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.