Friday, 22 May 2015

Election News Special!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 11th May 15

Weather: Sunny early on, clouding over later. Quite warm.

Bird Total: 55
Plus: Bank Vole; Grass Snake; Rabbit; Tadpoles.
Plus: Comma, Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White butterflies.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Alderfly; Bee-fly; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Cardinal Beetle; Crane Fly; Cross Spider; Dark Bush Cricket; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Mayfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater; Slug; Spotted Crane Fly.
Plus: Azure, Common Blue damselflies; Hairy, Large Red dragonflies.
Plus: Bluebells, Early Marsh Orchid, Forget-Me-Knots.

It had been over 3 weeks since I visited the Lee Valley, due to the Spanish trip and poor weather, so I finally managed to make it out today. And Thank God, as I had been trapped indoors, having to watch the bloody general election circus. It was either that or do the housework.

The first thing I noticed, on walking along the trail to the Reserve, was the explosion of flora around the area. But then I noticed that, in turn, it had brought out a profusion of insect life. All along the trail I could see another explosion, of invertebra.

But the first thing I saw was a lone, juvenile Egyptian Goose, swimming along the canal. It even swam up to me, expecting a hand-out I guess. But I only had white bread. And that was for me!

The first insect I spotted was a lovely Red-headed Cardinal Beetle, crawling through the green nettles. I managed a quick shot before it spread its' wings and flew off, leaving me behind. Probably a female, I thought.

Then I spotted my first Mayfly of the season, taking off and flying over the canal. It had better watch out, there were hungry birds about. A Common Tern was flying up and down the canal, every now and then hovering, then diving down.

More insects appeared, a Sawfly species, which I was unable to ID; a Spotted Crane Fly and then a 7-spot Ladybird. Then lots of Common Crane Flies flew past me; a small black caterpillar appeared, looking probably like it was a Peacock butterfly species; more Cardinal Beetles; loads of Nursery Web Spiders and I could also hear Cetti's Warbler and Reed Warbler singing out. And I hadn't even arrived at the Watchpoint yet!

From the Watchpoint itself I could see a couple of Hobbys in the sky, one of which was slightly higher and further back than a Buzzard, which itself was being mobbed by a Raven. There were Swifts up there flying around, screaming, as they do. Out on the lake, apart from the usual, close in around the reedbeds, there were Reed Warbler; Sedge Warbler and Reed Buntings, all flying around, singing their heads off.

The lake held a few Lapwing; a couple of Little Egrets flying around; Great Crested Grebes were swimming close in; at least a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls; a fair few Common Terns and a lone Shoveler.

On the butterfly side, I spotted Small White; Peacock; Holly Blue and Orange Tip all flying around the area. Sadly, not many other insects were close in.

I took a walk down to the Gladwin Hide to see how the new scrape was shaping up. On the way I could hear and see several Whitethroats and a couple of Sedge Warblers. Just before I reached the Hide I spotted a clump of sorry looking Bluebells, around the same place as I saw them last year. I may have left it too late to see any other Bluebells this year. The same could be said for the St. Mark's Flies.

I opened up the shutters in the Hide and sat down. Sadly, again only Canada Geese and Coot were close in. A lone Lapwing did fly in and try to settle but a couple of Black-headed Gulls chased it off. Then a cock Pheasant strode regally past the Hide, from right to left. Several Greylag Geese were swimming around, one of which flew in and landed close to the hide. About half-a-dozen others then started swimming over to it and chased it off, amid a flurry of honking and wing-flapping.

After about 10 minutes I could see several Grey Herons, albeit in the distance, while a Great Crested Grebe swam past, diving every now and then. A Green Woodpecker sounded off somewhere in the distance, across the lake. Then an Oystercatcher peeped its' way past, high in the sky, from left to right, returning to its' nesting area.

I headed off soon after and decided to head through the Woodland. Carol had said that the weather today would be cloud in the morning, brightening up in the afternoon. Which is why I had decided to follow my usual route and end up in the newly opened Dragonfly Trail when it warmed up. Sadly wrong again, Carol. It was quite sunny during the morning and then clouded over during the afternoon.

