Friday, 31 January 2014

Wildlife Round-up of 2013 - Part Two


Banded Demoiselle - female
Banded Demoiselle - male
The hot weather continued to delight in July with high pressure established over much of the UK, giving us lots of sunshine. We soon had lots of youngsters running around with Great Crested Grebes the stars, mainly around the Fishers Green area. Treecreepers; Great Spotted Woodpeckers; Waders and Warblers were being seen on several occasions, with Siskin making its last appearance of the year, at Amwell. But the emphasis now was turning to wildlife other than birds, with more and more species of butterfly appearing. These included Gatekeeper; Meadow Brown; Ringlet; Six-spot Burnet and Small Skipper. This was also a great month for dragons and damsels with great close-up views of Banded Demoiselle. Brown and Southern Hawkers also showed up as did the first Darters, Common and Ruddy, the latter towards the end of the month. Ladybirds were still not out in any numbers yet, but Bombardier Beetle appeared, as did Green Lacewing; Green Shield Bug and Longhorn Beetle.

Emerald Damselfly
Water Vole
It was still warm and sunny in August, with the first day of the month the hottest so far but clouds started to make their presence known more often towards the end of the month, giving us a torrential downpour on the 24th. Little Egret was still showing quite well as they had done all year, this time half-a-dozen pairs had produced young at Amwell. It was quiet on the raptor front this month, with the RM Marsh Harrier finally leaving. The Oystercatchers made their last appearance as well. Another visit to Rainham Marsh this month brought in Linnet; Bearded Tit; Whimbrel and Greenshank. The latter also appeared for a week or so at RM, which also gave me 4 or 5 Black-tailed Godwit. The second Kingfisher brood fledged but a third attempt failed, as it did last year. Willow Warbler and Barnacle Goose were seen at Amwell. This month brought more, excellent, sightings of Water Voles at both RM and Rainham, where, amazingly, another Stoat appeared. The butterfly list improved with sightings of Brown Argus; Cinnabar; Jersey Tiger moth; Mother-of-Pearl moth; Painted Lady; Poplar Hawk moth (twice); Silver Y moth and Small Copper. Banded Demoiselles continued to thrill while I spotted my first ever Emerald damselfly, at Amwell. The first Small Red-eyed Damselfly of the season was spotted at Rainham. The first of many Migrant Hawker sightings were seen this month and again gave great photo opportunities, as they did last year. The Darters were becoming more and more common. A Hornet's nest had appeared on the trail between the James and White Hides in Amwell and delighted, if not scared, many visitors. Rainham's visit gave me Meadow Grasshopper, while a Musk Beetle was seen from the Grebe Hide in Fishers Green. Blackberries started to appear, soon followed by blackberry pickers.

Pectoral Sandpipers at Titchwell
Redshank at Snettisham
The sun started to struggle to keep me warm in September after the first few days and clouds and overcast skies started to dominate, giving a distinctly autumnal feel. This month I paid my annual pilgrimage to north Norfolk where over 70 species were seen with the star birds being Marsh Harrier; Pink-footed Geese; Little Stint; Spotted Redshank; Wilson's Pharalope; Pectoral Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper. There were spectacular flypasts of Knot and Redshank at Snettisham. Back home the last of the Common Terns had gone early in the month while the hirundines had flown south a while ago. My final visit to Rainham this year gave views of Greenshank; Green Sandpiper and Snipe. A Mink appeared outside the Bittern Hide at Fishers Green several times. The last sighting of a Banded Demoiselle was seen at the beginning of the month; there was another Emerald sighting at Amwell again but the writing was on the wall for the damsels this month, as they all gradually disappeared. Brown and Migrant Hawkers; Common and Ruddy Darters were the last odonata on the wing. Rainham gave me Chrysolina banksi Beetle; Field Grasshopper; Four-spot Orb-weaver spider; Long-winged Conehead and Wasp Spider. Elsewhere Dock Bug and Forest Bug were seen.

Mixed, unsettled weather was the theme for the last quarter, mainly cloud but the sun was making a last ditch effort to hang around, especially in October. November brought the first frost. December was notable for heavy, damaging storms, and being the windiest December on record. The last quarter of the year saw bird totals down, with expert opinion deciding that the milder weather and plentiful food was keeping migration back. The Winter wildfowl were starting to turn up with Goldeneye; Smew and Pintail all showing well. Redwing; Snipe and Water Rail were being seen on regular occasions. The last butterfly of the year, a lone Red Admiral, was seen mid-November. The last damselfly was seen in mid-October, a Common Blue, whilst the last dragonflies were the Common Darter and the Migrant Hawker, last seen mid-November. The only other insect to add to the list was a sighting of a Parasitic Wasp seen in the James Hide in Amwell.
Poplar Hawk Moth

Nagging - not just a human thing!
Visits elsewhere this year were to London Zoo and the Butterfly World near St. Albans.

The commonest bird of the year was the Magpie, inevitably, appearing on all 81 visits. The commonest Mammal was again inevitably, the Rabbit, seen 37 times. Commonest Butterflies were the Comma; Large White and the Peacock with 27 sightings. The commonest Damselfly was the Common Blue making 28 appearances with the Brown Hawker dragonfly being seen 22 times. The common Bee was the most seen insect.

So, all in all, a very good year. Roll on 2014.