Sunday, 6 January 2013

Time for a Wander Down Pecker Alley

Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers have never been common in Hertfordshire but are now in serious decline, with probably fewer than 10 pairs left. Up to about 2 years ago they could be seen at Amwell, either in the wood by the railway where they bred, or along Pecker Alley, the section of the Lee Navigation footpath between the southern end of Tumbling Bay and Hardmead Lock. Although there have been isolated records, none have been recorded from these traditional sites for the last two years. It was therefore encouraging that a male was found a couple of weeks ago down Pecker Alley and has been seen on a couple of occasions since.

This was an opportunity too good to miss and so I set off up the track towards the viewpoint. The Kestrel was in its usual vantage point between the railway track and the viewpoint and allowed a few shots before flying off.

I didn't linger too long at the viewpoint but headed straight down to the far end of the alley, where the bird had been seen on most occasions. I gave up after half an hour and went to look for the female Smew and the male Scaup at Tumbling Bay. There would, after all, be another opportunity on the way back. I found the Smew eventually, swimming out from under some tree roots, although too distant for a decent shot. However, the main objective while I was here was to monitor the progress of the moult of the Scaup.
The bird was even more silvery now as it approaches the full adult male plumage.

So back with John Tomkins for one more attempt at the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. As we approached, a couple were intent on looking at the top of a tree on the opposite side of the river. Apparently, they had been watching the woodpecker when it flew across to the trees on the other side and was lost from view, but considered still to be in the tree. After about a ten-minute wait with no sign of movement, the bird flew back and landed in the tops of the willow trees. Even then it was difficult to locate initially and was obscured by branches. However, I did manage to adjust my position to give myself an unobscured line-of-sight to the bird and rattled off a series of shots. Fortunately, the sun was out and behind me, allowing some decent shots of what is after all a small bird a long way up in a tree.


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