Saturday, 5 March 2016

Kingfishers @ Hartham!

Hartham Common & Amwell Nature Reserve - 16th February 16

Weather: Frosty start, but turned bright and sunny, with slight cloud. Cool breeze.

Bird Total: 49
Plus: Bank Vole; Grey Squirrel; Konik Pony; Muntjac; Rabbit.

Today I paid a first visit to a place called Hartham Common, near Hertford. I was kindly chauffeured down there by my good friend, Barry. And we were both kindly shown around the area by Katy Kingfisher and her mother, Mrs. Water Vole.

We met up at Hertford East station around 10. Although we had taken a detour to Hertford North station beforehand, due to incorrect directions.

Soon, we were walking around the Common. Covering over 48 acres and managed by East Herts Council, Hartham is a well established park dating back over 1000 years. There are many and various facilities here and is only a 5 minute walk from Hertford town centre.

We were here for the riverside walk, which we were reliably informed were home to a pair of Kingfishers. Sainsburys was nearby and the place seemed packed full of people, many with dogs and so I was a little dubious about seeing any birdlife, let alone Kingfishers.

However, as good as their word, a male Kingfisher was soon spotted. Balanced on an overhanging branch, several feet above the river, he was busy scouring the water for lunch. He allowed a few photos before flying off upriver.

We followed, found him, stopped and took photos, before he flew off again, to various perches further upriver. At one point, he perched in the sunshine, allowing a few closer shots, before flying off, out of sight.

We walked a little further on and spotted the female, also posing. Not quite as accommodating as the male, but giving good views nonetheless. When she also vanished we continued around the Common.

We looked for Treecreeper but found Little Egret instead. I could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the distance. Lots of the usual little birds could be seen, flying around, but there wasn't too much else to see. Although there were still quite a few people about, it was a pleasant little walk.

Soon we found ourselves back at the car-park. I forgot to mention that Barry had to pay £2 for parking. I had 'inadvertently' forgot to bring any change. Well, that's my story, anyway.

We bade farewell to the women and headed for Amwell, arriving around midday. We had a pretty good afternoon, with Barry giving it 7 out of 10. However, we missed all the good stuff, including Oystercatcher; Peregrine Falcon; Smew; Egyptian Goose; Bearded Tit; Woodcock and Marsh Tit. And, most importantly, the 2 Bitterns that had appeared the previous day. Oh, and an Iceland Gull that had turned up the previous evening. So, not much.

Nevertheless, we did see 4 Lesser Redpolls, including one male; a pair of Great Crested Grebes in courtship display; a couple of pairs of Goldeneye and a Goldcrest, spotted by Barry. Plus a Muntjac and a Bank Vole.

Our circuit covered: Watchpoint - Bittern Pool - Trails - Bittern Pool - James Hide - Bittern Pool - Watchpoint - Gladwin Hide - Watchpoint. It was quite warm in the sunshine but a little cool in the shade and wind.

Barry decided to head off about 2.30, while I elected to stay on, for the Bittern. I started to head down to the Bittern Pool again when Jenny drove up, saying that she had just seen a Bittern down there. I hurried down and waited, with her and several others, for a couple of hours. No Bittern. Although I thought I did see one, deep in the reedbed, but was probably just another reed. I'm going to rename this the Bittern-less Pool.

There were Buzzards screeching in the sky, above Easneye Wood; Little Egret and Grey Heron, but not much else to keep us excited. The sun went down, it started to cloud over a bit and then the wind started to push the temperature down. It wasn't going to happen today. Benny the Bittern had beaten me again.

I headed up to the Watchpoint, to find the usual Gull Watch Brigade in place, looking for the Iceland Gull. They hadn't seen it but said that I had just missed the Oystercatchers. Thanks for that.

I watched separate mini-murmurations of Lapwing and Jackdaw, before heading for home. That might be my last chance for Bittern.

Another lovely day out and it was good to add another venue to the list. My thanks to Katy and her Mum for showing us around the Common and to my good friend, Barry, for the transport.

'Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.' Albert Einstein