Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Escape to Lee Valley

After four days of cutting branches from a few trees and ridding the garden of every leaf in Woodford, I rewarded myself with a trip to Fisher’s Green in the Lee Valley.

The weather had been uncomfortable with that irritating mizzle that soaks you without it feeling like it’s raining. But yesterday was great. Blue skies and a mild, shirtsleeve-ready temperature made for perfect walking conditions.

I’d seen enough trees for one week

Fisher’s Green is very popular and forms just a small part of the Lee Valley. It is also a strong link in a long chain of reclaimed gravel pits that now act as an important home for a vast array of wildlife including, the growing-in-numbers Otter to the elusive and rare-breeding Bittern

I don’t expect to see otters or bitterns although I have seen the bittern here on many occasion. The fact is, the bittern is the shy, retiring type and a bit of a dab hand in the disguise department. Fisher’s Green does everything it can to help you see one of these enigmatic birds but never a guarantee. The Lee Valley Park have built a ‘watchpoint’ for the bittern which favours a small (but dense) patch of reedbed and a bird will occasionally wander between the gaps in the reeds to tease, before disappearing again for hours.

Love this. No one in the hide which, at weekends, can feel like a tin of sardines, sardines with a ton of optical equipment and huge flasks of oxtail soup no less.

Water Rail. A battle of wits and cunning when it comes to photographing one of these jokers.

There wasn’t any sign of the star bird but there were two or three Water Rail, squealing and running between the watery channels that dissect the reedbeds.

The main lake beyond the reedbeds plays a supporting role here. For when one becomes bored watching reeds swaying or the movement in the water that turns out to be a moorhen, relief can be taken by observing the wildfowl and huge cormorants that sit on the tern rafts hanging their wings out to dry. A pair of Egyptian geese mixed with the teal, gadwall and tufted ducks on a distant scrape.

I headed from here up to Holyfield Lake. Historically, I have always had siskins and bullfinches on this trail and I needed both for this year’s list. Fifty feet from the Bittern Watchpoint hide, a bright yellow male siskin landed atop a spindly birch or larch. Another year tick. Then along the winding river, that amazing flash of turquoise and orange that can only mean a kingfisher. Yet another tick for the year. In fact, this is the first kingfisher I have seen for a couple of years. Unbelievable really.

As I approached the Grebe hide that sits facing the Holyfield Lake, a small flock of finches flew hurriedly into the larch trees. I observed Goldfinches, Siskins (about 10) and a single Lesser Redpoll. 

Look, Siskins just aren’t very photogenic.
Holyfield Lake was swarming or swimming with birds. Hundreds of Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal, mixed with what seemed like thousands of Coot.


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