real treat was a pair of Bullfinches chomping buds in the bushes. After a half-hour wait a Kingfisher arrived, disappeared into the nest hole, popped out again and left - blink and you'd miss it.

 As we left the Kingfisher hide, we noticed the soft chorus of 'tcks' and 'prrps' that meant there were Long-tailed Tits around. There was in fact a family group, adults plus at least six fledglings, picking about in the bushes along the trail, and we eventually got great views of the bandit-masked babies and their haggard-looking parents.

We followed the trail up to Warbler hide. This seems a good time to talk warblers - over the day we had Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat (heard only - dammit!), Garden, Sedge, Reed and Cetti's. The Warbler hide overlooks the expanse of reedbed at the far side of the same marshy patch you see from Lapwing hide. On the way up the ramp into this hide we flushed this Pheasant.

From the hide we could hear and occasionally see Reed Buntings and Reed Warblers, and things looked perfect for a fly-by Hobby but that didn't happen. After a while I left the hide to indulge my Swift-photographing addiction in less than ideal conditions. One of the local Kestrels went by.

We retraced our steps, heading back for the Kingfisher hide for another try. On the ways we saw settled Orange-tips of both sexes (it had warmed up a little, though was still cloudy). Here's the female.

More insect action! Where the path divides in two, the air at head-height on the right-hand path was completely occupied by these swarming Honey-bees. We took the left-hand path.

Back at the Kingfisher hide, we didn't have to wait even a microsecond, there was a Kingfisher installed on a post (sadly the most distant one) as we walked in. It was having a good old preen, presumably removing the slimy residue of its last meal.

From this hide there's a great view of a pylon, with a Kestrel nestbox on it. We saw the female Kestrel arrive with prey, and then noticed the male was sitting in a nearby dead tree. Graham said that this tree could be seen much better from part of the boardwalk, so we left the hide and hurried off that way to have a look.

He was still there when we arrived, and sat unconcerned while we took pictures. I even had time to experiment with some pretty extreme exposure compensation, to try to deal with the backlighting. Then a couple of Common Terns came over and while we were admiring them the Kestrel discreetly flew away.

Our last stops were the back-to-back Tern and Gadwall hides. From Tern hide we saw two Common Sandpipers, one of which eventually came close to the hide but sadly I'd left by that point to photograph Swifts again (sigh) so had to settle for admiring Graham's lovely photos of it. I include this photo because I like the way the sandpiper seems to be trying to sneak past the sleeping Pochard. Good views of the Common Terns from Gadwall hide, a couple of Sand Martins from Tern hide. Then it was back to the visitor centre where I had a cup of tea from a complicated machine, and then home time.

ETA - I nearly forgot about this one - weird insect found inside one of the hides. I think it is a moth-fly (also known as 'owl-midge'), family Psychodidae. Anyone able to shed any more light? It was very small and I didn't have the macro lens, so it's a pretty rubbish photo.


ShySongbird said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ShySongbird said...

A very interesting post and lovely photos again Marianne. You do seem to have some lovely reserves in your area! I'm very envious of the Kingfisher photo having never managed one :-(

I was looking at the product description of your book Photographing Garden Wildlife on Amazon and the misprint I noticed conjured up visions of standing in the garden wearing nothing but a camera!!! ;-)

Warren Baker said...

Another wildlife packed adventure Marianne, I love the brightnes of that woodpigeon photo, not seen light like that for ages!

Noushka said...

A great series of photos!
What a pleasure to discover your blog!
I'll go and see your "dragons"!

Marianne said...

Thanks folks :) ShySongbird - LOL! I hadn't spotted that. I should ask them to change it... but I'm tempted not to...

ZielonaMila said...

Beautiful photographs, beautiful birds. I am greeting

Rohrerbot said...

Holy moly!!! You sure did see quite a bit. Love the pheasant and bandits especially....excellent shots. This looks like a great place to bird! Also huge fan of the Kingfisher family...beautiful birds.

Francesca Muir said...

Thank you Marianne - great blog and beautiful photos - found you via your "swallow friend", Valerie in France. Francesca aka Chanky!

Lorraine said...

Hi Marianne,
A lovely description of your day and and super photographs as always. I was in your part of the world at the beginning of the month visiting Dungeness and Rye Harbour. Had a great trip and saw lots of birds despite the weather being less than kind!
Best wishes, Lori (aka Sarum Bat)