Hi everyone, it’s been four days since we landed back on Irish soil and although my memories are far from fading, I know that in the future I will love reading back on my experiences here on my blog!

So today, I’m going to recount my experience of RSPB Rye Meads! I absolutely loved this reserve, we were already in such high spirits as on our drive down, we had a very unexpected surprise!! As were driving near Hatfield my mum spotted what she thought was another buzzard, but she wasn’t sure as the tail just didn’t fit right. I wasn’t until she spotted another bird that we realised that she saw a Red Kite!!! It soared above us and could hardly contain our excitement!! We gazed in wonder at this graceful beauty as it glided and twirled through the air. Wow, what a start to the day! Red Kites are really special to me as in my old primary school, we ‘adopted’ a Red Kite that lived in South Down, researching red kites on my own after that, was what sparked in me a love and appreciation for raptors. What seemed like something small, shone for me, a budding naturalist and scientist. That is why teaching kids about nature in school is so important. The spark needs to come from somewhere, sometimes, other than the home (in our house it’s mandatory to engage in nature as my dad is a conservation scientist – but nothing captured me as much as ‘my’ red kite did at 7 years old).

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Right, back to Rye Meads!! As we were driving towards our destination we were a little intrigued as our route took us to an industrial park but as we drove over a small bridge we were transported into a magial oasis. Rye Meads is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (National designation) and is part of  the Lye Valley RAMSAR  (Internationl designation) site. It is a wetland resreve on the River Lee. The staff were helpful and welcoming, we are always a happy and excited bunch, so it was good to be warmly welcomed. As we walked towads the pond, we spotted two water rails sheltering in the reeds (they were so cute), we awited for a longtime to spot the water vole as I heard some movements in the reeds, but the elusive creature stayed hidden.

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A red admiral resting in the sun – beautiful!

 

There are ten hides on the reserve and so I knew we were in for some real birding treats!! On our first stop we spotted some black-headed gulls, snipe, canadian geese, lapwing and coots. Our family get really excited about the things we see, especially my little sister who is just 6, I’m not sure it was appreciated by our fellow brid wtchers in the hide, but I hope that they realise that kids getting excited is a good thing and should be encouraged!!

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There was so much to see in this reserve and one our favourite things was checking the log piles and reptile sheets. We didn’t encounter any reptiles but we loved the interactions and spotted lots of different ant species (another future blog perhaps). The weather was beautiful with blue skies and the air was full of the warbler song, it was so relaxing to walk around. As we continued to walk along, we spied a group of swans basking in the sunshine, blocking the seasonal trail.

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We went to see the nesting Terns next and it was lovely to see two coots lovingly build nest together. The sounds coming from the nesting sites (which also had lots gulls) ws incredible! Many people see gulls as pests and noise annoying, but I find it invigorating! There was a man in the this hide and he was very firendly, thank you for that.

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It was the Kingfisher hide next and we were really excited about that! We have seen Kingfishers along the River Erne at home, but never nesting pairs. The hide was full and we really tried to be quiet in respects to these jewel like birds. There was a lovely lady in the hide with a long camera scope, with camaflage covering. She was really friendly and encouraging and smile at us a lot. Thank you very much for being so friendly to us! We just spotted an instant flash of blue and I almost missed it as I was distracted by some other movement! I need to improve my bird-watching skills! We stayed for about 15 minutes but had to leave, as we were looking forward to another family visit that afternoon!

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We continued to walk and we would have loved to have done the Wildlife Trusts Otter Trail, but we didn’t have time. These visits have given me such an appetite for reserves and I think this summer is going to be jam packed full of visits around N.Ireland – even more than usual ;)! On our walks, wildlife spotting is obviously really important and exciting but it’s not the only thing. We have long talks as a family, have good fun and we learn so much from each other. We get to know each other really well on these kinds of visits. It’s lovely.

As we were deciding whether or not to go on the otter trail, we spotted another (or the same) Red Kite!! I was jumping with excitement! We also thought we saw a peregrine resting on the pylon but couldn’t be sure, I really think it was – we were in sort of a rush and forgot to ask the staff on our way out.

We just had to go and see the Wildlife Garden and the Wildlife Trusts Konik Ponies before we left. I loved the  Wildlife Trusts hide and the education garden beside it, what a fabulous space to learn in! We saw rabbits lolloping about, pheasants, magpies and pied wagtails joyfully skipping and hopping. I really didn’t want to go!

 

Thank you very much RSPB and WildlifeTrusts for giving us such a memorable day out and thank you to those protecting Red Kites, so we can see them grace our skies.

I hope you enjoyed reading about it, too.

Dara