Sunday, 28 September 2014

Regent's Park - 23rd September, 14

Weather: Warm and sunny with blue skies. Some cloud later on.

Birds seen:
Great Crested Grebe; Little Grebe; Cormorant; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Whooper Swan; Greylag Goose; Barnacle Goose; Shelduck; Canada Goose; Egyptian Goose; Mallard; Wigeon; Gadwall; Tufted Duck; Pochard; Red-crested Pochard; Mandarin Duck; Wood Duck; Goldeneye; Smew; Peregrine Falcon; Moorhen; Coot; Black-headed Gull; Herring Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Woodpigeon; Feral Pigeon; Ring-necked Parakeet; Great Spotted Woodpecker (H); Grey Wagtail; Wren (H); Robin; Wheatear; Blackbird; Blackcap (H); Chiffchaff (H); Blue Tit; Great Tit; Long-tailed Tit (H); Magpie; Jay; Carrion Crow. Argentine Teal; Bufflehead; Chestnut Teal; Hooded Merganser; Ruddy Shelduck. Total: 49

Plus: Large White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Red-eared Terrapin.
Plus: Bee; Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater;

Today I met up with friends from the RSPB Forum, including Marianne, Shane and TJ. We had all arranged to meet up with each other and at the same time, pay a visit to Regent's Park.

It was my first proper visit to the Park and I left feeling very impressed. I arrived at Baker Street in good time but I made a mistake with the meet-up point. I hung around at Clarence Bridge before walking further on and seeing Marianne and Shane at the intended meet-up point, York Bridge. Most of the rest arrived soon after. Two, including TJ, were going to be late.

Regent's Park is the best of the Royal Parks in Central London. It offers a variety of habitats from formal gardens to lakes, scrub, woodland and rough grassland with wildflower beds. There are about 22 pairs of resident Grey Herons in the park.

We made a tour of the Park seeing a variety of birds, all of which I had seen before at nearby WWT Barnes. The bird(s) of the day were undoubtedly a pair of Wheatears.

There were quite a few people about, probably because it was a really nice day. Only a few butterflies were seen today plus the usual dragonfly suspects that appear around this time of the year.

We all moved off down the path back past Clarence Bridge, where there were lots of geese on show, including several Egyptian Geese, towards the bandstand, which was surrounded by deckchairs. Here we saw Whooper Swans gliding serenely by. There were Barnacle and Egyptian Geese here too, amongst lots of Gulls.

We had heard that a pair of Wheatear were seen out on the open area by some football pitches and, sure enough, we spotted both perched up on the posts. They allowed us to get fairly close.

From here we walked down to Long Bridge to see the park's collection of waterfowl. This included, Bufflehead; Smew; Mergansers and Shelducks. Red-crested Pochard; Mandarin and Wood Ducks could be seen too. Unfortunately, they kept their distance with only a few venturing in close.

This was the point where we seemed to lose a few people and our number shrank back down to around half-a-dozen. We decided to head for the park’s ornamental waterfowl area. Unfortunately, they had all been removed for some unknown reason.

We spent about 5 hours walking around the area before exhaustion forced us to call it a day and head home.

On the way back to Baker Street station we passed 221b. We didn't call in.

It was a great day out and maybe worth a visit during the winter.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Amwell Nature Reserve - 22nd September 14

Weather: Overcast and cool early on, warming up to clear skies later.

Birds Total: 40
Plus: Large White, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood Butterflies.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Hornets; Hoverflies; Konik Ponies; Rudd; Sheep; Spiders.
Plus: Common Blue, Emerald Damselflies; Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Migrant Hawker, Ruddy Darter, Southern Hawker Dragonflies.

Today started off relatively quiet but it did get better as the day went on. It was forecast to be sunny early on, clouding over after lunchtime. In the event it remained quite sunny all day and the temperature rose to a peak around 3pm-ish.

Walking up the trail to the Reserve
I met a friend on the train and so didn't see much, if anything, on the way down. I did keep an eye out for my friendly Grey Heron though, but, if it was around, I didn't spot it. In fact, I only spotted one Heron all day. The walk up to the Reserve proved to be very quiet, no welcoming Geese this time. The Konik ponies were still in situ, helping the HMWT to keep the grass short.

