Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The 'Detectorist' does it again.....! *

Amwell Nature Reserve - 17th March 16

Weather: Sunny, slight cloud. Cold wind.

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

**Happy St. Patrick's Day!**

After last week's amazing visit - I can't get it out of my head - I was eager to try my luck again. However, it was tempered by knowledge and experience that surely it couldn't be quite as good. Almost, but not quite.

The day itself proved to be another fruitful one, eventually, but it was soured by another debacle on the trains later in the evening. We had been promised mister blue sky, with slight cloud. Which, again credit to Carol, was what we got. Warm in the sunshine, but with a wickedly cold breeze.

The journey down was straight-forward enough, again seeing only 3 Canada Geese; Wigeon and Teal; a lone Little Egret; a lone Grey Heron; a pair of Great Crested Grebes and a lovely little Wren, flitting around the tracks beside the train. The fields were currently a mix of brown/green, with a few puddles about - it looks like the lagoons were finally past their best. I noted the absence of any conflabs today. Maybe they were already fed up with the 'Neverendum', had all made their decision and buggered off.

On the walk along the Canal Path, I spotted a Buzzard, high in the sky, being mobbed by a couple of Carrion Crows. I was also being mobbed, by thousands of Midges, who all seemed to be a livin' thing.

'Beautiful Plumage!'
Only one person was at the Watchpoint when I arrived. There were hardly any clouds about and the warm, bright sun was being reflected off the lake. I immediately noted the lack of birds around the area. However, I did see 4 Little Egrets; 1 Grey Heron; all the ducks, including Wigeon; a pair of Goldeneye, surprisingly out in front and to the left of Cormorant Island; lots of Lapwing; a pair of Great Crested Grebes and loads of noisy Gulls.

The other guy headed off, on a mission, to try his luck with the recently seen Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, while I headed down to the Gladwin Hide, although it was a tightrope decision. I haven't seen a LSW for quite some time. On the way down, I had to again avoid being mobbed by thousands of Midges, who were even more prolific along this stretch. There followed a short sneezing fit.

Sitting, looking out from the Gladwin Hide I could see Canada Geese and Coot, directly in front of the Hide; several Tufted Ducks; several Wigeon; a lone Great Crested Grebe and a lone Little Grebe, together, out to the left, by the far bank and 2 or 3 Cetti's Warblers, sounding off to the right, in amongst the reeds. However, there wasn't a great deal else to be seen. Maybe they had all been on the telephone line and their decision was to return to Europe, as well.

To the left of the Hide, I could see a male Reed Bunting, flitting around the bushes. Then a pair of Goldeneye could be seen, diving continuously. Possibly the same pair, as seen earlier. The Smew was absent from view today. I think that maybe it for them, this season. I couldn't hang around any longer, as the cold breeze was making my eyes stream and so I headed back up the trail.

As I walked past the Watchpoint, on the way to the Woodland, I could see Bill 'The Don' Last, et al, busy discussing their morning, so far. I paid my respects and carried on.

The Woodland was quiet as well, seeing just a lone Greenfinch; a Goldcrest; several Siskin and 7 (seven) noisy Jays flying over. The 'Pool' was just as quiet, with just the usual birds to be seen. This place has been just one summer dream to me.

Cyril the Squirrel
When I reached the James Hide, I found a couple of people in there. The choice seat had been taken and so I sat down and looked out, over the lagoon. There was one Mallard and a pair of Moorhen floating around. Fortunately, the couple soon left and I moved over to try my luck with the feeder birds. Katy had thankfully kept the feeders full and they were being visited regularly by all the usual customers.

Roland Rat
A Grey Squirrel was feeding on the scraps, but was soon chased off by a Brown Rat. A few of the earlier Jays passed by, while a Cetti's Warbler could be seen darting between the reeds, on the opposite bank. There was a brief visit from a Great Spotted Woodpecker. However, that was all that was about, in the hour that I sat there.

Moving on towards the Dragonfly Trail, I could see a Red Kite, high up on the thermals, as I passed the 'Pool'. A Redwing showed, briefly, just before I reached the Twin Lagoons. There was nothing to be seen from the Bridge and then I reached the Trail.

The feeders were full here, as well, but there was nothing on them. However, there was a cock Pheasant below them. Then I saw a Coal Tit, out to the left, by the Cottage and then a few Goldfinches flew in and landed on the feeders.

Walking on, towards the Woodland, I came across another Goldcrest; a few Redwing; a Red Kite; a Bank Vole and the first 7-spot Ladybird of the season. On the return leg I spotted a pair of Kestrels and could hear a Green Woodpecker yaffling.

