Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Panshanger Park and Kings Mead

Panshanger Park and Kings Mead - 23rd September 15

Weather: Sunny early on, clouding over later. Fairly strong wind.

Bird Total: 28
Plus: Cattle; Grey Squirrel.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Bluebottle; Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider.
Plus: Comma, Large White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.

After a couple of days of poor weather, today was forecast to be sunny until mid-afternoon. A good call this time and, although it was a little windy, it was quite warm in the sunshine.

Today Barry and I decided to visit a couple of new places. Neither of us had been to either Panshanger Park or Kings Mead, so we had to rely on the SatNav to get us to our destinations. We found Panshanger with not too much of a problem, but we faced a few difficulties later on, finding a parking spot and then the entrance to Kings Mead.

Unfortunately both Reserves proved to be a little disappointing. Possibly because we didn't really know where to go or maybe it was that time of year. We did have a pretty good walk around but the birding proved to be a bit thin.

Panshanger Park comprises a mosaic of habitats such as lakes, river, woodland and reed-bed.

A view of the Panshanger lakes.
We arrived a little after 10, after being caught in heavy traffic. We then hotfooted it down to the lakes. The Osprey had long gone, unfortunately, but it looked like it had taken a few birds with it, as there didn't seem to be much about. However, we did see four or five Little Grebes; a pair of Little Egret; several Shoveler and a flyby Great Spotted Woodpecker. We walked what we thought was a circuit of the area, finishing up by walking through the Woodland. However, it was very quiet. By far the most numerous species here were the Dog-walkers.

We then set off for Kings Mead. After wandering up and down the road, trying to find a golf-course to park the car, we eventually realised that said Golf Course was closed, with building work going on. Parking the car under the flyover, we headed into the Reserve.

Kings Mead is a collection of water meadows with a combination of ditches and flood-water. |It's quite a big Reserve but we tried to cover as much as we could, before the clouds came over. We walked straight to the West and East Pools, where we could see plenty of wildfowl, including Shoveler and Teal. Overhead we saw a lone Buzzard and then a Kestrel hunting over one of the Meads. The only wader we saw all day was a lone Lapwing. A Chiffchaff showed well, briefly, while we were having lunch.

On the odonata front we spotted quite a few Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers, some posing quite close to us. There weren't too many butterflies around, just one or two Speckled Woods and a few Large Whites, the usual for this time of year. There were disappointingly few insects about.

There have been some good birds here recently, but all had departed. Earlier in the day a regular bird-watcher here had seen a Stonechat and some Lesser Redpoll, but they had eluded Barry and I.

A fairly disappointing day but it was nice to be out and about in the warm sunshine. Rain is forecast tomorrow but the changeable weather continues with more sun the following day.

The silly season continued on the trains, with another late arrival.

A man was complaining to a rail-road engineer.
'What's the use of having a train schedule if the trains are always late.'
The rail-road engineer replied:
'How would we know they were late, if we didn't have a schedule?'

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Whinchat at Amwell! *

Amwell Nature Reserve - 17th September 15

Weather: Sunny early on, clouding over later.

Bird Total: 45
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Bluebottle; Crane Fly; Dock Bug; Flesh Fly; Green Shield Bug; Hornet; Hoverfly; Mayfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater; Speckled Bush Cricket; Slug.
Plus: Large White, Small White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Willow Emerald damselflies. Common Darter, Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker dragonflies.

A poor Indian Summer lately has meant being stuck inside. The blame is being directed at a southerly Jet Stream but, today, it suddenly rose up above the UK. Hence a rare, warm and sunny day. So, time to get out and about again.

I hadn't visited Amwell for over 2 weeks and, although not much had been reported, I was eager to see what might be my last bit of quality odonata. Which proved to be quite a success, with at least 4 Willow Emeralds appearing and lots of Darter and Hawker action.

However, the highlight today was a spectacular view of a Whinchat, right in front of the Watchpoint.

