Saturday, 31 January 2015

Wildlife and Weather Roundup of 2014 - Part 2.

.....Continued

July:
The month opened with a spell of fine, warm weather and this continued through much of the month although there were some showers and thunderstorms at times. There was a dry, hot spell around mid-month with temperatures reaching 30°C in London and East Anglia. It remained very warm or hot until the last few days, which brought further localised thunderstorms and downpours.


This month was the most productive, with 12 visits. 3 each to Amwell and Rye Meads; a couple to Cheshunt and 2 local visits, one to Sawbridgeworth Marsh and one to HMWT Thorley Wash; another visit to Rainham Marsh and my only visit of the year to the Wetland centre down in Barnes. First up, on the 1st, was a walk around my local SSSI marsh. Although lacking in bird species, it was memorable for lots of Banded Demoiselles, many of which allowed me to get quite close. As did Dock Bug; Scorpion Fly and Spotted Crane Fly. The visits to Amwell this month gave me Oystercatcher; Little Ringed Plover; Common Sandpiper and Garden Warbler. Further down in Cheshunt I saw Swallow; Whitethroat and Blackcap. The Black-necked Grebes continued to thrill visitors to Rye Meads and there were also sightings there of Little Egret; Garganey; Marsh Harrier; Green Sandpiper; Common Snipe and Ring-necked Parakeet, which turned up for the first time. The visit to WWT Barnes was at the wrong time of year, with bird species scarce, other than the captive ones: to paraphrase Charlemagne - 'To possess a bird is to possess another soul'. IMHO! But it did give me Small Red-eyed damselfly; Ruddy Darter dragonfly and Poplar Leaf Beetle.



Then it was my first visit to Thorley Wash, a few miles up the river from me. I was very pleasantly surprised to find a lovely little Reserve, not too big but also large enough to spend a nice couple of hours. On the Reserve and the walk up the canal and back I saw Green Sandpiper; Common Tern; Kingfisher and Treecreeper, amongst others, giving me a very respectable total of 37 species. I was also delighted to find lots more Banded Demoiselles here and on the trail. The trip down to Rainham saw around the same number of species as at Thorley Wash, a surprise in itself, with Marsh Harrier; Black-tailed Godwit; Green Sandpiper; Bearded Tit and Linnet the stars.



Bank Voles showed well at Amwell again this month; Lizards and Marsh Frogs were at Rainham and the first Water Voles of the season appeared at Rye Meads. I spotted an Essex Skipper on the trail up to Thorley, while the first Gatekeeper butterflies turned up. Holly Blues showed at Rye Meads towards the end of the month. Painted Lady appeared twice, at Amwell and Rainham. It was the best month for dragons and damsels, with Brown, Common, Migrant and Southern Hawkers all appearing. Common Darter showed in several places. And there was also a possible sighting of a Red-veined Darter at Rainham. Insects included Common Green Grasshopper; more Mayflies and Wasp Spiders at Rainham.


August:
August’s weather bucked the trend this year and was an often unsettled month with some large daily rainfall totals. Ex-Hurricane 'Bertha' passed over the UK on the 10th and 11th bringing some unseasonably windy and wet weather, before moving into the North Sea and maintaining a cool and showery regime. The second half of the month saw some notably cool days and nights with some early ground frosts and remained unsettled, resulting in a cool and wet month overall.



The poor weather curtailed my visits this month, after a brilliant July. After the ‘Lord Mayor’s Show’, so to speak. I only managed one visit, to Cornmill Meadow. With bird species quite low, at this time of year, I concentrated instead on the specialities of the area – dragons and damsels, with Banded Demoiselles again starring. There were still quite a few of them around. In total I saw 9 species of Odonata, with increasing numbers of Migrant Hawker to the forefront. Not too many butterflies about, only 5 species were seen. It was also quiet on the insect front. Among the birds that I did see were Little Egret; Sparrowhawk; Lapwing; Green Sandpiper; Common Snipe and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

SUMMER:
The summer months were generally warmer, drier and sunnier than average. There were several spells of fine, settled weather in both June and July but no major heat-waves overall. A few locations in East Anglia were rather wet. Much of the rain came in the form of thundery outbreaks, resulting in intense downpours and flash-flooding at times, in both June and July. Temperatures for July were above average across the UK, due mainly to the many warm days. However, night-time temperatures were closer to average. July 2014 was the 8th consecutive month with above average temperatures for the UK.

