Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Wader & Warbler Fest @ Amwell!

Amwell Nature Reserve - 28th April 16

Weather: Sunny, blue skies early on, clouding over later.

Bird Total: 64
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Konik Pony; Rabbit; Rat.
Plus: Large Red damselfly.
Plus: Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Peacock and Small White butterflies.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Alderfly; Banded Snail; Bee-fly; Bluebottle; Dock Bug; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Midge; Red-tailed Bumblebee; St. Mark's Fly.
Plus: Bluebell, Daffodil, Forget-Me-Knots, Hawthorn, Lesser Celandine, Tulip.

Sometimes I think that my life has been one long instance of irony and coincidence. Nothing much to do with birding, mind. Just life in general. Or does that seem to happen to everyone else?

The weather forecast today was for sunny, blue skies early on, clouding over not long after lunchtime. Which is what happened. Which is why I opted to get up extra early and get the 6.06 train down to the Reserve.

I was serenaded by Collared Dove, Song Thrush and Chiffchaff, as I waited for the train. However, there wasn't much to see on the journey down. Only a few Great Crested Grebes on the lake and a lone Grey Heron flying over. I wonder if it was Harry?

The Lambs were huddled close together, for warmth, as all the fields were shrouded in mist. There was still a frost about, despite the clear blue skies and sunshine.

It was still a little chilly as I walked up the Canal Path. However, I was accompanied by the dawn chorus, notably Chiffchaff and Song Thrush. Fortunately, there was no cold wind.

There was nobody at home, when I arrived at the Watchpoint. I wondered where all the early brigade were? There were blue skies above me, with the sun shining directly into my eyes. Looking out over the lake, I could see no less than 11 Little Egrets; 5 Grey Herons; 2 Redshank; a lone Little Ringed Plover; Shoveler and Teal and a male Sedge Warbler singing away, atop a reed in front.

A few minutes later, I could see a lone Common Tern, on the sandbank and then Cetti's Warblers began calling out. A Great Crested Grebe could be seen, as well as several Lapwing. I hung around for a further 15 minutes, before taking a walk down to the Gladwin Hide.

On the way, I heard a Sedge Warbler singing out nearby, but it proved very elusive. The clump of Bluebells had disappeared. I sat down in the Hide and looked out. All I could see were Canada Geese, Tufted Duck and Coot. There were several more Sedge Warblers singing out to the right.

Not long after, a Little Egret flew in and landed, to the left and immediately began hunting. It was soon joined by two more. However, there wasn't a great deal happening, so I headed back. As all the Winter birds have now gone, I might give this Hide a miss for a while.

I passed the same Sedge Warbler, who was still singing away and remained just as elusive. However, my attention was grabbed by a movement in the nearby Hawthorn tree. It proved to be a lovely Whitethroat, the first of the season. Also along here a pair of Mute Swans looked to be building a nest by the trail. A very brave thing to do, what with dog-walkers about.

A quick look out from the Watchpoint and I was soon entering the Wood. Where a smart looking male Blackcap appeared, to my right. There were Chiffchaff singing in the immediate area. Then a female Blackcap could be seen, on the opposite side to the male. I paused at the Treecreeper nesting area, but nothing showed. I was later informed that, unfortunately, the nest had failed.

There was more song than substance here and so I soon found myself looking out over the 'Pool'. Here I could see another pair of Blackcaps and then a Cetti's Warbler flew past.

Just before I entered the trail to the James Hide, a Brown Rat scurried past. Looking out from the Hide, I could see that the feeders were now empty, probably because of the Rat problem. Which meant a lack of small birds. I could see and hear Reed Warblers; Reed Buntings and a Cetti's Warbler out on the reed-beds, but not much else. A pair of Moorhen and a pair of Coot were on the lagoon.

However, after only a few minutes, a Sparrowhawk glided past the feeders and landed on the nearby fence, to the right of the Hide. I nipped outside but it flew off, before I could bring the camera to bear. The resident pair of nesting Canada Geese were also present, with one of them, probably the male, swimming around the lagoon.

After about 10 minutes, a Moorhen appeared close to the Hide, trailing a pair of noisy chicks. I watched the interaction, as the parent fed the chicks every minute or so. Then a Chiffchaff appeared to the left, hopping around the branches. A small Brown Rat appeared underneath the empty feeders, trying its' luck. It seemed very apprehensive, darting into cover at the first sign of danger.

