Places to see birds

Amwell Nature Reserve in Spring and Summer, Lee Valley

Amwell Nature Reserve in Spring and Summer, Lee Valley
Male Blackcap by Mike Langman

Amwell Quarry is now part of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust but was formerly owned by St Albans Sand and Gravel Company Ltd. Situated in the North of the Lee Valley Regional Park, Amwell has become one of the best birdwatching sites in the Lee Valley. The reserve benefited from the foresight of a few local naturalists who managed to persuade the Gravel Company to use its heavy machinery to landscape the banks in a more wildlife-friendly way before moving out and leaving the pits to nature. The result is a good range of habitat with a good number of bird species.

In Spring and Summer the areas of scrub contain a good number of warbler species, with the rather monotonous call of the chiffchaff dominant and the liquid song of the willow warbler is also very prominent. Sedge warblers chatter away as they rise into the air and parachute back down in a specific display flight; look out for the distinctive cream supercillium and bright red gape. The plainer related reed warbler is also usually present, nesting in the reed beds. It is often heard but can be difficult to see as it climbs up and down the reed stems. The melodious song of the blackcap is one of the delights of spring and another of the commoner sounds of the reserve. Listen out for the scratchy song of the common whitethroat, usually coming from a bramble thicket. Patience will often reward you with a sighting of this very attractive warbler.

Great tit, blue tit, long-tailed tit, blackbird, robin, dunnock and wren all breed here and swallow, house martin and sand martin hawk flying insects over the lakes. Floating rafts provide nesting for the agile common terns which return regularly to the site. The stony islands and edges are home to migratory little ringed plover, a delightful wader which first bred in Britain at Tring Reservoir, Hertfordshire in 1938. It is now widespread on gravel pits and other suitable sites particularly in the South East. Ringed plover, redshank and lapwing are other waders that can be seen during spring and summer but other species may well drop into the reserve during spring or autumn migration to refuel before continuing their journey. Our natural history is part of our heritage and Amwell Quarry is a wonderful place to observe and enjoy it.

Copyright Fred Twilley 2002

Sightings from previous visits at various times of year.
Mallard, Shoveller, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye, Smew, Ruddy Duck, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Mute Swan, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Water Rail, Snipe, Redshank, Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Blackbird, Jay, Magpie, Siskin, Redpoll, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Marsh Tit, Reed Bunting, Redwing, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Common Tern, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Hobby.