Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas goose

Adult dark-bellied Brent Goose just south of Cheshunt this morning.
With no sign of the world ending after all, I decided to head north today to just beyond the London recording area to Bramfield, Hertfordshire, the churchyard in this small village having recently produced regular sightings of the elusive Hawfinch. My route took me up the A10, near Cheshunt - still within the official London Area - where there is a regular wintering flock of European Golden Plover, so I decided to stop en route to check them. The plovers were absent from their usual field, but in their place, bizarrely, was an adult Brent Goose. With a chain of goose-filled lakes and gravel pits less than a mile away running the length of the Lea Valley, it was a truly odd location for this coastal species to choose.



Brent Geese are recorded from a dozen or so sites in London each year, but birds away from the Thames and the major reservoirs are very rare, with perhaps just two or three a year. I first saw this bird around 09:40 and it was still present when I left at 10:00, but I doubt it will linger for very long on farmland so close to traffic thundering along the A10.


After that unexpected success, it was a quick run to Bramfield. Up to five Hawfinches were seen this morning, but only one came within range of the camera - and then only fleetingly for the record shot below. Always a great species to see, it was one of six finch species in the churchyard, although the Raven which flew over, 'cronking' loudly as it went, was surely a rarer bird locally. Also noted were Lesser Redpoll, Eurasian SiskinEurasian NuthatchYellowhammer and a distant flock of at least 1,000 European Golden Plover in flight with a much smaller number of Northern Lapwing. A circling Red Kite nearby completed an excellent visit.

A Hawfinch perches momentarily before disappearing.
After that I took the long route home, calling in first at Hilfield Park Reservoir, back inside the London Area. Here I met Steve Murray, who kindly let me in as his guest, and in a short but worthwhile session I picked up the female Scaup which had been seen the previous day along with a first-winter bird, which was no longer present. Three Ruddy Ducks - a family party according to Steve - were the first I'd seen since January; from memory, there's now thought to be fewer than 100 left in the country post cull. A brief visit to Stocker's Lake afterwards provided great views of Common Goldeneye, but the Red-crested Pochards recently present had moved on. Nonetheless, a decent day's haul for the time of year.



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