Sunday, 22 May 2016

Black Terns @ Amwell! *

Amwell Nature Reserve - 12th May 16

Weather: Sunny, blue skies with slight cloud later. Very warm.

Bird Total: 60
Plus: Rabbit.
Plus: Azure, Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Large Red damselflies.
Plus: Brimstone, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. Mint Moth, Poplar Hawkmoth.
Plus: 2/7/16-spot and Harlequin Ladybird; Alderfly; Bee-fly; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumblebee; Crab Spider; Crane Fly; Flesh Fly; Green Nettle Weevil; Hoverfly; Mayfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater; Red-tailed Bumblebee; Spotted Crane Fly; Water Boatman.
Plus: Cowslip, Cow Parsley, Dandelion, Early Marsh Orchid, Forget-Me-Knots, Hawthorn, Lesser Celandine.

It was another marathon session today. I woke up early to see the heart of the sunrise and so decided to get up and head out, seeing as it was going to be a lovely sunny day. In fact, the weather was forecast to be very warm, sunny and cloudless. Which it was, but they omitted to mention a fierce cold breeze early in the morning. I had left my fleece at home and was sorely missing it, early on.

There were 5 Great Crested Grebes to be seen, out on the lakes, on the journey down. On the walk along the Canal Path Swifts were screaming overhead. However, I kept my eyes glued to the flora around me, as I walked, hoping for some interesting insects. There were scores of Ladybirds about, mainly 7-spots, but with a smattering of Harlequins.

It was a cool, crisp morning as I walked along. There were few clouds, but there was a slight mist and a slight frost. A very cool breeze was blowing.

A Pied Wagtail called as it flew overhead. A pair of calling Common Terns were flying up and down the Canal, before heading off towards the lake. Cetti's Warblers were screaming out.

I reached the Watchpoint just before 7am, but nobody was about. However, just after I arrived Barry Reed turned up and then another familiar face and one other appeared. Out on the lake I could see a Little Egret close in; 3 Redshank, two of which were feeding together; several Lapwing, dotted around; a pair of Great Crested Grebes; a dozen or so Common Tern; a few sleepy Shoveler and a couple of sets of Canada and Greylag Geese, with Goslings.

The others soon left me to it. I guess they had work to go to. I scanned the lake again, seeing an Egyptian Goose fly in and land on one of the goalposts, disturbing a few of the Gulls. I watched, amused, as it then flew over to a group of Cormorants. It looked as if it was trying to interact with them. The Cormorants ignored it and eventually all of them flew off, leaving the Egyptian Goose alone and looking a little bemused.

I would have stayed a little longer, but the cool breeze coming in off the lake was making my eyes and nose run. So I headed down to the James Hide, ostensibly to try to warm up. It may have been sunny but the forecast warmth was slow in arriving.

Looking out from the Hide, all I could see were 5 Tufted Ducks and a lone Coot. The bright sunshine was being reflected up off the pond, directly into my eyes and so I had to sit back to avoid it.

After about 10 minutes of nothing happening, I was actually starting to get a little bored. A yawn escaped me. It wasn't much of an opening session. I had heard that the feeders were to stay empty until September. Then, suddenly, I could hear a Cuckoo calling, somewhere out to the left. It continued to call, on and off, for the next hour, but never flew closer.

A couple of Grey Herons flew over. Then a Jay. There was plenty of Warbler song, from the reed-beds. Indeed, I could see a few of them flying around the area every few minutes. The Reed Buntings seemed to be the only little birds willing to stand up and be counted, albeit at the back of the reeds.

I could see a Red Kite, high in the sky, away to the left, circling on the thermals, before disappearing. A Wren then showed itself, to the right of the Hide. It gave me a sample of its' loud song, before, it too, disappeared. I am still amazed that such a small bird can be one of the loudest.

Then I could see one or two reed stems moving, just in front, slightly to the left. I continued to watch for a few minutes, to be eventually rewarded with an excellent view of a Sedge Warbler. It posed for me, for a few seconds before flying off. Then a few minutes later, a Reed Warbler did exactly the same, in almost the same place.

A woman arrived and sat down. She excitedly informed me that she had just seen a Cuckoo and a Black Teal. A Black Teal? Oh, she meant Black Tern. I was then asked the eternal Birders question – ‘Much about?’ I replied, ‘Ducks and Geese and you and I!’

She left soon after, disappointed not to see a great deal outside the Hide. Just after she left, a Grey Heron flew in and immediately went into 'hunt mode'. It eventually crept close enough for a few photos.

A few Orange Tip butterflies fluttered past. Then I saw what looked like a Cardinal Beetle fly past. It would be the right time of year for them. I was then certain I spotted a dragonfly on the lagoon, but it disappeared before I could confirm it.

I had been in the Hide for nearly an hour. It had warmed up considerably and so I decided to head back to the Watchpoint. Just as well, as 4 Black Terns could be seen out over the lake. They had been around the area for a few days now and I had hoped to see them today.

It was Bill Last that pointed them out. Although Jenny, who had also just arrived, pointed me in the right direction to see them. There were about half-a-dozen people at the Watchpoint, when I arrived. All looking at the Terns. Unfortunately, they stayed out in the middle of the lake, before soaring up high and heading north.

