The record high temperatures this month did send some of our wildlife (and staff!) hunting for shade and shelter but there has still been plenty to see. We’re also heading into the Summer Holidays, meaning we’ve got six weeks worth of young explorers joining the ranks for our sightings guides coming up!

Here we cover the last three weeks of your records from our sightings book, and contributions from our regular rovers Mel and Paul. Plus, a selection of photos from the Friends of RSPB Rye Meads Facebook group.


Mel’s Mutterings 12th-14th July:

Very hot and humid on the 12th but there were plenty of this year’s fledglings to see, particularly Shoveler, Chiffchaff, Moorhen, Coot, Black-Headed Gull and the brave Tufted Duck mother who still has fifteen ducklings! Three teal could be seen from Draper and the Kingfishers were still whizzing around for fish. By the 13th they had been rejoined by Green Sandpiper and Canada Geese along with the regular Gadwall.

A duo of Little Egrets were at the Gadwall Hide with a Grey Heron for company, but my highlight of the day was finding a Water Vole in the dyke by the Ashby Bridge for a great close-up view! It was quiet for birdsong, but the Black-Headed Gulls as usual didn’t get that memo…

I had an early start on the 14th, meeting Vicky at half 6 in the morning to help empty the moth trap. Forty-plus species were attracted including Scalloped Oak, Jersey Tiger, Dingy and Scarce Footman, Reed Dagger and Silky Wainscott. I returned later in the (very hot) day to see a variety of butterflies and Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies). Broad Bodied Chaser and lots of Green-Eyed Hawker were the fairly normal dragonflies, but a Willow Emerald was a new species for me on the Seasonal Trail. Butterflies included Brimstone, Speckled wood, Small white, Large white, Meadow brown, Comma, Peacock, Red admiral & a first Common Blue of the year.

A feeding Comma Butterfly (Rose Newbold)

Green-Eyed Hawker - Steve Dimbleby

Green-Eyed Hawker (Steve Dimbleby)

Visitor Sightings 11th-17th July

After the second brood of kingfishers fledged on the 10th, we were as usual flooded with brilliant photos of the youngsters. They’re not the only entertainment at the Kingfisher Hub though, along with the kestrels (more in a moment) there’s also been a very charismatic Grey Heron!

At the Tern Hide, several cormorants were seen drying their wings, with another along the river pike-fishing. At the Draper Hide, its been a competition between Green Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Lapwing, with 5 being the highest count on one day for all those species. Late in the week a Wigeon also appeared in the Lagoon opposite the ramp to the Ashby Hide, while there were flyovers from Swift, Sparrowhawk, Red Kites and Buzzards.

Grey Heron very happy with its catch! (Gary Turner)

Juvenile Kingfisher - Rose Newbold

A juvenile kingfisher from the second brood at the Hub (Rose Newbold)

Oystercatcher - Andre Griggs

Oystercatchers are hanging around! (Andre Griggs)


Kestrel Watch

Another of our friendly roving volunteers, Paul, has been regularly stationed near the Kingfisher Hub. A highlight for many here has not been just the signature blue flash of a Kingfisher, but the Kestrels nesting in the box on the pylon that can be seen from the Hub. Paul has kept a regular eye on the fledglings, thanks to him for this blog and the photos:

After a few days of waiting, the two kestrel fledglings ventured out of their nest box for the first time on 9th July. The first made its way onto the top of the nest box and leaped into the trees on the right hand side, only remembering to flap its wings at the last moment. After an hour or so, its sibling, probably feeling lonely, also made its way onto the top of the box, but this one navigated its way along the pylon, nearly slipping and dropping to the floor a few times! After a couple of hours, the first kestrel scrambled its way back up the pylon to be reunited with its sibling – try again another day!

