Sunday, 28 February 2016

Another Bittern No-show @ Amwell.

Amwell Nature Reserve - 11th February 16

Weather: Sunny, slight cloud.

Bird Total: 54
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Konik Pony; Muntjac; Rabbit.

Another bright, sunny day. Although the weather is forecast to deteriorate over the next few days. So today had to be Amwell, which had a lot to live up to, after yesterday.

I caught the later train again today, mainly because of the 10km yomp of yesterday. That and the fact that Carol had forecast a dull, overcast morning. In the event, it was bright sunshine before I had even left home.

Whilst waiting for the train - which was ontime - a Cetti's Warbler flew past and landed on a shrub behind me, quickly disappearing from view. On the journey down, the Canada Geese returned with a vengeance, masses of them on the adjacent fields. I also managed to spot a pair of drake Pochard on one of the lakes, as we zoomed by.

No, not the Bittern - just a Grey Heron!
Just before I reached the canal path I heard, then saw, a goodly amount of House Sparrows on the trees, opposite the Jolly Fisherman pub. There were also a large group of Mallards, as I entered the path. It was actually quite warm, walking along. Blue skies and no wind.

I reached the Watchpoint to find quite a few people present. Jenny and a small team were working just in front. I was informed that a Bittern had showed earlier. I realised that if I'd travelled down on my normal train, I would quite probably have seen it. The bird had last been seen just outside the James Hide and so I headed straight down there.

Before leaving I took a quick look out over the lake. There were only the usual crowd out there, notably lots of Lapwing and a few Grey Herons. Quite a few Gulls were also present, already. None of them seemed to be doing anything other than floating around.

View from the James Hide. Where's that bloody Bittern?
I had to avoid a large contingent of elderly on the way down, who were making a right racket. I entered the James Hide to find a couple of people present. No Bittern. I sat down, to try my luck.

I hung around for a couple of hours. No Bittern. All I had to show for my time was a Buzzard, high over Easneye Wood; a female Teal on the lagoon and three Jays flying past, from right to left. The feeders were still empty, probably because of the ongoing Rat problem. Only the nut feeder was doing some business, notably from a female Reed Bunting.

A few more people came and went. 'No, the Bittern hasn't showed!'

Female Teal
I was about to head off when Katy Kingfisher turned up. I enquired after her mother, wondering if Mrs. Water Vole was looking for her daughter, again. A few more Teal flew in and flashed us some lovely plumage. Katy pointed out a Red Kite, high in the sky. A Sparrowhawk zoomed past the Hide, left to right and vanished through the trees. Then a Water Rail showed well. A Cetti's Warbler could be heard sounding off.

Then Mrs. Water Vole appeared. Another woman had also entered the Hide, a few minutes before. Everyone seemed to know everyone else. I was surrounded by female Birders! I decided that Benny the Bittern wasn't going to make itself known and so headed off. I was accompanied by my new friend as we headed towards the Dragonfly Trail.

We checked the Bittern Pool. No Bittern. Then the Twin Lagoons. No anything. And nothing until we reached the Trail feeders. Where we spotted a lovely Lesser Redpoll, my first of the season. At last! Then a female Great Spotted Woodpecker flew onto the nut feeder. Followed by a pair of Greenfinch. Things were starting to look up.

From here we walked down to the woodland, the new route. Where we saw a large group of Redwing fly in, above us. Plenty of rabbit holes were about here, with a few associated Bugs Bunnies hopping around. I spotted a Muntjac in the distance.  A Buzzard was heard above, then seen. We could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, albeit quite a distance away. I could also hear a Treecreeper calling, quite near.

Just before we headed back, a Kestrel could be seen on the adjacent field, consuming its' catch, before flying off. On the walk back to the James Hide we spotted a Song Thrush and a lovely pair of Bullfinch, by the bridge. Quite a productive walk.

Male Teal
Back in the James Hide, we found Katy on her own. Lunch. The Teal reappeared, as did the Water Rail. As did Mrs. Water Vole. After half-an-hour we headed off, the women to walk through the Woods, while I headed towards the Gladwin Hide. Just before we parted company, a Goldcrest was spotted, zooming around the branches.

A cursory look from the Watchpoint yielded not a lot. From the Gladwin Hide I spotted 2 pairs of Goldeneye; 4 Great Crested Grebes; 2 Grey Herons; a Green Woodpecker calling and loads of Gulls. Unfortunately, the Smew didn't show itself. Just before I left, squadrons of Canada Geese splash-landed, all honking away.

Back at the Watchpoint the Gull Watch Brigade had appeared, as per usual. Mixed in with them was not only the esteemed Barry Reed but also the legendary LGR Evans, no less. I managed to spot a lone Common Snipe and debated whether to stay, to see if the Bittern would appear.

However, with such high quality company I decided that discretion would be the better part of valour. It was dark by the time I arrived home.

Not quite as good a day as yesterday, but not too shabby!


'First rule in politics: never believe anything until it's officially denied.' Sir Humphrey Appleby