Monday, 20 July 2015

The first Darters of the season!

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 3rd July, 15

Weather: Hot and humid. Clouding over later.

Bird Total: 40
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Red-eyed damselflies; Black-tailed Skimmer, Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Emperor, Ruddy Darter dragonflies.
Plus: Comma, Holly Blue, Large Skipper, Large White, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Small Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White butterflies. Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Common Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Hoverflies; Midge; Pond Skater; Thick-kneed Flower Beetle.

The hot and humid weather continues. Which probably accounts for the fact that most of the ponds and lagoons are starting to dry up, especially looking out from the train. There were only about 3 Great Crested Grebes to be seen on the journey down.

It was time for another visit to Fishers Green. My targets for today were to see if the pair of Great Crested Grebes had started another nest. And to try and spot my first Common Darter dragons of the year.

I could hear a lone Greenfinch wheezing out its' call as I walked up the trail towards the Teal Hide. At the lock I stopped and investigated the nearby little pond, where I could see a few Banded Demoiselles. I had to traverse a little path, trying to dodge all the stinging nettles to get to it, where I eventually sat down and waited.

It only took a few minutes, especially in the hot sun. As I sat quietly, a few Demoiselles floated back towards me and posed quite near. Then, a surprise, a male Black-tailed Skimmer flew in and landed. But he was too close and, as I tried to edge back a little, he took fright and disappeared.

I only had a few seconds to be disappointed because, one of my target species, a lovely male Common Darter, suddenly appeared in its' place, landing a few feet from me. Wonderful! It allowed a few snaps before flying off.

By the canal I could hear a couple of Narrowboat owners shouting to each other, as they tackled the Lock. They shouted instructions to each other while all the dogs barked. As I rose up and made my way back to the trail I spotted a Small Skipper fly in and land quite near. It was a very encouraging start to the day!

There was nothing to see out over Friday Lake, apart from dozens of Coot. But a small party of Long-tailed Tits flew by, a few of which posed for me. Possibly because I was calling out to them. I didn't have a clue as to what I was saying to them.

Crossing over the little bridge, towards the Hide, I spotted a Small Tortoiseshell and a female Banded Demoiselle. There were also loads of blue damsels, all flying up as I walked past. I could also hear Blackcap and Whitethroat singing out.

It was a very nice sunny day and very warm already. So I had expected there to be a preponderance of dog-walkers about today and I wasn't disappointed. First up was a woman with 9 (NINE!) dogs, all off the lead. When they all spotted me they ran up to me, barking their heads off, disturbing everything around me. At least none of them left their mark on me.

I then spent about 10 minutes at my usual fruitful spot, around the shrubs and brambles, outside the walkway to the Teal Hide. But, possibly due to the dogs, there wasn't much about, at first. Only lots of blue damsels and Meadow Browns were around. So I headed into the Hide and sat down.

Looking out it was immediately apparent that if there was anything about, it would be very difficult to spot, as the flora had really grown around the area. But I did hear and then spot, a Garden Warbler, right in front of me, before it flew off. Then a magnificent Emperor dragon flew imperiously past me, from left to right. Finally, I spotted a gorgeous looking, bright-orange, Comma butterfly fly in and perch right in front of me. 

Then, a few minutes later, a Reserve Warden walked out onto the lagoon. He managed to scare up about 9 Little Egrets and a pair of Lapwing. But, other than a few Black-headed Gulls and hearing Reed Bunting and Reed Warbler, nothing else could be seen and so I headed off.

As I was poking around the same spot of bramble again, a familiar face showed up. It was Markus, who I bump into around the Lee Valley on occasion. We ended up walking around the Reserve together, for the rest of the day. Just before he arrived I spotted my first Ruddy Darter of the year, a lovely male. Then a Thick-kneed Flower Beetle flew in and gorged on the nectar of a flower.

We continued up the trail, on my usual route, seeing a couple of Brown Hawkers and an Emperor, flying up and down the river. Further on we spotted a few Red-eyed damselflies, on the usual lilly-pads. Then another male Emperor flew in and posed just in front of us.

Markus suggested we take a different route towards the Bittern Hide. A change is as good as a rest, I thought. On the way we saw a few 7-spot Ladybirds and then a Common Tern flew over. I guess we chatted too much, as there wasn't too much else to see before we arrived at the Bittern Hide.

Outside, on the lake, apart from the usual Gulls; Coots and Mutes, there were a few Common Terns, all on or around the rafts. Plenty of chicks were on show. The feeders just outside the Hide were full, but only a few Great Tits were visiting.

But it was very hot and humid in the Hide and, there not being too much else to see, we headed off, up the trail, towards the Grebe Hide. On the way we stopped off at various fishing spots, to check for odonata. Seeing mostly blues but also a couple of Black-tailed Skimmers. At Holyfield Weir a lone Grey Wagtail turned up.

Although it was a very nice day out we only saw a few people about, of course most of them being dog-walkers, with a sprinkling of cyclists and mad joggers. Don't get me started.

There were the usual several pairs of Great Crested Grebes looking out from the Grebe Hide. But I was surprised to see no juveniles or even any humbugs. A pair of Egyptian Geese then showed up, but soon disappeared behind one of the large islands. There were scores of Canada Geese and Coot as well. But clouds had now arrived and had started blocking out the sun. We moved on, taking the same route back as I had done on my last visit.

We then arrived at the little pond where I had seen an Emperor. No dragons today but there were scores of paired-up blue damsels, most of which were ovipositing. There seemed to be groups of them, all tightly together and I had never seen so many pairs. Also around the area were scores of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars, all on their favourite plant, the Ragwort.

Eventually we found ourselves back at the Bittern Hide, for a rest. There being nothing else to see Markus headed off. I left soon after and walked back along the trail, towards the Station.

I then spotted a pair of Great Crested Grebes along the relief channel. One of them was on a nest, while the other was busy fishing. Very possibly the same pair as before, the new nest was about 50 metres further upstream from the other one. I waited patiently to see if they were on eggs or young. After about 30 minutes the nesting Grebe rose up and allowed me to see at least 4 eggs.

I don't know how long they had been on eggs but it will be worth returning towards the end of the month to see if they will be more successful this time.

Of course, I had to endure endless quizzical stares from dog-walkers; cyclists and joggers as they went past, while I waited. And they think I'm mad!

Happy that both targets had been achieved I headed home. Another nice day out.

'A chicken and an egg are lying in bed next to each other. The chicken is smoking a cigarette and the egg is looking annoyed. ‘Well,’ says the egg, ‘I guess that answers that question!’'