Monday, 11 January 2010

GOOSANDERS galore and a gathering of 'Chiffchaffs'


Temperatures climbed to 2 degrees C today, inducing a very slight thaw. Ice remains instilled on most bodies of water though and birds are still struggling.

(1030-1230 hours)

Spurned on by Andrew Moon's superb photographs from yesterday, I spent most of the day at Broadwater GP, and completed a full circuit of the Herts & Middlesex Reserve. The site was very slippery though and on my third fall, I ended up snapping my 'scope and tripod head off.

Along the River Colne, bordering the northern perimeter fence of Broadwater Sailing Club (at TQ 042 903), and on the Middlesex/Herts border, a total of 10 'chiffchaffs' was feeding from the Willows and overhanging scrub along a 75 yard stretch of river. They consisted of a single SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF (tristis), a single SCANDINAVIAN CHIFFCHAFF (abietinus), two abietinus intergrades, including a tail-less bird and 6 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS (colybita), including a very bright individual with pale legs (in fact, almost identical to a bird Marek Walford photographed in Berkshire recently).

The SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF was favouring the vegetation in the river directly north of the four green metal containers within the Yacht Club compound and is a very striking bird, easily recognisable (see Andrew Moon's brilliant selection of images above). It was typically very pale, and in the grey cloud of today, rather pale milky-brown on the upperparts contrasting with gleaming white underparts. The supercilium has a hint of buffish colouration to it but no yellow or green tones, particularly around the face. The fine bill is very black (very slightly reddish-brown at the base) and the legs are very black. After a great deal of effort, it was finally heard to utter the solemn, plaintive and somewhat piping call-note, characteristic of this species.

Three GOOSANDERS (1 drake) were on the Grand Union Canal adjacent, north of the bridge, with a further 11 of these beautiful sawbills (7 drakes) fishing on the Colne on the west side of Broadwater Pit.

The Colne also held several fishing Sinensis Cormorants, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Little Grebes, 25 Mallard, 14 Gadwall and 4 Common Teal, with Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Grey Wagtails and 6 Ring-necked Parakeets along its length.

Broadwater Pit itself had just two main ice-free areas, with large numbers of wildfowl crammed into them -:

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swan (7)
Gadwall (29)
Eurasian Wigeon (just 6)
Shoveler (18)
Tufted Duck (333)
Pochard (46)
Common Goldeneye (16)
Coot (617)

Two Lapwing were standing on the ice, a RED KITE flew SW towards Denham and a single LESSER REDPOLL was a nice surprise feeding on the Alders along the main sailing club access track.


A repeat visit from yesterday. Bury Lake today held 16 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (8 drakes) (two up from yesterday) and the 3 continuing SMEW (two adult drakes), with a pair of GOOSANDER on Stockers and the flock of 30 SISKIN showing well in the tall Alders at the farm end of the causeway (a single male Siskin was also seen at the west end).


The area around the feeding station held a small number of birds, including 8 Yellowhammers, 2 Reed Buntings,8 Chaffinches and just ONE TREE SPARROW (123). Two Red-legged Partridges were my first of the year (124) and 12 Common Pheasants were feeding with the Sheep along the Jewsons access road.

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