Tuesday, 3 November 2015

No Bittern, No Cry! *

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 2nd November, 15

Weather: Heavy fog, overcast and cool in the morning, brightening up in the afternoon.

Bird Total: 45
Plus: Migrant Hawker dragonfly.
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Rat.

Having had a text message from Ron the day before, we decided to meet up and try to spot a Bittern at Fishers Green today. After my best-ever viewing of Bitterns a week or two earlier, I wanted to try for a repeat performance. In fact, wild horses couldn't keep me from the opportunity. Unfortunately, it was the exact opposite, as we failed to see any, despite sitting in the Hide for a couple of hours or more.

Where's that bloody Bittern?
The forecast was for heavy fog in the morning, with sunshine and blue skies in the afternoon. Fair play to Carol, that was pretty much spot on. It was also quite warm in the sun, following on from yesterday's surprise record UK temperature for November. I guess it's all part of the climate change experiment that humanity is engaged with.

The only Bittern we saw all day!
We agreed to meet up in the Bittern Hide around lunchtime. Time is on my side, I thought and so I caught a later train, to try to avoid most of the freezing fog. I had donned another layer of clothing, thinking that if it were to warm up later, I could always divest myself of the fleece. Anyway, the Hides could always gimme shelter.

The usual Grebes and Geese could be seen on the way down, in their usual areas. Just before entering the Canal path, I flushed a Little Egret. There were quite a few waterfowl out on Friday Lake, notably Wigeon and Shoveler. Just past the stream, under the boardwalk, I also flushed a rodent, which scurried into the undergrowth. It was probably a Rat, rather than a Vole.

I had hoped that the poor weather might put off the great unwashed, but I was passed by two sets of dog-walkers before I had even set foot in the Hide. In fact, there were the usual amount of dog-walkers today, as well as the requisite cyclists and joggers. All the flora was now dying off, with dead flowers all over the place.

I entered the Teal Hide to find that someone had vandalised it. One of the benches was missing, while one of the lean-to's was also absent. All the shutters were open and the two remaining benches were damp with dew. Rubbish had been strewn all over the floor, while the information sheets on the walls had been ripped down. It must have been a hell of a Halloween party over the weekend!


Looking out, I could see even more birds about, unfortunately none of them close. Plenty of duck species, notably Wigeon and Teal. Plenty of Geese and Gulls; lots of Coot and Moorhen; a pair of dark-morph Pheasants, sat on one of the goalposts; about half-a-dozen Lapwing and then a Kestrel flew over, putting everything up.

With not much else happening, I decided to head through the lakes towards the Bittern Hide. Today proved a bit more fruitful than previous walks through the lakes. The first Great Crested Grebes of the day appeared; a Kingfisher flashed by and then I heard, then spotted, a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, on the distant dead trees. A Green Woodpecker sounded off. There were also more passerines about today, finally. Robins; Dunnocks; Wrens and lots of Finches and Tits were heard and seen, all flitting around the trees and shrubs.

I walked over the Bridge, hearing a Cetti's Warbler sound off, quite close. I stopped for a few minutes and spotted it in the undergrowth. It was just starting to show well and I thought I might actually get a photo of it. However, a woman and two dogs appeared, one of the dogs barking its' head off. The bird flew.

There goes another Crayfish!
There was nothing else of note to see and I soon found myself entering the Bittern Hide. Where I was greeted, by not only Ron, but by Katie Kingfisher and her mum, Mary. There were one or two other familiar faces in there as well. They all had surprised looks on their faces - can't you hear me knocking?

The news was not good; no Bittern had been seen. I sat down and listened to all the gossip. Sorry, news. Outside, the feeders were being constantly visited by all and sundry; the resident Grey Heron turned up and began hunting; a Jay flew in and posed, just outside the Hide and a Little Grebe could be seen fishing in one of the channels. I was also surprised to see a Migrant Hawker flying around, despite the low temperatures.

We all sat there patiently, looking out for any sign of Bittern activity. Alas, it was not to be. Eventually, thinking I can't get no satisfaction here, Ron and I decided to take a walk, as the sun had come out. We took a slightly different route to Holyfield Weir, seeing a fair variety of species, including a number of Grebes; Grey Wagtail and Siskin. We also spotted a few Thrushes, which I thought were Fieldfare, but which Ron thought were Redwing.

It was a nice loop around the area, before we found ourselves back in the Bittern Hide. The original crowd had disappeared, to be replaced by others. Still no Bittern. We did see a pair of Reed Buntings, at the back of a channel plus a pair of Egyptian Geese, out on the lake. The Grey Heron was still entertaining us, but when it departed, it all went a bit quiet. I even started to nod off. I had to shake my head and rub my eyes, to start me up.

It was also starting to darken and so I decided to head for home. On the trail back, I spotted more Grebes; another Kingfisher fly-by and then I heard a Water Rail scream out. The last bird of the day was the same as the first bird of the day, a Little Egret. I also flushed this one out as well.

The only Otter I saw all year!
It was quite a high species total today, so it wasn't all doom and gloom. Quite a ruby Monday, when usually it's a ruby Tuesday.

A Bittern failure today, but I wasn't a fool to cry and I wasn't too downbeat. You can't always get what you want. The show last month was still sharp in the memory.


'Trying is the first step towards failure' - Homer Simpson