I picked out Phil the Pheasant, at the back of the lagoon, by the fenceline. Then a pair of Common Snipe flew in and landed in the reed-cut. They blended in so perfectly with the reeds that you wouldn't of known they were there, unless you had seen them fly in. After a few minutes, I could only see one of them.

The clouds then began to roll in, blotting out the blue sky. It was still quite warm in the sunshine but a cold breeze had started to blow. A pair of Reed Warblers and a lone Reed Bunting showed themselves, fairly close to the Hide. A couple of Grey Herons flew over. It was all very serene and quiet.

Mindful of the weather, I opted to head off, after lunch, towards the Dragonfly Trail. Just outside the Hide, I bumped into a couple of familiar faces. They had just discovered a Large Red damselfly! I managed to get a few shots before it flew off. Another reminder that the Dragonfly Trail would be open again very soon.

Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warblers were singing all around me, as I walked up the trail. Looking out over the lake, I could see a lone Swallow flying back and forth. There were clumps of Bluebells and Forget-Me-Knots along here, adding to the colour.

The feeders were gone from the Trail, in preparation for the opening, I guess. There were only Goldfinch to be seen, so I headed off towards the Woodland.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much around. However, I did see several more Swallows flying around and I could also hear a Greenfinch calling out. Just before I reached the apex of the walk, I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker, but I couldn't quite place it.

I headed back, hearing a Green Woodpecker and then spotting a distant Jay, more Blackcaps and a few hen Pheasants. However, a Cuckoo started calling, the first of the season!

I started to make my way back to the Hides. On the way, I spotted a new butterfly for the year, a Green-veined White. Then a Peacock butterfly flew past. I guess the warm sunshine had brought them out.

I stopped briefly at the 'Pool', seeing only a 7-spot Ladybird and a posing Hoverfly, Syrphus ribesii, I think. Then I opted to visit the White Hide, for the first time in ages. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to see, other than the usual. It's been a bit of a disappointment here for the last year or so, ever since they cut down all the flora outside the Hide. However, the Redshank count rose to 3. A Buzzard noisily flew over and there was a Canada Goose family on the trail, the adults forming a protective barrier for their youngsters. Who, me?

I was sat back down in the James Hide again. The Moorhen family rose to 4 chicks, while the Brown Rat count rose to 2. Then Ron, turned up - another mammal to add to the tick-list! A Blackcap appeared out to the right. The Snipe was still present and a Buzzard flew high over Easneye Wood.

Ron took a quick look from the upper tier. A few minutes later, he returned with an excellent photo of a male Reed Bunting with a Large Red damselfly in its' beak. I wondered if it was the same one I had seen earlier. If you're very lucky, he might blog it!

We headed off, towards the Dragonfly Trail, as Ron had told me that Jenny was opening it today, earlier than planned. Just outside the Hide, we spotted a pair of Treecreepers. When we arrived, we found that the Trail was still closed! So we headed back, picking up a very talkative Birder on the way. He told us of his large tally today and so I wondered if he had seen any Mongoose!

When we arrived back at the James Hide we opted to sit in the upper tier. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker showed itself, while a drake Pochard flew in and swam around the lagoon. The chicks and the rats entertained us for a while, before we headed off. Ron towards the Woodland and I towards the Watchpoint.

On the way I spotted my first Dock Bug of the year, sat atop a post. Ade Hall and a few others were at the Watchpoint, when I arrived. A pair of Oystercatchers had appeared on the Island. A few Sand Martins were flying around and then a Kestrel could be seen hovering near to the White Hide. The Little Ringed Plover appeared again and then a Dunlin flew in and landed on one of the small islands, to our left. The Common Tern count rose to an encouraging 9. St. Mark's Flies were everywhere today.

The clouds had now totally blotted out the sun and time was getting on. So I headed for home, especially since my back had started to complain, as usual. The trains played silly buggers again and it took over 90 minutes to get home. Very frustrating.

However, it wasn't enough to spoil a very good day. Nothing beats a day out in the sunshine, especially at Amwell. It made me feel like a new colour!

'The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.' Willie Nelson