Sunday, 27 July 2014

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 3rd July, 14

Weather: Hottest day of the year, so far. Mercifully cool breeze.

Birds Total: 37
Plus: Comma, Green-veined White, Large Skipper, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White Butterflies.
Plus: Hoverflies; Mayfly; Midges; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Scorpion Fly; Soldier Beetle.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Red-eyed Damselflies; Black-tailed Skimmer, Brown Hawker, Common Hawker, Emperor.

It was my third outing of the week and it was the hottest day of the year, so far. But mercifully a cooling breeze made it bearable.

For various reasons this was my first visit here for 2 months. Not too many people about, although plenty of dog-walkers and cyclists. The Hides were fairly empty most of the time.

On the journey down I saw a pair of Little Egrets and a lone Grey Heron, probably the same birds as yesterday.

I decided to give the Hall Marsh Scrape a miss today and proceeded directly towards the Bittern Hide. On the path adjacent to the canal I spotted a male Banded Demoiselle flying upriver. A good start! Chiffchaffs were singing away and a Comma butterfly, the first of many today, flew by. A Large Skipper flitted past as well, there were also quite a few of these today. Lots of blue damsels were about.

I reached the bridge just before Hooks Marsh and, looking out, I could see 4 Great Crested Grebes. At the feeder station there were plenty of geese on show.

Nothing to report on the way down to the Hide. It really was too hot to hang about. I noticed that the recent mixture of sun and rain had made the flora grow and it was all looking very lush and green everywhere.

From the Bittern Hide I could see only a Coot and a Moorhen family and a pair of Mute Swans. Warblers, mainly Reed, were flitting around the reeds. The feeders were nearly full and being constantly visited by Greats and Blues, plus a few Chaffinches. Then a Jay flew in and scattered everything, before flying off pretty quickly.

Out on the lake itself, there were only plenty of Mutes and Coots, Geese and Gulls, plus a smattering of Common Terns. There looked to be Gull and Tern chicks on the rafts.

I hung around for an hour, nobody coming in while I was there, before heading off towards the Grebe Hide. On the way plenty of butterflies were about, mainly Comma, Ringlet and Meadow Brown. There were a couple of Red Admirals and a few Small Tortoiseshells. I took a quick look at each of the fishermen stops but saw nothing to warrant further inspection.

More Chiffchaffs were singing on the way down. There were a couple of cyclists passing by plus one guy sat on the bench, soaking up the sun. Plenty of Jackdaws were circling over the distant farm. I couldn't see anything on the lake opposite because of the lush flora.

Scores of blue damsels were being put up as I walked past. A couple of dragonflies were flying around, looking like they were Common Hawkers, but I couldn't be sure. There were a couple of Brown Hawkers though. It was all very quiet and serene.

Nothing much else at the Weir, apart from a pair of GCGs. It was business as usual here. Just after I left I spotted another male Demo fly past. I could see a dozen-plus Canada Geese swimming against the strong current on the stream to my left.

Then I spotted a female Demo, which obligingly sat up for me, quite near, allowing a few photos. Another male flew past but did not stop, not even for the female. A little further on, by another fishermen's stop, a few more males could be seen. Unfortunately they were on the opposite side of the river and didn't venture close.

Looking out from the Grebe Hide I could see at least a dozen GCGs and a couple of humbugs. It was gratifying to see that there were quite a lot of birds out front, mainly Gadwall, Canada Geese and Coot but also a couple of Pochard. The reason became obvious a few minutes later - a yacht was further out, herding them all towards the Hide. No problem!

A Grey Heron flew over, squawking away. Directly in front of the Hide, on the bushes there were scores of blue damsels, mainly Common but there were also a couple of Red-eyed as well. A lot of coupling was going on. There was quite a lot of interaction happening plus every time the Red-eyed settled it was chased away by the Commons. All very fascinating stuff.

After lunch a GCG and a humbug swam in close, looking for some handouts. Sorry guys, I only had white bread and that's bad for you. Not long after, when they had disappointingly swum off, I headed back.

Just outside a Green-veined White flew by. More Demos were seen but again weren't close enough and even more blue damsels were about. Then a Mayfly flew by!

