Thursday, 31 October 2013

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 30th October, 2013

Weather: Clear, blue skies. Clouding over in the afternoon.

Birds Total: 36
Plus: Peacock, Red Admiral butterflies.
Plus: Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: 14-spot Ladybird; Caddis Fly; Cattle; Muntjac.

It's been a couple of days since 'St. Jude's Storm' and there was a very slight chance of some migrants being blown in. But I guess Hertfordshire is a bit too central. And I'm never that lucky.

The weather was a bit kinder today, hardly any wind at all, with sunny, blue skies early on. Around lunchtime it clouded over quite badly and I feared I might have to cut the visit short. But the clouds moved on after about an hour, allowing me to carry on. It was quite warm in the sunshine but a tad cooler in the shade.

I haven't been out much this month, due to various reasons, but it's so much better than being stuck at home watching all the visual diarrhoea for the emotionally challenged on the box. And anyway, wildlife soap operas are so much better.

I had arrived in the area just after the sun had come up to find a crisp, clear day, the bushes covered in the morning dew. On the train down I saw a dust-up between 2 male Pheasants, with a 3rd looking on and a Jay, Little Egret and a Grey Heron a little further on.

From the Teal Hide I could see around 15 Lapwing; a couple of Teal; Gadwall and Mallards around the scrape area. There were about 10 cattle feeding the area with one of them quite close to the Hide, Holsteins I think. Canada Geese were present, with a few Greylags mixed in with them, a pair of Moorhens and also lots of BHGs. A little later a lone Starling flew in amongst the Lapwing on the left. Then a Water Rail appeared from the reeds between the Lapwing, one of which spooked it and scared it up, where it flew over the scrape and landed in the reeds to the right. A flying Water Rail is a rare treat.

Then there was a commotion outside the Hide, with a dog barking and a couple of people shouting at it. They all entered the Hide and sheepishly apologised for the noise. A third person then came in. We all had a pleasant chat for a few minutes before they all headed off. I settled back down and noticed that more Teal had appeared and then a Muntjac turned up and proceeded to cross the scrape from right to left. The first one I've seen for some time.

A little later a pair of Snipe then showed up, again between the Lapwing. Immediately after a 2nd Water Rail also took a turn in the spotlight. All 3 species were feeding together, to be joined by 2 more Snipe. It was an entertaining 15 minutes or so. Out to the right all the cattle had sat down. This usually means its going to rain. A quick check of the sky - no clouds. They're weather forecasting is about as good as the BBC's.

Another dog showed up in the Hide, followed by a little girl. She took one look at me and ran off screaming. The dog followed. I have that effect on women. I figured the dog must have been female too.

I headed off myself not long after, checking outside the Hide. The only things about were a lone Common Darter; a Red Admiral and a 14-spot Ladybird. At the standing Hides I could see another Darter sunning itself and a pair of Migrant Hawkers having a set-to over the reeds. There were also 19 Canada Geese with 3 more Greylags.

Time was getting on so I moved off down the trail, immediately hearing, then seeing a screaming Jay fly overhead. A quick look out over Friday Lake elicited about 40-odd Wigeon; 10 or so Pochard; a few Shoveler and lots of Tufted Duck; Coot; Gulls and, just for good measure, a Cetti's Warbler sounded off. Out on Hooks Marsh Lake I could see an adult GCG with a juvenile. Another Red Admiral
fluttered by. A little further on more GCGs appeared. And more and more dog-walkers were also appearing. I hope I don't step on anything untoward.

On the trail upto the bridge I came across the first of a couple of work-details, obviously called in to clear up the debris caused by the troubles earlier in the week. Surprisingly, they were also tarmacking the trail. Looking out from the bridge itself only yielded up a couple more GCGs, with the usual fare.

I arrived at the Hooks Marsh car-park to find it packed, not only with lots of cars but also lots of Mute Swans and Canada and Greylag Geese. All of them waiting patiently at the feeding station for handouts. The birds, not the cars.

