Friday, 19 June 2015

Searched for the Scarce Chaser, but found a fledging Kingfisher.

Amwell Nature Reserve/RSPB Rye Meads - 9th June 15

Weather: Cloudy and overcast all day. Very cold.

Bird Total: 50
Plus: Bank Vole; Grass Snake; Muntjac.
Plus: 7, 14, & 16-spot Ladybirds; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Crane Fly; Dark Bush Cricket; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Midge; Pond Skater; Scorpion Beetle.
Plus: Blue-tailed damselfly.
Plus: Common Spotted Orchid, Early Marsh Orchid, Forget-Me-Knots; Southern Marsh Orchid.

Unfortunately today was spoilt by very unseasonably bad weather. It had been forecast to be slightly cloudy with some sunny spells. But instead we were met with heavy cloud and cold winds. We should have gone out yesterday but erroneously relied on the weather forecasters.

Anyway, despite the poor weather, I met up again with my good friend Barry, and set off for Amwell. We arrived in good time and looked out from the Watchpoint. From here we could see a pair of Redshank; at 6 Little Egrets; lots of Grey Herons; several Lapwing; loads of Swift and House Martins flying around and a Muntjac, which was feeding just in front of the White Hide.

The wind was quite nasty here and so, with Barry donning an extra jacket, we walked down to the other watchpoint. Where we spotted a Little Ringed Plover; a pair of Common Terns and a few Pochard close in, all trying to shelter from the wind.

We then walked down to the Gladwin Hide, passing a family of Canada Geese on the trail. Just before we reached the Hide I just happened to look back and spotted a couple of guys turn up, armed with noisy strimmers, who immediately started to cut fishing spots by the bank. They eventually disturbed the Geese. I was quite annoyed and resolved to try and find out why they were doing this right in the middle of the breeding season. Money talks, I guess.

From the Hide we could see a lone male Pochard; a lone Lapwing and a few Mallards, in front of the Hide. The male Mallards looked to be moulting. From the island in front we could hear an Oystercatcher calling out. A male Reed Bunting was calling out to our right. It was also still noticeably cold out, with the water on the lake almost producing white horses.

We walked upto towards the James Hide. On the way we spotted a family of Great Tits going by, calling as they went. Cuckoo Spit and Ladybird larvae could be seen on the flora as we went.

Looking out from the James Hide proved to be a little quiet early on. Barry kept an eye on the feeders, where we eventually saw the Great Tit family appear. They provided lots of entertainment as we watched the fledglings being fed by the parents. Then I spotted a Grass Snake swim across the pond, from the right, towards the little island.

A Bank Vole scuttled around beneath the feeders. Then Barry spotted a male Great Spotted Woodpecker appear on the reeds at the back. He gave us both a wary look, before flying off. The Reed Warblers showed well again today, to our left, while a Cetti's Warbler sounded off, further back.

From here we decided to head around to the White Hide. On the way we spotted a 14-spot Ladybird; a Dark Bush Cricket and a couple of Blue-tailed damselflies. In fact, they were the only damsels we saw all day, thanks to the poor weather.

We could now see 10 Little Egrets out on the lake, while the aerial display that the House Martins and Swifts gave us could only be described as gob-smacking. Just before we decided to head off we spotted a pair of Muntjac feeding just to our left.

On the way up to the Dragonfly Trail we spotted a 16-spot Ladybird. But it proved a fruitless exercise walking around Trail as there was nothing to see. I was hoping to see the Scarce Chaser that had been seen a few days ago. It was another first for the County. But it was much too cold for any dragons or damsels to be out and about. So we gave up and headed off. About the only other thing of note was the distant call of a Chiffchaff.

Barry was reluctant to call it a day and so I suggested we head off to Rye Meads. And so we found ourselves in the first Hide, the Draper Hide. There wasn't anything to see up until then. Outside, on the lagoon, we could see lots of wildfowl; about a dozen Common Terns; a lone Pied Wagtail; a lone Redshank; a lone Little Ringed Plover and a few Lapwing.

We didn't see many people about the area and I guessed that they were all probably in the Kingfisher Hide, as there were rumours of a Kingfisher fledging any time soon. We eventually made our way down there, via the twin Hides, where not much was about, other than Barry spotting a lone Kestrel on the trail.

When we entered the Kingfisher Hide we found the usual gang there. We were informed that not much was happening. But, after about 20 minutes of watching the parents fly in with fish, we were treated to the wonderful sight of a fledging Kingfisher. It teased us for about 10 minutes, poking its' head out of the nest. But then, to the encouragement of the parent and us, to a certain extent, it flew up to the nearest branch. Cue lots of cameras going off.

But it soon flew in the branches and disappeared. It didn't look like the others were going to fledge and so we headed off. Barry dropped me at the station and I was home just after 5. A quiet-ish day, somewhat spoilt by the weather, but the fledging was the highlight.

'On the whole, the kingfisher is only tolerable on account of the beauty of its plumage.'
Charles Coward