Tuesday, 9 May 2017

April Highlights!

WeatherAt the start of April, an area of low pressure brought showers, building up from the south. It was then reasonably warm until the 9th, with plenty of sunshine for much of the country. From the 10th onwards, temperatures were mostly close to average, with some cool nights, but the dry, anticyclonic theme continued. There was a late cold snap towards the end of the month, when a northerly outbreak brought scattered wintry showers and some overnight frosts.

Places Visited:  Amwell; River Stort/Thorley Wash; Rye Meads.

Star Sightings of the Month:
Bird: Green Sandpiper
Mammal: Water Vole
Butterfly: Small Tortoiseshell
Insect: Bee-fly
Flower: Bluebells

Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote
and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.Michael Palin

It was a tale of two halves, this month. The first two weeks were quite productive, whilst, unfortunately, the final two were disastrous, due to ill health.

However, before the illness, I managed visits out to Amwell, Rye Meads and the first outing of the year along the River Stort, ending up in HMWT Thorley Wash.

It was also a case of ‘April Showers’ this month, as most days were either wet or overcast. However, of the five days that I did manage to get out and about, all were sunny, warm and with clear(ish) skies.

First up, was a visit to Rye Meads, continuing its’ fine run of form and lead on the merit table. Two more visits were made, later in the month and sightings included Shelduck, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Jay and Reed Bunting. The first of the new seasons’ Warblers showed here, with Reed & Sedge giving sporadic views.

The Green Sandpipers performed admirably, walking right up to the Hide, giving some great close-up views, in the sunshine. The Grey Wagtails did the same, while the resident male Kingfisher flew up on to the nearest stick, delighting everyone present. A pair of Redshank weren’t as accommodating, but were nonetheless a great sight to see.

If that wasn’t enough, a Tawny Owl was spotted nesting in the Kestrel Box, outside the Kingfisher Hide. A little later, it was confirmed that at least 2 chicks were also present. They weren’t good views, but it was fantastic to see them poking their little heads out, looking at us looking at them.

The one visit to Amwell brought me Little Egret, Garganey, Sparrowhawk, Oystercatcher, and Reed Bunting. The water levels were still quite high, meaning not much action was seen on the wader front; apart from the Oystercatchers and Lapwing. However, it was the 2 male and 1 female Garganey that were the stars of the day. All eventually giving some terrific views from the Watchpoint and the White Hide.

The following week I decided to try my luck with a stroll up the River Stort, towards HMWT Thorley Wash. It was a very good decision. The walk allowed me to spot my first Swallow and Blackcap of the season. There were plenty of other warblers about, including more Sedge Warblers. A couple of Buzzards were seen, screaming high in the sky and I even heard the brief, but distinctive call of a Water Rail.

Due to the wet weather, it wasn’t too surprising to see plenty of wildfowl still about. Although, numbers were noticeably down this month.

On the Mammal front, Brown Rat, Fox and Muntjac appeared at Rye Meads. However, the star of month was again ‘Ratty’ the Water Vole. It showed up again, in the same place as before, giving more great views, as it chewed on the bark. A Grass Snake appeared, fleetingly, in between Kingfisher sightings.

More and more butterfly species appeared. Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood all showed well. There were further sightings of Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell. Unfortunately, no moths have showed yet, despite my homemade ‘moth trap’, where I keep the corridor windows open, overnight.

The Odonata season has begun without me, illness unfortunately keeping me in. The Dragonfly Trail is now open at Amwell and I’m extremely keen to pay my first visit. In fact, I’m desperate to pay a visit to see Odonata anywhere at the moment.

New invertebrates continue to appear and in some numbers, too. Alderflies, Banded Snail, Common Carder Bee, Dock Bug, an unidentified Ichneumon, Long-jawed Orb Spider and Nursery Web Spider were all new-for-year. A few St. Mark’s Flies also appeared, a few days earlier than they did last year.

Despite the mainly poor(ish) weather this month, it was good to see lots of insects about. It’s always a good sign of a healthy ecosystem.

The first Bluebells appeared, at Amwell and Rye Meads, always a delight to see. Cowslip, Cow Parsley, Cuckoo Flower and Forget-Me-Knots were all flowering now.

So, after a good start to the month, everything then went downhill. I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘over-the-counter’ medicines aren’t much good.

Hopefully, the weather will warm up and the sun will shine, enabling me to see my first dragons and damsels of the season very soon.

Revolution must be spontaneous.’ Rosa Luxemburg

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