The day didn't start too well though. I had risen early to try and take advantage of the morning sunshine, as it had been forecast to slightly cloud over later in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, the Train God was in a playful mood, with an earlier points-failure incident. That and a few late trains delayed my arrival until almost the time I usually arrive, making me a frustrated and unhappy bunny. That was the injury, the insult was that I had to pay the more expensive fare. I can appreciate their problems, especially after extreme weather, but why charge me the earth for it? Because they have a monopoly and can charge what they like, knowing that we don't have much choice. However, I am a rock and resolved to have a good day.

Rant over.

There were already lots of birds about, especially back at the station, whilst I was waiting for said trains. On the journey down I could see plenty of evidence of the recent rains, with a few extra lagoons and ponds. However, the blue sky and already warm weather would hopefully soon dry it out. The usual family of Great Crested Grebes could be seen on the lakes, as we chugged slowly past.

There were a few familiar faces at the Watchpoint when I arrived. First bird up was a lone Common Sandpiper, out to the left. Then a pair of Kingfishers could seen flying around the lake. Grey Heron, Great Crested Grebe and several Lapwing were also on show. The first Shovelers and Wigeon of the season were also present.

As I headed down towards the Gladwin Hide two Jays flew over, towards the adjacent field. There were only a few Common Blue damsels to be seen otherwise.

Looking out from the Gladwin Hide I could see a 'gulp' of Swallows and a 'richness' of Sand Martins flying around. Skeins of Canada and Greylag Geese whiffled in and landed out to the right, all honking away, with two or three Great Crested Grebes looked on in bemusement. A pair of Little Egrets flew behind the island, from the left.

Then I could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling out and I soon spotted it, high up on a dead tree, directly opposite the Hide. It was a female and continued to call for quite some time.

I decided to head off, towards the James Hide. Before that I took a quick stroll through the Woodland. I could hear a Treecreeper wheezing out somewhere. There were at least 4 Buzzards calling, high in the sky above me. Juvenile Blackbirds and Robins hopped about on the trail ahead. A few Speckled Wood butterflies fluttered around.

There wasn't much activity outside the James Hide, just the sound of silence. Two other people were already in there and we all quietly watched, waiting for something to happen. I was about to head off after only 10 minutes, when suddenly a Kingfisher flew in and landed on the middle post. He dived down, fishing, before flying around the lagoon and landing back on the post again. After about 2 minutes of looking around he flew off. I headed off soon afterwards, eager to get to the Dragonfly Trail before the sun went in.

Then I had a little bit of a purple patch. Just outside the Hide I found a pair of Green Shield Bugs and then a Dark Bush Cricket. While I was photographing them, Bill Last and his friend were slip slidin away past me, letting me know that a Whinchat had been spotted from the Watchpoint.

I quickly hurried after them and, sure enough, when we got there, Bill soon latched onto it. It was sitting atop a reed and posing about 30 metres in front of us. It then proceeded to fly around, catching flies, before moving further off to the right. Pleased with the sighting, I headed back the way I had come. On the way I spotted a lovely Speckled Bush Cricket.

I stopped off at the twin lagoons, not finding too much, only leaves that are green. The left-hand lagoon provided more views of Migrant Hawkers, one of which nearly posed for me, but I wasn't quick enough on the trigger. Conjoined Common Darters were flying around, some of them egg-laying. A Buzzard flew over, quite low, screeching out.

On the path down to the Dragonfly Trail I could see Chiffchaff and Long-tailed Tits flitting around the branches. Just as I entered the Trail I disturbed a Hornet, who looked a little annoyed but fortunately left me alone. I then arrived at the little pond, by the first wooden bench. Here I could see another Migrant Hawker and another conjoined pair of Common Darters. I ventured a little further along the stream, looking for any Willow Emeralds, but didn't find any.

There were more conjoined Darters when I entered the boardwalk. However, I was very surprised to see a lone Great Crested Grebe, floating nearby, its' bright eyes looking up at me. I figured it would clock me and swim off, but no, it hung around and posed, only metres in front of me. I've never been that close to a Grebe before.

