Twelve people joined me for this walk round the RSPB and Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust Reserve at Rye Meads. It was a nice sunny day so insects were very active, with Red Admiral Butterflies, and Southern & Migrant Hawker, and Common Darter dragonflies seen right from the start of the walk. One of the Southern Hawkers showed very well perching up and allowing the identifying features to be described and pointed out while it was in view.
Male Southern Hawker - note the broad stripes on top of the thorax, green sides to the thorax, and blue spots joined into 'bars' at the end of the abdomen.
The Water Bison and Konik Ponies used to graze the water meadows for management purposes provided a brief distraction, before we continued to explore the reserve.
Chiffchaffs were fly-catching for insects in sunny spots, and one was even tempted to sing for a while. A Cetti's Warbler also gave a couple of brief bursts of song but remained hidden. From the first hide we were able to find Shoveler, Common Teal, Gadwall, and other more common duck species, although most were still largely in their duller eclipse plumage. A male Sparrowhawk also showed very well perched for a while on a tall stick protruding from the reedbed.
Walking round the reserve we saw quite a few more Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers, as well as a couple of Brown Hawkers and a handful of additional butterfly species including Large White and Peacock. One of the Migrant Hawkers posed well to give a good comparison with the earlier Southern Hawker.
Male Migrant Hawker - the stripes on top of the thorax are very short (almost absent), and the spots at the end of the abdomen are separate. The sides of the thorax can't be seen in this photo, but are yellow with a black dividing stripe (see the Rainham visit toward the start of September).
The lagoon hides gave good views of a few Common Snipe, and distant views of Green Sandpipers, as well as Wigeon and a sleeping Garganey, among other species, unfortunately the Garganey barely raised its head while we were in the hide.
Kingfishers breed on the reserve, but had already fledged their final brood this year, so it was a bit hit and miss as to whether we would find one. We were in luck though, and a female Kingfisher showed well 'plunge bathing' by frequently diving into the water, between bouts of preening, when we visited the Kingfisher Hide. A Common Buzzard also showed from here, with a couple more seen later when we took the back route out of the reserve.
A couple of Comma Butterflies were sunning themselves near the turnstile leading out of the reserve, and to finish the day off we had good views of a Water Vole feeding in front of the Water Vole Hide (accessed from outside of the reserve).
A Comma butterfly, displaying the typical 'ragged' rear edge to the wings, and the white 'comma' mark on the underside of the hindwing which gives it it's English name.