Although a dry and sunny day boded well for the traditional New Year thrash through the Lee Valley, the broken rib (a Christmas present from the log-pile) somewhat slowed me down and it was more of a crawl than a thrash. A rough tot-up showed a vaguely possible 100 species but in the end I settled for a reasonable 86 seen on the day.
High water level was the theme of the day, with brimming lakes and flooded fields. The Girling Reservoir was as full as I can remember it and typically, once the gulls had departed at dawn, there were very few birds left. Most of the Black-necked Grebes also seem to have departed, with only 6 noted. A Chiffchaff along the Girling fence was an unexpected bonus. Further up the valley, just 5 Smew are around this winter so far, but Bittern number 6-7, of which I managed a couple – at Cheshunt and Amwell.
The long-staying drake Scaup and Long-tailed Duck may seem to be the highlights of the day but they were probably eclipsed by Hawfinch and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, the first time I have seen both species locally on a day count for many a year. Pleasingly, the Hawfinch was added in my valley-side garden during a breakfast stopover, with up to three being noted in recent days.
Although water birds are generally in good numbers in the valley, it is the dearth of seed-eating farmland birds that is a problem. There seems to be virtually no flocks of finches in the valley any more, but given that weedy areas on farmland or around mineral workings have all but disappeared this is not surprising. So while Red Kite, Little Egret and Peregrine now almost put themselves on the list, partridges, linnets and Yellowhammers take some searching out.