Monday, 9 May 2016

Wheaty McWheatear @ Amwell! *

Amwell Nature Reserve - 4th May 16


Weather: Sunny, blue skies with slight cloud later. Very warm.

Bird Total: 57
Plus: Rabbit; Rat.
Plus: Large Red damselfly.
Plus: Brimstone, Common Blue, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Small White butterflies.
Plus: 7/10/16-spot & Orange Ladybird; Alderfly; Bee-fly; Bluebottle; Crab Spider; Flesh Fly; Hoverfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider; Rainbow Trout; Red-tailed Bumblebee; St. Mark's Fly.
Plus: Bluebells, Dandelion, Forget-Me-Knots, Hawthorn, Lesser Celandine.

There was another dawn chorus to greet me as I walked over to the Station, notably Chiffchaff and Green Woodpecker. Always nice to hear!

The usual Great Crested Grebes and Grey Heron were the only highlights of the journey down. The Lambs are growing noticeably bigger. Soon be time to get the mint sauce out! And the lagoons and lakes from the winter rains have dwindled somewhat, now that the sun has come out.

Indeed, it was already very warm walking up the Canal Path. The sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was going to be a hot one, today. So it was a good idea to divest myself of several layers. I had high hopes of a good day out!

For the first time this year, it was quite a fruitful walk up the Canal Path, as far as insects were concerned. I spotted 7, 10, 16 and Orange Ladybirds, as well as loads of Nursery Web Spiders; Hoverflies; St. Mark's Fly and lots of Bee species. A Peacock butterfly landed on one of the many Dandelions along here.

I was accompanied by a dawn chorus here, as well. Cetti's Warbler; Chiffchaff and Sedge Warbler all trying to out-sing each other. An Oystercatcher was peeping out over the lake, while a lone Greenfinch was wheezing away, on the adjacent field somewhere. A pair of Goldfinch flew over and then a Common Tern started calling, as it flew along the Canal, passing over a pair of Cormorants, who were busy diving down.

A tree had fallen across the path, hindering the cyclists and joggers, on the run. As I picked my way around it, I could hear and then see, a male Blackcap.

I reached the Watchpoint to find several people already present, including Bill Last et al. Not long after, Barry showed up. Then Ron, ‘speak to me!’ Possibly because I had texted them about a Wheatear that had flown in, ‘wish you were here!’

It turned out that Barry had made a last-minute decision to venture out, while Ron was sat sitting in the Gladwin Hide. Bill Last had informed me of a Little Ringed Plover on the island, when I arrived and I had just raised my Bins to have a look, when the Wheatear flew across my line of sight and landed on the first set of goalposts, in front of us.

I cried out, 'Wheatear on the goalpost!' It caused a flurry of excitement around me, as everyone strained to get a view. Fortunately, it stayed for quite a while, hopping around the mudflat in front, eventually giving everybody a great view. We were all so excited; I had to remind Barry to breathe. My first Wheatear in Amwell!

It was a great start, definitely the highlight of the day. A day that turned out to be yet another great visit. And another good decision to come down here.

Apart from the Wheatear, there were 3 Little Egrets; 2 Redshank; 1 Little Ringed Plover; a Great Crested Grebe and over a dozen Common Tern. Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Pochard represented the wildfowl section. There were, of course, loads of Gulls and Coot, the gulls, of course, being notably loud and proud.

Ron disappeared down to the other watchpoint, to get a better look at the Wheatear, while Barry and I headed for the Wood. Just after we entered, we spotted Orange Tip and Brimstone butterflies. The birdsong seemed to increase around this area.

Although the birds were evident, all around the Wood, we didn't seem to see very much. We tried hard for Treecreeper, but were unsuccessful. We did see Chiffchaff and Blackcap, while a Song Thrush entertained us with its' melodic song.

Ron caught up to us and, just as we were all about to exit over the bridge, we found that it had been cordoned off, with a couple of workmen in the middle of cleaning it up. We had caught them on a tea-break but thankfully, they let us pass, instead of having to walk all the way back.

The sunshine was blazing down now and I kept an eye peeled for any damselflies. We had a quick glance out over the lake, from the Pool. Only the usual suspects. Then we went and sat down in the James Hide, after a fruitless look for any Treecreepers in the area.

Unfortunately, there wasn't too much to see. The feeders were still being kept empty. Only a few Reed and Sedge Warblers were about, flitting from reed-bed to reed-bed. One or two Reed Buntings could be seen flying around. Loads of St. Mark's Flies were bouncing up and down, in the air, in front of us, their undercarriages hanging down.

