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.'