Monday, 19 January 2015

A Bittern-less Day at Fishers Green!

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 24th December, 14

Weather: Sunny early on, clouding over later. Quite cold.

Bird Total: 41
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.

Today, I had decided, was to be Bittern Watch Day, so I spent most of it sitting, waiting for a Bittern to show up. Unfortunately, there was to be no Christmas showing or festive cheer from them and, again, there was a no-show.

Some days you win, some days you lose. Someone once said that if it was easy, then we wouldn't do it. That person should try sitting in a cold Hide for hours with bright, blinding sun in their eyes.

I had to bypass the Teal Hide to concentrate on said watch and so arrived at the Bittern Hide earlier than I would normally have done.

There was nothing to report on the way down and, yomping to the Hide, only a Grey Heron, fishing on the canal and a fly-over from a Jay on the trail were notable sightings.


Crossing the bridge over the canal, I could see a few passerines and Grey Squirrels feeding on some food that some thoughtful individual had left.

But before I got to the Hide I decided to take a little detour along the trail to Hall Marsh Lake to try and spot the drake Smew I saw last time. No joy today but I did see a few Great Crested Grebes and a lone Little Grebe, who was swimming alongside a Tufted Duck. There were also lots of OAPs on cycles, whizzing by, all looking like an aged Bradley Wiggins. Fortunately, the Grebes were safely on the lake while the cyclists were racing by on the trail, churning up all the mud and scaring everything off.

It was quite cloudy early on, but with no wind and was, in fact, quite warm out. This changed later on to clear-ish blue skies. But then it clouded over badly with a very cold wind. It even brought some light rain, late afternoon. The forecast had been for slight cloud early on, brightening up later. Close.

I stopped off at the main bridge and looked out. Nothing much from the south side but there were a pair of lovely Goosanders on the north side, swimming towards Seventy Acres Lake.

Walking swiftly past the Friday Lake feeding point I could see a Little Egret on the far side, whilst a lone Greylag Goose was waiting patiently to be fed. I tried stalking the Egret when I arrived near to where it was seen, but it saw me first and flew off. Damn, I had forgotten to bring my cloak of invisibility.


I finally arrived at the Bittern Hide to find no one inside. Suits me. I sat down and scanned the area. Not much on the pond outside, except for a busy set of feeders. Actually, there were quite a few Tits and Finches, not to mention Robins and Dunnocks, all politely queuing up, waiting their turn.

The odd Magpie and Woodpigeon flew in, scattering them all, while Mallards and Moorhens hoovered up the remnants.

Out over the lake I could see a goodly amount of Lapwing; a lone Common Snipe; several Grey Herons, one of which was flying around in circles, squawking and another few GCGs. But the drake Goosander was also out there, swimming away to the right.

Then a few people started coming in. No, I haven't see a Bittern yet. But while we were all waiting patiently other birds began to entertain us. First up were a few Water Rails, darting from reed bed to reed bed. One of them had caught a little fish, a Rudd I think and was feeding on it out in the open, in one of the reed bed channels. That is, until a Magpie spotted it and flew down to rob the Rail, who came back out to find nothing left.

Then a pair of Mallards started to do their head-bobbing thing. The next minute they were mating. Then there was a few flypasts of a Sparrowhawk. This not only scattered the birds on the feeders but also put the Lapwing up. As if they needed any prompting.

Then another Jay flew past, returned, landed on a post, saw me and then flew off. A little later a Chiffchaff turned up, flitting around the branches opposite, towards the right hand side. Then I spotted a Coot catch a Crayfish and gorge on it.


More people came and went. No, I still haven't seen a Bittern. After I had spent two hours waiting for the Bittern, I decided to head off towards the Grebe Hide. It was starting to get a little cold just sitting there.

Outside the wind had picked up, making it a little chilly. The clouds started to move in. I tightened my magic scarf around me.

Just after entering the trail I spotted a Grey Heron in hunt mode; a couple of Grey Squirrels giving me the eye; a Canada Geese squadron fly-past and then a Muntjac appeared. It was about to forage when she saw me and took flight.

I reached the Weir but there wasn't much about. Numbers seemed to be down everywhere today, for some reason. Maybe they had all gone home for the Christmas holiday.

From the Grebe Hide an Egyptian Goose was honking away. A few more GCGs could be seen plus a few Pochard. But not much else. Lunch.

On the trail back, over the relief channel, I could see a pair of Fieldfare, perched up in one of the trees, picking off the berries.

Then another Muntjac appeared, right out in the open. Focusing the camera became an issue in the poor light. I had just managed to do it when the old deer skipped off.


Another Jay appeared on the trail. I got quite close and took a few shots. I could have got even closer but for a dog-walker appearing and scaring it off.

A third Muntjac appeared, over the canal, just outside the Bittern Hide. But it had disappeared by the time I had walked over the bridge,

I entered the Hide to find a couple of people there. Seen a Bittern, I asked?

A Grey Heron was stalking in channel two while a Coot was finishing off the remains of the Crayfish.


The Heron then caught two small fish together. But it had to drop one to eat the other. It took it a few minutes to work that one out.

Then, while the sun was shining right in my eyes, it started to drizzle. My Christmas spirit was starting to wear off. There was obviously not going to be a Bittern showing today, so I headed off.

Not a bad day out overall, but if a Bittern had showed it would have been a great Christmas present.