Monday, 17 March 2014

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 12th March 14

Weather: Overcast early on, brightening up later. Very warm in the sun.

Birds Total: 47
Plus: Muntjac.
Plus: Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies; various Bees. Midges.

I don't like to tempt fate but today it really felt like Spring had arrived. Trees were budding; flowers were blooming; bees were buzzing and the first butterflies of the year appeared. It even felt that more birds were singing. The sun was out and it was warm, possibly the hottest day of the year so far. Although it was a little
overcast and cloudy first thing, the sun soon burnt it all away by mid-morning. I even had to take a few layers off as I was starting to break into a sweat.

My day started a little earlier than usual, arriving at the Teal Hide looking out over the Hall Marsh Scrape a little after 9. Before I had even sat down I could see Wigeon immediately in front of the Hide, so I carefully set up my gear to get a few close-up shots. I counted 19 of them again, they must really like this area. A pair of Canada Geese were even nearer to the Hide and were warily looking up at me. Further out I could see 2 Little Egrets, chasing each other; plenty of Shoveler; a few Teal; Mute Swans and Greylag Geese; loads and loads of BHGs and I could even hear a Song Thrush and a Green Woodpecker in the woods behind the lake. All were looking resplendent in their summer plumage.

There were a couple of Park Rangers out to the left, again busy with their buzz-saws. They were, in fact, doing me a favour as they had scared the birds my way. A lone Lapwing, the only one I saw all day, flew in amongst the Coot and Moorhens. A Little Grebe, probably the same one from last week, was out to the right this time, continually diving in between Mallard and Gadwall. A pair of Magpies flew in and hopped around the scrape.

The clouds were now starting to give way to the sun, a couple of guys walked in and told me of a Smew out on Friday Lake. So I decided to head off to try and find it. Just before I left a couple of Grey Herons flew in and a male Reed Bunting appeared on the bull-rushes out to the left. Above the howl of the buzz-saws I could also hear a Cetti's Warblers belting out its raucous call. It was accompanied by the very recognisable song of a Chiffchaff.

I failed to locate the Smew on Friday Lake so I continued on around the trail. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers appeared, 2 males, chasing each other, looking like a territorial dispute. This went on for about 10 minutes until one of them had had enough and flew off. A Shotgun was being fired off, regularly, somewhere in the distance, a local farmer trying to scare off the birds no doubt. There seemed to be a lot of dog-walkers on the trail today. I was hoping they would take their doggy-bags with them this time.

Out on Hooks Marsh Lake the first of many Great Crested Grebes made an appearance. I must have seen close to 20 today. A Greenfinch could be heard making its familiar wheezy call. I then stopped to look at a pair of Long-tailed Tits and just behind them a Redwing appeared. I witnessed another GCG make a successful fishing foray. I even managed to get a few photos. Behind me I could hear a Chiffchaff calling. More GCGs came into view further along the trail.

Another piece of evidence of the Spring offensive was the appearance of millions of Midges. I kept blindly walking into clouds of them along the trails, fortunately avoiding being bitten. Bitten? Bittern, who mentioned Bittern? Unfortunately, this year has been a poor year for Bittern for me. Unlike last year where I had felt like I had overdosed on them. I haven't seen one Bittern here this year and only 2 sightings at Amwell. Possibly because we had had a warm Winter, but probably because I have been unlucky. It just one of those things a Birder has to live with!

Along the relief channel a Grey Heron was busy stalking. And further out on the lake beyond I could see a drake Goosander, asleep, drifting lazily along the shoreline.

Approaching the feeding area, looking out over Seventy Acres Lake, dozens and dozens of Mute Swans and BHGs were awaiting their turn to gobble up all the bread that families were throwing out to them. Every time a little child threw a handful out it turned into a feeding frenzy, delighting all the children there.

Then I was delighted myself as I spotted my first butterfly of the year, a Peacock, flutter by. And when I arrived in the, empty, Bittern Hide I immediately spotted my second butterfly, a Small Tortoiseshell.

