Friday, 12 July 2013

Amwell Nature Reserve - 9th July 13

Weather: Sunny and very hot all day. Slight cloud later with a mercifully cool breeze.

Birds seen:
Great Crested Grebe; Cormorant; Little Egret; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Greylag Goose; Canada Goose; Mallard; Wigeon; Gadwall; Tufted Duck; Pochard; Sparrowhawk; Buzzard; Kestrel; Hobby; Moorhen; Coot; Little Ringed Plover; Lapwing; Redshank; Black-headed Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Common Tern; Woodpigeon; Stock Dove; Swift; Kingfisher; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Green Woodpecker; Swallow; Grey Wagtail; Pied Wagtail; Wren; Dunnock (H); Robin (H); Blackbird; Cetti's Warbler (H);
Reed Warbler; Sedge Warbler; Blackcap; Chiffchaff; Blue Tit (H); Great Tit; Long-tailed Tit; Treecreeper (H); Starling; Magpie; Jay; Carrion Crow; Chaffinch; Goldfinch; Greenfinch (H); Reed Bunting. Total: 54

Plus: Grey Squirrel; Konic Ponies; Rabbit.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Red-eyed Damselflies; Brown Hawker, Emperor, Four-spotted Chaser, Southern Dragonflies.
Plus: Comma, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood Butterflies.
Plus: Spotted Crane Fly; Various Bees; Hoverflies; Spiders and Wasps.

It was another very hot, humid day today. A little bit more cloud and a thankfully cool breeze. I had intended to get out and about very early on to avoid the hottest part of the day, but events conspired to delay me until around 10-ish. Indeed, the train down was cancelled and I missed my connection to spend a good 35 minutes or so hanging around station platforms.

Anyway, there was nothing too eventful happening on the way down other than hearing Reed Buntings; Greenfinches and seeing about 35+ Canada Geese until I got to the main viewing point.

Some of the usual twitchers were around, again grumbling 'there's nothing much about'. Well, I guess I'm easily pleased because after 10 minutes of scanning Great Hardmead Lake I spotted 14 Little Egrets, mainly grouped together on the far island outside the White Hide; 4 Grey Herons were in amongst them; 4 Common Terns; 2 LRPs; lots of Lapwing; a Grey Wagtail and masses of Canadas, Coots and BHGs. Then a Buzzard was seen high over the skyline; a pair of Starlings were picking their way through the Coots and Geese and then a 3rd LRP turned up. When a Redshank turned up and about 4 or 5 Swallows flew by I started to wonder what more did these guys wish to see? A Great Bustard perhaps?


And then I was delighted to find that the LRP chick had survived since my last visit and was happily picking its way around the near island. I had moved down to the mini view point to see if this and the Redshank chicks were about. I didn't see the Redshanklets but a second adult then appeared. 4 more Common Terns appeared and I could see a couple more pairs on one of the rafts. 2 more Grey Herons had turned up, while a lone GCG was moving along to the right of the tree island. Behind him were about 10 Greylag Geese.

I had intended today to be a dragon hunt day but my bird list was already quite high. There were lots of butterflies about again today including lots of Ringlets and Meadow Browns; a few Small Tortoiseshells and Skippers. Lots of Blue damsels were around, most so skittish they flew up and away before I even got within a few yards of them.


Because of the humidity I decided to try the Dragonfly Trail straight away and try and avoid the heat of the midday sun. Well, you know what they say about mad dogs and Englishmen? On the way I saw a few Goldfinches popping overhead and a Chiffchaff.

At the twin lakes I only saw about 2 or 3 Red-eyed Damsels amongst all the Common Blue and Blue-tailed. A Brown Hawker was flying about plus a couple of Emperors, one a female ovipositing. I only saw three Azures all day, one of which was on one of the lilly-pads. Then I witnessed about 3 or 4 Four-spotted Chasers buzzing each other and then a male Emperor joined in the action. I was lucky enough to see one of the Chasers perch up quite close for a few shots and then the Emperor settled down too not far off the Chaser.


I was watching the female Emperor egg-laying through my Bins when I saw a male Banded Demoiselle fly past in the background. Looking further towards the back of the lakes I could see more Emperors and Chasers having their own little battles. Then a woman appeared allowing her dog to dive into the lake to fetch a stick or something, scaring everything off, which prompted me to move off towards the Trail. In fact, there were quite a few dog-walkers on the trails today, far outnumbering the Birders.

At the bridge I paused to search for the Demoiselles I had seen here last time and sure enough a male flew into view and soon disturbed a second. At the Trail nothing new was seen but, at the Orchid Garden (no orchids), I spotted another Emperor, this one with a damaged wing.


It was around midday by this time and the only thing I can say is 'scorchio!'. I was working up quite a sweat. A shimmering heat haze could be seen out on the lakes. The pollen was still about, still making a bee-line for my nose, but thankfully it seems to be coming to an end.


Lots more butterflies were about, including the odd Comma and Meadow Brown. Lots of Blue damsels were also present, again probably fed up with being disturbed. Out on the lake I spotted yet another Emperor ovipositing. A couple of Blackcaps were warbling their rich, musical song in the trees. During a water stop I could see a GCG swimming along with some nesting material. And, while I was sat down watching him through the Bins, about a dozen Canadas had crept up around me to within a couple of feet. They allowed me a few close-up photos but received nothing in return, so they moved off.


Just before exiting the Trail I flushed a Green Woodpecker. And then a Jay cried out and disappeared into the trees. Nothing of note was seen by the time I arrived at the White Hide. Looking out from the Hide there were the usual 50+ Canadas; the Egrets and the Herons hadn't moved and were still preening not far from the Hide. I was hopeful that one of them might move in closer. Out to the left a Hobby flew around in tight circles before disappearing; 3 GCGs were out on the lake, one of them looked like they had a humbug on its' back. Then a LBBG appeared putting up most of the BHGs and Lapwing. It soon got mobbed and flew off.

At the James Hide I immediately spotted another Grey Heron at the back of the lake, hunting. A GSW flew in onto the feeders, which today were full. Immature Great Tits were about as were a pair of Reed Buntings. A Grey Squirrel and a couple of Magpies appeared and monopolised the feeders for a few minutes. Then the Heron started to get closer to the Hide but was almost disturbed by two people who had obviously climbed the fence and had started to walk through the reeds, making a lot of noise. Fortunately, they didn't stay long and the Heron continued to get closer. It got to within camera range and I got a few shots of it catching a couple of fish before it located the noise of the camera shutter and, seeing me leering at it, flew off.


After a spot of lunch I felt refreshed enough to walk back to the Dragonfly Trail to try my luck again. On the way I flushed a pair of Jays. At the lakes it was a dog-free zone for about 10 minutes, allowing me a few more good shots of the Chasers plus an Common Blue Damsel posing on a lilly-pad. Again at the bridge I spotted 6 Demoiselles, 3 of each, all searching for the diminishing sunshine and trying to avoid the creeping shadows. And, while watching them, I heard, then spotted, a Kingfisher fly past, under the bridge. During all that excitement I had also heard a Treecreeper in the background.


Entering the Dragonfly Trail again I flushed 2 Green Woodpeckers. On the ponds there were more Chasers and Emperors and then I spotted another male Demoiselle, this time posing in the sun and allowing me a close up view. It was a good decision to visit the Trail again.


By now I was starting to struggle and so made my way back to the viewing point, seeing another familiar face. I chatted to him for a few minutes before heading for home.

Another top day out!