Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Quiet End to the Year @ Amwell.

Amwell Nature Reserve - 28th December 15

Weather: Blue skies, some cloud. Mild.

Bird Total: 43
Plus: Bank Vole; Konik Pony; Muntjac.

It wasn't quite as good a day as the last visit. Probably because I forgot that today was a Bank Holiday and the world and his brother were out and about. Consequently, the wildlife were few and far between.

Still, I can't begrudge the 'Great Unwashed' a day out, every now and then. I just wish that they weren't quite so LOUD about it and then to complain that 'there's not much about!'

Of course, being a Bank Holiday gave me the opportunity to get an earlier train. The sun was again shining, whilst the cold weather stayed locked away somewhere else. It had been raining for the last few days and so all the extra lakes and lagoons were still around, which was good news for all the ducks.

I entered the canal path to find over 30 Mallards swimming around, laughing their heads off. Someone had obviously been feeding them. When I arrived they all swam up to me, expecting further hand-outs. They were to be disappointed, as I only had white bread with me.

Further along the path, lots of birds were present, singing away. Robins, Tits and Finches and I could also hear at least one Song Thrush and then I spotted another, high in a tree, belting out its' wonderful, colourful song. A third could be heard, over the fields.

There were a few people at the Watchpoint when I arrived. Unfortunately, there wasn't very much out on the lake. Plenty of nervous Lapwing; 4 or 5 Grey Herons, roosting on Cormorant Island; lots of wildfowl, including Teal, Shoveler and Pochard, all busily going about their business.

Dog walkers were coming and going, most asking if anything was about. I headed down to the Gladwin Hide. I had already seen a few drake Goldeneyes from the Watchpoint. I was also keen to see if the redhead Smew was still about. It wasn't. And apart from Coot; Gulls and ducks there wasn't much to see. I had counted 3 male and 2 female Goldeneye, but I was sure that more were about.

With not much else happening, I walked back to the Watchpoint, to find Bill 'The Don' Last there, with his entourage. I added Little Egret and Kestrel to the list, before deciding to take a walk through the Woodland.

Although not quite as good a walk as last time, it was nonetheless quite fruitful. The flock of Siskin were still about, but not quite as close as before. Several other passerine species were also about. Another Song Thrush was singing out. However, there were quite a few people in the area, as well. I did spot a female Muntjac, feeding just off the path.

I took a quick, fruitless, look out over the Bittern Pool, in between numerous dog-walkers passing by. Then I found myself sitting in the James Hide. Another guy was already in there and in the choice seat. There wasn't much about here either. The seed feeders were now empty but the nut feeder was doing fairly good business. No Marsh or Coat Tits today but there were plenty of Reed Buntings about.

After about an hour of patient waiting, all I had to show was a pair of Buzzards, over Easneye Wood and another Muntjac, which crossed the reed cut. People were coming and going and there were also a fair few noisy occupants in the upper tier. After lunch I decided to head down to the other feeders, by the Dragonfly Trail.

There wasn't much to see on the walk down, just more dog-walkers. I'm slowly getting the impression that this place is turning from a wildlife reserve into an opportunity for people to empty their dogs. This, despite all the signs asking them to be kept on a lead and to realise that there is no such thing as the 'dog-poo fairy'.

The feeders were full at the Trail, but only had the usual suspects. Pheasant; Tits and Finches. This part of the Reserve saw the most people about, but only some of them had dogs with them, thankfully.

I met a fellow birder on the walk back and he told me that the redhead Smew had been seen earlier this morning. So I headed back down to the Gladwin Hide. There were several other birders there, when I arrived. I was fortunate enough to spot the Smew, to the left of the Island in front. It was flanked by several Wigeon, that must have recently arrived. It kept close to the shoreline but then ventured out into the open lake, giving some very good views.

A pair of drake Goldeneye and more Wigeon could be seen and, together with the Smew, made a very pleasing spectacle, looking through the binoculars. We were also lucky enough to see a Common Snipe fly past the Hide. I hung around for about 25 minutes, watching the Smew, but it didn't get any closer to the Hide. More people came in and so I headed off. I'm not keen on crowds.

It was still relatively early and so I sat back down in the James Hide. Three other people were here, but fortunately headed off not long after and so, finally, I was left on my own. The same birds were around, nothing out on the lagoon, but then a little Bank Vole made an appearance. It darted about, under the feeders, trying to snap up some spillage, before being frightened by anything that moved.

I tried taking a few photos, but it was now getting dark and so I headed back to the Watchpoint, before heading for home. I'm hoping that the weather might just be kind enough to allow me one more visit before the end of the year.

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