It must have been a strange magic, as, when I reached the Dragonfly Trail entrance again, there were 4 Lesser Redpoll on the feeders.

I then found myself back in the James Hide. Lunch. Not long after, Ron's smiling face appeared. We chatted for a few minutes, reminiscing about the previous visit and how good it had been, compared with the sparse sightings on offer today.

Not five minutes later, he pointed to our left and cried out, 'Bittern!' I laughed, thinking he must be winding me up. But no, the Bittern was there again, in the same place as before. The sighting made me turn to stone - I was stunned - my 'flabber' had never been so 'gasted'.

'What did you do, release it just before entering?' I asked him.

I sit here for most of the day, keeping an eye on that same area, seeing nothing and then Ron shows up and 'Bingo' - five minutes later the Bittern appears. Although it again stayed partially hidden behind the reeds. It disappeared into the dense reedbed, making a few more appearances over the next 30 minutes. Wow, you wait all season for one to appear and then.......

Not long after it had appeared, a pair of cock Pheasants started a fight, right in front of the Hide. One of them was Phil, the 'ringless one', while the other was our punky-haired white-capped friend from the other day. Pandemonium then ensued as both birds squawked and fought. Ron and I were both torn between photographing the fight and keeping an eye on Benny the Bittern.

We needn't have worried, Benny hadn't moved while the fight raged. Only when the fight finished did Benny move on. However, that may have been because Ron had stepped outside and tried to get closer, scaring it off. I even managed to spot and photograph a Marsh Tit earlier, as well. I'll have to insist that Ron visit more often! I reckon he must be one of the 'Detectorists' of the birding world!

Just before I headed back to the Watchpoint, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen again, a pair of Muntjac could be seen feeding on the opposite bank, in front of the fenceline and, finally, the resident pair of Teal flew in, there usual arrival time.

Ron headed off to the Woodland to look for Treecreeper. At the Watchpoint there was a lone Little Egret, hunting just in front, by the reedbed.

At that point, I decided to head for home. It was time for the showdown with the trains. I arrived at the Station to get the 17.17, which should have got me home around 6. The information board was screwed up, which meant that the trains would be, too. 17.17 came and went. No train. No information. No Station Staff. Great.

The HelpPoint was as unhelpful as ever. One bad-tempered evil woman enquired as to when the next train would arrive. She was told how to get to her destination instead. When she repeated the question the line went dead.

However, there were plenty of other people hanging around and I figured that they must know something. Otherwise I would have gone for the bus. In short, our train arrived around 18.30. Just before it arrived the information board miraculously sparked into life, while the tannoy system informed us that our train was about to arrive! It felt like the last train to London!

There were further delays when I had to change trains. I eventually arrived home after 7.30. A two and a half hour journey which should have taken 35 minutes! I was frozen and not a happy chappy!

'My doctor reckons I'm paranoid. He didn't actually say it, but I know he's thinking it.'

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Aggressively Mediocre @ Fishers Green!

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 14th March, 16

Weather: Blues skies, slight cloud. Cold wind.

Bird Total: 41
Plus: Muntjac.
Plus: Buff-tailed Bumblebee; Midge.

It was a quiet day today, compared to all the excitement of the last trip. You might even say that the day was 'aggressively mediocre'. The lakes and lagoons were eerily quiet, with hardly any birds about. I'm not too sure why, various reasons probably include too many people about or the weather.

Speaking of the weather, it was really nice out, warm and sunny, but tempered by a cold wind. Maybe, with the advent of Spring, the Winter birds have migrated while the Summer birds haven't yet arrived.

Whatever, on the journey down I managed to spot 3 Egyptian Geese; only 3 Canada Geese this time; quite a few Wigeon; around half-a-dozen Teal; a lone Little Egret and a pair of Great Crested Grebes. There was a Collared Dove at the train station earlier.

Again, there was no conflab of Moorhen or Woodpigeon, instead it was the turn of the Black-headed Gulls. Maybe they've all heard about the EU vote. I wonder which side they will lean to? I wonder what they think about BoJo!

Without doubt, the star bird of the day!
I entered the Canal Path, passing quite a few narrowboats on the way. Earlier, by the car-park, I saw a man with a dog getting out of his car. The dog was barking away furiously and pulling on the lead. It was probably excited about the walk.

'Down, Sid, down!' The man yelled, looking at me sheepishly.

'Sid?' I enquired, trying to doge past it without being jumped on.

