Friday, 24 July 2015

Another Norfolk Hawker sighting at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 6th July 15

Weather: Warm and humid, clouding over in the afternoon. Light rain shower.

Birds Total: 41
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Rabbit.
Plus: 7, 16-spot and Harlequin Ladybird and Larvae; Bluebottle; Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Hornet; Hoverfly; Midge; Mint Leaf Beetle; Pond Skater; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Soldier Beetle; Speckled Bush Cricket; Thick-kneed Flower Beetle.
Plus: Comma, Large White, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. Cinnabar moth caterpillar.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Red-eyed damselflies. Black-tailed Skimmer, Emperor, Four-spotted Chaser, Norfolk Hawker dragonflies.

Just when you think it's going to be a normal, quiet day, something either happens or turns up, that sets the pulse racing. So it proved today, as, just when I was thinking of calling it a day, a Norfolk Hawker made another appearance, around the same place as before.

Earlier, on the trail up to the Reserve, I had begun my visit by spotting a few Large White and Meadow Brown butterflies; a Soldier Beetle and several 7-spot Ladybirds. Lots of blue damsels were about, as usual now and there were also quite a few Canada Geese swimming up and down the river. For some reason there was lots of Narrowboat traffic on the water today, all of them gently chugging along the canal. I've noticed that almost every helmsman of a narrowboat has that smug look about them, as they drift past.

There was no one at the Watchpoint when I arrived. Looking out over the lake, I could see 1 Redshank; 1 Grey Heron; several Lapwing and a couple of Common Tern. Just before I moved on, towards the Gladwin Hide, a lovely Whitethroat flew past me and landed on a nearby bush, singing its' head off. I watched it for several seconds before bringing my camera up, whereupon it flew off. Why do they always fly off when I want to photograph them?

At the first of the, newly created, fishing spots I spotted a lovely male Banded Demoiselle. Further on, the first of several Red-eyed damselflies appeared, resting on the lilly-pads. A little further on still, I spotted a male Emperor dragon fly up and down the river, before landing on a reed. I was about to photograph it when a narrowboat chugged by, disturbing it, the helmsman waving at me with a smug look. And finally, just before I entered the Hide, a female Banded Demoiselle appeared and posed.

I sat down in the Gladwin Hide and looked out. I was pleasantly surprised to see, amongst all the Canada & Greylag Geese; Pochard; eclipse Mallard and a Coot, that a pair of Common Sandpipers were present, bobbing around, feeding. It looks as if the scrape has finally paid off for once. Further out to the right, a pair of Common Tern were perched on a couple of posts. Mr. Lapwing had returned as well, without the wife. Maybe they'd had a falling out.

Then 3 Oystercatchers flew past the hide, from right to left, heading towards the main island. Lots of butterflies were flying around the area now, mostly Whites. Then, all of a sudden, the Geese decided to move off, as one, into the water, as did the Pochard and the Mallards, leaving just the Lapwing and the Sandpipers.

When it became obvious that the Sandpipers weren't going to wander too close I decided to head back up the trail. Just outside I disturbed a Comma butterfly, which flew off, probably irritated. Unfortunately, I did the same thing to a Small Tortoiseshell. Passing the Watchpoint, I spotted a Little Egret. Just before I arrived at the James Hide, I spotted dozens of small Cinnabar Moth caterpillars, all gorging on their favourite food-plant, the Ragwort.

I sat in the Hide for about 30 minutes, not seeing anything other than the now-resident family of Great Tits, so I moved on. At the twin lagoons I found a solitary Four-spotted Chaser, amongst lots of blues. There were scores more Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on the Ragwort around here, too. A couple of Chiffchaffs were trying to out sing each other. There were only a few Red-eyed damsels on the other lagoon.

At the Bridge I spotted 6 male Banded Demoiselles, all flying around each other, in dispute mode.

I duly arrived at the Dragonfly Trail, hoping to see similar odonata action like last week. At first, I was sorely disappointed as only blue damsels were flying around. But then a couple of Black-tailed Skimmers appeared and started interacting with each other every few minutes. Then a male Emperor appeared and proceeded to patrol his domain. Only one other guy was on the boardwalk with me and we both continuously watched for anything else to appear.

Shortly after, a female Emperor appeared and began ovipositing. I then headed off to take a walk along the stream, where I spotted lots of tandem blues flying around; a few battalions of Soldier Beetles; a sprinkling of Harlequin Ladybirds and a lovely Speckled Bush Cricket. Just before I returned to the boardwalk I spotted lots of very flighty Meadow Browns and then a very flighty male Banded Demoiselle. But, as there were only the same odonata on offer, no Broad-bodied Chasers today, oddly, I decided to have lunch, before heading back.
I arrived back at the twin lagoons. On the left-hand lagoon there was a guy whose dog was swimming in the water, disturbing everything. Irritated, I moved straight to the right-hand lagoon. But it must have been fate, as, not long after, a Norfolk Hawker appeared and landed, not 4 feet away from me! The sun had disappeared by now, to be replaced with lots of clouds. But this meant that the Hawker stayed put for nearly 20 minutes, allowing me lots of time to compose a few shots.

Then it began to drizzle a little. I didn't care, I was ecstatic seeing the Hawker again. I made a mental note to ask if it could now be called the 'Herts Hawker'. Later on, at home, after a few email exchanges it was agreed to start calling it by its' other name, the Green-eyed Hawker. A little later a male Emperor arrived and the two exchanged pleasantries before a Moorhen chased both away. Whilst waiting to see if it would return I spotted another male Banded Demoiselle and then a Hornet.

Feeling somewhat elated I headed back to the James Hide to check the photos and to have a sit down. Outside, below the feeders, a Grey Squirrel ignored me and carried on feeding on the spillage. Across the lagoon a Jay flew past. There being nothing else to see from here or from the Watchpoint, I decided to call it a day and head home.

So again, another great day out. It was nearly an average day out today, if you could call seeing 1 Redshank; 2 Common Sandpipers and 3 Oystercatchers an average day! But spotting the Green-eyed Hawker again was fantastic.

'A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.'