Wednesday, 21 January 2015


Following calls from both Mike Ilett and Alan Reynolds yesterday, I made plans this morning to visit BRAMFIELD VILLAGE where the HAWFINCH flock has returned for the winter. Although pretty murky and grey and with temperatures struggling to get above freezing, I arrived on site at about 0900 hours. Francis Buckle, Tony Hukin and others had already seen 3 birds but they had flown off in the direction of the Old Rectory. Knowing a garden on that side of the road where they favour, I walked around and in no time at all espied two birds feeding on the ground beneath a Yew tree in the front garden. Both birds quickly flew and joined 3 others in flying back to the churchyard, where some excellent 'scope views were obtained. All 5 then dropped down into a garden where some 19 or so Greenfinches were also feeding, between the churchyard and the next road. I then located an additional 3 birds feeding in a garden behind the pub car park, all 8 eventually perching together in the tall trees within the churchyard. Throughout the hour or so I remained, the birds were very mobile, perching only briefly before returning to the gardens. Very vocal though, uttering the high-pitched, sharp 'ticc' from the evergreens. The village map below shows the favourite haunts occupied by the Hawfinches......

Bramfield Village also yielded 2 Mistle Thrush, 4 Song Thrush, 5 Redwing, 15 Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Nuthatch and a flyover flock of 32 Linnet.

In PANSHANGER LANE, this Common Buzzard made repeated attempts to cart off a dead Rabbit from the road...

Francis, Tony and I then visited AMWELL GP, where the drake SMEW was still present on Great Hardmead Lake, showing distantly from the watchpoint on the far SE bank. Just 2 Common Goldeneye too, but no sign of yesterday's Pintail - presumably flown back to Rye Meads. Northern Shoveler numbers were impressive, with 84 counted, with 16 Gadwall, 107 Wigeon, 62 Teal, 45 Mallard, 73 Tufted Duck, 22 Pochard, 335 Coot, 1 Mute Swan and 8 Great Crested Grebe making up the numbers.

Up at Tumbling Bay, a COMMON RAVEN circled overhead, while along the trail to Hollycross Lake, 2 Bullfinch, a Coal Tit and a MARSH TIT were the highlights, the latter feeding on the ground beneath the feeders.

Moving north, I drove through THERFIELD VILLAGE, where 15 House Sparrow, 2 Greenfinch and 45 Fieldfares were noted - the Pedlars Lane Rookery harbouring 21 nests. Not a single Grey Partridge to be found in the area unfortunately, but the Fallow Deer herd east of COOMBE ROAD (KELSHALL) held a total of 117 animals.

At least 66 Rook, 35 Jackdaw and 8 Common Gulls were at DEADMAN HILL (SANDON), while driving all round searching for Grey Partridge did eventually reward me with a flock of 200+ CORN BUNTINGS near WALLINGTON - 50+ Yellowhammer too, 15 Linnet, Common Kestrel, 4 Red-legged Partridge and 265 Fieldfare also.

It was then time to relocate to BEDFORDSHIRE, where a Stock Dove flew across the road in STOTFOLD. Not a sniff of the Great Grey Shrike at SANDY SMITH NR, CLOPHILL, nor of any Common Stonechats nor the Little Owls, but 35 Fieldfare, 8 Redwing, 7 Common Blackbird, 26 Yellowhammer and 9 Reed Bunting noted.
All 6 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (3 pairs) were still in the QUEST PIT (STEWARTBY) (with 2 Mute Swan, 58 Wigeon, 62 Pochard, 45 Mallard and a Meadow Pipit in there) and a male PEREGRINE roosting on the chimney in the brickworks.