View over Great Hardmead Lake from the Watchpoint
There was only one guy at the Watchpoint when I arrived. Looking out I could see 5 Common Snipe; 20+ Wigeon; a sprinkling of Shoveler and Teal; a lone Little Egret and about 4 Great Crested Grebes. I could hear both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers sounding off somewhere in the distant trees. There must have been 50+ Greylags out there, mixed in with about 40+ Canada Geese. About 30-odd Black-headed Gulls were confined to one of the rafts out on the Lake. Lastly, 2 or 3 Sand Martins flew over.

The sky wasn't quite all blue today as a thin layer of stratocumulus was attempting to blot out the sun. But the sun seemed to win and poked its' face through, warming me up nicely. Although I still kept my fleece on. The walk down to the James Hide was accompanied by the singing of Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler.

View from the James Hide

It's not small, just space-efficient!
It was even quieter looking out from the James Hide. There was only one Coot; one dragon and one butterfly out there. The feeders were empty again. A little later a pair of Robins sized each other up before deciding that discretion was the better part of valour. I was reduced to photographing a Bluebottle which had landed near me. I moved on.

There were only a pair of Migrant Hawkers hawking around the twin lagoons. I eventually saw plenty of these guys as well as Common Darters, but there was a noticeable absence of butterflies today. Only a few Large Whites; a single Speckled Wood and a single Red Admiral were seen.

I met a familiar face on the Dragonfly Trail and together we searched the area for any sightings of the Willow Emerald. But we weren't as lucky today as we were on the previous visit. Despite looking for nearly 2 hours all we had to show for our efforts was one female Emerald damsel, who was busy ovipositing. She looked a bit bedraggled and worn out, her days were looking very numbered.

But we did see plenty of Migrants Hawkers and Common Darters, with a couple of Ruddy Darters; a single Brown Hawker and a single Southern Hawker thrown in for good measure. There were plenty of Common Blue damsels about, at least one pair in tandem. Plenty of Common Darters were paired up too, with at least one pair of Migrants attached to each other. Well, the sun was out and it would probably have been rude not to.

I did a quick circuit to the river and back, not seeing very much, whilst managing to avoid all the sheep droppings. I could hear a Buzzard in the sky above me and it eventually dropped low enough to tempt me to try a few shots. I then spent another hour or so searching for the elusive Willows. A Jay squawked and flew by overhead.
I then stalked the Southern Hawker but it didn't play ball and continued to fly around its patch continuously. But the Migrants and the Darters were much more cooperative. Just before I broke for lunch we spotted the female Emerald damsel, doing her egg-laying thing. There were one or two Hornets flying around the area.

Eventually I headed off, towards the James and White Hides. No change from the James but the additions to the list from the White included a good view of a Kingfisher; the only Grey Heron and a Green Sandpiper that flew in. Oh, and about 70-odd Lapwing had appeared as well.

I finished up back at the Watchpoint where the Red Admiral appeared, feeding on the Buddleia and then a pair of Meadow Pipits flew by overhead. The Little Egret count had risen to 3. I heard that a Golden Plover and a Stonechat had been seen today but I missed them.

A quiet-ish day but it was still great to be out in the autumn sunshine.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 18th September, 14

Weather: Very warm and humid. Cloudy with a slight cooling breeze.

Birds Total: 45
Plus: Comma, Large Skipper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood Butterflies. Red Chestnut Moth.
Plus: Bees; Crane Fly; Dock Bug; Green Shield Bug; Hoverflies; Midges; Pond Skaters; Spiders; Wasps.
Plus: Banded Demoiselle, Common Blue Damselflies; Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.

Its been a long while since I visited the Fishers Green area, owing to one thing and another. So I was determined to get down there today. The weather was forecasting sunny spells, interspersed with clouds, especially around midday. Indeed it was supposed to be foggy early on. So I didn't head down there until around 11.

