Friday, 11 March 2016

There's No Such Thing As The Dog-Poo Fairy! *

Fishers Green, Cheshunt - 24th February, 16

Weather: Blues skies, slight cloud. Quite cold.

Bird Total: 44
Plus: Muntjac.

Another day in paradise. Or the Lee Valley Regional Park, as it's known.

Well, it wasn't quite as good a day as the last time I was here, a fortnight ago. But pretty close. No Little Egret; Goldeneye; Stonechat or Goldcrest. However, I did see plenty of Great Crested Grebes and Goosanders; a Treecreeper; a Jay and a few Muntjac.

I say a few Muntjac. Actually, I broke my record for sightings of this lovely animal, beating the previous mark of ten, by two. There were seemingly Muntjac everywhere I turned today. There's a certain young lady of my acquaintance, that will be a tad peeved to read this.

Waltham Common Lock
The pilgrimage all started earlier, catching my usual train. Which was again a little late. Whilst waiting for said train I could have sworn I heard an Oystercatcher peeping, somewhere near the adjacent reedbeds.

On the journey down, the Canada Geese were out in force again, flanked by Teal and Wigeon. A lone Little Egret was spotted, around the lakes area, whilst Great Crested Grebe could also be seen. There was also an unusually high number of Moorhens in one particular field. A 'Moorhen Murmuration'?

It was a lovely sunny morning, with a blue horizon, with only slight cloud. It was very cold out; an overnight frost was only just melting away and there was no wind. Not yet, anyway.

Arriving at Friday Lake, my usual first port of call, I sat down and sorted myself out. Looking out over the lake, the first bird I spotted was a lone redhead Smew, on the far side, hugging the shoreline. It was the only one I saw all day and I wondered if the rest had departed. Still no drake Smew here this season and I'm now wondering if the king will come at all.

A Great Crested Grebe was moving gracefully through the water, while several Tufted Ducks were ducking and diving. A lone female Pochard was asleep and drifting with the current. A pair of Canada Geese were about to swim up to me, but thought better of it. Maybe they recognised me and knew that I had bugger all for them. I could hear Goldfinch and Greenfinch around the area.

I was only 15 minutes in to the visit but there were already shedloads of dog-walkers and cyclists about. Seemingly, every dog-walker had around half-a-dozen dogs with them, while the cyclists seemed to be hunting in packs today. I was actually attacked by one dog, barking noisily. I ignored it and tried to carry on, but it started jumping up at me.

The owner walked up and said, 'Oh, he's never done that, before!'


I avoided further 'misunderstandings' by sitting in the Teal Hide. Although I couldn't help thinking that it may have been the errors of my way. It wasn't as busy outside, as before, but there were still a few choice things to see. No Fox; Fieldfare or Stonechat here, but the first thing I spotted was a Muntjac, a female, feeding on the other side of the lagoon. There were also quite a few Lapwing dotted around; about 30-odd Wigeon, which were all feeding, out to the right and all the usual stuff, floating about.

A few minutes later, I spotted another female Muntjac, feeding out to the right, by the fence-line, where the Stonechat had been seen. In the same area, I could see a lone black-morph Pheasant. I hung around for a further 15 minutes or so, before moving on, checking for dog-walkers as I went. And dog-poo.

I took a brief look out over Friday Lake, from the eastern side, seeing much the same thing. Though, this time, several Wigeon were seen. A pair of Great Crested Grebes, in full breeding plumage, were head-shaking.

I continued walking through the lakes. A third Muntjac was seen, feeding on the opposite bank, over leaf and stream. Disappointingly, there was nothing else of note, until I reached the relief channel, on the path to the Bittern Hide. I was hoping to see the Great Crested Grebes here again, but there was no sign of them today.

Ominously, there were signs of dogs. If you know what I mean. It was just something I couldn't turn a blind eye to.

I did see a couple of buck Muntjacs, feeding on the opposite side. A Grey Heron was in stalk-mode. Possibly the same one as the last visit. If it was still here, stalking, then it's probably as useless as I am. On the lagoon further back, I could see what must be the, now, resident drake Goosander.

I then arrived at the area where the coconut fat balls were hanging. A lovely pair of Long-tailed Tits were flitting around the branches here and so I tried to photograph them. Unfortunately, a horde of cyclists flew past, scaring everything off.

I carried on regardless, as it I knew this was no easy road. There were so many things to say to dog-walkers but I thought they may as well rest in peace. I guess I might have a case of the bad weather blues.

Just before I reached the Bittern Hide, I spotted a sixth Muntjac, a female. This, despite loads of dog-walkers and cyclists everywhere. Then something caught my eye. At first it looked like a moth, maybe a Mother of Pearl, but it turned out to be just a leaf caught in the wind. Doh!

