Weather: Sunny blue skies. Very hot. Slight wind.
Bird Total: 39
Plus: Grey Squirrel.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Red-eyed damselflies; Emperor, Hairy and ? dragonflies.
Plus: Brimstone, Holly Blue, Large White, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Click Beetle; Common Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Hoverflies; Mayfly; Midge; Orb Spider; Soft-winged Flower Beetle; Thick-kneed Flower Beetle.
After the dismal weather performance at Amwell the other day I was looking forward to some quality sunshine today. And so it proved. It looks like June has finally arrived. But I took my fleece with me, just in case.
My usual train got me down to the Reserve in good time. A Chiffchaff was waiting to greet me as I arrived, sounding off its' cheerful song. But the very first thing I spotted was a male Banded Demoiselle, along the canal, leading up to the Teal Hide. But before I could get a shot of it, a jogger ran by, scaring it off. Doh!
A few paces further on another appeared, this time a little further back in the undergrowth. And just before I arrived at the Lock, two more appeared in the little stream adjacent to the Canal. A good start!
I sat down on the bench, overlooking Friday Lake. The only birds out there were Coot; Gulls; Geese and Swans. But then a Cetti's Warbler sounded off somewhere to my left. It was already quite warm, with almost clear, blue skies above me. There was just a hint of strato-cumulus. I think bringing my fleece might have scared off the Rain God.
I crossed over the little bridge towards the Hide, passing 2 women with a large pack of dogs, one of which started barking at me. This time I was a little more prepared, spraying my ankles with jungle-strength deet. Just in case.
On the trail to the Hide I could see plenty of insect life about, mainly blue damsels, Blue-tailed and Common Blue. And just outside the walkway, Azures turned up. Spiders and Flies were around in some numbers, while a lone Thick-kneed Beetle was seen.
Then, to my delight, I spotted a female Banded Demoiselle, posing quite near, in the sunshine. She waited patiently until I had taken several snaps and then her consort turned up nearby, also posing nicely. Just as well really, as a few dog-walkers passed by, putting everything up.
Sighing heavily, I made my way up the boardwalk to the Teal Hide and sat down. Heavy flora awaited me, nearly obliterating the view. At first, I didn't think anything was out there, but then I spotted a pair of Little Egrets away to the right. Further out I could see a Grey Heron. A few minutes later a Lapwing took off for a display flight, landing back down near a second one.
Three Gadwall flew in and landed on the pond. And, just as I was listening to a male Reed Bunting call out, a Kingfisher flashed by, from right to left. The first of very few butterflies today passed by, a bastard White.
I made my way back to the area outside the Hide again. Lots of teneral damsels were going up as I walked slowly past, while lots of blues were in tandem mode. Another Thick-kneed Flower Beetle appeared, while a Whitethroat sang out by the stream. A second butterfly, a Holly Blue, fluttered past. Then I spotted what I think was one of the Ichnuemon species landing nearby for a photo.
I moved around the trail, seeing plenty of blues. And lots of dog-walkers, plus the odd jogger. But then, all joggers are odd to me. No wait, I think I've already done that gag.
A Speckled Wood and a Soldier Beetle were seen. But not together. Although it would make for interesting offspring. Then another Kingfisher flashed past, flying up the relief channel. It could well have been the same one. Then a macabre sight greeted me. An Orb Spider had caught one of the blue damsels in its' web and was wrapping it up for consumption later.
I carried on around the trail. More and more blues were seen. Chiffchaff and Cetti's were singing out, but other than that it was quite quiet. But then I spotted a Red-eyed damselfly sitting on a lilleypad. Another was close by. Then one of the Cetti's sounded off quite close and I saw it fly off to another tree.
There wasn't anything else of note until I entered the trail to the Bittern Hide, where the first thing I spotted was a male Banded Demoiselle. But, frustratingly again, before I could get a photo of it, more dog-walkers and joggers appeared. Argh!
A Blackcap sang out as I approached the spot where the Great Crested Grebes were nesting. But, unfortunately, the nest was empty, with both adults absent and no eggs. I had heard from a friend a day or so ago that at least one chick had hatched. A little further on I spotted the adults making their way back to the nest, where one of them began nest-building again. Maybe they will have another go. What a shame.
A little further on another pair of Banded Demoiselles appeared, ready for their close-up. Fortunately, this time, they were off the beaten track. Then I disturbed a Grey Heron, but surprisingly this time, it didn't fly off. I guess it must have been a male!
