My journey to work takes me along the B1000 which joins the gentle valley of the River Mimram as it passes to the east of Welwyn Garden City. Over a few days in the latter part of the winter I watched the progressing construction of bird hide at the entrance to Tewin Bury Farm Hotel and as soon as it was finished I promised myself I would visit.
This last week or so I have lunched at the hide and I’ve immensely enjoyed the peaceful surroundings and opportunity to watch some birds as I munch my cheese ploughman’s sandwiches. The hide overlooks a flooded reed bed with scrapes and channels and a willow carr surround, fed by the Mimram that tracks just to the east of the wetland. The hide has two levels, an upper deck reached by stairs and a lower level with disabled access.
The most obvious and noisy of the birds that have entertained me this week are the Canada Geese. As their name suggests they originate in North America and are another introduced species that has now spread to be resident in most of the UK with over 80,000 breeding pairs. The birds were clearly pairing up for the breeding season and were showing some mimicing behaviour as they patrolled the channels, stretching their necks forward, honking in unison. Solo birds were not tolerated and were chased away by the male of the pair. As ubiquitous as they have become it is still a special site to see a skein descend on a lake and arrive en-masse, immediately transforming a tranquil scene into one of bustle and activity.
Much more difficult to see were the Snipe who patrolled the muddy margins of the reed beds, poking and proding at the silt in search of food in the form of small invertebrates, worms and insect larvae. They are now classified as an amber status bird, having undergone a moderate decline in numbers, particularly in lowland grassland areas. Greater than 100,000 birds over-winter in the UK, with 50,000 breeding pairs estimated. They typically move to upland moors in spring, the males ‘drumming’ or ‘bleating’on early spring mornings as a display to attract females.