We arrived by car at about 9:25am and even before we had got our shoes on to head around the reserve we were enjoying the sight of 2 Sparrowhawks circling over the car park. Soon after entering the reserve footpath we were greeted by the song of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and several singing Blackcaps. From the Hayden Hide we enjoyed good views of Grey Herons and Cormorants making close and regular flights past the window allowing good photographic opportunities. We saw our first Swallow of the day fly over the East Scrub followed by 1 Stock Dove. The highlight undoubtedly came when we arrived at Wray House Gardens were all the group were able to listen to the rich song of a NIGHTINGALE singing from some deep cover. The photographer whom we met there was particularly keen to lure it out with his sound recording and soon it flashed past us before landing only metres from where we were stood. During our stay, it did several circuits of the Gardens and on several occasions showed very well for a brief period of time. Unfortunately, the photographer did over exploit his use of playing sound recordings and despite getting some excellent views he persisted in playing them which seemed to agitate the bird considerably. Moving on, we noted 2 Green Woodpeckers calling from the nearby woodland followed by 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers. We all continued north towards the Washout Pit in the hope of finding our first waders of the day, however there was little mud and our chances of finding any were slim. In compensation, we found 6 Goldeneye diving and resting near the centre of the Lake. The surrounding hedgerows hosted 2 Bullfinches and later even a pair of mating Reed Buntings. On our return back to the visitor centre, we bypassed some arable farmland just outside the extent of the reserve boundaries. Here we saw 2 Red-legged Partridges, several Linnets and singing Skylarks displaying over their territory, whilst I picked up on 3 Buzzards circling in the distance. Our final stop along the Heron trail was at Rory's Wood and the Sailing Lake were we all had excellent views of a Treecreeper collecting nest material on the lower trunk of a tree and we found our first wader species of the day at the sailing Lakes in the form of 2 Lapwings. The islands were covered by at least 350+ nesting Black-headed Gulls amongst which we also found 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a nesting Greylag Goose and a hybrid Greylag×Canada Goose cross. Another highlight was the sight of an Oystercatcher chasing a Lesser Black-backed Gull from its nesting site out of view on the opposite side of the island. Just before we got back to the visitor centre we saw our first House Martin of the day (a year tick) whilst I got a short glimpse of a Muntjac Deer dive through a wooden fence before disappearing from view.
MEADOW TRAIL AND HAYLING PIT
Whilst the rest of the group stopped of at the Visitor Centre for midday I continued south on the Meadow Trail to the Hayling Pit. The first bird of note was a Sparrowhawk which flew directly over my head towards the Hayling Pit. At the Pit itself, I heard my first singing Reed Warbler of the year. As the wind freshened up a small party of hirundines came in including 2 House Martins, 1 Swallow and my first Sand Martin of the year. It was rather quite before the rest of the Hemel group joined me at the Hayling Pit. However, as we approached the south western corner of the pit a CETTI'S WARBLER burst into song. Despite waiting for some time none of us were able to get a view of the bird and it only gave a burst of song every two or three minutes making it even more difficult to locate. The final birds of the day included a total of 4 Swallows flying north across the meadows 1 sparrowhawk and 1 Oystercatcher flying north across the Hayling Pit.