'Yeah, because he's VICIOUS!'

I groaned, smiled and carried on.

Reaching Friday Lake, I sat down on the wooden bench and got my act together. Looking out, all I could see were Coot, Gulls and Tufties. A pair of Mute Swans floated up to me, expectantly. No sign of the Smew. In fact, I didn't see any all day. They might be gone by now. Another sign of Spring.

There may not have been any Smew here, nor surprisingly, any Great Crested Grebe, but the dog-walking fraternity were already out in force today, with dogs barking all over the place. Indeed, I had to watch where I stepped today, as I found lots of dog-poo in the middle of most of the paths, in many areas.

I reached the Teal Hide without any further problems and sat down. Outside, 2 Canada Geese were quite close and looking warily up at me, before continuing to feed. Over 30 Wigeon were also fairly near, but were keeping their distance. Around half-a-dozen Lapwing could be seen, dotted around; several Shoveler and Teal, all mainly dozing and a lone Grey Heron, out to the left. There were Gulls aplenty, mainly Black-headed but with a sprinkling of Herring and Lesser-black Backed amongst them.

Just before I left, another person entered - 'Much about?'. Outside, while I was looking for Water Rail on the adjacent stream, a familiar face appeared. I usually see him in the Bittern Hide. He was heading that way, after a visit to the Teal Hide. He let me know about some Goosander, seen on the western Canal. I thanked him and headed off to find them.

On the way, I could hear a Little Grebe whinnying nearby. I reached the Canal and spotted the Goosander almost immediately. A male and 2 females, which warily kept to the other side of the Canal. I managed a few modest photos.

I could also hear some Siskin around here, together with a party of Thrushes, which looked to be a mixture of Redwing and Fieldfare. A couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming in the distance. Then a Jay flew over the Canal and landed on one of the many trees opposite.

I headed off, through the Lakes, towards the Bittern Hide. There wasn't much about to report, other than a lone Little Grebe and several Great Crested Grebes. It was all very quiet.

Nothing from the Bridge and very few birds at the Hooks Marsh feeding point. This had been fenced off, due to subsidence. It didn't stop people from feeding the birds, though.

On the trail towards Fishers Green and the Bittern Hide, I spotted 3 Call Ducks. I haven't seen these here for a few years. A bit smaller than Mallards and just as curious and hungry for handouts.

On the other side, on the lake, I could see a Canada/Greylag Goose hybrid. Further along, there was only one coconut fat-ball feeder left and that was almost empty. I managed to avoid one of the dog-poo piles, freshly left. Thanks, whoever owned that dog!

I found my friend in the Bittern Hide. However, there was nothing much about. The feeders were full and were being visited regularly by Blues and Greats. Mallard and Moorhen were also paying regular visits, as were a pair of Magpies. A little Wren was flicking around the edges of the pond.

A male Reed Bunting was also taking advantage of the feeders. Out on the lake, apart from lots of very noisy Black-headed Gulls, were a pair of Egyptian Geese, on the island. However, there was no sign of a Bittern; none have been seen here for over a week. There was no sign of any Water Rails, either. Even the resident Grey Heron and Jay stayed away. Lunch.

I moved on, towards the Grebe Hide. There was nothing of note to be seen, other than the usual fare. The Weir was totally devoid of birds. I've never seen it as empty as this. On the trail towards the Hide, I managed to see a few more Great Crested Grebes, a stagnant Grey Heron and a female Pochard.

All the lakes and lagoons around this area were empty, too. Nothing was about. Very strange. There were plenty of anglers about today, even more than normal. I was about to enter the Grebe Hide when I finally spotted some birds. Out to my left were a pair of Goosander, no less, on the little lagoon. When I tried to 'stealthily' creep closer, they flew off.

However, from the Hide itself, I was delighted to see over a hundred Wigeon, floating around in front of the Hide. Nearly all of them, it seemed, were whistling away. A pair of Great Crested Grebes were in amongst them. A Little Grebe was far out to the left, struggling against the strong current.

Not long after, the GCG count rose to 6. Then I could see a female Goosander, way out to the right, floating between the islands. It may or may not have been one of the pair seen earlier. The water was very choppy, the wind here was quite strong and there were plenty of 'white horses' on show.

Just before I left a pair of Grey Herons could be seen, building a nest on one of the tall trees on the island in front. The wind was now really starting to blow and nearly blew one of the Herons off the tree. Only with lots of flapping did it manage to stay on the tree.