View over Seventy Acres Lake.
But I found the day to be very sunny, very hot and very humid with the temperature reaching around 25 degrees. There was a mercifully cool breeze blowing but it was especially hot and humid in the Hides, especially the Bittern Hide.

My day's birding started while I was sitting waiting for the train. Chiffchaff could be heard all around the area, while a couple of Buzzards floated by overhead. And looking out from the train the usual Grey Heron had moved further down from its' original area. But it was more than likely a different one.

I had a quick look out over Friday Lake, which afforded me views of a pair of Wigeon and a family of four Great Crested Grebes. Then I arrived at the path leading upto the Teal Hide. But just opposite I found a variety of things, including a Common Darter; a few Common Blue damsels; a moth that I think was a Red Chestnut and a pair of Green Shield Bugs. But the stars were a pair of Orb spiders that had ensnared a Crane Fly. I watched, fascinated, as the the fly tried to escape by flapping its wings. The female spider held on to it and was then joined by the male. Between them they managed to subdue the poor fly.

Looking out over the scrape I could see a pair of Little Egrets foraging about; over 20 Lapwing and 4 Teal. Then a Sparrowhawk flew past from left to right and landed in the far trees. Then my bird of the day turned up - a male Stonechat, perched up on one of the wooden fences. Every now and then
he darted down for a quick snack, bringing it back to his starting position. It was too distant for a photo unfortunately but I was delighted to see one, a first this year.

View from the Teal Hide.
There was a Reserve Warden working out to the right and he eventually drove in a bit closer, scaring up a Grey Heron. A Pied Wagtail flew overhead. A couple of people came and went from the Hide, one of which complaining that there wasn't much about!

The Warden eventually started clearing up the rubbish in front of the Hide so I decided to head off. A few Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods were flying around, but strangely, there were very few species of butterfly about today. I did see plenty of Pond Skaters.

I could hear a Buzzard above me and looked up to see it using the thermals to get higher and higher and it eventually flew off, heading south. I was still looking out over the Scrape, from the standing hide and Warden eventually scared up around 6 Common Snipe, which flew off towards Seventy Acres Lake.

Chiffchaffs were singing around me but my eyes were pointed downwards, eventually finding a pair of Dock Bugs. Then, just at a clearing, looking out over Hooks Marsh Lake, I spotted a Migrant Hawker perched up, a few feet away from me. I managed to fire off one shot and then knelt down to get a shot at eye level. But then a mad cyclist raced past, scaring it up and away.

In fact, there were quite a lot of cyclists on the trail today. As well as lots of dog-walkers and a few joggers. Some even doubled up as cyclists walking their dogs. There was even one jogger being pulled along by his dog. I moved on.

I then spotted a bird flying across the water, landing at the foot of some reeds by the path. At first I thought it was just a Moorhen, but, looking through my Bins, I could see that it was a Water Rail. Unfortunately a dog-walker went past and scared it into the reeds before I could get closer.

There were a few Coot and Tufted Duck idling around out on the lake plus a pair of sleepy Shoveler. Another Grey Heron flew overhead, squawking away. Then a Great Spotted Woodpecker could be heard calling, before flying across the lake to another tree.

More Migrant Hawkers appeared, patrolling along the trail, as did more Common Blue damsels. At one spot I witnessed a Common Blue chase off a Migrant. The clouds had started to thicken above me and it started to warm up considerably, the humidity factor rising. A Cetti's Warbler sounded off, one of two heard today.

I eventually reached the Bridge where I could see another 4 GCGs, all starting to moult into their winter plumage. At the Hooks Marsh feeding area there were only 3 geese waiting for handouts, one of which was a Greylag. I entered the path leading to Fishers Green and the Bittern Hide.

On the way more Migrant Hawkers appeared and then I spotted another Common Darter, its worn looking colour making it look like an older individual. There were more Common Blues along here as well, including a mating pair.

