Thursday, 1 May 2014

Amwell Nature Reserve - 24th April 14

Weather: Mainly cloudy and overcast. Slight rain shower.

Birds Total: 58
Plus: Bank Vole; Muntjac; Rabbit.
Plus: Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies.
Plus: 16-spot Ladybird; Bee-fly; Cercopis vulnerata; Midges; Red-tailed Bumble Bee; Slug; St. Mark's Fly; Trout.
Plus: Bluebells

It was quite a poor week, weather-wise. Today was probably the second-best day, with yesterday being the better day. I chose unwisely. But although it was mostly cloudy and overcast it was still quite warm out. There was also a short, sharp bout of rain in the afternoon.

On the walk down to the Reserve I could see lots of Starlings around, flying back and forth over the canal. I could hear a Song Thrush high in the trees but then a lone Common Tern flying over caught my ears and eyes. Then, just before I reached the main viewing point, I heard, then spotted a Sedge Warbler, balancing precariously high on a reed. As I reached the bridge I could see lots of Black-headed Gull action over the water. There was no immediate or obvious reason.

There were a few people already encamped at the viewing point, some familiar faces amongst them. I picked my spot and scanned the area. First up I spotted a few Orange Tip butterflies fluttering around but they were overwhelmed by lots and lots of St. Mark's Flies, all flying around and settling on the shrubs just in front of me. As its St. Mark's day tomorrow they are right on time. They were flying all around me, legs dangling as they flew.

In and around the reed-beds in front there were Reed and Sedge Warblers singing and displaying. Out to the left, near the James Hide, there were a pair of Muntjac cropping the grass. There were more chicks about today with the first Greylags escorting 7 young. Later on a pair of Canada Geese were teaching around 4 Goslings their first swimming lesson.

Then I could hear a Cuckoo somewhere behind us, over the canal. Everyone looked around the area and then someone shouted out and we all saw it fly over to our left towards the trees in the distance. Unfortunately it didn't stop and disappeared over the horizon.

Out on the Lake, apart from the usual fare, there were a pair of Great Crested Grebes; 5 Grey Herons; a lone Wigeon; 3 Teal; a Little Ringed Plover; around 7 or 8 Lapwing; 4 Redshank; 2 Snipe; 5 Common Terns and the bird of the day, a Ruff, which was right in front of the viewpoint. It had been reported earlier in the week and I was hoping it would still be around. Every time it started to get close one of the Redshank would fly over and scare it off.

I spent about an hour here before moving off towards the Gladwin Hide. The Bluebells were still there, albeit looking a little bedraggled. A few more butterflies were on the wing, including a Small Tortoiseshell.

There wasn't much to see outside the Hide. A pair of Common Terns were flying back and forth, dipping into the water; another pair of GCGs were diving down every few minutes; a few more Reed and Sedge Warblers were singing away, with one Sedgie being particularly showy, high on a nearby bush. A Pheasant was feeding way out to the left of the Hide.

On the walk back I heard a Whitethroat singing. Unfortunately it was obscured by the bushes. But then another one started up a little further down. I waited patiently, being attacked by hundreds of midges, while both of them got closer to each other and was then rewarded by a show and pose by both. A male Blackcap then joined in the sing-a-long and tried to out-pose them.

A Green Woodpecker sang out as I arrived back at the viewing point. The Common Tern count went to 8; an Oystercatcher then flew in and landed on the island; whilst a pair of Swallows flew overhead.

I spent about 30 minutes in the James Hide. 3 other guys were already in there, 2 of which left soon after I arrived. It must be my new aftershave. There were a pair of Buzzards over the horizon; a female Blackcap flew in to my right; lots of Reed Buntings were flying around, the males being very vocal and there were more Reedies and Sedgies about again. Phil the Pheasant was ever present. A Cetti's Warbler was sounding off to the left of the Hide but remained stubbornly hidden; a Mallard was looking after 4 ducklings while a pair of Moorhen was escorting a pair of their own young.

I then decided to move around to the White Hide. Just before I arrived I spotted a Greenbottle on the railing. Strangely it didn't move when I got closer. Then I spotted the reason - it was already dead and held fast by a spider! Very macabre!

There wasn't much to see up close outside the Hide. Further out I could see a Little Egret to the left; several Lapwing were giving a sterling aerial display, while a pair of Redshank flew in and nearly walked up close to the Hide before thinking better of it and flying off. A couple of Stock Doves landed on the island and then an LRP started flying around the island, singing away, probably wondering where its pals were.

Then all the BHGs and a few Lapwing went up with the reason being a Kestrel flying over the lake towards the trees. An Egyptian Goose then flew in and landed in front of the Hide, disturbing a pair of Coots on the nest. It immediately started limping, favouring its left leg.

I then headed down towards the Dragonfly Trail. On the way I heard my first Chiffchaff of the day and then another Song Thrush. They were perched on the same tree, sounding as if they were trying to out-sing each other. More Bee-flies were about and then I saw a 16-spot Ladybird.

There wasn't much to see when I arrived other than rabbits and another Song Thrush. I could hear a GSW drumming somewhere in the tall trees behind me.

Red-and-black Froghopper
It then started to rain so I headed back to the James Hide. This time I entered the lower tier, finding another guy already there. A Buzzard was screeching high in the sky; a Jay flew by followed by a Little Egret and the Mallard and Moorhens were still out front on the pond with their progeny. The Feeders were doing their usual excellent business with a steady stream of customers.

Then a Bank Vole appeared below the feeders, looking to join in the feast. That is, until it was scared off by a Moorhen. Then Phil the Pheasant returned and scared off everyone with its' crowing. It then climbed up onto the tree and posed. A lone Long-tailed Tit flew in but was scared off again by a Magpie, jumping the queue.

Back at the main viewing point a pair of Redshank; the Ruff and a Snipe were altogether and showing quite well in front of us. The Cuckoo sounded off again to the left. A second Snipe could be seen while the Oystercatcher flew in again.

Time had again escaped me, getting on for 6 o'clock. I had done another 8-hour shift. I headed for home.

Bibio anglicus
It was quite a high bird count today with plenty of species of insect about as well. The Dragonfly Trail opens up next week and I can't wait.