Weather: After a relatively mild start to the winter, January saw a distinctly colder spell for most, especially in the southern half of Britain, until the final week, where it turned milder and wetter.
Places Visited: Amwell; Cheshunt; Mersea/Abberton; Mistley Walls; Rye Meads; Wallasea Island.
Star Sightings of the Month:
Bird: Hen Harrier
Mammal: Water Vole
‘During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.’
The highlight this month was the fact that I managed to get out eleven times, a record for January. The weather, of course, played its’ part, again. Lakes and lagoons turned to ice, with frost about, early on. I had to don several layers, including a balaclava.
There were several trips to Amwell, Cheshunt and Rye Meads, as well as days out to Mersea/Abberton and Mistley, plus my first visit to Wallasea Island.
Rye Meads continued its’ recent good run and continued to be the place to visit. Of the 4 visits there, Bittern, Shelduck, Kestrel, Water Rail, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Water Pipit and Cetti’s Warbler were all very entertaining, with some quite close up, including the Bittern.
I made 3 trips to Amwell, seeing lots of Wigeon and Lapwing, Goldeneye, Smew, Sparrowhawk, Goldcrest, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper and a large flock of Siskin. On one memorable visit, the ‘Amwell Watcher’ aka ‘The Bittern Whisperer’ turned up. Up until then, there hadn’t been much to see. Almost immediately 3 Redhead Smew appeared. Then 4 drake Goldeneyes flew in. How does he do it?
There were 2 visits to Cheshunt, one good, one not so good. They were both mainly to hunt for Bittern. Sadly, I was unsuccessful, but I did spot a pair of Smew on Friday Lake, the drake being a particular delight to see, as he had not appeared at all, last year. A lovely pair of Goosander were seen on the first visit. Water Rails were good value, while the Ring-necked Parakeets looked to be increasing in number. And volume.
There was an opportunity to visit RSPB Wallasea Island, for the first time. No photos, unfortunately, all the birds were too far away, but we came away having seen a pair of Hen Harriers and several Short-eared Owls. There were also Brent Geese, Shelduck, Curlew, Redshank and Linnet present.
Next up, was a first visit of the year to Mistley. Overall, it was probably the visit of the month. Shelduck, Pintail, Goldeneye, Avocet, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Greenshank and Turnstone, all gave great, close-up views. Although the weather wasn’t great, we were lucky enough to be in place when the sun eventually shone.
Finally, we paid another first visit of the year to Abberton/Mersea. Unfortunately, it was on a very, very cold day, with all the lakes and lagoons frozen over, meaning that there wasn’t too much about. However, we did manage to spot Brent Goose, Shelduck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Curlew, Redshank and Snipe. Albeit, mostly distant.
There was an added bonus of a lovely Meadow Pipit close in, totally unconcerned that we were only a few feet away. There were, of course, the usual Muskovy Duck and Swan Goose at Abberton. A special note of thanks to my pal, Ron, for the last 3 visits.
On the Mammal front, I was delighted to see a Water Vole, several times, at Rye Meads. I hadn’t seen one at all, last year. A Bank Vole turned up at Amwell. Muntjacs and Grey Squirrels appeared on most days, while there were several Hares seen at Wallasea Island.
All bar one of these trips were made in the first 20 days, mainly due to the weather.
So, all in all, a very good start to the year. Maybe my luck has begun to change with the New Year.
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