Saturday, 30 April 2016

A Barnstorming Great Day Out! *

WWT Barnes - 23rd April, 2016

Weather: Sunny with slight cloud. Light rain showers.

Bird Total: 77
Plus: Asian Short-clawed Otter; Water Buffalo.
Plus: Bluebells; Daffodils; Hawthorn; Lesser Celandine; Primrose; Snake's Head Fritillary.

Late April nowadays means another long train journey down to the London Wetland Centre at Barnes. However, this time I was accompanied by my good friend, Andrea, who wanted to practice on her new camera.

After a surprisingly easy journey down, where I arrived about 25 minutes before opening time, we met up and entered the Reserve. Earlier, on the train, all I managed to spot were a few pairs of Great Crested Grebes, out on the lakes.

Barnacle Goose
I don't usually 'do' weekends because wildlife reserves are usually packed with people, especially families. However, I was hoping that an early start would mean that we would be among the first to arrive. This, happily, was the case, as not too many people were around, a kind of wild justice.

We decided to walk the West Route first, as it was still sunny. This is the area where all the 'captive' birds are. And I knew that if we were the only visitors around, at this time, the birds wouldn't move off too far.
Red-breasted Goose

Happily again, I was proved right. Only most of the birds were in 'sleep mode'. This didn’t make for a good photograph.

The first birds we came across were the long-staying captive geese, Red-breasted, Barnacle, Egyptian and Emperor. Who were all asleep. So we moved on.

To an area which held Smew, Goldeneye and Hooded Mergansers. Followed by Bufflehead, Wood Duck and Canvasback. Some were close, some were distant.

We soon found ourselves in the 'Wetlands of the World' area. Here we found, among others, Nene Goose, Laysan Duck, Radjah Shelduck and Southern Screamer.

We then sat down in the first of the Hides, the Headley Hide. There were a few families in here, so we didn't stay too long. Outside, on the main lake, we could see all the usual birds in attendance. Gulls were both numerous and loud, mainly Black-headed Gulls. However, we did see at least one Great Crested Grebe and plenty of Coot, a few Shoveler and plenty of Geese.

Although I kept one eye out for any passerines, notably any Warblers, I didn't see too much about, other than Cetti's and Chiffchaff. I figured that they were keeping their heads down, because of all the noisy families. However, a bonus for me was the sight of a pair of Garganey; Scaup and several Pintail.

The Wildside area was next up. '...lose yourself in this wild area of meandering paths and rustling reedbeds - a haven of peace and quiet...' So quiet in fact, we didn't see anything.

We continued the circular route, heading back towards the Visitor Centre. Here, we encountered Red-crested Pochard, White-headed Duck, Marbled Duck and Ferruginous Duck, followed by a pair of White-naped Cranes, Mandarin Duck, Falcated Duck and Baikal Teal.

Ferruginous Duck
We stopped off to see the Smew and Goldeneye again, as the sun had come out, before breaking for lunch. Just before we reached the Cafe, we took a quick look to see if the Asian Short-clawed Otters were active. Sadly, they weren't.

After a hot cup of tea and a tasty slice of Carrot Cake (I was as hungry as the sea), we were on our way around the South Route.

This area is mainly a bird-watchers area, with plenty of Hides. Although a pond dipping and play-area for children is also around here - the 'Explore Zone'. We passed on that, as we could hear lots of screaming and shouting.

The sun kept disappearing behind the ever-increasing cloud cover, making it difficult to get any decent photos. At one point, we even had a short rain shower, with the sound of thunder. This time there was no triumph of the sun. And, of course, by now, more and more families had turned up and it was starting to get quite noisy.

Fulvous Whistling Duck

Hooded Mergansers

Reed beds were plentiful in this area and so I was a little surprised not to hear any Warblers about. Probably because of all the mayhem going on. There were hundreds of Martins flying around the area, some House but mainly Sand. I also thought I saw an eagle in the sky, but I was mistaken. There were no birds of prey.

