Monday, 12 May 2014

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 3rd May 14

Weather: Cloudy and overcast early on, brightening up later. Very cold breeze.

Birds Total: 51
Plus: Muntjac; Red-eared Terrapin.
Plus: Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood Butterflies.
Plus: 2-spot, 7-spot, 14-spot, Harlequin Ladybirds; Cardinal Beetle; Hoverflies; Midges; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Scorpion Fly; Slug.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue Damselflies.
Plus: Bluebells. Pollen. Yachts.

The weather was forecast for early morning sunshine, clouding over in the afternoon. In the event, it was the other way around. It was quite cold in the shade, with a nasty cold breeze blowing in.

I wanted to visit the LVRP today as it was the first clear day for a few days. A couple of women I had met earlier in the week at Rye Meads had told me that they had seen lots of Damsels about here and so I was eager to see them for myself. But I feared that the weather wasn't quite warm enough for them to be out and about today. The damsels, not the women.

The day itself started off quite well. The first bird I heard walking down the track to the Hall Marsh Scrape was a Cuckoo. In fact I heard it pretty much all day and even spotted it a couple of times on a dead tree at the back of Seventy Acres Lake.

From the Teal Hide itself, scanning from right to left, I could see a lone Little Egret; a lone Grey Heron with Canada Geese; Coot and Moorhen making up the numbers. The dawn chorus included luminaries such as Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warblers. The water level on the lagoons was still quite high and there was only one scrape out to the right, covered in lots of vegetation. Pollen was streaming in from everywhere, so I decided to take an anti-histamine tablet, just to be on the safe side.

A pair of Canada Geese then swam onto one of the lagoons with 5 Goslings with them. A couple of pairs of Greylag Geese flew in and landed, honking away. Cormorants flew over every few minutes or so. An aggressive Coot chased off a pair of Mallards but decided against having a go at the Little Egret, which had crept closer to the Hide.

I decided to head off up the trail, the pull of the Damsel being too strong. Outside the Hide I spotted a few bunches of Bluebells, some white ones amongst them. The first Reed and Sedge Warblers could be heard as I walked along, all singing away like gossipy neighbours.

A quick look out on Friday Lake gave me the first view of many Great Crested Grebes today. In all, I must of seen over 20 of them. No humbugs yet, though.

The clouds then came over en masse, blocking out the sun and the breeze was quite fierce. But I was warmed up by seeing first a lovely Sedge Warbler, atop a reed, singing out and then a male Reed Bunting fly over.

Then I spotted my first damselfly of the day. It was settled on a leaf, but flew off before I could get a photo of it. It looked like an immature Common Blue, but I wasn't sure. It was encouraging, though.

Walking up the trail more GCGs swam into view, amongst plenty of Canadas and Greylags. And, of course, Coot. And then, sadly, I came upon a dead Gosling, just floating, head down, close to the shoreline.

A female Muntjac then appeared to my left, partially hidden amongst the bramble. She never ventured out and scurried off when I took another step closer. On the opposite side a Mallard with 3 ducklings swam up, hoping for some handouts. Then, further on, a pair of noisy Jays flew over.

I got to the bridge, looking out over Hooks Marsh. 2 Swallows flew over and I could also hear a Peacock screech out in the distance. This was the area where I came across lots of Ladybirds, 2-spots mating; 7 and 14 and a few red on black Harlequins. Near the feeding area several families of Greylags were waiting patiently for some handouts from some human families.

Then, to my surprise, a couple of girls ran past me, followed by a few dozen more. No change there I thought - that's the effect I have on most women! When I arrived at the car-park it was taped off with various people milling around, tables with water bottles and a few officious people directing the runners. I had to duck under the tape to get to the trail leading to the Bittern Hide. Earlier, on the train, I was in the same carriage as a party of Hens drinking Buck's Fizz. Clearly it was Ladies Day today.

On the trail up a few more butterflies appeared, Peacocks in the main. I could still hear the Peacock bird somewhere in the distance, over the relief channel. More GCGs appeared on both sides. I could also hear and see the Cuckoo and, while I was sat watching it, a Hobby flew up and landed on the same tree as the Cuckoo, scaring it off. Then a second Hobby appeared and a scuffle broke out between them.

The Red-eared Terrapin was basking in the sunshine in the same spot as before. Looking completely unconcerned, watching life go by. Just before I arrived at the Hide I spotted a Blue-tailed Damselfly.

