Monday, 5 September 2016

August Highlights!

Weather:  The weather continued to be unsettled and changeable, with low pressure in charge, especially early on. The month had some very wet days; but it also had some hot and sunny periods, including the hottest day of the year.

Places Visited: Amwell; Balls Wood; Danemead; Hertford Heath; Cheshunt; Rainham Marsh; Rye Meads; River Stort & Thorley Wash.

Star Sightings of the Month:
Bird: Little Stint
Butterfly: Silver-washed Fritillary
Dragonfly: Southern Hawker
Invertebrate: Thick-headed Fly
Other: Slow Worm

Always go too far, because that’s where you’ll find the truth.’
Albert Camus

The weather in August improved slightly, producing the hottest days of the year. Irregularity was still the watch-word, however.

Another productive month saw several trips out, not only to the usual places, but to another new venue – Danemead.

Several trips to Amwell brought mixed fortunes. The Dragonfly Trail hasn’t been as productive this year, as in previous seasons. A combined trip to Balls Wood/Hertford Heath and Danemead also brought mixed fortunes. I found more Slow Worms, as well as the season’s first Silver-washed Fritillaries.

Scarce Emeralds were again a delight to see at Hertford Heath, but the specialities of Balls Wood continued to remain frustratingly elusive. Danemead had a large population of Southern Hawkers, the most that I had ever seen in one season. The visit that day also had the month’s most interesting and new invertebrates, with Figwort Sawfly, Dock and Green Shield Bugs, Labyrinth Spider and Thick-headed Fly.

In contrast, the Cheshunt visit was fairly quiet. This month, I paid two trips along the River Stort, with Thorley Wash tacked on to one of them. The southbound walk proved to be uneventful, but the northbound route brought the discovery of several Willow Emeralds, a fantastic find!

Indeed, a lone Willow Emerald was also discovered at Rye Meads, by good friend and fellow birder, Ron. He also found another at Amwell, not long after. A hot streak, indeed! I was lucky enough to see them at both venues, as well.

The last visit of the month was to Rainham Marsh, meeting up with friends down there. This seems to be another hit and miss place, albeit more miss than hit. For me, anyway. The stars of the day were Southern Hawker, Small Red damselfly, Hobby and Wasp Spider.

Birds continued to remain elusive, as is their wont at this time of year. However, I was concentrating on invertebrates, mainly Odonata, which produced several successes.

Nevertheless, I still feel that this year’s fauna totals seem to be down on previous years. A recent survey on Lepidoptera warned that there have been dramatic butterfly declines, around 75%, over the last 40 years. Very worrying.

Though there have been a similar total of species seen so far, this year, they haven’t been anywhere near the numbers of previous years. Again, very worrying. Hopefully, it is just a blip and Mother Nature can bounce back. I would think that Climate Change and the recently finished El NiƱo are amongst several suspects.

However, for me August is usually the month for invertebrates. I was delighted to see all the usual stuff around the area. The stars of the month were Figwort Sawfly, Edible Snail, Thick-headed Fly, Wasp Spider and Wasp Beetle.

Second broods of Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies started to appear. Brown Argus, Painted Lady and Silver-washed Fritillary were all new-for-year. Several moth species are also worthy of a mention, with Elephant Hawk and Mullein caterpillars appearing. Jersey Tiger and Silver Y were seen on a couple of occasions.

My new Moth Trap, aka ‘the corridor outside my Flat’, produced quite a few interesting species. Brimstone, Green CarpetMarbled Beauty, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Yellowtail, Common Footman, Scalloped Oak, Single-dotted Wave and Silver Ground Carpet all paid a visit.

This month also saw several further showings of Slow Worms. Incredibly, they were seen at three venues – ‘you wait ages for one to appear…..’

It was again very quiet on the mammal front. The ever-expanding and growing flora being the obvious culprit. Hopefully, the Reserve Managers will begin to cut it back, soon.

However, it was my ever-increasing fascination in all things Odonata that engaged my interest. I had only ever seen one, maybe two Southern Hawkers per year. This year, I spotted dozens, male and female. Ever increasing numbers of Brown and Migrant Hawker, as well as Common and Ruddy Darters started to dominate. The time of Chasers and Skimmers was over.

I’m happy to report that Banded Demoiselles were still present, albeit down on previous years. There were more sightings of Scarce Emeralds, but only at the same venue. Red-eyed and common Emeralds are still clinging on, while the first Willow Emeralds appeared. A Small Red-eyed turned up at Rainham. Azures seem to have disappeared, while Common Blues seem to be doing well.

My botany lessons have stalled this month, probably because I was concentrating on Inverts. However, I can now confidently point out Purple Loosestrife.

And so lastly, to the birds. ‘We mustn’t forget the birds!’ Isn’t that right, Beefy?

All the usual species were about this month, what there were of them. A Common Snipe made its’ first appearance for quite some time. There were good views of Green and Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher and Treecreeper. Adult Terns, Warblers and Hirundines have now started to head off to their winter homes.

However, the spot of the month were a pair of Little Stint, who stayed around for a few days, at Rye Meads. Autumn seems to be approaching, at least for the birds, as all the duck species are making a welcome return. Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon all showed up.

In a nutshell – t’was quite a good month!

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.’ Paulo Coehlo

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.