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.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

My life and other animals, birds, people and doodles

One of the best bits about volunteering at the Bittern Information Point in the Lee Valley apart from the obvious, is the people I get to meet. You get all sorts but they fit into quite defined segments.

1. The lone birder (usually with a beard and usually male)
We don’t need to give these chaps much info. They know what they’re doing and apart from asking the key question, 'Is the Bittern about?' not much interaction takes place. They prefer silence and a hot flask of coffee.

2. The regular friend of the valley.
These people are singular or come in pairs. A mixture of men and women of all ages with binoculars and often, semi-pro cameras. They know the valley better than me but that’s not saying much. They love a chat and some even bring chocolate bars that they share out. They can spend nearly all day in the hide or pop out for a few hours and then come back to report their sightings. Love them.

3. Families
They are great because the kids love to use our binoculars and telescopes. Their enthusiasm is infectious and their questions endless. I don’t think the lone birders like them that much especially if they make a lot of noise.

4. Walkers/bike riders
They usually just want a map or to report a mad swan on the path. They don’t really want to stay long or stare at a reedbed for hours. Fair play to them.

5. Young couples
Interesting one this. It’s usually the guy trying to impress a girl with his romantic, nature-loving but a little wild side. The girls always look bored. I get a look from them that says 'Haven’t you got any Elle mags in here or something for Christ’s sake? Sorry, only RSPB mags from 1991 so long as the mice haven’t chewed them up to make a nest again.

6. Mature couples
Another group that love to chat. They will often sit at opposite ends of the hide, not because they have had a row but because they are covering off all the angles in order to spot a bittern or rail. They still communicate often through me or another volunteer which can make us dizzy.

So there you have them. yesterday had most of these and the bittern hide has now become a focus of attention as a bittern or two is now being seen on a regular/daily basis.

We had a Bittern at just after 10am it only showed briefly before skulking off into the reeds again. We had another few sights as the morning went on but photographing one proved too difficult. I managed a few sketches and finished this off at home later. The one we do see is a big bird. Bigger than most of the bitterns I have seen in the valley. Very impressive.

Bittern watercolour sketch
Water Rail watercolour sketch
I also made a sketch of a water rail. This wasn’t done from life as the devil wouldn’t stay still. At least a bittern can pose motionless long enough to get the main details down with a pencil. A water rail fidgets too much but is fun to paint nonetheless.

My duty at the hide was only for the morning and as one of my 'Mature couples' had informed me of a Goosander up at Holyfield Lake, a huge sailing boat lake, I decided to take a chance and have a look for it. It’s a bit of a trek, probably close to a mile from the bittern hide but it was there so it was worth it.

Drake Goosander
They had told me that it was a female they saw but this was clearly a male bird so the female must have been around somewhere close but didn’t appear. Obviously a mature couple themselves.

One the way home, I stopped off at Mansfield Park, a high elevated public open space that is brilliant from snooping in at the William Girling Reservoir which itself is closed to the public. I spied at least 8 Black-necked Grebe here which is probably half of the number that regularly bob about on the reservoir. Overhead, a single Ring-necked Parakeet squawked its head off.

Keep the noise down, I’m a lone birder mate.

Birds seen:
Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Cormorant, Bittern, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Pheasant, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Robin, Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch

Total: 46

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