Saturday, 26 April 2014

Amwell Nature Reserve - 16th April 14

Weather: Warm and sunny all day, cold wind.

Birds Total: 50
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Rabbit.
Plus: Brimstone, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, Speckled Wood Butterflies.
Plus: Bee-fly; Trout; White-tailed Bumble Bee.

Today was my third day out in a row, thanks to the wonderfully sunny weather. Unfortunately it turns overcast for the rest of the week. But it was another brilliant day.

On the walk down the trail to the Reserve I was met by a singing festival. Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Blackbird; Cetti's and Chiffchaff all announcing their presence. Male Blackcaps could also be heard as well as seen, up close. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to hand.

I reached the main viewpoint to find a few people already present, a couple of which I recognised. Out on Great Hardmead Lake there were 3 Little Ringed Plovers; several Lapwings; 3 Redshank; a pair of Snipe; 5 Shoveler and a lone Wigeon. Although it was very sunny with little cloud there was a very cold wind blowing in off the lake so I didn't hang around there as much as I would have liked.

I headed down to the Gladwin Hide. On the way I spotted a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly fighting against the wind. The Bluebells were still growing just outside the Hide. Looking out from the Hide itself I could see 5 Great Crested Grebes out to the left. 6 Greylag Geese were swimming around, in amongst Canadas; Coots; Tufties and Pochard. A Peacock butterfly flew past, also fighting the strong wind. The clear skies and strong winds were obviously beneficial to the Buzzards as I could see 5 of them over the horizon. A Grey Heron flew lazily past from right to left, towards the Cormorant Roost.

On the walk back I could hear Reed and Sedge Warbler singing. An Orange Tip butterfly danced its way past me. When I reached the mini viewing point to look out 2 LRPs took off when they spotted me. There was also a Little Egret nearby who didn't spot me. It got progressively closer and eventually I managed to get a few shots of it, before it too spotted me and flew off.

Just before I reached the James Hide I could see a Jay foraging on the track. I tried to creep closer but it inevitably saw me and flew off. Chiffchaffs were sounding off all around me. A lone Long-tailed Tit flew past, calling out for its buddies.

I sat down in the upper tier of the Hide and found that Phil the Pheasant was again present, again hoovering up the spilt seeds. This time he had brought one of his girlfriends with him. The feeders were quite full but only a male Reed Bunting was taking advantage of them. Then I spotted a Grey Heron to the right of the Hide, quite close. But before I could bring my camera to bear it took off and landed on the tree stump at the back of the lagoon. A Cetti's Warbler sounded off to the left of the Hide, while a Canada Goose was still sitting on its nest. A Moorhen could be seen in the stream to the right and it had a couple of youngsters with it.

Then I could hear another Cetti's Warbler out to the right, behind the feeders. Surprisingly this time it not only appeared but flew up onto a nearby branch and posed for me! At first it was in shadow and flew off. It soon returned and this time posed in the sun. Fantastic!

I then walked down to the White Hide. On the trail down I was attacked by thousands of midges. There were swarms of them.

Looking out from the Hide I could now see at least 5 Redshank around the area. A Snipe then flew in and landed quite close for a few minutes before being scared off by a couple of Coot. A Lapwing was also quite close and was dodging in and out of the clumps of grass. A Great Crested Grebe was out to the right while the 3 LRPs had now transferred over to the island in front. Then an Oystercatcher peeped its arrival and landed about 30 meters from the Hide. This was soon followed by a lone Green Sandpiper. They were great to see but unfortunately they didn't get any closer.

On the return I found 3 Dock Bugs, with 2 of them making little Dock Bugs. Another Jay flew over. I then headed down to the Dragonfly Trail entrance by way of the twin lagoons. A Brimstone butterfly rushed by. While I watching looking for the singing Blackcaps here a Speckled Wood butterfly flew in. It was too quick for a photo, though. I spotted more Bluebells in the woods on the walk up.

Then a volunteer I knew from Rye Meads turned up. He was heading for the James Hide, so I said I would meet him there later.