We stopped off at a couple of Hides - the Dulverton and the WWF, not seeing a great deal out on the main lake, other than the usual.

Ring-necked Parakeets screeched by, overhead. A few Great Tits and Chaffinches started to appear. A Grey Heron posed on a post for us. Then we arrived at the 3-tier Peacock Tower Hide.

Where we found several hardened 'Birders', mostly staring through Scopes. Outside we spotted several Redshanks, a couple of pairs of Lapwing, a Little Ringed Plover and a few Yellow Wagtails. I could have stayed a while here, but I knew that Andrea would be rolling her eyes at the banter between the Birders, so we moved on.

Actually, I was a little concerned that Andrea might be flagging a bit by now, knowing that she was more into visiting ancient historic sites. However, she persevered and kept a brave face on, following me around the Reserve and keenly listening to me ramble on about which bird we could see. I think it was going in one ear and out the other. I'm a bit like that when I listen to people talking about ancient historic sites.

Soon, we were sitting in the Wader Scrape Hide, where a pair of Redshank eventually walked up close to the Hide, allowing a few modest photos. This made a nice change, having Redshank in close, for once.

We carried on with the walk, passing the 'Sand Martin Nest Bank' and the 'Berkeley Bat House' until we started the return route; again back to the Visitor Centre.

Here we paused for breath, before taking another gander at the Goldeneye and Smew area. This time the birds were all up close and personal, as one of the Wardens had just fed them. This made them all a bit livelier and so we walked a little further, to see the White-naped Cranes again. All the birds here were a bit livelier too.

Snake's Head Fritillary
Encouraged by this, and the fact that the sun was out again, we moved further in and managed to get a few more photo sessions in. On the walk back, we also found that the Otters were showing well and afforded good photo opportunities. There were only two of them this time, but both were cute enough to make the angels weep.

By now, it was approaching 4pm and we were both flagging. So we decided to head off for a well-earned couple of drinks at the local hostelry. But before that, I spotted some Snake's Head Fritillaries flowering just outside the Reserve. These, together with lots of Bluebells earlier, were a delight to see. After another easy journey, I was home by 8pm.

Great day, great company!

'Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?' David Attenborough

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.

Monday, 25 April 2016


It's World Penguin Day today!

Nesting Great Crested Grebes @ Fishers Green!

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 20th April, 16

Weather: Blues skies, slight cloud. Very warm, cold wind.

Bird Total: 49
Plus: Grey Squirrel.
Plus: Brimstone, Orange Tip, Peacock and Small White butterflies.
Plus: Banded Snail; Bee-fly; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumblebee; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider; Red-eared Terrapin; Red-tailed Bumblebee.
Plus: Bluebells; Daffodils; Primrose.

Although it was a very long day yesterday, I woke up feeling quite refreshed. The weather was forecast to be another fine, sunny day. Which it was, but they omitted to let us know that it was tempered with a very cold wind. And I had 'layered down'.

Still, it was another day out. This time it was a visit to Cheshunt. I had arranged to meet Ron again, this time where the pair of Great Crested Grebes were nesting, along the Relief channel.

Earlier, on the train down, there were only 2 pairs of Great Crested Grebes on the lake and a Buzzard, high in the sky. The lambs were still bouncing around the fields, while there were no wildfowl to be seen at all. While I was waiting at the Station I was entertained by a pair of Collared Doves.

Another group of cyclists were waiting for me, as I walked through the car-park, to the Canal Path. Just as I entered the Path, I spotted a pair of Coot, with 5 little Cootlets following them. Chiffchaff and Blackcap were calling out. The early cloud had departed and the sun was shining, but the cold wind was biting into me. I zipped up my fleece.

In total contrast to yesterday's visit, there were already loads of cyclists and dog-walkers about today. I reached Friday Lake to find - not a lot. Only Coot and Tufties could be seen. There were also a couple of pairs of Greylag Geese, while a Cetti's Warbler could be heard. However, as I looked up into the sky, to search for any raptors, I was delighted to see my first Swift of the season fly over.