I reached the feeding area where I could see lots of people wandering around and with lots of birds queuing up, waiting to be fed. A family were throwing white bread out to the birds, who were gobbling them all up in a frenzy of flapping and quacking. I hoped that none of the birds were

View from the Bittern Hide.
When I entered the Bittern Hide there were a couple of people already in situ. It was oppressively hot in there and I soon opened up the rest of the flaps. Outside the Hide there were the usual Tits on the feeders but this time accompanied by 3 male Chaffinches, the first I had seen for quite a while. They were joined by a female later on. A family of Moorhen were below the feeders, hoovering up the spillage. One of them was a tiny chick, being fed by a parent. A Jay flew over, while a Wren could be seen flitting around the bottom of the reeds, on the edge of the water, on the lookout for any unfortunate insects.

I rested here for about 30 minutes before the humidity forced me to move on. At the start of the trail down to the Grebe Hide I flushed out a Green Woodpecker, which flew off over the river, screeching its annoyance at having to move. There were about 9 or 10 fishermen's platforms along here and I tried to visit each one, to see if any Emerald damsels were here, after seeing them around the same time last year. I secretly hoped that I might see a Willow Emerald too.

View of Holyfield Weir.
But the only odonata I saw were more Migrants and Common Blues. Further on up the trail a Grey Squirrel hopped across the path in front of me and dramatically dived in to the bushes. Jackdaws could be heard flying overhead, heading towards the distant farm, their favourite haunt.

I then found myself at Holyfield Weir where, finally, there were plenty of birds on show. Predominantly Canada Geese but with plenty of Coot and Gulls. More GCGs were swimming around but then I saw 3 Grey Wagtails fly past. One of them landed just below me but immediately flew off before I could bring the camera to bear. I could see it further along the Weir, wagging its' tail as it went.

Moving on I could hear another GSW sounding off. Then another Chiffchaff, singing out its' one-note call. Out on another lake I could see a female Pochard, the first of several seen today. She kept a wary on me as I walked past.

I stopped at one of the fishermen's platforms along this part of the area, with a blue number 5 marked on it and was surprised and delighted to see my only Banded Demoiselle of the day, resting on a leaf over the stream. I tried to get closer but she was having none of it and flew further along the river. I sat down and waited patiently for her to return as the sun was casting shadows near to where she was resting. Every few minutes she flew up and caught and ate a midge. Then she flew a bit closer, finally allowing a few shots. While I was waiting for her a Mayfly flew idly past, moving up and down as it went. Just the one.

View from the Grebe Hide.
I sat down in the Grebe Hide and looked out. About half-a-dozen Mute Swans were busy feeding right in front of the Hide, dipping their heads down into the deep. There were quite a lot of birds out on the lake, mainly towards the left hand side. Most of them were Tufties and Coots. But there were about a dozen Wigeon and a few more Pochard and Shoveler in amongst them. The GCG count here was around 10, with a few noisy juveniles.

A Cormorant swam in close, before being startled at seeing my face gurning out at it and swam off. An Egyptian Goose swam past and disappeared behind the large island. Two Greylags were in the middle of around a dozen Canadas. Another Grey Heron was perched in the trees in the distance. Time for lunch.

It was time for the return route but the only extra things to add to the list were a female Muntjac feeding on the other side of the river and I was just in time to hear and see a Green Sandpiper sound off and then fly off towards the south from the Bittern Hide. A Comma butterfly then flew in and alighted just in front of me. It was still hot and humid in the Hide.

I headed off for home around 7. Another very good visit.

The End!
For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Rye Meads - 10th September 14

Weather: Warm and sunny early on, clouding over later.

Birds Total: 41
Plus: Large White, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Common Blue damselfly; Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: 7-spot, 18-spot, 22-spot Ladybirds; Bees; Brown Rat; Crane Fly; Dock Bug; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Midges; Spiders; Wasps.

It should have been a visit to Fishers Green today but I am not quite back to full visit fitness yet and a 10km walk around FG would probably have been a bit too much. So instead I opted for a more leisurely 5km walk around Rye Meads.

It was a nice, warm sunny day out, with just a few fluffy clouds about. Not too many people around, a few familiar faces in some of the Hides. Best of all this Reserve does not allow dog-walkers; joggers or cyclists.

There wasn't any one particular highlight today plus the bird total was still quite low. Possibly because migrants have been moving on and we haven't yet seen the Autumn/Winter birds arriving yet.