I could hear a Green Woodpecker yaffle and then it appeared on a tree opposite. It was quite speckled, looking like a juvenile. It climbed the tree then called a few times before flying off. A Little Egret flew past me heading towards the Weir.

I took a quick look from one of the fishermen's platforms but couldn't see anything. But, just before I left, an Emperor dragon flew past, fighting against the strong breeze. It kept being blown back but eventually it flew on.

Back in the Bittern Hide I found no change outside, but the Jay almost immediately flew back in. Climbing the tree out to my left it disappeared.

Two Magpies then attacked the feeders and it was amusing to see one of them try to get at the seeds, before falling off every time. But both managed to get at the nut feeder. Their wonderful emerald and turquoise colours were shining in the sun.

But it was hot, too hot for me and I decided to call it a day. Another lovely day out and hopefully the current sunny weather will continue.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Amwell Nature Reserve - 2nd July 14

Weather: Sunny, blue skies, slight cloud. Very warm with a light breeze.

Birds Total: 42
Plus: Gatekeeper, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Small Heath, Small Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies.
Plus: 2-spot Ladybird; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Solder Beetle; White-tailed Bumble Bee.
Plus: Azure, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Red-eyed Damselflies; Black-tailed Skimmer, Broad-bodied Chaser, Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Emperor, Four-spotted Chaser Dragonflies.

It was another very warm day again today. Long may it continue.

The journey down provided views of a pair of Little Egrets and a Grey Heron, whilst on the walk down to the Reserve I was met by well over 100 Canada Geese, some swimming over to me looking for handouts while most swam away. The first butterfly, a lone Red Admiral, fluttered up from the path in front of me.

It was already very hot by the time I got to the Main Viewing Point. There weren't too many people there when I arrived. Only mad dogs and Englishmen.

'What's the matter with the hot weather!'
Looking out over Great Hardmead Lake I could see a lone LRP; around 20 Common Terns; a similar number of Lapwing; a lone Little Egret and 2 Grey Herons plus the resident Wigeon. All the usual suspects were also present. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was feeding on the flowers just in front of me. A Reed Bunting flew low from right to left, directly in front of me. There were also lots of Warblers singing around the immediate area.

There were also lots of midges buzzing me, reminding me to not forget the fly spray next time. I hung around in the hot sun for about 30 minutes before moving off.

I took my time walking down to the James Hide, embracing the cool shade and the slight accompanying breeze. From the Hide there was a juvenile Water Rail poking around the reeds and then an adult flew over the pond from left to right to join it. Warblers were again singing out, making their presence known. A male Reed Bunting flew back and forth, mainly to and from the feeders. Juvenile Great Tits were awaiting their turn, their heads almost swivelling around, looking for danger, before venturing on to a seed feeder. Surprisingly, a Garden Warbler then joined them, but not for long, as it lost its' nerve and flew off.

Out over the pond a Brown Hawker was patrolling the lagoon, occasionally having a dispute with a Black-tailed Skimmer. There was a little bit of commotion when a Grey Heron flew over from left to right, being mobbed by Gulls.

Feeling a little cooler I set off for the Dragonfly trail. At the twin lagoons I found a woman throwing a stick into one of them, for her dog to collect, disturbing everything. The birds may have been a little upset but the dog was obviously having a ball, keeping cool in the water. I idly wondered if the dog was getting fed up with constantly retrieving the stick for its' owner. 'How many times do you want me to get it for you?' I could hear it saying. Well, almost.

On the other lagoon an Emperor was flying about, every now and then looking to perch up. A Four-spotted Chaser was already perched up and posing, but annoyingly flew off when I spotted it, allowing only one shot of it. A huge fish was causing mayhem everywhere on the lagoon, splashing about, possibly hunting the Red-eyed Damselflies that were resting on the lilly-pads soaking up the sun. A couple of Green-veined Whites and a Red Admiral were sucking up the salt on the path just in front of me.

On the way to the Dragonfly Trail I met a couple of guys, one of which I had met before, who pointed out a Hobby perched up on a distant telegraph pole. It was the only one I saw all day. We swapped pleasantries, as Birders do, before I moved on.