There wasn't a great deal to be seen from the Teal Hide, either. There were suitably lots of Teal out there, as well as loads of Black-headed Gulls. However, there wasn't a lot else to be seen. I didn't stay long, not just because of the lack of birds, but the cold wind was blowing through the Hide, as the door was faulty and couldn't be closed.

Outside there were a few clumps of Spanish Bluebells and some Primroses. I started the long walk, through the lakes, towards Fishers Green. Along the way, I spotted a few Chiffchaff; Blackcap and Reed Warbler; a Peacock butterfly and, surprisingly, in this cold wind, lots of insects, including Flesh Flies; Hoverflies and Nursery Web Spiders.

One of the Blackcaps presented itself for a photo, but, just as I was about to press the shutter, a cyclist roared by. More Great Crested Grebes were around and then I spotted my first Bee-fly of the season. Although there wasn't much to see, there was plenty of birdsong.

I finally arrived at the Relief Channel, on the way to the Bittern Hide, where the GCGs were. Ron was already there, with camera and tripod, snapping away at the lone Grebe, sat atop the nest. Just before I reached him, I spotted a Red-eared Terrapin, sunning itself on top of a log.

Although a little warmer here, it was still nonetheless quite cold in the wind. We waited for the other Great Crested Grebe to return, to try and witness a changeover. However, we waited in vain, as said partner never arrived in the hour that we stood there.

We did see a Ring-necked Parakeet squawk overhead and then a lone Common Tern flew over. Other people passed by, wondering what the hell we were doing. All of them took a gander at the nesting Grebe and walked on.

After taking a few shots of the Grebe and the Terrapin we decided to head for the Bittern Hide and lunch. Where I was horrified to see that they had chopped the tree down, to the left of the Hide, where all the birds queued up for the feeders. Why on earth have they done that?

A little earlier, by the feeding area, we spotted a lone Egyptian Goose, in amongst all the Coot; Tufted Duck; Mallards; Mute Swans and Canada Geese.

There were a few people in the Hide, including my friend Markus, but we didn't see a great deal. Several Reed Warblers sang out, from the reeds in front; a male Reed Bunting could be seen to the left, while the Black-headed Gulls were making a lot of noise, out on the rafts.

Ron had to be home early today, so we headed off up the trail, towards the Weir, using the old route. I did keep an eye out for any odonata, but the cold wind put paid to them. So we concentrated on trying to hear any Nightingales singing out, along this stretch. We didn't hear any, but we did see Willow Warbler and Blackcap.

There were more butterflies seen in this area, Brimstone; Peacock and Orange Tip. However, the Weir was, as usual now, very quiet. Ron headed off, while I continued on towards the Grebe Hide.

Along the way, I spotted more Chiffchaff; Blackcap and Willow Warblers, all singing away. More Great Crested Grebes and then 2 Jays. Unusually, a pair of cyclists rode past. Then, an unidentified bird flew past, along the channel. It looked like a Wagtail, but I couldn't be sure. And, lastly, just before I reached the Hide, a Treecreeper flew in and landed on the adjacent tree.

I looked out from the Grebe Hide, over the lake, to see, eventually, 4 Great Crested Grebes; a pair of nesting Grey Herons, plus begging juvenile; a pair of Pochard; a lone Great Spotted Woodpecker and more Tufties and Geese.

With nothing else of note, I headed off, leaving a couple of people in the Hide. On the route back, it was more or less the same sort of thing. More Blackcaps, including a few females, while a Green Woodpecker called out.

Then, just as I reached the car-park, before the Weir, I spotted a bird fly up the channel and land. A quick look through my Bins and I was surprised to see that it was a Common Sandpiper. I tried to creep closer, but then the only car in the area drove by, scaring it further upriver. I debated about whether I should follow it, but then a jogger ran past, scaring it even further away.

