Sunday, 9 August 2015

Greedy Grebes at Fishers Green!

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 30th July, 15

Weather: Cloudy and overcast. Cold and breezy.

Bird Total: 33
Plus: Blue-tailed, Common Blue damselflies; Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: Comma, Gatekeeper, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Large White, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small White butterflies.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Flesh Fly; Hornet; Hoverfly; Midge; Pond Skater; Roesel's bush-cricket; Slug; Soldier Beetle; Wasp Beetle.
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.

Today my good friend and drinking buddy, Stuart, accompanied me on a visit to Fishers Green. Unfortunately, we didn't choose a very good day for it. We were promised light cloud and some sunshine in the morning, clouding over in the afternoon. We were also promised that it would be a balmy 17 degrees. But I'm afraid Carol was slightly out in her forecast. After a little bit of sunshine just after we arrived, it soon clouded over badly for most of the rest of the day. It was also a tad chilly.

Nevertheless, Stuart was determined to have a good day out. He was on holiday this week and had a day-pass from home decorating. I was also determined to show him a good time. At Fishers Green.

Catching the usual train we arrived a little before 10. It was already clouding over a bit too much for our liking and the cold breeze made me glad that I had brought my fleece with me. What a contrast to recent events in France!

The cool weather had knock-on effects, of course. We were already prepared for a low bird species count and were going to concentrate on other wildlife, mainly odonata. But the cool weather also put paid to that idea. Although there were a fair few Common Blue damsels about plus a couple of Blue-tails, we only saw 2 species of dragon - a pair of Migrant Hawkers outside the facilities near the Bittern Hide and a lone Brown Hawker looking out from the Bittern Hide. So it was quite disappointing on that front too.

But there were one or two surprises along the way. As is so often the case.

For our first stop we paid a quick visit to the little pond opposite the Lock to see if there were any odonata about, like my last visit. But, alas, there was nothing to be seen. So we moved on, taking a cursory look out over Friday Lake, seeing not a lot other than a juvenile Common Tern.

We then perused the flora outside the Teal Hide and, at first, we didn't a lot here either. But then, getting our eye in, we started to see a few things. First up were a fair few Common Blue damsels, flitting up and around when we walked up close. A few butterflies made an appearance, mainly Meadow Brown and Holly Blue as well as a lovely Ringlet. Then we spotted a pair of Roesel's bush-crickets, side by side. At first, I had thought that they were just the common Dark Bush Cricket's but I could see the diagnostic yellow/green u-shape around the pronotum. I was thrilled, as these were the first ones I had seen.

Looking out from the Teal Hide we could see a hen Pheasant with 2 juveniles out to our left and a family of 3 Muntjac, feeding, out to our right. I noticed that the flora immediately in front of the Hide had been cut back. Then, a few minutes later, we saw a black Pheasant, also out to the right, but closer to the, nearly dried out, lagoon. There not being much else to see, we moved on.

It was a quiet walk around the trails, towards the Bittern Hide. The only thing of note was a Green Woodpecker flying noisily over us, just before we arrived at the spot where the Great Crested Grebe family were. Here we immediately spotted the adults, but with only 1 humbug, on the back of one of the adults. A family of Canada Geese then swam up towards us, probably looking for handouts. But they disturbed the Grebes, who then swam behind the trees.

We headed off and soon arrived at the Bittern Hide. Looking out over the lake only provided the usual suspects. There were only a few Common Terns to be seen, mostly on the rafts. Most of the Black-headed Gull chicks had now grown into juveniles. On the pond in front we could see a Grey Heron imitating a statue, to our right and then a Great Crested Grebe appeared, caught a fish and then swam off. There were a few Reed Warblers flitting around the phragmites. A Migrant Hawker was patrolling the area. The feeders were nearly empty but Great Tits, Blue Tits and a female Chaffinch tried to feed on what was left.

Then a bit of excitement ensued. I heard a woodpecker call out to our left. Then I thought I saw a Great Tit fly down to a lower branch nearby. I looked through my bins and nearly fell off my bench. It wasn't a Great Tit, it was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker! Unfortunately, it stayed behind some branches and then flew off. But both of us had good views of it. I had seen that someone else had noted one on the sightings board, only a few days ago.

Finally, just before we left, Hornets were flying in and out of the Hide, to a nest in the ceiling above us. Both of us were in the flight path, so we had to move out of their way or risk being buzzed.

Before we hit the trail up to the Grebe Hide, Stuart had to pay a visit to the facilities, but found that they were closed for some reason. At that moment we both spotted a pair of Migrant Hawkers buzzing around us. Eventually one of them settled in a tree above us, enabling an identification.

On the trail we came across a spot where we found plenty of butterflies. Holly Blues, Meadow Browns, Comma and Ringlet were all nectaring on the thistles and dandelions. These were soon joined by Gatekeeper and Green-veined White. We hung around for about 15 minutes trying to photograph them, with Stuart trying out his new camera.

Eventually we arrived at the Weir, where we spotted a Grey Wagtail. Moving on up the trail, I was disappointed not to see any Banded Demoiselles all day. I guess it was just too cold for them.

Looking out from the Grebe Hide we immediately spotted a Great Crested Grebe, with 3 Humbugs, forcing down a huge American Crayfish. It took a few minutes to successfully get it down. More Grebes turned up and there were plenty of other birds about the lake, all the usual suspects.

We headed back, taking the new route I had found, stopping at the pond. But nothing much was seen, with the cloud cover now almost complete. Looking out again from the Bittern Hide afforded us a glimpse of a Brown Hawker. A few people came and went, but we didn't see too many people all day, certainly no other wildlife enthusiasts.

Gatekeeper butterfly
We decided to call it a day and, after taking one more look for the nesting Grebes, headed home just after 5.

'May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.'