I headed up the trail to Fishers Green. More and more people passed by, joggers; dog-walkers; cyclists and families. It's Half-Term week. More Darters were sunning themselves on the trail. At the feeding area near the Bittern Hide more people were feeding more Swans and Geese. Mallards and Coots were trying to muscle in as well, in a splendid free-for-all. I also noticed a couple of guys ringing a Cygnet. The scene seemed very terribly British.

From the Bittern Hide itself, I could see around half-a-dozen Great Tits; a couple of Blue Tits; a pair of Chaffinches and a Wren, all taking advantage of the well stocked up feeders. 3 Common Darters were chasing each other over the pond in front. Yet another Red Admiral flew in to the Hide and fluttered around before flying back out again. 3 or 4 Cetti's could be heard in amongst the reeds. Eventually one of them showed itself, albeit very briefly. Then a Little Grebe appeared in one of the channels, diving for food. Coot and Moorhen were populating other channels. And more people came and went.

It was at this point that the weather deteriorated badly. But my patience was rewarded as the overcast sky returned to its normal blue colour and allowed me to head off towards the Grebe Hide. On the trails down I noticed that the debris from the 'Big Blow' hadn't yet been cleaned up here yet, with lots of leaves and plenty of branches around. It didn't stop me or the 4 or 5 fishermen I passed. Looking out towards the farm area I could see masses and masses of Corvids circling, very probably Jackdaws. About 30 or so Canadas and
Greylags were feeding on the lagoon over the relief channel. There was also another Little Grebe fishing between a couple of Coot.

At Holyfield Weir the only thing of note to report were about half-a-dozen Wigeon. I arrived at the Grebe Hide not long after to find a couple of dozen Mute Swans; a couple of dozen more Wigeon and 6 GCGs including a couple of juveniles. 3 or 4 LBBGs were floating on the water; 3 or 4 Shoveler were dozing in the sunshine while the usual shed-load of Coot; Tufted Duck and Gadwall were all swanning around. A Jay flew over and landed in the trees opposite.

Then I saw something that I had never seen before. I witnessed one of the juvenile GCGs continually calling out for its parent, which wasn't currently around, then it started begging for food from a Coot. If a Coot could have had a bemused look this was it. Then the parent eventually turned up with a fish and the juvenile was fed. I wonder if the juve would have continued begging for food from other birds if the parent hadn't turned up? I tried to get a photograph of the action but the ancient, venerable Law of Sod intervened with,
first, the birds swimming away and then the sun going in.

But time had again beaten me and I therefore headed for home, stopping off at the Bittern Hide, getting a really good view of another Water Rail. It was getting dark by the time I arrived at the station but I arrived home in good time. It was a good visit and good to get out again.

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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Rye Meads - 23rd October 13

Weather: Cloudy and overcast in the morning, clearing up slightly, ending with mainly blue skies. Strong wind.

Birds Total: 33
Plus: Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies. Red Admiral butterfly.
Plus: Konik Pony; Water Buffalo; Dock Bug, Green Shield Bug; Dark Bush Cricket; various Bees, Hoverflies, Spiders and Wasps.

It was forecast today to be cloudy and overcast until lunchtime when clear blue skies should have arrived. Of course this wasn't the case, the cloud cover overstaying its welcome, restricting the blue sky to rare appearances. There was even a bit of rain just after I arrived. When the sun did shine through it was quite warm but there was an accompanying strong wind too.

Today wasn't a long visit, getting there after 11 and heading home just after 3.30. Unfortunately, the strong winds also blew down a tree onto the overhead train lines which delayed the journey home, adding over an hour to the journey.

There weren't too many people about on the Reserve, I didn't see much more than half-a-dozen people all day. There weren't too many birds about either. Plenty of Lapwing though, over 200+ and lots of Shoveler and Teal. There were good views of a Green Woodpecker and a Jay from the Draper Hide in the morning and a good view of a Water Rail and a lone Common Sandpiper from the Tern Hide in the afternoon. 3 Green Sandpipers were seen dozing in the late sunshine also from the Draper just before I decided to call it a day.

