Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Bittern Extracts The Michael!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 18th February 16

Weather: Sunny, slight cloud.

Bird Total: 47
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.

It was a rather short visit today, with the hope of seeing a Bittern high on the agenda.

'The Pool'
A fairly overcast morning gave way to blue skies and warm weather in the afternoon. In recent times, this had been touted as the coldest week of the year. So it seems we can look forward to Spring arriving soon. Although this means there won't be too many chances left to spot Bittern.

The Canada Geese were in their usual place, out on the fields, as we sped by. There were also Teal and Wigeon out there, as well. A Little Egret was standing stock still, by one of the lagoons. There was an unusually large showing of Woodpigeons, packed tightly together, all busily feeding. After the recent rains most of the lagoons were full again.

Drake Teal
Walking up the canal path a cold wind was making my eyes water, although it was quite warm in the sunshine. There were various clumps of cloud trying to blot out the blue skies, but they were starting to disperse.

It was the schools half-term this week and so there were quite a few families about. Although most of the children were well behaved, there were some noisy individuals about. And most families had dogs with them. I was in two minds about whether it was good to see children out and about, rather than staying at home playing on their computers. Or am I just being grumpy and curmudgeonly?

Male Reed Bunting
There wasn't anyone at the Watchpoint when I arrived. Looking out, I could see a large contingent of Lapwing, on the main Island. All, bar one or two, facing the same way, into the wind. A couple of Grey Herons were further back, doing nothing in particular, as usual. All the wildfowl were floating around or asleep. I could see a couple of drake Goldeneye diving, way out to the right, near the Gladwin Hide. Or, as someone once said, 'now you see them - now you don't!'

I was here today to try to find the elusive Bittern again. However, before I headed down to the Bittern-less Pool, I decided to take a walk through the Woodland. Just before I entered I spotted a pair of Goldcrest, flitting around the branches, as they do. They tempted me by venturing close, before flying off, as I brought the camera to bear. It reminded me of one of Ron's rules, regarding birds and cameras. You'll have to read his Blog, to find out.

Cooperative Treecreeper
Further in I could hear a Greenfinch wheezing out its' call and then I found a lovely Treecreeper, who did allow a few modest shots. At one point, it looked like it was going to fly even closer to me, but then flew off when some children approached. With dogs. I headed for the Bittern-less Pool.

There was only one person standing there, when I arrived. Not long after Alan Reynolds turned up, he of 'Seymour Birdies' fame. A minute or two later Ron, of 'Amwell Watcher' fame, arrived. A minute or so after that, Katy Kingfisher, of, erm, Kingfisher photos fame, showed up. Another familiar face also arrived. It was a 'Bittern Twitch'! I was hoping that, with all the Bittern magnets that had turned up, we would now get to see one.

Alas, no. Despite several visits throughout the day it never appeared. I'm now going to again rename this area as just 'The Pool'. The magnificent display, by 4 birds, back in late October, at Fishers Green, must have used up all my luck. Sadly, it doesn't look as if I'm going to see a Bittern here, this year.

Cyril the Squirrel
Just before Ron and I decided to head off, Mrs Water Vole, of, erm, Water Vole fame, turned up. We all trooped off to sit in the James Hide. Although Ron then had a change of heart and decided to carry on, towards the Watchpoint, together with Alan.

Phil the Pheasant - note the absence of white neck ring
Sat in the James Hide having lunch, we saw not a lot. You could say it was a working lunch. Or 'Al-Desco' as they used to say at work. The feeders had been re-stocked and there were plenty of birds flying in and out. Coot; Moorhen and Teal were all out on the pond. Cyril the Grey Squirrel was vacuuming up all the spilt seeds, together with Phil the Pheasant. A pair of Muntjac could be seen feeding over on the far side, by the fenceline.

Ron then appeared again. After a brief look out over the pond from the upstairs tier, we headed towards the White Hide. All the usual could be seen. However, we were then invaded by a large family, mainly noisy toddlers, with noisy sticks, so we made a hasty exit.

Bittern? No - Banksy the Bank Vole!
We then alternated between 'The Pool' and the James Hide. The women soon left and not long after, so did Ron. I hung around the Pool, more in desperation than hope. Dusk slowly arrived and, dejectedly, I gave up and headed back to the Watchpoint, where Darren Bast and Ron Cousins, amongst others, were scanning all the Gulls.

Darren asked if I had seen the Bittern fly up, a little earlier. Bittern? What Bittern? I must have missed it, whilst I was photographing the Bank Vole. Blast!

I headed for home soon after. I later heard that the Bittern was seen again, not long after I had left. Now that's just extracting the michael!

'If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed.
If you read the newspaper, you're misinformed.' Mark Twain