Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A Close Encounter with Mickey the Muntjac

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 28th January, 16

Weather: Sunny, blue skies. Clouding over later. Cold breeze.

Bird Total: 48
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.

The weather continues to play silly buggers. Rain yesterday, clear skies today, rain tomorrow.

The trains were playing silly buggers, as well. Only a delay of about 10 minutes this morning and, because I was visiting Cheshunt, it didn't bother me too much, as there were no changes en-route.

Whilst waiting for said train, I could hear Cetti's Warbler and Song Thrush, both in good voice. There were the usual Canada Geese out on the fields, on the way down. All the lagoons were still in situ.

Mickey the Muntjac
It was an uneventful walk along the canal path. I noticed that loads of narrowboats were in the area and tied up. Most of them resplendent in the sunshine and with lots of potted plants showing well.

At Friday Lake, as I sat down and scanned the area, one of the first birds I spotted was a redhead Smew. It was soon joined by another. They were fishing out to the right but dashed my photo hopes as they moved further away. A Great Crested Grebe was out there as well, surrounded by Tufted Ducks and Gulls. A flock of Lapwing flew overhead, before returning to the Hall Marsh Scrape area.

Just before I reached the Teal Hide, along the boardwalk, I heard, then spotted a party of Long-tailed Tits. I hung around for a few minutes and was rewarded by the sight of a lone Goldcrest, picking its' way around the branches. The Tits were excitable, the Goldcrest too quick.

From the Teal Hide itself, I watched as a pair of Little Egrets flew in and land in amongst the reeds, to the left. Also out to the left, further in, were over 30 Wigeon, all busily cropping the grass. In front of the Hide and out to the right were over a hundred Lapwing, who all took to the air at the drop of a hat. Or maybe one of their predators. There were several Shovelers out there, most of them asleep. It must have been a hard night. I could also hear some Teal calling, but could only see 2 males. There were lots of Gulls about, flying around, screeching.

Then, suddenly, something scared all the Wigeon, who all raced back into the water. I couldn't see what it was, most probably someone walking on the path near to them. Probably with a dog! However, it had the effect that, a few minutes later, the Wigeon came back onto land to feed only this time a little closer to the Hide. After a few more minutes they came close enough to the Hide for a few modest photos.

Out to my right I could see the male Stonechat sat atop the fenceline. I watched as he moved closer and closer to the Snipe Hide, eventually posing about 10 metres in front of it. I debated on whether to rush around there for a quick photo. However, I could see another Birder arrive there, who scared it off.

Grey Heron - why do they always look so miserable?
Said Birder then soon arrived in the Teal Hide. A familiar face! He didn't see the Stonechat, but, on arrival, had inadvertently scared away all the Wigeon. Several pairs of Greylag Geese were continually flying over every few minutes, all honking away. A female Muntjac could be seen, out to the right, feeding almost continuously. Every once in a while she would look up and scan the area, before choosing another spot to feed. Around the same area I could see a pair of Fieldfare, hopping around the grass. The Lapwing continued to go up, giving a wonderful aerial display.

I moved off, heading towards the lakes. Just before I arrived at the 'stand-up' Hide I spotted one of the redhead Smew, still out on Friday Lake. A Grey Heron flew over me, towards the Hall Marsh Scrape, disturbing a few birds, as it landed. A little further on, another Muntjac bounded off after seeing me. A female. Inevitably.

Another photo of Mickey: 'what's that clicking noise?'
There wasn't much to report on the walk through the lakes, other than noticing that all the Great Crested Grebes on show today, were all in their breeding plumage. I did hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker call out.

I reached the part of the trail that leads to the Bittern Hide. I immediately heard a Ring-necked Parakeet screech out somewhere. A little further on I spotted a drake Goosander, on the lagoon adjacent to the relief channel. There were quite a number of people along this stretch. I guess I don't have to tell you who and with what.

Great Crested Grebe
Just before I reached the Hide, a few LVRP guys were doing some coppicing work. They were scaring all the dogs, who didn't want to go anywhere near them.

