Monday, 16 February 2015

Jack Frost and Barney the Owl put on a show at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 20th January 15

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

Bird Total: 46
Plus: Bank Vole.

A very good day out today. Another sunny day, but it felt slightly colder than yesterday. At least, that's what my ears were telling me. There was lots of frost about and Great Hardmead Lake looked spookily sinister in the mist.

Earlier, the trains today had been a little better, but were still running late. Obviously the wrong kind of weather. There was no Benny the Buzzard on show today, neither was Harry the Heron about. He not been around for quite a while now. Probably because his favourite field was now a lagoon. As were many of them.

But I did see a lone Lapwing flying in display mode. I'm not sure who for. A pair of hen Pheasants were spooked up by the train and flew adjacent to us for a few seconds.

Unfortunately, the view from the Watchpoint wasn't exactly inspiring. There were plenty of birds about on the lake, all the usual, including several Great Black-backed Gulls, dwarfing all around them. There were also about 70+ Lapwing on the island plus a few Grey Herons perching up amongst the Cormorant roost.

There were also plenty of Shoveler and Teal swimming around, all sporting their beautiful breeding plumage. But there wasn't much to keep me around for too long and so I walked down to the Gladwin Hide. There were a few Reserve workers using a loud buzz-saw further down but it wasn't too disturbing.

Out on the lake I could see a lone female Goldeneye out to the right, diving down every few seconds. Then, after about 10 minutes, a lone drake Smew ventured out from behind the island, out to the left. He spent about 10 minutes swimming along the shoreline, in amongst several Pochard. Then, dozens of Wigeon flew in and landed in front of the Hide, all whistling away.

I headed off and up towards the James Hide. On the way I heard, then spotted, a Song Thrush. I sat down in the Hide, where another guy had just beaten me to the window seat. But he only stayed for about 20 minutes before moving on.

The lagoon out front was frozen over so the Kingfisher wouldn't be paying a visit today. I couldn't really complain, Kingfishers have hung around the area all season, which was quite unusual. I had hoped that it may bring out a Bittern but it never happened. But it did bring out a Water Rail for a few seconds. The feeders were quite busy with all the usual traffic. But, strangely, no Marsh Tits appeared. The only thing of note was a lone Bank Vole.

It was quite a disappointing hour or so there. I decided to have a spot of lunch before moving on. Even with 7 layers on it was starting to get a little cold sitting there.

I walked up to the Dragonfly Trail, seeing a Great Spotted Woodpecker, moving between the trees. On the feeders here were Greats and Blueys, plus one Marsh Tit. The sheep had disappeared. On the trail back I bumped into my mate Ron and, together, we walked back to the Watchpoint and then over the bridge, through the woodland.

Here we spotted several Siskin, the first I've seen for a while plus plenty of Tits and Finches, especially Goldfinch. All were high in the trees and chattering away to each other, as they fed. Woodland birding isn't one of my faves, as it gives me neck and backache after a while. Plus it's a bit too dark for any worthwhile photography. But it was really good to see the Siskin.

From here we headed down to the White Hide, where, for the last few nights, a Barn Owl was appearing. There was one other guy in there and we were soon joined by a few more. We sat there for a while waiting for the Owl to make its' appearance. Outside, on the little island, I could see a Common Snipe, jabbing its' bill down every few seconds, feeding. A second one flew over to the main island.

Then there was a shout and I looked over to see the Barn Owl appear, flying towards us. It zig-zagged a few times and then disappeared behind the trees to our left. A few minutes later it appeared again before flying back behind the trees again. It was an exhilarating sight to see and we were all sitting there with big grins on our faces.

Having been on the Reserve all day I decided to head off. Just after leaving the Hide the Owl appeared again, heading for the lake and so I dashed back to the Hide to try and get another view. But it never appeared so I headed back.

At the Watchpoint I met Jenny Sherwen, Reserve Manager, on the lookout for the Owl. I had just enough time to race down the trail to get the train. Top day out!

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.