Not too much was happening out on Seventy Acres Lake. Loads of BHGs were continually screaming out a cacophony of noise as they fought over the best nesting areas on the rafts. Mutes and Coots were abundant, as usual, everywhere. There were the usual suspects coming and going on the Feeders. A Dunnock was having a sun-bath. A female Mallard was asleep over the pond; a Cetti's appeared behind it and then a Buck Muntjac appeared in the right-hand reed channel. He was warily looking at me, deciding if it was worth going for the succulent looking green shoots near the Hide or to turn around and head off. In fact he did neither for about 10 minutes, just standing there. He eventually came closer, fed a little but decided it wasn't worth the risk and moved off into the reeds. Just after he left a Water Rail made a fleeting appearance.

Another Peacock butterfly settled onto a branch to the right while a Little Grebe was having a bath in the channel to the left. A male Tufted Duck floated by, oblivious to me.

I spent just over an hour here, vainly waiting to see if a Bittern would make an appearance. Not today, but a Kingfisher did appear, from left to right. I was hoping that it would settle on the big stick jutting out from the bank, just in front of the Hide, but it ignored it and flew on.

It was starting to get really warm now and so I decided to walk down to the Grebe Hide. Just before I got to the bridge, around the picnic area leading to the trail, I spotted my third butterfly, a lovely Brimstone, one of my favourites.

Another Muntjac appeared in the bushes to the left while I was walking along the relief channel, another butterfly flew by and another Chiffchaff could be heard singing. I stopped to remove my rain-proof jacket and my scarf. It was getting seriously hot. Any hotter and I will be forced to start using some sun-screen!

No Nothing!
Looking out to the right, over the channel, I could see another Redwing foraging on the ground. Woodpeckers could be heard drumming. On the same side, in the adjacent fields, I could see what was probably the same pair of Egyptian Geese as last week, amongst a couple of Greylag Geese. A little further on I spotted a pair of Shelduck by the lagoon. Another Grey Heron was again immitating a statue. A few Jackdaws flew over, heading for the Farm.

At Holyfield Weir a pair of GCGs were the only thing of note to be seen. Starlings could be seen nearby, a few Tufties and Coot and BHGs and Mutes were around as well but it was again eerily quiet. I noted the water levels were still quite high here.

From here to the Grebe Hide several more GCGs were seen. Lots of fishermen were about today, no doubt taking advantage of the good weather.

This Hide was also empty and so I settled in and scanned the area. Again Holyfield Lake was quite empty. I counted upto 6 more GCGs around. A juvenile Mute Swan was preening out to the right, standing on a dead log. It actually looked as if it was walking on water. More Tufties were around; a few Pochard and Coot; while Cormorants were flying back and forth, some with nesting material.

I only spent about 35 minutes here and, with nothing much happening, headed back. Just before I got back to the Weir I spotted a pair of Goosanders, which promptly flew off. Then, on the lagoon where the Shelduck were, I could see lots more Wigeon, busily feeding away.
Greater-crested Whirly Bird - a very noisy adult, in breeding plumage.
Up ahead, on the relief channel, I spotted probably the same pair of Goosanders floating along, occasionally diving under to feed. I slowly crept up on them, moving quickly when they dived and was rewarded with some really good close-up views. I managed to get off a few shots until a dog appeared from nowhere and scared the birds off. Argh!

I made it back to the Bittern Hide without further incident. The BHGs were even more noisier now, if that was possible. A few LBBGs had appeared and were causing chaos and confusion. A Water Rail appeared in front of the Hide again and this time gave me some really good views. A pair of Wrens were chasing each other under the Feeders while another pair of Muntjac appeared in between the trees out to the right. Another GCG appeared right in front of the Hide, again fishing, allowing me a few more photo opportunities, before it had had enough and departed for the day.

My departure also loomed and I started the long walk back. On the way I spotted another Redwing. Then I bumped into a familiar face looking out over the lake from the Bridge. He pointed out a Drake Smew in the distance, a great end to a great day.