At the Trail entrance I looked up at the tree which held the feeders to see if the Green Woodpecker was around. I had heard it just before I arrived and, sure enough, there it was, on the same branch as last week. The only other things present were a hen Pheasant and a couple of rabbits.

On the walk back, just before the bridge, I managed to see a couple of Bee-flys; a female Orange Tip; a Green-veined White and a Speckled Wood all delightfully posing for me. At the bridge I met a couple of guys looking at some fish, which we learned were Trout. A fish expert I am not. Further on a Goldfinch flew past. Then another male Blackcap posed for one photo before flying off.

Just before I got back to the James Hide a Small White butterfly flew past, bringing the count upto 7. I sat down in the lower tier of the Hide and a little later I was joined by my friend. We watched a pair of Gadwall feeding in the sunshine. Another Grey Heron landed in front but was soon chased off by a Canada Goose. A pair of Buzzards could be seen flying quite close, but high up. Birds came and went on the feeders. Phil the Pheasant soon returned with his girlfriend in tow, screeching out every few minutes.

I decided to walk back to the main viewing point. Additions here were a lone Pied Wagtail; 4 Teal and the first Common Tern of the season.

Time to call it a day. On the walk back to the Station an Oystercatcher flew past, singing out his farewell to me. Another brilliant day out!

To see more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 15th April 14

Weather: Sunny and warm all day. Slight breeze.

Birds Total: 41
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac; Red-eared Terrapin; various Bees. Midges.
Plus: Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies.

It was another lovely sunny day again today. The prolonged high pressure system above the country hung around happily for another day.

The visit started slowly and quietly but gradually built up over the day. From the Teal Hide looking out over Hall Marsh Scrape the only things of note was a lone Lapwing and a Little Egret. A Grey Heron flew over, landing briefly. I could hear the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A couple of Buzzards could be seen high in the sky, quite far away.

It was only just past ten in the morning but there was already a heat haze. Chiffchaffs and Cetti's Warblers were singing away, seemingly everywhere around me. I could see a pair of Muntjac by the fence-line from the standing Hide. A Song Thrush was singing out. It's amazing what a little bit of sunshine can do!

Starting on the trail the first pair of Great Crested Grebes turned up. I just missed a shot of one swallowing a fish. A quick look out over Friday Lake provided just one more GCG and a pair of Coots. It was fairly quiet so far. Another Chiffchaff sang out and then I spotted it in the trees. But it stayed high up, flying from branch to branch.

Then I spotted my first butterfly of the day, a Green-veined White. I was about to follow it to see if it would settle when I heard some commotion going on behind me, involving 3 Greylag Geese, which went on for a few minutes. The first of many Orange Tip and Peacock butterflies flew past as I carried on.

When I reached the Hooks Marsh car-park a Jay was seen flying over. On the walk upto the Bittern Hide, along the relief channel another GCG could be seen, swimming past a Coot on a nest. Then I spotted a Red-eared Terrapin sunning itself atop a dead log in the middle of the channel. This was the first time I had seen one of these in the Lee Valley. Also known as a Red-eared Slider, it is the most commonest pet turtle in the world. But because of releases or escapes it has become an invasive species in many areas, where it out-competes native species. In short, bad news.

I spent about an hour or so in the Bittern Hide. A few people came and went.  One woman with two small children came in. One of the children asked what birds were outside. Her mother, with a perfectly straight face, replied 'There are 2 types of bird here, one type is black while the other isn't.' I had to bite my hand.

It was another slow start but soon picked up. Out over the Lake I could see an Egyptian Goose. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly fluttered by. A female Reed Bunting flew in and posed on the reeds. A little later a Grey Heron flew in to one of the reed channels. Then a female Mallard swam in with 11 little ducklings in tow. Cute. Then 2 more Muntjac turned up on the other side of the pond to the right. And, just before I left, I heard, then spotted 2 Oystercatchers flying a couple of circuits around the Lake before heading off.

