Sunday, 18 May 2014

Amwell Nature Reserve - 5th May 14

Weather: More sun than cloud. Warm with a slight breeze.

Birds Total: 60
Plus: Muntjac.
Plus: Brimstone, Orange Tip, Peacock, Speckled Wood Butterflies. Drinker Moth Caterpillar.
Plus: 2-spot, 11-spot, 16-spot, Harlequin and Orange Ladybird; Alderfly; Bee-fly; Cardinal Beetle; Green Shield Bug; Midges; Nursery Web Spider; Rainbow Trout; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Solder Beetle; St. Mark's Fly; Tadpoles; White-tailed Bumble Bee.
Plus: Azure, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Large Red Damselflies; Hairy Dragonfly.
Plus: Bluebells, Early Marsh and Southern Marsh Orchids.

It was a very long day today. But it was another pretty good day out. The weather forecast was correct for once, sunny and warm early on, with some cloud later.

So, whilst waiting for the 7.52 train, I was delighted to hear my first bird, a Cuckoo. I then duly arrived at Amwell and walked down the trail to the Reserve. On the way I could hear House Sparrows and a Greenfinch with a Collared Dove peering down at me from a tree. The Dove from Above!

Starlings flew over and then a Blackcap could be heard calling. A couple of Common Terns were gracefully flying up and down the canal fishing. A Reed Warbler could be heard singing out its' tuneful, repetitive song. Moorhens with chicks were swimming along the canal, looking oh so cute. There were plenty of Nursery Web Spiders about, along with the odd Harlequin Ladybird. A lone Goldfinch sounded off above me and flew in to a nearby tree. Then I spotted my first caterpillar of the year, a Drinker Moth. It was surrounded by lots more ladybirds, one of them an Orange. A Pheasant screamed out his presence in the distance. And finally, a Lesser Whitethroat could be heard and then seen, singing atop a tree. All this and I hadn't even arrived at the viewing point!

From the main viewing point itself I could see a pair of Muntjac out to the left, shadowed by a pair of Pheasants. On the scrape in front there was a Ringed Plover, my first of the year. Elsewhere I could see a pair of Little Ringed Plovers; around half-a-dozen Lapwing; at least 2 Redshank; about 10 or so Common Terns and 4 Grey Herons. More Goldfinches flew overhead, Reed and Sedge Warblers were singing out.

Chicks were in abundance now, with Mallards; Canadas and Greylags all escorting various youngsters. A pair of Great Crested Grebes were doing their head-shaking dance. In the air I could see at least 4 Swift flying around. It was all happening!

I then moved down to the lesser viewing point. From here I could hear and see a Whitethroat on the other side of the canal. A Cuckoo was also calling out, but I couldn't discern from which direction.

This time I decided to head straight down to the Dragonfly Trail as it had just opened. It was sunny, it was warm and I was hoping to see some dragon and damsel action. On the way I spotted a Green-veined White butterfly. A quick visit to the twin lagoons only yielded a Moorhen family. I discovered an Alderfly sunning itself on the bridge. Orange Tip butterflies, male and female, appeared, as did a Speckled Wood. 3 Long-tailed Tits chattered past me in the trees above, stopping only briefly to have a look at me. They always look as if they feel sorry for me, having to walk around while they soar up into the bright skies.

I then arrived at the Dragonfly Trail. As with all great expectations I was left a little disappointed as there wasn't much about at first. But then, after about 15 minutes of watching and searching, I spotted my first dragon of the year - a Hairy. It was darting about, this way and that and I waited patiently, in vain, for it to land for a photo.

Unidentified Insect
I had a quick look at the Orchid Meadow and found a few Early Marsh and Southern Marsh Orchids blooming. A Bee-fly was buzzing around them. Moving on to the river I spotted an immature Azure damselfly. Then I was lucky enough to be looking in the right direction at the right time, as I saw a Kingfisher flash by, it's turquoise and orange plumage a give-away. Further on a Peacock butterfly flew up and away. A Great Spotted Woodpecker could be heard drumming out its' territorial claim.