I decided to head back. Just outside, my first Muntjac of the day, a female, appeared briefly. It was a bit surprising not to have seen any earlier. After the last record-breaking visit, it looked as if even the mammals were staying hidden.

The only birds on show, on the journey back, were on the lagoon, over the relief channel. One Grey Heron; 5 Teal and a pair of Shoveler were doing their thing. Earlier, I had spotted Muntjac number two and then my first Buff-tailed Bumblebee of the year. It's probably a good time now to mention that there were still Midges about. The cold(ish) weather, this Winter, doesn't seem to have affected them.

Back in the Bittern Hide, there was nothing new to report. Other than one Mute Swan taking a beating from another, to the left of the Hide. It had probably 'transgressed the unwritten law' or something. The aggressor had pinned it down and, sitting atop, proceeded to bite and peck the poor unfortunate bird for several minutes, before deciding that it had made its' point. The loser managed to swim off, thereby avoiding more punishment.

A few people came and went. The temperature had risen around here and I was tempted to divest a few layers. The hot coffee remained untouched.

The only other thing to report was a brief visit of a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, to the left of the Hide, high up on the tree. It brought a little bit of excitement, as a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had been reported here the day before.

I hung around for another 30 minutes or so, before deciding to call it a day and headed for home. Not as exciting a day as the previous visit, but a fairly rewarding one nonetheless.

'Why should I worry about future generations? What have they ever done for me?' Groucho Marx

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

A Close Encounter With A German Sniper! *

Amwell Nature Reserve - 11th March 16

Weather: Sunny, slight cloud. Cold wind.

Bird Total: 62
Plus: Bank Vole; Grey Squirrel; Konik Pony; Muntjac; Rabbit; Rat; Weasel.

After a thoroughly miserable week, weather-wise, I was determined to get out today. It was forecast to be overcast and cloudy all day. Surprisingly, it turned out to be quite sunny and warm, at times, with only slight cloud. Thank God they got it wrong, again, although they still remain unforgiven.

Sadly, I'd been doing some more housework all week and so was champing at the bit to get out and about. I had managed to achieve everything this week, in the House, everything save paint your wagon. And a good thing too, as the day turned into one of those red-letter days. High totals of bird and mammal species were seen.

There was a surprise on the journey down - no Canada Geese to be seen anywhere on the adjacent fields. However, I did spot quite a few Wigeon and several Teal; a lone Little Egret; a pair of Great Crested Grebes and, best of all, a pair of Egyptian Geese. There were no conflabs of Moorhen or Woodpigeon today.

Just before I arrived at the Station, I bumped into a good friend, walking down the road, with an empty pushchair. I did point out that she may have forgotten something. She laughed, saying the little'un had been dropped off at the babysitters. I guess that's what happens when you have absolute power.

As I passed the Jolly Fisherman pub, I could see and hear lots of House Sparrow action in the bushes. Just after I entered the Canal Path I was delighted to spot my first Shield Bug of the season. At first, I thought it was a Forest Bug, but I later identified it as a Winter adult Common Green Shield Bug.

Jew's Ear Fungus
The sun was shining, with a thin layer of strato-cumulus. Although quite warm there was a cold breeze blowing. A few dog-walkers passed by, as did a few joggers and cyclists. A Greenfinch was calling out, high in the trees. The Konik Ponies had recently been moved onto the field, adjacent to the train line. I could see all three of them, standing in the early morning mist, wondering if a pale rider was amongst them.

There were a couple of people at the Watchpoint, when I arrived. A sweep of the lake brought me a lone Great Crested Grebe, feeding close in; a male Reed Bunting calling out, which was balancing precariously on the reeds in front; plenty of Wigeon swimming about, most of which were whistling away; one or two Grey Herons flying past; loads of Lapwing, mostly on the island in front; two drake Goldeneyes, way out to the right; a few Teal to the left and finally, a pair of Egyptian Geese, swimming slowly past the White Hide.

I could also see at least 5 species of Gull out there. Then a large group of noisy crumblies turned up. Some of them were certain that they could see one of the recently reported Caspian Gulls, perched up on one of the goal posts. I'm no Gull expert, so I kept quiet.

What with all the noise they were making - the people, not the birds - I decided to head down to the Gladwin Hide. I was only in there for a few minutes before spotting the resident redhead Smew, swimming slowly around, in front of the island opposite. Another Great Crested Grebe was close-by and I could see 2 pairs of Goldeneye, out to the left, diving down every few seconds. There was also a Green Woodpecker calling out.

