Thursday, 25 August 2011

Lee/Lea Valley

No-one can seem to agree how to spell it, but don't let that you put off. The Lee (OK, I'm sticking with this spelling) Valley Regional Park is a huge area of lake,canal and river, around which scrubby, meadowy and woody areas fit in like Tetris pieces. A bewildering complexity of paths winds around the park, I would have got hopelessly lost where I not accompanied by Graham, who knows the park well. Also along for the ride were Shane, Rose and Andy.

It was raining when we kicked off from Cheshunt station at 10am, though not as heavily as it had been back in Sevenoaks an hour ago, and sunshine was forecast for later on. So we zipped up our waterproofs, girded our loins and set off northwards along the canal.

Andy spotted a Mink appearing from the sidelines and racing over the footbridge we'd just crossed. Another joined it, and paused for a distant photo. There are supposed to be Otters in the park, so the Mink here may find themselves being pushed out - no bad thing from an ecological point of view, though it's hard to resist the charm of the Minks - it's not their fault they're here, after all.

As we loitered on the bridge, hoping in vain for a second glimpse of a Mink, this soggy Blackbird sulked in a bush, while Willow Warblers flitted, 'hooeeted' and even sang briefly from deep cover. A falcon sped overhead, looking slight and Hobby-like but revealing itself to be a male Peregrine (from examination of massively zoomed-in photos) when it settled on a distant pylon.

Soon we were walking alongside the river, with a large lake (Seventy Acres Lake I think) on the other side, wherein swam assorted wildfowl including this Pochard. On the river, we stopped to watch a pair of Great Crested Grebes, tending a single egg in a nest that was positioned dead-centre in the river. Apparently, this same pair had been tending small chicks around the same nest three weeks ago, so it looks like they were predated. As we watched, an odd couple of feral wildfowl hoved into view - a Barnacle Goose accompanied by a 'small' Canada Goose/Cackling Goose. The grebes set after the geese with great fury and forced them to turn back.

Further upriver, another pair of GCGs were attending three well-grown (though still apparently very clingy) chicks.

We visited the Bittern hide around this point - top spot for close views of Bitterns in winter. Today, it was more like warbler city, with Willows, Sedges, Reeds and Chiffers all zipping about in the thick reeds and sedges that lined the small channel. My photos of them were uniformly rubbish. Sadly at this point we lost Andy, as he had to rush off to deal with an emergency at home.

Finally, we reached a weir, where water surged between fat plastic barrels from Holyfield Lake down into the river. The fast water had attracted a couple of juvvy Grey Wagtails, and also a skittish Common Sandpiper.

Grebe Hide overlooks Holyfield Lake. Plenty of wildfowl were on view from here, but my first target was the Migrant Hawker which was patrolling the water's edge right in front of us. Finally managed a few sharpish pics. This was one of at least a dozen Migrant Hawkers we saw over the course of the day.

Winter's a'coming. Or maybe this Wigeon has been here all year... he was on his own anyway. Other ducks seen were Gadwall (lots), Shoveler (a few), Tuftie (lots), Pochard (a few) and Mallard (lots, including some crazy farmyard variants).

Plenty of non-breeding Mute Swans were drifting or sitting around, with just the odd hormonal moment disturbing the peace. Also around were grebes (two Great Cresteds fishing in front of the hide, and lots of Littles further away), a few Cormorants and a huge arrival of Canada and Greylag Geese.

Black-headed Gull in major moult. There were a few of these, and a few Lesser Black-backs, but otherwise things were pretty quiet gull-wise, and the breeding Common Terns have departed.

We were pretty tired by this point and the walk back was a bit brisker. But the sun was now fully out and there were some photos to be taken. Here's a nice-looking pair of Gadwalls on the river.

I think Graham spotted this Brown Hawker at rest. We all got a few shots from a distance, though as soon as we tried to edge closer it was off. Still, my first shots of this species and a good way to end the day.

1 comment:

Mike Attwood said...

Hi Marianne,
I missed this blog for some strange reason. Looks like you had a good day. Pity it is the wrong side of London for me. Mink are not on my list of notables, they took all the eggs from our local pair of swans this year.