Friday, December 23, 2016

Patch 2016 - The River

On leaving the Impenetrable Forest we head down towards the river. The river is, for the length of the patch, a canal which is frequented by canal boats. The river also has a path alongside it with dog walkers, joggers and cyclists, so never a dull moment along here and I frequently find myself discussing the birds of the area with passers by.

small area of mature woodland by the Stort

The Stort in winter ...

... and the Stort in summer.

The path down passes down some open woodland or alternatively cut back up slightly toward Sawbridgeworth and pass through some very old trees. The tall tree by the boardwalk often has a Cuckoo calling from it, and one was seen on a few occasions this year passing through the patch calling. The Cuckoo was first seen on 11th May and then not after the end of the month. I have never seen young Cuckoos on the patch and assume they do not breed, though previous years have seen two birds here.

A surprise visitor this year to this area was a male Turtle Dove singing in the cuckoo tree on 21st May. Sadly it didn’t hang around, and presumably the same bird was seen at Sawbridgeworth Marsh a mile north later that day.

Turtle Dove in the Cuckoo tree 21st May

The stretch along the river has many bushes and is a good area for warblers. Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, and Whitethroat are all common along here although sadly Grasshopper Warblers no long breed here. In autumn small groups of chiffs are frequently found in the Willows, with 5 Willow Warblers being seen on 5th August. A Reed Warbler singing from a bush was a surprise on 7th May, although this species nests further north up the Stort at a number of places. 

Further down the river we get to the three bridges area. The first two bridges are over overflow streams with a wet field between them, and then there is the Horse field just before the bridge over the canal. One year Lapwing tried to nest here but they were constantly fighting off crows and eventually lost the battle.

boggy field between the river and the park
The Horse field has many crows, up to 10 Magpies, and often a selection of Jackdaws, Crows, and Rooks. There was a White Wagtail on 12th April. This field also became the sight of some goose action in Spring. Two pairs of Canada Geese appeared briefly, looking as though they were contemplating nesting. They soon wisely disappeared. And an unexpected bird for the list came with a pair of Egyptian Geese here briefly on 7th May, no doubt venturing from the flock a few miles down river at Roydon. In the first winter period a Little Egret was often seen here

Little Egret in the horse field. Note the boggy line in the field behind, often hosting ducks.
The horse filed in early summer with Pishiobury House in the background.
It is often useful to pause here and look up to the Park. There is often a good number of the three black corvids (including a small rookery near Pishiobury Houise), Wood Pigeons with a few Stock Doves in the trees, and a Green Woodpecker regularly on the field. The first Swifts of the year were 5 seen here on 1st May moving north through the park, and a movement of 30 north over the park on 24th July was counted from here.

typical crow-filled tree by the park.
At the back of the horse field is a small dip and in March this flooded resulting in a number of water birds being seen here. A pair of Wigeon and 2 male Shoveler on 16th March, a Green Sandpiper on 4th and 7th April, with Gadwall also seen here. Grey Herons are also often seen in this area.

The river itself has had occasional Kingfisher along here, a single Common Tern on 20th June. Mallard, and Moorhen are regular on the river, with an occasional Little Grebe or Coot. Grey Wagtail occurs along here regularly.

So that's the river to the bridge. Next stop Feakes Lock.

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