I then headed off to the trail for the Grebe Hide. At the bridge another GCG swam in close for a few shots, although it kept a wary red eye on me. Then another birder I had met before walked part of the way, to the Weir, with me. On the walk up there were more butterfly sightings and while a pair of Jays flew noisily over us. Lots of Jackdaws flew overhead, while on the lagoon across the relief channel I could see at least 3 Teal.

Just before reaching the Hide I had to negotiate a large fallen tree across the trail. Some Park Rangers were about to attempt to remove it. Best of luck, I thought.

It was again fairly quiet looking out over Holyfield Lake from the Grebe Hide. The main reason being there were people floating around the lake in dinghies and yachts, moving all the birds around the lake on a regular basis. Ignoring them I did in fact count nearly 20 GCGs out there, mainly in pairs, with at least one pair in courtship dancing mode. All the usual suspects were in evidence around the area. Just before I left a Grey Heron flew past, mobbed by BHGs and then a Green Woodpecker sounded off.

Outside the Hide, on the return journey, I spotted a male Blackcap. Then I thought I spotted what looked like a pair of May-flys flutter past. A bit early? Lots of Pollen was already floating about too, so maybe.....

Just past the Weir another Jay flew past and landed on the tree. It flew off before I could get closer. There was a screech of a Pheasant somewhere in the distance. And just before I reached the bridge I spotted another Blackcap, this time a lovely female.

I spent another hour in the Bittern Hide. The Mallard ducklings re-appeared several times, delighting everyone in the Hide. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in and landed on the tree to the left of the Hide. It was starting to get really hot now, especially in the Hide. I was down to shirtsleeves. Another Cetti's Warbler flew in and teased me by flying in and around the reeds. Then one of the Oystercatchers could be seen on the island over the lake.

I decided to call it a day and headed back. On the trail I spotted yet another Jay fly over. And at Hooks Marsh car-park there were 3 sets of Greylag Geese families, again delighting all the human families present.

Another great day!

To see more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Rye Meads - 14th April 14

Weather: Mixture of sun and clouds. Cold breeze.

Birds Total: 46
Plus: Common Blue, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Peacock butterflies. Bee-fly.

I had intended to visit Fishers Green today, but a couple of things made me decide to head for RM instead. Not the least of which was that a pair of Garganey had arrived on the Reserve.

It was forecast to be a bright sunny day, with a few clouds. It was sunny, but there were clouds aplenty, with quite a cold breeze. Good enough to dress down but not enough to persuade me to use sun block.

Whilst waiting for the train down I spotted what was probably the same Sparrowhawk swooping over, this time a lot lower and a lot closer. I could also hear the call of a lone Long-tailed Tit in the trees behind me.

I soon found myself on the boardwalk adjacent to the HMWT meadow. Looking out all I could see was a fleeting glimpse of a Little Egret and a pair of Lapwings. There were plenty of birds singing - mainly Cetti's Warbler, but I could also hear Wren; Robin; Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Although they remained stubbornly hidden from view.

Looking out from the Draper Hide there didn't seem to be too much about at first. But scanning from right to left I soon spotted 3 Snipe; 3 Lapwing; 3 Shelduck; a pair of Teal and, best of all, a pair of summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwits. They were all surrounded by lots of Black-headed Gulls; Coots; Moorhen; Gadwall and Canada Geese. A lone Little Grebe swam past right in front of the Hide. There were also 2 pairs of Stock Doves around, a pair of which were still using one of the Owl Boxes. I guess the owls aren't too bothered.

A few people came and went, including some happy families. I hung around a bit hoping to get better views of the BlackWits. Eventually the BHGs were put up, possibly by an aircraft overhead and this sent up the BlackWits as well. They all landed back down with the BlackWits landing a little closer to the Hide, giving much better views. They looked fantastic in their summer plumage. But they were being spooked every now and then by Lapwings and Moorhens.

Although the Scrape looked much more extensive than before, a lot of work had obviously been done, the water levels were still quite high. The vegetation also needs to grow back a little bit more. The new Kingfisher hotel looks to be nearly finished but no one looks to have checked in yet.