However, at that point, the ‘crumbly brigade’ arrived and spread themselves out around me. I pointed out the Smew and then made a quiet exit, heading for the Woods.

Where I bumped into the three amigos, walking towards me. They told me that a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had been seen from the Bridge, on the way to the Dragonfly Trail. During the meanwhilst, in the Woods, I managed to spot a Treecreeper and a couple of Goldcrests.

A quick look out over 'The Pool' and then into the James Hide. Where I immediately spotted the 2 juvenile Bank Voles, out in the open, feeding. It was a quiet start, apart than that. However, the feeders were full and again doing great business, with, in particular, lots of Reed Buntings. This time I was determined not to photograph them, as I already have hundreds of shots. A Water Rail crossed the reed-cut a couple of times, but too quickly for a photo.

Unfortunately, the ‘crumbly brigade’ had followed me and soon arrived at the Hide. Fortunately, they left soon after - 'We'll leave you in peace!'

It took about 10 minutes for everything to settle back down again. Surprisingly, a Coot had wandered in, quite close to the Hide, to feed. I'd never seen a Coot get that close to the Hide before, even with all the racket.

There then followed a moment of high drama. A Cetti's Warbler called out loudly, quite close to the Hide. I remembered from the last visit that one had hopped past, allowing some photos. I patiently waited for a few minutes and then I could see a few reeds move, just in front.

Sure enough, the bird appeared, albeit behind several reed stems. However, it then flew up and posed for me. Which was fantastic - the bird posed, the light was right but, unfortunately, the camera settings weren't quite correct. I guess, for a few dollars more, I could have bought a better one. Still, I got a few record shots.

I was busy photographing the Cetti's when something caught my eye, just below me. I looked down and saw that a little Weasel had appeared from nowhere. It looked up at me, tilting its' head. I thought that it might disappear after seeing me, but no, it stayed around, hunting. It was pretty quick on its' feet and was difficult to photograph but I did managed to get a few modest shots.

Surprisingly, it stayed around for nearly 15 minutes, darting back and forth, around the Hide. At one point, it started to hunt around the area where the Bank Voles were. Suddenly, I saw it lunge and then I heard a squeal - it had caught one of the Voles. It soon darted off to consume it in private.

Not 60 seconds later, it reappeared and continued in the same vein as before. Finally, I watched as a large Brown Rat entered the arena and chased it off. I had a huge smile on my face and my heart was only beginning to return to normal. What a fantastic 15 minutes or so!

Just before I left, a familiar face appeared and sat down next to me. I sadly informed him that he 'should have been here five minutes ago'. Nothing much happened after that, for about 10 minutes, other than a pair of Grey Squirrels having a territorial dispute. I had a quick cup of hot coffee and headed off.

Outside, heading towards Dragonfly Trail, I spotted a Chiffchaff, high in the trees and then another Goldcrest. I could hear a Woodpecker drumming, while another Green Woodpecker called out. I was quietly hoping that the drumming might be the Lesser.

Just before I reached the Bridge, I spotted a Song Thrush, on the ground, sifting through the leaves. It flew off when it saw me. A pair of Buzzards were calling and circling high above. There had been nothing to see at the Twin Lagoons, which I may rename 'The Dead Pool'.

Arriving at the Dragonfly Trail, I met Ron and Ade Hall. They pointed out a couple of Lesser Redpoll on the feeders, together with Goldfinch and Greenfinch. Soon, they were joined by a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers. A pair of Red Kite could be seen high above. Just before we left, I spotted a Siskin fly on to the feeders. A female Muntjac could also be seen in the distance.

Ron and I headed towards the Woodland. It was a tad muddy around here and I nearly slipped up twice. We walked the extension, along the mystic river, looking for Water Voles. There were none, but we made up for it, by spotting Goldcrest; Kestrel; Treecreeper; Redwing; Fieldfare and Grey Heron.

Just before we arrived back at the Dragonfly Trail entrance, we spotted another Muntjac and then a Green Woodpecker, both out on the field. A pair of Red Kites could be seen, as well as a pair of Buzzards, flying only where eagles dare to go. There was nothing else to see, until we arrived back in the James Hide. As the lower tier was nearly full, we sat in the upper tier. Lunch.

At that point, I was thinking that it had already been a great day and so I would be going home a happy chappy. However, the action didn't stop. First up, I photographed a female Reed Bunting. Argh!