September:
The month was dominated by high pressure, bringing plenty of fine and settled early-autumnal weather, with only a few short interruptions. This meant that rainfall was limited in most regions and temperatures were generally above average, though with no exceptional warmth on any particular day. It was the equal-fourth warmest September for the UK since 1910.


I made it out a total of 6 times this month, with Amwell dominating on 3 occasions. I paid a visit to Cheshunt and Rye Meads and also met up with a few friends for a visit to Regent's Park. It was a fairly quiet month but there were sightings of Green Sandpiper and Common Snipe at all 3 Reserves with Meadow Pipit showing well at Amwell. The first of a series of sightings of Stonechat came at Cheshunt, mid-month. Most Warblers and hirundines made their last appearances of the year, flying back down to Africa. The visit to Regent's Park proved more fruitful as we spotted a pair of Wheatear. Plenty of other birds on show included Goldeneye; Smew; Peregrine; Ring-necked Parakeet plus Whooper Swan; Barnacle Goose; Shelduck; Red-crested Pochard; Mandarin and Wood Ducks; Argentine Teal; Bufflehead; Chestnut Teal; Hooded Merganser and Ruddy Shelduck.


No new mammals to add to the list this month. Butterflies started to disappear, with Large White; Red Admiral and Speckled Wood being the most common still present. Dragon and damsel numbers also started to fall away, with Darters and Hawkers now being the most prominent. But the really exciting news was the discovery of at least 2 pairs of Willow Emerald damselflies at Amwell, a first for Hertfordshire! Evidence of egg-laying has since been found and it is hoped that they will make another appearance in 2015. Dock Bugs and Shield Bugs began to vanish but I did get my second sighting of Hairy Shield Bug at Amwell. Mayfly were still around, at Cheshunt. Despite their name, the Mayfly season lasts from April through to this month.

October:
October came as quite a contrast to the previous month, as the weather became unsettled and wet by the 3rd and remained so through the majority of the month, interspersed with only short periods of drier weather. With winds frequently from the south, bringing mild air, it was another month with well above average temperatures. Rainfall was also above average but with less in the way of rain during the final third of the month.


Despite the inclement weather this month, I managed to pick and choose my days and made it out 9 times. Amwell and Rye Meads were prominent with 3 visits each, 1 each to Cheshunt; a local walk down the Stort and a new venue - Abberton and Mersea. There was nothing new to report from Rye Meads, other than the 4th Kingfisher brood had failed. The big news at Amwell was an early sighting of a Bittern, towards the end of the month. Although I spotted it 3 times that day, unfortunately no one else saw it. Red Kite was also seen there, along with other notables such as Skylark; Meadow Pipit; Stonechat and the first Redwings of the season. Stonechat and Goldcrest were seen at Cheshunt.


But the outstanding visit of the month was at Abberton/Mersea. I was given the opportunity of visiting these areas by a friend. On an outstanding day we spotted 63 species, including Great White Egret; Brent Goose; Pintail; Red-crested Pochard; Marsh Harrier; Golden Plover; Grey Plover; Dunlin; Curlew; Black-tailed Godwit; Redshank; Ruff; Ruddy Turnstone; Mediterranean Gull; Rock Pipit and Linnet. Plus the resident Bar-headed and Snow Goose. Amazingly, we even saw very late Common Tern and Swallow.



The usual mammals were seen but there were 2 very good sightings of Water Vole at Rye Meads. Not too many Butterflies around this month, as to be expected, but I did see Clouded Yellow at Mersea. Common Darter and Migrant Hawker were the last of the dragons to be seen. Most insects dropped off the radar this month. The interesting ones, anyway.


