Monday, 12 January 2015

Kingfishers in Hertfordshire

I thought I'd resuscitate this blog with some photo essays of memorable places I've been in 2014. The first of these is RSPB Rye Meads in Hoddesdon, east Hertfordshire. I have been visiting this nature reserve since 2006, and since it is my closest RSPB reserve now that I live in east Herts, I visit fairly regularly.

Rye Meads is a wetland reserve part owned by RSPB and Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, and is close to London, with trains from Liverpool Street stopping at Rye House station, a ten minute (slow) walk away from the reserve.

Male Eurasian kingfisher
Alcedo atthis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Alcedinidae; Coraciiformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at RSPB Rye Meads, March 2014

Rye Meads is most famous for hosting breeding populations of kingfishers. They are easily visible from many hides, most notably the Kingfisher Hide. They can be seen darting back and forth between feeding areas and the nesting site, as the male pictured above was photographed.

Green sandpipers
Tringa ochropus Linnaeus, 1758
Scolopacidae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata
Wild at RSPB Rye Meads, August 2013

Other birds the reserve attracts include black-necked grebes (Podiceps nigricollis), a nationally scarce breeding bird, and green sandpipers.

Northern water vole
Arvicola amphibius (Linnaeus, 1758)
Cricetidae; Rodentia; Mammalia; Chordata
Wild at RSPB Rye Meads, August 2013

The most commonly seen mammal in the reserve is the water vole. Water voles, sometimes known affectionately by the name of Ratty, thanks to the character in Wind of the Willows, suffered a severe decline in the UK in recent decades due to introduced American mink (Neovison vison). Thankfully, water voles respond well to reintroduction projects and are now on the increase again. At Rye Meads, voles can easily be seen munching on apples and other food given to them by reserve staff on feeding platforms beneath some of the bridges.

Peacock butterfly
Aglais io (Linnaeus, 1758)
Nymphalidae; Lepidoptera: Insecta; Arthropoda
Wild at RSPB Rye Meads, April 2014

The summer is a great time to visit, with butterflies and dragonflies in abundance, while winter is great for wintering wildfowl.

The next article will feature another local RSPB reserve and some pecking piciforms.

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