Thursday, 8 October 2015

Southern Hawkers at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 29th September 15

Weather: Sunny and warm, slight cloud.

Bird Total: 42
Plus: Bank Vole; Grey Squirrel; Sheep.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Bluebottle; Cinnamon Sedge Caddisfly; Crane Fly; Dark Bush Cricket; Flesh Fly; Grasshopper; Harlequin Ladybird; Hornet; Hoverfly; Midge; Mint Leaf Beetle; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater.
Plus: Large White, Peacock, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: Common Blue, Willow Emerald damselflies. Common Darter, Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker dragonflies.

It was a very nice, sunny and warm day. Maybe the much-touted Indian Summer has arrived, as the good weather is forecast to continue for a few more days.

The train was on time, a good start. On the journey down I spotted an unusual sight - 8 Egyptian Geese on one of the adjacent fields. Also seen were a Sparrowhawk; Jay; Little Egret and 4 Great Crested Grebes. Encouraging.

Southern Hawker
It was a quiet walk up the trail to the Watchpoint. A couple of familiar faces were already there, but were just leaving as I approached. Out on the lake I could see quite a few Lapwing; a few Great Crested Grebes; 5 Little Grebes and several Pochard, Shoveler and Teal. A Green Woodpecker flew past me from the left, over the lake; several Starlings flew in and landed on the island; a Little Egret flew right, while a possible sighting of 2 Common Snipe followed soon after. There were the usual Coot; Mute Swan and Gulls also present, but not a lot else.

I hung around for about 20 minutes before moving off towards the Gladwin Hide. There was nothing to see before I arrived but, outside the Hide, I could see a Little Egret to the right, escorted by a Little Grebe. There were 3 Grey Herons, all chasing each other around, to the left of the island in front. Then a Jay flew over, from the left, towards the Island.

About 10 minutes later I could see several more Grey Herons, way out to the left, on the Island. There were also about 10 or so Great Crested Grebes, all idly swimming around.

Heading back up the trail I spotted a Large White butterfly and then a Common Blue damselfly. A couple of Common Darters were sunning themselves on the path before me. Then I heard, then saw, a large, noisy party of schoolchildren, by the Watchpoint. They looked like they were heading towards the James Hide area. So I made a decision to take a walk through the Woodland.

Here I could see a mixed flock of Tits, including a pair of Chiffchaff. Further on I spooked a Grey Squirrel, which scampered up the nearest tree. Then I heard a Buzzard calling out above me and watched as it did a low flypast. More Common Darters were about here and then I spotted a Speckled Wood butterfly. I was going to hang around a little longer to see if anything else showed but a few couples headed towards me, from both directions. One of the couples were accompanied by a dog. Argh! So I headed off towards the James Hide, hoping that there were no children in there.

There weren't. However, neither was there anything outside the Hide. All I saw, after 30 minutes in there, was a fly-by Kingfisher and a couple of conjoined Common Darters. I left the only other guy in there and headed off.

I arrived at the Twin Lagoons. On the left-hand lagoon I could see a lone Great Crested Grebe, which stayed well away. There were also quite a lot of conjoined Common Darters, all dipping down, egg-laying.

On the way to the right-hand lagoon I was delighted to discover a juvenile Southern Hawker dragonfly. It's wings were a bit battle-weary but it stayed put long enough for several photo opportunities. I was chuffed as it was the only dragon missing from my list of fairly decent photos this year.

There was nothing at the Bridge, but just after I spotted a Bank Vole scurry across the path. And just inside the Dragonfly Trail I spotted a Dark Bush Cricket. Moving on I could see that Jenny had been busy with the Cutter, as most of the meadow had been shorn.

I stopped off by the first bench to try and spot a Willow Emerald. It would be my last chance as the Trail is closing after tomorrow. I was delighted to find a male, perched up and highly photographable. On the nearby stream there was a hovering Migrant Hawker, surrounded by more conjoined Common Darters, all busily making and creating next year's batch.

Further up the stream, I spotted another male Willow Emerald. They were the only ones I spotted all day, but it was still good to see them. Other than the Emeralds, there were more Common Darters, mostly paired up and a few Migrant Hawkers. There was also another Southern Hawker flying around. A second Common Blue damsel was seen.

Also on the Boardwalk I could see a Cinnamon Sedge Caddisfly, the second in as many weeks. I could hear a Wigeon peeping out on the lake and when I looked out I could see quite a few floating around.

I took a quick look around the small bridge area, finding no Emeralds and then took a quick walk along the river. Here I could see more Darters and then I spooked a Kestrel, which flew off. A party of Long-tailed Tits could be heard. A lone Peacock butterfly flew past and then a Peacock bird screeched out.

Mint Leaf Beetle
Back by the Boardwalk, where the adjacent field had been shorn by Jenny, I could see a disturbed Wasps Nest. I hurried on. Then I had a quick chat with Jenny, before breaking for lunch. I was a bit surprised not to see anyone else on the Trail, seeing as it was a sunny day and also the penultimate day before closure.

Dark Bush Cricket
On the way out of the Trail I chatted with Jenny again, ostensibly to say goodbye. I noticed that she was a magnet for loads of ladybirds, as several flew in and landed on her. Above us a Hobby flew low and circled around, before flying off. A little higher was a Buzzard.


Back in the James Hide there was no change. Only a distant fly-by Little Egret and a flash-past by a Wren being the only entertainment. The Kingfisher failed to show up.

Back at the Watchpoint there was a Hobby/Buzzard show, while out on the lake some Greylag Geese had turned up. The Little Egret count rose to 6.

Nobody else was around and, with time ebbing away, I headed home, on a thankfully back-to-normal train. I managed to avoid the Labour Party conference today, which was another bonus.


'We are the willing, led by the unknowing to do the impossible for the ungrateful.'