November:
The generally unsettled and mild theme of October continued throughout most of November, with only short periods of drier weather. Low pressure was often over the UK for the first half of the month bringing rain and strong winds at times. However, with these winds frequently from a southerly direction, the month again saw well above average temperatures. This made it the fifth warmest November for the UK since 1910. Rainfall was well above average in many areas. A maximum temperature of 18.7°C was recorded in Essex on the 1st. The second half of the month was less unsettled, but lighter winds and moisture from the previous falls of rain readily allowed fog to form. The weather remained unseasonably mild with few air frosts.



I only made 2 visits this month, both to Amwell. Goldeneye delighted me by turning up, towards the end of the month, with Redwing and Coal Tit adding to the notables. A Bank Vole made yet another appearance, with a last sighting of a Common Darter dragonfly at the beginning of the month.

AUTUMN:
September was dominated by high pressure, bringing plenty of fine, settled early autumn weather and little rainfall. In contrast, low pressure was a significant influence through October and November. Both months saw more typical autumnal weather with unsettled conditions bringing periods of heavy rain and some strong winds at times but interspersed with some drier, brighter days.

December:
For much of December the weather was from the west, giving milder, wetter spells. Although it was unsettled for much of the time, rainfall totals were mostly below average. The moist, mild Atlantic air gave some notably high temperatures but there were colder spells too. The month comprised alternating spells of colder and milder weather, with frosts common. It was the equal-sunniest December for England since 1929.


Taking into account the few outings of last month and the surprisingly mild weather this month, I took the opportunity of heading out 10 times. The score this month was Amwell 4; Cheshunt 3; Rye Meads 2 and a visit to Braughing to see the long-staying Rough-legged Buzzard. The Goldeneye count at Amwell rose steadily this month, while Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls started to appear. Indeed, it was quite difficult to pick these Gulls out over Great Hardmead Lake, with over 2,000 other gulls out there, at roost. Kingfishers were surprisingly still around, probably due to the mild weather. Goldcrest was seen, as was Marsh Tit and Bullfinch. Fieldfare showed up this month, in all areas, with accompanying Redwing. There had been a notable influx of Blackbirds over recent weeks. It was still fairly quiet again at Rye Meads, but large numbers of wildfowl were now appearing, notably Shoveler and Teal. A drake Pintail had turned up and stayed on for a number of weeks. Lapwing and Common Snipe numbers started to increase, with Lapwing numbering into the 300s.



A friend and I made a pilgrimage, just up the road, to Braughing, to see the RLB. We were fortunate enough to see it almost as we arrived in the area. We didn't stay very long, just an hour, as it looked to have settled in to the area for the winter. Apart from the Buzzard, there were large numbers of Thrushes about. Other notable birds on view were several Common Buzzard; 3 Red Kite and a couple of Kestrel, giving us an impressive raptor total, in just one hour. An equally impressive 4 Bank Voles were now present at Amwell. Fox appeared on several occasions, possibly because of the Voles! Muntjac started to appear regularly again this month.


So, the stats for 2014:
The commonest bird(s) of the year were the Woodpigeon, Magpie and Carrion Crow, all appearing 68 times.
The commonest Mammal was surprisingly the Muntjac, seen 21 times.
The commonest Butterfly was the Small Tortoiseshell with 24 sightings. Indeed, it was a good year for these overall, throughout the country.
The commonest Damselfly was again the Common Blue making 24 appearances with the Common Darter dragonfly being seen 26 times.
Bee species were again the most seen insects, with 45 appearances.

Visits this year were down on 2013, reflecting a smaller total of UK bird species seen.

All things considered, it was another fantastic year. Hopefully the trend will continue.

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gcanny/sets

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Wildlife and Weather Roundup of 2014 - Part 1.

A few weather records were broken in 2014, where all months except August were warmer than average, making it the warmest year on record for the UK. It was also wetter than average for many locations, particularly in the south-east. The relentless storms at the turn of the year generated the highest tides, the tallest waves and the wettest winter months on record. This unprecedented weather was driven along by a Jet Stream, with its origins beyond the big freeze of the USA, coming from unusually high rainfall in the tropical Pacific. The mild weather kept away the snow storms of recent years but then brought warmer weather for most of the rest of the year.

