Thursday, 21 August 2014

Amwell Nature Reserve - 22nd July 14

Weather: Very hot and humid, some light cloud. Quite windy early on, settling down later.

Birds Total: 32
Plus: Green-veined White, Meadow Brown, Peacock, Red Admiral, Six-spotted Burnet, Small Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies. Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Bank Vole; Hoverfly; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Solder Beetle; White-tailed Bumble Bee.
Plus: Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Red-eyed Damselflies; Black-tailed Skimmer, Broad-bodied Chaser, Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Emperor Dragonflies.

It was forecast to be rather overcast and cloudy for this area today. In the event it was quite sunny with only a few clouds. But it was rather hot and humid too, sapping the energy levels. Yesterday's long stint may have had something to do with cutting the visit short as well.

But another reason was the lack of birds. It's that time of year when most birds, having finished their parental duties and fledged their young, start to moult into their migratory feathers, for the long journey back. So the total today was markedly down on previous visits, notably yesterday's local visit.

But, at this time of year, knowing that the birds disappear for a while, we Birders start looking for other things. For me it's Dragons and Damsels.

About 40 or so Canada Geese were waiting to greet me as I arrived on the trail down to the Reserve. 3 Greylag Geese were actually on the trail warily watching me pass by, the male hissing at me as I went. A party of Long-tails made their way through the branches, calling to each other.

I was passed by lots of cyclists and joggers but, this time, not too many dog-walkers. There weren't too many Birders about either, possibly wisely keeping in out of the hot sun. Or maybe they had made an earlier visit just after sun-up.

Walking down the track I noticed lots of blackberries ripening into their juicy-looking black form. Is it me or is that a little early this year?

Just before the bridge to the watch-point I spotted lots of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars dining on their favourite Ragwort.

Looking out from the watch-point I could see lots of Peacock butterflies close in; a pair of Little Egrets; 5 Grey Herons; a lone Common Sandpiper; a lone Great Crested Grebe with 3 Humbugs; several Common Tern and a couple of dozen Lapwing. There wasn't much else about, other than BHGs and Coots and Mutes. There weren't even many ducks about.

The sun was beating down on me already and I craved a bit of shade so I started off up the trail towards the James. On the way a Speckled Wood fluttered by and then landed nearby, while a Green Woodpecker sounded off somewhere in the distance.

Looking out from the James Hide the Feeders were practically empty. There wasn't much to see other than a pair of juvenile Moorhens swimming about. The Reserve Warden, Jenny Sherwen and some volunteers were working out to the right in the reedbeds.

I decided to head up to the Dragonfly Trail. At the twin lagoons there was only about a dozen or so Red-eyed Damselflies on the lilley-pads with the odd Blue-tailed and a Green-veined White butterfly on the buddleia.

Just into the Trail itself I spotted a Thick-kneed Flower Beetle and a Small Skipper. For the next hour I walked the boards seeing Broad-bodied Chaser; Black-tailed Skimmer; Common Darter; Brown Hawker and an Emperor. A female Emperor later turned up, ovipositing. Lots of Blue damsels were about.

There were a couple of other Birders here as well and we delighted in seeing the inter-action between all the dragons. Most of them (the dragons) posed quite close in. They all looked amazing.

I eventually headed out to the river to try my luck but there wasn't too much about to be seen but I at least heard a Kingfisher. I also spotted a Reed Bunting flitting through the branches. The only other thing I spotted was a Comma butterfly which refused to play ball, eventually disappearing. And just before I left the Trail I saw a 6-spotted Burnet, which at least settled for a shot.

There wasn't anything of note on the return leg. Back at the Bridge I spotted a lone male Banded Demoiselle, fluttering up every few seconds to snap up a midge.

Back in the James Hide, just before lunch, there was a Grey Heron impersonating a statue. But it must have got bored because it took off and left lunch to me. It was eerily quiet, so I decided to move on.

I soon found myself in the White Hide. Where a film crew was present. I didn't ask any questions but just sat in the corner, keeping quiet. After about 15 minutes they all left me to it. There wasn't much to see out on the lake, just another Common Sandpiper on one of the small islets.

On the walk back to the watch-point I spotted what, at first, I thought was a little brown leaf blowing along the trail, but turned out to be a little Bank Vole. It turned around and spotted me. I wasn't sure who was more surprised. But, before I could bring the camera to bear, it scampered off.

Too hot, too few birds. But I managed to see lots of dragons. On the train home a Kestrel flew parallel with me for about 50 yards before flying into land on a tree.