I moved back to the ponds to find the Hairy dragonfly on the wing again, but again it disappeared before I could see where it landed, after the clouds came over. Looking down into the water I could see lots of tadpoles swimming about. Looking up I spotted a Hobby fly over. Dozens of Swifts were also flying overhead and I could also see a Buzzard higher up, utilising the thermals. Then I spotted the first of four Large Red damselflies, just resting on a leaf, soaking up the warm sun.

I decided to move back to the Hides. Back at the bridge I could see a couple of Rainbow Trout treading water in the fast moving stream. People have been feeding them and they obviously hang around when they see anyone pass by. A couple of St. Mark's Flies were still about, lazily flying around, legs dangling down. I could hear and see a Chiffchaff high in the trees, picking its' way through the branches.

Looking out from the James Hide, upper tier, I could see a Mallard with chicks, escorted by a couple of drakes, all quacking away. A Grey Heron was fishing in the channel and Reed Buntings were flying in to the feeders. The feeders were actually not doing much business at all. I guess the usual customers were tucking into all the insects that were about. And, as there wasn't very much spillage, there was no sign of Phil the Pheasant. A bright red Cardinal Beetle flew in and landed on the tree just in front of me. A Cetti's Warbler sounded off to my left and I saw it fly into the reeds.

When all the action finally quietened down here I decided to head around to the White Hide. On the way I spotted another Cardinal Beetle, it's blood red body contrasting with the dark green leaves and then a Brimstone butterfly flew by. The beetle posed for me but, as usual, the butterfly was in far too much of a hurry.

I arrived at the White Hide to find it empty. Which was unusual, as the Reserve was pretty busy, due to the Bank Holiday no doubt. Mostly families, but also lots of dog-walkers and joggers, with the odd cyclist. Well, I think they're odd, but it's probably just me.

Outside I could see an LRP on the island in front. The only addition here was a Little Egret, which ventured in close, allowing a few shots, before spotting me and flying off. There not being much else in evidence I had lunch and moved back to the main viewing point. Just before I arrived a buck Muntjac appeared and posed.

From here I found 2 pairs of LRPs, in front and to the right. And then, an odd sight - I witnessed a little Mallard duckling chase off an adult Redshank! What a wimp!

From the mini viewpoint a Sedge Warbler sat up on a treetop nicely for me, singing away. I carried on and found myself looking out over the lake from the Gladwin Hide.

From here I could see a few Common Terns flying back and forth, over the water; 3 GCGs were out front and then I spotted an Oystercatcher having a wash and brush-up before being unceremoniously chased off by a Coot.

On the walk back I spotted another Brimstone, who again obviously had a busy schedule; more teneral damselflies floated up as I walked past and then I spotted a Green Shield Bug, crawling around on some Cow Parsley.


It was still quite early so I decided to give the Dragonfly Trail another try. When I arrived I found another Large Red damsel and then 2 more in the process of creating future damsels. Love must have been in the air because a little later on I spotted a pair of Blue-tailed Damsels doing their thing too. Then a second Hairy joined the first and had a minor disagreement over territory before both flew off. I moved down to the river again to find what was probably the same Kingfisher flying past. I reached the end of the trail and then heard a Green Woodpecker yaffle out. I lingered about the ponds again, trying to photograph a Hairy but it wasn't having any of it and so I headed back to the James Hide for a sit down.

This time I sat in the lower tier and was immediately rewarded with a very close-up view of a Moorhen with 2 chicks just outside the Hide. Moorhen chicks always amuse me, their feet seemingly bigger than the rest of it. More Reed Buntings appeared on the feeders, this time joined by 2 or 3 Great Tits and the odd Blue Tit. Another Grey Heron flew in to the channel and promptly disappeared into the reeds. Then a little Wren flew in and landed right beside me, took one look at me and promptly flew off. I still have that effect on birds!

I could see dozens of Swifts criss crossing the sky, screaming away and this time they were joined by lots of Sand Martins. On the pond in front 4 male Mallards flew in and proceeded to have a mother's meeting, quacking away. I'm afraid I don't know what they were all talking about, as I don't talk mallard.

Time was now getting on, or so my feet told me and so I decided to head back for one more look from the main viewing point. On the way a pair of Jays flew in and I was about to get some photos when a couple of cyclists rushed by scaring them off.

Back at the MVP I counted upto 22 Common Terns and then a pair of Teal appeared. That was it, nearly 10 hours on duty and so I headed for home. Top day!