On what was a nice sunny day, I spent the afternoon at two of the sites at the northern end of the Lee Valley Regional park - the RSPB reserve at Rye Meads, and the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust Reserve at Amwell Quarry.
I had made the decision to concentrate on invertebrates, and had only taken a macro lens with me, rather than my usual photographic kit which includes a 500mm telephoto lens, so naturally when I made what was intended to be a brief visit to the first hide at Rye Meads, I found something I really needed a telephoto lens for!
In front of the hide (but still fairly distant) was the hybrid duck that had been reported occasionally during the previous winter, and which had recently returned to the reserve following a period of absence. The above photos are heavily cropped, but still show the duck very well. It is always very difficult to be certain about the parentage of suspected hybrids, and this one had me stumped when I first saw photos of it (though this was the first time i had actually seen it 'in the flesh'). Crosses between quite a few duck species can produce the yellow facial patches which give a resemblance to Baikal Teal, but in this case the consensus is that one of the parents is a Baikal Teal - it is thought to be a Baikal Teal x Chestnut Teal cross, which would mean that it definitely has captive origins. Never-the-less, a very interesting bird, and certainly something that you don't see everyday.
More usual duck species were also present, including the Shoveler, Gadwall, and Tufted Ducks which can be seen with the hybrid in this shot:
It was good to see several school groups being shown around the reserve, and making use of the pond dipping areas, even if their use of the bird hides did cause some slight disturbance to other visitors on the reserve. I helped to point out a few of the birds that were present in one of the hides, which I thought might show that I didn't mind the 'intrusion', but was still given an apology by the teacher/helper with the group for "having my day disturbed" when they left (there was no need - the more children are involved with wildlife, the more likely they are to want to protect it in the future!).
Most of the birds present on the reserve today were the sort of thing that can be found in any similar habitat in the area, but Pochards, Common Terns, Great-crested Grebes, and Cormorants were more than enough to keep the school groups happy - especially when they could identify them themselves using the pictures they had been given.
A Male Pochard that came close to one of the hides.
Birds that the school groups probably overlooked included Reed & Sedge Warblers, Chiffchaff, and Hobby.
I didn't manage to find much use for my macro lens on this reserve, although there were quite a few damselflies visible around the pond dipping pools, and a Hairy Dragonfly was hawking along one of the paths, but this thistle looked like it would be a good picture:
I didn't go as far as the Kingfisher Hide (where the first Kingfisher had apparently fledged) - no need to tempt fate, there was sure to be a Kingfisher motionless on the nearest perch if I visited without a telephoto lens!
Slightly futher north, at Amwell Quarry Nature Reserve, damselflies were very easy to find, and this time I was able to get close enough for some photos.
Blue-tailed Damselflies, Common Blue Damselflies, and Azure Damselflies were the most numerous, with many maturing individuals found along the fence line and in vegetation a short distance from water.
Female Blue-tailed Damselfly
Immature male Common Blue Damselfly
Mature male Azure Damselfly
A fair few Large Red Damselflies were also to be found, mainly mature males holding territories at the waters edge, and there were a few Red-eyed Damselflies on water lily leaves in one of the pits. At least two Hairy Dragonflies were also around.
Male Large Red Damselfly
Common Buzzard, Little Egret, Hobby, and a pair of Oystercatchers with three part grown young were the highlights among the birds present, and other wildlife included a Red-headed Cardinal Beetle.