Weather: August began unsettled with showers and westerly/south-westerly winds. This pattern continued until the third week, when it then turned warmer, particularly in the south-east. The month ended cooler and showery. Overseas, it was mixed, with hot sun and humidity, mixed with rain and cloud.
Places Visited: Amwell; Cheshunt; Papua New Guinea; Rye Meads.
Star Sightings of the Month:
Bird: All the Birds of Paradise!
Mammal: Macleay’s Forest Wallaby
Butterfly: Silky Owl
Odonata: Painted Grasshawk
Insect: Praying Mantis
Flower: Purple Loosestrife
‘Fiat justitia ruat caelum - Let justice be done though the heavens may fall.’
The BIG news this month, and certainly of the year, was a trip of a lifetime to Papua New Guinea. It was a personal dream and an ambition come true. I had always wanted to photograph a Bird of Paradise; from as far back as I can remember.
|Somewhere in the PNG Rainforest|
It certainly didn’t disappoint, with 15 species of BoP seen, of which 7 were photographed. Nearly 200 bird species were spotted, a lot of them endemics, practically all new to me. Lepidoptera, odonata, invertebrates were all dazzling and mind-blowing to see.
|Raggiana Bird of Paradise - PNG's National bird|
Apart from the wonderful wildlife, the people of PNG were among the friendliest I have ever encountered. A full report of the trip will be blogged soon.
However, nearer to home, it was another damp and dismal month and so I don’t think I missed too much. The trip to PNG was from the 1st to the 16th, while the final days of the month saw visits to Amwell, Cheshunt and Rye Meads.
A few days after returning from PNG, I visited Amwell, seeing not a lot of birds. In fact, bird totals were down on all three local visits this month. However, August going into September is a time of seasonal change. What we lose on the one hand, we gain on the other. Most birds seemed to be either keeping their heads down, or starting on migration.
A Bittern had been seen regularly at Amwell during the month, but had chosen the day I visited to be absent. Typical. Still, I’ve had quite a few excellent views of Bittern this year, so I can’t complain. Well, not much, anyway.
Next up was a short visit to Rye Meads. I had to spend the morning at home, awaiting a parcel delivery, so it was only an afternoon visit.
Here, at least, I spotted the usual Kingfisher, although not from the Kingfisher Hide, but from the Draper Hide, where it perched and fished. There were also 2 Little Egrets, 7 Green and 1 Common Sandpiper, a pair of eclipse Garganey, two of five seen here recently, plenty of Lapwings and a fleeting glimpse of a Hobby, from the Warbler Hide.
Cheshunt was the final visit of the month, my first visit there for several months. There was another, very friendly Kingfisher and 3 very obliging juvenile Chiffchaffs, posing outside the Bittern Hide.
It was ominously quiet at all 3 Reserves. However, I may not have been concentrating too much on spotting birds. Summer, is, after all, a season for invertebrates!
It was even quieter on the Mammal front. There was a fleeting glimpse of a Bank Vole on the trails at Amwell, but that was it. Even PNG was quiet, seeing just a Ground Cuscus and a Macleay’s Forest Wallaby.
The butterflies and moths seen in PNG were, well, out of this world. I have still to try and find names for most of them.
|Silky Owl Taenaris catops|
Locally, Comma, Common Blue, lots of Whites, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood all made appearances. Actually, the lepidoptera seems to have done rather well this season, despite the poor weather.
It was still slightly disappointing for odonata, although I was delighted to find my first Willow Emeralds and Migrant Hawkers of the season, at all 3 local Reserves, including seeing a Willow Emerald at Fishers Green, my first sighting there.
My beloved Banded Demoiselles were still about and just as photogenic, as was a late male Black-tailed Skimmer, seen at RM. Also seen there, were scores of Red-eyed damsels, outside the Kingfisher Hide, all flitting around the green slime.
Hawkers and Darters were now everywhere and in some numbers, which was very encouraging. Brown & Migrant Hawkers, Common & Ruddy Darters were all over the place. I still await sightings of Southern Hawker.
I spotted and photographed around a half-a-dozen or so species in PNG, as well, but not until the very last day. They too, were quite spectacular. As one would expect.
|Painted Grasshawk Neurothemis stigmatizans|
Staying with PNG, needless to say on the insect front, there was some pretty amazing stuff to be seen. I still need to identify a few species of insect from here, too. Though, I did find several Praying Mantis, one of which was as large as my hand.
Domestically, an Orange Ladybird, plenty of Cross Spiders, a few Dock Bugs, another Hornet Mimic hoverfly, Mint Leaf Beetles, another Robber Fly - this time without lunch and plenty of Bees and Wasps were around. Although, it has to be said, not in vast numbers.
Maybe the low numbers of invertebrates and birds are linked? Are the Reserves allowing the wrong flora to grow? Are they cutting back too much? Answers on a postcard, please.
The flora, of course, had been gorging on a heavy diet of mainly rain, with occasional periods of sunshine. It had led to a blooming explosion, almost hiding everything else. A proliferation of mainly Buddleia and Purple Loosestrife were everywhere.
To sum up, domestically it was mostly the usual stuff, with some delights. However, the trip of a lifetime to Papua New Guinea was a highlight that I will never forget.
‘If one cannot catch a bird of paradise, better to take a wet hen.’
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