On the Trail itself I first spotted a Small Skipper busily flying about the low grass and then lots of Ringlets and Meadow Browns appeared, none of which settled, probably because of the hot sun.

By the ponds I saw all the usual Blue damsels plus a few Broad-bodied Chasers; Black-tailed Skimmers and a lone Common Darter. Every now and then they had a spat before settling back down onto their favourite perches.

A quick look over at the Orchid garden confirmed it was now orchid-less but there was a Gatekeeper butterfly there instead moving about, my first of the year.

I spent more than an hour in the area here, having lunch in between walks around the Trail. Just before I left I spotted another Emperor; a Brown Hawker and I think, an Emerald Damselfly, but was probably just a biggish Blue-tailed. I really must go to Spec-Savers!

Back in the shady comfort of the James Hide I immediately heard the pig-like screech of a Water Rail, just as I was sitting down. But there wasn't much to be seen, unfortunately. The hot sun was keeping everything in the shade. I knew how they all felt.

Looking out over the lake from the White Hide I was just in time to see 4 Oystercatchers fly off, piping their farewell. There were 2 Little Egrets, one of them approaching the Hide and 2 LRPs out on one of the small islands. A Grey Heron was outside the left-hand side giving close up views. Unfortunately, both the Heron and the Egret flew off. I thought I had been discreet.

On the walk back I met Jenny Sherwen, the local Reserve Manager and a few others doing some cosmetic work on the path. Rather them than me in this hot weather. Fortunately, they didn't require any help.

Back at the MVP the Oystercatcher family had returned and were fast asleep on the main island. But then I was delighted to spot a Painted Lady butterfly land on the nearby buddleia to feed, allowing a few photos. Another first of the year!

Another very nice day out but the hot weather made it seem like another hard day at the office. Sometimes I think that this country never gets the weather right - it's either very cold, very wet or very hot. We rarely seem to get the Goldilocks days = just right. Oh well, mustn't complain!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Sawbridgeworth Marsh - 1st July 14

Weather: Warm and sunny. Slight cloud.

Birds Total: 13
Plus: Comma, Green Veined White, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, Speckled Wood Butterflies.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Common Blue damselflies.
Plus: Ladybird Larvae, 7-spot Ladybird; Banded Snail; Bluebottle; Dock Bug; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Scorpion Fly; Soldier Beetle; Spotted Crane Fly.
Plus: Southern Marsh Orchid.

Embarrassingly, it's been almost ten years since I last walked around my local SSSI, the Sawbridgeworth Marsh. But, over a pint the other night with a friend - who is one of the Wardens there, I was persuaded to pay another visit.

It was a beautiful sunny morning, very warm with no wind so I set off, walking along the road, trying to avoid being knocked over by the traffic, until I reached the entrance. It was a little hidden, overgrown with scrub and weeds. The gate was also padlocked so I had to climb over and then had a quick look at the welcome sign, which had the same directions as I remembered from last time.

I set up my kit and started my walk. I immediately spotted a few Southern Marsh Orchids, the Marsh being famous for them. I could hear Chiffchaff singing, a few Goldfinches flew overhead and, all around me, Meadow Browns and Ringlets were fluttering about. 7-spot Ladybirds were also in evidence. A teneral female Common Blue damselfly lifted off as I passed by.

A little further on Small Tortoiseshells and Speckled Woods appeared. A Green Veined White also flew by. Then a female Banded Demoiselle landed on a reed, directly in front of me. Then another appeared further back from her. Unfortunately they wouldn't let me get close to them, flying off as I approached.

I could hear Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting close by, but today wasn't about birds, it was all about exploring the area and finding lots of invertebrates. I also had the wrong lens with me, being just a macro. And a good thing too, as I found a mating pair of Dock Bugs sitting on a reed..

Moving on, more and more female Demos appeared, then a couple of males turned up. They were all a bit flighty, it was proving difficult to creep up on them, especially armed with just a macro lens.