Sunny Sawbridgeworth - you can't beat it!
January:
January's weather was mild and fairly sunny but significantly wetter than normal. The rain broke records in parts of England, which had their wettest January since records began more than 100 years ago. Much of southern England saw twice the average rainfall. Which was probably why water levels outside my house were the highest since I had moved in, over 25 years ago. The main reason for this mild and wet weather was a predominance of west and south-west winds, bringing in mild air from the Atlantic, with the Jet Stream at a lower latitude than is normal.

I ventured out a total of 4 times in January. A low total mainly because of a holiday to Nepal towards the end. The other 3 times were to Cheshunt; Amwell and Rye Meads, in that order. I spent a fruitless few hours at Cheshunt, searching for Bittern, but I was fortunate enough to see Goosander and Water Rail. The Bittern actually turned up, briefly, at Amwell, where Goldeneye and Smew were also on show. Coal Tit was an added bonus. Lots of Jays appeared everywhere this month, a portent of things to come, as they were to have a very good year. A Bank Vole turned up as well, the first of many sightings this year. It was also the first of many sightings of Harry, the Grey Heron, who entertained me on the journeys down. Shelduck arrived at Rye Meads, but it was quiet otherwise, which, unfortunately, pretty much summed up the Reserve for most of the rest of the year. Over-wintering Thrushes were all still around. But, as to be expected, the holiday to Nepal was the highlight of the month, if not the year, with a total of 265 species seen, the star bird being a lovely Siberian Rubythroat, which showed up in the grounds of one of our camps.




February:
During the first half of the month, the weather was dominated by a succession of major winter storms, continuing a sequence from late January. Although the exceptionally stormy weather ended on the 15th, the rest of the month remained very unsettled. It was the wettest month ever recorded, even in the first 10 days. I noted that the local Daffodils flowered 3 weeks earlier this year.

I paid two visits each to Amwell and Cheshunt this month, because it was another stormy, very unsettled and wet month. It was proper moist, as they say! It was also a fairly quiet month, not so much in species but in numbers. Although it looked as if Spring was early, as birds began to pair up. Coal Tit; Goldeneye; Kingfisher; Lesser Redpoll and Oystercatcher were all seen at Amwell, with Red Kite flying the thermals. Not to be outdone, a Peregrine flew over at Cheshunt, where Smew were still present. Fieldfare bade farewell towards the end of the month and headed back down to Europe. I also got my only other sighting of a Bittern, again at Amwell. This month saw the first of several sightings of Weasel, while Muntjac also began to show up again. Crocus had been blooming for a few weeks. Then my camera started to play up and I ended up purchasing and upgrading to a new one. Oh, the perils of being a wildlife photographer!



WINTER:
Winter 2014 was an exceptionally stormy season, with at least 12 major winter storms affecting the UK in two spells from mid-December to early January and again from late January to mid-February. When considered overall, this was the stormiest period of weather experienced by the UK for at least 20 years. Mean temperatures over the UK were well above the long-term average for all three months and there was a notable absence of frosts.

March:
The month was quite warm overall, with a few intermittent rainy days. It ended with the warmest days of the year, giving an early taste of spring and things to come. It was quite a contrast to the three wet and stormy winter months which preceded it. At times, the weather was dominated by high pressure, particularly around the middle of the month and there were several, really nice, warm days.

Another 4 visits this month, two to Cheshunt and one each to Amwell and Rye Meads. The month started off overcast, some rain at first, but it soon started to turn mild and dry. Smew and Goosander were still present at Cheshunt, but with the added delight of Shelduck; Egyptian Goose and Treecreeper. Redwing were last seen here, in the middle of the month, before they too, like their Thrush cousins, the Fieldfare, headed back to spend the summer in Europe. Bullfinch and Goldeneye were seen at Amwell, which also saw the first appearance of Redshank. A pair of Redshank also turned up at Rye Meads, together with Shelduck, while Fox and Muntjac also showed. Most of the birds were now in their very noticeable summer plumage. Bees and Butterflies started to appear in some numbers. Trees and flowers were also starting to bud and bloom. Spring had sprung!


