Monday, 23 March 2015

Has Spring arrived?

Amwell Nature Reserve - 27th February 15

Weather: Sunny early on, clouding over later. Slight breeze.

Bird Total: 51
Plus: Bank Vole; Konik Pony; Muntjac; Rabbit (dead).

In the ever-continuing changeable weather, it was another fine, sunny day. At least, early on. It clouded over slightly for an hour or so just after lunch. There was also a cold breeze blowing in but the feeling is that Winter is over and we can welcome in the Spring.

There was more evidence of this in the form of budding trees; flowering plants and the courtship rituals beginning everywhere. The days were also becoming longer.

The Winter birds are mostly still here, but migration is definitely beginning, with the arrival this week of a pair of Oystercatchers. They bred successfully last year and they will hopefully do so again this year. A flock of Golden Plover passed through last week, so movement is definitely happening.

Another instance is the noticeable reduction in numbers, especially out on the lakes. There are still plenty of species about, but numbers are definitely down.

On the journey down I spotted a pair of Little Egrets. A Song Thrush could be heard on the trail up to the Reserve. A few minutes later another could be seen, rooting around for worms. At the Lock a Grey Wagtail appeared.

I met the same guy at the Watchpoint that I had spoken to at Fishers Green earlier in the week. I found out his name was Steve and we chatted again for the next 15-20 minutes or so.

Out over Great Hardmead Lake I could see 3 or 4 Grey Herons, flying back and forth to the roosting island, some with nesting material; there were a good hundred plus Lapwing on the main island; a pair of Great Crested Grebes were head shaking every now and then; while high in the sky, over Easneye Wood I could see at least half a dozen Buzzards, together with a Red Kite and a Sparrowhawk.

Other than that a lone, male Reed Bunting was calling out to our left; a Cetti's Warbler was belting out its' song immediately in the reeds in front of us, while a female Muntjac was cropping the grass on the far side of the Lake.

I decided to head down to the Gladwin Hide to try for Goldeneye and Smew. Just before I reached the Hide I took a quick look out over this part of the Lake. I could see 8 Goldeneye, 4 males and 4 females, all continually diving. There were another 4 Great Crested Grebes as well.

There wasn't too much else to see from the Hide, no sign of the Smew. The only additions were a lone female Pochard and a little Wren, hopping around the shrubs just in front of the Hide. Another Cetti's Warbler appeared.

One other guy appeared and asked the age-old question: 'Much about?' I told him about the 8 Goldeneye. '4 of each,' I said to him. 'What, male and female?' came his reply. Doh!

I double-backed down the trail and decided to take a walk through the woods. Just after I had entered a lovely Treecreeper flew in and landed on a nearby tree, allowing a few modest photos. All the usual woodland birds were about, but, alas, no Siskin.

A quick check of the Bittern Pool, no Bittern today. There were a few familiar faces here. But I didn't hang around and went and sat in the James Hide.

A couple of people were already in here but they didn't stay long. There was another Muntjac at the back of the lagoon, by the fence-line. Yet another Cetti's Warbler began moving from left to right in front of the Hide, before flying back to its' original start position. I nearly got a photo of it but I was too slow. There was also a Bank Vole appearing every now and then, more then rather than now. Then a Kingfisher flew in onto the far post and posed for me.

The feeders were fairly full and were doing a brisk trade. Then another familiar face entered the Hide and, after about 30 minutes, we decided to head up to the Dragonfly Trail.

Just before we got to the Bridge my friend spotted a pair of Bullfinch, which almost immediately turned into 2 pairs. They were partially hidden in the trees and were always behind a branch or a twig, so no photos. But it is always excellent to see these birds, especially the brightly coloured male.

We were disappointed to find the feeders at the Trail empty with only a few Tits flying in and out. No doubt they were also disappointed. There were a couple of guys cementing in new signage nearby and that may also have had something to do with it.

We headed back, with the White Hide the target. Just before we rounded the path onto the main trail we spotted a fresh Rabbit kill. Probably by a Stoat. We hung around for a few minutes to see if the Stoat returned but there were too many dog-walkers about. But while we waited we were entertained by a melodic Song Thrush.

The White Hide was again a bit of a disappointment. The wrong time of year, I guess. The only addition was a pair of Teal. My friend headed off and I followed soon after, sitting back down in the James Hide. I could also see Jenny Sherwen, Reserve Warden beside the Konik Ponies, which had also appeared.

This time I found the Hide empty and proceeded to try and photograph the pair of Marsh Tits that were visiting the feeders. Over the course of the next 45 minutes the key word was definitely 'confrontation'. The Marsh Tits chased each other about, as did various pairs of Chaffinch; Dunnock; Reed Bunting; Robins and Long-tailed Tits.

A second Bank Vole appeared and, they too, joined in the confrontational dance. The Grey Heron that had flown in was the only lonely bird out there. Finally, a Water Rail flew across the lagoon.

Then Jenny arrived and, as we were chatting, she spotted the Barn Owl make an unusually early appearance from behind the White Hide. Unfortunately, it didn't fly in our direction and, instead, headed off towards the Gladwin Hide.

A little later I checked the Bittern Pool for a final time and then checked the dead rabbit. But the carcass had been removed.

Back at the Watchpoint, another pair of familiar faces had turned up, with one of them pointing out a pair of Smew in the distance. A Little Egret also flew in.

Another excellent day! Hopefully this purple patch will continue.

'No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.'