Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 2nd September, 2013

Weather: Warm, sunny with blue skies. Slight breeze.

Birds Total: 36
Plus: Comma, Holly Blue, Large White, Meadow Brown, Small White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue damselflies. Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Ruddy Darter, Southern Hawker dragonflies.

There was still a paucity of bird species today, so I again concentrated on Dragons and Damsels. And I'm pleased to say they didn't disappoint. There were many Migrant Hawkers about today, a lot of them posing nicely. Darters, both Common and Ruddy, were also very accommodating. Even a Brown Hawker flew in and landed not far from me, although I had to get down and dirty to his level for any shots. On the damsel front, I managed to find some Demoiselles, although they made me work very hard. There were lots and lots of Common Blues but only about half-a-dozen Blue-tailed.

The weather was again very kind today. It was warm and sunny with very little cloud. Even the forecasters managed to get today right. It was all balanced by a cool breeze.

I took a slightly different route today than my usual one. I arrived at the Teal Hide by the Hall Marsh Scrape around 9.30 and, instead of walking between the lakes, I walked along Horsemill Stream, which is also a main public footpath. From there I visited both the Bittern and the Grebe Hides.

It was a disappointing start from the Teal Hide, only ducks and pigeons were about. Someone had cut back all the reeds and grass in the field directly in front of the Hide, which opened up food possibilities for the birds. But I had to make do with a pair of noisy Carrion Crows and a Magpie who wandered around the area, all keeping a wary eye on me. A Stock Dove also flew in to try his luck.

But then, out to the far right, I saw some movement in the water. Looking through my Bins I saw a lone Snipe feeding away, head swinging back and forth, sweeping the water. Then a Little Egret flew in and proceeded to stalk the area, shaking its leg in the water disturbing anything that might prove edible. Not long after I spotted 2 Green Sandpipers, also away to the right, having a slight dispute. One was chasing the other, making lots of fuss about it. I guess nagging isn't just a human thing.

As I walked out the door, down the walkway, a Grey Squirrel wandered past in front of me. It hopped up onto the rails and looked at me. As I got closer it jumped up onto the nearest branch and looked at me. Seeing that there was no food to be had it bade me farewell and disappeared into the tall tree.

Brown Hawker
Wren and Chiffchaff were in good voice as I hit the trail and then, just as I had left the walkway, a flying movement caught my eye and I spotted a Brown Hawker fly past. I stopped and watched it flying back and forth until it landed about 5 meters in front of me on some bracken. To get to it I had to flatten some nettles and reeds. Try doing that quietly and quickly. But I managed to get to within about 4 feet of it and crouched down to take some photos. It cooperated marvellously, so much so that I spent about 5 minutes taking lots of photos trying out different settings. Well, it's not every day a Brown Hawker allows you so near and in such a good position. They usually land and settle up high, out of reach. The problem started when I went to get back up again. My knees are not what they used to be, I'm afraid. It's so much easier getting down than it is getting back up again. One knee buckled and I fell sideways onto some nettles. Ouch! That also spooked the Hawker and it flew off.

Common Darter
I managed to get back to the path without any further problems, just in time to spot a Common Darter. Then more turned up. Then a couple of Ruddy Darters appeared. Speckled Woods were everywhere and there must have been dozens of Common Blue damsels about as well. My eye was in by now and I could see lots of Grasshoppers hopping around the grass. As they do. I must have spent about an hour here, wandering about the reeds and grasses. People walked past me, giving me funny looks and cautiously bidding me a good morning. Even their dogs gave me an odd look.

Common Blue
I took the alternative route because I wanted to walk along the river to see if there were any Demos, in or around the fishing spots. Unfortunately there weren't any, but I did manage to catch a couple of Migrant Hawkers at rest. But, being a public footpath, there were also lots of public. Dog walkers of course, one woman not content with just one, having six of them, all barking away; joggers pounding their joints into oblivion and cyclists wrapped up in their now obligatory tight lycra, zooming past, every now and then wiping all the dead flies from their goggles.

Migrant Hawker
On the trail to Fishers Green, looking out over Seventy Acres Lake, I could see at least 4 juvenile Great Crested Grebes, their humbug heads still very visible. I eventually reached the Bittern Hide and took a break. Looking out to my left towards the Feeders, which today were satisfyingly full, I could see Blue and Great Tits, a Greenfinch and a male and female Chaffinch, all cautiously flying back and forth, keeping a wary eye out. On the lake there were at least a couple of dozen Mute Swans; 50+ Canada Geese; another GCG; lots of Cormorants and at least one Common Tern, perched up on one of the posts.

