Saturday, 25 April 2015

Rye Meads

The weather in Southern England had been unusually pleasant.  I don't even know the last time it's rained, and day after day of blue sky is starting to get disconcerting, and the fact we had a day near 38 last week in which all of London emptied out to occupy the lawns and parks in a sprawl of skin.   

Rye House, a former grand residence 

Not a mud puddle to be found.  In April.  Global Warming is real.

I won't complain.  I've been trying to get out as much as possible, slathered with SPF 50.  I headed out to Rye Meads, an RSBP bird reserve north of the city in Hertfordshire, right near the Lee Valley waterway.  Like most wetland reserves, it's sandwiched in an industrial wasteland.  It's surrounded by an enormous wastewater treatment plant, a rail line, powerlines, a motorway, a go-cart track and a caravan park.

Once you are in though, it's peaceful.  I grabbed a pair of binoculars from the front desk and set off to see what the birds were up to.

They have a whopping 10 hides around the marsh, each giving a surprisingly different view of the habitat and most have completely different birds depending on the depth of the water or the amount of shelter offered.  

Little Grebe



The real stars here are the Kingfishers.  They are unmistakable- the most brilliant shades of blue and orange, much like a New York Knickerbocker.  The first time I saw one was at the dumpy canal near Merton Mills on my way to the stables, and I've been looking for them ever since.

Happily, Rye Meads has a pair that are attempting to nest in a bank, with a great hide-view of the action.  They even have a webcam set up in front of the nest site waiting to witness kingfisher fledglings.  With a bit of patience, you can spy on their comings and goings.  I even witnessed some bawdy kingfisher-on-kingfisher action, which means that they aren't sitting on any eggs in the nest at this time.  Hopefully soon.  The world needs more of these beautifully painted fisher kings.

They do seem to like their privacy.  Or, at least the day was hot enough so they were seeking out the shade.

On the northern edge of the reserve, it's more grassland than marshland, and I spied a giant.

She was kind of far off, but it was a Marsh Harrier, a large raptor that flies in almost awkward swoops.

The paths were almost eerily devoid of people once you left the hides.

They also kept a herd of Konig ponies to help manage the grassland.  Without large grazers, marshland would turn to scrub and forest in a hurry.  A lot of places employ fat cattle or horses to do the job for them.

At this point, the heat was getting to my head.  I was happy to sit in the shade at the RSBP info centre with a lemonade and chat with the lovely volunteers there before taking the train back into the city.  

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