On the trail more birds were joining the sing-a-long. I could hear my first Sedge Warbler mixed in with Cetti's and Blackcap. I reached the area where the twin hides were and looked out over the lagoon opposite. This was where the Garganey had been reported. A few other people were also there and we all scanned, fruitlessly, for the birds. All I could see were a few Pochard; Coot and a female Mallard, who had at least 4 little ducklings with her.

I checked into the Gadwall Hide but found the water level here even higher than at the Draper. Only Gulls and Ducks; Coots and Geese were around. A pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were in amongst the BHGs. From the Tern Hide it was pretty much the same, with Tufted Duck; Coot; Gadwall being outnumbered by BHGs, who were all vying for position on the Tern rafts. A lone Little Grebe was the only other bird in view.

I had another look out over the lagoon again and this time I spotted the Garganey. They were half-hidden in amongst the reeds at the back, both asleep. But the male was very recognisable, his broad white stripe above and behind the eye giving him away.

Butterflies had started to appear, especially when the wind dropped. Mainly Peacocks and Orange Tips, but I did see at least one Green-veined White and a Common Blue. I spotted yet another Bee-fly, just before I arrived at the Warbler Hide.

But before that I visited the Kingfisher Hide. I spent about an hour here, in company with about half-a-dozen other people. Between us we spotted a pair of mating Great Spotted Woodpeckers; a delightfully posing Wren; a male Blackcap; a fly-by Kestrel and a female Reed Bunting. The resident pair of Kingfishers eventually made an appearance, on the nearby posts. The first batch of eggs had been laid so it won't be long before the feeding frenzy starts up.

On the trail down to the Warbler Hide, apart from the Bee-fly, I could hear and see Long-tailed Tits; more Blackcaps including at least one female and more singing Chiffchaffs.

There wasn't much to see at first from the Hide itself. A lone male Reed Bunting was balancing on the reeds. The Lapwing were still flying around the meadow, as was the Little Egret and there was a Coot sitting on a nest in front of the Hide. A little later I started to hear more Sedge Warblers, joined by a few Reed Warblers. Then I spotted a Kestrel fly over, which was soon joined by a second. As I was looking at them I could see a Buzzard in the background. Also flying past, in the distance, were lots of Sand Martins. Then a pair of Grey Herons flew over, from right to left.

I started on the return journey, seeing another Sedge Warbler and then another Blackcap. Nothing much else to report other than another 3 Shelduck from the Gadwall Hide. The Garganey hadn't moved an inch since I last saw them and I eventually ended up at the Draper Hide to see if the BlackWits would get any closer. They didn't, so I called it a day.

It was a good decision to come down to RM, because of the Garganey, but the BlackWits were a bonus. The only downer were the trains, bad journeys in both directions.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Amwell Nature Reserve - 9th April 14

Weather: Warm and sunny all day, slight breeze.

Birds Total: 45
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac; Rabbit; Weasel.
Plus: Brimstone, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, Speckled Wood Butterflies.
Plus: 7-spot & 16-spot Ladybirds; Bee-fly; Alderfly; White-tailed Bumble Bee;
Plus: Bluebells.

Today was a gloriously sunny, warm day, with hardly a cloud in the sky. There was a slightly cool breeze early on but it wasn't too noticeable and certainly not as strong as yesterday at Rainham Marshes.

The day started out really well. Waiting for a train I spied a Buzzard high above me and then a Sparrowhawk flashed past, ducking and diving. On the journey down a Little Egret was seen close to the tracks.

On the trail to the Reserve the wheezy call of a Greenfinch could be heard and a couple of Goldfinches flew over. And, right beside the tracks to the left, a Muntjac could be seen. 7-spot Ladybirds were plentiful in number along the track and there was also one 16-spot Ladybird as well. A Speckled Wood butterfly flew past me and I could hear a Pheasant screeching out in the distance.