Banded Snail
While I was trying to photograph the Demos a Reed Warbler appeared to my left, about 10 yards away, singing half-way up a reed. It had some food in its mouth and then I could hear the cry of a fledgling nearer to me. I was obviously interrupting lunch, so I moved on.

A Buzzard was calling high in the sky but I couldn't see it. Then a Garden Warbler appeared in the tree near me, flitting from branch to branch, paying no attention to me whatsoever. A little Wren then showed up and didn't hop off until I got to within 5 yards of it.

I then found a spot where more Demos were resting. The sun was in the right position and so I tried to hone my field craft skills. I slowly crept up to each Demo that presented itself and, slowly but surely, I managed to get to within a few feet of them.

I finally managed to get a few shots, despite the midges that were attacking me. I also felt a pin prick on my arm and, when I looked down, a Horse Fly was busy extracting a little blood from me, leaving a stain on my shirt.

But, despite the attention of the midges and the blood sucker, the breeze, which had picked up a little bit and the hot sun beating down, I managed to get a few decent photos.

I then found myself walking along a stream and then a pond, where I found a couple of Azure Damselflies. A pair of Common Blues were here too, creating future Common Blues. I found a few insects here too, notably a Scorpion Fly. Soldier Beetles were everywhere here, some climbing up the stems, obviously trying to set up forward observation positions.

A little further on a Comma flew by, followed by a Red Admiral. I could hear a Coot nearby call out, but it remained hidden.

Whilst trying to creep up on more Demos I inadvertently stepped into a boggy patch and got my feet wet. I wasn't too bothered, I was actually having a good time. The Marsh was what I called a proper Reserve, with all the overgrown reeds and shrubs making it fairly difficult to get around. The people at Rye Meads would have a fit!

Soon I found myself back at the start, having done a full circle of the Reserve. It took about 3 hours to cover the area. With the clouds rolling in I decided to head home.

It was well worth the effort, maybe too few birds but worth visiting for the insects.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Rye Meads - 26th June 14

Weather: Mostly cloudy with some sun.

Birds Total: 47
Plus: Green-veined White; Large White, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White butterflies.
Plus: Blue-tailed, Common Blue damselflies; Black-tailed Skimmer dragonflies.
Plus: Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Mint leaf beetle; Pond Skaters; Soldier Beetle; Spotted Crane Fly.
Plus: Konik Ponies.

I decided to pay a visit to RM today, mainly because a pair of Black-necked Grebes had turned up a few weeks ago and managed to produce 3 chicks, a first for RM. I had waited until today, not just because of the trip to Madeira, but also because I knew all the twitchers would be filling up the Hide.

It was another fine, warm day with a few clouds. On the journey down a Little Egret was seen and again there were a few House Sparrows at the local station. A Chiffchaff could be seen singing away, atop a tree, just before I arrived at the Reserve.

There was a coach parked up by the entrance with lots of children disembarking. So I quickly hurried in and began setting up my gear. I sensed a bit of pond-dipping action. BY the children that is, NOT the children themselves!

Visiting the first pond I could see at least 3 Blue-tailed damselflies with plenty of pond skaters skating around the pond. As they do. What I thought was a Mint Leaf beetle was resting on a leaf. As they do. A lone Goldfinch flew overhead, calling.

When I reached the walkway another Chiffchaff was singing. Looking out over the HMWT field I could only see the usual 4 Konik Ponies; a lone Magpie, which in itself is a bit unusual and a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly that fluttered by.

Ratty wasn't around so I moved on down the trail. Just before the entrance to the Draper Hide I spotted 2 Ringlets, fluttering about, low down in the grasses. The first of many today.

From the Hide I could see a lone Lapwing; a pair of Common Terns; lots of Gadwall and BHGs; a pair of Herring Gulls and a lone Little Grebe. Half-a-dozen or more Shoveler were all asleep, the males in their eclipse plumage. There were also a few Black-tailed Skimmers skimming over the lagoon. As they do.

A male Reed Bunting flew past from right to left and a Cetti's Warbler could be heard belting out its' song. A pair of Coot had 3 small chicks, right in front of the Hide, all squeaking away, begging for food. The Scrape wasn't much of a scrape now, vegetation taking up much of the area. But the new Kingfisher home was now starting to blend in to its' surroundings.

