Thursday, 21 November 2013

Amwell Nature Reserve - 4th November 13

Weather: Cloudy, blue skies. Cold wind.

Birds Total: 38
Plus: Fox; Muntjac.

Not a good day today. The weather forecast was almost totally wrong. Bright, blue skies became cloudy and overcast. It was also cold. Very cold.

So it was a short day out. There were all the usual birds on show again today. Gulls and Coots; Mutes and Geese; Ducks and Cormorants. There were a couple of things of note. Firstly, there were around 75 Greylag Geese on Great Hardmead Lake. Raptors on show included Red Kite; Buzzard and Kestrel. A GBBG; a LBBG and a BHG were side by side, allowing a size comparison. There were over 50 Lapwing; 6 Snipe; several Wigeon and 3 GCGs.

The only other thing of note were a Fox and a Muntjac very close to each other, seen from the James Hide. Both warily eyed each other, before the Muntjac ran off.  It looked quite tense.

After leaving the viewing point I went and sat in the James Hide for a few hours and then the White Hide for a few more. Together with one other Birder called Brian. I had met him before and we had a good chat whilst waiting for nothing to show up. Jenny Sherwen, one of the Warders, appeared again after leading a work party earlier.

It's forecast to get colder during the rest of the week. I'll get my t-shirt and flip-flops out in that case.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 15th November, 2013

Weather: Clear, blue skies. Warm in the sun, cold in the shade.

Birds Total: 37
Plus: Red Admiral butterfly.
Plus: Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: Muntjac; Grey Squirrel.

It's been good to very good visiting Fishers Green this year. There have been some great days out here and there has always been something to see. But, probably due to the time of year, today wasn't one of the best.

If you removed all the Coot; Ducks; Gulls; Geese and Swans then there would have been hardly anything out there today. Very few passerines about, in fact numbers were low across the board. If I had to guess then I would say that, due to the late seasons this year, movement within the UK has been quite late.

Today was cold but sunny while next week the forecast is for arctic temperatues with freezing winds coming down from the north. So we might get some movement south.

The journey down began oddly with my train time showing ontime but with an excuse below it, 'Due to points failure'. I idly wondered if BR were now making excuses for their trains being ontime. The recent rains had helped keep the many lakelets filled and these were being made use of by dozens and dozens of
Canada Geese, plus the odd Grey Heron fishing. I'd heard a GSW earlier whilst waiting for the train. Just before I arrived at Cheshunt I spotted a Grey Squirrel balancing precariously on a thin branch, stocking up for the winter. Grey Squirrels are not one for hibernating. In fact, there are only 3 mammals in the UK that do hibernate. Answers on a postcard, please!

I did my usual circuit, Hall Marsh Scrape - Bittern Hide - Grebe Hide and back again. There were plenty of people about, some other Birders; the usual dog walkers, one of which had 9 (nine) dogs with her(!), cyclists and joggers. In fact, 2 joggers asked me for directions as they were completely lost and had even forgotten the name of the car-park. Dressed only in shorts and t-shirts with no water and, more importantly, no map they looked very worried. I gave them my best directions.

Surprisingly there was hardly anything to be seen from the Teal Hide. At first there were only a pair of Moorhens, later joined by a third. Then they flushed out 3 Common Snipe. A couple of Carrion Crows flew in as did a lone BHG. A couple more BHGs flew in, thought better of it and flew straight on. Then a female Muntjac appeared out to the left, but only briefly. Way out to the right, way up high, I could see a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by a Crow. At the back of the lagoon, in the reedbed, were about 3 or 4 Canada Geese. All this 'action' occurred over a 20 minute period. Then everything disappeared except for a lone
Magpie. Then it too, disappeared and I was left looking at just an empty scrape. Well, it wasn't even much of a scrape now, with the water level a lot higher than it was from my last visit. All down to the recent rains, I guess. Anyone for a hose-pipe ban?

I gave up here and moved on down the trail. I had a quick look out over Friday Lake, seeing Wigeon; Shoveler; Tufted Duck and Pochard. There was hardly anything to be seen out on the other lakes and, at the Bridge, I could see a few Coot; Swans; a few GCGs and a Grey Heron. At the Hooks Marsh car-park
feeding area there were plenty of Mutes patiently waiting for people to feed them, together with one Greylag and a pair of Canadas.

I eventually arrived at the Bittern Hide. Out on Seventy Acres Lake there were the usual Mutes and Coots, lots of water-birds and about half-a-dozen Lapwing. There were only a few Blues and Greats on the feeders. But I did see a Hawker dragonfly flying over the pond. I couldn't positively ID it but it was
probably a Migrant.