Some of the usual faces were at the main viewing point when I arrived. Out on the lake I could see 1 Great Crested Grebe; 3 Little Egrets; 4 Grey Herons; a pair of Little Ringed Plovers; several Lapwing; 4 Redshank and a pair of Snipe. Cetti's Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing all around us. A few Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies all flew by.

I then moved down to other viewpoint where both LRPs moved to within photo distance. It was here that I finally met a fellow Blogger, Seymouraves. The Reserve Manager, Jenny Sherwin, also turned up, releasing a few Sheep into the paddock.

I headed down to the Gladwin Hide. From here I could see a pair of Goldeneye; another GCG; Pochard and a few Greylag Geese. A Little Egret flew past from right to left. Just outside the Hide Bluebells were in full bloom. Another example of the good, early weather.

I looked over to the small island in front of the Hide and I could just make out at least one Oystercatcher. A little further on a male Reed Bunting was atop a tree and singing away. Then a Bee-fly made an appearance, landing in front of me.

After a quick stop at the viewing point I moved down the trail towards the James Hide. On the way I heard, then spotted, another Cetti's Warbler. Unfortunately it proved elusive in amongst the shrubs and branches and was eventually chased off by a Wren.

I settled in to the upper level of the Hide and could already see a few Tits and Finches on the feeders. Phil the Pheasant was already hoovering up the spillage and screeching out every few minutes. A Buzzard could be seen high over the horizon. Then a Grey Heron flew past from right to left. The first of many Orange Tip butterflies then appeared, fluttering by the Hide.

Then, looking out towards the left-hand reed channel, a pair of Reed Buntings were looking and sounding agitated. As I looked through my Bins I spotted yet another Weasel swim across the channel and disappear into the reed-bed. I was astounded - that made 3 sightings in nearly as many weeks.

Yet another Cetti's was seen to the left, while a pair of Canada Geese had created a nest in the reed-bed. They had better watch out for that Weasel! The male swam around the pond, scaring off a pair of Gadwall. A pair of Reed Buntings flew in and landed on the feeders. As did a pair of Long-tailed Tits. A few Caddis Flies also flew in. Another Brimstone fluttered past.

After lunch I moved around to the White Hide, spooking a Little Egret. Just before I reached the Hide a White-tailed Bumble Bee appeared. There was quite a bit of Bee activity around the Reserve today. Nice to see.

When I arrived at the Hide a family were already there. Unfortunately, they were quite noisy and had scared away all the birds from just outside the Hide. But, fortunately, they soon left. And the birds started to return. The first of which, a lovely Redshank, walked up quite close to the Hide, giving me some great views and photo opportunities. As did a lovely Lapwing. There was also some Pheasant action out to the left, a male trying to please two females. After that particular show it was no surprise to see a pair of rabbits out to the right!

I then found myself looking out over the Bittern Pool. Toward the back I could see a pair of Coots and then I spotted at least 4 little Cootlets! The first of the season's youngsters.

I was going to stop off and have a quick look at the twin lagoons but a woman was just leaving with her dog, which had been having a bath. At the entrance to the Dragonfly Trail I was just in time to see a Green Woodpecker fly in. I then heard the call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. There were more butterflies flying around and then I spied a pair of Buzzards high in the sky.

Back along the trail I witnessed a Song Thrush bashing a snail against a rock before devouring it. A little ways on a Grey Squirrel made an appearance. At the twin lagoons I heard the call of another Buzzard and looked up to see two of them, quite low and flying over me. I was hoping they didn't think I was their next meal.

Further along the trail a pair of LTTs flew by, calling to each other. Another Chiffchaff was singing and I could just see it moving about the trees. I then walked into another cloud of midges, which seemed to have finally arrived at Amwell.

Back at the main viewing point an Oystercatcher could be seen in amongst all the Black-headed Gulls. Then a pair of Redshank looked as if they were about get it together, but the male took too long and the female flew off. The male Redshank then posed on a post for me, giving me more photo opportunities.

It was another really great day, made better by the lovely weather.

To see more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.