Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Snakes & Tits at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 28th May 15

Weather: Warm in the sun, cold in the shade.

Birds Total: 53
Plus: Bank Vole; Grass Snake.
Plus: Brimstone, Common Blue, Green-veined White, Large White, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small White, Speckled Wood butterflies. Cinnabar Moth.
Plus: 7-spot, 14-spot, 16-spot & Harlequin Ladybirds; Alderfly; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Cardinal Beetle; Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Green Nettle Weevil; Hoverfly; Long-jawed Orb Spider; Mayfly; Midge; Pond Skater; Red-headed Cardinal Beetle; Scorpion Fly; Soldier Beetle; Spotted Crane Fly; Thick-kneed Flower Beetle.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue damselflies;  Broad-bodied Chaser, Hairy dragonflies.
Plus: Early Marsh Orchid, Forget-Me-Knots; Southern Marsh Orchid.

Another fine day was forecast but it wasn't as warm as yesterday. The weather at the moment is very unpredictable and I guess Carol is doing her best. Yesterday I brought the fleece with me, just in case. But I didn't wear it. Today I left it at home and rued the decision. It was quite cold in the shade, once the sun went in and there was a cold wind blowing.


Whilst waiting for the train I could hear a Chiffchaff sounding off, but then I heard a Cetti's Warbler. I can't remember when I last heard one of them around here, if ever. On the way down a pair of Great Crested Grebes could be seen, out on one of the lakes.

But on the walk down to the Reserve I was finding lots of insects. First up though, was another Cetti's Warbler. I heard it and then saw it fly past, quite near to me. The first of the insects was a Common Blue damselfly, sunning itself on the trail, followed by an Azure. I had to disturb it as I walked by. Next up was an Orange Tip butterfly. Not one of these guys has settled for a photo this year.

Then I spotted a couple of 14-spot Ladybirds, yellow and black against the green. They were followed by a Red-headed Cardinal Beetle; Green Nettle Weevil; a, black with red spots, Harlequin Ladybird; a few Mayflies; Cuckoo Spit and finally, a Thick-kneed Flower Beetle. Not a bad haul!

There was nobody at home when I arrived at the Watchpoint, so it felt like I had the place to myself. My first sweep of the lake brought 2 Little Egrets, near the White Hide; several Grey Herons; lots of Common Tern; a pair of Redshank; a lone male Shoveler; a fair few Pochard and several Lapwing dotted around the area.

The second sweep brought a pair of Great Crested Grebes; a couple more Grey Herons, looking like newly-fledged youngsters and a pair of Buzzards over Easneye Woods. Reed and Sedge Warblers and Reed Buntings were calling and flitting around the phragmites.

With nothing much else around and with the cold wind snapping at me, I decided to head down to the Gladwin Hide. On the way I could hear a Green Woodpecker. Apart from the birds out on the lake, there wasn't a great deal of birdsong today. I guess they were all a bit busy bringing up baby.


I looked out onto the Gladwin Scrape with hope in my heart again. But, alas, I was again disappointed. There were only a pair of Pochard; a pair of Tufted Ducks and a Mallard, who were all asleep and a lone Lapwing, who was picking away at the ground. I guess the Scrape will take time to bear fruit.

Out to my right I could see a lone Egyptian Goose and a lone Great Crested Grebe. There were lots of screaming Swifts flying around and then a Swallow somehow managed to find its' way into the Hide. It circled around behind me. I wasn't sure if it was checking out a possible nesting site, as they sometimes nest in Hides. I opened up a few more shutters and it eventually flew back out again.

I settled down again and could hear a Reed Bunting calling out to my right. I located it a few minutes later, sat atop a little tree. Then an Oystercatcher flew around from the right-hand side of the Island and landed on the shoreline. It soon disappeared behind the bushes. A few minutes later another one flew in and did exactly the same thing.

A Peacock butterfly made a brief appearance, fighting the strong breeze, before giving up. Suddenly the Scrape was devoid of birds, all of them had swum off. The wind had picked up, with the waves lapping up against the mud. I saw a Coot family making its' way across the lake. The small chicks could be seen bouncing up and down, over the waves.

Heading back up the trail I spotted my first Green-veined White butterfly of the season. I took a quick look out over the lake again, from the Watchpoint, before heading straight for the James Hide.

There wasn't much about outside, unfortunately. The Feeders were all full, but devoid of birds. A lone Coot was on patrol around the pond, jealously guarding his patch. A few Warblers were flying around, with a Cetti's sounding off somewhere to the right. One other guy was already in the Hide when I arrived, his bike parked up at the back, but he soon 'left me to it'.

There were 'Catkins' everywhere around here, falling every few seconds. Pollen was everywhere as well, all of it seemingly heading for my nose. But I had come prepared this time, popping a pill before I left home.

A few insects flew around, landing fairly near. First a Soldier Beetle flew in, or should that be marched? Then a Red-headed Cardinal Beetle followed quickly after. Or should that be Red-faced Religious Scandal Beetle?

Brimstone, Common Blue, Green-veined White and Orange Tip butterflies all flew past. Then a Mallard swam out from the reeds, followed by 7 little ducklings. A male Mallard then appeared and seemed to take exception to all of them and a little scuffle followed, with the ducklings scattering in their wake. Then, whilst breaking for lunch, I spotted a Hairy dragonfly flying around.

I moved on, deciding to head for the Dragonfly Trail, as the sun was now starting to make a takeover bid. Looking down from the Bridge I could see at least 3 male Banded Demoiselles, all sunning themselves, in amongst various Blue-tailed and Common Blues.


I arrived at the Dragonfly Trail and the first thing I spotted, after the usual sightings of lots of Blues, was a female Hairy dragonfly ovipositing quite close. A little later the male turned up and finally settled on a reed and posed for me. Not long after, a Broad-bodied Chaser turned up, flew around and then promptly disappeared.


The pollen here was especially bad and I was getting slaughtered standing there. I may be going mad but it seemed to all be heading for me. Even to the extent of bending around corners when I hid behind a bush. It was like snow at times, so I decided to head down to the river.

Here I spotted a Kingfisher flash past. A 16-spot Ladybird was found. There were a pair of discarded Slazenger socks hanging from one of the bushes. Then I was amazed and delighted to hear and see a family of Marsh Tits arrive. I watched as a few of the newly-fledged youngsters sat on a branch, waiting to be fed by mum and dad. It was an exhilarating 10 minutes.

Back at the ponds, looking for the Chaser again, I could hear a Cuckoo calling. Then I saw a Cinnabar Moth flash by. I went and had a sit down, after all the excitement. But it didn't stop. I soon spotted a Grass Snake, swimming past, right in front of me. Luckily, it stopped and posed for me.

I headed back. At the Bridge I added a female Banded Demoiselle to the list and then a third Slazenger sock. I made a mental note not to buy any Slazenger socks. Or anything else with 'Slazenger' on it.

The only thing of note at the Bittern Pool was a Scorpion Fly. Then I found myself sat back in the James Hide. A Jay immediately popped by the say hello and then goodbye. Then a Bank Vole appeared and raced around, before finding and tucking into the apple core that I had thrown down earlier.


Back at the Watchpoint, the only additions to the list were a pair of Stock Doves and a pair of Starlings. On the trail back I spotted a Pheasant.

Another top day!



'All Birders are born with a set of instinctive fears - of falling, of the dark and of the words - 'You should have been here 5 minutes ago, mate!''