Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Fabulous Moths at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 12th March 15

Weather: Sunny with slight cloud. Cold wind.

Bird Total: 46
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.
Plus: Emperor, Oak Beauty Moths.

It was another fine, sunny day and so I found myself back at Amwell for another visit. There wasn't too much to see on the journey down, just a small group of Wigeon, on the ever-diminishing lagoons, which are rapidly turning back into fields. The water levels are starting to go down everywhere now.

I also noticed that some BR work parties had been out all along this stretch of line, chopping down dozens of trees, sometimes upto around 20-30 meters away from the tracks. We're not going to have any trees left in this country if this carries on.

And some clown had driven into one of the barriers further down the track, which meant upto 25 minute delays were occurring. So I arrived a little later than intended.

There was quite a lot of birdsong as I walked upto the Reserve. All the usual, all singing out their own welcome to Springtime. Almost wall to wall blue skies above me, with just a little bit of strato-cumulus high up. There was just a hint of a breeze.

I duly arrived at the Watchpoint to find quite a crowd looking out over Great Hardmead Lake. There were one or two familiar faces in amongst them. A quick look around the lake and I could see a dozen or more Lapwing, spread around the area; a good half-a-dozen Grey Herons; there were at least 2 pairs of Goldeneye way out to the right; a pair of Common Snipe, feeding just in front of the Watchpoint; a fair few Shoveler and a smattering of Teal and the star bird of the day, a lovely Redshank, which was very mobile.

Just as I moved off towards the Gladwin Hide a Buzzard could be seen flying high above me. Halfway there and I could see a drake Goldeneye quite close in, while to my right, over the canal, I could hear a Green Woodpecker yaffling out.

I sat down in the Hide and looked out. From here I could see upto 8 Goldeneye, 3m and 5f plus around 6-7 Great Crested Grebes. The slight breeze had turned into a strong wind down here, with the shutters open.

There was no sign of the Smew around here but one female Goldeneye did venture fairly close. The scrape out front had only attracted 2 pairs of Canada Geese and a pair of Coot.

I headed off, noting that the Watchpoint was now deserted. I took a stroll through the woodland, only seeing a Grey Squirrel and a lone Robin. Very quiet.

Crossing over the bridge further down I found myself at the Bittern Pool. A couple of familiar faces were here too, one of them Bill Last. The Bittern hadn't been seen for some time now and there was speculation that it had departed. There wasn't much out on the lagoon to be seen, just the usual Coot and Tufted Ducks.

But then Bill pointed out a couple of moths that had settled near us. Both of which were firsts for me - a gorgeous looking Emperor Moth and a lovely Oak Beauty. Both following on from the first butterflies of the season I had seen the other day at Fishers Green.

With no sign of the Bittern I went and sat down in the James Hide. Not long after I had sat down a Marsh Tit appeared. Unfortunately, this was the only appearance all day. The Bank Voles never showed at all. So I made do with the continuous flow of passerines on to the feeders. Reed Buntings; Blues and Greats; Robins and Dunnocks. Then, in the reed bed channel a buck Muntjac appeared, crossing from right to left, feeding as he went.

A little later a Little Egret flew over, from left to right, heading for the roosting island. High in the sky over Easneye Wood I could see at least 6 Buzzards and 1 Red Kite, all gliding the thermals. Then there was the familiar explosive call of a Cetti's Warbler somewhere in the reedbeds.

I was amused to watch a menage-a-trois of Dunnock, all chasing each other, around the feeder area. I think it was one male and 2 females, as the male seemed to be the one in display mode, fluffing up his feathers and bobbing up and down in front of the females.

But then my eye was caught by a pair of cock Pheasants out the right of the Hide, having a right old song and dance. Both jumping up in the air, feet and wings flying, screeching out.

Just then a familiar face came in. I'm afraid I can't remember the name. But we decided to head up the trail towards the Dragonfly Trail. We came to the Bridge, where some Bullfinches had been seen before. Sure enough, a male and 2 females could eventually be seen, high in the trees and at the back. We decided to double-back and walk along the adjacent trail to see if we could get a better view. But, by the time we got there, they had all gone.

Further along the trail, we spotted a pair of Buzzards quite low over the adjacent field. Then we spotted a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Green Woodpecker flying around the area. At the entrance to the Dragonfly Trail we could hear Goldfinch, while a very friendly hen Pheasant trotted over to us to say hello. But she probably wanted a handout!

From here we headed back towards the White Hide. A quick stop at the Bittern Pool to confirm no Bittern, but we did see a Muntjac in the woods to our right. A pair of Buzzards were high in the sky above us.

I then found myself in the White Hide, where there wasn't too much to add, other than a Little Egret on the other side of the lake. I went and sat in the James Hide again but saw pretty much the same as before. Regretfully there was no sign of a Kingfisher or Water Rail today.

I stopped off at the Watchpoint for 10 minutes, seeing another pair of familiar faces, sporting adult plumage, before heading home.

'I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what, never again.'