Tuesday, 13 June 2017

May Highlights!

Weather: A month of two halves. The first half of the month started with showers and easterly winds. The second half was more changeable but warmer. There was a notable hot and sunny spell heading in to the final week, which was then compounded by significant thunderstorms across many areas at the end of the month.

Places Visited:  Amwell; Rye Meads; WWT Barnes.

Star Sightings of the Month:
Bird: Redshank
Mammal: Water Vole
Butterfly: Painted Lady
Odonata: Large Red
Insect: Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle
Flower: Bee Orchid

Now is the time to understand more, so we may fear less.’ Marie Curie

Sadly, the poor weather and my poor health continued on in to May. Fortunately, both cleared up by the end of the second week and I was able to get out and about.

I paid three visits to Rye Meads, with just the one visit to Amwell, plus my annual trip down to the London Wetland Centre in Barnes. RM again extended its’ lead, with quite a few interesting sightings. The visit to the LWC was a little later in the year than I would have liked, as I missed the Bluebell and Snake’s Head Fritillary displays.

Spring migration is continuing apace. The female Bittern was reported early in the month, but nothing has been seen or heard since, despite a well-organised ‘Bittern Watch’. Cuckoos, Terns and Warblers have all arrived, slowly at first, but then in good numbers.

Even though the wildfowl numbers have dwindled, there are still good populations of Pochard about. There is also a lone Wigeon mysteriously hanging around at RM. Raptors seem to have been few and far between. However, that may be because I haven’t been looking up.

Fewer and fewer waders are about now, most having departed for their summer breeding grounds. However, the ubiquitous Lapwings still remain, with successful breeding having commenced, especially at RM, with one pair producing 3 chicks. Oystercatcher, Redshank and Little Ringed Plover have all paid several fleeting visits to the area. Common Sandpiper and Snipe were last spotted early on in the month.

Common Terns have arrived and have even managed to sneak a few spaces on the rafts at both Amwell and RM. However, Black-headed Gulls continue to dominate and crowd them out. Chicks are now abundant, all fluffy and cute.

The first Cuckoos were heard and then seen. One lucky lady saw 3 together, at RM! Now, that’s just being greedy. I eventually managed to see a female, on the dead tree, outside the Kingfisher Hide.

The Tawny Owlets, at RM, finally fledged, with one or two still being seen around the area. Hirundines are still scarce, for me anyway. Again, probably because I’ve not been looking up. Swifts are also now present, but again, in low numbers. I really must look up on occasion.

The resident RM Kingfisher pair fledged their first brood, right at the end of the month. At least 5, maybe 6, fledglings were seen. I, of course, turned up the next day.

The over-wintering Cetti’s and Chiffchaff numbers were swollen with incoming migrants. They were ably accompanied by goodly numbers of Reed, Sedge and Blackcap, with sightings of Willow and Garden. The passerines were now mostly absent, probably tending to young.

These were all either at Amwell or RM. My visit to the LWC provided sightings of birds I wouldn’t normally get to see. It’s the reason why I visit. A high total included Bewick’s Swan, White-headed Duck, Eider, Black Swan, Whistling Ducks, Red-breasted Goose and Southern Screamer. All of them close up and a delight to see; especially at feeding time.

Plus, of course, they also had the birds I do normally see, including Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Common Tern, Smew, Goldeneye and Sand Martin. Oddly, not many Warblers were heard or seen. Possibly because of too much disturbance - i.e. families?

There weren’t too many mammals or other such-like about this month. ‘Ratty’ the Water Vole was the star again, at RM. A Grass Snake was seen, fleetingly, as were several Brown Rats.

I was delighted to discover that the invertebrate season was now in full swing. More and more butterflies were now on the wing. Respectable numbers of Brimstone, lots of Holly Blues, the last of the Orange Tips, several Peacocks and Red Admirals were now about, while a few Small Whites and Speckled Woods started to appear. There was a lovely sighting of a Painted Lady, near to the Kingfisher Hide, while the LWC presented me with my first Common Blue of the season.

Several Mint Moths were also now starting to appear, as were Silver Ground Carpets. My moth trap was starting to bring in some interesting stuff, including Bee Moth. When, of course, I remember to keep the corridor window open!

The Odonata season has finally started! Deep joy! Blues at first, led mainly by Azures, followed by lots of Large Reds and a few Red-eyed. Then my favourites, the Banded Demoiselles started to show. The first dragons started to appear, with the usual Hairy Hawkers leading the charge, being ably supported by Black-tailed Skimmers. It was a good start and I’m hoping it will continue.

More and more Ladybirds, of varying spots, were being seen. The seasonal flies, like Alder and St. Mark’s came and went. The last of the Bee-flies were seen, at Rye Meads, early on - it’s been a good season for them. Likewise, it was also good to see plenty of Bees out in large numbers, always pleasing to witness. Cuckoo spit appeared nearly everywhere I looked, indicating that a large number of Froghoppers will soon be appearing. Dark Bush Cricket nymphs were about, as were Dock Bugs. There were sightings of Green Nettle Weevils, Green Shield Bugs and even a pair of Green Tortoise Beetles.

My first Leaf Beetles appeared. There were lots of Mayflies and Mint Leaf Beetles. Several Red-headed Cardinal Beetles were a delight to see, but I then found two Black-headed Cardinal Beetles at RM. Finally, Soldier Beetles were out in big battalions, as were Spotted Crane Flies and Thick-kneed Flower Beetles. I even managed to spot my first-ever Rose Chafer, which was a lot bigger than I thought they would be. A Fire Bug and a Ruby-tailed Wasp were observed, fleetingly, at the LWC.

However, the star of the month was undoubtedly a Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle, found at RM. It was only my second-ever sighting of one.

I was already in ‘Insect Heaven’. I’ll have to start digging out the ‘kevlar-reinforced’ trousers again!

The flower of the month was a lovely Bee Orchid, seen at the LWC, only my second-ever sighting of this lovely flower. Other orchids were also now in bloom, with the Orchid Garden at Amwell, looking particularly beautiful. All areas are now awash with flora, of all shapes, colours and sizes. There are some fantastic displays about now, especially at the LWC and Amwell.

All in all, despite only five visits and a poor(ish) month, weather-wise, it turned out to be an excellent few weeks. Summer is now almost upon us and I’m hoping that it won’t turn out to be another wash-out, like last year. It’s also holiday season and I’ve got some excellent trips lined up!

Watch this space!

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