Then a couple of guys showed up, one of which was Dave Sampson. He called me back to where I had been and pointed out a male Willow Emerald. We spent about 30 minutes or so trying to photograph it, in poor light. A little later, along the boardwalk, we found a conjoined pair of Willow Emeralds. And, even later, I found a fourth.

Other than that more Migrant Hawkers entertained me, testing my in-flight photography skills, whilst I was pretty sure I saw a Southern Hawker. Even more conjoined pairs of Common Darters were about. I took a quick walk, over the bridge and along the river, not seeing too much. I then spent another 30 minutes searching for better photos of the Emeralds.

The clouds then rolled in a bit and I figured that it would curtail any more odonata action. So I broke for lunch. I was about to head off when the sun came back out, so I hit the boardwalk to try my luck again.

Eventually, I headed off back towards the James Hide. There was nothing on offer on the way back, other than a large Long-tailed Tit flock, which had a few hangers-on with it, one of which looked like a Marsh Tit. They all moved on fairly quickly, bye, bye love.

I had the Hide to myself and sat patiently, hoping the Kingfisher might come back. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, he flew in and landed on the middle post. The light was perfect and brought out the best in him. Then, after about 5 minutes, he flew over to the nearer post. Unfortunately, this was in the shade, but he gave great views close up.

A female Migrant Hawker could be seen ovipositing but she was nearly snapped up by one of the juvenile Moorhens. A little later the adult Moorhen started having a go at one of the juveniles. Oddly, a few minutes later, the juvenile started fighting back and it was the turn of the adult to dodge a vicious pecking.
I left soon after, wanting to take a quick look from the Watchpoint, before heading home. However, Ron and Ade were there and pointed out the Whinchat, which was still about. After about 10 minutes it flew off, never to be seen again.

I was homeward bound soon after. The trains were still playing silly buggers and I arrived home a little later than intended.

'I attended the annual meeting of the British Rail ex-Employees Association last night.
They all turned up late'

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Summer's Over!

Sawbridgeworth, River Stort - 11th September 15

Weather: Bright and sunny, some cloud. Strong wind at times.

Bird Total: 21
Plus: Large White, Small White, Speckled Wood Butterflies.
Plus: Banded Demoiselle damselfly. Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: 16-spot Ladybirds; Bluebottle; Crane Fly; Cross Spider; Dark Bush Cricket; Dock Bug; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Mayfly; Mint Leaf Beetle; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater; White-tailed Bumble Bee.

After yesterday's camel hike around the Lee Valley I decided to take a more leisurely stroll down the River Stort, towards Harlow. I was curious to know if there were any Banded Demoiselles still around. In the event, I only found a lone male, which flitted up and away, before I could get a photo of it. This individual might possibly be the last one of the season.

The weather wasn't as good as yesterday, but was much better than of late. It was warm, when the sun poked out between the clouds. However, there was quite a strong wind today.

I was only out for about 3 hours and was quite disappointed not to see too much about. There was a low bird species total, but it did give me a few surprises. A pair of Swift were still hawking about above me, as were a few Sand Martins. A Kestrel was mobbed by a few Carrion Crows. Green Woodpecker; Blackcap and Chiffchaff were all heard.

On the odonata front, there were a fair few Common Darters and Brown Hawkers about. Surprisingly I only found one or two Migrant Hawkers. A river isn't really their thing. And there were only a few butterflies on the wing, mainly Whites & Woods.

Another surprise sighting was a lone Mayfly, sky-dancing. There were loads of spiders about now, mainly Cross and Nursery Web. The only other thing around in large number were Crane Flies. I also found another couple of Wasp nests.

There was also lots of pollen about, making my hay fever return. On the plus side, there were few people about, although there were several signs of dogs.

Back at the start, while waiting patiently for the train barriers to open up, I found several Dock Bugs, in various instars.

Not the best day out this year, but it is still good to be out and about. Autumn has certainly arrived, if the amount of leaves on the ground was anything to go by. There were strands of cobwebs floating up in the air; the leaves were falling and the reeds were turning brown. Rain and thunderstorms are forecast for most of next week.

