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!'