Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Chasing the Chasers at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 4th June 15

Weather: Very warm throughout, slight cloud. Quite breezy late on.

Bird Total: 51
Plus: Bank Vole.
Plus: Green-veined White, Large White, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small White, Speckled Wood butterflies. Cinnabar Moth.
Plus: 7-spot & Harlequin Ladybirds; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Hornet; Hoverfly; Long-jawed Orb Spider; Mayfly; Midge; Mint Leaf Beetle; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater; Sawfly; Soldier Beetle.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Large Red, Red-eyed damselflies; Broad-bodied Chaser, Hairy dragonflies.
Plus: Common Spotted Orchid, Early Marsh Orchid, Forget-Me-Knots; Southern Marsh Orchid.

It was a gloriously hot day today. Only a few fluffy bits of strato-cumulus, with a light breeze. I had remembered to pop an anti-histamine pill, put on some sunscreen and had even remembered to wear some more insect repellent. Jungle strength, this time. After yesterday's long hike, I took the opportunity to take the later train, arriving at the Reserve around 10.30.

There was only a pair of Great Crested Grebes to entertain me on the train journey down. But, walking up the trail to the Reserve, I was again attacked by Pollen. When is the pollen season over, for crying out loud! Oh, I've just googled it - not until the end of July. Terrific.

But the good news was the first thing I spotted. It was a lovely female Banded Demoiselle. A great start. In fact, I spotted several more throughout the day, a lot more here than in recent years. Further on I came across a few 7-spot and Harlequin ladybirds. Nursery Web Spiders were in evidence along here, as were quite a few blue damsels as well.

There were two familiar faces at the Watchpoint when I arrived. Looking out over the lake I could see, surprisingly, 7 Little Egrets and over a dozen Grey Herons, most of which were all together. Obviously a fledging had taken place from Cormorant Island.

Other birds on show were a pair of Redshank; a lone Little Ringed Plover; a lone Shoveler; a lone Teal; only a pair of Common Tern on show; a pair of Great Crested Grebes and, finally, several Lapwing. Reed and Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings were doing their usual thing, flying around the phragmites in front of us. Black-headed Gull chicks were now noticeable on the Tern Rafts. Lastly, a Soldier Beetle flew in and landed right in front of me. Probably his turn on sentry duty.


I headed off down to the Gladwin Hide. Again, nothing other than a Coot was on the Scrape. But there was also a lone Lapwing, probably the same one as before. Then a pair of Gadwall flew past, followed by an Egyptian Goose. They parted company, with the Gadwall landing near the Scrape.

Looking out to the right, on the far side, I could see a pair of Oystercatchers, with at least one chick. Then a Stock Dove flew in and landed on the Scrape. It was starting to fill up! A Peacock butterfly flew past, but just the one.


I headed back up the trail, passing a large group of Schoolchildren, all decked out in bright, yellow jackets. Making a lot of noise, I hoped they wouldn't be following me to the Hides.

I found another guy in the James Hide when I arrived. Just before he left we were talking about not seeing many Swifts today. A few seconds after he had left, one flew past. Always the way!

Unfortunately, there wasn't much to see from here. The feeders were doing good business, but only for Tits and Buntings. Only a Coot was out on the pond. So, despite waiting for around 30 minutes, I headed off towards the Dragonfly Trail.

Just before I reached the Twin Lagoons I spotted a male Banded Demoiselle and was about to attempt a photo, when a woman with two dogs went by, scaring it up and away. At the lagoons, I looked for any Red-eyed damsels and was delighted to find several on the lilley-pads. The first of the season.

Chiffchaffs were singing out and then I spotted a Broad-bodied Chaser, flying around. Then I was delighted to see and photograph a Cinnabar Moth. It gave me the run around initially, but soon settled and posed for me.

Carrying on, I spotted a few Holly Blue butterflies; a few mating pairs of Common Blue damsels and then another male Banded Demoiselle. Then I reached the Bridge and looked down to see 3 more male Banded Demoiselles; a Hairy dragon and a Speckled Wood butterfly. It must have been some party!

I had just entered the Trail when I heard a Cuckoo. It called off and on for the next hour or so. Then a female Banded Demoiselle showed briefly. A pair of Large Red damsels showed and presented themselves for immortality. Actually, I was wondering if I had seen the last of these this season, but it turned out that there were probably close to a couple of dozen present.

But then I latched onto the target of the day, a Broad-bodied Chaser. It posed up on perches for the next 20 minutes or so, allowing me to take quite a lot of photos. A little later on another turned up and then the female. A male Hairy dragon was continuing to patrol his patch, while a female was again seen ovipositing.

Scouting around the area I came across a few Mayflies, in June; a Mint Leaf Beetle; a species of Sawfly and lastly another Soldier Beetle. Walking over to the river I could see a few more Demoiselles and blue damsels and then a lovely Chiffchaff, singing on a branch, just above me. A male Orange Tip flew past, the only one of the day. And then I spotted another Cinnabar Moth fly past. The term 'London Buses' sprang to mind!

I moved back to the walkway, spotting a Green Woodpecker and a Kingfisher flyby. I took several more photos of the ever-obliging Chaser. Then I spotted a Hornet fly past. Large and menacing - I'll leave you alone, if you leave me alone!

I broke for lunch and spotted a raptor fly over. I wasn't sure of the ID, but it wasn't a Kestrel; Hobby or a Buzzard. Possibly a Red Kite, but the tail didn't look right.

The female Broad-bodied Chaser was busy ovipositing but was being continually harassed by a male. Maybe 'harassed' is the wrong word. Possibly 'escorting'.

It was hot. My feet and back ached. So I headed off to the James Hide for a well-deserved sit down. At the Bridge I spotted at least 5 male and 1 female Banded Demoiselle and then a Green-veined White butterfly. Unfortunately, all were too far away for a photo.

I arrived back at the James Hide and sat down. I was immediately joined by a Grey Heron arriving on the pond and then 'Banksie' the Vole appeared. I raised my camera, which one? Banksie won out. Both disappeared when a guy arrived to clean up the Hide. What, now!

10 minutes later the Grey Heron reappeared and carried on in stalk mode. A Cetti's Warbler sounded off to my left, but never appeared. I decided to head to the White Hide for a look, as I hadn't visited there for a while. No Water Vole along the way and only another Grey Heron was near the Hide. I didn't hang around long, the wind was blowing all the pollen into my face.

I arrived back at the Watchpoint to see another two familiar faces. Nothing new was seen and so I headed home. But there was a problem with the trains. They wasted 35 minutes of my time, as they didn't have a Plan B. Annoyingly, there was no information forthcoming either. No change there, then!


'Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragonfly hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky.' Dante Gabriel Rossetti

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.