We walked first to the Meon Hide where there was plenty of activity, with a good number of teal dabbling around the edges and islands. All of course now in their eclipse plumage, it does take a little from the scene. As well as the duck there were a pair of summer plumaged Dunlin feeding along the edge. Their black bellies reflecting in the still shallow water.
The surface of the water was covered with insects, probably emerging mosquitoes, and this was a major attraction to a Common Sandpiper. It proceeded to stalk the insects picking them off both the surface of the water, and the reeds.
The style adopted was very similar to that of a feeding Little Egret, the body low and the bill and head kept low to the water, and the movement very slow and calculating.
Watching the Common Sandpiper feeding we also became aware of a Sedge Warbler also taking advantage of the insects. It came out of the reeds and very briefly down on to the mud to pick up a few, before returning to the sanctuary of the reeds.
There were a few Avocet in front of the hide, at least 2 adults and 3 juveniles, all feeding with the characteristic sweeping action through the water. It always amazes me that the young instinctively engage with the action from a very young age.
With the tide rising behind us, waders were now dropping into the scrapes. The Black-tailed Godwits are still showing the majority of their brick red summer plumage. These four flying in from somewhere up the valley.
The skies were quite dark, and you could see the rain showers rolling in from across the Solent. At one time we decided to move from the hide around to the next, but we got caught in a quite heavy shower.
There had been reports of three Gargeneny, and we scanned our way through the ducks, but with no luck. With the showers dying away, and the view across to the Isle of Wight looking much better we decided to make our way around to the other side of the Meon.
The sun came out as we made our way along the walkway. There were plenty of insects about, along with a few Speckled Woods. As a result as we passed the Walkway Pond I wondered if there may be some dragonflies about. I walked up to the pond, and couldn't see any dragonflies, but then I became aware of something else present. Looking down I saw this brown ball in the middle of the pond and realised I was looking at a Water Vole.
I called Ian but it swam off as I tried to get him to see it. But as we stood and waited watching the pond it quietly appeared just under the reeds, and started to groom itself.
As a boy I remember hearing that characteristic "plop" from the river bank as a vole dropped into the water, and the sight of a water vole swimming across the river or lake. It seems amazing that this familiar sight and animal has declined so much that seeing one today was a real treat.
Having scrubbed up enough, it swam to a small mound.
We stood watching it for some time, but then decided to move on. Making our way to the new hide, where we spent a while just watching and hoping something may appear.
A Stock Dove provided some entertainment, as did a kestrel that was using a nest box as a platform for hunting. But other than that it was the company and conversation that was the most enjoyable.
Leaving the hide a dragonfly buzzed around the board-walk, settling as they often do on the wood in the warm sunshine. This one was a Common Darter.
We made our way back to the pond in the hope of more dragonflies, and this time there was an Emperor Dragonfly hawking around the pond, it is incredible the energy these insects have to keep going.
Watching the Emperor a row of bubbles gave way to a surfacing Water Vole.
This one was much larger than the vole we had watched earlier, so there were definiotely two at this pond.
The Emperor was joined by another Common Darter that was much happier to sit on a favourite reed. When the Emperor came to close though, there would be a short dog fight before both carried on with what they were doing.
We watched both the vole and the dragonflies for some time. The skies had cleared and the sun was in control, and it was very warm by the pond. Finally we set off back along the walkway, pausing though to investigate a very large colourful fly.
It was between one to two centimetres long, and looked like a bee or wasp, but it is in fact a hoverfly known as the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (it s also know as the Belted Hoverfly). Apparently up until the last 50 years it was a rare visitor to the UK, but is now becoming more common in southern England. The adult fly is migratory, and the larvae live inside wasps nests.
The sides of the paths were now full of butterflies and other insects. This Longhorn Beetle flew across the path and settled on a leaf. I have not been able to fully confirm the species though.
We settled down in another hide to try and find the reported Garganey again, and were convinced we had found one, but the size was a little big. A welcome distraction though was the news of a Southern Hawker dragonfly outside the hide. It was sitting on the fence next to a cobweb.
As it sat there it decided to clean its impressive eyes with one of its legs. What an amazing and beautiful animal.
back to the ducks, we had some doubt and this was confirmed once I checked the pictures at home. The white strip above the eye was convincing, the size introduced the element of doubt, but the sight of orange legs was the clincher, it was a small mallard.
With the threat of the reserve closing we made our way back to the car, but still had time to find a Large Skipper nectaring actually inside the flower of a Bind Weed.
back at the cars, the sea was now fully in, and splashing over the sea wall. A small flock of Turnstone flew past searching for a roost site. It was time to go after a great day out.