Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Amwell Nature Reserve - 9th December 13

Weather: Cloudy and overcast for most of the day. Slight sunshine.

Birds Total: 47
Plus: Harlequin Ladybird; Konik Pony; Muntjac; Rabbit.

Well I finally managed to get a day out again after having a few problems over the last few weeks. So, with everything sorted out, I believed in the weather forecast for a dry, warm, sunny day out. Well, at least it was dry.

Amwell was next up for a visit and I was keen to see the reported Smew and Goldeneye seen recently. Nothing to report on the way down other than lots of House Sparrows and when I arrived at the viewing point I was greeted by a few familiar faces. Out on Great Hardmead Lake the outstanding bird was a lone drake Pintail. He was sleeping off a late night at first but soon perked up and went for a swim. Unfortunately he swam around the back of the island and I didn't see him again for the rest of the day. Other birds of note seen were 6 GCGs; lots of Wigeon; plenty of Shoveler; a few Teal and Pochard; 60+ Lapwing and a lone Snipe. There were the usual mass of Gulls and Coot with the odd sprinkling of Mute Swans, a couple of them having a difference of opinion.

Just after I had arrived we all heard a squeal behind us somewhere and one of the other guys confidently stated that another rabbit had just been taken by a Stoat. If it was true we couldn't verify it as nothing was seen.

After about an hour here I decided to head down to the Gladwin Hide to try and find the Smew and Goldeneye. The sun had peeped through the clouds at this point and was shining down behind the Hide. I did indeed spot the Smew, a Redhead and 4 of the Goldeneye, one male and three females, all constantly diving. I hung around for about an hour to see if any of them would swim close but I was out of luck.

From here I decided to head to the James Hide to try my luck. Over the course of the next 2 hours or so I spotted a Kingfisher perched up on a branch at the back of the pond; a Little Grebe in the distance; 3 Buzzards screeching high in the sky over the horizon; a Water Rail darting across the recently cut reeds after being spooked by a Moorhen and lots of birds on the, nearly full, feeders. These included loads of Reed Buntings. I also witnessed a territorial dispute between a pair of Wrens. So it was already quite a good day. I then decided to try the ground level to see if I could get any decent shots of the birds on the feeders. But, just as I was about to leave, I spotted a bird at the far end of the newly created channel. Unfortunately it disappeared into the reeds before I could bring my Bins to bear. I got enough of a look to
make my heart skip a beat as I thought it might be a Bittern, but as the memory of it faded I took the size, shape and colour of the bird into account and accepted that it was probably a hen Pheasant.

Just after that a guy walked in and proceeded to fill up the feeders, including the fat ball feeder. He let me know that other feeders had now been put up on a tree just inside the entrance to the Dragonfly Trail so I headed off to have a look.

Just before I got there I bumped into another guy just leaving who had only seen Chaffs and Goldies. But not long after I had arrived I spotted a lone Coal Tit; a pair of GSWs and a flock of Redwing. There were the usual Greats and Blueys among them but I was also pleased to see dozens of Chaffinches and Goldfinchs there too. It's been a while since I saw this number of birds. In fact it was very pleasing to finally see lots of birds in some numbers. I hung around here for another hour before heading back to the viewing point.

I was a bit dubious about a visit out today because of the poor light but I was glad I made the effort as it turned out to be a very rewarding day. Unfortunately, at this time of year the short day made me head for home earlier than I would have liked. But it was great to finally be out and about again with my camera and to finally manage a few photos or too.