I ended up arriving to the reserve before 8 o'clock. A windy, mild day with sunny spells. I headed for the new hide but it was still closed. The new pond looks great already and I found the new walks very exciting too, it feels like walking on fen and carr, which would have been the original habitat on the banks of the river.
I moved to the south end of the reserve. Several orchids, including bee orchids are blooming on the sides of O res. In south marsh east, the surprise was a drake Mandarin, starting to lose it's breeding plumage. Something, probably a raptor, spooked all the birds in the marsh and the Mandarin didn't return.
I moved on. On a large hay pile, I spotted a grass snake, then two others sunbathing during a sunny spell. The first one appeared a bit sluggish and ready to moult its skin, it's eyes cloudy, but the other two were quite active, they tongue-flicked repeatedly and slithered away (top). These were my first UK grass snakes, and given that the Spanish ones have been given new species status, I can say my first ever grass snakes!
It was far too windy and not sunny enough for insects, but the sunny spells brought them out in the sheltered spots. Hoverflies, five species of Odonata, Speckled Woods and Red Admirals were on the wing.
On the way back the new visitor centre was open and I had a look. The views over D res are amazing and what a great idea to have a wood-burning stove to keep the watchers warm in the winter months. I like the great library too! There has been a lot of work and a lot of thought put into making the reserve more attractive for the general public and I do hope it pays off.
I still had some time so I headed back to South Marsh East. I was lucky to have a Little Gull, my first of the year and a nice addition taking me to 166 species.
The new pond by the reserve entrance.
Two young Shelduck. There appeared to be three families in SMW. The drakes were quite aggressive, attacking black-headed gulls and anything that approached the ducklings.
Black-headed gulls mobbed the pair of Lesser Black-backed gulls repeatedly.
A bad hair day for a Drake Mandarin.
Fledgling Pied Wagtail.
One of the Grass Snakes. The cloudy blue eye shows that it is about to moult its skin.
A pair of Common Terns with Black-headed gull neighbours.
Dozens of Swifts and House martins flying low over D res.
The large woodland hoverfly Volucella pellucens feeding on Bramble blossom.
View from the new hide/visitor centre.
Greenfinches and Goldfinches in the feeders.
The bumblebee mimic hoverfly Volucella bombylans.
Speckled Wood. Two on the wing. Also a few Red Admirals.
Five Odonata species were on the wing. This Large red damselfly near North Marsh.
Female Black-tailed Skimmer near the path to the Watton hide.
A Four-spotted chaser near the works.
Many Azure about...
and Common Blue Damselflies.
Little Ringed Plover.
Little Gull in SME.
My 4th grass snake of the day.