I finally arrived at the Bittern Hide and sat down. No one else was here, just how I like it. I was a bit parched after that walk and had some lunch. Looking out around the lake I could see the usual suspects, lots of noisy Black-headed Gulls, some with chicks, with a sprinkling of Lesser-black Backed Gulls amongst them. Lots of Canada Geese were milling around, mainly in pairs; lots of Coot and a few ducks. But there were also a few Common Terns on the rafts, in between the Gulls. Lastly, an Egyptian Goose was asleep on the island at the back.
A Jay then flew in to the feeders but, seeing me, flew off again. The juvenile Magpie from an earlier visit was still around and being very vocal. I was amused watching it tentatively have what looked like its' first bath. Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings were flying around the, well, reeds. A Hairy dragonfly was patrolling the pond, where a pair of Coot were feeding youngsters. Then a female Mallard swum in from the right, with only 4 little ducklings left. A Peacock and a Speckled Wood flew past.
With nothing much else I headed off towards the trail leading to the Grebe Hide. I started checking the fishing spots for any dragons or damsels, disappointingly finding only the usual blues. But I did start to hear a Cuckoo sounding off.
The trail was also disappointingly quiet, with only a pair of Great Crested Grebes, carrying a couple of humbugs, to report. Possibly because quite a few people were out walking this stretch. Dare I say with dogs?
At the fishing spots just before I arrived at the Hide I could see a few male Banded Demoiselles with at least one Red-eyed damselfly, just over the other side of the relief channel. But they weren't of much use being that far away. They were the only ones in the area. Very disappointing!
Sitting in the Grebe Hide, looking out, I could see, appropriately enough, at least 10 Great Crested Grebes, mainly in pairs. The nesting pair from the last visit had gone but the pair I had witnessed building another nest were still there, with one of them on the nest. Other than the Grebes there were only large groups of Canada Geese and Coot around the area.
People came and went and then I spotted a Red-eyed damselfly just outside the hide, soaking up the sun. A second was nearby. But nothing was happening so I headed back down the trail. Outside I was accosted by swarms of midges. The midges and the pollen had been manageable up until now but they had now both returned with a vengeance. Both seemed intent on fighting each other for the right to get up my nose.
I had spotted a few Demoiselles not long after leaving the Hide but I couldn't get near them because of the midges and the pollen. It didn't matter too much, dog-walkers were passing by, scaring them up.
This time I decided to head back to the Bittern Hide via a different route, just to break the monotony. And maybe escape the midges and the pollen. But it was fairly quiet around this route too, seeing just a very flighty female Banded Demoiselle and an equally flighty Red Admiral. Peacock and Speckled Wood were flying around here too, but not in any great number.
But then I spotted a little pond, off the beaten track again and headed towards it. I was rewarded by a first sighting this year of an Emperor dragonfly. I waited patiently as it circled and patrolled its domain, losing sight of it a few times. But then it finally settled for a couple of distant shots. A bonus was a sighting of a Brimstone butterfly as well.
Eventually I found myself back at the Bittern Hide, where there was no change. The Moorhen was still feeding its' tiny chick. A male Banded Demoiselle flew past, from right to left while a second Egyptian Goose had joined the first one. Both asleep. The Cuckoo began calling again while I was in the Hide.
Then I tried my luck back at the Great Crested Grebe nest, but when I arrived I found a juvenile Coot sat on the nest, with its' parents nearby. A few minutes later one of the Grebes swam in but didn't seem to care and swam on.
|What's ugly about me?|
I decided to walk on. At the Bridge I could hear a second Cuckoo calling.
But then I spotted a yellow dragon fly past which, to my great delight, landed close by. I crept slowly up to it, to try and get a shot, when 2 joggers ran past, right in front of me, ignoring me completely. They were followed by a dog-walker. Not surprisingly the dragon had disappeared. ARGH! It's a bloody wildlife reserve, not a bloody multi-gym!!!!
My first impression was that it was possibly a Black-tailed Skimmer but I'll never know now. So I gave up and conceded defeat. The joggers; dog-walkers and the pollen and the midges had beaten me and so I headed home.
'The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.'
'I think jogging is bad for your health. All that pressure on the knees and back cannot be good for you.' Kazuo Ishiguro