There wasn't much to see in the Woodland, as it was very overgrown since I was last here. The only things I spotted were a lone Comma butterfly and then, the first of the season, a damselfly! It was a male Common Blue, its' colour slightly faded due to the low temperature. The only other thing of note I spotted were a few Bee-flies.

After a cursory look over the Bittern Pool, I was sat sitting in the James Hide, on my own. Not long after I arrived a pair of Marsh Tits could be heard and then seen. They both flew in to the feeders, with one of them a little shyer than the other, flying off to consume the captured seeds. Strangely, no other bird was seen on the feeders for over 15 minutes. Then both Marshies flew off, never to be seen again.

Two Little Egrets flew past, left to right, seemingly in a hurry. A few Reed Buntings were flying around the reeds, as they do. I had also noticed that tons of pollen was flying around, make me sneeze. I need another packet of anti-histamine, methinks!

Then a Bank Vole made an appearance, scurrying around at break-neck speed, as usual. I could hear, then see a Garden Warbler at the back, behind the feeders. Unfortunately it was too quick for a shot. There were the usual Coot on the pond, together with a pair of Mallards and a pair of Gadwall. They were soon joined by a pair of Tufted Ducks. All of them swimming around, feeding. Or preening.

With nothing much else about I headed for the White Hide, where I had lunch. Outside, on the lake, there was nothing new to report, other than a lone Common Sandpiper, on the island in front of the Hide. I had taken a quick look on the way to the White Hide and back, for the Water Vole but had no luck.

Just as I was heading up to the Dragonfly Trail I bumped into Jenny, in her car. She told me what was and had been happening here in recent days. She was on her way to the Trail and would meet me there soon. But first I wanted to check the twin lagoons for any damsels. No luck and the Bullfinches had gone too.

So five minutes later I met up with Jenny again and she showed me the area where the Willow Emerald damsels had laid their eggs. We had a quick look out over the ponds and, as we chatted, a Grass Snake could be seen swimming around.

I carried on walking around the area after she left and spotted a Hairy Dragonfly out over one of the other ponds. The earliest of the dragons, it was a female, who I noticed continually avoided me. Ho-hum. Also seen was a lovely male Large Red damselfly. A Coot family had set up a nest close to the walkway and were proudly displaying their two youngsters. Ahh, only their mother could love them.

I stayed in the area for a couple of hours, seeing a few more Common Blues, some early Azures were about too. Then a lone Small Tortoiseshell butterfly appeared, but didn't settle long enough for a photo. I could see lots of Tadpoles swimming around the ponds. Earlier on, walking around by the adjacent river, I could see a sea of Forget-Me-Knots, looking absolutely glorious, almost as good as a field of Bluebells. The Orchid garden had started to produce the first flowers, Early Marsh and Southern Marsh.

I was just about to leave when my birdy pal, Ron, turned up, a big grin on his face. We had a quick chat before he headed off around the Trail. I headed back to the James Hide for a well deserved sit down. On the way I could hear a lovely Song Thrush.

I found the James Hide empty again and made myself comfortable. Outside were the same waterfowl. To my left a Cetti's Warbler sang out every now and then, while a little Wren darted back and forth. The Feeders had now started to attract Tits and Finches, with the odd Dunnock appearing. A couple of male Reed Buntings also flew in.

Then Ron appeared, still with a smile on his face. There wasn't much happening out on the pond. We irritated the Mallards by making quacking sounds. One of them flew off. The sun was getting quite low by now, but it was giving off some of the best light of the day.

Then a Grey Heron flew in and landed, going immediately into stalk and hunt mode. A couple of women then arrived and sat down and we were all entertained by the Heron catching and swallowing down what looked like a large Tench. Every now and then we heard the familiar screech of a Water Rail, but it failed to show itself. A Blackcap sang out behind the Feeders, showing itself briefly.

With nothing else about and with the time getting on, we made our way back to the Watchpoint. I stood here for about 30 minutes, watching a Little Ringed Plover and 4 Redshank go about their business. A couple of them came in fairly close to us. Then one of the other guys pointed out a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, I can't remember which Winter it was.

It was great to be out and about around the Lee Valley again, in the sunshine. I again forgot to put on my sunscreen and was greeted by another red face in the mirror when I got back.

Thank God the General Election is over!

'In democracy, it's your vote that counts. In feudalism, it's your Count that votes!'