Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Searching for Bittern and the Babbadook at Fishers Green!

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 15th December, 14

Weather: Bright, sunny, clear skies. Slight cloud later.

Bird Total: 43
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.

The recent clear spell of weather continued today and so I headed down to Cheshunt to try my luck with the Bittern again. It was still cold out but I was again armed with my magic scarf.

Nothing to report on the way down and I soon found myself looking out over Friday Lake. I could see 5 Great Crested Grebes, one pair and 3 swimming around on their own; a lone Grey Heron out to the right, in hunt mode; some Pochard continuously diving plus the usual Coot and Gulls, all milling around.

Just before I reached the Teal Hide I could see a Grey Squirrel hopping around feeding on the ground and then I could see a party of Great and Blue Tits higher up, making steady progress through the trees. There was at least one Coal Tit in among them, calling out.

Then, in the little stream outside the Hide, a Little Egret could be seen, in stalk mode. Unfortunately, it spotted me and flew up to a nearby tree. I tried, as nonchalantly as I could, to get nearer but it was having none of it and flew off.

Walking up the gangway to the Hide another Grey Squirrel appeared, spotted me and ran off. More Long-tailed Tits flew by above me, all calling to each other.

I sat down in the Teal Hide and looked out. There were a pair of Greylag Geese and a pair of Little Egrets right outside the Hide. But, again, despite my most excellent field craft skills, I was spotted and they all warily moved off.

Out to the right there were about 15 or so Wigeon, all busily feeding on the grass, while even further out to the right, a Grey Heron was perched up on one of the distant goal-posts. Out to the left there were 3 or 4 Shoveler, all asleep, floating on the lagoon. Then a lone Teal flew in, landed in the water and immediately started calling out for his mates. The pig-like cry of a Water Rail could also be heard.

Outside, as I returned back down the walkway, I could see a pair of female Bullfinches, on the trees opposite. But, again, despite my bush skills, they saw me and fled. I think I need to go on a field craft course, I'm obviously doing it incorrectly. I'd put camouflage paint on my face if I thought it would help, but I wouldn't want to scare to kids.

Further on I could see a Song Thrush, feeding on some red berries. On the first lagoon on the trail the first bird I spotted was in fact a Little Grebe. The usual Coot and Gulls soon vied for my attention though, followed by flapping Cormorants, busily shaking and drying their wings out.

The trails through the lagoons were quiet again, except for the usual birds plus the odd GCG. But, just as I was nearing the end of the trail, I spotted my target bird for today - a lovely drake Smew. He was in amongst a few Coot and Tufted Ducks, his pure white body and black eyes making him stand out. Unfortunately, he didn't swim close and stood his ground, but it was fantastic to see him. A Redhead had been seen earlier in the week but I think this was the first report of a male. He had probably just flown in this morning. That was the star bird of the day!

Then soon after, I spotted a pair of Muntjac, which were quite close to me, just over the stream. They both looked at me warily but carried on feeding. But when a dog-walker arrived they bolted. The GCG count rose to 10.

I then arrived at the Bittern Hide to find about half-a-dozen people already in there. I squeezed into a little spot and looked out. What was probably the same GCG as last time was already out in front, fishing. And again it was quite successful, bringing up food almost every time it dived down. Black-headed Gulls flew overhead, probably trying their luck at stealing it, but the Grebe soon dived back down to protect its' catch.

Out over the lake I could see at least one Common Snipe on the distant island. It was surrounded by dozens of Lapwing, many of them calling out. A few Grey Herons were also standing about, minding their own business. A Water Rail appeared 2 or 3 times, darting about, between the channels. But it did pause out in the open for a few minutes and allowed a few, modest shots.

I spent about an hour and a half in there, but there was no sign of a Bittern. Two had given great views all morning the day before and so I had again been 24 hours late. But the Smew had more than made up for it. After all, I had already seen a Bittern this season, at Amwell.

Outside the Hide, I bumped into a familiar face and we chatted for a few minutes. I warned him of the no-show Bittern.

I had only just entered the trail down to the Grebe Hide when I spooked a Jay, which flew up into a nearby tree. When I got closer it took off again and flew out of sight. Then I spooked a pair of Fieldfare, feeding on berries. I was getting pretty good at this spooking thing. Keep your children away, in case I spook them, too - I look like the Babbadook!

Further on down the trail, I spotted another Muntjac, out in the open field. Guess what? I spooked it. Ba-Ba-Dook! Google it.

View from the Grebe hide.
There was nothing much to report on the rest of the trail down to the Grebe Hide. And, looking out from the Hide, I could see 4 or 5 GCGs and a lone Little Grebe, none of which were doing anything in particular. A couple of Grey Herons were about, one of which was perched high up on a branch. There were several Wigeon out to the far right, asleep, bobbing up and down on the water.

Then, while I was looking for a Goosander, I spotted a drake Goldeneye at the back of the lagoon. Even from this distance you could see the little white spot on its' cheek. Other than that, there were only ducks and gulls. And Coot, of course.

I headed back as it was starting to cloud over a little bit. I spotted the Goldeneye, if it was the same one, on the relief channel, busily feeding.

I walked back along the trail I had come, ending up in the Bittern Hide for a few minutes, but I'd had enough by then. The hot coffee had run out, it was starting to get dark and so I headed home, before the real Babbadook came out.