Saturday, 19 December 2015

Top Birding Day!

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 17th December, 15

Weather: Cloudy early on, brightening up later.

Bird Total: 49
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.

The forecast for today looked pretty good. It just needed to be a little accurate. The previous few days had seen rain, rain and more rain. However, today rain was not forecast but was, in fact, a little cloudy early on, turning brighter later. At least there wasn't the sound of thunder. It was also quite warm out - still, making me break into a little sweat after walking nearly 10km.

But it was a top birding day! Enough to make the angels weep!

No rockets to the Space Station but there was some top quality birding. Smew; Goosander; Goldcrest; Stonechat and a few surprises. At last, a sort of wild justice, as opposed to previous days out.

The first surprise was the train getting me down there, ontime. Nothing much to be seen on the way down, apart from lots of large puddles. The river God had obviously been busy.

Soon, I was looking out over Friday Lake. I could see Wigeon; Great Crested Grebe and Grey Heron. Then I thought I spotted a pair of Goosander, but which later turned out to be Shoveler. I only had a few seconds of disappointment because right next to them appeared a redhead Smew! It was a bit distant and it didn't venture too close, but I was delighted to see my first one of the season. Not exactly an eagle in the sky, but a good start!

I sat down in the Teal Hide and looked out. There were quite a few birds on show, some fairly close to the Hide. However, when they clocked me, they all moved off. This camo cream doesn't seem to be working.

View from the Snipe Hide over Hall Marsh Scrape
Apart from the usual large flock of Black-headed Gulls I could see quite a lot of Wigeon; quite a lot of Lapwing; Teal and Shoveler; Canada and Greylag Geese and a Manky Mallard. Then a couple of people entered and informed me that a male Stonechat could be seen from the Snipe Hide, which was adjacent to this Hide. I had only visited it the once, but headed off to try my luck.

After about five minutes I spotted it, atop of some bramble, to my left. It was quite mobile, but not mobile enough in my direction. Still, it was good to see one. Two good birds in 30 minutes!

I took a walk through the lakes, seeing, in no particular order, Great Crested Grebe; Kingfisher; Redwing; Teal and a Chiffchaff. There were plenty of people about, most with dogs in tow, all looking at me with an eye of the tiger.

I reached the Bridge and could see Great Crested Grebe; Little Grebe and a few Pochard. It was a tad windy up here, so I didn't hang around. There were no further birds to be seen, other than the usual, until I reached the Bittern Hide.

It was empty when I arrived. Bittern had last been seen over a week ago. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had also been seen recently. There wasn't a great deal about on the lake, which looked to be as hungry as the sea, other than several Lapwing; more Great Crested Grebes and a pair of Egyptian Geese. The feeders were full and being visited regularly.

A Great Crested Grebe was feeding to the right of the Hide but didn't venture too close. A few people came and went - 'Nope, no Bittern seen!'

After about 15 minutes a Sparrowhawk flashed past the feeders, scaring everything - including me! It headed off, over the lake, pursued by lots of Black-headed Gulls. Then a Grey Squirrel appeared beneath the feeders.

With an eye on the time, I decided to head off to the Grebe Hide. Along the way were more Grebes and then a party of Long-tailed Tits passed me by, trailing a Goldcrest along with them. Only the Tits stopped briefly to say hello.

Further on, just past the Weir, I spotted a Little Egret on the other side of the lake, amongst all the Grebes; Coots and ducks. Then a pair of noisy Egyptian Geese flew over, possibly the same pair.

When I arrived at the Grebe Hide I was pleasantly surprised to find the lake teeming with birds. I hadn't seen this many birds on the lake for ages. Predominately Wigeon - hundreds of them, with some of them quite happy to swim up close to the Hide, whilst feeding. But then they would cry wolf and swim off again.

There were so many birds out there, it was difficult to pick out a Great Crested Grebe. In fact, I only spotted one. There was also one drake Goosander, preening, way out to the right. Other birds on show were around a score of Mute Swans, most of which were hissing at one another and anything else that got in their way; Tufted Ducks; Pochard; Coot City and a pair of Little Egret, on the branches of a tree, way out to the left.

The Egyptian Geese must have followed me, as they were now preening on the large island in front. Then I could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker somewhere on the trees opposite. I soon picked it up, a male, which flew off after about 5 minutes of continuous calling.

After lunch and some hot coffee, I headed back. It was still quite warm, a triumph of the sun. Nothing too much to report, until I reached the bridge over to the Bittern Hide. Just before I entered I was surprised to see a flock of Ring-necked Parakeets fly off. Another surprise was that they were completely silent about it.

I entered the Hide again, to find another guy there, with two dogs, one of them off the lead, contrary to the sign on the front of the door. He didn't stay long, fortunately and soon after, I saw a Grey Heron fly in, land, go into stalk mode and then fly off. Soon after, a Water Rail darted across one of the channels.

Just before I decided to call it a day, a pair of Mallards started their mating ritual, ending with copulation. Don't they know it's Christmas?

On the trail back to the station I could hear a Song Thrush singing out. And finally, a Green Woodpecker flashed past me, followed by a female Muntjac. No, she wasn't following the Woodpecker - she darted off when she spotted me. I think I'll get a refund for my camo cream. It's obviously not working.

I got lucky with the trains - my intended one arrived earlier than expected. Thanks for sharing my great day!


'Russians don’t recycle their urine on the International Space Station but they do collect it for the Americans to recycle as drinking water: It confirms the Americans really are taking the p*ss!'