Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Patch 2016 - The pond and back to Nursery Wood

juvenile Mute Swan making a rare appearance at the pond.
Back to the bridge, turn east through a bush and follow the path up toward the railway. The land rises and from here you can look north towards the housing estate of Lower Sheering/Sawbridgeworth. Immediately north is what was formerly an ordinary pasture. In 2006 the drain keeping the field dry was blocked with the intention of creating a pool for shooting wildfowl, and a shallow flood formed in the South western corner. We had a purple wader patch in 2007 and into 2008, but the field and surrounds has become overgrown. The pond usually dries out in summer but is full during the winter periods, and for the last few years has become home to a variety of wildfiowl and associated water-loving birds

There are often a variety of species of duck on the pond. Teal in winter, peaking at 9 in the first half but over 30 on 16 Dec this year, Mallard peaking at 14, Gadwall usually build up in late winter with a maximum of 5 this year but double figures in previous years, Shoveler are occasional with a peak of 5 on 22 Feb. Coot and Moorhen are usually present but rarely reach double figures. Mute Swan occasionally appear – two pairs breed further down the river.

Noteable this year was a pair of Little Grebes that were present in early summer and may well have attempted breeding, but the presence of Lesser-Blacked Backed Gulls from Harlow and the resident Crows make breeding hazardous for any water bird. Otherwise a Water Rail was heard in the first winter period, and Little Egret and Grey Heron are seen here on occasion. The surrounding vegetation also gets birds with Cetti’s Warbler, Sedge Warbler, and Whitethroat all present in the breeding season with at least one Reed Bunting pair present.

Shoveler on the pond in early Spring this year.

The rough field by the footpath has regular Yellowhammer (peak of about 30 in January) and Chaffinch in the hedges (also peaked at 30 on the patch in mid Jan), and Meadow Pipit in the field in winter.

Occasionally I walk up beyond the railway line following the footpath onto farmland.. The main noteable sighting this year was a Hobby perched on the ground here for 10 minutes – the only decent view on the patch this year.

We’ve nearly finished. Just time to return back to the footbridge, head north then almost immediately turn left along a path that skirts a very wet field. Frequent Goldcrest, tit flocks, and Whitethroat in summer here, and Jays which may be seen anywhere on the walk are slightly more common here. A Barn Owl flew through late one day in December.

The path leads into Nursery Wood, a small but mature woodland in the Eastern corner of the Park. It was possible to stand in a spot in June and see three nest-holes in action; Nuthatch, Great-Spotted Woodpecker, and a honey-bee nest. Tree Creeper are occasionally present here too.

juvenile Starlings in Nursery Wood in June. Not a common bird on the patch.

That just about finishes the walk. Just time to sit on the bench by the gate and look back over the park and add some species to the list. I had a pair of Greylag Goose fly over on 19th April, the only patch Lapwing on 1st April, and the only Patch Snipe on 24th October (there are probably Snipe round the pond and possibly Jack Snipe but there seems little point in disturbing them).

So that’s the walk complete. Next I’ll do a round up of some of the features of the patch not covered in the last few posts.

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