Sunday, 20 January 2013

Bittern at Lee Valley

Thinking the temperatures were going to drop last night and the thought of driving on roads early morning with the chance of black ice, I had planned on staying in this morning.

Muntjac Deer

But after waking and looking out of the window to find no frost and no further snowfall I quickly decided to head over to Lee Valley.
On arrival the roads leading to Hooks Marsh car park looked hazardous for the return trip uphill, so decided to park at Fisher's Green.
Arriving shortly after 8am, the entrance roads leading to the car park were covered with ice, as was the car park itself.
Making my way to the Bittern Hide the snow starts to fall. Entering the hide I'm informed by the only other birder present that there's been no sign of the Bittern so far.
Opening the hatch the first thing I see are two Muntjac Deers. Both are standing close to the feeders hoping to grab anything that drops to the floor.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker lands in the nearby tree and drops onto the feeder briefly before retreating back to the tree.

Poor photo, but it shows the size of it's catch

Dad arrives as the other birder leaves the hide, and within five minutes of him sitting down he's asking if I saw  a small bird drop into the reeds. As I'm trying to find the bird the Bittern appears at the bottom of the reeds and starts to hunt for it's breakfast.
It's beak dives into the water and comes up with a large looking fish, at first I thought it might be an eel  It heads back towards the reeds and walks back up along the channel and with hardly any struggle swallows it's catch. It then disappears into the reeds at the back of the reedbed.
The Two deer reappear around the feeders and give a chance for a couple of photos. Then a Water Rail is spotted by dad. It walks across the water in front of the reeds and then flies further across into the next channel.
A second Water Rail is seen shortly before we decide to make our way round towards Hooks Marsh and Friday Lake.
At Friday Lake there's no sign of any Smew present, but I add Wigeon to the patch year list. Onto Bowyers Water but still no Smew to be found. 

A Male Goldeneye is found while scoping the unfrozen parts of the water, and the Black Swan appears close by.

On the walk back towards the car a Mute Swan was seen with fishing line attached to it's bill, another swan  had fishing line and also a plastic bait feeder hanging from it's bill. I reported my sightings to the park authorities and was pleased to receive an e-mail reply stating that the birds were being looked for by park rangers and volunteers. Hopefully they can be caught and the line removed without any ill effects to the birds.

Just the drive back home left to do. The hardest part of which is getting up to the main road after leaving the car park. 
A short visit but well worth the effort.

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