On the trail down to the Grebe Hide instinct made me check a couple of the fishing areas by the relief channel. And, on one of them, I found a Common Darter dragonfly! They are still hanging on!

Further on down the trail, on the pond opposite, I could see 4 Egyptian Geese, together with a couple of Teal. Further on from there I could see about 100 Canada Geese feeding on one of the fields. At the Weir there were the odd Pochard; a few Teal; a pair of Wigeon and a couple of GCGs. And, of course, lots more Mutes and Coots.

Just before I arrived at the Grebe Hide I spooked a butterfly up, which looked very like a Red Admiral. I could also hear a Treecreeper squeaking away.

There wasn't much more to be seen from the Hide either. More of the same but also another 5 GCGs and more Wigeon. LTTs could be heard around the Hide.

On the way back I could see over 50 Jackdaws over a field in the distance, all chacking away. A Little Grebe ducked under the water when it spotted me and there were now 6 Greylag Geese instead of the Egyptians.

The only other thing from the Bittern Hide was hearing the pig-like squeal of a Water Rail which remained irritatingly hidden. That and 3 Chaffinches joining the rest on the feeders.

And that was it. It was warm in the sunshine but quite cold in the shade. No wind fortunately. Next week looks like winter is arriving. I had better get out another layer to put on. Hopefully a few migrants will fly in.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Rye Meads - 13th November 13

Weather: Sunny, blue skies, with slight cloud.

Birds Total: 41
Plus: Common Darter dragonfly; Dock Bug.

It was another bright, crisp, sunny day with hardly any cloud. It was also quite a cold day as well, a reminder that Winter is just around the corner. But, with lots of layers on, I braved it out again.

And, as the Glossy Ibis was still being reported at Rye Meads, I decided to chance my luck again. Unfortunately the bird eluded me as it only gave a brief appearance around lunchtime. That was when I was in the Tern Hide enjoying the brilliant Kingfisher show.

There was nothing much to report on the way down to the Reserve, other than a Collared Dove. On entering the Reserve I walked straight to the Lapwing Hide to find a couple of people already there. No sign of the bird in question. But others were on show including a Wren; a lone BHG; a few Teal; a few Moorhen; lots of Crows; 3 Grey Herons and 4 Pheasants. I decided to give it 30 minutes before moving on.

At the bridge by the Water Vole area, looking out over the meadow again, I could only add a lone Goldfinch flyover to the list. At the Draper Hide, where there were a few more people, I immediately heard a Cetti's Warbler belting out its explosive song, whilst out on the lake there were 7 Teal; 5 Tufted Ducks; 5 Shoveler; a pair of Little Grebes; a couple of Cygnets; 2 Stock Doves sitting on one of the nest-boxes and, for the first time in a long time, there were more Moorhens around than Coot.

Moving on down the trail, passing the first lagoon where there were plenty of Pochard; Mutes and Coots and another Little Grebe and deciding to bypass the Ashby Hide I found myself looking up at the electricity pylon where dozens and dozens of Starlings were perched. Another mini-murmuration.

I then found myself in the Tern Hide where I sat for an hour. This was where the Kingfisher flew in onto the goalposts in front of the Hide and sat posing for quite a while, preening, feeding and washing before flying off. The drake Pintail was still showing, albeit again at the back of the lagoon; around 200+ Lapwing; 5 Common Snipe; 3 Green Sandpipers; lots of Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall; a pair of Pied Wagtails, again feeding around the Lapwing; a pair of Common Gulls in amongst all the BHGs and a partridge in a pear tree. Well, maybe not the last one.

One of the Reserve volunteers was also in the Hide and she spotted a dragonfly, which was almost certainly a Common Darter, sunning itself on one of the numbered tombstones. A quick look in the Gadwall Hide yielded only Coots and Gulls again but with an additional Grey Heron perched on one of the Tern rafts.

As I was leaving the Hides I spotted a Dock Bug sitting in the sunshine. But just the one.

There wasn't anything of note until I reached the Warbler Hide. The middle window was broken but, with the aid of a screw-driver, I managed to temporarily fix it so that I could squeeze in, as the Hide was quite full. A Buzzard was showing well to the right, being mobbed continually by Magpies and Crows. It didn't seem to mind and just kept swapping perches. It seemed as if one of the Grey Herons joined in too at one stage. And then another Common Darter flew past the Hide! It's quite late to see them, but yet another reminder of the late seasons.

On the walk back to the Tern Hide a lone LTT flew over, reminding me that there weren't too many passerines about today. I didn't see or hear any Chaffinches or Greenfinches and I only heard Robin and Dunnock. I only saw one Blackbird and just a couple of Blues and Great Tits.