The rise of the fungi!
The first thing of note to report was at the first pond where a couple of Dock Bugs were present plus a 7-spot Ladybird, the first of many today and a Crane Fly. Or as I used to call them, a Daddy-Long-Legs. A movement at the back caught my eye and, at first, I thought it might have been a Vole but the long tail gave it away as a Brown Rat.

Cetti's Warbler and Chiffchaff could be heard around the Reserve but only a few Chiffies showed themselves, mainly flying with mixed flocks. Just before I reached Vole Corner I spotted more Dock Bugs and then a tiny, yellow 22-spot Ladybird.

A very yellow looking Large White butterfly
I reached said Vole Corner hoping to get more good views of 'Ratty' but unfortunately none were seen today. Despite hanging around for 20 minutes or so they remained stubbornly hidden. There wasn't even anything to see out over the HMWT meadow either.

And so I found myself sat in the Draper Hide. There were quite a few birds to be seen, mainly Gadwall; Coot and Moorhen. There were a family of 4 Little Grebes present, with one little chick continually begging for food. A pair of Shoveler were fast asleep and then I spotted a pair of Green Sandpipers, one left of the Hide and one right. A Grey Heron flew in and immediately flew back out.

The new Kingfisher bank to the left of the Hide looked to be falling apart already, as large chunks of sand had fallen away. Also, I noticed that the 'Green Weed' had returned with a vengeance, covering most of the lagoons on the Reserve.

I moved on seeing small feeding flocks of Tits passing by. A Speckled Wood butterfly landed nearby. There were a few of these seen today but, on the whole, there weren't very many flutterbys around at all. There were more insects seen today, notably lots of Bees and Wasps. It was nice to see several Dock Bugs in various parts of the Reserve. There were now loads of spiders about, mainly Common Garden; Long-jawed Orb and Nursery Web.

Walking along the trail I noticed several Common Darters taking in the sunshine. These were without doubt the most numerous dragons seen today but there were quite a few Migrant Hawkers seen as well.

Just before I reached the Twin Hides I heard the familiar screech of a Water Rail somewhere on the lagoon to the left.

I spent about 30 minutes in the Gadwall Hide. From here I could see over a dozen Common Snipe; 20-odd Lapwing; a pair of sleeping LBBGs; half-a-dozen Little Grebes; a Mute Swan family and the usual Coots and fowl. A Garganey had been seen earlier this morning but I was unable to locate it amongst all the Gadwall. A pair of Wigeon were swimming around at the far end of the lagoon and there were several Shoveler about.

I had a quick look out from the Tern Hide. No Terns now, just Cormorants; BHGs and Coot to be seen. A Green Woodpecker did call out in the nearby trees.

Then it was the obligatory visit to the Kingfisher Hide. The resident pair had produced a fourth set of eggs and they were due to hatch this week. I didn't really expect there to be much KF action today but it just turned out to be one of those lucky days. The usual crowd of photographers were there and had been there since opening time. It was about midday when I arrived and I had just sat down, listening to the guys bemoan the fact that they hadn't seen anything when the male called out and duly arrived, perching up on the middle post. He posed for a few minutes then flew in to the adjacent bushes and called out to the female. She then flew out of the nest and perched on the same post. I took a few snaps before the female flew off and the male took his turn on the eggs.

Apart from the KFs, a Jay flew over and a Great Spotted Woodpecker appeared on the tree beside the Kingfisher Bank, while a Blackcap was sounding off its clicking call to the left of the Hide. All this action happening in the 15 minutes I was sat there. Having photographed the KFs I smiled at the guys and headed off, leaving them all bemused. Hey, some days you get lucky!

I headed off down the trail towards the Warbler Hide. It took me a while to get there as I was creeping quite slowly down the track, looking for perched dragons. I disturbed two Migrants before seeing a Brown Hawker perched up above me. It allowed a few photos before flying off. A Red Admiral appeared briefly. I then spotted a Common Blue damselfly, the first of only two today. The area was very conspicuously absent of damsels today.