Nice of the LVRP to allow a 'doggie-bag' area!
I reached Fishers Green again, availed myself of the facilities and then sat back down in the Bittern Hide. Just outside, by the feeding area, the Egyptian Geese count had risen to 2.

A couple were already in the Hide. It was their first visit and they proceeded to ask me several questions, especially regarding the Tern Rafts. While I was explaining the area to them, 3 Oystercatchers peeped out over the lake and then we saw them, circling a few times before flying off stage right. Not long after, a pair of Common Terns could be seen, inspecting the Rafts.

The male Reed Bunting was still about, plus more Reed Warblers. The Black-headed Gull racket proved to be too much and so I opted to try and stake out the nesting pair of Great Crested Grebes. On the way, I spotted a Greylag Goose family, the little fluffy, yellow Goslings squeaking to keep up with mum and dad.

When I reached the nest, there was still only one parent there, while the sun had gone behind the trees, shading the nest. So I opted to head home, as my back had started to complain. Just past Hooks Marsh a Pied Wagtail flew over.

Another very good day, with pretty good weather. Although the forecast for the next several days is for Arctic-like weather. Obviously the Winter doesn't want to go quietly.

'No act of kindness ever goes unpunished.'

Thursday, 21 April 2016


RSPB Lakenheath Fen/SWT Lackford Lakes - 19th April 16

Weather: Sunny with slight cloud all day. Quite warm with slight breeze.

Bird Total: 55
Plus: Muntjac; Rabbit.
Plus: Large Red damselfly.
Plus: Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White butterflies.
Plus: Alderfly; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumblebee; Hoverfly; Midge; Red-tailed Bumblebee; Roman Snail; St. Mark's Fly.

The weather has been wet and miserably of late, but the Rain Gods decided to give us a break with a couple of sunny days. So Ron suggested a trip to Suffolk, taking in visits to RSPB Lakenheath Fen and SWT Lackford Lakes. I've been to Lakenheath before but had not yet paid a visit to Lackford. I was keen to compare Reserves.

In the event, Lackford Lakes won hands down. For some reason it was very quiet at Lakenheath Fen, if you discounted all the Marsh Harriers. We did hear a Bittern 'booming' and I heard a couple of 'pings' from Bearded Tits but, overall, it was very quiet. Maybe we were just unlucky.

In contrast, Lackford Lakes proved to be much more fruitful, with Long-tailed Duck; Red-legged Partridge; Little Ringed Plover and Snipe the highlights of a very good visit.

I was picked up by my 'driver' at 9.30-ish and we made an unusually quick and trouble-free journey to RSPB Lakenheath Fen. As this Reserve was the furthest away it made sense to start here. We arrived and parked up.

There were a few people about, with even more on the circuit. Not long after we had started, we were noisily interrupted by USAF jets, from the local RAF base, thundering overhead, making a hell of a racket. It was difficult to hear any birdsong with all this mayhem going on.

Despite this, we did manage to hear and see a few birds. We decided to take the clockwise circuit, adjacent to the train-line. Just before we reached the New Fen Viewpoint, we spotted the first of many Peacock butterflies today, the first of the season.

From the Viewpoint itself, the only birds of note to be seen were a few Marsh Harriers, albeit in the distance, towards the Woods. It was here that we could hear the Bittern booming, but it remained stubbornly hidden. Several Reed Buntings and a Wren flitted past, directly in front of us. Ron gave the first of his duck impressions, as a pair of Mallards swam past, the male looking up at us with what looked like sadness in its' eyes.

With not too much happening, we moved on. A few people in front of us took the main route, so we decided to take a walk along 'off-piste' trail. Just as well, as Ron soon cried out, 'Damselfly!' I looked down to see a newly-emerged Large Red damselfly resting on a reed stem. I had nearly trodden on it. The first Odonata of the season! I managed to snap a couple of photos, just before it flew off. It was to be the only real highlight of the visit, for me.