The forecast for an Indian Summer is not looking good.

'Some dog it was, too. They called it 'Egypt'. Because in every room it left a pyramid.'

Friday, 18 September 2015

A Migrant Hawker Fest! *

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 10th September, 15

Weather: Light cloud early morning, turning to sunny blue skies. Slight breeze.

Bird Total: 36
Plus: Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed, Common Blue damselflies; Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: Comma, Large White, Small White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Crane Fly; Dock Bug; Flesh Fly; Hornet; Hoverfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Slug; Speckled Bush Cricket; White-tailed Bumble Bee.
Plus: Cattle; Fox; Grey Squirrel.

The long-range weather forecast had predicted an Indian Summer this year. I'm not sure where they mean, but around my stretch it's been a pretty poor month so far. Poor weather seemingly eight days a week. Today though, the forecast was for clear, blue skies. There was some early light cloud but eventually blue skies did appear. Comfortable enough for a day tripper.

I hadn't visited Cheshunt for some time and figured another visit was well overdue. On the journey down Egrets and Grebes were on display. I also noticed that the outer leaves of most of the trees in the area were now turning a brighter shade of green, in preparation for the big brown fall. I guess it wasn't going to be strawberry fields forever.

On the walk towards the Teal Hide I could see a fair bit of Migrant Hawker action, along the canal. Then a Kingfisher sang out and flashed past, towards Friday Lake. A good start but, unfortunately, there were plenty of dog-walkers; cyclists and joggers about already. I was having to twist and shout, standing to one side, every few metres, dodging them.

I stopped off at the little pond, adjacent to Waltham Common Lock. Unfortunately, it looked a bit too difficult to traverse because of the overgrowth and, anyway, there didn't seem to be anything at home. So I let it be.

There were only a few Great Crested Grebes floating about on Friday Lake, amongst all the Gulls and Coots. A couple of eclipse Mallards paddled in close, hoping for a handout. Sorry guys - do you wanna know a secret - I've only got white bread with me today.

I walked up towards the Teal Hide boardwalk. The sun wasn't quite high enough to shine on the flora by the path. Consequently, I only found a couple of ageing Common Darters. There being nothing else about I headed into the Hide.

Looking out, I couldn't see too much about. Please, please me, I prayed. Thankfully my prayers were soon answered, as, over the course of the next 30 minutes, I spotted a Jay and a Little Egret, while a Great Spotted Woodpecker and some Long-tailed Tits sounded off nearby. There were some Freisan Cows sitting in the shade on the opposite side.

A couple of people then showed up, for about 2 minutes, complaining that there wasn't 'much about'. Not unless you have a thing about Magpies and Woodpigeons, I thought. There were plenty of them out there! They both headed off 'leaving me to it'. I guess you can't buy me love around here.

Then a dog Fox could be seen, way out to the right, in hunt mode. He looked immaculate and in great condition. I watched him for about 10 minutes as he searched and sniffed his way out of view. A Grey Heron flew over, debated whether to land, thought better of it and flew off. A commotion high in the sky, out to the right, alerted me to a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by some Magpies.

I headed off up the trail, between the lakes. On the way I spotted a Wasp's nest, with what I thought, at first, was a lone Hornet just outside the entrance. Help! I later ID'd it as a Hoverfly Volucella zonaria, a female. There were loads of Darters and Hawkers about today, with both eventually giving me some great photo opportunities.

Looking out over Friday Lake again, I could now see several Wigeon, the first of the new season. A Speckled Wood butterfly was soaking up the sun. However, it wasn't a good day for lepidoptera, as only Woods and Whites seemed to be about. Average for this time of year, although I did see a couple of Commas.

Continuing up the trail I could hear a fair bit of birdsong. Unfortunately, they pretty much kept themselves hidden from view. Of the few that I could identify were Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Another Great Spotted Woodpecker sounded off, somewhere high in the trees.

Just before I reached the Bridge I discovered a couple of Dock Bugs. No photos today though, I had stupidly forgotten to bring my little camera with me. I had also left my voice recorder behind as well. The alzheimers is getting worse, but I feel fine about it.