There is a lagoon adjacent to the trail here but was currently hidden by all the undergrowth. But I could hear Teal calling out. Actually, the 'undergrowth' was starting to look distinctly 'Autumnal' with leaves starting to turn into their glorious golden colours.

Just before I reached the Hide I spotted more Darters and Hawkers, one of which was a female, ovipositing Migrant. More Blackcaps sounded off. Apart from Cetti's and Chiffies they were the only Warblers I heard all day.

Initially there wasn't anything to be seen from the Warbler Hide so I concentrated on lunch. But, as always, where there's lunch birds seem to appear. This time a lovely pair of Hobbys appeared and proceeded to give me a wonderful flying display, criss-crossing the field in front of me, every now and then catching and eating dragons on the wing. I hadn't really seen any Hobbys much at all this year, mainly because I was always looking down and not up. But these two put on quite a performance.

The only other birds to be seen were a cock Pheasant walking up the newly created cattle path to the left while a Grey Heron flew over. Another Grey Heron flew in to the lagoon outside the Kingfisher Hide just after I had arrived back. The guys were all still there and even joked about getting ready to see the KFs again, as I had returned. But I only stayed for about 20 minutes, sensing that I had used up all my luck.

I moved on back down the trail, eventually arriving back at the Gadwall Hide. And wouldn't you know it! Just as I sat down a Kingfisher appeared in front of the Hide, perching up on a few of the wooden stumps. I must admit I did smile to myself.

Looking out over the lagoon a pair of Green Sandpipers had turned up while the Snipe count had risen to 16. Around half-a-dozen Swallows could be seen flying around overhead.

Time was getting on and so I headed back to have another look from the Draper Hide. On the way several Chiffchaffs flew past, some alighting on a nearby tree, all continually making their distinctive contact calls.

Only one Green Sandpiper remained but over a dozen Teal had appeared, along with 4 or 5 Shoveler. 3 or 4 Stock Doves were picking their way around the island, while a Pied Wagtail flew overhead.

On the walk back to Vole Corner I heard a Goldfinch fly over. Ratty never made an appearance and so I headed for home. A quiet, fairly uneventful but satisfying day out. It did feel a bit like 'After the Lord Mayor's Show' after Amwell earlier in the week.

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Amwell Nature Reserve - 8th September 14

Weather: Hot and humid, some light cloud.

Birds Total: 34
Plus: Comma, Common Blue, Green-veined White, Large White, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood Butterflies. Mother-of-Pearl Moth.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Crickets; Hornets; Hoverflies; Konik Ponies; Rainbow Trout; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Rudd; Sheep; Spiders; Water Vole.
Plus: Azure, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Emerald, Willow Emerald Damselflies; Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Migrant Hawker, Ruddy Darter Dragonflies.

A wonderfully sunny month in July was followed by a very poor month in August with the area suffering from overcast and cloudy skies with some rainfall at times. It meant that I only managed one outing during the whole month, in the 'calm between the storms'. Fortunately September has started well and it is hoped that we will have an Indian Summer. As someone once said 'There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes!'

Willow Emerald Damselfly
So, instead of continuing to enjoy days out, I was stuck inside having to do the decorating. I'm still finding flecks of paint on me even now.

But today I was determined to get out again. Rye Meads had reported a few interesting sightings recently and, although Fishers Green was next on the list, Flycatchers and Emeralds were being reported at Amwell so I headed off to try my luck there.

For once the weather forecasters got it right, with warm sunshine throughout the day. A few clouds came and went and there wasn't even a hint of a breeze. Unfortunately, I had decided not to apply Factor50 today, thinking I could get away with it. Well, in general, I did but there were a few sore places when I eventually returned home.

On the train down I spotted the usual Grey Heron, in the same place as always. It's probably the same one and had staked out its' territory. That or there is some good feeding spots in the area.

The walk down the trail to the Reserve provided views of Canada Geese and Mallards, all looking for handouts. The Konik ponies had been transferred in to the adjacent field and were busy plying their trade as living lawn mowers. It was already sunny and warm and I had already decided to remove the fleece I had foolishly brought with me. Lots of Robins were already 'Tick, ticking' away as I walked by. It also must have been the season for spiders as dozens and dozens could be seen. They were mainly Common Garden Spiders.

