Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Normal Service Resumed at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 30th June 15

Weather: Hot, sunny, humid with blue skies all day.

Bird Total: 42
Plus: Brown Rat; Catfish.
Plus: 2, 7 and 12-spot Ladybird and Larvae; Bluebottle; Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Mayfly; Midge; Pond Skater; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Rose Sawfly; Speckled Bush Cricket.
Plus: Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Large White, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Small Heath, Small Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White butterflies. Silver Y moth.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Large Red, Red-eyed damselflies. Black-tailed Skimmer, Broad-bodied Chaser, Brown Hawker, Emperor, Four-spotted Chaser, Hairy dragonflies. 
Plus: Common Spotted Orchid, Early Marsh Orchid, Forget-Me-Knots; Southern Marsh Orchid.

Well, the summer season has definitely arrived! The next couple of weeks are touted as heatwave hell. Well, for some people. I'm quite happy about it, as plenty of insects will be about. You just need to slap on the suncream, bring plenty of water with you and get used to the humidity. Easy!

After all the excitement of the last visit I wanted to go back down to see if the rare dragons were still about. Unfortunately not, but I still had another great day. Maybe no rarities this time, but certainly lots of photo opportunities.

On the way down there was again a Little Egret and a Great Crested Grebe to be seen from the train. And, just as I entered the trail up to the Reserve, I was certain I heard an Oystercatcher. I certainly heard a lovely Song Thrush singing.

Continuing the walk, I kept an eye out for any insects. First up were quite a few butterflies, mainly Small Tortoiseshells and Meadow Browns. There were also lots of ladybird larvae, with one or two 16-spot Ladybirds present, one of which was just turning red. There was also the rarer 2-spot Ladybird on show. Then I spotted a Speckled Bush Cricket. Whilst I was trying to photograph that a Silver Y moth flew in and promptly hid behind a nettle leaf. Lastly, just before I arrived at the bridge I disturbed around half-a-dozen Goldfinch, who were all feeding nearby and who all promptly flew off.

I finally arrived at the Watchpoint. No one else was around, probably because there wasn't much about. The lake itself was fairly devoid of birds. On the various islands I could see a few Lapwing and Common Tern, with one or two Grey Herons and Little Egrets in stalk mode. The Black-headed Gulls and their chicks were still in good voice.

It was clear blue skies and warm sunshine all day, but, even at this early stage, the humidity scale started to rise dramatically. Time for an early water break. Time also to move down to the Gladwin Hide.

On the way I looked out for Red-eyed damselflies on the lilly-pads. I was delighted to see several but the star along here was a lovely Four-spotted Chaser, which flew in and landed just in front of me. Actually, this was the first of several seen today.

When I entered the Hide I nearly fainted from the oven-like heat that hit me. I quickly opened up most of the shutters and left the door open. Outside, on the scrape, there were only a pair of Mallards, preening and a lone Common Tern. There were quite a few Canada Geese, all swanning around. Or should that be Geesing around? I could hear a Greenfinch wheezing out somewhere. I haven't seen the Lapwing since they paired up. She probably made him move house immediately.

Way out to the left, on Cormorant Island, I could see 8 Little Egrets, most of them preening. Reed Warblers were flitting around but only the Geese were active.

Moorhen doing a log-dance!
I headed back, towards the James Hide. I entered the lower tier, thankfully finding it empty. Our friend from last week had obviously decided to move on. But there was still a very unpleasant residual aroma and so I opened up all the shutters and kept the door open again. Out on the pond were a pair of diving Tufties. A few Reed Warblers were flying around. The feeders were full but only the resident family of Great Tits were utilising it.

Last of the Large Reds?
The flora had really started to grow outside the Hide and it was difficult to see out. Then I saw a rustle of reeds beneath the feeders and I assumed that it was the resident Bank Vole. But no, it was a Brown Rat that moved out into the open and began hoovering up the fallen seed. A dragon or two patrolled around the pond, but I couldn't ID them. Then a few familiar faces came into the Hide.

I decided to head off towards the Dragonfly Trail. The guys came with me. I paused at the Twin Lagoons, where all the action was last week. But today neither the NH nor the SC were around. In fact, I couldn't spot any dragon activity at all, which was rather disappointing. There were one or two Red-eyed damselflies about and quite a few blues. A Chiffchaff was singing away. I hung around while the guys headed off.
While I was searching for dragons and the Cinnabar Moth a male Banded Demoiselle flew by. But it was still quiet, maybe too early? I headed off reaching the Bridge, where I spotted one male and one female Banded Demoiselle, either side of the bridge. Just before that, I had spotted one of the Slazenger Socks I had seen a few weeks ago. I had thought their season was over. In its' drab grey form, it must have been a late migrant.

I had just entered the Trail, where I quickly disturbed a Red Admiral. On the boardwalk itself, there were only a few Four-spotted Chasers about. I was mildly surprised not to see anything else, initially, despite spending about 40 minutes walking up and down. So I moved on towards the river.

The Orchid Garden was now way past its' best. A few more male Banded Demoiselles could be seen by the river, plus a few butterflies. But, with not much about, I returned to the boardwalk to see the others guys wandering around. The Four-spots were still the only ones entertaining us, but then a pair of Emperors arrived and joined in the dance over the ponds. The female began ovipositing, with the male on guard duty.

Then a male Hairy dragon could be seen, patrolling the pond edges. I moved around to the area where the ponds met the lake. Here I spotted a male Black-tailed Skimmer and called the guys over, where we all happily snapped away. Not long after I spotted a Large Red damselfly and then a Small Skipper.

There was still not too much about and, with the sun beating down, I decided to head back to the Hides for a break and lunch. And to get out of the hot sun. Just as I left I heard a Green Woodpecker sound off.

A quick look at the Twin Lagoons gave me a Red Admiral; a Green-veined White and a patrolling Emperor. More Four-spotted Chasers were flying around, buzzing each other. I had an hour to rest and recuperate, not seeing particularly much from either the James or the White Hides, before heading back to the Dragonfly Trail.

I was going to stop off at the Twin Lagoons again but I couldn't because 2 or 3 trucks from the Environment Agency were parked up outside the left-hand lagoon, while a woman with two dogs were at the right-hand lagoon, the dogs retrieving balls from the lagoon itself.

I spent another hour on the boardwalk, seeing pretty much the same thing, but with the addition of a few Broad-bodied Chasers. A female Emperor oviposited right in front of me. All the dragons eventually posed really well for me and I managed to get a few decent shots. I was also delighted to see, up close through the binoculars, their stained glass wings, reflecting in the sunlight.

Darren, the volunteer warden, then turned up. He called me a 'plonker' for not identifying last weeks rare dragons immediately. Wait until he gets old, with poor memory and bad eyesight!

On the way back, I decided to try one more time at the Twin Lagoons. No rarities again, but I did spot my first Brown Hawker of the year. Darren arrived soon after and pointed me towards a little track, closer to the lagoon, where I spotted a lovely male Emperor.

A quick sit down in the James Hide, seeing nothing else of note, before deciding to walk back up to the Watchpoint.

I had arrived early today, before 8, to try and spot a dragon emerging. Now close to 4pm, I was starting to wilt under the sun, so I decided to head home. Another excellent day!

'May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.'