I was just reaching Watford and was about to cross the bridge over the canal when an Owl sp. flew over the road in line with the canal going south. From the glimpse I had from the bike it appeared overly white/pale brown however it could have been darker as I only saw it in the headlamps of car. It had a wavering flight with very slow relaxed wing beat but I could barely ID any other notable features. I pulled over to the side of the road, locked up my bike and walked a short distance down the canal towpath hoping to relocate it along the bank. I assumed it had gone into the neighbouring field (which is ideal for owls) but unfortunately getting a look over the fields was very difficult and I still had to get to Watford Junction on time. I then heard the call of a Tawny Owl, perhaps the same bird as I walked back to collect my bike. Note to self- check the area for Barn Owls.
RIDGMONT PARK, THE SERPENTINE 6:00AM
I arrived at Euston with about an hour to spare before the next train left to Ashford International (the next leg of my journey) so decided to spend the early hours of the morning checking the wildfowl along the Serpentine in Ridgmont Park. It was still in near darkness and there was no lighting in the park, all the same I still managed to see 3+ Shoveler (2♂,1♀), dozens of Tufted Ducks, Pochard, 2+♂ Gadwall a ♂ Red Crested Pochard and 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE (a year tick) not a bad start to the day for central London. Also of note were 2 Grey Herons and dozens of Herring Gulls beginning to congregate as they circled over the lake.
CAMBER, NEAR DUNGENESS
I still had a further 10 mile cycle ride ahead to get to Hanson ARC were the Penduline Tit was last seen yesterday. c.20 Curlew were the first birds of note as they came in to land into some flooded fields as I passed on my bike.
HANSON ARC PIT
I arrived eventually at c. 9:30am (over 4 hours journey time) at Hanson ARC Pit. On the way to the screen the unmistakable song of several CETTI'S WARBLER came from the sides of the ditches (naturally none showed themselves). I sat down in the screen hide and within minutes I glimpsed a large brown bird dive into the reeds, after a few seconds it re-emerged at the side of the reedbed as a stunning BITTERN, it provided amazing views and approached to within meters of the hide occasionally poking the water’s surface and adopting its unusual gate. Within my stay a further 2-3 BITTERNS showed for brief periods of time as they flew into some of the reeds neighbouring the pit. To the left of the hide a Pipit flew out from the side of the bank in a short loop. It too showed well and provided a good all round view of itself including its buff/white supercilium, slate-grey head, light streaking on the back and pale yellow lower mandible which all pointed towards a winter plumaged WATER PIPIT. As I searched the reads for the Penduline Tit the sound of Herring Gulls shrieking at something drew my attention. I raised my bins to see initially the Herring Gull before a GREAT WHITE EGRET (a yea tick) loomed into view. It did a short circuit before landing out of view behind the reeds. However, 2 GREAT WHITE EGRETS soon took flight again from the same spot and flew to the line of reeds/bushes on the north side of the pit.
2 Great White Egrets
DUNGENESS RSPB RESERVE
I dipped out on the Penduline Tit and decided to go and visit the reserve to try my luck with the Long-tailed Duck. I checked the back garden of the Farm as instructed and was glad to set eyes on several Tree Sparrows (a year tick) making regular visits to the feeders.
Tree Sparrows, near the feeders in the reserve car park
female Long-tailed Duck
I tried once again to find the Penduline at a more suitable time of day (15:00 till 16:30pm) but once again failed. The only birds still of note included 2 Pintail (1♂,1♀), c.20 Curlew and some more explosive song from the Cetti's Warblers.
JURY'S GAP ROAD
On the bike ride back my journey was once again slowed by a strong westerly head wind however, I was rather surprised to see a flock of c.20 SNOW GEESE including 2 "Blue Morphs" (most likely escapes or feral) feeding amongst Greylag Geese on the grassy verge of the lakes just north west of the road.