Just outside the Hide, moving on, there were more Ringlets; a Red Admiral and a few Solder Beetles, on guard duty and a Spotted Crane Fly, all crammed onto the few flowers around the area.

Further down the trail, a few people were looking into the adjacent trees. Tucked in there was a newly-fledged Whitethroat. It looked scared to death, poor thing. I wasn't surprised, having a group of people leering at it.

There were quite a few people on the Reserve today, mainly in the Gadwall and Kingfisher Hides. I only paid one 20-minute visit to the KF hide as I was a little fed up with all the large tripods and lenses used by the same people that seem to always be in there, taking up most of the room. They're present all day, every day and I'm mystified by how many photos they all want of the same birds doing the same thing. It was also quite noisy. I was also mystified that they were here and not trying to photograph the Black-necked Grebe family. After all, it's not every day you see a BNG family!

It was also noticeable that the 'Green Weed' was starting to cover most of the lagoons and lakes. It will need some cold weather over the next few days to get rid of it. Fortunately, it comes and goes quite quickly.

I paid my first visit to the twin hides. I sat down in the, fairly packed, Gadwall Hide and soon located the Black-necked Grebe family. They could be seen out to the right, about a hundred metres away. There were only 2 chicks left, one each on the parents' back. A bit distant, but fairly good views nonetheless.

A few familiar faces were also in the Hide. Other than the Grebes it was business as usual with lots of BHGs; Gadwall; Coots and Mutes. Other families present were Mallards; Tufted Duck and Moorhen. A few BHG chicks were on the island just in front of the Hide, a first on this island for this Reserve. A Little Grebe family could be seen further out along the left edge of the lagoon.

Just before I moved on a Grey Heron flew over and was quickly mobbed by the BHGs who soon chased it off. There were only noisy BHGs and several pairs of Common Terns looking out from the Tern Hide, most with lots of chicks. There were again more Gadwall and Coot here.

Warblers singing out included Cetti's, Reed and Sedge as I walked along the trail. Then I found myself in the KF Hide.

I managed to squeeze myself in between all the tripods and waited for some KF action. I witnessed the male fly in with fish, fly into the nest, fly out, clean himself up from the middle post and then fly off. Other things on show from this hide were a Kestrel sat atop the top box; a Green Woodpecker flying in and landing on the dead tree out to the right and a few Warblers flying back and forth across the lagoon. But I couldn't stand it any longer and soon moved on.

On the trail down to the Warbler Hide I spotted another Cetti's flying past. I could hear a Song Thrush somewhere in the nearby trees. Then a Green-veined White flew by and landed for a positive ID.

Unfortunately there wasn't much to report from the Warbler Hide, mainly Gulls and Pigeons flying back and forth. A couple of Reed Buntings were singing out a song duel. Or duet. A few Reed Warblers flitted around. One of the familiar faces was in there with me. Lunch.

We both walked back, parting at the KF hide. He didn't fancy it. I took a quick look, seeing the same people. They looked like they hadn't moved! I quickly closed the door and carried on.

I then found myself in the Gadwall Hide again and sat there for over an hour. There were less people in here. The BNGs hadn't moved at all but the male dived down for food every now and then. Eventually he swam quite close to the Hide, giving much better views, especially his blood-red eyes, capped by golden eyebrows.

I headed back towards the Draper Hide. On the way I spotted another Small Tortoiseshell butterfly; a lovely Sedge Warbler posing; a Meadow Brown and a Large White. The clouds were creeping over more and more now.

Just before the entrance to the Draper I could see dozens of Soldier Beetles on the flowers, some creating future battalions.

I spent a quiet last half hour in the Draper but the only additions were a lone Pied Wagtail and a Grey Heron.

It was a fairly nice day, not as productive as yesterday's local walk. But take away the BNGs and the KFs and it would have been just a nice day.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

River Stort, Sawbridgeworth - 25th June 14

Weather: Warm and sunny. Slight cloud.