Soon we were sat sitting in the Mere Hide, the first of two visits. Out on the lagoon all we could see were Greylag Geese; Mute Swans and Mallards. Although a female Mallard was towing along 12 little ducklings. A Red Kite could be seen out to the left. However, not a lot else.

Moving on. There were thousands of Midges to avoid, plus the early appearance of loads of St. Mark's Flies. It was around this area that I thought I detected a Bearded Tit pinging away. Unfortunately, Ron never heard it. There were several Reed Warblers around, all singing their presence.

We then reached the apex of our walk, at the Joist Fen Viewpoint. More Marsh Harriers were seen before we moved on, seeing very few birds. Walking towards the area where we knew there to be Cranes, we could see and hear Lapwing and Redshank in the distance, over the river. There were no Cranes around today, but we did see a pair of Blackcap and a Chiffchaff, while a Cetti's Warbler was screaming out.

We started our long walk back to the Visitor Centre, seeing a tiny juvenile Muntjac; a lone Small Tortoiseshell and several more Peacock butterflies; Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Goldcrest. But not a lot else. At one stage, not only could we not see any birds, we couldn't even hear any calls or songs.

We stopped off again at the Mere Hide, only because a fellow Birder had told us of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler heard earlier. No luck. All we saw were the same Geese and Swans.

It was a very disappointing visit, as we had expected a lot better. One of the staff at the VC asked if we had seen anything interesting and so I told him of the Large Red damselfly. However, he didn't seem to be very impressed.

Back in the car, I asked what was Ron's bird of the visit? He sat thoughtfully. 'The roast chicken!' He said and tucked into his sandwich.

So we headed for SWT Lackford Lakes. I had heard good things about this Reserve and so was eager to visit. Lackford Lakes is touted as a wildlife oasis, with a landscape of lakes, reeds, meadow and woodland. They have a couple of trails and several Hides, most of which we visited.

We were told by the Visitor Centre staff that a long-staying female Long-tailed Duck was still present, at the far end of the Reserve, so we headed towards it. We popped into a few Hides along the way, seeing Little Egret; Shelduck; Oystercatcher; Little Ringed Plover and Snipe. There were also great views of Blackcap and Willow Warbler.

There weren't too many people about here, but the bonus was that there were no dog-walkers; cyclists or joggers either.

We finally made it to Bess's Hide, where we spotted the LTD after only a few minutes. Unfortunately, she stayed as far away from the Hide as possible. After sitting there for about 30 minutes it was evident that the Duck wasn't going to come anywhere close.

So we made the muddy trip back, towards the Visitor Centre. Not before popping into the last Hide to see if the reported Red-crested Pochard was about. It wasn't. Another Birder then arrived and said that 4 Whimbrel had been reported here. We didn't see them, either. However, we did spot a Red-legged Partridge fly over.

The last birds to be seen were a Jay; a Green Woodpecker and a Water Rail and then another Muntjac, a male, appeared. It was well worth the visit and was vastly better than Lakenheath, on the day. Maybe we had just picked the wrong day.

It was well past 8 o'clock when Ron dropped me off, exhausted, but it was another excellent day out.

The Neverendum Leaflet: 'I can't tell if it's propaganda, till I've had a proper gander.'

Friday, 15 April 2016

A Day of Seasonal Firsts @ Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 12th April 16

Weather: Cloudy and overcast early on, brightening up later. Light rain showers.

Bird Total: 59
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Konik Pony; Muntjac; Rabbit; Rat.
Plus: Brimstone, Large White, Orange Tip and Small White butterflies.
Plus: Alderfly; Banded Snail; Bluebottle; Buff-tailed Bumblebee; Hoverfly; Midge; Red-tailed Bumblebee; Slug.

Another very good day out, on a day of seasonal firsts. The weather forecast was spot-on again, with the sun eventually appearing around lunchtime. There were a few light showers late afternoon, but essentially, Carol has produced the goods again.

