Approaching May Half Term we’ve had some very warm weather, but as I write this it’s hammering down with rain! That combo over the last few weeks has brought out some serious greenery, and plenty of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies to go with it. Out of the window by my desk I’ve had a brilliant distraction with starlings making use of a nestbox above the door to the Visitor Centre – they could fledge any day now, with the young poking their heads out of the box calling for food. Elsewhere there’s plenty of baby coots, moorhens and Canada Geese, and we’re very excited by a brood of Red Crested Pochard too. Oh, and obviously there’s a Kingfisher brood too…
With more detail on the sightings over the last few weeks, here’s Mel with his latest mutterings!
Female Red Crested Pochard with the Rye Meads Youth Team! – Paul Smith, Friends of RSPB Rye Meads Facebook Group
The persistent rain didn’t stop the sound of spring with at least one cuckoo calling from the reedbed. They’ve frustrated a lot of visitors over the last few weeks, heard but not seen, however I was one of the lucky ones, spotting a cuckoo near the Kingfisher Hub along with a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Gadwall numbers look to be rising quickly, and the Kestrel pair are active around the nestbox on the pylon too.
A totally different day, warm, bright and sunny, bringing out five butterfly species: Speckled wood, Holly blue, Orange tip, Small white & Peacock. I also had my first Odonata of the year in the form of common blue damselflies. The show was stolen by raptors though, with 3 Hobby hawking insects - another 1st of the year - along with 2 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 1 Red kite & a circling Sparrowhawk. All in all a great day, made even better by chatting to a lovely knowledgeable 6 year old full of enthusiasm for seeing her 1st Kingfisher & Great spotted woodpecker with her grandma. My count for the day - 43 bird species!
I thought my mutterings this week would be insectivorous in nature but upon arrival persistent rain & wind dampened my spirit… That didn’t last long though as an unmistakable sickle shape scythed through the sky, giving me my first sighting of the magical swifts. With the near constant calling of the Cuckoo too I was dreaming of summer. The beautiful white & pink hue of the mayflower shrubs are beaming now! Common Terns seem to be holding on to some territory on the rafts now so fingers crossed for some breeding.
A perfect shot of the current Tern vs Gull battles at Rye Meads - Peter Woods, Friends of RSPB Rye Meads Facebook Group
The sunshine & warmth returned today & the reserve was full of chattering & wonderment with two coaches full of enthusiastic school children giving a delightful hum around the reserve! The butterflies turned their wings with Brimstone, Orange tip, Small White, Large White & Peacock fluttering. Two Cuckoos were competing on reserve with their iconic calls, swift were scything & the warblers were… warbling.
17th May Clearly the hottest day of the year! Small white, Holly blue & Brimstone butterflies were around but it was all about birdsong with Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Cetti’s & Sedge warblers along with a distant Cuckoo. There’s also a ragged robin gaining strength near the Visitor Centre dipping pond that is entertaining staff and volunteers. 37 bird species today!
Large White: one of many butterflies around the reserve at the moment – Robert Kitchen, Friends of RSPB Rye Meads Facebook Group
Today was less windy but felt as warm, two lucky people heard Grasshopper warblers along the path towards Tern& Gadwall hides… I was enjoying the Pink hues of the Dog rose in flower all over the reserve & also several clumps of Yellow Iris in the culverts. From the Draper hide many more Odonata on the wing today all too fast & not landing for my basic identification. Thankfully work party volunteer Jim Boaden was on hand and on the lookout, identifying eight species:
Damselflies - Large Red, Azure, Blue-tailed & Banded Demoiselle;
Dragonflies - Hairy, Four-spotted Chaser, Broad-bodied Chaser & Scarce Chaser
Large Red Damselfly: Jim Boaden, RSPB Rye Meads Volunteer
After some much needed overnight rain the elderflowers seem fresher & more numerous by the Draper hide. This time I did manage to identify blue tailed and azure damselflies settling around the Kingfisher Hub. The resident kingfisher pair are still showing signs of affection & the male is offering gifts of fish with a second nest potentially on the go already. A final Oystercatcher flyover was a treat, adding to my total of 29 bird species today.
Thank you to Mel for his Mutterings, to Jim for the damselfly and dragonfly observations, and to all the observers and photographers that have captured the stars of the reserve over the last few weeks! If you would like to contribute to our sightings please get in touch. Rye Meads is actively recruiting volunteers for a variety of roles, including more roving volunteers, meet and greet volunteers, and contributors to the community blog. To find out more visit the RSPB website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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