Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Sawbridgeworth Marsh

Sawbridgeworth Marsh - 11th August 2015

Weather: Cloudy and overcast, some sunshine. Humid.

Bird Total: 13
Plus: Brimstone, Green Veined White, Large White, Meadow Brown, Peacock, Small Skipper Butterflies. Snout, Plume Moths.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue damselflies. Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumblebee; Crane Fly; Cross Spider; Dark Bush Cricket; Flesh Fly; Forest Bug; Hawthorn Shield Bug; Hoverfly; Midge; Mint Leaf Beetle; Pond Skater.

The weather wasn't forecast to be up to much this week, so Barry and I opted for a couple of hours walk around the Sawbridgeworth Marsh, which is just up the road from me.

It's an SSSI and is a 22 acre marshland nature reserve, which lies in the valley of the River Stort. It consists of ten acres of waterlogged marsh; six acres of peaty meadow sloping up from the marsh to the eastern boundary and a low-lying willow plantation to the south. It has recently had some habitat management work done, with a large digger churning up stretches of ditch, which have either been excavated or cleaned out.

It's all been done for the benefit of the Water Vole and to improve and encourage a variety of wetland life, including dragonflies and damselflies. All under the supervision of my friend and drinking buddy, Andy Sapsford. So, we thought we would pay a visit to see how it all turned out.

One of the 'girls' on the Marsh.
To be honest, both Barry and I thought that the area had been turned into a bit of a quagmire. But, of course, it's early days yet and things need time to settle and grow back. Highland cattle had been let loose on the area, behind wired fences of course. They were being looked after by a big black bull, who I found out later is called 'Callum'. I hear that black is an unusual colour for a Highland, but he certainly looks the part, although very docile thankfully.

It only took us a couple of hours to walk round. Some of the trails hadn't been cleared out properly and we had to fight our way through thick vegetation. But it was a delightful little walk, nonetheless.

There wasn't too much to see on the birding front. We really should have visited 4 or 5 weeks ago, to get the best out of the Reserve. I guess the highlights were a fly-by Kestrel and a Green Woodpecker, which was very vocal for most of our visit.

But I was hoping to see some odonata here. Barry had just purchased a new guide book on them and was keen to see some action. It was a little quiet at first, seeing just a few Blue-tails, but then things started to pick up. We started seeing a few Banded Demoiselles, flighty at first, but when the sun eventually showed they settled down, some of them quite near us.

A few Common Darters appeared later on, then a few Migrant Hawkers. Some Azure and Common Blue damsels also made an appearance.

A Brimstone flew past quickly, halfway through our walk, while we given some good views of Peacock and Small Skipper. Moths were also about today, with Snout being the star spot.

On the insect front the best we spotted were lots of newly-emerged Mint Leaf Beetles and some Bush Crickets.

The only other thing of note to report was that Barry somehow managed to forget his hat again, getting sunburn on his head for his trouble and then he dropped the lid of his water bottle into the stream. It must have been all the excitement!

Amblyptilia acanthadactyla
My pedometer suggested that we had only managed less than a kilometre walk today but apparently it was enough for Barry to suggest a pint at the local. Who was I to argue? And, just arriving home, in the corridor, I spotted one Forest Bug and one Hawthorn Shield Bug, plus a lovely Plume moth. A most unusual sight!

'Gratitude is merely a lively expectation of favours to come.'