Sunday, 8 February 2015

Lots of Mammals at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 14th January 15

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

Bird Total: 46
Plus: Konik Ponies; Muntjac; Rabbit; Squirrel; Stoat.

Today I visited Amwell with my good friend, Barry. Recently retired, he had decided to get and about more, now that he had plenty of free time. Welcome to the Club!

It was yet again another clear day, albeit quite cold. But it was warm enough in the sunshine. The weather, in general, lately, had been changeable. One day rain, the next sunshine. Winter has yet to really set in and we are already half-way through.

On the train journey down I spotted 6 Little Egret and Benny the Buzzard, perched up on the same branch, on the same tree. It must be one of his favoured spots.

We met up at the Watchpoint, with Barry already scouring the area. But there wasn't much out there, just Lapwing; Little Egret; Great Crested Grebe and all the ducks. There were only a few Gulls present, something that would change dramatically later in the evening.

The water levels were quite high, after the recent rains. Great Hardmead Lake was especially swamped, with most of the islands either gone or greatly reduced. On the train down I had noticed that a lot of the fields adjacent to the tracks were now either lakes or lagoons.

We soon headed off down to the Gladwin Hide to look for Goldeneye and Smew. After about 10 minutes there we spotted at least 7 or 8 Goldeneyes, the males looking quite resplendent in their breeding plumage. One or two of them were even flirting with the females, their heads rocking ritually back every few seconds.

Unfortunately, we didn't see any Smew all day. Later on, someone said that 2 pairs were around the back of the island opposite the Gladwin Hide, but they never ventured out.

We then took a slow walk up to the James Hide, where Ron aka Amwell Watcher was already ensconced. A Kingfisher was already present and showing well. A male, he flew from perch to perch, around the lagoon before eventually settling on the stick just in front of us, giving some wonderful views. He dived down a few times, coming up with at least one fish.

He made several more appearances throughout the day and we were royally entertained. Apart from the Kingfisher we saw a Buzzard high over the tree-line and plenty of Reed Buntings on and around the feeders.

We then moved on, towards the Dragonfly Trail. Although the feeders here were quite full there weren't too many birds about. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew past, while a Sparrowhawk flashed over and then disappeared behind the trees.

A quick visit to the White Hide gave us views of pretty much the same as from the Watchpoint. It's been a little disappointing from this Hide lately.

Barry needed to head off soon, so we tried out luck back at the Gladwin Hide for the Smew. No joy, but the Goldeneye were still swimming around. The odd Grey Heron flew past. We then walked back to the Watchpoint where Barry headed off.

I walked back down to the James Hide to see the Kingfisher again. A Grey Heron flew in and landed in the reed channel and was immediately scared off by another. A pair of Marsh Tits then flew in and landed on the feeders, quickly taking a few seeds before flying off. A Water Rail screeched out its' mournful song.

Then a female Muntjac could be seen in the undergrowth, looking back to the Watchpoint. While I was watching her a movement caught my eye, out to the right of the Hide. A Stoat appeared, winding its' way between the branches and logs on the ground. I dashed outside to try and get a better view but it quickly disappeared, unfortunately never to be seen again.

There were quite a few people about today, especially in the Hides. There were also some HMWT staff working the area, especially around the Konik Ponies, who had been moved to the area to the right of the Watchpoint.

Time and daylight had again run out and, after a quick look back at the Watchpoint, which saw over a hundred Great Black-backed Gulls turn up, I headed home.

Another excellent day out, made even better by excellent company.

'Nothing succeeds like a bird with no beak.'