We were heading up towards Woodwalton village and had pretty much decided to have a quick detour and look in at Upwood Meadows as there might have been a few Green Winged Orchids left, plus its good for other plants as well as insects. Thats where we saw the first road closure sign for the afternoon, giving us only a few hours or be stuck tip late afternoon, so we went straight to Woodwalton.
As expected, the best bit for dragonflies was the main drain outside the reserve where you park. Plenty of Four Spotted and Scarce Chasers, a few Red Eyed Damsels on the Yellow Water Lilies, and Azure Damsels in abundance. Add a Lesser Whitethroat, a distant Cuckoo and Common Terns fishing and it was hard to move on.
in view of the limited time we decided to just explore a small part of the reserve north of the entrance. As on previous visits, the wind was rather frustrating at times but the more sheltered areas were very productive. As well as more chasers, we found a few Hairy Dragonflies, a female Emperor, some Large Red and Common Blue Damsels. I am not sure if they occur here, but I checked as many as possible for Variable Damselflies without success. Birds were on the whole quiet, though Blackcaps, Garden Warblers and Willow Warblers were still singing, plus we heard a Water Rail.
We left after 9- minutes and were able to get away from the road closures by heading north west to Barnack. In previous visits this has been a bit of a disappointment. It is supposed to be one of the best places for Man Orchids, but we have never managed to find any, as recent years have been very poor. However I had heard that it was much improved this year though still hard to find. Took all of five minutes to find the first, and another five to find around twenty more plants. Must have been several hundred in the end even though we only covered a small part of the site. Found a few Chalk Fragrant Orchids, and some of the Pasque Flowers were still out, though most had gone to seed. Heard a Tree Pipit, but struggled to see any butterflies apart from a few Common Blues.
There are several local reserves in the area, and we found potentially two interesting woods and went to Bedford Purlieus as it is supposed to be about the best botanical site in Cambridgeshire, possibly the UK. Only just read up on it and was reminded that it featured in the Time Team TV program when they investigated the Roman Iron working. Its a vast area and despite advice from a regular visitor we struggled to find much. Rather too early for any interesting butterflies, but we encountered some Scarce Chasers, Common Blue and Azure damsels, what appeared to be a Hairy Dragonfly and we met a couple photographing Weevils who had seen several Broad Bodied Chasers. We found a couple of white flowers Common Spotted Orchids, and a large patch of Twayblades, but failed to locate Greater Butterfly and Birds Nest Orchids. Its also supposed to be good for Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers-we found a nest hole and assumed Great Spotted though with hindsight it did seem a bit too small a hole.
Our advisor also mentioned things like Fly Orchid in the northern section, Pyramidals in the paddocks and an abundant selection of fungi (much too early for most though). Looks to be a place to visit in the future.
Another much smaller wood was supposed to have some of the orchids we missed, but with time getting on we headed home. We stopped off at Baldock Services and explored the verge by the Newnham road. Pyramidal Orchids were starting to flower, and we found a few Bees-which I had missed last year.
A stop at the manure heap produced a few singing Corn Buntings but no Yellow Wagtails. The fields were sown with wheat and beans, not sure if either would be ideal for Quail. Same situation at Deadman's Hill, with a Corn Bunting plus a few distant Partridge and not much else. Very few raptors in the area despite the conditions, with a couple of distant Buzzards. Not really expecting it but with recent Marsh and Hen Harriers it would have been nice if one had stuck around.