From the Tern Hide another Kingfisher turned up and was chased off by the first, which again gave great views on the goalposts. A Grey Heron was fishing in the distance while the only other new bird was a Grey Wagtail which came in close to the Hide. On the walk back to the Draper Hide I heard a GSW in the distance.

There was nothing new from the Draper, in fact even fewer birds, so I moved back to the Lapwing Hide as I had heard that the Ibis had briefly turned up. No such luck today and there were no new birds to be seen. The sun started to wan, the cold was getting into my bones so I headed home.

No Ibis but nonetheless another nice day out.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Rye Meads - 7th November 13

Weather: Cloudy and overcast all day.

Birds Total: 39
Plus: Konik Pony.

Today was a top birding day. There was a report of a Glossy Ibis turning up on the HMWT meadow a few days ago. I didn't hold up too much hope of it hanging around, but today was forecast for no rain and RM was the next Reserve to visit on the list. So I travelled down to primarily have another day out with a hope of seeing the Ibis.

Not the Glossy Ibis at RM, this one was photographed a couple of years ago.
The weather forecast was for slight, overcast cloud, clearing to blue skies and sunshine after around 11am. In the event it remained cloudy and overcast all day. Which wasn't conducive for photography.

After all the recent rain the fields were still water-logged with more and more small ponds joining up to create large ponds. Not good for the trains but very good for the birds. On the way down I spotted a couple of male Pheasants and a Grey Heron plus lots of Canada Geese. On the walk down to the Reserve a Jay flew overhead.

I arrived at the Visitor Centre to find no one about. As I was unpacking my gear one of the volunteers appeared. I casually asked him if the Ibis was still about and, to my surprise, he confirmed that it was and was showing well from the Lapwing Hide overlooking the Meadow.

When I arrived at the Hide I found about 7 or 8 people already inside and all looking through scopes or bins. Familiar faces were present including Vicki, one of the permanent staff at RM. I settled in and Vicki showed me where 'Ian' the Ibis was. They had already named it. The bird was foraging on the far side of the meadow against the fence and was walking back and forth, constantly bobbing its head. Every now and then one of the Canada Geese spooked up and, at one point, we all thought that it might fly closer to the Hide. But it stayed in the same general area. It was quite a good view through the bins but unfortunately it wasn't close enough for a photo. Other birds on show here were 3 Grey Herons; around 5 or 6 Pheasants; Teal and Shoveler; Canada Geese and Gulls. There were also 4 Konik Ponies grazing the field.

Lots of people came and went, Vicki allowing them all a view through her scope. I spent just over an hour here and, deciding that the bird wasn't going to get close, moved on.

As I arrived at the Water Vole area, also overlooking the meadow, I looked out and saw the Ibis had moved a little closer. But still not close enough. It was still being spooked by the Geese. It then went out of view and, there being no sign of any Voles, I carried on.

At this point, one for the guys I had regularly seen around the area walked up behind me. We finally introduced ourselves and I finally found out his name, which was Phil. We carried on down the trail. There was a work detail outside the Draper Hide and so consequently no birds were to be seen.

Looking out over the Lagoons at the walkway yielded only a Grey Heron; Gulls and Coots and at this point Phil decided to visit the Ashby Hide while I walked on towards the twin hides. I could see lots of Starlings on the pylons above me, all chattering away. Phil caught up with me in the Tern Hide.

Unfortunately for Phil it was one of the 'You should have been here 5 minutes ago' moments. Just as I arrived a Kingfisher flew in and landed on one of the goal-posts for a few fleeting seconds before flying off. But it did give both of us a couple of fly-by views a little later. Also on show out on the lagoon were around 80+ Lapwing; a pair of sleeping Snipe; one Green Sandpiper, later joined by a second; lots of Shoveler; a few Teal; Gulls; Mutes and Coots. There were also several Moorhen about as well as a pair of Pied Wagtails, picking their way through all the birds. Grey Herons and Cormorants made up the rest of the show. But the star bird here was a male Pintail over in the far corner, who also never swam up close.

Phil paid a quick visit to the Gadwall Hide and saw nothing in particular so we walked around to the Kingfisher Hide where we again drew a blank. Then we found ourselves sitting in the Warbler Hide. We quickly checked the meadow to see if the Ibis could be seen but it was hidden by the reeds. We could hear Cetti's Warbler and Water Rail out amongst the reeds. Just outside the Warbler Hide we spooked up about a dozen Redwing. With nothing else on show we returned to the Tern Hide.

At the Tern Hide there wasn't too much else to be seen here other than witnessing all the Lapwing and Gulls being put up. A quick look around and the culprit was a Sparrowhawk flying low over the lagoon from right to left. All the birds settled back down. Phil decided to move off and left me to my lunch.

