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!