Sunday, 17 June 2012

Little Bittern is a bonus at Rickmansworth

An early morning visit to Lee Valley today and with the roads empty it's only fifteen minutes before I'm at Cornmill Meadows.
Walking along the grass track, There's plenty of House Martins flying along the river and over the flooded fields. There's no sign of any Sand Martins in amongst them though. (Still needed for the patch list). On the river there's six cygnets with their parents close by.
Reaching the metal gate I find the other side blocked by cows, I hate cows but faced with the choice of walking all the way back round I go through the gate and quickly edge round the outside of them. They show signs of movement towards me, But I'm off at a rapid pace and leave them well behind.
There's a very vocal Garden Warbler and an equally vocal Cetti's nearby.
Entering the hide I'm pleasantly surprised to see some muddy margins around the water's edge. Two Grey Herons are quickly located among the reeds and on one of the small muddy islands are nine Lapwings.
A second scan of the area produces a Little Ringed Plover and then a Sandpiper species comes into view. It's obscured by the reeds and I can't get a good look at it. Is it Wood or Green?
A quick text to Brian and fifteen minutes later he has joined me in the hide and we are both now looking at the sandpiper. By this time it's been flushed and is now in front of the hide. It looks much more brown and white then black  and white, But most of the other features suggest it's a Green Sand. Greenish rather than yellow legs, bill length, eye stripe, tail barring all suggest green. It's the one hundredth bird of the year for the patch.
Heading back towards the car my plan is to go on to Fisher's and have a wander round the rest of the patch. But Brian asks if I want to try for the Little Bittern. He already knows the answer and so we head off towards Rickmansworth Aquadrome car park.
Leaving the car and heading along the footpath we meet another birder coming the other way. "It's flown down river ten minutes ago" Not what we wanted to hear. We can see by all the down trodden grass where the birds favoured area has been, But there's no birders here now so we keep walking until we find the group of birders further along the river bank.We are told the rough area the bird was last seen going into, "Left of the small willow and to the back of the reeds". The bird is not visible so it's a waiting game as it so often is. There's no sign for around 15-20 minutes and then there's movement from within the reeds and then something spooks it and it jumps up and lands a short distance away but at the front of the reeds, Giving good but brief views before it dives back into the cover of the reeds. Knowing where it went into the reeds I can keep the bins on it and follow it as it moves left among the reeds even watching it catch and eat what looked like a newt. It puts it's head up and looks like it is struggling to get the newt down it's throat. It makes it's way behind a thicker clump of reeds and just as it looks like it's going to come to the front of the reeds a flock of Canada geese get to close and flush it up and along the river and out of sight.
We have no time to follow it, But we are more than happy with the views we have already had of the bird. Just as we are leaving we bump into a couple of familiar faces in Harry and Barry. Harry just managed to get a brief view of the bird in flight before it disappeared further down stream.

A very good morning's birding, With the Little Bittern and the Green Sandpiper to add to the year list, Which now stands at 229, and the Green Sandpiper to add to my patch year list as well which brings up the hundredth bird for the patch this year.

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