April:
It was, overall, another rather warm month and was the fifth month in a row with UK temperatures above average. The month opened with a few days of unsettled weather, but after the first week high pressure dominated for a while and most areas remained fine. There were some pleasantly warm days at times throughout the month.

A very busy month saw a total of 9 visits, due mainly to the good weather. There were trips to the usual places plus the first of two visits, this year, to Rainham Marsh.  Amwell dominated again this month, with 4 visits.

Goldeneye were seen on the first two trips to Amwell, but then they disappeared for the year, probably off to Scandinavia. A pair of Oystercatchers had arrived instead and were busy scouting for a nesting area, as were Redshank and Little Ringed Plover, all eventually breeding successfully. There were appearances of a Spotted Redshank at the beginning of the month and a Ruff at the end. Common Tern turned up on the 16th, while my first Cuckoo of the season turned up on the 24th, which also saw the first Swallows. Sand Martins had already turned up on the 1st, quite early even for them. Warblers also started to show well this month, with Reed; Sedge and Whitethroat all appearing. Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warblers were now becoming very vocal, obviously marking out their territories and trying to attract a breeding partner.


At Cheshunt, Goosander made its' last appearance of the season on the 2nd, probably heading back to Scandinavia as well, a favoured area. An Oystercatcher also showed up here too, on the 15th. Shelduck also said goodbye, from Rye Meads, this month. A pair of Garganey showed up instead and decided to stay for the summer, while a pair of Black-tailed Godwits showed well in the middle of the month, en-route to their breeding grounds. Common and Green Sandpipers had started to appear. The resident pair of Kingfishers laid their first batch of eggs, the first of 4 broods this year, a record for the Reserve. While down in Rainham, Shelduck; Peregrine; Redshank; Skylark and Bearded Tit all showed well.


There were more sightings of a Weasel at Amwell and Cheshunt while a Bank Vole showed up again at Amwell. A Red-eared Terrapin appeared at Cheshunt.

Butterflies started to show in some numbers this month, led by Brimstone; Orange Tip and Small Tortoiseshell. The first damselflies of the season showed up at the end of the month, at Rye Meads - Blue-tailed and Large Red, a few weeks earlier than last year. On the insect front, Ladybirds started to show and, in fact, seemed to have a better year than last year, as numbers and sightings increased. They were followed quickly by Bee-fly; Cardinal Beetle; Dock Bug; Green Shield Bug; Nettle Weevil and Scorpion Fly. Finally, Bluebells and Primrose bloomed early in the month.



May:
May was another warmer than average month. There were some spells of dry and warm weather for many areas of the county. The latter part of the month was less settled, often overcast and brought abundant rainfall, some of it in the form of thundery showers for many areas, especially East Anglia. The month opened with a few days of scattered showers, but after the 5th it became much more unsettled. A return to high pressure then resulted in some fine and warm weather mid-month. The 20th saw a return to unsettled conditions with showers, scattered thunderstorms and some more prolonged spells of rain. The last two days were mainly dry and bright.




Five visits in month five this month, all to differing locations. The big three, of course, but I also took a walk along my local river. I also spent a few lovely days up in Norfolk, with my friend Shan, seeing well over a hundred species, including Avocet; Bearded Tit (of course!) and Black-winged Stilt. The first visit of the month, Cheshunt, saw the appearance of Hobby; Common Tern; Cuckoo and Nightingale. The one and only visit to Amwell saw 60 species with Hobby; Oystercatcher; Ringed and Little Ringed Plover; Redshank; Common Tern; Swift and Lesser Whitethroat the highlights. The visit to Rye Meads was again uneventful.



But the walk along my local river proved more fruitful, in as much as I spotted the first Banded Demoiselles of the season. In fact, there were scores of them along this stretch, so much so, that I paid several more visits here later in the year. Tadpoles appeared at Amwell early in the month. On the Lepidoptera front, Drinker Moth and Green-veined White appeared locally, with Brown Argus; Cinnabar and Garden Tiger the stars in Norfolk. More Odonata action this month saw the addition of Azure; Black-tailed Skimmer; Broad-bodied Chaser; Four-spotted Chaser and Hairy dragonfly, to the list. On the insect front, Crab Spiders; Harlequin Ladybirds; Soldier Beetles and plenty of Bee species showed well. Mayflies lived up to their name by appearing this month but St. Mark's Flies were a tad late. Fields of Bluebells continued to delight, while Early and Southern Marsh Orchids started to bloom.