I was then sat down in the Bittern Hide. Two other people were on their way out. There wasn't much about outside. All the Terns had gone, with most of the Black-headed Gulls also having departed. In their place were plenty of Cormorants, some with wings akimbo. The lake was pretty devoid of anything, save for the ubiquitous Coot. While the pond in front just had a family of Moorhen.

The feeders were full and doing a fair business. Great and Blue Tits were flying back and forth all the time. That is, when a pair of Magpies let them. They were on the feeders almost as much. I could see the Tits thinking, we can work it out. Lunch.

I then started the long walk up towards the Grebe Hide. Along the trail I stopped off at nearly all of the fishing spots. Just as well, too, as I found quite a lot of excellent odonata action. The first stop proved to be the most fruitful. A male Migrant Hawker was in-flight as I arrived on the platform. It then perched up quite near to where I was standing. Good enough in itself, I thought, but he had landed right next to a female! Fantastic!

Further stops gave me more Hawkers and my only sighting of a Banded Demoiselle, a male. Green Woodpecker; Jay; Whitethroat and Blackcap were the vocal supporting cast, while a few Comma butterflies fluttered about. At the fifth spot I found another Wasp's nest. I also spotted a Speckled Bush-cricket and a lone Blue-tailed damselfly.

I was just thinking that I had stumbled onto a very fruitful area when a Kingfisher called out, flew past and then landed on the opposite bank. I crouched down so as not to disturb it. I watched as he dived down a few times, feeding. Then he flew over to my side of the bank, just 10 metres away. Unfortunately, just before I could get a photo of it, he spotted me and flew off. When I had risen earlier this morning I had feared a quiet day, but sometimes all you need is love. And a little luck.

Time was getting on and so I headed off. Apart from all these sightings I had also spotted the unusual sight of another dog-walker, this time in one of those small mobility chairs. He looked like a nowhere man.

'Walking the Dog!'
At the Weir I spotted a Little Egret and a Grey Heron, in amongst loads and loads of Geese and Gulls. And, just before I reached the Hide, at one of the fishing spots around here, I came across a Hornet's nest, with individuals constantly flying in and out. These particular fishing spots had proved fruitful for hordes of Banded Demoiselles in recent years, but not so this year. They were now mostly shielded from the sun by tall trees. Oh, for the photo opportunities of yesterday.

Ensconced in the Grebe Hide and looking out, I could see several Great Crested Grebes and loads of wildfowl, notably more Wigeon. Another guy came in and sat down, bicycle clips still attached, who then proceeded to set the world to rights, informing me of 'where it's all going horribly wrong!'

I headed back, along the new route, not seeing particularly much. I wanted to check the little pond I had recently discovered. However, on arrival I found nothing, even though it was the only part of the area bathed in sunlight. A Common Darter, perched high up, on an overhanging branch and a lone Feral Pigeon were the only things on show.

I eventually found myself back in the Bittern Hide, ostensibly to have a rest before heading home. On entering I could detect a familiar smell. Three 'yoofs' were sat on the middle bench. My nostrils recognised the aroma of what, in the 1960's, I used to call 'Acapulco Gold'. Looking suitably guilty, they departed soon after. I decided to hit the long and winding road as well.

That was it, home-time, on a, thankfully, trouble-free journey, as I had a ticket to ride. I found out a little later that the first Bittern of the season had been seen at Amwell today.

'The three articles of Civil Service faith:
It takes longer to do things quickly; it's more expensive to do them cheaply
and it's more democratic to do them in secret.'

Monday, 14 September 2015

Lemsford Springs Nature Reserve

Lemsford Springs Nature Reserve - 2nd September 15

Weather: Mix of sun and cloud. Slightly humid.

Bird Total: 28
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Rabbit.
Plus: Black-headed Cardinal Beetle; Crane Fly; Bluebottle; Flesh Fly; Harvestman Spider; Hoverfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater.
Plus: Large White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Banded Demoiselle, Common Blue damselflies. Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.

