Monday, 31 December 2012

Last chance for the Year List (31st December)

The final opportunity for a full days birding before the year comes to a close so I decided to visit yet another local reserve that I had not visited for some time.  I rather unwisely chose today to go out, as opposed to yesterday with the punishment being prolonged rain and overcast weather for the entire day.  At least there were a few hides to take shelter in but to really be rewarded with birds, it was necessary to venture from the safety of the cosy little huts.  The Colne Valley complex was my main focus for the day.  I made one round trip of Batchworth Lake, once round Bury Lake, twice round Stocker's Lake, once round Inns Lake and finally once around Springwell Lake.  Not as exhausting as you might expect as the occasional good bird did lift my spirits.  Most of the usual waterfowl and wetland species were present, including Shoveler, Pochard, Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Coot and Canada Geese.  Other birds of not included numberous Siskin throughout the day, mostly singles but the occasional flock of up to c.10 birds were also present.  45+ Lapwing dotted around the muddy margins of the islands and a Little Egret were two other species of note.  Two exotic species I had not seen in some time, yet was still not that pleased to see were 5 Red Crested Pochard (including 3 males) and several flyover Ring-necked Parakeets.  Inns Lake produced the first good bird of the day, a stunning drake GOOSANDER, rather embarrassingly still a year tick (and just in time too, phew).  I blame this on the rather mild winter we have had so far as I remember having seen far more in previous winters, particularly in harsher, colder weather.

 drake Goosander on Inns Lake

Springwell Lake was the worst (in terms of muddiness), rather frustratingly near the end of the round walk around the lake the final section was entirely flooded over so I had to retrace my steps all the way back again.  But enough of my grim mood, I had a small reward for the effort including a single Kingfisher and a Bullfinch perched in a hedge nearby.  From Springwell, I walked back past the lakes in the direction of Stockers Farm, where I connected with the white morph adult Greater Snow Goose, most likely an escape.  However it was a full plumaged bird and behaved much like a wild one too so was still worth some appreciation.

 presumed escape Greater Snow Goose, Stocker's Farm, still a very nice bird worth some appreciation

By the time I got back to Stocker's Lake, the rain started to get much worse so I simply sat in the hides with a few of the local birders chatted for a while and watched the feeders.  It was nice to have another dude moment before 2013 watching the Blue Tits, Great Tits and Nuthatches visiting the newly laid out suet and fat balls.  5+ Fieldfare showing well in the neighbouring hedges were also my first for the winter in Herts.  Whilst wandering down the path I noticed what looked like a dead leaf skidding along the path and it took me a few seconds to realise it was in fact something entirely different but by the time it dived into the dense vegetation all I noticed was that it was either a Stoat or Weasel.  With such a brief view the ID features didn't come to mid quick enough and by the time I took a look at the tail it had already dived out of sight.  With no sign of the rain subsiding, I decided to keep on going, did a second circuit of Stocker's Lake and finally at the end of it, found the drake SMEW at the north east corner of the lake.  Despite showing distantly and the rain really pelting down now, I was pleased to have eventually get my target bird for the day.

drake Smew to end the day

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