Ron spotted a couple of Water Rail, scurrying past the reed-cut, every few minutes. Then, just as I was offering him a cup of hot coffee, he pointed to my right and cried out 'Barn Owl!' We both watched, mesmerised, as it floated past us, silent and ghost-like, not six feet away. It was being pursued by Gulls and Crows, all squawking away at it. Unfortunately, it was too close and too quick for any photos, but it was a fantastically close sighting. It eyed us back cautiously, as it flew past.

The action continued, as a pair of Lesser Redpoll arrived at the feeders and then posed on one of the branches. A lone Marsh Tit quickly followed suit. There was more Water Rail action. A punky-haired white-capped Pheasant came in, as did a pair of Mallard and a lone Moorhen. A pair of Muntjac appeared in the middle of the reed-cut and walked idly into the reeds. Finally, a pair of Teal flew in.

The light was again really good and we both photographed anything that moved. This was the moment that Ron introduced me to the 'German Sniper'. His camera finger is a bit on the heavy side and all I could hear was a staccato of shots going off, every time he pointed it at something.

He grinned at me and said that he was a 'German Sniper'. I gave him a blank look and he replied, 'Herr Trigger!' We both cracked up and started laughing like schoolboys. It was another one of those moments, I guess you just had to be there.

However, he then urgently pointed a finger to my left and cried out, 'Bittern!' It hit me like a sudden impact, soon wiping the smile off my face and I squinted in the direction of his finger.

'Are you sure, or are you just winding me up?' I asked. The look on his face suggested he was serious. Both of us stared intensely at the area for another couple of minutes. Then a few reeds moved and we both cried out, 'Bittern!'

'Punky' the Pheasant!
Finally! I've spotted a Bittern here, after so many failures and disappointments, this year. Unfortunately, it was creeping stealthily behind several reeds and stubbornly refused to walk out into the open. Actually, it looked quite small and so was possibly a juvenile.

We both dashed downstairs to see if it provided better views. A couple of people were still in there and hadn't seen it. Unfortunately, they were both sitting on the left hand side of the Hide and were in the line of fire.

For the next 10 minutes, we watched as it finally disappeared into the thick reedbed. With both Ron and I in the upper tier again, together with the couple, we watched the surrounding area, hoping it would appear in the reed-cut. But no, it wasn't seen again. However, I was just elated at seeing it and getting a record shot of it. It had been like walking a tightrope, trying to find this elusive bird.

Finally, the remaining Bank Vole made another, tentative-looking appearance, before a Sparrowhawk flashed past and scared it and the all the birds away. The light was going and time was getting on. Ron decided to head for home, while I headed back to the Watchpoint.

Where Barry Reed and a few of the ‘Gull Watch Brigade’ were present. They pointed out a Caspian Gull, in amongst all the masses of Gulls that were out there. I noted that the island was now devoid of Lapwing.

With nothing else showing and, feeling exhausted, but elated, I headed for home myself. What a fantastic day!

'Don't wait for the perfect moment - take the moment and make it perfect.'

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Bramfield & Lemsford Springs

Bramfield Village - 4th March 16

Weather: Mostly sunny, with some cloud. Cold wind.

Bird Total: 20
Plus: Grey Squirrel.

The weather since Monday had been forecast for rain; sleet and/or snow and cloudy, overcast skies. So I had been 'forced' to do some housework.

However, a text from Ron persuaded me to put down my feather duster and pay a trip to, first Bramfield, then Lemsford Springs. Today was forecast for clear, blue skies, with slight cloud. A quick turn-around!

I arrived at Ware station, met Ron and then we drove over to Bramfield, mainly in search of the previously reported Hawfinches. This year, they were a little flighty. Appearing one day, disappearing the next.

This would be Ron's fifth attempt, this year, my first. Last year had been a great success, seeing six of them. Unfortunately, Ron's bad run this year, continued. We failed to connect with any of them.

We spent nearly 2 hours searching, together with two other Birders, around the Churchyard and surrounding area. No Hawfinches.

However, we did have more success with the raptors. First up, was a low-flying Buzzard. We craned our necks, as it buzzed right over us. It was followed, not long after, by a low-flying Red Kite. Very co-operative!

After hanging around the Churchyard for 20 minutes or so, we decided to take a walk out over the adjacent field, to see if we could find the Little Owl, as last year. Again, no joy.

However, we did spot another Red Kite and then a Green Woodpecker. We returned to the Churchyard. No Hawfinch. There were plenty of smaller birds on show, notably some Greenfinch.

However, it was pretty quiet, walking around the Churchyard, between the newly-coppiced trees and dodging the potholes. I was reduced to finding my first Primroses of the season.

Around lunchtime, we decided to cut our losses and head for Lemsford Springs.

