I have written before that Stodmarsh NNR is one of my favourite reserves and for our trip there this weekend, the conditions were perfect. On this occasion we did an ‘anti-clockwise’ circuit, starting from the Stodmarsh car park and heading towards the Marsh hide and from there on to Grove Ferry via the David Feast hide and the viewing mound and returning along the river Stour via Tower Hide. The complete route is 5 miles long and with the very dry summer we did not have to negotiate any muddy footpaths.
Our trip started with trying to sort out some of the dragonflies patrolling the car park and the first patch of water beyond the car park. Migrant Hawker and Southern Hawker we were fairly confident on, but then there was the possibility of Southern Migrant (or Blue-eyed) Hawker to add to the mix. The jury is out on this one, we’d need to check any photos taken. Less challenging were the many willow emerald damselflies seen throughout the day often hanging from tree twigs.
On the avian front, we had robin (including the tame individual who will feed from the hand), swan, long-tailed, blue and great tit, goldfinches and soaring overhead the first of several buzzards seen. We stopped opposite the farm building bordering the reserve and after a minute or two found the resident little owl, sitting this time in a nearby small tree.
A green woodpecker let us know of its presence with its yaffle call, but was not seen. And this was similarly the case for blackcap, bearded reedling and Cetti’s warbler. Once we cleared the trees and were walking beside the reedbed, it became easier to see the birds. A couple of marsh harriers drifted lazily over and a trio of little egrets flew by. As the path turned sharp left a party of stock doves were identified in a low tree. More marsh harriers were seen near the Marsh hide and from here we added cattle egret, grey heron, a fly past kingfisher, teal, gadwall, and lapwing. Our progress to this point had been leisurely and as it was noon, lunch was brought out. Some of our party returned back at this point and we were to catch them up towards the end of our trip.
There was nothing to be seen from the viewing screen (the water here has dried up) but we were in for a fantastic treat at the David Feast hide. The hide was busy with people and outside it was just as busy. At first we were working on finding an elusive snipe, and a greenshank and then trying to determine whether a sandpiper was common or green. We eventually confirmed it as green. Then, with a whisper of ‘kingfisher’, the hide turned strangely quiet other than the whirling of electronic shutters. A male kingfisher was to stay for the next 30 minutes fishing from the three strategically placed posts in front of the hide periodically diving in and catching small fish. It was probably the best views of kingfisher most of us have ever seen. Eventually he exited towards the back of the pool, where shortly afterwards a water rail was spotted running back and forth along the reedbed margin – not quite so close, but still another lovely sight.
Eventually we pulled ourselves away and got to the viewing mound. Here a couple of peachy coloured ruff had us confused for a while (don’t ruff always do this?!) together with clearer views of snipes and many ducks including gadwall and teal.
We stopped at Grove Ferry for the facilities and threw in a quick ice cream (it was getting quite hot after all!) and then started our return walk along the Stour river. There were several groups of people enjoying the river on paddle boards, canoes and boats, so not so many birds were seen on that side. However, as we came upon a vista across the reedbed I remarked that this was perfect conditions for hobbies. Within a few minutes, as if on cue, two or three hobbies were seen flying overhead, together with other birds of prey, including buzzard, sparrowhawk and kestrel. The hobbies put on a spectacular display soaring overhead then swooping low over the reeds, catching dragonflies and dismembering them in flight.
From the tower hide two more marsh harriers were quartering the lake margins, with cormorants hanging out in the trees, and black headed gulls and ducks on the lake. In the far left bay greylag geese and a small flock of black-tailed godwits were wading through the shallow waters. These were seen closer by those that visited the reedbed hide where they finally added common sandpiper.
On the butterfly front we recorded red admiral, peacock, speckled wood, common blue, comma and small white.
If you didn’t manage to join us this time please remember to sign up early for our coach trip to Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve on Saturday 1st October. We need to confirm numbers early so please help us by signing up soon.
Thanks to Maria and Steve for sharing these fantastic photos. More can be seen on our NatureWatch Facebook page.