At the Watchpoint several familiar faces were already present. Looking out over Great Hardmead Lake I could see plenty of birds, mainly Lapwing plus a couple of Green Sandpipers; Great Crested Grebe and 4 Grey Herons plus the usual ducks and geese; Mutes and Coots.

After about 15 minutes all the Lapwing went up, scared by a pair of Sparrowhawks flying past who landed on a distant tree. A Green Woodpecker sounded off somewhere and, in fact, sounded off quite a few times all day. Unfortunately I never managed to pinpoint it. On the bushes directly in front of me I could see a few 7-spot Ladybirds; a Red Admiral and a lone Azure damselfly, the first I've seen for a while.

It was starting to get very hot in the sun and, mindful of having no protection, I headed off down the trail towards the James Hide. There was no one at home when I arrived, either inside the Hide or outside. The feeders were all empty; the flora had grown to biblical proportions while the area was totally devoid of birds. A fly-by gaggle of Canada Geese and a lone Grey Heron was the early sum total.

Looking out over the lagoon I could see a few Migrant Hawkers flying and hovering around, every now and then having a few border disputes. A Darter appeared and disappeared before I could ID it. But it was red enough to be a possible Ruddy. Then a Brown Hawker moved into the area, staking its' claim and moved the Migrants on. Looking up, over the treeline, I could see a pair of Buzzards, their distinctive high-pitched mewing call giving them away. A few Coots and Moorhens made a tentative appearance. The water was being disturbed every few minutes by plenty of Rudd action.

But, with not much else happening, I decided to move on. I took a quick look out over the Bittern Pool but, aside from a lone GCG, I could only see Coot and Tufted Duck, who all kept their distance. A Comma butterfly made a fluttering appearance.

At the twin lagoons I failed to find any Red-eyed damselflies. Disappointing, but not too surprising. There were a few Common Blue damsels about, mostly resting on the lilly-pads, fluttering up every now and then. More Hawkers were patrolling both lagoons. Then I spotted a movement in the bank opposite. It turned out to be a Sedge Warbler, poking about in the undergrowth. Apart from hearing a Cetti's and seeing a few Chiffchaffs, it was the only Warbler I spotted all day. Another reminder that September was migration month.

No Banded Demoiselles about at their usual spot by the bridge today unfortunately. I suspect their season is just about over. Still, I think I gorged aplenty on them this year. The familiar faces were also at the bridge, on the way back from the Dragonfly Trail. I asked them about the Emeralds but they nor anyone else had seen them so far today.

We chatted a while, seeing more Red Admirals on the Buddleia, a Mother-of-Pearl moth; a Sparrowhawk fly-past and more Hawkers, hawking up and down the river below us. I moved on, eager to try my luck on the Trail. Although, I must admit, I wasn't too confident of seeing anything other than Darters and Hawkers.

Just before I arrived at the start of the Trail I could hear evidence of Reserve staff hard at work. It was actually Jenny Sherwen sitting atop a large grass cutter, wheeling her way back and forth, giving the area a short, back and sides. I inquired about the Emeralds but, again, no one had seen them yet. Earlier, at the entrance, I had spotted another 7-spot Ladybird, but then a movement above it caught my eye and it turned out to be a lovely Green Shield Bug, in its' fifth and final Instar form.

Promising Jenny I would let her know if I spotted any Emerald activity I let her get back to work. Lady Luck must have smiled down on me because I had only walked a few meters down the wooden walkway when I spotted another Migrant Hawker hovering to the right, just in front of me. But a movement in the reeds adjacent caught my eye and, unbelievably, an Emerald appeared! Just like that! It was a female, busily ovipositing from reed-stem to reed-stem. I managed to get off a few shots and when I was reasonably confident that she wasn't going to fly off I hurried back to try and find Jenny.

Unfortunately, the Law of Sod then stuck his nose in. As soon as we got back I was unable to relocate the Emerald. Just as Jenny moved off to go back to work, I spotted it again. She quickly hurried back and confirmed my sighting. I was initially unsure of the ID, whether it was a common Emerald or the Willow Emerald that had recently been seen.