I paid a quick visit to the Gadwall Hide myself and found only Gulls and Coots. I also paid a quick visit to the Ashby Hide only to find similar birds. The Work Detail was still hard at it outside the Draper, where only a Little Grebe was about so I decided to return to the Lapwing Hide to see if the Ibis would fly in closer. Nothing of note was seen on the way other than a GSW on the feeders outside the Visitor Centre.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Lapwing Hide where the Ibis continued to walk back and forth in the same area, without coming in close. Just before I left it suddenly lifted off and flew off towards the south-east. Hopefully it will return.

About 100 or so people had come and gone from the Hide during the day because of the information provided on the blogs. More familiar faces appeared, others walked in to have a look during their lunch-break. Vicki had spent most of the day in the Hide, with her colleagues bringing her regular cups of coffee and even lunch!

A very good day today. RM seems to be the place to be at the moment.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Amwell Nature Reserve - 4th November 13

Weather: Sunny, blue skies. Slight cloud later. Cold wind.

Birds Total: 39
Plus: Common Darter Dragonfly.
Plus: Caddis Fly; Hornet's Nest.

It was a fine, sunny day, albeit with a cold wind. And today it was Amwell's turn for a visit. The journey down by train was slow and deliberate, due to the recent rains with flooding a problem. But the flood waters proved very fruitful for the birds. Among the many Gulls and Geese were a pair of Little Egrets and a Grey Heron fishing among the many small, newly created ponds.

And on the trail upto the Reserve there was more evidence of last week's storm. Trees, branches and debris were scattered all along the trail. But today there was no storm, only blue skies. On the walk up there were over 20 Canada Geese with Blackbird; Dunnock and Robin all singing a welcome.

I arrived at the main viewing point to find quite a few people already there. Most of them were familiar faces. There were plenty of birds on view, mainly Gulls and Coots. There were a fair sprinkling of Gadwall; Tufted Duck and Cormorant. Plus 3 Great Crested Grebes; a lone Little Grebe; 4 Grey Herons; a
lone Wigeon; over a dozen Shoveler; a couple of Pochard; 10 Snipe and around 35 Lapwing. The skies gave up a Buzzard; a Kestrel and a Red Kite. I spent about an hour here enjoying the view and the birds. Before I moved off I also spotted a Jay flying over; a Pheasant near the White Hide and the only
dragonfly I found all day, a Common Darter between viewing points.

At the James Hide there didn't seem to be much about at first, only a lone Moorhen hoovering up the remnants of the feeders, which had now risen to 4; 2 Blue Tits on the feeders and another Buzzard in the sky. Not long afterwards a Robin turned up and I watched as it puffed itself up every few minutes, trying to
keep warm. A lone Dunnock also appeared and there was another Jay flyover, while the Buzzard count rose to 6, all gliding the thermals in the distant sky over the far tree-line. I decided to persevere a while longer and eventually I was rewarded by a Kingfisher flying in and landing on a stick just in front of the
Hide. It was a bit too quick for a photo but it was the first time I have seen one from this Hide.

On the trail around to the White Hide I stopped off to see how the Hornet's nest was doing. There was only one Hornet on guard duty. Maybe the rest were having a nap.

There wasn't a great deal of difference looking out from the White Hide over Great Hardmead Lake other than a Little Egret foraging, shaking its feet in the water. There were about half-a-dozen people in here too. More familiar faces. I didn't spend too long here but just before I left the Little Egret count rose to 3 and there were also about 5 or 6 more Wigeon out there.

I headed off to visit the twin lagoons to see if there were any Dragons about, but I couldn't find any. The lone Darter I saw earlier will probably be the last one of the season. So I walked down to Tumbling Bay Lake which also proved to be just as fruitless. Although on the walk back I did hear a Green Woodpecker.

I then found myself back at the James Hide, where I had just sat down when the Kingfisher flew in again and landed on the same stick, posed for a few seconds then flew off again before I could aim the camera. So I settled in to see if it would come back. After about 20 minutes it did return but just flew past from right to left, its' turquoise and orange plumage shining in the sunshine. But at least I saw one. Other than that Great and Blue Tits turned up to the feeders as did a flock of LTTs. A little Wren also appeared out in the open and gave a quick, explosive rendition. For a little bird it has a loud voice.

It was high time I also visited the Gladwin Hide as I hadn't been down there in a while. The other reason was that a Goldeneye had been seen today. But not by me unfortunately. Amazingly though, there were over 200 LBBGs around the lake. And on the way back to the viewing area a Kestrel flew in and landed on a tree beside the trail. But it was a bit too dark now for a photo.

I had a quick look around the lake again before heading off. Another good day out.