Friday, 20 February 2015

Owls, Voles and Vandals at Amwell.

Amwell Nature Reserve - 23rd January 15

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

Bird Total: 49
Plus: Bank Vole; Grey Squirrel; Muntjac; Rabbit.

Another sunny, clear day and another trip to Amwell. I did think about going down to Cheshunt, but the Barn Owl at Amwell tempted me back.

It was an uneventful trip down on the train, no more delays thankfully, but it did give some good views of several Teal and a Little Egret. On the trail up to the Reserve a Song Thrush ignored me and came within a few feet to feed on the berries. It was either a male bird or very hungry.

There were the usual birds on show out on Great Hardmead Lake but with the addition of a pair of Smew at the back of the lake, ducking and diving. No pun intended. Lots of Lapwing on the little island again; a few Grey Herons and Cormorants on or around the roosting island, some of which were bringing in nesting material. Lots of Wigeon and Shoveler were all swimming, seemingly aimlessly, around the lake.

I made a quick foray down to the Gladwin Hide to find that someone had vandalised it in the last few days and that there was a guy there doing some repairs, so I didn't hang around and left him to it. Outside looking out over the lake I could see a pair of drake Goldeneyes, also ducking and diving; another Grey Heron in stalk mode and lots more Wigeon, plus several Great Crested Grebes, who were mostly in pairs.

Back at the Watchpoint, looking towards the James Hide, I could see someone in the Hide already so I decided to take a walk through the woods. My spectacles had been steaming up during the few very cold snaps, especially when I was using the Bins and continued to do so even around here. Annoying.

There were plenty of Robins around here, one especially who kept hopping right up to me, obviously hoping for a hand-out. Every time I stepped back to get a photo of it, it hopped closer. I guess this must have been a male as well, because, as a long-time reader, you'll know I have the uncanny ability to scare females off.

It was quite a productive little walk, giving me most of the usual birds, but also Goldfinch and Siskin; Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay.

I then took a quick look out over the Bittern Pool, seeing a Water Rail by the water's edge. But no Bittern. There were also lots of Coot and Tufted Duck, milling around the lagoon.

I then chanced my luck in the James Hide, only to find it packed out with the Rye Meads crowd, with their long lenses, hoping for Kingfisher. I managed to squeeze in, telling them that the bird wouldn't be around with the lagoon out front frozen over. So eventually, they all left me to it.

Earlier, just before I arrived, a lovely Treecreeper was outside, creeping up one of the trees. From the Hide itself, a pair of Marsh Tits flew in and out every 10 minutes or so while a Bank Vole kept me entertained, darting around at high speed. The feeders were full and doing a brisk trade. They had to, there wasn't much to see out over the lagoon, apart from a pair of skating Moorhens.

There wasn't much else of note, until I arrived down at the feeders by the Dragonfly Trail. Here I could see a Buzzard high in the sky, calling out; another Marsh Tit and some more Goldfinches, with more Thrushes around the vicinity. Then a limping Dave from Rye Meads turned up. He'd twisted his knee falling down an embankment, trying to photograph a bird. I was quite concerned and promptly asked him if his camera was ok.

Just before I walked the return journey a Jay flew over, as did another Buzzard but, apart from a few Tits and Finches, it was eerily quiet.

I then headed down to the White Hide. On the way a female Muntjac showed herself, quite near. Unusually, she didn't race off when she saw me. She must be new to the area. I found the Rye Meads crowd in the Hide when I arrived, but there wasn't much to see out over the lake, so I headed back to the James.

There were a few more people in here again and, while there was still the usual bird action outside, several squadrons of Canada Geese flew in overhead, all landing on the lake, making lots of noise. Always a wonderful sight.

But I concentrated on the feeders and all the birds flying in and out. They were mostly Tits and I was grateful that they, unlike Page 3 recently, weren't about to be banned or asked to cover up.

I ended up back in the White Hide to wait for the Barn Owl to appear. It was a little later this time and appeared too quickly for any worthwhile shots. But it was another great sighting, as it quickly quartered the field in front, before flying off northwards.

Now dark, I headed off to get the later train. Jenny was at the Watchpoint again. Another great day out.

'A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.'