'One for sorrow.....'
I found the Bittern Hide quite full when I arrived. On perusing the sightings board I could see that a Bittern had been seen several times this morning, the last time about 30 minutes previously. Unfortunately, that was the last time it was seen, as it never re-appeared for the rest of the day.
However, a Water Rail showed briefly, a few times; a Cetti's Warbler was heard, then seen, flitting around the reeds in front; the resident Grey Heron was present and fishing, after standing still for a time; a Sparrowhawk flew through, snatching a poor, unfortunate Great Tit and then a Buzzard could be seen, high up in the sky, being mobbed by a Carrion Crow. Out over the lake I could see more Lapwing, who were also going up every few minutes.

The sun was shining directly into my eyes and it was quite difficult to see anything. A familiar face was in the Hide, just like the last visit. Eventually, I got fed up of waiting. It was starting to get cold, the sun was a pain and so, after lunch, I headed off.

female Goosander
I took the same route as the last time, left out of the Hide. Along the trail I spotted a pair of Goosander, in almost the same place as the two females were, last time. They were busy fishing, as was another Great Crested Grebe. Just a bit too far away.

There wasn't too much around on the way to the Grebe Hide. A few Goldfinch; more Great Crested Grebes; a Little Grebe at the Weir. Some Jackdaws flew over, chacking as they went. There were several Mallards following me, along the relief channel, hoping for a handout. They were to be disappointed, but they did look good in the sunlight. The rays were reflecting off the males' green head.

A little further on a Kestrel flew over the relief channel to my left and landed on a branch. Too far for a photo and, anyway, I was looking into the sun. On the main lake I could see a few more Great Crested Grebes and a some Pochard.
Drake Mallard, looking good in the sunshine.

I reached the Grebe Hide and sat down. There wasn't very much out there, maybe around 30 birds. Mainly Tufted Duck, with a sprinkling of Pochard. A few Coot and Gull were swimming aimlessly about. Well, aimless to me.

A few minutes later I spotted a drake Goldeneye, way out to the right. A minute or so after that, I could see another redhead Smew. Both were busy fishing, diving down every few seconds. Out to my left I could see a pair of Little Grebe and then I spotted 2 pairs of Great Crested Grebe. A pair of Grey Herons flew in and landed on top of the trees, in front of the Hide. They began a mutual preen.

Jay - love that wing-flash!
I headed back down the trail. Looking out over the relief channel, to the lagoon, towards the Farm, I could see all the usual wildfowl, swimming about. This time no Fox or Muntjac. However, I could hear and see a Great Spotted Woodpecker, high up on a tree.

Soon I was sitting back down in the Bittern Hide. Just before I entered, a man with 2 dogs, both off the lead, entered as well. Fortunately, he didn't stay too long. One other guy was already in there. Almost immediately a Jay appeared and posed. Then a pair of Ring-necked Parakeets flew in and landed on the feeders. I'd heard that this had happened before now, while I had also seen upto a dozen flying around the area. They seem to be expanding their territory. The Cetti's showed well again.

Ring-necked Parakeet
There may not have been a Bittern today, but, instead, a buck Muntjac suddenly appeared in one of the reedcuts and proceeded to walk around the perimeter of the pond, towards the Hide. It came to within about 10 feet of me, unconcerned as I snapped away. He then walked straight past the front of the Hide, to the right-hand side and then slowly made the return circuit, before disappearing whence he came. I've never been that close to a Muntjac before and certainly haven't managed any good photos. Quite exhilarating!

I waited until dusk, to see if the Bittern would appear, to roost. No show, so I headed off. Not before Mickey the Muntjac reappeared, this time bringing his girlfriend, Minnie, with him. Too dark for any more photos. On the trail back, on the relief channel, a pair of Great Crested Grebes floated by.

No Bittern, but an enjoyable day nonetheless.

'East African vampire spiders drink human blood by
eating mosquitoes that have just bitten humans.'