Another high total of bird species, although numbers are still down on previous years. Today saw the first Warblers of the season appear. Cetti's Warblers and Chiffchaffs spent the Winter with us, but their numbers have been inflated by seasonal migrants. However, today saw the first Sedge Warblers; Blackcaps and Willow Warblers, as well.

Butterflies also made their first appearances today. I spotted 4 species, with a 5th remaining unidentified. The sunshine also brought the insects out in force. There were more Queen Bees around, but were joined by plenty of flying insects, as well as loads of colourful Banded Snails.

We just need to have a prolonged spell of warm, dry and sunny weather. That should bring out the dragons and damsels, as well. Spring will have truly sprung!

I've also just been told that I'm a 'Volunteer Citizen Scientist' due to the fact I submit data to organisations like the BTO, BDS, etc. Does that mean I get an 'ology'?

The schools are still on holiday and there were plenty of families out, enjoying the sunshine. This meant that the trains were a little more packed and noisier than usual. While I was waiting for said train, a Green Woodpecker sounded off, somewhere over the tracks, in the trees.

From the train itself - which was ontime, looking out to the adjacent fields, I noted the absence of any Geese and Ducks. A lone Grey Heron (Harry?) was all on its' own, in amongst the numerous lagoons and ponds that had again appeared, due to the recent heavy downpours. Oh, those April Showers! There were 3 Great Crested Grebes on the large lake, just before I changed trains.

The lambing season had also begun, with lots of them bouncing around, in most of the fields, their rumps sprayed either blue or red. I wonder what that means?

Walking up the Canal Path, I could hear plenty of Chiffchaff; Cetti's Warbler; Green Woodpecker and Song Thrush. There were Banded Snails on the dewy flora everywhere, along this stretch. It was cloudy and overcast, as I reached the Watchpoint.

Where I found, among others, Alan Meadows and Bill Last. Out on the lake were 5 Little Egrets; 2 Redshank; a couple of Lapwing; a few Grey Herons; a pair of Egyptian Geese; Shoveler and Teal, but no Wigeon; a Sparrowhawk, which flew over us; as did a lone Swallow. There was a male Reed Bunting, atop a branch in front, singing away.

I headed down towards the Gladwin Hide. On the way, a pair of Song Thrushes could be seen foraging on the ground. They flew off before I could get near them.

Then came the first of the firsts. First up, was the song of a Sedge Warbler, in the adjacent reeds. Despite lingering for several minutes, I couldn't spot it. Then, just before I reached the Hide, a clump of Bluebells could be seen, poking up through the nettles and weeds.

Looking out from the Hide, I could see that there weren't too many birds about. There was a Little Egret, right out in front, on the scrape, but it flew off when it spotted me. There was just the usual fare on show, Geese and Ducks; Gulls and Coot.

A few minutes later, I could hear another Sedge Warbler, out to the right. After a minute or so, it appeared, picking its' way through the reeds, its' colourful supercilium very evident. I could hear a few more, singing further back.

A quick stop at the Watchpoint, where Alan and Bill hadn't moved, brought a lone Oystercatcher, on the island. Daffodils were still everywhere, but most were now starting to look past their best.

I decided to take a walk through the Woods. There were more Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler singing along this stretch. A Grey Heron flew over and a lone Long-tailed Tit hopped close by, completely ignoring me. Then another first, a male Blackcap, could be seen, high in the branches, singing out. Not long after, another male appeared, giving much better views.

I soon arrived at the dead, white tree. A short wait and then one of the nesting Treecreepers arrived, crept around the nest-hole entrance, before disappearing inside. A Green Woodpecker flew over. However, a couple of very noisy people walked past, disturbing everything, including me.

A little further on and a female Blackcap appeared, her bright chestnut-brown head beaming out. Then a couple of Chiffchaffs sped by, one chasing the other. More Blackcaps appeared, then I spotted a pair of Siskin, feeding on the catkins, just before crossing over the bridge.

I took a cursory look out over the Pool, not seeing too much. But then I remembered that, on my last visit, a pair of Coot were nesting, out to the right. Sure enough, a look through my Bins revealed upto 4 little Cootlets, their little hairy red heads peeking out over the nest. The first youngsters of the season!

