Friday, 1 May 2015

Summer arrives at Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 7th April 15

Weather: Sunny blue skies all day, partly cloudy later. Very warm.

Bird Total: 46
Plus: Bank Vole; Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.
Plus: Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Bee-fly; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Green Lacewing; Hoverfly; Midge; Pond Skater;
Plus: Daffodils; Hawthorn; Lesser Celandine.

It was a gloriously beautiful, sunny and warm day today. Only a slight bit of cloud cover towards the end of the day spoilt it. Warm enough, in fact, to allow me to divest myself of at least 2 layers.

The journey down was relatively uneventful, with just 2 Little Egrets to shout about. On the trail up I was treated to a veritable feast of bird-song, with Song Thrush and Green Woodpecker taking the honours.

When I arrived at the Watchpoint, Bill Last was the only person around. He pointed out a Muntjac, feeding just in front of the White Hide and a pair of Little Ringed Plovers on the main island. There were several Grey Herons around; 2 Little Egrets in the roosting tree; 2 Redshank, both busy feeding; a fair few Lapwing dotted around and a pair of Cetti's Warblers chasing around the reeds directly in front of me.

After about 20 minutes or so, I moved down to the lesser watchpoint, where the LRPs; both Redshank and a Little Egret gave much better views. Unfortunately, none of them ventured closer. I could see a lone Buzzard high up and away to the left.

I moved further down the trail to the Gladwin Hide. From here I could see 6 Great Crested Grebes, all paired up; 2 male and 2 female Goldeneye, while there was only Canada Geese and Coot out in front.

I didn't hang around for too long and, on the walk back, a lovely Wren announced his presence by belting out his loud song from high in a tree. After a quick look from the Watchpoint, I walked towards the Wood. Over the bridge my first butterfly of the day, a gorgeous Brimstone appeared. It was my first of the year and was quickly followed by a Peacock. In fact, both species were numerous throughout the day.

As usual, the first half of the woods provided the best sightings. First up was the first of several Buff-tailed Bumble Bees, followed by a 7-spot Ladybird, again the first of the season. The Wood was alive with bird-song, the stars being the Chiffchaffs. Then 2 Jays flew over, from left to right, landing on a high branch, before moving off. The second half of the Wood again proved disappointing.

A quick look out over the Bittern Pool proved fruitless and so I sat down in the James Hide. Two people with bigger lenses were already there and stayed put for over 30 minutes before moving off and leaving me to it. Which wasn't a problem, as there wasn't much action going on. Coots and Ducks provided the hors-d'oeuvre and then the main course arrived, a close-up view of a Grey Heron. I watched as it went into hunt mode, walking around the lagoon.

Another guy came in and sat down to watch the Heron show. But, despite a 15-minute search, the Heron found nothing and was eventually chased off by one of the nesting Canada Geese. A Cetti's Warbler was sounding off every 10 minutes, out to my left, but didn't show. More butterflies fluttered by, while the Feeders provided the usual menu for the usual diners.

I headed up the trail towards the White Hide, allowing a Grey Squirrel to hop slowly past me. I gave the Water Vole 15 minutes to appear and, when it didn't, I headed to the Hide, where I found 2 people having lunch. What a good idea!

There wasn't much to excite outside, apart from a Wren just in front, flying to and fro, busily building one of his nests. But there were noticeably lots of flying insects about, including a cracking Bee-fly. A Green Lacewing crashed down in front of me for a few seconds before flying off. Midges were both numerous and everywhere. Then a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly flew past, the third species of the day.

Walking back past the Bittern Pool, from the south side, I spotted the first Cootlets of the year. Only two of them, but cute nonetheless. As I looked out I could see Jenny on the far side, looking very busy. Then a Kingfisher appeared not too far from her. It perched up for a minute or so, before flying off.

I made my way down to the Dragonfly Trail, stopping off to try and spot the Bullfinches by the Bridge. Not today, sadly. At the Trail entrance I was surprised to see that the feeders were not only still up, but full. Goldfinches and Tits were flying around them, as usual, but there was also a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. And above and behind him was a Green Woodpecker. The GSW soon flew off but the Greenie landed on the grass and began hunting for ants.

I arrived back at the James Hide and was delighted to find a Bank Vole scurrying around. The Hide was empty and so I started to try and photograph the Vole again. I was also tempted to photograph the posing Reed Buntings as well. In between their appearances I fed some wholemeal bread to a very grateful Canada Goose, one of the nesting pair. He came right up to the Hide to vacuum up all the bread.

The sun was in the right place to shine perfectly on the feathers of a female Mallard. Most of the Feeder birds were flying around and all kept me entertained for about half-a-hour.

I decided to head back to the Watchpoint, seeing a few familiar faces, before heading home. A very nice, warm day out. My slightly burning red face prompted me to dig out the sun-cream for future trips.

'The rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets it in the winter.'