Saturday, March 7, 2009

Trent Country Park, north London - 6th March 2009

Another late winter/early spring day-tripper with Hackney's finest, comrades Laurence and Paul; this time in pursuit of a species that's notoriously hard to pin down, and one which has eluded us all in recent years (at least in getting decent views). Navigating north through the snarl-ups and road rage of the A10, we eventually made it to Trent CP - an expansive, tranquil site adjoining the grounds of Middx University, consisting mainly of mixed woodland, with various hedgerows, arable fields, ornamental gardens and two small lakes.

A cold, mainly sunny day made for good conditions, and in the course of our four or five hours at the site, lots of classic woodland species put on a good show, with plenty of courtship, singing and nest-building activity going on around us. Treecreepers, Nuthatches, Goldcrests, Great Spots, Bullfinches and all the commoner species were enjoyed, and on the lakes, a pair of Goosander were unruffled by our presence, spending some of the time dozing on a part-submerged log no more than 15 metres away. Mandarins, oddly impressive despite their status, were also omnipresent.

A flock of no less than 100 Chaffinches, feeding along a field boundary and hedgerow, surprisingly failed to contain a Brambling, but a small group of very tame Siskins was easily enough consolation. A Chiffchaff fed amongst the willows and bramble at the lakeside, more Siskins were encountered elsewhere, and a flock of 20 Redwings briefly dropped in.

And so to our quarry; quietly staking out likely areas almost paid off, with birds heard calling close by on several occasions, but no views were gained.... until bumping into local birder Pete Lowman, who kindly pointed us (literally) in the right direction of a group of trees by the lake, where he'd seen a female not too long previously. A long few minutes passed before Laurence eventually picked out a movement in the branches; and thankfully, we were all able to obtain excellent views of a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker as it fed innocuously close by.

(A warning for other birders visiting the site: Disturbingly, our celebratory cheesecake in the cafe / visitors centre afterwards bore all the hallmarks of being made with large amounts of heavily-cut speed, judging by Laurence's driving, Paul's conversation and all our stomachs on the journey home.)