Lemsford Springs Nature Reserve - 4th March 16

Weather: Mix of sun and cloud. Very cold in the wind.

Bird Total: 39
Plus: Muntjac; Rabbit.

And so onto Lemsford Springs.

We arrived in good time, retrieved the key and entered the Reserve. The sun was still shining, but a few clouds were starting to appear.

Soon, we were entering the first Hide, where we found fellow Birder, Kev and one other person. There then ensued a quick catch-up.

Outside, we could see a pair of Little Egrets, directly in front of us, over the stream. We could also see a lone Common Snipe; a few Teal and a pair of Green Sandpipers. There were plenty of Rabbits, hopping around, just in front of the Hide.

We sat there for an hour or more, seeing quite a few Goldcrest darting about; a Grey Heron fly-over; a pair of Kestrels, being mobbed by loads of Jackdaws; a pair of Ring-necked Parakeets, squawking over; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Grey Wagtail; Treecreeper and a female Reed Bunting. While the Green Sandpiper count rose to 4. Finally, Ron spotted a female Muntjac, way out to our right. Not a bad haul!

After lunch, the cold wind forced us to take a walk around the small Reserve. We saw plenty of Redwing and a lone Fieldfare; a pair of Mistle Thrushes, feeding on the grass and then we could hear a Song Thrush singing.

There were more Goldcrests about, as well as a Greenfinch. Towards the end of the circuit we spotted several Siskin, feeding on the ground, until we scared them off. Our fieldcraft still needs improvement.

We decided to call it a day at this point, but not before one more Goldcrest showed itself at the exit.

A very nice, unexpected, day out. Thanks again to Ron's expert driving!

'US Presidential Elections: Two little old ladies in a café the other day, were discussing
the possibility of CIA Black Ops & Snipers. They have also been seen spreading
grass seed on knolls in preparation.'

Thursday, 17 March 2016

A Lovely Pair of (Marsh) Tits @ Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 29th February 16

Weather: Sunny, slight cloud. Cold wind.

Bird Total: 55
Plus: Bank Vole; Grey Squirrel; Konik Pony; Muntjac; Rabbit.

Oh, God. Four months of the 'Neverendum'.

There's a strong possibility that we might end up with BoJo in Number Ten and Trump in the WH, while we have Putin in the Kremlin. Even Le Pen might conceivably get the nod in France. What a thought.

It reminds me of a Shakespearean quote from The Tempest - 'Hell is empty…all the devils are here.' We're all doomed!

However, never mind all that! Today started out quietly, initially, with not very much about. It somehow got me to thinking that today would be photo-less and that I would be home around lunchtime. On the contrary, the day just got better and better. It's funny how things turn out - Mother Nature always surprises you.

One of two lovely Marsh Tits
The train journey allowed views of the usual Canada Geese. Again with Teal and Wigeon. There was another large Conflab of Moorhen again. I guess they were probably deciding on whether to stay in the EU or not.

It was touted to be a sunny day, with slight cloud. For once, the forecast was correct! Well done, Carol. It was also quite warm in the sun and would have been even warmer, but for a cold wind. The lagoons on the adjacent fields were starting to dry out and return to green pastures.

There was mixed fortune on the trains. The morning trains were ontime, just, while the return journeys were 10 minutes late. There was also a problem with the gates at the destination, forcing me to walk over yet another bridge. The queue of cars stretched away into the distance. The drivers did not look very happy.

There were a few people at the Watchpoint, when I arrived. However, there weren't too many birds about, out on the lake. It was business as usual but there were two unusual things of note. Firstly, there were no Lapwing and secondly, there were a pair of Oystercatchers on the main island. They had been reported over a week ago, appearing betwixt here and Rye Meads. I was lucky enough to connect with them today.

I took a slow stroll down to the Gladwin Hide. There were only around 40-odd birds around this part of the lake. Mainly Coot, Tufted Duck and Black-headed Gulls. The only birds of note were a pair of Great Crested Grebes, on the far side.

There were quite a few Canada Geese out there as well, all making a hell of a racket. Then about a dozen Lapwings flew past, from right to left, heading towards the main island. Not long after, another squadron of Canada Geese crash-landed in, edging the noise-ometer up another notch.

Just before I headed off, I spotted a lone drake Goldeneye, out to the left. He was continually diving, heading for the island in front of the Hide. The Smew never appeared today, again. Neither did the Mandarin Ducks. Outside the Hide, I had to make sure I dodged the dog-poo, which had magically appeared.