Today Barry and I decided to pay our first visit to Lemsford Springs. I had heard some great things about this Reserve and was looking forward to visiting it.

Lemsford Springs is a small nature reserve with an array of habitats: shallow spring-fed lagoons, marsh, willow woodland, hedgerow and meadow. Winter is touted to be the time to come, as I've heard that the lagoons never freeze over. We visited today to get a feel for it. We both came away suitably impressed, giving it a magnanimous 8 out of 10.

A Wood Sandpiper had been reported here recently. Unfortunately, it had either flown or was staying well hidden. However, we did see up to 8 Green Sandpipers, giving me some of the closest views I've ever had of this species.

The Reserve has three Hides, of which we visited two. We also decided to walk the circuit twice, as it only took us 20 minutes to get around. We were also surprisingly delighted by the fact that the sun had decided to grace us with its' presence. The forecast had been for heavy cloud cover for most of the day, with a few fleeting light rain showers.

There seemed to be a lot more bird activity here than we had seen elsewhere, particularly from the passerine sector. Mainly Finches and Tits but we also spotted Grey Wagtail; Blackcap and Chiffchaff. A pair of Jays were a pleasing sight, as was a Little Egret and a Grey Heron. Woodpeckers could be heard around the Reserve, while a Kingfisher flashed past the Hide.

Butterfly species were few and far between today, seeing only Large White and Speckled Wood. However, we saw quite a few Banded Demoiselles, both male and female. Always a joy to see. Dragonflies were unfortunately fairly distant. It wasn't really a day for odonata.

On our second circuit, after lunch, we came across a very mobile Black-headed Cardinal Beetle. A major surprise this late in the season, as they are usually gone by the end of July.

We spent a leisurely and happy 3 or 4 hours here and intend to visit again. Especially as there were no dog-walkers; joggers or cyclists allowed onsite. Probably because we had to obtain a key to get into the Reserve. In fact, we saw only 4 other people in there and two of them were children.

We soon found ourselves enjoying our traditional pint in the local pub, before heading for home.

'I drink to your health when I'm with you. I drink to your health when I'm alone.
I drink to your health so often, I'm starting to worry about my own!'

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

WILLOW EMERALDS still around!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 28th August 15

Weather: Warm and sunny, clouding over in the afternoon. Strong breeze.

Bird Total: 35
Plus: Rabbit; Sheep.
Plus: 12-spot Ladybird; Crane Fly; Bluebottle; Flesh Fly; Hornet; Hoverfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater; White-tailed Bumble Bee.
Plus: Green-veined White, Large White, Painted Lady, Small White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Red-eyed, Willow Emerald damselflies. Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Migrant Hawker, Ruddy Darter dragonflies.

It turned out to be another excellent day at Amwell, today. The forecast was for a sunny morning with light cloud in the afternoon, which was pretty much the case. You see, they can get it right, sometimes. It was a fairly late start, due to attending a beer festival the previous evening.

The main reason for another Amwell visit was to try to spot the Willow Emeralds again. I eventually spotted 4 males, including the one with an injured wing. Unfortunately, still no more sign of the common Emeralds.

The journey down provided views of scores of Canada Geese, by the lagoons; a lone Great Crested Grebe and, then on the trail up to the Reserve I spotted a Red Kite and a Buzzard. There wasn't much in the way of insects, although a few Migrant Hawkers were flying around the trail.

There was no one at the Watchpoint when I arrived. Looking out over the Lake I could see a lone Egyptian Goose; a lone Grey Heron; 2 Common Sandpipers; a few Common Tern; several Lapwing and a smattering of Great Crested Grebe. I hung around for about 15 minutes before moving on.

On the trail down to the Gladwin Hide, there were several Common Blue damsels to be seen plus one or two more Migrant Hawker dragons.

Looking out from the Hide I could see a third Common Sandpiper, busy preening itself; lots of Canada Geese; quite a few Sand Martins and Swallows screaming past and more Migrant Hawkers flying around in front of the Hide. A small pond, just in front of the Hide had a lone Common Darter hovering around.

