Trip reports

Cheshunt Pits / Hall Marsh Scrape Walk on 15th Feb 2020

little egret, wading, water

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Thanks to Rich for this write-up:

These lakes are situated in the southern half of the fantastic Lee Valley Country Park. Excavated in the 1950s they have developed over the years into a mixture of open water, wooded islands, reedbeds and marshy corners providing an excellent all round site for wildlife.

As we waited for everyone to arrive at the car park we were joined by several Goldcrest calling nearby and a flyover 'charm' of Goldfinch. We set off and made our way on the path alongside the River Lee Navigation, on the opposite side on the Police Pit we noted several Pochard, Tufted Duck and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull.

We eventually left the path bringing us out to a line of small trees and hedgerow where early signs of spring were in the air. Robin, Chaffinch and Dunnock were all singing in harmony which certainly brightened up this overcast morning! We then heard the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker, this is in fact the Woodpecker's equivalent to a 'song' which starts in late winter and early spring forming part of the males courtship although females do drum as well .
A Song Thrush began to tune up nearby and we spotted the bird sitting on top of a bush giving us lovely views through the scopes. Another two small birds caught our eye in a nearby bush, they were male Reed Bunting and both still had their 'autumn' plumage, not yet showing their bolder black summer head markings which is the result of the feathers 'abrading'.

On both Friday Lake and Bowyers Water we spotted several Great Crested Grebe, all were sporting their fine summer head plumes already. A number of Common Gull were also present on Bowyers. We moved on and saw two Mistle Thrush squabbling, their larger size and grey-brown upperparts helping to identify them in comparison to the Song Thrush we had been watching earlier. One bird may have been defending a food source from the other.
Walking on we made our way to Hall Marsh Scrape, this area of shallow water and marsh was created in 1986 and can be viewed via the several hides and screens that surround it. Looking out over the marsh, a lovely tranquil scene greeted us as Teal, Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall quietly dabbled for food.
Several Lapwing probed for invertebrates on the water's edge with their characteristic 'stop- start' feeding action typical of Plovers.

Our group were also very happy to see the two long staying Cattle Egret here. This species which first bred in Britain in 2008 is slowly expanding its range in our country and sightings of this small heron are becoming increasingly frequent. A couple of Little Egret were standing motionless also on the scrape allowing us to compare the two species, the Cattle Egret looking overall more 'compact' having a yellow bill and a shorter neck and legs and also lacking the yellow feet and longer dark bill that the Little Egret has.
Our idyllic view was only disturbed by a nearby explosive burst of song by a Cetti's Warbler.

On our return walk back to the car park we saw two Red Kites flying above us, one of them quite low. It was now starting to get quite breezy which slowed down a passing overhead Sparrowhawk, we watched as this normally fast flying hawk battled the wind and almost 'hung' in the air because of it. The last bird of note was a singing Great Tit, but instead of the usual two syllable 'teacher, teacher' song, it had an extra third note like the 'tinkling' song of the Goldfinch. We all remarked how nice and unusual this sounded and that even the common birds can still surprise us!

Total different bird species seen: 43