When I entered the lower tier of the James Hide, I found 3 people already ensconced. However, they didn't stay too long and soon all 3 had departed. Outside, only a pair of Coot and a Moorhen could be seen. A pair of Canada Geese were nesting on the small island. A Cetti's Warbler, the resident bird, was sounding off to the left, but I didn't spot it all day. A pair of Shoveler were on the pond, when I arrived, but they soon departed as well.

A cock Pheasant was underneath the feeders, but it wasn't Phil or Punky. The feeders were still full, bar one, and were being constantly visited by all the usual birds. However, not long after I arrived, a lovely Marsh Tit flew in, but immediately flew off, never to be seen again, today.

A female Muntjac was feeding on the ridge, by the fenceline. A pair of juvenile Brown Rats were scurrying around, underneath the feeders, when the Pheasant allowed. Every time they heard an untoward sound, they would dash into the hole that had been created, beneath the feeders. One of them would pop its' head up, from the adjacent smaller hole, to see if it was all-clear..

Then the first butterflies appeared. Several Brimstones fluttered by, all from right to left. Then a Small White showed up. None of them stopped to say hello.

A female Great Spotted Woodpecker could be heard pecking away, to my right, towards the back. I spotted her, as she moved further up the tree. A Red Kite could be seen gliding above Easneye Wood. People came and went - 'Much about?'

Then Phil arrived and looked to be greatly perturbed at finding another rival. The rival was soon chased off. Then Phil's girlfriend arrived and they both began pecking up all the spilt seeds. Not long after Phil began wooing his girl. There was a flurry of activity and a few seconds later the next generation was created. Nice one, Phil!

I had my lunch and then headed off, towards the Dragonfly Trail. Just outside the Hide, a Large White butterfly appeared. Then, not long after, a male Orange Tip flew past. Another Brimstone appeared, while crossing the Bridge.

A couple of hen Pheasants were the only birds on show, underneath the Trail feeders. All the feeders were empty. A couple of Goldfinch were flying around the area. Not long now, until the Trail opens!

I started my walk through the Woodland. Out on one of the adjacent fields, I could see several Jackdaws and then a pair of Fieldfare. However, there wasn't much about. I reached the end of the trail and then took a walk along the river. The only things on show were Pheasants; Goldfinch and plenty of Rabbits. A Green Woodpecker called out. Then a couple with a dog appeared. I headed back.

As I passed the Bridge again, a male Muntjac could be seen feeding. I had planned to take a walk to the White Hide, but then it began to rain, so I wimped out and sat back in the James Hide. There was the sound of distant thunder. This must be one of those 'localised showers'. There wasn't much change, since the last visit.

The only additions here were a pair of Coal Tits, turning up on the feeders, while a pair of female Muntjacs tentatively stepped out, to the right of the Hide. A quick drink and forage and they were soon off. Phil attended to his female again.

Then a Canada Goose waddled right up to the Hide and promptly tucked its' bill in and went to sleep. I learnt two things about Canada Geese today. Firstly, they have hairy eye-lids and secondly, they close their eyes when grooming. Unless it was just this one.

Time was getting on, so I returned to the Watchpoint. To find Adrian Hall and Ron Cousins. Not long after, Jane Free, of Stansted Abbots fame, also appeared. The Oystercatcher count had risen to 2. I soon spotted a lone Common Snipe, to the left of the cut in front. A pair of Sand Martins flew over.

And then the star bird of the day. Another season first - a lovely Willow Warbler could be seen, on the tree by the bridge. I attempted a few record shots. It was high up on the tree but I could hear its' familiar song.

By now, the sun had appeared, melting most of the cloud cover away. I was sorely tempted to hang around a bit longer, but my back was starting to complain.

Another great day, with several pleasing seasonal firsts.

'The Mrs just found out I replaced our bed with a trampoline. She hit the roof.'