On the way back up the trail more Common Darters appeared, with a few of them posing for me. Several butterflies were about but all were whites.

I then found myself sat in the James Hide where there wasn't too much action to be seen. Moorhen and juveniles; Coot; Green-veined White butterfly and a hovering Migrant Hawker were all that were about. I moved on after about 10 minutes.

I stopped off at the Twin Lagoons but there wasn't much about here, either. After a very good summer here, there now doesn't seem to be very much about here at all. Possible reasons for this might be a family of Moorhen, picking off the damsels on the lilly-pads; a family of 3 Mute Swans swimming around, latching on to the handout possibilities and lastly, lots of dog-walkers exercising their dogs in the lagoons. Oh, I'm a grumpy old Birder!

I found only a couple of Migrant Hawkers; one Common Blue damselfly; one Brown Hawker and one Common Darter. A few minutes later, looking out over the right-hand lagoon, I could see several blue damsels flying around. I did see a possible Southern Hawker fly past but it vanished without reappearing, so I couldn't confirm the ID.

There was nothing to be seen from the Bridge and, entering the Dragonfly Trail, I headed straight for the area before the boardwalk. There were over half-a-dozen Red-eyed damsels present, where the stream flows out into the lagoon. Then I moved further along the stream, in amongst the undergrowth, where I had seen a Willow Emerald before.

I wasn't to be disappointed. I found a male hanging from one of the many willow branches. As I tried to get closer, it spooked up and initially disappeared. I looked around for a few minutes, not locating it. However, I looked down and saw it hanging only inches away, right in front of me. There was no way I could move and not disturb it. Fortunately, when I did, it only moved off a few feet. This was also a much better angle for a photo.

There were several more Hawkers and Darters about here. There were also a few people about, too. One of which seemed to be walking around with some sort of device held in front of him. Shoebox sized, light blue and he was waving it about. What could that have been?

Then I heard some alarm calls in the sky. I looked up and saw a pair of Hobbys, low down with a pair of Buzzards high above them. All of them proceeded to give me a brilliant aerial display, before they all disappeared.

Newly-emerged Common Darter
I walked around the area, treading the boards so to speak, before heading over to the river. I had a quick look at the metal bridge for any further signs of Willow Emerald but didn't see any. The clouds were beginning to bunch up now, with a fairly strong wind. There wasn't much of anything by the river and so I returned to the bridge. One of the Willow Emeralds eventually showed, but only when the sun came out for more than a few minutes.

However, the combination of the clouds and the wind made it very difficult to get any shots. I had to wait patiently for everything to fall into place. The Weather God was testing me to the limits.

Then I bumped into Darren, who had just arrived. As I was speaking to him, something stung me on the leg, probably a horse fly. I slapped some Aloe Vera on it and then broke for lunch.

I continued to move between both areas, eventually seeing 4 male Willow Emeralds. There was a probable sighting of a lone Ruddy Darter. Then Darren kindly allowed me access to an area not generally used by the public. It was where he had spotted a Hummingbird Hawk Moth earlier in the week. No such luck today but we did come across a large Buddleia bush where quite a few Painted Lady butterflies were taking advantage of the nectar.

He headed back to the Watchpoint while I stopped off at the Twin Lagoons again. There was a lone Painted Lady here as well, but not much else. And I do mean a butterfly, not the young lady from the previous visit!

I eventually arrived back in the James Hide. More for a rest and a sit down, than anything else. No Kingfisher today but I did hear the squeal of a Water Rail. There was a pair of Gadwall at the back of the lagoon, while a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over. A Little Egret also flew over, towards Great Hardmead Lake.

Back at the Watchpoint, I could see a pair of Common Snipe, out in the open, on the main Island. Very unusual to see these out and about.

I headed home soon after, cautiously optimistic about my Willow Emerald photos. Unfortunately, the Train God messed me around. My train had been cancelled and so I had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. Predictably, the next one was 10 minutes late.

'He who hoots with the Owls by night, cannot soar with the eagles by day!'