A few days earlier someone had reported seeing well over 230 Common Snipe from the Tern Hide but all I could muster was a puny 4. The only other bird of note was a glimpse of a Kestrel just as I left the Reserve.

Early on, at the first pond, I spotted a pair of Dock Bugs and a lone Green Shield Bug, together with a pair of Dark Bush Crickets. Plenty of Common Darters were about, some in pairs, egg-laying and about half-a-dozen Migrant Hawkers. I only saw one butterfly - a fleeting glimpse of a Red Admiral.

And that was it. No Water Voles but one of the Water Buffalo still had a calf with her. Not the greatest of visits but at least I managed to get out again. It was a better option than doing the housework.

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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Amwell Nature Reserve - 17th October 13

Weather: Sunny, slight cloud, warm with a slight breeze.

Birds Total: 46
Plus: Common Blue Damselfly; Common Darter, Migrant Hawker Dragonflies.
Plus: Comma Butterfly.
Plus: 14-spot and Harlequin Ladybird; Caddis Fly; Hornet's Nest; various Spiders; Bees and Hoverflies.

This was my first chance to get out and about again after a couple of weeks, due to one reason or another. And the weather today was excellent - no rain and sunny blue skies. It clouded over a little in the afternoon but it wasn't nearly as bad as recent days.

On the train down to the Reserve I spotted a Jay and then a cheeky Fox just sitting beside the track watching us go past. On the trail upto the viewing area a Green Woodpecker yaffled and flew overhead, while a Comma was sat sunning itself just as I reached the bridge.

I arrived at the viewing point to find 2 other guys there, who I recognised from previous visits. Looking out over Great Hardmead Lake I could see the usual birding fare, Coots and Mutes; Gulls; plenty of Lapwing; a few Gadwall and Tufties; Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal but oddly only a few Canada Geese and no Greylags. High above the distant trees 4 Buzzards were gliding the thermals, each one being mobbed by Crows while the odd Sparrowhawk dodged past them all. From the lesser viewpoint a Grey Heron could be seen out to the left, imitating a statue, while on the mudflat in front a pair of Teal were obviously sleeping off a heavy night as were a pair of Common Snipe.

I only spent about an hour here, seeing as there wasn't too much on show and moved off down the trail towards the James Hide. From here there was even less to see. The one feeder remaining out to the right was empty. A couple of Moorhens were swimming about in front while Dunnock and Blue Tit were trying to eke out the remaining seeds from around the feeder. One Dunnock settled itself on a tree stump and began sun-bathing, trying to rid itself of all unwanted passengers. A few birds were flitting in and out of the reeds and I finally managed to get my bins on them to identify them as Reed Buntings, the first I've seen for a while.

I decided to move on to the White Hide. The weather proved to be pretty good all day and, while it was warm in the sun, the shade was noticeably cooler. With only a light breeze I would have expected to have seen some butterflies but none appeared, although Darters and Hawkers were still flying around. The Hornet's nest was still in situ, in the tree stump, with lots of them to-ing and fro-ing. It'll be interesting to see if they over winter.

Finding nobody else in the White Hide I settled in and scanned the area. There wasn't much else to see other than a pair of Little Grebes. The Wigeon count rose to 7, while the Shoveler count rose to around a dozen. Then, out to the left I spotted a Kestrel fly in and land on the grass, something I had never seen a Kestrel do. It began eating worms before spotting me and flew upto a nearby tree. It was a juvenile and it guessed that I was no threat and began flying back down again before circling the area and landing on the tree again. Very entertaining stuff.

Just after that I spotted several pairs of Common Darters doing their egg-laying dance, the male dipping the female down to the water to lay eggs. They all kept in close formation to each other and proceeded to work their way around the pond edges, closely accompanied by a couple of single males trying to muscle in on the action. Also very entertaining.

