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.'