Birds Total: 32
Plus: Comma, Five-Spot Burnet, Large Skipper, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, Speckled Wood Butterflies. Small Magpie Moth. Various other moths.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Large Red damselflies. Emperor, Hairy dragonflies.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Bluebottle; Crane Fly; Cuckoo Spit; Flesh Fly; Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle; Ladybird Larvae, Harlequin Ladybird; Hoverflies; Mayfly; Sawfly; Thick-kneed Flower Beetle, White-tailed Bumble Bee.

The weather forecast for today was sun in the morning and cloud and light rain in the afternoon. In the event it was sunny more or less all day. Which, of course, was good news.

But, with possible rain in mind for the afternoon, I opted to go for another local walk. Again in search of Banded Demoiselles. The day started quite well and soon livened up even more.

Before I had even left the building I had spotted several, as yet unidentified, moths. And before I had even entered the trail several Swifts were seen and heard screaming past overhead. Not long after I had started up the trail a pair of Common Terns could be seen flying up and down the river. Quite a good start.

All along the trail ladybird larvae were visible in most of their various stages, most of them being Harlequins. Several butterflies could also be seen, mainly Small Tortoiseshells, but with an accompaniment of some Whites.

Then, after only about 5 minutes, I came across the first Demoiselles, males fluttering up as I walked by. They weren't quite in the perfect position for me, I was facing the sun, so I made the decision to carry on as I was pretty confident that more would be seen further along the trail.

Thankfully I was right. Eventually, scores were seen throughout the walk. Mainly males, but also several females. One of the better areas I came upon was just before a bridge. The sun was in the right position, the damsels were in also in the right position and, more importantly, they were up close and accessible.

They kept flitting up every time I moved so I soon learnt to stay still and soon they stopped flying around and posed. Every few seconds one of them would lift off and chase a midge, bringing it back to the original spot to consume. Then, every time a female appeared about half-a-dozen males would fly up and chase her, all looking like
metallic blue comets darting by.

Having photographed most of them from almost every angle I moved on. People were passing by, most bidding me a 'Good Morning', some cyclists, some joggers and some dog-walkers. There weren't as many as the last time though. And the area thankfully didn't smell like a canine cesspit like the last time either. Well, not much.

The sun was managing to avoid most of the clouds and when it shone it became very hot. Factor50 had been applied, especially to the parts burnt by the Madeiran sun last week. More importantly, it was bringing out the wildlife, especially the insects.

Further along the trail I was starting to get my eye in. It wasn't too difficult with the Demos but I also began seeing other damselflies, mostly Common Blues early on, but then some Azures and Blue-tailed were being seen later, all fluttering up as I walked by.

Then I came across my first Thick-kneed Flower Beetle of the year, a small, metallic green beetle with, well, thick knees. Hoverflies were everywhere, some of them flying up close to me, probably wandering what I was. Some were happy to pose for me, some weren't and flew off.

Every few steps more and more Demos appeared. I had photographed many males but what I was now after were the females and they were fairly few and far between. They only usually frequented the river when looking for a mate or to lay eggs. I had spotted one female and was trying to get close to her when I flushed out a Mallard, with chicks, who all swam off quickly, unfortunately scaring up the female, who flew even further away.

I walked on. A Large Skipper appeared, my first of the year, its' bright orange iridescence catching my eye. It flew around the area then landed. Then a Ringlet appeared, another first of the year. It also landed and posed, closing its wings and showing me the reason for its name. I was delighted to see one of these, especially locally. But later on more and more appeared and I soon became a bit blasé about them. Mainly due to the fact that they were particularly skittish.

More and more Demos appeared, again males. More and more Large Skippers and Ringlets appeared. Then, finally, a female Demo appeared and settled, allowing a few photos. It was getting warmer and it was also starting to turn into a very good day. The metallic greens and yellows of the female reflected the sunlight as she kept a wary eye on me to make sure that I didn't get too close to her.

It was fairly quiet on the bird front, that time of year. But I had already seen Greater Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, both noisily flying around, the GSW drumming away. There were also a few displaying Skylarks in the adjacent fields. The males were trying to outdo each other by trying to ascend as high as they could go, before descending, singing their hearts out. For some reason it reminded me of a tune.

