Birds Total: 44
Plus: Muntjac; Weasel.
Plus: Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Small White Butterflies; various Bees. Midges.
Well, I thought yesterday's visit to Amwell was pretty good, but today was in fact just as good.
On the walk down to the Teal Hide I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a dawn chorus. Wren, Robin, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff and various Tits and Finches, all singing away. I spied a Magpie nest in the tree just as I entered the trail, which might be worth following up in the future. When I arrived at Friday Lake it was fairly quiet, with only one Great Crested Grebe on show. There were various Tufties, Gulls and Coot around as well.
I avoided all the litter and rubbish people has left behind in the Teal Hide and looked out over the scrape. All the shutters were left open and there was a slight breeze coming in. Outside I could see 2 Little Egrets; 2 Mute Swans; 2 Greylag Geese; Coots; and several Canada Geese. A lone Lapwing was buzzing a pair of Carrion Crows. I also witnessed a menage-a-trois of Gadwall chasing each other around the lagoon, obviously over the female. Well, it is April.
There wasn't much happening and I was considering moving on. But, just as I thinking that, a Weasel suddenly appeared to the left of the Hide, hopping past and into the area behind the Hide. I quickly grabbed my Camera and exited the Hide. A few minutes later it appeared, sat on a log and posed for me. I accepted the invitation and started snapping away. It froze and was obviously wondering where the clicking was coming from. It looked very confused but just hopped away. I was elated! I thought the one I saw at Amwell the other week would be a once in a lifetime sighting but to see another and to get some photos was fantastic. It was already a wonderful day out.
Outside the Hide, on the scrape, things were also starting to pick up. A third Little Egret had flown in; a pair of Wigeon could be seen out to the right, in amongst a few Gadwall; I could hear Green Woodpecker and Cetti's Warbler and a few Teal also swam into view. I also noticed that the scrape area to the right of the Hide was drier than the last visit but the water level on the lagoon to the left was noticeably higher.
I moved on. Just as I reached the standing Hide I noticed that all the trees that once hid the Scrape had been chopped down. Or 'coppiced'. Habitat loss? But then a pair of Reed Buntings flew in and landed on one of the stumps. I guess they didn't seem to mind.
Moving further on I spotted the first of many Peacock butterflies today. A Grey Heron did a flypast, squawking away. A little further on another Grey Heron was stood posing just over the stream and, for once, it didn't fly off when it saw me. Another Chiffchaff could be heard singing, in fact there were quite a few Chiffies all around the Reserve today and there weren't many times when I didn't hear one.
There were a great deal more midge clouds today than at Amwell yesterday and, because I was looking around, I kept walking into them. Great Spotted Woodpeckers could be heard, calling out and drumming. Every now and then I spotted a GCG on the lagoons, usually in amongst the Tufties, Geese and Coots.
Then another Chiffchaff could be heard, very near. I stopped and looked around and then found it, low down on the branches on the tree opposite, just over the stream. I was delighted to see it start posing, in between constantly hopping about . It was also constantly singing its' 'hueet' call. Then I heard another, just as close, singing out its' name. They seemed to be a pair and proceeded to entertain me, dancing about the branches.
Out on the lake I discovered the reason for the absence of birds. A couple of guys in a small boat were sailing around. Any birds that were around were swimming rapidly away. Then I spotted another Grey Heron just over the stream, who also stayed in place as I got closer. Then it pounced and came up with a fish, which rapidly disappeared down its' throat.
Just before I reached the main path I heard my first Blackcap of the year. I was having a really good day! I was then standing on the bridge looking out when I heard a commotion down the trail, behind me. The first of 3 large parties of schoolchildren were heading towards me. I hurried on, trying to escape.
I reached the trail that took me towards the Bittern Hide. It had clouded over a bit but was still quite warm, with a slight breeze. A lot more coppicing was in evidence along here, with log piles and wood shavings every 25 metres or so. Long-tailed Tits were seen picking their way past. I passed the feeding area and figured that the waiting birds would be very pleased to see the children arrive as they would almost certainly have breadcrumbs with them.
I entered the Hide to find another large party of children already in place. There was lots of chatter but they weren't altogether too noisy. All had little clipboards and there were a couple of LVRP guys with them. I was surprised to see that the noise hadn't scared off the birds. There were pairs of Mallards; Canada Geese; Gadwall and Mute Swans just outside, with Tits and Finches on the feeders. Breadcrumbs anyone? After about 10 minutes they all left and I was on my own. On the Lake, apart from all the usual suspects, there was a lone Egyptian Goose, fast asleep on the far shore. It must have been a teenager. A Little Grebe appeared in the left-hand reed channel. Then a squabble broke out between the Geese and the Swans. Surprisingly, the Geese won and chased the Swans off. I broke for lunch.
Afterwards, just before I walked over the first bridge I spotted the Egyptian Goose in the channel, quite close. I managed to get a few photos, whilst a 3rd group of schoolchildren walked past, heading for the picnic area.
Just as I entered the trail to the Grebe Hide I heard, then spotted, a pair of noisy Jays, which then flew over the relief channel. Soon after I spotted a Blackcap, a male, who then spotted me and flew off before I could raise the camera. More Peacock butterflies appeared, some dancing around each other. Then a Comma appeared but didn't settle. More Chiffchaffs were singing. Another Green Woodpecker sang out. Then a drake Goosander flew over me and down the channel. More dog-walkers walked past, reminding me to look where I stepped.
I looked out over the channel to the lagoon and spotted Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon. Further back at the farm, on the roof of a barn, instead of Jackdaws, there were scores of Woodpigeons, which all suddenly took off and flew around. I didn't see what put them up. The farm was also probably the cause of the smell of freshly laid silage. What a pen and ink! I quickly hurried on.
There was again nothing of note on the Weir. But, just past the Weir, on the trail, a buck Muntjac was just standing around. He lazily looked at me, ignored me for a few moments, before slowly walking off into the forest.
I reached the Grebe Hide to find it empty. Out on the lake I eventually counted 8 GCGs and 6 Wigeon. Tufties; Geese; Gulls and Coot plus a few Pochard were also about. I didn't spend too long, but just before I left a pair of Kingfishers flashed past, left to right.
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Just outside the Hide, on the walk back, a GSW could be heard drumming. Out on the lake I witnessed a pair of GCGs mating. Did I mention it was April? Just before I reached the Weir I spotted another male Blackcap. Then a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly flew in and landed just in front of me. Then a Small White did the same. There was a screech of a Pheasant in the distance.
I spent another 40 minutes back in the Bittern Hide, thankfully there was no sign of any parties. But I was starting to flag a bit by now, so I decided to head for home.
For most of the walk back to the exit I was escorted by a lone GCG, which allowed me to get close for a few photos. Then, just before the exit to the car-park, I witnessed what could be loosely termed as a 'Mallard Molestation' of a lone female by 4 or 5 males. It looked quite brutal as Mallard matings can be. In fact when the female managed to escape she looked to have an injured leg.
And, finally, just before I packed my gear away, I spotted another pair of male Blackcaps.
All in all, a fantastic day out.
To see more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.