Thursday, 26 May 2016

Another Dog Day Afternoon @ Fishers Green! *

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 17th May, 16

Weather: Warm and sunny early on, with slight cloud. Overcast later.

Bird Total: 43
Plus: Grey Squirrel.
Plus: Azure, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed and Common Blue damselflies. Hairy dragonfly.
Plus: Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Large White, Orange Tip, Peacock, Red Admiral and Small White butterflies. Green Carpet moth.
Plus: Ladybird Larvae, 2, 7, 22 and Orange Ladybird; Alderfly; Banded Snail; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumblebee; Cardinal Beetle; Crane Fly; Dark Bush Cricket; Dock Bug; Flesh Fly; Harlequin Ladybird; Hoverfly; Ichneumon Wasp; Long-jawed Orb Spider; Mayfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater; Red-eared Terrapin; Red and Black Froghopper; Red-tailed Bumblebee; Robber Fly; Roman Snail; Scorpion Fly; Slug; Soldier Beetle; St.Mark's Fly; Water Boatman.

The only way that I can describe the amount of dog-walkers present today, is as an infestation. Seemingly, almost every person that passed by had a dog with them. Surprisingly, there were no 'doggy-bags' anywhere. However, there was plenty of evidence of dogs, almost everywhere. The only plus was that none of them attacked me.

Don't get me wrong. I have a great affection for our canine friend. I just wish that owners were made to go on training courses. Especially one woman, who had 8 (eight) dogs with her, all champing at the bit and looking at me with hungry eyes. Fortunately, the ‘iron lady’ managed to control all of them, eventually. Consequently, the emptying of these animals made for a very aromatic day out.

Despite the weirdness of our weather now - rain, sun, rain, sun - nearly all of the lagoons and ponds, seen from the trains, look to have dried up now. Mamma Mia! The flora looks as if it’s been having a field day, as there has been an explosion of growth over the last 10 days or so.

All of which meant that it was now difficult to see the birds. However, hope springs eternal. There was nothing much to see on the way down, while the total number of bird species seen today was quite low. In fact, the quantity of birds wasn't much better. If you count butterflies, dragons and damsels, then I saw more invertebrate species than birds today.

Actually, that was probably because I was more interested in the invertebrates and I came away with quite a high total. It had started just after I left home, seeing my first-ever Green Carpet moth. This meant, of course, as I kept my eyes down, I didn’t see any raptors all day. Empty skies probably meant that they had all finished coming out of Africa.

My targets today were to see if the Great Crested Grebes were still on the nest and to see if there were any Demoiselles about. I also wanted to see if there were any Nightingales around. I managed to achieve two out of three. Not bad.

Walking up the Canal Path, beside the river wild, towards the Teal Hide, I could hear several Chiffchaffs. In fact, I heard several species today, rather than seeing them, thanks to the profusion of floral growth. The first of the horde of dog-walkers passed me by, as I looked for any signs of insect life on the adjacent nettles. These are usually the best things to look at, if you're hunting 'inverts'.

I stopped by the Lock and looked around the adjacent pond area. Last year I spotted several notable species here. Unfortunately, not today. Maybe a tad too early. There wasn't much out on Friday Lake, either.

However, once I had sorted myself out, I found several Dock Bugs on the bramble, on the way to the Hide. There were several large clumps of cloud, but the sun shone warmly down.

Just outside the Hide, as I walked into the woods, I checked for signs of life. I was delighted to find lots of things. First up, was a singing Whitethroat, who flew before I could get near to it. Chiffchaff and Blackcap were very vocal around here, but remained elusive.

There seems to be a profusion of Ladybirds this year. There were scores of them around this particular area. Actually, there were loads all over the Reserve. Here, they were mainly 2-spots. Also seen in this area were Black and Red Froghoppers, Soldier Beetles and Cardinal Beetles.

I was also delighted to see the first damsels of the day. Azure and Blue-tailed were first up, in several forms. I then spotted what I was sure was a Common Blue, but when I approached it with the small camera it flew up and away. It landed a few feet away, to be then snaffled up by a spider. Oops, sorry! I know, I know, first do no harm!

Spiders was also numerous around here, mainly Nursery Web Spiders. Some of them were larger than I had seen before. I could see several Ladybirds entangled in the webs. If that weren't enough, a Robber Fly entered the fray, the muggers of the insect world.

After spending a happy 20 minutes here, I entered the Teal Hide and looked out. Not much initially, other than a pair of Little Egret. The flora was overgrown out there, too, hiding most of the birds. A Canada Goose family could be seen to the right. A pair of Lapwing flew up. A lone dragonfly flew past, no doubt a Hairy.

With not too much about, I decided to continue through the lakes. I spotted a Garden Warbler and a Blackcap, just before I reached the eastern side of Friday Lake. A fracas between several Mallards scared out seven little ducklings and then their mother. A Cuckoo could be heard calling.

The first butterflies appeared. A lovely Red Admiral flew in and posed right in front of me. A few Large Whites were around, as well. Cetti's and Reed Warbler could be heard singing. Then a Sedge Warbler appeared, singing its’ raucous rendition, high up on a branch. A Chiffchaff also called out, before flying past.

It was quite a nice, sunny walk around the lakes area. Only spoiled, somewhat, by the large number of dog-walkers. Spoiled, as in ‘dog mess’ everywhere. Or maybe that should read 'soiled'. I hesitated to kneel down and take any photos of anything.

I then reached an area that was good for Hairy dragons last year. Sure enough, another pair could be seen, patrolling along the edges. Unfortunately, they didn't land. Calling Common Terns flew overhead, while a Great Spotted Woodpecker also called out.

