Monday, 25 January 2016

Bloody Weather Forecasters!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 7th January 16

Weather: Cloudy and overcast. Rain. Very cold in the wind.

Bird Total: 49
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Konik Pony; Rabbit.

My old Grandfather's (G.R.H.S) arthritic right knee could forecast the weather better than this! This morning, before leaving, I checked the weather forecast on the TV. Cloudy with rain early on, brightening up after 10-ish. Short shower at lunchtime, brightening up again in the afternoon.

Actual weather: Rain. Cloudy and overcast. More rain. Cloudy and overcast. Sunshine an hour or so before dusk. Good weather for ducks - not good for Birders/photography! Despite all the investment, they still cannot seem to give us a decent forecast. Forget boasting about 10-day forecasts, they can't even make 10-hour forecasts!

I think they should omit 'Forecast' and insert 'Indication'. And how come they can correctly forecast bad weather but not good weather?

I actually woke up this morning with a slight hangover. Which would have been ok if I'd been on the ale last night. I wasn't. Not a good start. However, it was touted as the first fairly good day, weather-wise, so I arose and tossed a coin. Heads I go out, tails I return to bed. It was heads.

It was cold, dark and miserable as I headed for the Station. More doom and gloom - the fares had risen. At least there were no problems with the trains. The ponds and puddles in the fields adjacent to the tracks were starting to turn into lagoons. On the walk up it started to rain. I was beginning to think that I should have trusted my initial instinct and stayed in bed.

There were plenty of Song Thrushes around, all singing their heads off. Three of them were perched up quite close, as I walked by. However, I was trying to step around all the muddy puddles on the trail, as well as trying to avoid all the joggers, cyclists and, yes, dog-walkers.

No one was at the Watchpoint, as I arrived. No surprises there, as it had started to rain again. There was a cock Pheasant directly in front, a few yards away and completely ignoring me. A Robin flew in and landed a few feet away from me. I guess it was looking for a handout. I ignored him and continued to look through my Bins. It crept closer. I moved a few feet away. It followed me.

'Look,' I said to it, 'I haven't got anything for you!' It tilted its' head and just looked at me. I hadn't booked the HMWT course on Robin-speak yet, so I just stared back at it. A stand-off ensued for a few seconds, before it got the message and flew off.

Out on the lake I could see a lone Great Crested Grebe; several Lapwing; a few Grey Herons and all the usual retinue. However, there wasn't a great number of birds out there, which I thought was a bit odd, given the weather. Where were all the ducks?

I wasn't too keen on standing in the rain, so I quickly headed down to the Gladwin Hide. The door was wide open and a couple of the shutters were up, although there was no one in there. Looking out, I could see at least 3 pairs of Goldeneye plus all the usual stuff again. Although there seemed to be a greater number of birds at this end. Mainly Coot City plus a number of wildfowl, including a pair of Wigeon and a few Pochard. Three Konik Ponies were trying to shelter from the rain, to my right. What happened to the fourth?

It soon stopped and so they moved out into the open, rolled around the grass and then began feeding. In fact, way out to the left, I could see a snippet of blue sky. Unfortunately, it wasn't to last long. There were also plenty of midges flying around. Another symptom of a warm winter.

I scanned the lake. Frustratingly, as I looked, birds started to disappear, diving down as I scanned. All I could see were ripples. I had to wait for them to resurface, so that I could ID them. How do birds know when I train my Bins on them?

The rain had stopped, so I headed back up the trail. A quick scan from the Watchpoint and then I started my walk through the Woodland. The first half gave me several Redwing, flitting around from branch to branch and a lone Grey Squirrel, which ignored me, until I got a little too close. It pulled a face at me and then scampered up the nearest tree. The second half gave me the long-staying flock of Siskin. Again, they were high in the branches, feasting on the Alders. I was going to wait to see if they would get any closer, but it started to rain again and so I headed towards the James Hide.

When I arrived in the James Hide fellow birder Ade Hall was already ensconced and checking the feeder area. The weather then proceeded to rain on and off for the next hour, some of it quite heavy. However, we were entertained by lots of stuff flying in and out. First up was a lone Little Egret, hunting at the back of the lagoon. A pair of Common Snipe were statuesque in the reed-cut. A Jay flew over, landed on a branch and then dropped down. A Cetti's Warbler continually sounded off, somewhere in the reed bed.

The feeders were still empty, apart from the nut feeder. However, the seed feeders, although 'looking' empty, were still being visited by several species, notably Reed Buntings. No Coal or Marsh Tit today, however a lovely Treecreeper flew in and landed on the trees to the right. I watched as it crept up three of the trees in the area, before flying off.

Ade had headed off when it had eventually stopped raining. A few people came and went. 'Anything about?'

I had lunch and was seriously contemplating heading home. The weather didn't look as if it were going to improve and it was also starting to get very cold.

But then the Gods must have taken pity on me, because the next thing I knew, an alarm sounded off and everything scattered. A Sparrowhawk flashed past the feeders, from right to left, towards the lagoon. Unusually, it didn't carry on, stopping and perching on a small branch, about 10 feet away from me. It then proceeded to take a good look around, for anything foolish enough to still be in the vicinity.

I, of course, was delighted and began snapping away at it immediately. A male, its' penetrating orange eyes darted around and about. Alas, it soon latched on to me and flew off. All the passerines were probably scared out of their minds at the appearance, but I was elated and couldn't help grinning like an idiot.

It had also stopped raining and so, thinking that it wouldn't get any better than that, headed off towards the Dragonfly Trail. I stopped briefly at the Twin Lagoons, seeing at least three Little Grebes. I found one of the birders that had been in the James Hide with me and let him know about the Sprawk.

He let me know about a Lesser Redpoll on the feeders. He soon headed off, saying that the redhead Smew had appeared outside the Gladwin Hide. I stayed for about 15 minutes, to see the Redpoll, but it never showed. There were plenty of Tits and Finches, including Greenfinch, as well as a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. The Pheasant count today was 11. However, the cold wind was biting into me, forcing me to move off.

I decided to head down to the Gladwin Hide to search for said Smew. Your man and one other were already in situ. They pointed out the Smew, which was in the same place as before. It didn't move very far. More Goldeneyes were about, as well as a Red Kite, gliding over Easneye Wood. The Konik Ponies walked idly past the Hide, barely glancing at me. And, just before I left, I watched a pair of Dunnocks flying about, to my left. Suddenly, a Sparrowhawk (the same one?) glided, rather than flashed, past. The Dunnocks had disappeared.

And finally the sun arrived, as the clouds departed. A bit late now, as it was low in the sky and about to disappear for the night. I headed back to the Watchpoint, where I spotted five species of Gull and a pair of Teal, before heading home.

I guess it was the right decision to go out today. Despite my earlier instincts. The Sprawk was definitely worth getting up for. Always trust to luck, you never know what might turn up!

'Word of the day: PERISSOLOGY -
the completely unnecessary use of loads more words than are absolutely necessary.'