At dusk, I visited a traditional WOODCOCK roost, where 15 individuals emerged from the plantation between 1650 and 1715 hours

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

SMEWS back in town

Following the arrival of some 5 SMEW into the county (3 at Amwell, pair at Stocker's), Steve Blake and I ventured over to STOCKER'S LAKE today to try and connect with one. I eventually located a single drake from the causeway, along with a flock of 11 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS and 11 Common Goldeneye (3 drakes). The site also yielded 42 Shoveler, 30 Pochard, 2 Stock Dove, 4 Ring-necked Parakeet, 65 Lapwing, 12 Herring Gull, both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Greenfinch and 2 Goldcrests

Elsewhere, little to speak of - covey of 6 Red-legged Partridge in Thrales End Lane, 22 Common Teal at East Hyde, Little Egret at Whitwell Cressbed...

Sunday, 4 January 2015

HEN HARRIER present for 12th day

A ringtail HEN HARRIER has been present NE of St Albans and NW of Sandridge at Heartwood Forest for at least 12 days now, ever since Linda & Ken Smith first observed it quartering over the setaside. It was seen again this morning at 1100 hours, the map below indicating its favourite hunting area. A total of 5 COMMON STONECHAT are also present on site.......

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Almost 50 Chiffchaffs wintering on the Colne.......

At Broadwater Sailing Lake, on the Middlesex/Hertfordshire border, at least 43 chiffchaffs are wintering in overhanging vegetation along the Colne, including predominantly colybitta, but also including 8 abietinus (Scandinavian) and a nice tristis (Siberian), the latter in the usual spot just north of the Broadwater Sailing Club (see map below). There is also a CETTI'S WARBLER wintering

Monday, 8 December 2014

Monday 8 December.....

A light frost overnight followed by a glorious winter's day - clear blue sky, light winds but cold
At BURY LAKE (RICKMANSWORTH AERODROME), 17 Mute Swans included '396' - an adult I hadn't read the ring of last week; WATER RAIL, 86 Coot, 66 Tufted Duck and a juvenile Herring Gull.
From the bridge crossing the River Colne on my walk down to STOCKER'S LAKE, a COMMON KINGFISHER was showing exceptionally well - allowing me to rattle off about 15 shots before it flew.

Highlights on the lake included 7 COMMON GOLDENEYE (including 2 adult drakes), 239 Tufted Duck, 38 Gadwall, 9 Pochard, 330 Coot, 45 Lapwing, Jay, Grey Wagtail, Sparrowhawk, male Common Kestrel, 5 Ring-necked Parakeet and a continuing Australian Black Swan, while just 9 Shoveler were noted - and 12 Mute Swan.

Ten House Sparrows were in residence at STOCKERS HOUSE, the feeders on the bridge attracting both Great and Blue Tits. The STOCKER'S FARM WATER MEADOW held 92 Canada Geese, the resident LITTLE OWL, a pair of COMMON STONECHATS, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 5 Meadow Pipits, Common Gull, several Redwing and a pair of Long-tailed Tit.

A survey of local MONK PARAKEETS yielded 18 individuals in one colonial conifer tree

No sign of Dan Forder's Siberian Chiffchaff at KINGS LANGLEY FISHING LAKES, 4 Mute Swans, 2 Pochard, 2 Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest and 2 Long-tailed Tits being the most notable species seen.
The ALDBURY VILLAGE population of House Sparrows is seemingly holding up with 16 individuals counted, PITSTONE HILL nearby being littered with Redwing, Fieldfare and Common Blackbird in the roadside hedgerow.

At PITSTONE QUARRY, where I haven't visited since September, an impressive number of waterfowl present including 45 Mallard, a female Red-crested Pochard (first site record), a whopping 216 Common Teal (a record number), 11 Tufted Duck, 1 Pochard, 13 Coot, 2 Little Grebe, 3 first-year Mute Swans, 1 Lapwing, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 5 Redwing

A similarly large number of feeding Fieldfare and Redwing were noted on PITSTONE COMMON, with 90 and 230 respectively.

Little of any movement at TRING RESERVOIRS, just 2 Red-crested Pochards remaining on TRINGFORD but Grey Wagtail, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 7 Redwing and 62 Shoveler on MARSWORTH, along with 70 CORN BUNTINGS at roost. Most noteworthy was a single BRAMBLING - flying in with 2 Corn Buntings at dusk but instead of flighting in to the reedbed flew by itself to the neighbouring trees.