I haven't visited Fleet Hill farm in months. Not entirely sure why. Concentrating too hard on Manor farm.
Although Fleet Hill farm is a lovely reserve, I do find it somewhat flat and featureless. Manor farm is in danger of following suit when the north embankments are bulldozed flat, but there will be a remnant of higher ground to overlook the reserve. This does give such a refreshing perspective.
I took a peek into a random selection of the tubes containing the saplings that were planted last year. A large number had perished in the extreme heat we had. Many were replaced earlier on this year or was it late last year. I am glad to say that many of the tubes I looked into contained a small if very much live sapling, whilst some were shooting up well above the anti deer tubes, looking like small trees.
Cemex had a whole load of reeds planted in various lakes and ponds throughout the reserve. I'm not sure why, as I notice most of the lakes have considerable growths of bull rushes. Perhaps the reeds were of a different variety. I didn't take a peek into the enclosures to see how they are doing - though they were taking last time I saw them. The problem with all these rushes, which I surmised and birders have mentioned, is that you can't see anything. This is exacerbated by Fleet Hill farm being so flat.
I might be mistaken, but I did notice that whoever rents some of the fields on this reserve for grazing has removed an electric fence they had erected across the bridle path Inert created a couple of years back on the south east side of the reserve. I don't remember it being removed the last time I visited this area. It was an anomaly which a number of people mentioned.
Unfortunately, some of the closed off fields, and access to them, hug the Blackwater. Future plans call for a bridle path to run along the Blackwater, before turning north near Fleet Hill farm proper to join up with an existing footpath (and new bridle path) running along the north edge of the reserve. I assume that this will be built when Manor farm and Chandlers farm are fully restored, and are in a position to be handed over to whomever will maintain the resulting reserve.
My main reason for visiting Fleet Hill farm was to photograph dragonflies. I remember from last year that the area was buzzing with them. I wasn't to be disappointed. The main dragonflies visible were Black-tailed skimmers. Which is a rather odd name, seeing as the males are virtually all blue, whilst the females are yellow and black. There were other dragonflies and plethora of damselflies and demoiselles which, sadly, I could not identify. Distinguishing between the various demoiselles is tricky.
I did spot a Green Sandpiper, which a birder had informed me she had seen some weeks ago. I never knew such a bird existed let alone what it looked like. There were a flock of five Little white egrets, and the Grey Herons were lurking over here as well. Far too distant for me to get a decent shot of was a Stone Catcher.
On with the slide show, starting with scenic shots of Fleet Hill farm. You'll notice it all tends to look alike. What I have done, which sort of half works, is to give each photo a number and then a place on a map with arrow pointing in the direction of shot. In hindsight I should not have put a 'P' in front of each number. The map got a bit cluttered due to me taking multiple shots from one location. First the map, then the slide show.
I may well visit the reserve again in the near future, to photograph some of the lakes I missed this time round. I did spend two hours or so wandering around the place. Now on to some wildlife, starting with a Green Sandpiper, which landed not more than 20 feet in front of me on the north bank of the Blackwater. It spotted me when I took a photo of it, gave an almighty squawk before flying off to the other side of an adjoining lake.
The Black-tailed Skimmers were all over Fleet Hill farm, not just around the ponds. Another good place to spot them is Manor farm. They seem to like the north and east embankments a lot. I guess because they were quite clear of vegetation for the longest time. You'll notice that the skimmers do like the gravel bridle path.
They did sport various forms of damage to their wings. This didn't seem to affect their flying abilities. There are a couple of Hobbies around the reserves. They specialise in catching dragonflies.
Finally, some odds and sods. Insect life was quite bountiful on Fleet Hill farm. Quite a few landed on me, and a couple (the Horseflies) tried to take a chunk or two out of me. It is quite alarming that the only place you encounter large numbers of insects is on a reserve. More alarming is that the species that were very common in my youth (e.g. Small Tortoise shell) are quite rare even on the reserves.
There were loads of Gatekeeper butterflies, other small brown ones I could not identify, and a huge number of crickets and grasshoppers.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.