It was quiet on the Warbler front, hearing Chiffchaff back at the start of the trail. A few Blackcaps were about but it was mainly Whitethroats in evidence. Surprisingly, I didn't hear one Reed or Sedge Warbler this time out.

I then came across another pretty good area for Demos. I began playing with the settings of the new camera to see which gave the sharpest shot. It was while I was doing this that I was a little surprised to see a Mayfly flutter by. Their flight season is actually from April until September but the book says that they fly mainly at night. The Sawbridgeworth Mayflies have obviously not read the book. Later on more and more appeared, fluttering up from the river, some being taken by the birds, some being taken by the Demos. It all looked like a popular take-away. I made a mental note not to come back as a Mayfly.

Cuckoo Spit was about, the frothy blobs clinging on to various plants and I was pleased to see lots of Bees also buzzing around the area. They seemed to be doing well here, which is good news. More butterflies appeared, Speckled Woods amongst them and then I spotted a Red Admiral, my first sighting of the year in Hertfordshire. Although, annoyingly, it didn't stop to say hello.

I then arrived at the apex of my walk. I had decided to stop at the same place as last time. I didn't want to get caught out in the forecasted rain. As I sat down for lunch more Demos flew all around me. I heard, then saw, a Kingfisher flash past. On the opposite side of the river, high up on a dead tree were a pair of Cormorants, looking down, surveying their domain. The recognisable bubbling sound of about half-a-dozen Goldfinches could be heard above me and I saw them fly over to land on one of the bushes opposite. High in the sky a Buzzard could be seen utilising the thermals.

Lunch was soon over and it was time to get back to work. As I continued to watch the Demos I spotted a male fly up as a female flew past. He managed to grab onto her and force her down onto a leaf. There was none of the usual elaborate courtship here, both forming the usual heart-shape and copulation beginning immediately. A couple of minutes later it was all over. The male let her go and then, surprisingly, flew off. I, of course, recorded it all, for posterity.

Whilst I was photographing them a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly flew past me and landed, also posing nicely. I gratefully clicked away at it. Then I spotted a male Demo caught in a spider's web. It was still struggling so, after taking a few photos, I helped set it free. Hey, that's the kind of guy I am.

I started on the return journey and saw pretty much the same thing. More pairs of Demos were creating future generations. More Whitethroats appeared, flying back and forth with food then a party of Long-tailed Tits flew by, one of them pausing to have a look at me. I tried singing its' 3-note call but it ignored me and flew off. Maybe I was out of tune.

Then I spotted an unidentified beetle fly in and land on a leaf. It looked like one of the longhorns. I later identified it as a Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle - my first ever sighting of one!

More Demos presented themselves for immortality. I was just thinking that the obvious omission from the list was a sighting of some dragonflies, when along came a Hairy dragonfly. It didn't settle, of course, just continued to fly up and down, protecting his piece of turf.

Then I found a dug-out area by the river obviously used by fishermen. I sat down and watched as a few Demos flew up close and settled back down. As I was taking photos of them I noticed a pair of mating Large Red damselflies fly in. They looked quite small compared to the Demos. The other red species of damselfly, the scarcer Small Red, must be really small. They landed and the female soon began ovipositing. His protection job done, the male then flew off and landed on a nearby reed, looking out for midges to feed on.

A little further down the trail I came to a small area that kept me occupied for about 20 minutes. First up was a Comma, which landed on the path in front of me. Then my first sighting this year of a pair of Five-spot Burnets, who, after about 10 minutes of fluttering around finally landed, allowing a few quick photos. Then a pair of mating Common Blue damselflies flew in. Everyone was at it!

Another Large Skipper flew by and then landed right next to a Ringlet. I wondered if they were passing the time of day, or exchanging notes? Another Whitethroat flew in and landed nearby on a branch, seemingly wishing to get in on the act or maybe he was eyeing up the tasty Mayflies that were here. And, lastly, for this little stint, an Emperor dragonfly was seen flying past.

There were, of course, several more Demo photo opportunities but a person could only have so much excitement in one day.

For a local walk it was surprisingly fruitful. I managed to get back home before it clouded over completely.