I sat down in the Hide. There were a few people already here. Then good friend and fellow Birder, Markus, also arrived. We swapped sightings and waited for the Bittern no-show. A Water Rail made several appearances, darting across the channels. Muntjac number 7 appeared, another female, feeding on the opposite bank. Harry the Heron flew in and posed, before going into stalk-mode. I tried to pick up a few pointers.

Out on the lake, I could see a pair of Egyptian Geese, in amongst all the ducks and gulls. A few Great Crested Grebes were floating about, while about 30+ Lapwing continually went up every few minutes.

The feeders were almost empty but were still doing a roaring trade, with plenty of Blues and Greats visiting in quick succession. Chaffinches patiently awaited their turn, while a pair of Moorhens swept up the residue. A Wren could be seen darting about the reeds.

I headed off, on the outward bound trail to the Grebe Hide. On the way, I spotted a Sparrowhawk flash over, pursued by a Gull and then a drake Goosander could be seen, in the same place as before. There were another pair of Great Crested Grebes seen. More dog-walkers wandered past, smiling at me. I gave them my best fake-smile.

I closed in on Holyfield Weir, where I spotted another female Muntjac, by the metal fence-line. She bounded off when she spotted me. Absolutely nothing could be seen out on the lake. Walking further on, Muntjac number 9 appeared, another Buck. I was getting a bit blasé about them, now.

Further along the trail, two blokes passed me, informing me that I had just missed seeing a 'deer'. I smiled quietly to them. A Song Thrush could be heard. There were quite a few Pochard out on the lagoon, to my right, as I walked past the area.

I passed another couple of people, who informed me that they had just left the Grebe Hide, seeing nothing. When I entered, the first bird I spotted was a female Goosander, right in front of the Hide. Right time, right place!

However, there wasn't much else out there. What there was, seemed to have congregated out to the far left-hand corner, again. Pochard; Tufted Duck; Geese and Gulls and a few Great Crested Grebes. Oh and plenty of Coot, of course.

Soon, the Great Crested Grebe count rose to five, while I could also see a lone Egyptian Goose, at the far end of the lake. A pair of Wigeon appeared out to the right, while a pair of Teal appeared out to the left. The Goosander disappeared behind the main island, never to be seen again.

I started the long trek back. Out to my left, on the lagoon, I could see another pair of Goosander, in amongst the Pochard. The fishermen were out in force today, dotted along the river, to my right. Yet another Muntjac, a buck, appeared, just before I reached the Weir. Just past the Weir I could see another pair of Egyptian Geese, in the distance. 

Again, there were no wildfowl on the lagoon over the relief channel. A Grey Heron could be seen, stock-still, in the middle of the lagoon. It was soon joined by several more, all flying in. Further along, still on the relief channel, another Grey Heron could be seen.

Then I was passed by two gentlemen, walking a dog. I recognised them as the same pair as on previous visits. Coincidentally, it was the same stretch of trail as before. The dog then did its' business, the owner ignored it and walked on. Better than leaving a doggie-bag on the branch, I thought.

And then came the record-breaking sighting of the eleventh Muntjac, a buck. Lastly, on this stretch, I spooked a Jay, while I was looking at a noisy pair of Blackbirds.

I duly arrived back at the Bittern Hide. The few people that were there, soon departed, including a woman with a dog. I quickly checked for dog-poo. They missed a Treecreeper fly in, to the left. It remained true to its' name, by immediately creeping up the tree. And then a Sparrowhawk flashed past the feeders, scaring the hell out of the many birds that were trying to get at the last knockings.

Then a lovely Jay, possibly the resident bird, flew in to perch on the branch to my left. It looked warily around for a few minutes, before landing on the grass, beneath the feeders. It hopped around for a few minutes, picking off the seeds, before flying off. A Water Rail then appeared, moving across the channels, before nearing the feeder area.

Although still sunny, even at around 4-ish, time was running out and so I decided to head for home. Outside the Hide, I nearly stepped on some freshly-made dog-poo. Everyone else had again long departed and, although everybody needs a friend, I wanted to see if the Grebes had returned to the relief channel. They hadn't, but I did see a Great Spotted Woodpecker fly over and then I heard and spotted a Ring-necked Parakeet.

Finally, on the last stretch of trail to the Station, I spotted yet another Muntjac, a female, making up a round dozen! The girls win 7-5, I think. 

I wasn't too surprised to see plenty of Midges again, today, but I was surprised to see lots of pollen about. True to form, my eyes began to itch and I started sneezing. It's only February!

Another cracking day out!

'If you need 100 rounds to kill a deer, maybe hunting isn't your sport.' Elayne Boosler