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.