Thursday, 7 April 2016

Marsh Harrier @ Amwell.....! *

Amwell Nature Reserve - 1st April 16

Weather: Sunny skies, slight cloud. Cool breeze.

Bird Total: 58
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Konik Pony; Muntjac; Rabbit; Rat.

Life is full of injustices. We all get them; I've had a few in the last 24 hours. The frustrating thing about them is that nothing can be done. Which is why visits to places like Amwell calms me down.

Annoyingly, today was my only visit out this week. Fortunately, the forecast was sun for most of the day. Carol's getting better at this forecasting lark. It must be her angel eyes. The early morning thin layer of cloud thickened towards the end of the day.


It was a high species count again today. The only 'dip' being the Little Ringed Plover, reported here yesterday. It started out quietly enough. From the train I could see 7 Canada Geese; a Great Crested Grebe and then a Grey Heron fly-over. The lagoons were reigning once more, from the recent rains.

On the walk up the Canal Path, I could see Goldfinch flying over, while a lone Greenfinch was wheezing out its' call. A Song Thrush sang as I walked along. Indeed, I was serenaded by bird-song everywhere this morning, great to hear.

There were only 2 people at the Watchpoint, when I arrived. The woman said they were from Suffolk, living right next to Minsmere. What were they doing here, I wondered. I guess I was just a jealous guy.

As I looked out over Great Hardmead Lake, I could see that there weren't too many birds about again. Mainly Gulls; Coot and wildfowl, although not in great numbers. However, a pair of Redshank were showing well; several Grey Herons were dotted around; a lone Great Crested Grebe was quite close in and most of the ducks were showing, although with the notable exception of Wigeon.

As I headed down to the Gladwin Hide, I could hear both Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler singing out. A male Reed Bunting was also singing, atop a bush, as I walked slowly by. Just the one.

Looking out from the Hide, there was even sparser fare out on this part of the lake. Lots of noisy Canada Geese; a fair few Tufted Duck and quite a lot of Coot, were the only birds on show. I looked up to Heaven, come on, I thought, help me.

Possibly the same Great Crested Grebe then swam regally past. A pair of Little Grebes could be seen, hugging the far bank. Then I spotted some movement on the scrape, to the right. Looking through my Bins I could see a Common Snipe slowly moving about. Just the one.

I headed off, mainly because a man and his dog entered the Hide. I noted that the dog was off the lead. The man asked if there was 'much about?’ I told him about the Snipe, but also said that there weren't any Goldeneye about. 'Yes, it is cold, isn't it?' He replied. Eh? He'll have to go!

I was disappointed not to see any Goldeneyes today. Last week's appearance might very well have been the last this season. I spied more dog-walkers further along the trail ahead, all of them a slave to love. The surprise along this stretch was the absence of Midges, after last week.

Initially, it was a quiet walk through the Wood. 3 Jays then flew over. I could hear several Chiffchaffs and then I spotted a male Siskin - just the one. A Treecreeper flew past me and landed on the dead, white tree. Of all the times I have passed this tree, I have only ever seen a Blue Tit on it. Apparently, a pair of Treecreepers were nesting here.

Just before I entered the James Hide, I bumped into Ade Hall. While we were talking, a pair of Siskin flew in to the nearest tree. Unfortunately, they were too high for any photos.

When I entered the Hide, I found one other person already in there, all his equipment strewn around the place. Fortunately, he didn't stay long. The feeders were full - well done, Katy. A pair of Mallards were below them. The resident Brown Rat was scurrying around - just the one. Phil the Pheasant strolled in, shook his feathers and screeched out, announcing his arrival. The feeders were getting a good seeing-to, mainly by Tits but with a few Reed Buntings. There wasn't much out on the lagoon, just Coot and Moorhen. I could see a female Muntjac, on the far bank.

A very vocal Cetti's Warbler began sounding off, somewhere quite close. It took me a few minutes to spot it. A pair of Long-tailed Tits flew in, fed from the feeders and then began collecting nesting material. Then a Water Rail gave good views, out to the left. Not long after, a lovely Coal Tit appeared, waiting for its' turn on the feeders.

However, the star tick of the day then appeared. My pal Ron! He had been visiting Fowlmere this morning. I immediately started to scan the area for Bittern. 15 minutes later and, with not too much about, we said let's stick together and decided to head for the Dragonfly Trail area and the Woodland beyond.

The feeders at the Trail were empty. Probably in anticipation of the opening in a few weeks time. However, our visit to the Woodland proved more fruitful. On the out-bound walk, we spotted Green Woodpecker; Jay; Kestrel and a Fieldfare. We again took a walk along the river here, searching for Water Vole activity. I was keen to put last week's lessons to good use. We didn't find any signs. I may have forgotten some of the lessons.

However, we did spot upto 5 Red-legged Partridges running around the area. That was a nice surprise! Then we spotted a Goldcrest, in the same place as last week. Again with nesting material. Just the one.

We strolled back and decided to head through the Wood, my second visit of the day. Again there were several Chiffchaffs around, some visible. I told Ron about the Treecreeper nest and so we waited patiently, for the action to begin. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long, as one of them appeared, with nesting material and promptly disappeared into the tree. It appeared again and gave us some great views, as it flew back and forth, keeping both us and its' partner happy.

Just before we exited the Wood, another Goldcrest appeared. Ron then headed for home, while I walked back to the Watchpoint. From here, I could see a Little Egret, just the one. I could hear the Redshank, but was unable to pick them up. A few Lapwings had appeared, on the island.

It was still early and the sun was still shining, so I decided to try for the Goldeneye at the Gladwin Hide again. Come on, Goldeneye, all I want is you! Unfortunately, there weren't any about. However, there were a pair of Great Crested Grebes out there and then I spotted a pair of Egyptian Geese, one of them with a pure white head and a very red bill. There were also several Pochard around the area.

The Common Snipe was still giving great views, until it was chased off by first, a Moorhen, then by a Coot. A Little Egret flew past, from right to left. With no Goldeneye action, I decided to walk back to the Watchpoint for a last scan, before heading home. The Midges had returned along the trail here, with a vengeance.

The in crowd were there, with one or two familiar faces. I was just in time to see a pair of Oystercatchers fly off. There were 2 more Little Egrets on Cormorant Island. A Kestrel could be seen hovering, out to our left. Then the star bird of the day - a female Marsh Harrier - flew serenely past us, from right to left, quite low. A male had been seen a few days ago.

Unfortunately, she didn't stay very long. Nor did I. With no problems on the trains, I was home just before 7. There's nothing like a visit to Amwell, to blow away all the injustices of the world. This time, just the two.


'We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue. Then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality - usually on a battlefield.' George Orwell