Sunday, 20 October 2013

Amwell Nature Reserve - 17th October 13

Weather: Sunny, slight cloud, warm with a slight breeze.

Birds Total: 46
Plus: Common Blue Damselfly; Common Darter, Migrant Hawker Dragonflies.
Plus: Comma Butterfly.
Plus: 14-spot and Harlequin Ladybird; Caddis Fly; Hornet's Nest; various Spiders; Bees and Hoverflies.

This was my first chance to get out and about again after a couple of weeks, due to one reason or another. And the weather today was excellent - no rain and sunny blue skies. It clouded over a little in the afternoon but it wasn't nearly as bad as recent days.

On the train down to the Reserve I spotted a Jay and then a cheeky Fox just sitting beside the track watching us go past. On the trail upto the viewing area a Green Woodpecker yaffled and flew overhead, while a Comma was sat sunning itself just as I reached the bridge.

I arrived at the viewing point to find 2 other guys there, who I recognised from previous visits. Looking out over Great Hardmead Lake I could see the usual birding fare, Coots and Mutes; Gulls; plenty of Lapwing; a few Gadwall and Tufties; Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal but oddly only a few Canada Geese and no Greylags. High above the distant trees 4 Buzzards were gliding the thermals, each one being mobbed by Crows while the odd Sparrowhawk dodged past them all. From the lesser viewpoint a Grey Heron could be seen out to the left, imitating a statue, while on the mudflat in front a pair of Teal were obviously sleeping off a heavy night as were a pair of Common Snipe.

I only spent about an hour here, seeing as there wasn't too much on show and moved off down the trail towards the James Hide. From here there was even less to see. The one feeder remaining out to the right was empty. A couple of Moorhens were swimming about in front while Dunnock and Blue Tit were trying to eke out the remaining seeds from around the feeder. One Dunnock settled itself on a tree stump and began sun-bathing, trying to rid itself of all unwanted passengers. A few birds were flitting in and out of the reeds and I finally managed to get my bins on them to identify them as Reed Buntings, the first I've seen for a while.

I decided to move on to the White Hide. The weather proved to be pretty good all day and, while it was warm in the sun, the shade was noticeably cooler. With only a light breeze I would have expected to have seen some butterflies but none appeared, although Darters and Hawkers were still flying around. The Hornet's nest was still in situ, in the tree stump, with lots of them to-ing and fro-ing. It'll be interesting to see if they over winter.

Finding nobody else in the White Hide I settled in and scanned the area. There wasn't much else to see other than a pair of Little Grebes. The Wigeon count rose to 7, while the Shoveler count rose to around a dozen. Then, out to the left I spotted a Kestrel fly in and land on the grass, something I had never seen a Kestrel do. It began eating worms before spotting me and flew upto a nearby tree. It was a juvenile and it guessed that I was no threat and began flying back down again before circling the area and landing on the tree again. Very entertaining stuff.

Just after that I spotted several pairs of Common Darters doing their egg-laying dance, the male dipping the female down to the water to lay eggs. They all kept in close formation to each other and proceeded to work their way around the pond edges, closely accompanied by a couple of single males trying to muscle in on the action. Also very entertaining.

Several other people came in while I was being entertained, one of which kept missing the Kestrel action. Every time he moved off the Kestrel flew in. By the time the guy sat back down the Kestrel flew off! Thankfully the Kestrel eventually appeared for him.

On the trail back I kept a look out for Shield Bugs, seeing none, but I spotted the first of what turned out to be loads of Caddis Flies flitting about. I guess it must have been their time of the year. There were also lots more ladybirds today than of late, mainly Harlequins. One of which was a no-spot ladybird, only my second record ever. And later on there was a third.

I decided to pay a visit to the twin lagoons in the hope of seeing some Dragon action. More Darters were performing their dance, this time right in front of me, while a lone Migrant Hawker came in to inspect me, before deciding I was too big a meal and flew off. Then I was surprised to spot a lone Common Blue damselfly. They should be gone by now, another reminder of the late Spring this year. Then a Hornet flew in and crash landed into the lagoon. Kamikaze? No, it then proceeded to take a drink before lifting off and flying away. While all this was going on I could hear a Cetti's Warbler singing away in the far reeds. Then I heard a Kingfisher but couldn't spot it. A female Migrant Hawker flew in quite close and proceeded to oviposit. A couple of Common Darters then decided to fly in right next to me and pose.

As the Dragonfly Trail was now closed I decided to pay a visit to Tumbling Bay Lake as I had not been down there for quite some time. I didn't walk all the way, just to the nearest south-side spit and looked out. A male Pheasant was screeching out somewhere in the woods. It was in this area that I saw the 2nd no-spot Ladybird, together with quite a few Harlequins. I also noticed lots of mushrooms growing around the area. I didn't sample any. Out on the lake I could see Pochard and Tufted Duck together with the requisite Coots plus an adult GCG with a juvenile in close attendance. Another Green Woodpecker yaffled over me. There was also some Dragon action here as well, with more pairs of Darters dancing away. I also spotted 3 more Common Blue damsels. Then I heard, then spotted, a Kingfisher fly past, its beautiful plumage reflecting the sunlight.

Walking back again I bumped into another familiar birding face and stopped to chat for a few minutes. It was here that a few Wrens flew by, the first I've seen for a while. Then we both heard and saw a GSW fly over. This was followed by a gang of LTTs, noisily chatting away to each other as they fed and flew by us.

Eventually I found myself back in the James Hide where I broke for lunch. There still wasn't a great deal happening here. A couple of people came and went.

The breeze began to pick up and it began to cloud over a bit more so I decided to head back to the main viewing point where I was met by several other people, all looking at a distant Red Kite. There were now 5 Grey Herons around the lake, as well as a lone Little Egret. There must have been 50+ Lapwing out there now, all being put up every few minutes by nothing in particular.

Although there was nothing too special to see today I was just glad to be out and about again, in the lovely weather. Unfortunately, rain is forecast for the next 5 to 7 days so I'm not sure when my next trip will be.