Weather: Sunny early on, clouding over later. Cold, but warm in the sun.
Bird Total: 44
Plus: Fox; Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.
Although it was touted as the coldest night of the winter, so far, it was still reasonably mild out during the day. In fact, it was quite warm in the sunshine. Maybe the fact that I had put on a 7th layer accounted for my being comfortably numb to the cold. I did, in fact, feel like the Michelin Man. I probably looked like him, too.
There was nothing of note to be seen on the way down. I actually had to concentrate on the journey as there was a problem further down the line and I was regurgitated at Broxbourne before being fed back into another train 15 minutes later, before being spat out again at Cheshunt.
So, a little later than usual, I found myself sat sitting in the Teal Hide. Unfortunately, I may have been too late for the birds as there wasn't anything about. Other than a pair of Carrion Crows; a pair of Woodpigeons and 11 Black-headed Gulls. On the relief channel outside I spotted a pair of 'Manky Mallards'.
Earlier, looking out over Friday Lake I had spotted a few Great Crested Grebes milling about; around a dozen Wigeon, whistling away and a lovely female Goosander, swimming away from me. As I've said in earlier Blogs, females tend to do that around me. Is it my fashion sense? Or my new aftershave?
Heading up the trail I first heard the squeal of a Water Rail then a lovely drake Pochard swam past me, on the relief channel. Further on, a Great Black-backed Gull pinched a meal that a Black-headed Gull had worked hard for. It should have bought one of those anti-bullying wristbands when they first came out. Remember them? I bought one as a kid. I say 'bought', I actually stole it off a short, fat ginger kid.
Then, looking up at the tree-tops, I spotted 5 Lesser Redpolls, the first of the season. Unfortunately, they were too high for any decent photos. Despite my calls to them they refused to come down and say hello. Indeed, looking through the Bins, one of them turned around and showed me his backside. Charming. They must have been teenagers.
I kept an eye out for any Smew that were present from the last visit. I didn't see any, but I did see a pair of Goosander. Unfortunately, they too, were keeping their distance. Well, one of them was female.
At the Hooks Marsh feeding area about 50-60 Lapwing flew over. I was stood standing there looking up at them through my Bins and when I looked down lots of geese and ducks had swam up to me, hoping for a handout. Sorry, I only have white bread with me.
Just after entering the trail up to the Bittern Hide a Treecreeper flew over the channel and on to a tree. It proceeded to climb up it, feeding as it went. I managed a few pathetic photos. But it ignored me and stayed around for a few minutes, allowing me to admire it. I was confident enough to think that it must have been a male.
Nothing else to report until I was sat sitting in the Bittern Hide. Just after I arrived a Water Rail showed itself, briefly. Female? Out over Seventy Acres Lake I could see the Lapwing from earlier; another drake Goosander and a few Great Crested Grebes, some of which were now sporting their breeding plumage. In fact, a little later, I spotted a pair of them doing the head shaking thing.
Other than that, a pair of Reed Buntings were feeding at the back of the reed bed; a pair of Egyptian Geese were on the large island, preening; a lone Little Grebe was fishing in one of the channels in front and a Sparrowhawk flashed past trying its' luck with the birds that were busy on the feeders. But there was no sign of a Bittern.
A few people came and went but then a group of 'crumblies' came in and made a hell of a racket. So I headed off up the trail towards the Grebe Hide.
Just as I entered the trail a Jay flew over. Further on, there was a dead Mute Swan draped over a few branches on the water. As I was looking at it a Water Rail swam past it. They've been known to scavenge a carcass.
A little later, just as I was thinking that I hadn't seen any Muntjac, one popped out of the forest to my left. Then a second one appeared. Then a third. A few minutes and a few hundred yards along the trail, a fourth was seen, over the channel. But not one had the courage to stand its' ground. All females of course.
Another Jay flew over. There was nothing to be seen at Holyfield Weir, other than a Reserve crew, doing their noisily tree-cutting thing. A little further, there was another Jay fly-over. Several Jays, or the same one?
I reached the Grebe Hide without further incident, other than more GCGs. If one wasn't careful one could get very blase about GCGs here. Looking out I could see a pair of Egyptian Geese, possibly the same pair as earlier; more GCGs; Grey Herons were flying noisily back and forth; 4 or 5 Teal were out to the left and there were quite a few Pochard. I also noticed several Cormorants flying in with lots of nest-building material.
I broke for a spot of lunch and then looked around again. This time, in amongst one of the Pochard groups, way out to the left-hand corner, I spotted a redhead Smew! Lovely! But, being a female, she stayed away from me. Naturally.
On the walk back, over the relief channel, a Fieldfare could be seen picking off the last of the red berries. And just behind that, by the fence-line, was a Fox. A little nearer, by the water-line several Long-tailed Tits were feeding, flying from one tree to the next, chattering away.
Above all of them were 40-50 Canada and Greylag Geese, flying over, most of them honking away. It was a great sight to see.
I then found myself back in the Bittern Hide again. The Sparrowhawk flashed past a further 3 times, scaring not only the birds, but a few people in the Hide. A GCG entertained us by fishing in front of the Hide and there were a few more appearances by the Water Rail. But no Bittern.
I decided to head off when it started to darken. On the trail back I spotted a 6th Muntjac. Oh, where was the young lady from The Wild Side! I know she would sell her soul for a photo of a Muntjac! But, then of course, I would probably have scared her away, too!
Two vultures board an airplane, each carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at them and says: 'I'm sorry, gentlemen, only one carrion allowed per passenger.'