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.'