At 10am I met 11 people at Cheshunt railway station, for a visit to the gravel pit complex that makes up the River Lee CP.
Winter birdwatching can sometimes seem fairly quiet, with very few small birds around, until you find a flock of tits, finches, or other birds, when there is suddenly lots of activity, and often a variety of species to see. Today we had found our first flock of birds, a flock of Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, and Great Tits, and were checking to see if there were any other species with the flock (such as Goldcrests or Treecreepers), when an unexpected Common Buzzard suddenly passed low overhead.
Wetland areas tend to be easier to observe birds on, and the nearby Friday Lake, Hall Marsh Scrape, and Hooks Marsh Gravel Pit, produced very good views of species such as Smew, Eurasian Wigeon, and Common Snipe, as well as a variety of others. A Cetti's Warbler in Hooks Marsh Ditch called just once, and didn't show, but while we waited for it a Goldcrest gave good views in nearby scrub. A Goldeneye at the northern end of Hooks Marsh (almost certainly the one I saw in the same area just over a week ago) was an interesting discussion point, because it was identified by the person who first saw it as "a female Goldeneye", but was actually a 1st year male. Most duck have plumage that is very similar to adult females in their first winter, but at this time of year start to moult into their adult plumage - this one had started to show the white feathering on the breast and underparts typical of adult males, but otherwise did look like a female. A male Sparrowhawk was seen well in the same area by most of those present.
We stopped at the Bittern Information Point hide for lunch, and while we were there had good views of a Bittern just inside the reedbed - it looked like it was watching us as much as we were watching it! Water Rail, and Jay also showed well in front of the hide, and a small flock of Siskins visited the alder tree out the back.
A short visit to the Longlands hide at the Lee Valley Park Farms, added a few more birds to the days list, including Kestrel, Egyptian Geese, Fieldfares, Redwings, and Pheasant (including a few of the attractive melanistic type Pheasants that are resident in the area), and also gave us the opportunity to watch a Common Buzzard being mobbed by Carrion Crows and Magpies.
Heading back to the station we came across at least three Treecreepers, which we spent some time watching, and had brief views of a pair of Goosanders which flew overhead.