Several other people came in while I was being entertained, one of which kept missing the Kestrel action. Every time he moved off the Kestrel flew in. By the time the guy sat back down the Kestrel flew off! Thankfully the Kestrel eventually appeared for him.

On the trail back I kept a look out for Shield Bugs, seeing none, but I spotted the first of what turned out to be loads of Caddis Flies flitting about. I guess it must have been their time of the year. There were also lots more ladybirds today than of late, mainly Harlequins. One of which was a no-spot ladybird, only my second record ever. And later on there was a third.

I decided to pay a visit to the twin lagoons in the hope of seeing some Dragon action. More Darters were performing their dance, this time right in front of me, while a lone Migrant Hawker came in to inspect me, before deciding I was too big a meal and flew off. Then I was surprised to spot a lone Common Blue damselfly. They should be gone by now, another reminder of the late Spring this year. Then a Hornet flew in and crash landed into the lagoon. Kamikaze? No, it then proceeded to take a drink before lifting off and flying away. While all this was going on I could hear a Cetti's Warbler singing away in the far reeds. Then I heard a Kingfisher but couldn't spot it. A female Migrant Hawker flew in quite close and proceeded to oviposit. A couple of Common Darters then decided to fly in right next to me and pose.

As the Dragonfly Trail was now closed I decided to pay a visit to Tumbling Bay Lake as I had not been down there for quite some time. I didn't walk all the way, just to the nearest south-side spit and looked out. A male Pheasant was screeching out somewhere in the woods. It was in this area that I saw the 2nd no-spot Ladybird, together with quite a few Harlequins. I also noticed lots of mushrooms growing around the area. I didn't sample any. Out on the lake I could see Pochard and Tufted Duck together with the requisite Coots plus an adult GCG with a juvenile in close attendance. Another Green Woodpecker yaffled over me. There was also some Dragon action here as well, with more pairs of Darters dancing away. I also spotted 3 more Common Blue damsels. Then I heard, then spotted, a Kingfisher fly past, its beautiful plumage reflecting the sunlight.

Walking back again I bumped into another familiar birding face and stopped to chat for a few minutes. It was here that a few Wrens flew by, the first I've seen for a while. Then we both heard and saw a GSW fly over. This was followed by a gang of LTTs, noisily chatting away to each other as they fed and flew by us.

Eventually I found myself back in the James Hide where I broke for lunch. There still wasn't a great deal happening here. A couple of people came and went.

The breeze began to pick up and it began to cloud over a bit more so I decided to head back to the main viewing point where I was met by several other people, all looking at a distant Red Kite. There were now 5 Grey Herons around the lake, as well as a lone Little Egret. There must have been 50+ Lapwing out there now, all being put up every few minutes by nothing in particular.

Although there was nothing too special to see today I was just glad to be out and about again, in the lovely weather. Unfortunately, rain is forecast for the next 5 to 7 days so I'm not sure when my next trip will be.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Rye Meads - 1st October 13

Weather: Cloudy and overcast all day. Strong breeze.

Birds Total: 37
Plus: Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: Konik Pony; Water Buffalo; Shield Bugs; Spotted Crane Fly; Parasitic Wasp; Flesh Fly; various Bees, Hoverflies, Spiders and Wasps.

Unfortunately I chose today instead of yesterday to venture out. The weather forecast said that today would be the better day. I should have known better. Yesterday was sunny, today was cloudy.

And consequently, not too good for photography, so I concentrated on insects again. Only today there were no damselflies or butterflies about. It was a short day. On the way down to the Reserve I spied the first conkers of the year falling from the trees. There was a time when these were collected like strawberries, now they are just left to rot on the ground. Times they are a-changing.