Just before I reached the Watchpoint, I spotted Katy Kingfisher and together we took a walk through the Woodland. We bumped into a couple of familiar faces, before seeing a party of Long-tailed Tits, accompanied by a Goldcrest. Not long after, several Siskins were heard and then seen, including a cracking male, who was perched up and showing off his beautiful plumage.

We took a fruitless look out over the 'Pool'. Only Tufties, Coot and Gull. No Bittern. Then we found ourselves sat sitting in the lower tier of the James Hide. Katy had refilled the feeders, as part of her new volunteer role on the Reserve and they were doing some very good business. Greats and Blues; Robin and Dunnock; Chaffinch and Reed Bunting, all paid numerous visits, keeping us entertained for about 30 minutes.

Eventually, Katy moved on, leaving me to it. A few noisy people came and went. Then I spotted a pair of juvenile Bank Voles scurrying about. They were noticeably smaller than the adults were. And a lot braver, too. They thought nothing of grabbing a spilt seed and eating it, while a few of the birds were hopping around them.

There was a Grey Heron, out on the lagoon, when we arrived. Katy had already taken a few photos of it, successfully fishing and it was now standing quietly beside the reedbed, on the left-hand side. Eventually, it flew off, without getting any nearer.

I eventually headed off, too. As I reached the exit gate, two burly, mean-looking Community Officers passed by, on the way to the White Hide. I was hoping there hadn't been any trouble reported, but I avoided the Hide, just in case. Anyway, 2 CO's = Reserve tick!

Just before I reached the Twin Lagoons, I spooked a Song Thrush, which flew off in disgust. It had been feeding. Then an unaccompanied dog spooked me. I was mindful of my last encounter with a dog. Fortunately, this one left me alone.

At the Bridge, I spotted a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, high up on the branches. I then arrived at the Dragonfly Trail, where the feeders were almost empty.

There were 6 Pheasants underneath the feeders, 5 of them Hens. 2 Goldfinch were on the Nyger feeder. Just then a stunning Red Kite flew over me, quite low and then proceeded to disappear behind the trees, circling higher and higher. Five people then showed up and climbed over the gate into the Trail. They looked like HMWT staff and had fishnets with them. In their hands, not on their legs!

As they were disturbing all the birds, I headed off. I continued on to the Woodland, passing by the lovely show of Snowdrops. They were looking a bit past their best now, but it was still a breath-taking show.

At first, the Woodland was quiet, save for a few small birds flitting around. Then, gradually, the species count rose. Around this area I spotted - in order - Green Woodpecker; Redwing; Fieldfare; Song Thrush; Mistle Thrush; Jay; Grey Wagtail; Siskin; Goldcrest and a Treecreeper. An excellent 20 minutes!

Satisfied, I headed back. When I arrived back at the Dragonfly Trail feeder area, I found another familiar face. On one of the trees to our right, was a superb male Lesser Redpoll.

I soon arrived back at the James Hide; passing loads more dog-walkers. I successfully managed to avoid both them and the dog-poo. There were 4 people in the Hide, one of which was fellow Birder Alan 'Seymour Birdies' Reynolds. I recognised two others in there. They were all animatedly pointing their cameras at the area just in front of the Hide.

My 'hot streak' continued, as I was informed that a Cetti's Warbler was hopping about and showing well. At that moment, it re-appeared and allowed a few modest photos. It eventually moved away and made a circuit of the area, before passing by again a few more times. A very accommodating little bird!

The feeders were still busy and then one of the guys spotted a Marsh Tit. A second one soon followed and we all managed to get a few shots of these gorgeous birds. I hadn't seen a 'Marshie' for ages. It was a bit like London buses - wait ages for one to turn up and then two come along at once! A Little Egret flew over. A pair of Teal flew in. Then a pair of female Muntjac walked out into the reed-cut.

We were all kept busy trying to photograph everything. It was about now that I found out that my mobile phone started to play up. I don’t think it liked Leap Years! Looks like a new one will have to be purchased. Well, I've had it for over 10 years!

Eventually, all the excitement died down and we all headed off to the Watchpoint. Despite our best efforts at trying to 'entice' the resident female Bearded Tit out, she never showed. I guess she had voted 'out' of the EU.

At this point, my back decided to take me home. However, not before I spotted a Greenfinch, on the trail back. Then came the delayed journey home.

Just when you think it's going to be a quiet day!

'The Eurozone's Facebook page has just changed its currency status
from ‘Single’ to ‘It's complicated’.' This joke was sponsored by a special EU grant.