SPRING:
Following an exceptionally wet and stormy winter season, the spring weather was much more benign. Temperatures remained broadly above average. It was the minimum temperatures that were most above average, particularly in April and May. The season brought a mix of settled spells of weather, most notably during mid-March and mid-April, but also some wetter spells.

June:
Temperatures for June were above average across the UK, with warm days and mild nights, although there were no spells of exceptional warmth. It was rather unsettled early and late in the month, with localised thundery downpours on several days, but there was a period of fine anti-cyclonic weather around the middle of the month, bringing plenty of warm, dry, sunny weather. High pollen levels associated with the dry, warm weather around mid-month caused lots of hay-fever problems, for me especially. I had also used up a bottle of sun-tan lotion already.



Only 4 trips out this month, with visits to Amwell; Rye Meads and the local river. Primarily because of a holiday to Madeira in the middle of the month. Although I didn't see a very high bird species count there, I did see the Island's specialist birds like Cory's Shearwater; Bulwer's Petrel; Fea's Petrel; Madeiran Storm-Petrel; Zino's Petrel and Trocaz Pigeon. I also spotted Atlantic Canary; Berthelot's Pipit; Common Waxbill; Madeiran Chaffinch and Firecrest; Plain Swift and Rock Sparrow. Whimbrel and Quail appeared too. Visits to Amwell and the local river were quiet this month but the star birds were at Rye Meads, with a family of Black-necked Grebes, which eventually produced 3 young.




It was fairly quiet on the mammal front. That is, apart from lots of whales; dolphins; turtles and lizards in Madeira. Butterflies continued to appear, with Comma; Common Blue; Burnets; Meadow Brown; Skippers; Ringlet and Speckled Wood all showing well. I even spotted a Monarch butterfly in Madeira. Banded Demoiselles were again the stars this month, again down along my local river. Red-eyed damsels showed up on the lilly pads at Amwell, which also gave me my first sighting this year of the majestic Emperors. It was quite an interesting month for insects, seeing Chequered Beetle; Hairy Shield Bug; Southern Green Shield Bug and Spider Wasps in Madeira. Elsewhere, locally, I saw the first Cuckoo Spit of the year; my first Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle; Mint Leaf Beetle; Ruby-tailed Wasp; Sawfly and Thick-kneed Flower Beetle.

Watch out for Part 2 in a few days time!

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Mud and Marsh Tits at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 29th December 14

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

Bird Total: 49
Plus: Bank Vole; Fox; Konik Ponies; Muntjac.

I chose Amwell for my last visit of 2014. It was another bright, sunny day. Although quite cold, especially sitting in a Hide for hours, you wouldn't have thought it was December.

There was nothing to report on the way down to the Reserve, but the frosty sunshine made for a few pretty photos.


There were a few people at the Watchpoint when I arrived. But not too many birds around, Numbers were quite low, everywhere on the Reserve. They were definitely spending the festive season with the relatives.


I could only see a few Grey Herons and around 40-50 Lapwing. The water level out on the lake was quite high and left only a smidgeon of island, where the Lapwing were. When they weren't being put up. Otherwise it was just the usual crowd out there, all milling around.

I didn't hang around too long and decided to head straight for the Bittern Pool, or Water Vole Viewpoint as it is sometimes known, where my good friend, Ron, had spotted a Bittern a few days ago. Although I spent a few hours standing there over the course of the day I was very unlucky not to see one myself.

I headed back to try my luck from the James Hide. Just before I got there a Song Thrush sat up on one of the fence-posts. Unfortunately, it was too quick for my camera.

To my delight the, now, favoured lower tier of the Hide was empty and I managed to blag the spot next to the feeders. Just in time too, as a familiar face came in around 5 minutes later.