Bill had brought one of his moths with him today, a Poplar Hawkmoth. A very pretty looking thing and very photogenic. The Redshank count rose to 4.

I had a nice chat with Jenny, before heading down to the Gladwin Hide. The Mute Swan nest was still there, now with 5 eggs. There was also a Coot nest nearby, as well. Jenny was going to put up a sign, especially for dog-walkers, warning of the nests.

It was actually quite fruitful on the walk to the Hide. I had a quick flash of blue, almost certainly a damselfly, before spotting a couple of Mint Moths. Then a Red Admiral dashed past. There were more Ladybirds along here, with one of them - a 2-spot – having been caught by a Crab Spider. Very ghoulish!

I sat down in the Gladwin Hide and looked out. Not much was around, other than Geese; Coot and Gulls. Although I did hear an Oystercatcher peeping. I tried to spot them in their usual place, but the flora had really grown up around the area and they stayed hidden. A Reed Bunting was singing, out to the right.

Not long after, a Common Tern appeared and landed on the scrape. A second also appeared and they again did their courtship dance. I assume they would be nesting here. A Brimstone butterfly struggled past the Hide, fighting the strong wind.

Looking out to the left, towards the main island, I could see 2 Little Egrets, balancing on the branches. Then a lone Lapwing flew in and landed, near to the Terns. A pair of Great Crested Grebes swam past, followed by another pair.

I headed back up the trail, a long distance runaround. It proved to be quite fruitful again, as I spotted my first Mayfly of the season. A Green-veined White flew slowly past and then alighted onto a flower. There were dozens of Common Craneflies about, but then I found the rarer Spotted Cranefly. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly could be seen nectoring. Then I was certain I could see a Common Blue damselfly, sat on a blade of grass, hanging out over the river. It flew up and away before I could get a photo. Just before I reached the Watchpoint again, I spotted a Green Nettle Weevil and then another Mayfly.

Everyone had left the Watchpoint by the time I had returned. The only other extras out there were a pair of Shelduck and a couple of drake Pochard.

Just before I entered the Wood, I bumped into Alan Meadows. I had to sadly inform him that he was too late to see the Black Terns. In the Wood, I could hear plenty of birdsong, notably Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler. A male Blackcap could be heard singing as well and I managed to spot him soon after.

Another Green-veined White and a male Orange Tip were seen, while I saw a pair of Common Terns calling overhead. Nursery Web Spiders were in evidence around here and then another Red Admiral appeared. There was the sound of a grass-cutter ahead; Jenny was hard at work! It was perpetual change around here! We had another quick chat before I crossed over the newly worked-on bridge and headed for the James Hide.

I only intended to have lunch here, before heading around to the Dragonfly Trail. The Moorhen family looked like it had unfortunately gone down to just 2 chicks, from 4 last week. I then received a text from Ron, saying he was already on the trail, so I headed off.

Just outside the Hide, a male Blackcap was seen. I came face to face with Ron just before I arrived at the Twin Lagoons. On the left-hand lagoon, a Common Blue damselfly was seen. Then Ron pointed out a dragonfly. It was a Hairy, the first of the season. Unfortunately, 2 women with 4 dogs appeared, letting the dogs jump into the lagoon, disturbing everything.

We moved over to the right-hand lagoon, seeing a pair of Blue-tailed damselflies, before one of the women and 2 of the dogs arrived. I had to bite my tongue. It was nearly enough to put me in a bad mood for a day.

Just after entering the Dragonfly Trail, another Brimstone and then a Holly Blue butterfly showed. Jenny arrived not long after. By then, Ron and I had wandered up and down the boardwalk a few times, seeing about 12 or so Large Red damselflies. We could see at least 3 pairs, 2 of which were ovipositing.

We had also spotted Azure, Blue-tailed and Common Blue damsels. Unfortunately, no dragons yet. A walk by the river produced little, other than a pair of Hobbys in the sky and a Peacock butterfly. Chiffchaff were very vocal around this area.

A few Early Marsh Orchids were starting to bloom in the Orchid Garden. A little later, taking a break on one of the benches, we had a good sighting of a Hairy dragonfly, as it flew past.

From here, we did a roundabout trip to the James Hide and thence onwards to the White Hide. During this period, we managed to see Hobby; Buzzard; Oystercatcher; Common Sandpiper; Chiffchaff; Garden Warbler and a Jay. The Warbler song-fest seemed to get even louder.

Outside the James Hide gate, we stopped to see a pair of nesting Treecreepers. Just beside them were a pair of nesting Blue Tits. More Orange Tip butterflies could be seen. We spent a few minutes trying to photograph the Treecreepers. They were quite quick, flying in and out of the nest. We compared photos – ‘Yours is no disgrace!’

Soon, we were back at the Watchpoint. Bill Last and Ade Hall were there. I think I’ve seen all good people today. A pair of Little Ringed Plovers showed up.

By now, I was starting to flag and I was also close to the edge. It was well after six in the evening.

Ron kindly gave me a lift, back to the Station. Just before we reached the car, we stopped to try and locate the nesting pair of Nuthatch. Unfortunately, they weren't about today, but we did see a lovely Goldcrest nearby.

I just managed to get the train and was home just before 7.30, after a completely trouble-free journey. See, they can do it when they want to!

A very long and tiring, but ultimately satisfying day. The Black Terns were a delight to see.

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