Orange Tip butterflies flew past, seemingly every few minutes. One of the resident and nesting Canada Geese waddled up to us. Probably the male again, probably recognising us, hoping for a handout. ‘Hey you!’ He seemed to be saying, ‘feed me!’ A hen Pheasant wandered into view, saw us and wandered off again.

Sensing that not much else was going to happen, we decided to walk down towards the Dragonfly Trail. It was now open and I was keen to pay my first visit of the season. Just outside the Hide, we stopped and tried for Treecreeper again. To my sorrow, there was nothing, but we did spot a pair of lovely Coal Tits, flitting around the branches.

We moved off, with the din of the bridge-cleaning ringing in our ears, as we tried to keep talking. Another Orange Tip posed on a leaf for us, giving some great views, not only of its' colourful wing-tip, but the amazing pattern on the underside of its' wings.

Passing the Bridge, the guys spotted a pair of Blackcaps, on the trees. On the walk down to the Trail, I noticed that the Flora had exploded into life, due to the extended sunny, warm period.

Finally, we reached the Dragonfly Trail entrance. It was open! We wandered in, splitting up to pursue our own personal interests. Ron peeled off to the left, towards the road, to look for I know not what. Barry lingered behind me, continually glancing left and right. I headed straight for the wooden walkway.

I walked back and forth, over the walkway, not seeing anything. It was maybe a touch too early for the Odonata to appear, but I was hoping against hope that something would turn up. In fact, Ron quipped that there was 'Nodonata!' Brain damage!

I wandered into the adjoining bushes and reeds, where I hoped to find at least some Large Red damsels. I was in luck, as I spotted 2 of them. One posed nicely for me. Unfortunately, that was it. So I joined Barry on the bench, who was already tucking into his lunch. He looked comfortably numb. As we ate, a Red Kite soared above us.

From here, we took a walk around the river. The only things of note around here were a Common Blue butterfly and a third Large Red damselfly. There were loads of insects, but nothing to set the heart fluttering.

We then took a wander into the Woodland. It was eerily empty here, apart from the bird-song. However, I did finally manage to get Barry a Treecreeper, albeit fleetingly and then a Green Woodpecker.

If I were still on my own, I would have paid another visit to the Dragonfly Trail. However, Barry and Ron were still around and so we headed for the White Hide. There wasn't much, of note, to see before we arrived. Mainly singing Warblers. We did keep an eye out for any Water Vole activity.

As usual, from the White Hide, there wasn't much close in. All the usual stuff were out on the lake. However, the Redshank count had risen to 4. Then we could hear a Cuckoo calling. Somehow, I managed to pick it out, in amongst the branches of the trees on the other side, close to the James Hide.

We watched avidly, as it hopped, ungainly, from branch to branch, tree to tree. It seemed to be checking out the reed-beds below, possibly searching for a Warbler nest to lay its' eggs. We eventually lost sight of it.

As we walked back, we came across another Gosling family. Both Canada and Greylag goslings were in abundance today. All yellow, hairy bundles of fluff. More and more insects and butterflies were showing. What with all this flora and fauna, it was a case of ‘any colour you like’.

We then found ourselves back at the Watchpoint. Barry headed for home, while Ron and I walked down towards the Gladwin Hide. I was searching for the Whitethroat I had seen last week. Ron had already spotted it earlier this morning. We didn't see it, but we did see and hear a few Reed and Sedge Warblers and Blackcap.

The Mute Swans were still nesting by the path, with one of them eyeing us cautiously, as we walked slowly and carefully past. The Gladwin Hide proved to be a bit fruitful. First we could see a pair of Common Terns performing their courtship dance. Then an Oystercatcher flew in and landed. Its' mate could already be seen on the island opposite. Then a Little Egret flew in and began its' leg-shaking dance.


There were more Greylag goslings around here, just outside the Hide. Very photogenic, especially in the sunshine. The goslings were looking up at us, like a case of ‘us and them’.

I was starting to flag at this point. Time was getting on and we were planning to visit RSPB Rainham Marsh tomorrow. The last bird of the day, on the Canal Path, was a Kestrel fly-past.

Unfortunately, the trains again played silly buggers. The connecting train had been cancelled and then we spent 15 minutes sat in Harlow Town Station. It was another 90-minute journey! Argh! They should give me my money back!

However, it was another wonderful day at Amwell. The sun had shined, it was finally warm out and the flora and fauna were all blossoming. It was a great day for freedom!


'When's a good time to prick out your Pansies?'