Monday, 4 April 2016

Wet Day Out @ Amwell.....! *

Amwell Nature Reserve - 24th March 16

Weather: Cloudy and overcast. Rain.

Bird Total: 52
Plus: Bank Vole; Konik Pony; Rabbit; Rat.

***No photos of the day, due to poor weather - so I've added some from earlier visits!***

Unfortunately, today was the poorest day of the week, weather-wise. However, it also happened to be the day I met up with Shan, my friend from the North, who was on her way to stay with friends for Easter.

We weren't too sure which Reserve to visit, so I suggested Amwell, as we didn’t have a great deal of time. ‘Whatever you want!’ She said, ‘I don’t mind what you’re proposing!’

It was heavy with cloud and overcast when we set off around 9am. It was forecast for heavy rain from about 2pm-onwards, so we didn't have much time. To compound this, there were more problems with the trains. A 'broken rail' was delaying all northbound trains and so we didn't get to the Reserve until around 10.30-ish. Not a promising start. This now seems to be happening quite often, lately.

However, we made the most of it and eventually had a fruitful 4 hours or so. Fruitful, inasmuch as we spotted over 50 bird species, including Goldeneye; Sparrowhawk; Red Kite; Redshank; Goldcrest and a few Woodpeckers. So, at least it gave us a reason for living.

There wasn't much to see going down, down on the train, as we were too busy chatting. I only spotted a few Canada Geese, Wigeon and Teal. There was a Little Egret and a Great Crested Grebe just before we changed trains.

It was still gloomy and overcast as we walked up the Canal Path. The usual dog-walkers, cyclists and joggers greeted us as we approached the Watchpoint. There wasn't anyone there when we arrived - I guess the 'early morning brigade' had already departed.

There wasn't too much action going on out on the lake, either. I guess it's that time of the year, lots of bird movement. Unfortunately, not much was coming in. We could see a lone Oystercatcher; several Grey Heron; a Little Egret; Wigeon to the right and a few Pochard. A male Reed Bunting was calling from the reeds in front and there was a distant call of a Green Woodpecker.

Mindful of the time, we moved on to the Gladwin Hide. On the way, we had to dodge swarms of Midges as well as piles of dog-poo. Dog walkers were out in force along this stretch, today. Not my favourite people, as you may know, but I don’t care if I'm burning bridges.

Sat in the Gladwin Hide, looking out, we eventually spotted a pair of Goldeneye, out to the left. A pair of Oystercatchers flew past, right to left, heading for the main island. There were a pair of Buzzards and a Red Kite, high up over Easneye Wood. 20+ Wigeon were floating around, some whistling; a pair of Great Crested Grebe were opposite the Hide, while, finally, a few pairs of noisy Canada Geese were having an argument with a few pairs of Greylag Geese, right in front of us.

On our walk to the Woods, via the Watchpoint, we saw that the Oystercatcher count had indeed risen to 3 – did they just break the rules? Whilst in the Woodland, we could hear Buzzard above us. We could also hear a Chiffchaff, singing out its' name; there were a couple of Goldcrest; a Jay and a lone Redwing, to entertain us.

There was another Red Kite hovering over Easneye Wood, as we passed the 'Pool'. We sat down in the lower tier of the James Hide, alongside a couple of people. They soon left us to it, while others came and went.

We stayed for about 40 minutes or so and in that time we had a close-up view of a Cetti's Warbler and a Chiffchaff, which flew past, left to right, into the reeds. The remaining Bank Vole appeared for Shan for a few fleeting seconds, while the now, resident Brown Rat scurried about. A Water Rail, dashed across the reed-cut and several Reed Buntings, amongst others, visited the feeders, while there were several Buzzards in the skies.

Just before we left, a Sparrowhawk flashed past, from left to right. And it’s better now, as outside, just as we passed the 'Pool', we spotted a total of 5 Buzzards and 2 Red Kites in the skies above. Whilst looking at them through my Bins, I was sure I spotted at least 3 Sand Martins flying around. It was confirmed later when a fellow birder saw over 20 of them, just before dusk.

We stopped off at the Bridge, to try to spot Bullfinch. Seeing nothing at all, we continued on to the Dragonfly Trail. Where the first thing seen was a large Rabbit, out in the open, by the feeders. The feeders themselves were almost all empty and there were only a pair of Goldfinch on the nyger feeder. Then a Green Woodpecker flew past and landed on a nearby tree, giving some excellent views.

We continued towards the Woodland. It was still very quiet everywhere and so we didn't see very much. Although we could hear plenty of birdsong, including Long-tailed Tit and Green Woodpecker. Just before reaching the apex of our walk, we spotted a Kestrel a few times and a pair of Fieldfare. There was even less to see on the return journey, as all we saw were a pair of nesting Goldcrests. Although, to be fair, they gave very good, close-up views. One of them was seen with nesting material.

We were soon sat in the upper tier of the James Hide again. After lunch, we were rewarded with a very good, close sighting of a female Great Spotted Woodpecker; a pair of Water Rail, chasing around; a Little Egret fly-by, while Shan was delighted to get close-up views of the Reed Buntings.

Unfortunately, our time was up. It was nearly 2pm and light drizzle had started to arrive. So we headed back down the Canal Path, accompanied by ever-increasing rainfall. Just before we left, I heard a Redshank calling and then spotted it, on the main island. A very nice end to the day!

Fortunately, the train problems were over and Shan carried on to London. I did ask why no car but was told, ‘I don’t drive my car much, now.’ I changed trains and arrived home by 3pm. It was a lovely day out, but we could have picked a better day for it.

'I have a job crushing soft drink cans. It's soda pressing.'