Weather: Sunny with slight cloud. Cold with a slight breeze.
Bird Total: 54
Plus: Konik Pony; Muntjac.
Today I met up with friends and fellow birders, Shane and TJ. Both have visited Amwell before and we all went on to have a brilliant day.
Nothing to report on the commute down, other than a Fox heading back the way I had come.
I was picked up at the station by Shane and we drove the short distance to a little lay-by, where we then walked over the tracks and found ourselves at the Watchpoint. Earlier, just as we entered the Reserve Shane shouted out that he had spotted a Stoat, crossing over the trail, in front of us. Unfortunately, I was looking the other way and missed it completely.
It was a good start but there wasn't too much to get excited about at the Watchpoint. There were a few people already there. Plenty of Lapwing, over a hundred, all settled on the island. There were also a few Wigeon; Shoveler and Great Crested Grebe plus all the usual suspects. Robins and Dunnocks were hopping about all around us, with one very brave Robin on the fence beside us, obviously waiting for a handout.
TJ had texted saying he was held up in traffic, so we both headed down to the Gladwin Hide, to search for Goldeneye and Smew. We eventually spotted five female and one male Goldeneye, but, alas no Smew. In fact, they weren't seen all day and had either flown or were stubbornly refusing to come out from behind the island. There were more GCGs and Wigeon here plus 3 Buzzards high over Easneye Woods.
We were sat sitting in the Hide, talking to a South African guy, watching the Konik Ponies outside the Hide, when Shane's phone rang. It was TJ, announcing his presence. Shane told him where we were and we soon met up. We hung around, waiting for the non-appearance of the Smew and eventually decided to head off to, hopefully, greener pastures.
A quick look out over the Watchpoint and then we took a walk through the Woods. Unfortunately, no Siskin today but there were plenty of others birds, notably Goldfinch.
We then arrived at the Bittern Pool, meeting up with a familiar face. No Bittern unfortunately, so we headed for the James Hide. A couple of guys were already in there but we managed to squeeze in and waited for the action. TJ managed to blag the seat next to the feeders and began snapping away.
There wasn't much out on the lagoon and the feeders were practically empty, so there wasn't too much action. But then, just in front of us, by the water's edge, we spotted a Water Rail trying to sneak past us. I wasn't quick enough for any photos so just spent the fleeting seconds watching it tip-toe past.
Shane then spotted a few Buzzards in the sky, having altercations with each other and a Crow. Then TJ spotted a couple of Marsh Tits and we all watched as they entertained us by flying back and forth. They were flying in to the one feeder that still had a few seeds, in between the Reed Bunting visits.
Then we spotted another Water Rail, possibly the same one, making its' way along the reeds to our right. It then walked across the reed-cut and we thought it had disappeared. But, a few minutes later, it reappeared again and then, to our delight, walked slowly across the lagoon to the reeds on our left. Cue much clicking of cameras. Great light and a great sight, easily the best view of a Rail for ages.
We hung around for a little while here, having lunch, waiting for a possible appearance of the Kingfisher. No joy, so we decided to head around to the White Hide. On the way Shane spotted a Sparrowhawk, using the thermals to gain height. Only two people were in the Hide but there wasn't anything outside to excite us greatly, so we moved on.
Heading up to the Dragonfly Trail Shane spotted a female Muntjac. Unusually, she just looked at us and carried on feeding. That was a novelty.
There were only Tits; Chaffinches and Goldfinches on the feeders, but then TJ spotted a Kestrel on the grass out to the right, which flew off just as we trained our Bins on it. Further on, I spotted a female Bullfinch high in the trees at the back, but she flew off before the guys could see it.
Shane needed to head off soon, so we walked back to the James Hide to try for the Kingfisher again. On the way we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the background. We had heard a Green Woodpecker earlier.
Other than a few more sightings of Water Rail, there wasn't much else to see. So, mindful of the traffic, Shane opted to head off. Unfortunately, for him, the Kingfisher showed up not five minutes later, out to our left. Dave, the volunteer from Rye Meads, had just turned up and both he and TJ went upstairs to get a better view. I had stayed in the lower tier banking on the bird flying over to the perches in front of the Hide.
After about 10 minutes, he did just that and posed beautifully in the sunshine for me. He hung around for a few minutes, before flying off. A Red Kite could also be seen, gliding over the tree-line.
The three of us then headed back to the Watchpoint, where TJ decided to call it a day and headed off. Dave and I walked down to the Gladwin Hide to try for Smew. Not seeing any, we concentrated on the several Goldeneye that were around. A couple of pairs of GCGs began their courtship dance. I could see a lone Little Egret in the distance, behind the main island. 3 Little Grebes were having a tête-à-tête at the back of the lagoon. We could see the Lapwing going up again, something they had been doing nearly all day.
Time was getting on and I decided to head back to the Watchpoint. I was in two minds whether to head home myself or walk back around to the White Hide and wait for the Barn Owl, which was still appearing just before dusk. Whilst pondering my decision, I heard a Cetti's Warbler sing out from one of the reed-beds in front; a pair of Snipe crossed from right to left; someone pointed out a Yellow-legged Gull, perched up on one of the goal-posts and then a Song Thrush and a Greenfinch sang out a duet together.
By then, of course, it was too late for the usual train and so I waited for the Owl to appear. It was a bit late this evening, turning up just before 5.30. But it gave its' usual brilliant performance before disappearing north. I was a little peeved at seeing it fly close to the White Hide and then the James Hide. Maybe I'll sit in one of them next time.
On the walk back to the Station I spotted another Muntjac. Another brilliant day out, with great company.
'What's the big deal about birdwatchers….I counted 27 of the losers today.'