I reached the Bittern Hide where the entrance was through the main door where some volunteers were. They were busy counting us in and counting us out. They had also helpfully set up a scope as well. Looking out I could Common Terns flying around the lake, looking to see if the BHGs had left any spaces on the rafts. I could see upto 4 Hobbies flying overhead in the distance; Reed Buntings were trying to muscle in on the feeders and then a Mallard turned up with 3 chicks.

It was warming up so I headed off up the trail towards the Grebe Hide in the hope of some more Damsel action. A Stock Dove was sitting on the bridge but flew off before I could even get close. The walk down proved quite fruitful, a Jay flew over; singing Blackcaps could be seen; a Whitethroat appeared and then I heard my first Nightingale of the year. Common Terns were flying up and down the relief channel. A Grey Heron was lazing in the sunshine across the river, not even bothering to look at me.

More chicks could be seen by the lagoon on the other side, Canadas and Greylags. A Pheasant could be seen picking his way through them all. More butterflies flew past me, mainly Orange Tips, none of them settling.

At Holyfield Weir I could see a pair of GCGs; another Mallard with chicks; another Grey Heron preening and, amongst all the rest of the usual fare, a yacht, which was disturbing everything.

Moving on, I disturbed first a Speckled Wood butterfly then a Cormorant, both moving off away from me before I could bring the camera to bear. Then a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly flew lazily past.

Whilst I was looking for Damsels I spotted a Grey Wagtail out of the corner of my eye, picking its' way along the opposite river edge. Out on the lagoon, just before reaching the Grebe Hide, I could see 3 pairs of GCGs with one pair on a nest right next to a Coots nest.

I spent about 40 minutes in the Hide. On Holyfield Lake there were at least 10 GCGs; over a dozen Common Terns feeding in the distance; several Pochard and two more yachts. I figured it was the yachts that were keeping the bird totals down here and at the Weir. Lunch.

Just before I left a pair of Egyptian Geese flew in, honking away. Another Jay flew over me towards the island in front. People came and went. In fact and not surprisingly, being a Saturday there were quite a few people around and about today.

Immature Azure Damselfly
Just outside the Hide, on my return journey, I found 2 more Damsels, immature Common Blues. Another Blackcap announced its presence. A Kingfisher and a Green Woodpecker could be heard then I spotted another Damsel, an immature Azure. Plenty to be heard then, but not seen. Well, I was keeping my head down, looking for the elusive damsels.

Then, further along the trail, I came upon my target species. Banded Demoiselles! The sun had finally peeked out from the clouds and had warmed up sufficiently for them to appear. Altogether I saw 3 males and 2 females and spent a happy 30 minutes or so trying to photograph them. They were towards the back of the vegetation so I couldn't use my macro lens but it was great to see them. Long-tailed Tits and more Peacock butterflies flew past but nothing was going to distract me from the Demoiselles.

I walked on seeing a Cardinal Beetle and a Scorpion Fly. On the lagoon over the channel, past the Weir a Grey Heron was busy stalking and there was also a lone Lapwing. There were the usual gang of Jackdaws swarming above the Farm.

A Green-veined White fluttered by and settled on a dandelion. Another Small Tortoiseshell also appeared as did a Red-tailed Bumble Bee, all trying to take advantage of the sun before it disappeared again. I passed the spot where I heard the Nightingale and it again started its' tuneful song, but it remained elusive.

I then found myself looking out over Seventy Acres Lake again, from the Bittern Hide. There were at least 4 Hobbies in the sky with 2 Buzzards. A GCG had swum in just in front of the Hide fishing. Then the first Swifts of the year flew overhead.

I started to head for home. Somewhere overhead I could hear an Oystercatcher peeping away. Another GCG swam up the channel completely ignoring a few people following and watching it.

Back at the Friday Lake feeding station I witnessed a man whose son and his dog were chasing and scaring off all the Geese and chicks. At one point the boy wanted to capture one of the Goslings to take home, but thankfully he was unsuccessful.

On the bushes by the Bridge the Ladybirds were still about with the same pair of 2-spots still mating. Thankfully the athletes had long since finished.

And, finally, just before I reached the station, a Song Thrush could be heard singing away.

Another wonderful day out, the highlight being the Demoiselles.

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