Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bittern by Gull ID fail

Today was a day of quality, and a little added surprise.  Still not at my most energetic, I decided to head a little further afield to Amwell Gravel Pits in Herts.  This is a site I should be frequenting much more than I do having carried out most of my birding in Herts, and with the reserve a little over half an hour by direct train from my local station.  As a carless (I said carless!) birder, this was my first visit there since moving to London.  My bad.

It started well, 20+ Siskin chattering away in Birches just off Amwell Lane, a brief snatch of song of a male Blackcap from nearby woodland, followed shortly by 4 soaring Common Buzzard as I walked along the canal towards the viewpoint.  An Oystercatcher was heard calling from Great Hardmead Lake but not seen.

I really should visit this site more often.  It really is excellent.  From the viewpoint, a count of 52 Shoveler, 22 Lapwing, and around 20 Common Gull along with Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck, nesting Cormorants, 2 Cetti's Warbler, 5 Common Snipe, and a single Little Egret.

Having seen reports from previous days, I headed over to the White Hide to view the reedbed where a Kingfisher was heard calling.  I didn't have to wait long till I connected with the master skulker as it crept through the reeds about a metre in from the water edge.

The reedbed opposite the White Hide where the Bittern has been wintering

The Bittern finally emerged from one of the cuttings allowing a couple of shots.  It is such a thrill seeing this enigmatic bird.  The bird showed well at times allowing great views of its stunning plumage.

Bittern - Amwell GP 26/02/14

The day got a little complicated.  A gull first spotted by two birders got their attention and I was immediately summoned to provide my expert ID Gull knowledge.  My initial thoughts were Iceland Gull, but it looked all wrong.  An all dark bill with a pale tip, primaries way too dark, but a very pale bird nonetheless.  I didn't have a clue what this was so I sought guidance.

With thanks to the helpful souls that contacted me through Twitter, it transpired that this is an aberrant Herring Gull that has been present on the reserve for a while.  A strange looking bird, that gave me a right ID run-around.

Back to normality, the redhead Smew was still present with at least 5 Goldeneye including 2 drakes at the southern end of the lake.

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