Pollen became an issue, today. As did the millions of Midges. I had popped a pollen pill earlier. I wish they would come up with a Midge pill, as well. It’s enough to give you heartburn.

Just before the end of the trail, I came across a fruitful area of bramble and ironweed. There were loads more Ladybirds here. Mainly Harlequin, but with some 2, 7 and 22-Spots. Another Soldier Beetle appeared, marching around, as did a Cardinal Beetle, who looked like it genuflected before flying off again. Hoverflies were abundant.

I joined the main trail, towards Hooks Marsh and Fishers Green. Passing lots of dog-walkers. Was nobody at work, today? Or was everyone pulling a 'sickie' because of the sunny weather? Or was it the forces of dark matter?

Just before I arrived at the Bridge, I spotted the first of several Orange Tip butterflies. A pair, in a courtship dance. It was the second time this month that I noticed the female sticking her abdomen up between her wings. Some sort of scent gland, to entice the male, maybe? It’s complicated, I guess.

I entered the trail towards Fishers Green. More butterflies appeared, a pair of Holly Blues and then a lone Green-veined White. I then came across a male Banded Demoiselle. Unfortunately, I only managed to take a few quick shots, before he was scared up by none other than a nosy and noisy dog. The suffragette had already walked on, calling it to heel, her attention focussed on her generic fruit-based device.

Another pair of Common Terns flew by and then I spotted the first of several Mayflies, delicately hanging on to the underside of a leaf. More Soldier Beetles appeared, obviously looking to form a regiment, then another Mayfly. Even more Ladybirds were around here, plus Midges and pollen.

I then arrived at the Great Crested Grebe nest. I was very surprised to see one of them still sat on the nest. It’s been nearly a month since my last visit. After a few minutes, a second Grebe arrived, which immediately went into threat mode. The sitting Grebe also appeared agitated. Can't be the partner, in that case, I thought.

Then the Sitter rose up, revealing at least three eggs. They must be due to hatch soon, surely. I was even more surprised to see a Red-eared Terrapin in the same place as last time. Possibly the same one?

I continued on, towards the Bittern Hide, hearing Ring-necked Parakeets screech out. There were quite a few chicks in this area - Coot, Moorhen, Goose and Mallard. All of them crying out ‘feed me, feed me!’ I've recently been on a bird language course.

Just before I arrived at the Bittern Hide, I spotted a second Great Crested Grebe nest, out on the relief channel, right next to a noticeably larger Coot nest.

When I arrived in the Hide, I found nobody at home. Only a Canada Goose family sat sitting underneath the feeders, with four sleepy little Goslings. The feeders themselves were nearly full, but with no diners. Out over the lake, were the requisite noisy Black-headed Gulls, but with several Common Terns flying around. There wasn't much else otherwise.

Reed and Sedge Warblers were singing out, in amongst the reeds, in front. Then a Moorhen family swam out, seven little black fluff-balls, squeaking away. Another Hairy dragon could be seen, flying back and forth. Then it started ovipositing, in the middle channel.

Then my friend, Markus, turned up and we had a good chat. Not long after, a large group of people arrived and so I decided to head off. Just outside, I showed Markus the Grebe nest. While we were looking at it, a male Banded Demoiselle flew in, just in front of us and landed.

I started walking up the trail towards the Grebe Hide. There was lots of Warbler song around here, with several Swifts screaming overhead. The picnic area was predictably packed with families, nearly all with associated dog or dogs.

I checked most of the angling spots, eventually spying another Hairy dragon, patrolling back and forth. I waited for about 10 minutes, but it wasn't going to land, so I moved on. Further along, another male Banded Demoiselle appeared.

Even further along, I spotted another Holly Blue and then watched several Mayflies doing their ‘dance of lurve’. Beyond them, on the channel, were three more Great Crested Grebes.

I paid visits to all the other angler spots, after passing the Weir, which was devoid of life. Nothing of note was seen. A Grey Squirrel saw me and scampered away. I didn't see any Muntjac at all today. Maybe the deer hunter was about today.

Eventually, I was sat in the Grebe Hide, looking out. In all, there must have been several pairs of Great Crested Grebes around here. Two pairs were involved in a territorial dispute. However, other than the Grebes not much else was about. Just Tufted Duck, Coot, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Mallard and a lone male Pochard.

Not long after, a male Gadwall flew past, while scores of Swift were flying around. Strangely, about 15 minutes later, all the Swift had disappeared.

A pair of Grebes swam in close, so I tested my new lens with the extender, with poor results. Can't have been me, must be have been the poor light around here!

I started back, taking a right turn at the Weir, to check for the reported Nightingales by the Power Station. Unfortunately, I didn't hear any and, in going into ‘bird-song mode’, I scared up a female Banded Demoiselle. Luckily, she didn't stray too far and I managed to get a few record shots.

I delved further into the bramble to follow her, where I spotted another female and then several males. Unfortunately, I was looking into the sun and then the sun disappeared. The wind blew in, making all the damsels take shelter. However, it's one area to visit in the future.

I walked on, hearing no Nightingales, only Chiffchaff song. I visited the pond from last year, seeing nothing, only managing to disturb a pair of sleeping Mallards. A little further, the first Scorpion Fly of the season appeared.

I reached the Bittern Hide with no further additions. A few people came and went, but there wasn't anything to be seen, so I headed off myself. The clouds had now completely covered the sky and it looked like it might even rain.

On the walk back along the relief channel I spotted a third Great Crested Grebe nest, not far away from the first one. That might explain the tête-à-tête earlier. It will be interesting to see how many chicks are produced from all three nests.

No problems on the trains today, thankfully and I arrived home just after seven. Another long day, but another good one.

'It really bugs me when people use insect puns.'

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