What a dark gloomy morning. I therefore decided to go and do the shopping in the morning and see what the afternoon would bring. Just five minutes after I arrived at Tescos I received a phone call from Tony Pickford to say that a male Mandarin was showing well in front of the White Hide at Amwell. Not surprisingly, by the time I got home and made my way down to Amwell, the Mandarin had long departed. The light was still poor and to make matters worse, there was a cold northerly wind blowing across the viewpoint, and so I decided to set up camp in the relative cosiness of the White Hide. From a photography point of view the White Hide is at its best on dull days like this, because otherwise the sun is in your eyes. Also, with the water levels in the lake rising for the winter, there were plenty of water birds performing at close quarters.
Amwell has large numbers of Coot during the winter months, but even at this time of year they are starting to display and can often be seen swimming around all puffed up to make themselves look larger and more threatening. They also lower their heads down to the water in front of them to look aggressive.
Like most other inland waters, there is also a healthy population of Cormorants. They breed on the island in front of the viewpoint and stay around in good numbers during the winter, generally loafing on the islands and tern rafts when they are not feeding. Luckily one was diving for fish right in front of the hide. Look how low they are in the water. No wonder they can slide under the water with the greatest of ease.
Herons also breed on the islands and are a regular feature at Amwell but never in large numbers during the winter months. Although they can be seen feeding along the water margins, particularly at the edges of the reed beds, they also spend hours just sitting around, digesting their food.
But to end Part 1 I have chosen one of the most under-rated birds in the UK, the Gadwall. I am sure that these dull-coloured ducks (male grey, female brown) are frequently overlooked and dismissed as female Mallard but, if you ever have the opportunity, take a close look at the subtle colours and vermiculation of the males. The female is indeed very similar to a female Mallard but the speculum on the wing is white instead of blue.