He decided to stand next to me, also looking out at the feeders. Together we managed to snap off a few shots of a Bank Vole, scurrying around, trying to feed on the seeds spilt by the many Reed Buntings flying in. Great Tits; Blue Tits; Long-tailed TitsDunnocks and Robins were flying in too, for their share of the spoils. The odd Chaffinch tried its' luck and then the star bird of the day, a Marsh Tit, flew in. It was one of at least 3 seen today.



Other than all this action taking place, we were treated to a Kestrel flying in and landing on the far post, which overlooked the lagoon. While I was looking at it through my Bins a Fox could be seen behind it, against the fence-line, this side of the walkway to the White Hide.

A couple of Buzzards were screaming high in the sky, above the tree-line. People came and went, some noisily enough to wake the dead. But the birds soon came back to the feeders. I tried to get some more shots of the 2 Bank Voles, but every time they appeared, someone would say, 'Here they come!' and they would promptly dart back into cover. 'There they go!' I thought.

A couple of hours was all I could manage in there. The lagoon was frozen over so there would be no Kingfisher show today. After lunch and hot coffee, I moved on.

I headed off towards the Dragonfly Trail. On the way a few groups of passerines passed by, chattering away. Mostly Long-tailed Tits but I spotted a lovely Treecreeper amongst them. It landed on a tree by the trail running adjacent to the one I was on. I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss. I hadn't seen a Treecreeper in ages.


I tried to descend the muddy embankment gracefully but failed miserably, falling on my backside and sliding the rest of the way down, nearly covered in mud. Cursing my luck and gravity I was somewhat surprised to see that the bird hadn't flown off and was still happily picking its' way up the tree. It then flew to the next one and picked its' way up that one, too. I managed to snap off a few shots, when I heard a call behind me.

It was my friend, Dave, the volunteer from Rye Meads. When I told him about the Treecreeper he came down the same way. I had warned him about the slippery mud and the gravity and he managed to make it without the same mishap I had.


We followed the bird down the trail, from one tree to another. Frustratingly, when it flew to the next tree in line, it always landed on the side shadowed from the sun. I only managed one half-decent shot. Dave walked off back to the Hides while I carried on towards the Trail.

I was still scraping the mud off me when I arrived. To find that the feeders here were nearly empty and devoid of birds. Only about half-a-dozen hen Pheasants were still picking away on the grass below them. There were also still plenty of sheep here, too. I was wondering when they would be moved on when I spotted a lone Redwing in the adjacent tree.


As I was about to do the return journey a few more birds flew in. A Marsh Tit appeared, flitting around the branches, then a Green Woodpecker sounded off and flew across the trail, towards the adjacent field. A few more Song Thrushes also appeared.

I stopped and looked out over Hollycross Lake, just in time to see a Sparrowhawk fly out low across it.


I paid what I thought would be a quick visit to the Bittern Pool again. One other guy was there and he had just seen the Bittern, just five minutes before I arrived. He sloped off about ten minutes later, leaving me to it. I spent about an hour here, waiting for said Bittern to walk past another cut in the reeds. But it again messed me about and didn't show.

Apart from the odd Coot and Tufted Duck, there was a lone Grey Heron in one of the other cuts, sunning itself. A Cetti's Warbler sounded off somewhere to the right of me. Another pair, or quite possibly the same pair, of Buzzards were in the sky. A Muntjac could be seen feeding out to the left, quite near the twin lagoons.



But time was getting on and my back was starting to ache. I had decided against visiting the White and Gladwin Hides and, instead, sat back down in the James Hide. The only additions here were a pair of noisy Jays that flashed past.

I finished up back at the Watchpoint, seeing a Goldeneye, out amongst the two thousand or so Gulls. It was like a sea of white on the lake. And more and more were constantly flying in. Further down the trail, towards the Gladwin Hide I could see what turned out to be 'Caspian Gull Watch', with 4 or 5 guys, with scopes, looking for said Caspian. Best of luck looking for it among that lot, I thought.


I left them all to it and headed off home. No Bittern again, but it was good to see Marsh Tit and Treecreeper.