As I watched I saw the damselfly land on one of the reed-stems and gradually move lower and lower until she was completely submerged. She stayed under for at least 5 or 6 minutes before returning to the surface, climbing up the stem and drying off in the sunshine. One of the familiar faces, Ron, turned up and we were all treated to a display as the Emerald continued her work. I must of spent over an hour at this spot, trying to get a photo that I could positively ID later.

Even then I was a bit loathe to move on as I was sure I had spotted a male there as well. But I eventually managed to drag myself away and continue on down the walkway. More Migrants were seen, some paired up, a few more Browns were about as well. Then Darters began to appear, mostly Common Darters but with 2 or 3 Ruddy Darters amongst them. Today most of them played ball and posed in the sunshine, allowing me to immortalise them.

I moved on towards the river and was rewarded by 2 or 3 shows of a Kingfisher. Another Comma butterfly appeared as did a Speckled Wood. Sheep had been released in the area, with Jenny informing me that several species were mixed in together. I'm afraid the only species I can remember was a few Shetland Sheep. I'm glad to report that I successfully managed to avoid all the sheep droppings.

I made the return journey back through the walkway but unfortunately never managed to see any of the Emeralds. But a lovely male Migrant Hawker posed nicely for me. I decided to have lunch on a bench overlooking Hollycross Lake. While there, another Ruddy Darter appeared in front of me. It graciously allowed me to finish lunch and even allowed me to get close for a couple of shots. A guy then turned up to try and locate the Willow Emeralds. He took a look at the Emerald photos I had taken earlier and informed me that they were of a common Emerald. I wasn't too upset as I was quite pleased just to see an Emerald, being only the second time I had seen one. He moved off to try his luck elsewhere.

Before moving off myself I sat down on the grass by the river, opposite the Willow trees and immediately spotted a movement. Unbelievably it was another Emerald. Your man had told me that the easiest way to spot the difference between the two species was the pterostigma, the spots on the wings. Black indicated common Emerald while white indicated Willow Emerald. My heart started to race as this one had white wing spots.

Jenny was still working away and I turned and waved frantically at her. She came over and took a look at my discovery. A few minutes later your man turned up and confirmed that it was indeed a male Willow Emerald. It had been spotted several days earlier and was a first for Hertfordshire. This one gave even better close-up views that the earlier one. While we feasting our eyes on the damsel a Water Vole appeared right beside us, swimming from bank to bank. A few more guys then turned up and then, amazingly, we were treated to a second male Willow Emerald appearing!

It was an inspired decision to come down to Amwell today. Some days you get lucky, some days you don't.

Eventually I dragged myself away and headed towards the White Hide. Back at the bridge a couple of Rainbow Trout had appeared. At the Twin Lagoons another Red Admiral could be seen, to be joined by a Common Blue butterfly. I didn't hang around long as a lady let loose her pair of dogs into one of the lagoons for a wash and brush-up.

On the trail around to the White Hide I came across 3 Hairy Shield Bugs, all atop a couple of dead Teasel stems. I had only seen a few before today, when on a holiday to Madeira back in May, so I was delighted to see some in this country. Today just got better and better.

Ensconced in the White Hide, looking out, I could see, out to the left, a large flock of mixed passerines, containing mostly LTTs but with some Chiffchaffs in amongst them. Blue Tits were also flying back and forth. There was plenty of dragonfly action out over the little ponds, while out in the distance, towards the Gladwin Hide I could see a pair of Little Egrets. A GCG family was floating out on the lake while about 20 or so Pochard were sunning themselves on the island. A pair of Shoveler were sitting snugly in the middle of them.

I spent another 15 minutes in the James Hide but it was even quieter than before. Even the Rudd had decided to settle down. Back at the Watchpoint nothing more of any note had appeared and I reluctantly decided to take a slow walk back to the station and home.

It was another excellent day out. Despite being a nice sunny day not too many people had ventured out. The Hides were especially quiet. They missed a very exciting day.

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.