7 people joined me for the 8am start and we set off along the main path towards the Finger Lakes. Reed Warblers could be heard at various points along the path, both adults and youngsters singing and calling. We dropped into the Crescent where it was a little more sheltered from the wind and were able to hear the Reed Warblers in the reed bed a bit better. It was obvious to us why the birds were staying low in the reeds as the wind was whipping the tops around like huge waves rolling through the reed bed.
We turned our attention to the lake and found a Red Eyed Damselfly perched on one of the lilly pads. This was a very obliging individual and I was able to get the scope set up on him for some really good close up views.
This was the sign of things to come as the bird walk fast became a dragonfly, damselfly and butterfly walk. The birds remained stubbornly quiet but the Damselflies and Butterflies were out in force and Dragonflies kept putting in appearances.
For the butterflies there were large numbers of Gatekeepers along the edge of the Woodland Walk (W) plantation. Meadow Browns and Whites were also showing in good numbers and there were the occasional Small Tortoiseshell and Comma. We also had Peacock, Red Admiral and a single Holly Blue. we tried for a Ringlet but didn't get any confirmed, there were a couple of probables along the edge of the New Cut on Riverside but they wouldn't come close enough to confirm they weren't dark Meadow Browns.
As well as the Red Eyed there were loads of Common Blue Damselflies. I'm sure there were some Azures about but everyone I looked at was a Common Blue. We had a handful of Brown Hawkers and a probable female Common Darter that was warming up at the end of a branch high in a tree. A Hawker, probably Southern also zipped past us on the flower meadow.
We had a look on 100 Acre, taking the trail on the east side of the big lake and managed to add a few birds to the list with Little Grebe and Egyptian Goose but were unable to locate any Green Sandpipiers which I had hoped to find here. Along the north side of the farmers field we flushed a number of Skylarks and were finally rewarded with one singing. There was a small group of Black-headed Gulls roosting on the area where the gravel pits are being filled in, these were sporting various stages of losing their black heads and one or two juveniles were in flock.
We finished off with a walk back along the cycle track, crossing the New Cut at the wooden bridge and following the Cut back to the park entrance. So it wasn't a great day for the birds but the butterflies and odonata made up for it to some extent.
In the afternoon I paid a return visit to 100 Acre, doing the full circuit out along the river and back along the east side of the big lake. This visit proved much more productive with at least 4 Green Sandpipers flushing from the STW pool as I walked past. On the big lake I found a Female Tufted Duck with 8 youngsters and a Pair of Great Crested Grebes with 2 young. There was also at least one family of Little Grebes with 2 young and possibly a second, not sure it wasn't the same one that had moved around the corner while I was on the move.
As with the morning there were plenty of odonata and butterflies. Black-tailed Skimmers were plentiful and I found another butterfly species to add to my list from the morning with a Small Copper.
The best was yet to come though when I spotted a large raptor on the Castle Mill side of the ditch. I was expecting a Buzzard, having had them regularly in the same area, but the cream head and chin in the binoculars revealed it was a Marsh Harrier! It dropped out of site and when I reached the ditch it was on the ground in the field with five Herons for company. I tried to get into position for a photo but it took to the air again flying away from me so I only managed a distant record shot.
With the Marsh Harrier having disappeared from sight I continued around 100 Acre and noticed a small slim raptor perched in the farmers field. It was across the far side of the field so I had to head around to where it was to get a definitive ID although it looked like a Hobby. As usual by the time I got to where it was it had gone and I thought I was not going to confirm the ID but as I walked back along the edge of the field it suddenly appeared again and settled in the field a little way off. As I reached for the camera it flew off and I managed a record shot as it flew further across the field and settled again. No doubting it was a Hobby. Shortly after it flew again, crossing the river, and trying for a House Martin in the flock there before disappearing out of sight.
The next guided bird walk is Sunday August the 25th, meet at 8am outside the visitor centre.