Weather: Mainly cloudy with some sun. Quite mild with a slight wind.
Bird Total: 45
Another excellent day out! Bittern; Goldeneye; Smew; Goosander - a veritable glut of excellent birds.
The day had begun fairly well, too. From the train I spotted a Little Egret; a Grey Heron and a few Wigeon. Alas, it looks like Benny the Buzzard and Harry the Heron have finally moved on.
At Cheshunt station I was spewed out of the train and, as usual, had to traverse both bridges. But, luckily, over one bridge, I could see a pair of Pied Wagtails, hopping around on one of the roofs below me.
I had just entered the path along the canal, where I spied two pairs of Greylag Geese, one pair of which had a little Gosling with them. Possibly the same pair from the last visit and only one left? And everywhere I could hear birdsong. Finches and Tits; Tits and Finches.
I took a look out over Friday Lake but couldn't see anything of note, apart from 2 distant birds on the far side of the lake, which looked suspiciously like redhead Smew.
Just before I reached the Teal Hide I passed the, now resident, male Pochard. He of the injured wing, who looked like he was being escorted by Mute Swans and Mallards. And just outside the Hide I could hear a Cetti's Warbler and some Long-tailed Tits.
It had already clouded over quite badly. The forecast was for a sunny morning, with slight cloud around lunchtime, before clearing up again in the afternoon. In the event, it clouded over badly late morning and stayed that way for virtually the whole day. But it did brighten up just before dusk.
I looked out over the lagoon. There were 13 Wigeon, feeding just in front of the Hide. They were being flanked by pairs of Shoveler and Teal. I could hear the familiar, ghostly call of a Little Grebe but I didn't spot it until a little later. A few Canada Geese were at the back of the lagoon, with more pairs flying noisily over.
Then a black(ish) Pheasant strolled down past the Hide to the right of me. There was the distant cacophony of barking dogs in the distance. I shuddered at the memory of my last visit.
The wind was blowing a cold breath down the back of my neck as I walked up the trail. My magic scarf was in the rucksack, in case of emergency. It was actually quite warm in the sunshine, when it poked its' face out, between the clouds.
I took a quick look out over Friday Lake again, from the opposite side. This time, the birds in question had moved nearer. They were indeed a pair of redhead Smew and they were flanked by a female Goldeneye. 3 Great Crested Grebes were also on show, a pair of which were displaying. I did try and move nearer to the Smew, to try and get a photo, but they spied me getting closer and disappeared.
I proceeded through the trail between the lakes, not seeing particularly much at all. A few birds were singing, some of which displayed, but there wasn't much about. There wasn't too much about on the lakes either, other than another pair of GCGs, which swam up close at one stage but the light wasn't too good at that moment.
What there were plenty of though, were dog-walkers; cyclists and joggers. And lots of excrement, which I was trying to avoid walking in. There was also lots of rubbish about, mainly cans and bottles. If it isn't cleared up soon the flora will cover it all over. Bins along the trail would help, but I've been told that it would cost money to employ people to empty them!
I reached Seventy Acres Lake and looked out. Still not too many birds out there. A little surprisingly, there were no Lapwing about today. But I did spot a drake Goosander on the lagoon, adjacent to the relief channel. I saw it take off and fly right over me, towards Seventy Acres.
Then I reached the Bittern Hide. I had intended to do my usual walk up to the Grebe Hide and back today, but events at the Bittern Hide kept me occupied for the rest of the afternoon.
I met a few familiar faces in the Hide. Looking out, apart from the feeder birds and a few Coot and Moorhen, there wasn't much to see initially. Then, after about 20 minutes, I spotted a movement in the reed-bed in front, towards the left channel. Looking through my Bins I could see the familiar shape of a Bittern!
I informed the 3 guys that were in the Hide with me, but they couldn't see it, as it moved slowly and stealthily in to the thickest part of the reed-bed. For the next 10 minutes or so, all 4 of us stared intently at the area I had seen it.
Then it thankfully reappeared, crossing over the channel into the next reed-bed. It then proceeded to give us the run-around for a couple of hours, moving slowly about the area. At times it lifted its' head up to have a look at us, but, in general, it stayed in the thick reeds, almost out of sight. On a couple of occasions it looked as if it would step out in to the open, but, instead, just teased us and stayed tantalisingly out of sight.
In between sightings we were entertained by a Water Rail, darting about the reeds to our left; a Sparrowhawk, trying its' luck on the feeder birds; a lone Grey Heron, standing statuesque-like at the end of the left-hand channel and a fly-by Kingfisher. There were also a couple of Wrens flirting in front, while a lone female Reed Bunting flew around the area, seeming to be looking for a mate. We even had a short visit from a female Muntjac, to our right.
But the Bittern was the star act today and so I stayed in place all afternoon, waiting patiently for a couple of photos. Around 4pm the guys left me to it and, wouldn't you know it, not 30 seconds after they left, the Bittern stepped out into the channel and stood there, looking around.
A few minutes later it slowly walked back into the reeds, just as 2 women entered the Hide. One of them had never seen a Bittern before and she was rewarded a few minutes later, as the Bittern stepped back into the channel, again giving brilliant views. It even allowed me to take a few more photos, albeit in fading light. An excellent day out!
On the walk back to the station I spooked a Jay, not 10 yards away from me. I wasn't too bothered about missing a photo opportunity - I was still feeling chuffed from my afternoon's work.
'Did I already do my déjà vu joke?'