Speckled Wood
As I had entered the Hide a couple with their grandchildren were just leaving. Granddad came back in a few minutes later and retrieved his wallet which he had obviously dropped, trying to maintain order with the grandchildren. He gave me a rueful look and I sympathized, remembering my forgetfulness at Amwell the previous week.

Whilst I was in the Hide I noted the absence of any Reed or Sedge Warblers in the area, another reminder of the inexorable call of Autumn. But, on a positive note, that means that the Bitterns could be back here in a few months.

Ruddy Darter
On the trail upto the Grebe Hide there was a distinct lack of butterflies. Lots of Dragons and Damsels but only the odd White and Speckled Wood and a lone, tatty, Meadow Brown. No breeze, plenty of sunshine but no flutterbys. There weren't too many birds about today either, although I could hear lots of singing, mainly Chiffchaff and Blackcap and a distant Cetti's Warbler. Around 6 or 7 Jackdaws chacked away overhead, heading towards the nearby Farm.

I arrived at Holyfield Weir to find dozens and dozens of Canada Geese, all lined up along weir itself. Coots; BHGs; Gadwalls; a GCG and humbug and a few Greylags were also present. And it seemed like every possible perch was taken up. I could also see a couple of yachts out on the lake too.

Just past the Weir I found myself at the area where I had been successful in spotting lots of Banded Demoiselles during recent visits. Unfortunately, today they were absent. I moved on and tried lots of fishing spots, looking out over the fast flowing river. I could hear another Cetti's on the other side, hidden in the bushes. Whilst looking for it a movement on the stream caught my eye and I spotted a lone male Demo fluttering around, checking out possible perches. It was too far away for a photo. And, a little further on, at the other prime Demo area, I spotted 3 more, again on the other side of the river. The sun was in the wrong position and I calculated that it would be another hour before my side was in the sunshine, so I headed off to have lunch in the Grebe Hide.

Looking out over Holyfield Lake, most of the birds were over to the left, obviously because of the yachts. In amongst all the Coots and Mutes; ducks and geese were around a dozen GCGs, some with humbugs. A couple of Grey Herons were having a territorial dispute way out to my left. Then, just in front of me, on the reeds a little Wren flew in, pecked at a couple of flies and flew out. Lunch. Damn, I forgot the Champers.

Migrant Hawker
Just before I left the Hide I had tried to get a shot of a Migrant Hawker, which was hovering just in front of the Hide. A GCG had also swim in close but I missed the shot opportunity because I heard, then saw, a Kingfisher fly past, from right to left, across the lake. You could see its' brilliant turquoise iridescence in the sunlight as it flew. Always a fantastic sight to see.

Big Brother?
I headed back to the Demo area and sat down, waiting for them to fly across to my side. I patiently waited for over an hour, watching the sun moving steadily over, the shadows creeping across the nearby leaves and nettles around me. And, during most of that time, a very noisy helicopter hovered not very far away from where I was sat, doing I know not what. Then a noisy dog, in someone's garden, across the river, started barking away. It was nearly as noisy as politicians on opposite sides of the House of Commons during a fierce debate. A couple of fishermen packed up and headed off. I was about to follow them, when one of the males fluttered in my direction. I held my breath and, despite a few false starts, got closer and closer. But not quite close enough. Well, the males may have let me down but then a female suddenly appeared from nowhere and landed about 4 feet away. She wasn't quite showing her best side, but I was grateful for any pose at this stage. I got my shots and decided to head off, especially as a 2nd Chopper had turned up.

Female Banded Demoiselle
I stopped off again at another fishing spot and was rewarded with a close-up view of a male Demo. He, too, wasn't quite showing his best side but I was again grateful for anything. He was flying up and catching midges every few seconds and landing back on the same spot, in between other reeds which were unhelpfully moving in the wind. I could see another female sat on one of the reeds in the middle of the river, ovipositing.

Male Banded Demoiselle
There wasn't anything else of note on the walk back, other than spotting a Crayfish creeping along the bottom of the clear, clean river from one of the bridges. I bypassed the Bittern Hide and headed home. The good weather is forecast for a few more days yet.