Sunday, 31 May 2015

Dragons & Damsels!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 15th May 15

Weather: Cloudy and overcast early on, brightening over later.

Bird Total: 58
Plus: Bank Vole; Rabbit; Tadpoles.
Plus: Brimstone, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small White butterflies.
Plus: Alderfly; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Cardinal Beetle; Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Mayfly; Midge; Pond Skater; Red-and-black Froghopper; Spotted Crane Fly.
Plus: Azure, Blue-tailed, Common Blue damselflies; Four-spotted Chaser, Hairy, Large Red dragonflies.
Plus: Bluebells, Early Marsh Orchid, Forget-Me-Knots; Southern Marsh Orchid.

It was forecast to be another nice day today, after yesterday's torrential rain and so I opted to return to Amwell. I had thought of visiting Rye Meads. It was an inspired decision as it turned out.

But, standing on the platform, waiting for the train, I could feel an icy wind blowing. And I had not thought to bring my fleece. I hoped it would warm up, otherwise it would be a short visit today.

Carol was again incorrect in her forecast for the day. Instead of light cloud and a warm day for most of the country, it was cloudy and overcast until just after lunch time, when finally, the sun poked through and it warmed up.

I was amused to see the same Grey Heron, perched on the same tree stump as before, as we sped by. There were also a few Great Crested Grebes to be seen on the lakes.

Azure damselfly
As I walked up the trail towards the Watchpoint, I kept an eye out again for insects. This area had proved fruitful earlier in the week. But it was so cold that I didn't see anything like as much as before.

I arrived at the Watchpoint to find around half-a-dozen people there, a few familiar faces among them. Looking out over the lake the first bird I could see was a Redshank, which was flying across in front of me. It was joined a second one. A Little Ringed Plover was on the edge of the island, picking its' way through the myriad of Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns. Other birds on show were a Little Egret; a few Grey Herons; a lone Shoveler; Reed and Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings, all flitting around the reed-beds; Swifts and Swallows were scything through the skies above; an Oystercatcher could be seen in the distance, opposite the Gladwin Hide and finally I could hear a Cuckoo calling somewhere.

Downlooker Snipe Fly?
But the bird of the day was also out there and it was a lone Dunlin, feeding in the same area as the LRP. It was in its' summer plumage looking fantastic. Unfortunately, it didn't venture in close enough for a photo, so I had to make do with viewing it through my Bins. A cracking bird!

The skies were still heavy with cloud and the breeze had picked up. So I made my way down to the Gladwin Hide. On the way down I practically bumped into a Whitethroat, which was singing quite close to me. The clump of Bluebells had all but withered away by now.

Only a lone Coot and a couple of Black-headed Gulls were out on the scrape. One of the Gulls was periodically collecting nesting material. There wasn't much out on the lake, apart from more Coot; Tufted Ducks; Canada Geese and a lone Little Egret, sitting on the far side of the lake. More Swifts were screaming past, overhead.

A few minutes later a Great Crested Grebe made a brief appearance in front, while a Jay flew past. I could hear a Green Woodpecker laughing somewhere behind the Hide. A Grey Heron flew in and landed to the left of the Hide, behind some shrubs, prompting the Little Egret to make a move.

The sun seemed to try and make an appearance, so I headed back down the trail. I decided to give the Woods a miss this time, as the cold wind was really starting to take effect. The Whitethroat sang to me as I walked past.

Looking out from the James Hide all I could see, at first, was a lone male Mallard on the pond. A few Reed Buntings were making full use of the full feeders. There was one other guy in the Hide when I arrived, surprisingly sitting on the left-hand side. He didn't stay long and headed off soon after I arrived.

A few minutes later another Little Egret flew past, from right to left; a Cetti's Warbler sounded off to my left and then a Bank Vole made an appearance.

Another guy came and went. Reed and Sedge Warblers sang out and flew around the reeds. A Wren was flying back and forth, bringing in nesting material. A Garden Warbler sang out and appeared out to the right, behind the feeders. A Grey Heron flew in, decided it wasn't worth the effort and flew straight back out.

Then I could see 3 Buzzards high in the sky, over Easneye Wood, one by one being mobbed by Crows.

The sun then appeared and I could see blue skies, prompting me to head off towards the Dragonfly Trail. I gave the White Hide a miss today.

Just outside, on the trail, I spotted a lovely Large Red damselfly, trying to take advantage of the newly arrived sunshine. Then, a metre away, I spotted another. Then a Red-headed Cardinal Beetle, quickly followed by a Common Blue damselfly and, finally, a Small White butterfly. A cracking 10 minutes or so!

I moved on, aware that quite a few dog-walkers; cyclists and joggers were giving me the eye. The sun started to feel warmer and I hoped it would stay around for a while longer.

There were 3 or 4 dodgy-looking geezers by the twin lagoons, so I opted not to pay a visit and walked straight to the Trail. Just before I got to the boardwalk I spotted my first dragon of the day - a male Hairy. Eventually I spotted at least 3 or 4 of them throughout the day but none of them settled for a photo. In fact, I spent an hour or two here trying to photograph them, but they just seemed to disappear in mid-air all the time and I kept losing sight of them.

I began seeing lots of blue Damsels, Azure; Blue-tailed and Common, in various forms. A few butterflies were also present, Orange Tip and Peacock being predominant, but there was at least one Brimstone. Tadpoles were present in several of the ponds. There were also lots of insects, including both Crane Fly species; Alderflies; Mayflies and a Red and Black Froghopper.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker called out. Then I looked up as a Hobby flew over. Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats were singing. A Kingfisher flashed by and flew out over the Lake. Early Marsh and Southern Marsh Orchids were now blooming. More Large Red damsels appeared.

Then I spotted a Four-spotted Chaser flash by, the first of the season. One of the volunteer Wardens, Darren, was with me and we watched it land and pose nicely for us. It looked newly emerged, its' wings glistening and shining in the sun. Magical!

Then my feet and back reminded me to take a break, while my stomach reminded me that it was time for lunch.

I took one more look around the area before heading back to the James Hide. From here I heard, then spotted, a lovely Cetti's Warbler, poking around the undergrowth to my right. I managed a few modest shots of it. A Water Rail screeched out somewhere. Then a Marsh Tit made a brief appearance on the feeders before flying off to consume its' catch.


There being no further action here and with the sun starting to drop down behind the trees and the Hide, I decided to head back to the Watchpoint. Where a pair of Redshank again ventured in close, just like the other evening. A Little Egret also came in close. The Dunlin was still present, but its' bill was tucked in and it looked like it was having a siesta.


Still feeling a little chilled I decided to call it a day and headed home.

'Time is for dragonflies and angels. The former live too little and the latter live too long.'
James Thurber