James had an interview at Canterbury University which was scheduled to last from 9.00am to 5.00pm, so I had 8 hours to kill. What could I do? Go round the shops? Have tea with the Archbishop?........or pop into Stodmarsh Nature Reserve? OK, it is a dirty job but somebody's got to do it.
As I made my way into the first hide I was met with a familiar call, not a bird but an amphibian. This was the Hyaena-like laugh of the Marsh Frog, a green frog much larger than our native Common Frog. They are fairly common in Kent particularly Dungeness, but also Rainham Marshes in Essex and even Hampstead Heath in London.
The next visitor to the pond was a Stock Dove which came in for a drink. It is fairly common behaviour for doves to quench their thirst after eating seeds all day, but they never stay long. This one was no exception and departed after about 30 seconds.
At this point another dove flew across the front of the hide with a tell-tale flicky flight. This could only be the Stock Dove's rarer cousin, the Turtle Dove, and the first one I have seen for three years. Unfortunately, it looks as though they could become extinct in Hertfordshire in the next five years or so. It was nice to see that they are still present here.
Then the moment I had been waiting for. A couple of Marsh Harriers appeared and started quartering the ground in front of the hide. Unfortunately they were fairly distant for much of the time but eventually the male came a little closer for some better shots.
Time to go and I started my way back along the trail through the reed beds. Bearded Tits were pinging in the reeds alongside singing Reed and Sedge Warblers, but nothing decided to show itself. However, as if by way of compensation, a Hobby hovered overhead, proudly showing off the dragonfly that it had caught.