And, while I was sat down outside the visitor centre getting my gear sorted, I saw 3 Greenfinches on the feeders with a couple of pheasants on the ground hoovering up the remnants. Then, at the first pond, there was only a pair of Dock Bugs; a couple of Dark Bush Crickets and a roving Migrant Hawker. There was quite a strong breeze about today and it was proving a nuisance whilst trying to use the macro lens.

At the first bridge I looked out for any Water Voles but after about 20 minutes or so none were seen. But out on the HMWT meadow there were 4 ponies and 1 buffalo wandering around. A Grey Heron flew from left to right and landed not too far away from me. Then an obliging Woodpigeon posed for me.

I spent about 20 minutes in the Draper Hide, with one other guy, but there wasn't much about other than the usual wildfowl. Although I did note that some of the male Teal were starting to come into their breeding plumage, as were a couple of Shoveler. A pair of Grey Herons were eyeing each other warily from both sides of the lagoon and there were 3 adult Little Grebes, but this week only 1 Grebelet was left. There wasn't anything unusual on the walk upto the twin hides.

From the Tern Hide, together with 3 other people, I could see 5 Green Sandpipers; over a dozen Snipe; lots of Lapwing and loads of Gadwall; Shoveler; Teal and Wigeon. And, of course, lots of Coot. There were also a pair of Pied Wagtails on the mud-flats and a Cetti's Warbler singing outside the Hide. A lone Sandpiper looked like it was going to get close to the Hide, it didn't, but I wasn't going to try and photograph it anyway, as the light was particularly bad at that time.

I moved off after an hour, a quick look in the Gadwall Hide proved fruitless. On the trail towards the Kingfisher Hide a gang of LTTs moved past and another Cetti's sounded off. I stopped for a minute and watched a pair of Migrant Hawkers have a territorial dispute. The strong breeze was keeping the temperature down and I was a bit surprised that they were up and about.

On the walkway to the hide I noticed that a lot of coppicing had been done around the area, with lots of recently cut reeds lying in piles. I arrived at the newly painted KF Hide to find only the resident pair of Coot about so I moved on after only 5 minutes. I did notice that the green weed had virtually disappeared from the pond.

I headed down towards the Warbler Hide and, on the way, there were a fair few Darters and Hawkers about, including a female Migrant ovipositing. Lots of leaves had fallen around the Reserve, another reminder that today was the first day of October.

The only things of note seen from the Warbler Hide were a Kestrel, away to the left, sat on a post and about 4 Snipe flying from left to right. Out on the right I could see a Water Buffalo with a calf. I bet that doesn't get to hang around long.

Outside the Hide I spotted a Green Shield Bug which the breeze allowed me to photograph, while further back down the trail another flock of LTTs flew through, chattering away to each other. There were at least 2 Chiffchaff amongst them, plus the odd Great Tit.

I spent another 50 minutes or so back in the Tern Hide. I counted at least 25 Lapwing and 25 Snipe. There were still 5 Green Sandpipers about plus another Grey Heron and a couple of Little Grebes. There were also 2 women with me in the Hide. One of the many funny comments I overheard was 'I can see 2 Sandpipers and I think 3 more behind them, but they look smaller. Maybe because they are further away'.

The only other things of note before I left for the day were a couple of close-ups of a Darter, just outside the twin hides and a Cross Spider feeding off a hoverfly. But the wind was the enemy of the macro lens.

Another good day out but it should have been yesterday. I might ignore the weather forecasts in future.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 29th September, 2013

Weather: Warm, sunny with a few clouds. Slight breeze.

Birds Total: 39
Plus: Comma, Large White, Small White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Blue-tailed, Common, Emerald Blue damselflies. Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Dark Bush-cricket; Mink.

Surprisingly, its been over 3 weeks since I last visited Fishers Green so I headed down to primarily see if there were any Banded Demoiselles still around. Unfortunately, none were found, but there were one or two surprises today.

