Thursday, 20 March 2014

Amwell Nature Reserve - 14th March 14

Weather: Foggy early on making way for warm sunshine.

Birds seen:Total: 50
Plus: Muntjac.
Plus: Tortoiseshell Butterfly.

Today I met up with a couple of friends, Tony and Shane.
Shane met me at the train station just before 9 and we made the short drive down to the Reserve. Tony arrived around an hour later because of traffic problems.

When we arrived at the main viewing point the fog was still present, with visibility down to around 30 meters. We hung around there for about 20 minutes before deciding to move on to the James Hide. But we did manage to see a lone Redshank; a Sparrowhawk; a Pheasant right in front of us and a Great Crested Grebe. Lapwing; Shoveler and Teal were also in evidence.

We arrived at the James Hide finding 2 other guys already in place who pointed out a pair of Kingfishers perched up at the back of the pond. They proceeded to entertain us for around 15 minutes before flying off. One of them came and perched up quite close to the Hide. At the same time a Sparrowhawk, possibly the same one as earlier, flew in and landed in the reed-bed channel and then hopped even closer. A Grey Heron also flew in and was keen to find out what the Sparrowhawk was hunting. The Sprawk was soon scared off as was the Heron when another Grey Heron flew over. Out on the pond a lone, juvenile Little Grebe was constantly dipping; a few Teal were around and then we heard, then spotted a Cetti's Warbler which eventually came as close as the feeders before flying off.

On the Feeders themselves were the usual gang - Reed Buntings galore; Tits and Finches with Dunnock and Robin joining in. In the distance a Green Woodpecker sounded off. Then Shane spotted a pair of Jay perched up on a tree at the back. A pair Little Egrets flew over, then a male Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in, debated whether to attack the peanut feeder, before flying off. I then witnessed a Great Tit catch and butcher a Bee. All this within the first 15 minutes!

Tony then rang to say that he had arrived and so we walked back up to the viewing point to meet him. With all this excitement I forgot to bring my bag with me and hurried back to retrieve it. Thankfully it was still there.

We quickly appraised Tony of what had happened so far - 'You should have been here earlier!' - and then pointed out the Redshank and Wigeon that could be seen. There were about half-a-dozen Lapwing and another pair of Little Egrets out on the island.

From here we walked down to the Gladwin Hide, to try and locate the Smew and Goldeneye. Unfortunately it looked as if the Smew had departed but we did see a male and 2 female Goldeneye. A pair of Great Crested Grebes were also present as were more Wigeon.

But I think we were eager to get back to the James Hide to see if the excitement would continue. On the way Shane spotted a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly on the ground, allowing us a few photos.

The visit to the James didn't prove as exciting as earlier but we still managed to see Kingfisher; Sparrowhawk; Cetti's Warbler and Little Grebe.

Moving on down the trail towards the Dragonfly Trail area we managed to spot Buzzards and Little Egrets flying overhead. Sadly the feeders at the Trail were empty so we didn't spend too long down there and decided to head back and visit the White Hide. We did stop at the Bittern Pool but had no luck either time. But, just as we approached the gate leading to the White Hide, we did spot a pair of Bullfinches fly in and land on a nearby tree, giving some great views.

We passed a lady on the way who mentioned that a Bittern was seen. When we got to the Hide some other people were just leaving. Unfortunately the Bittern did not show itself. We broke for lunch. Outside on the Lake we saw, other than the usual fare, more Little Egrets, six in all; another Great Crested Grebe which swam up close and also heard the pig-like squeal of a Water Rail. Then the guys spotted a female Muntjac just outside the Hide.

With nothing much else happening we decided to head back to the James to try and get some photos of the Kingfishers. We had tried earlier but the fog had thwarted us. Only birds that were seen earlier appeared, sans Kingfisher. Shane decided to call it a day to try and avoid the traffic and bade us farewell.

Tony and I decided to head upstairs to try our luck and after about 10 minutes the Kingfisher duly flew in and perched up in the same place as before. Sadly it didn't fly in as close as earlier.

After an hour we decided to head back to the main viewing point to see if anything else had appeared. Tony then decided to head home. Unfortunately for him, a few minutes later I spotted a pair of Snipe in the reed-bed in front of the Hide, then the Redshank flew back in. A pair of Great Crested Grebes could be seen courting and nest-building to the right.

On the walk back to the station I spotted a pair of Starlings and a lone Collared Dove. All in all, a very good day out.