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.