The weather today was warm and sunny with only slight cloud and a light breeze. No need for my fleece. I arrived at the Teal Hide, looking out at the Hall Marsh Scrape, just after 10. On the way down I could hear Chiffchaff and Long-tailed Tits calling. Just before entering I spotted a lone Common Blue damselfly.

Looking out over the Scrape I could see around 25 Lapwing over to the right; a few Teal swimming just in front of the Hide and a couple of Gadwall. There were 3 female Pheasants feeding in the distance while a GSW began calling. There not being much else I headed off.

I stopped just outside the Hide to search for dragons and damsels as before it had proved extremely fruitful. This time I spotted a Common Darter and a couple of Migrant Hawkers. There were also 2 Common Blue damsels, one of which was continually bending its abdomen, as if ovipositing, but it was a male. There were also Dark Bush Crickets casually sitting on the nettles.

Moving on around the trail I spotted more Common Blue damsels, floating up at my approach and more Common Darters, sunning themselves on the trail. And, with no breeze and some sunshine, butterflies were also around. Mainly Whites plus the odd Comma and Speckled Wood.

Looking out over Hooks Marsh Lake I could see all the usual wildfowl plus an adult GCG with a noisy humbug. At the bridge only Coots were about plus another pair of GCGs. There was another GCG as I entered the trail to the Bittern Hide. A few Chiffchaffs were singing their song to each other. Looking out over Seventy Acres Lake I could see plenty of Coot; Mute Swans; Geese; Cormorant and lots of ducks.

When I arrived at the Bittern Hide it was empty. I could hear a Cetti's singing with the usual birds on the adjacent feeders. Coppicing was in evidence over the pond, 5 channels had been cut, presumably in preparation for the Bittern arrival. Looking out over the lake, other than what had already been seen, I could see at least one Grey Heron. Then, out of the corner of my eye, on the right-hand channel, a Mink suddenly appeared. It trotted halfway down the channel, looked both ways, then trotted back and disappeared. A Mink had been reported in previous days but I didn't expect to see one myself.

I then headed out towards the Grebe Hide. On the trail down I had a quick look at some of the fishing spots. One of them proved very fruitful, seeing a mating pair of Common Darters; plenty of posing Migrant Hawkers; lots of Common Blue damsels; a pair of Blue-tailed and, best of all, a pair of Emeralds. The Common Blues were chasing the Emeralds and the Blue-tailed. They also surprisingly chased off a couple of the resting Migrant Hawkers. I've seen this behaviour before this summer.

Continuing on the path a Jay flew down to feed, spotted me before I could get close and flew off again. It looked in pristine condition, showing off its large black moustache. A Green Woodpecker also flew over, screeching out its yaffle. On the way to Holyfield Weir I could hear both Goldfinch and Jackdaw above. At the Weir there were mostly Canadas, one of which looked like a cross with a Barnacle; about a dozen Greylags; Coots and Mutes; a loan Pochard and a lone Wigeon and a family of 4 GCGs, all asleep.

By now I felt quite warm in the sunshine, when it was allowed to shine through the shredding clouds. I also noticed that there were now quite a lot of leaves on the ground, another reminder of autumn.

I stopped and looked at all the prime spots for the Demos but spotted none. I guess that's it for the season. I then found myself looking out from the Grebe Hide. Scanning from the left I could see 15 Wigeon; Coot City and a pair of Grey Herons perched on a tree. In front of the Hide were another 8 Wigeon; a pair of Little Grebes; lots of Mutes in the distance and more Coot. And out to the right one more Wigeon, making 24 in total; one Greylag; lots of Canadas and more Coot. I paused for lunch.

My second scan yielded 16 GCGs, one with a noisy humbug; a lone Shoveler; an LBBG and plenty of Cormorant. Just outside the Hide a Hobby flew over. And along the relief channel, just after the Weir, I spotted a Kingfisher fly past. And just before I left the Reserve another Kingfisher flew up the river, landed for a minute or so, then flew off.

There weren't too many people about today, but I did notice lots of litter. A nice day out in the sunshine.