Monday, 13 April 2015

Eclipsed at Fishers Green!

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 20th March, 15

Weather: Overcast and quite cold early on, brightening and warming up later.

Bird Total: 42
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Mink; Muntjac.

It was Eclipse Day today but the 'Weather God' did not look very kindly on me. Cold, overcast and very cloudy before and during the event, but then magically clearing to warm, sunny, blue skies after. Worst eclipse ever. I don't know why we even bother to enter.

I caught the busier train today and so I was unable to look out the window. On the trail up to the Hall Marsh Scrape I could hear a few Chiffchaff singing out. There were other birds calling out but it is always nice to hear these guys.

Looking out over Friday Lake I was delighted to see a redhead Smew out in the middle, swimming around a few Tufted Ducks. A pair of Great Crested Grebes were close in (I checked for nearby dogs as I was looking at them); a Chiffchaff flew in close and landed on a nearby tree; a little Wren flew past behind me and I could hear a Cetti's Warbler singing. A pair of Mallards swum up and looked at me - brown, wholemeal bread was produced. They scoffed the lot down inside 2 minutes.

It was still overcast and gloomy by the time I sat down in the Teal Hide. There wasn't much to see out over the lagoon. I guess they were all a little disappointed at not seeing the eclipse too. There were a dozen Wigeon way out to the right; the odd Shoveler and Teal were swimming around; a pair of Little Grebes were just outside to the left, whinnying away and I could hear the laugh of a Green Woodpecker, who sounded as if it might have been the only one to have seen the eclipse.

Pheasants were about the area, with 3 dark-morphs at the back of the lagoon and a normal one out to the right. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was in the middle of the lagoon to the right, surrounded by a few Black-headed Gulls.

Just outside the Hide I spied the first Bluebell shoots springing up, around the few trees left in this area, while the Midges were out in force again today. I had to keep one eye on them as they always seem to gather in some number on the trails. It was difficult not to keep walking in to them.

After a quick look out of the standing hide I headed off towards my usual route. Only to find work being carried out, with the trail blocked off. So I had to walk along the public footpath adjacent to the canal. You know the route - used by dog-walkers; joggers and cyclists. I didn't hang about and walked quickly down to Hooks Marsh. But, on a positive note, the sun had finally started to come out.

When I reached the area I debated whether to double-back towards the Bridge and the feeding area to see what was about. But I didn't bother, mainly because there were more work-parties here, making a hell of a racket. The noise had obviously scared off the birds because there wasn't much at all out on the lake.

There wasn't anything of note on the walk upto the Bittern Hide either. Plenty of dog-walkers of course. I also noted an absence of birds out on Seventy Acres Lake - just Gulls; Coots and Mutes plus a sprinkling of ducks.

I arrived in the Bittern Hide to find it empty. No Bittern activity had been reported for the last 4 days. Not much was happening outside. But it was still quite early. I was wondering if the Smew would be the highlight of the day and should I cut my losses and head home early?

A Cetti's Warbler was sounding off somewhere close and then a Jay made a brief appearance out to the left. There were also brief visits by Chiffchaff and Great Crested Grebe. Then, out on the lake, at the back, I could see a pair of Egyptian Geese. Finally, a Water Rail dashed across one of the channels.

I decided to head up to the Grebe Hide to see what was about, with the intention of returning back here and then heading home. I guess a quiet day out had to occur at some point.

It was initially quiet at first on the walk up, but the first thing I spotted was a buck Muntjac, lazing in the warm sunshine. In fact, the sun was on its' own in the sky now, not only had the moon buggered off, all the clouds had chased after it.

It was still quiet by the time I arrived at Holyfield Weir. To my chagrin, there were more work parties here and making just as much racket with their buzz-saws. A lot of trees around the viewpoint to the Weir had been cut down and there was now no cover. And no birds. I could see a few floating on the water way out on the far lagoons.

View from the Grebe Hide
And there were yet more tree-fellers further up the trail, by the car-park. I won't tell you how many there were, you'll have to guess.

I made it to the Grebe Hide without further incident, man or bird-wise. But to my intense disappointment there was only one bird out on the lake. A Great Crested Grebe, albeit quite close in. I scanned the area and could see a few Tufties and Geese, but they were right at the back of the lake, tucked in to the shoreline. I have never seen this lake so quiet. It has been getting progressively quieter on each successive visit. I feared that the next visit might not produce any bird-life.
A couple of other birders arrived and we pontificated about the lack of birds. But then a few more GCGs appeared, one pair of which started their courtship dance, ending with the weed exchange. It was magical to watch.

I left the others to it and headed back. This was when it started to liven up. First up, I spotted a lovely drake Goldeneye out to the left, in the middle of a few diving Pochard. Another GCG swam up close, before heading off at some speed.

I had just passed the Weir and was looking out over the relief channel to the lagoon, seeing Shoveler and Teal, when something near the shoreline caught my eye. It was a mammal, running towards the Weir. Smallish, furry and black, it could only be one thing: a Mink. It was too far away and too quick for any decent photos.

It was disappointing to see one around here. Although it would be very difficult to eradicate all of them, I had thought that they had been at least pushed out of the immediate area. That other main scourge of the Lee Valley, the American Signal Crayfish, has also been making appearances today, albeit disappearing down the throats of Cormorants and Grebes.

Back in the Bittern Hide I had a pretty good view of the Cetti's Warbler and a better view of the Jay. Another Muntjac, a female, appeared out to the right, feeding. Then a Sparrowhawk could be seen, putting up all the BHGs, some of which chased it off.

I was just about to call it a day and head off, when someone in the Hide cried out. In short, it was another Mink! Out to the right, it was just crawling up the bank and then it disappeared into the reeds. A few minutes later, it reappeared again, out to the left, heading towards the feeding point. I noticed that it pointedly ignored the box-trap laid out for it.

I dashed outside but couldn't relocate it. So I decided to head off and made a decision to head back through the lakes towards Hall Marsh Lake. But 50 meters in, a sign informed me that the trail would be closed for 2 weeks. So I headed off home.

A good start, a quiet middle but an exciting end to the day. Despite yet another disappointing celestial event.

BBC News Headline: "Total solar eclipse darkens skies."
'In other breaking news, meteorologists discover that the sun is rather hot
and prolonged rain can cause flooding.'

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