46 years have now passed since I first started recording birds in the Lee Valley; each year with its notebook neatly stacked on the bookshelf. Over that time I have seen 265 bird species in my rather arbitrary valley recording area that stretches roughly from Ware down to Walthamstow. In roughly a third of these years I have attempted the traditional New Year list, over the years noting between a feeble 76 and a magnificent 90 species. This years total was a very reasonable 89 species. Whilst the number of species recorded over the years has kept steady or even increased, the number of birds certainly has not.
This winters mild conditions (so far) are evident by a real lack of wintering wildfowl. Tufted Duck, Pochard and Gadwall are all remarkable by their absence. Four Smew were one of the highlights of the day, but this is a far cry from the 40+ peaks of the 1980’s. Likewise the 4 Goosander noted of the dozen or so currently in the valley is way short of the flocks that approached 100 birds back when we had proper winters. Despite the mild conditions, 6 or 7 wintering Bitterns are present, one of which revealed itself for the list.
Raven made it onto the list for the first time this year, with 4 birds at Amwell giving a characteristic tumbling display. Others becoming ‘regulars’ in recent years include Ring-necked Parakeet, Little Egret, Peregrine and Yellow-legged Gull. Caspian Gull would have been added to the list if I had bothered to stay longer watching the gull roost.
Finches and buntings have been difficult to find in any numbers in recent years but this year it is great to see that the Lee Valley Park have retained large areas of stubbles and wild bird crops around Holyfield Farm. These areas produced 250 Chaffinch, 50 Reed Buntings, 40 Linnets, a dozen Red-legged Partridge, hundreds of thrushes and a Stonechat.
From top to bottom, the highlights were as follows:
Amwell: 4 Raven, Yellow-legged Gull, Marsh Tit, Woodcock.
Rye Meads: Jack Snipe, Shelduck, Pintail, 5 Chiffchaff, 3 Cetti’s Warblers.
Holyfield: Stonechat, Pintail, 4 Goosander, Peregrine, Little Owl, 21 Egyptian Geese.
Cheshunt GP: Bittern, 4 Smew, 6 Water Rail.
Girling Reservoir: 7 Black-necked Grebe, Goldeneye.