Those people who don't have the "birding" obsession probably think of it as "just a hobby". Any one married or the partner of a birder will realise the vast under statement that this is!The build up of Hobbies in the Stour Valley during the period of the end of April through May can be spectacular and the photos from the Grove Ferry regulars in the last week or so have been fabulous.
Rather than just visit the Grove Ferry end of the Stodmarsh NNR I parked at Stodmarsh and walked from there. The foot path passes through some great habitat and eventually arrives at the Marsh Hide. Nothing of great value here, some very noisy Greylags, belligerent Shelducks intent on chasing of Tufted Ducks and a Little Egret feeding in front of the hide.
As the clouds gave way to some weak sunshine Hobbies could be seen distantly hunting over the marsh. At this time of year there probably aren't enough Dragonflies to keep then satisfied, but the air is full of St Marks flies and these probably are a major part of their diet. I bumped into David Feast (the former warden), and it was from "his" eponymous hide that I got some fabulous views of the Hobbies as the patrolled the air over the reed beds.
When there were no Hobbies to see there were Cetti's, Reed and Sedge Warblers to listen to and a pair of stunning Great Crested Grebes to watch as they gently courted, no full blooded displaying today.
Every now and again a Hobby, or at times several Hobbies, came quite close to the hide and at times it was possible to make out that they had caught larger prey.
Although there were quite a few butterflies around there was no repeat of the Painted Lady slaughter I witnessed one morning at St Margaret's in May 2009.
As well as the Grebes a handsome pair of Pochards was feeding right in front of the hide. The female was very active, continually diving.
The male, on the other hand spent much of the time sleeping, but did wake up for his photo opportunity.
I continued to snap away at the Hobbies, and thoroughly enjoyed watching their energetic acrobatics in the air.