When I next saw them on Wednesday 20th, the juvenile Kestrels were much more confident, exploring the area around their nest box. They are beginning to master their flying skills and gliding over the pond area with such grace. But not flying away too far for too long as l can see they still have a close bond to each other. Both the Male and Female kingfisher are keeping a close eye on them as they venture onto the top of their nesting area and walk along the top. On a personal note, I have never felt so close to nature as I have this year being a guide in the Hide and roaming around the reserve watching all that l have seen and photographed. I hope to be able to see more of what Rye meads has to offer me in the coming months. 

 Thank you Paul!


Mel’s Mutterings: 20th-21st July

Following the hottest day ever, I helped to lead a group walk with other lovely volunteers from Fowlmere & The Lodge. The reserve played ball, showing our highlights which included 4 Little egret, 2 Grey heron, 15 Common tern, plenty of Gadwall, Greenfinch and a singing Reed warbler which despite being no more than two metres from us, remained frustratingly out of sight!

The 21st was mercifully cooler & overcast, offering butterflies with new for year & plenty of them Green veined white, Ringlet, Meadow brown, Gatekeeper, Peacock, Common blue, Speckled wood & also a showy Jersey tiger moth by the VC pond dipping pool sunning on some Hemp agrimony … birds including Kingfisher, Green Sandpiper, 4 Lapwing, Chiffchaff, Blackcap a couple of Teal still at Draper hide .

Greenfinch - Alan Revel

Greenfinch (Alan Revel)

A streamlined kingfisher - excellent action shot! (Paul Wright)


Visitor Sightings 18th-24th July

No less than five Little Egret appeared this week, splitting their time between the Gadwall and Draper hides. As well as the waders, there are plenty of Gadwall, Teal, Pochard and Shoveler at various points of the reserve, with Common Sandpiper joining the earlier arriving Greens at the Draper Hide.

The butterflies and moths being attracted to the hemp agrimony around the pond dipping station have been a big feature over the last week. On the Saturday, Stuart and Caroline from the excellent South East Herts Local Group were stationed there greeting our visitors and had prime position for some excellent shots of Jersey Tiger Moths, Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Comma, and more.

There’s also been a few regular sightings of Water Voles with one in particular playing ball for photography over the course of the week.

Common Blue Butterfly (Caroline Leonard)

Gatekeeper (Stuart Fox)

Shoveler - Peter Woods

Female Shoveler (Peter Woods)

Water Vole - Dave Newbold

Water Vole swimming in the algae (Dave Newbold)


Visitor Sightings 25th-31st July

On the Tuesday we saw evidence of eggshells once again falling from the Kingfisher Hub bank, so a short crossover in broods and a good chance of a successful third this summer. In the meantime the kestrels and herons are keeping everyone occupied!

With the Summer Activity Trail starting, there has been more focus on the Herb and Wildflower Gardens at the front of the Visitor Centre. Emerald Beetles, Painted Ladies and Mint Moths are among the sightings in those areas. The presence of families taking part in pond dipping hasn’t stopped red admirals, commas, Jersey Tigers, Small White, Gatekeeper, Common Blue, Small tortoiseshell, Banded demoiselle, Willow Emerald and Blue Tailed Damselfly all being attracted to the area, while in the pond itself there are an encouraging quantity of newts, water scorpions and backswimmers.

Where Mel and I failed last week, regular visitor Andre Griggs did manage to spot and photograph a reed warbler, while we’ve seen a nice increase in sightings of Green Woodpecker too., had regular sightings of Long Tailed Tit flocks, and the return of Egyptian geese. Also this week, a pair of Garganey have been spotted at various points around the reserve – often elusive and no photos that I’ve seen so far, but they are around I promise! Finally, for the first time in a while, a Peregrine has been seen perched on a pylon.

Much more determined about this catch (John Lawrence) 

One of many Long-Tailed Tits flocking round the site (Hazel Rowlands)

Reed Warbler - Andre Griggs

Always nice to see a reed warbler and not just hear it! (Andre Griggs)

Juvenile Green Woodpecker (Andre Griggs)

Thank you to Mel and Paul for their blogs, the rest of our roving team, visitors who have recorded their observations in our sightings logbook and for all the great photographers who share their work. Thank you for your support!