Thursday, 25 December 2014

Top Day's Birding!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 8th December 14

Weather: Sunny blue skies, slight cloud. Very cold.

Bird Total: 49

After the excitement, this morning, of seeing the Rough-legged Buzzard at Braughing, I decided to head down to Amwell for a few hours.

The sun was still shining and I was still buzzing from seeing the Buzzard. It was still quite cold out but I was all layered up and armed with a flask of coffee.

On the train down I managed to spot Harry the Heron, in his usual place. And on the walk up to the Reserve there were plenty of birds flying around the trees, which were now completely devoid of leaves.

There was only one other guy at the Watchpoint. And looking out I could see well over a hundred Lapwing; a couple of Grey Herons; a pair of Goldeneye; quite a few Great Crested Grebes; lots of Gull species again plus the usual wildfowl. Close to the Watchpoint a Robin was gratefully feeding on some crumbs that some thoughtful person had left. There were also a few Goldfinches around the area.

I decided not to pay a visit to the Gladwin Hide as I could already see Goldeneye around the area. So, instead, I headed straight for the James Hide. Time was also getting on, it was already past midday and there would only be around 3 or 4 hours of daylight left.

The upper tier repairs had been completed but I opted to sit down in the lower tier again. One other guy was already in there and was sitting on the right-hand side, adjacent to the feeders. The best seat in the house. He hadn't seen anything worthwhile and was still waiting for the Kingfisher to show up.

I sat there for about 10 minutes before deciding to go upstairs. It may have been repaired but the door still needed fixing, so I wedged it closed with a little stick. Maybe it had been left for just this purpose.

The feeders were again doing plenty of good business, with Tits and Finches and Buntings all awaiting their turn to feed. Robins and Dunnocks were also around. A Jay flew past and out over the lake, looking like it was busy on some errand. A Little Grebe could be seen swimming past the channel opening. Then, to my delight, a Marsh Tit announced its' arrival and duly flew in a few seconds later, also waiting patiently for its' turn on the feeders.

I spent a good few minutes here trying to photograph it. But it would only land on the feeder itself and then sit behind a little branch. Still, it was good to see. I paused for lunch and some badly needed hot coffee.

I then headed down to the other feeders, located just inside the Dragonfly Trail. On the way plenty of birds appeared. First up was a Bullfinch, which flew past from right to left. Then a party of Long-tailed Tits chattered past, high in the branches. They were escorted by another Marsh Tit and a couple of Goldcrests. I did try and photograph the Goldcrest, but it was much to quick for me.

Then, high up in the sky, obviously trying not to be outdone by this mornings' events, a couple of Common Buzzards could be heard screeching out their song. They duly appeared, flying past high above me, one chasing the other.

Further along the trail, looking out over Hollycross Lake, a Kestrel flew past, right to left and then disappeared behind the trees. Then I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker but couldn't locate it. The breeze had now picked up a bit around here and it was blowing a fierce, biting wind which was starting to chill me. I needed some more hot coffee.

When I arrived at the entrance to the trail I was disappointed to see that the feeders were empty and that nothing could be seen around the area. So I headed back, seeing several Redwing and Fieldfare on the way.

I made my way around to the White Hide. There were two people in this Hide and they helpfully pointed out a pair of Common Snipe, on the island just in front of us. I could also see a pair of Little Egrets out to the left, feeding along the edges.

With the bright, low sun in my eyes I decided to head back to the James Hide. Just as I arrived and sat down in the lower tier I spotted a shadow on the lagoon and looked up to see a Kingfisher had arrived and had perched on the outer stick, in the middle of the lagoon. I took a few quick snaps and then, amazingly it then flew closer to the Hide and perched on the nearer stick. Cue more snaps.

Unfortunately, by this time, the sun was going down and, although I was getting some good, close-up shots, they proved to be a little grainy. Still, never mind. It was turning out to be a really good day's birding. The appearance of the KF was one of those lucky moments.

It was a juvenile male and when he departed the feeders opened up for business again. The Marsh Tit made another appearance, as did plenty of Reed Buntings. A party of LTTs again arrived, chattering away and all crowded the feeders. Greats and Blueys were flying in and out; a pair of Robins eyed each other up; a pair of Dunnocks chased each other through the lower branches and even a male Chaffinch gave me a pose. Then a Water Rail squealed out, but stubbornly remained hidden. It was all happening!

It was starting to get really dark now and so I headed back to the Watchpoint. Unusually the evening crowd didn't make an appearance so there was no one to point out the rare Gulls. I tried but there were birds flying in every few seconds. I looked through my Bins over the lake and must have seen well over a thousand Gulls floating out there, with even more flying in. I picked out the 5 species I did know before heading home.

Top day's birding!