Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Recent Outing

Click here -

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

CETTI'S WARBLER in Kings Langley/Nash Mills area

The day started with an overnight frost and clear skies. Temperatures soon recovered though and by afternoon it was pleasantly warm, the light SW wind pushing temperatures up to around 14 degrees C.
It was around 1730 hours that I finally managed to get out to do some birding and with Chris Pontin finding 1-2 Willow Warblers at CHESHAM FISHING LAKES, that's where I headed. As it was, the skies had clouded somewhat and the temperature had dropped - there being no sign of the immigrant warblers, just a single singing Common Chiffchaff and 5 Blackcaps. Barn Swallow numbers had increased though (to eight) while also new in were 2 HOUSE MARTINS and a single SAND MARTIN - both species new to the Recording Area List this year.
A pair of Atlantic Canada Geese was nesting on the island but both Great Crested Grebes were on the water suggesting that they may have abandoned their first attempt. A total of 31 Tufted Ducks was a good count, with 8 Coot noted (one pair nesting) as well as 3 Grey Heron (the Pow Wow pair chasing away an intruder), Red Kite, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Wren (4), Common Blackbird (4) and Common Starling (5). A male Mistle Thrush was singing from the top of the Poplar trees.
I suddenly heard the loud cries of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and upon looking up, realised that they were mobbing an OSPREY and I shouted to Chris (who was now with me, intent on showing me the Willow Warblers) to try and keep on it while I attempted to photograph it. The two gulls chased it overhead but rather than just flying away, the Osprey circled around numerous times in an attempt to fish the lakes. It was under observation from 1810-1820 hours and unlike the College Lake Osprey I found last week, was flying at treetop height rather than many hundreds of feet high in the sky enabling me to get some form of record shots. Still with gulls in tow, the bird eventually flew off purposefully towards Chesham. Although I have seen numerous Ospreys in the Chess Valley over the years, this was the first I had ever seen at the fishing lakes. Ospreys had featured heavily in the region today with singles at Tyttenhanger, Amwell and Maple Cross, the latter just half an hour earlier probably the same individual.

I then decided to drive over to KINGS LANGLEY, where Ephraim Perfect had discovered a singing CETTI'S WARBLER - the first record for the area. Hemel birder Dan Forder very kindly helped out with detailed directions (see map below) and from 1900-1945 hours, the bird was singing and occasionally showing every five minutes or so. It was frequenting an area of overhanging vegetation on the west shore of the Grand Union Canal parallel with the fishing lakes, to the north of the fallen Poplar and ranging some 70 yard stretch of canal bank.

The Nash Mills Cetti's Warbler - images (courtesy of DAN FORDER BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY) and its location

I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of birdlife present in this fairly restricted area of south Hemel (actually NASH MILLS District) with Mute Swan, Tufted Duck (21), Great Crested Grebe (pair), Moorhen and Coot (10) on the main lake and Magpie (pair), Song Thrush (2), Greenfinch (4), Chaffinch (5) and Common Starling in the parkland surrounding. In addition to the 4 singing Blackcaps in the scrub bordering the canal were a singing male WILLOW WARBLER and Common Chiffchaff

Thursday, 3 April 2014

General News

Following last nights 3 LITTLE GULLS at Wilstone Reservoir, Steve Rodwell had 3 SANDWICH TERNS there briefly this morning (flew off east at 0705)

Quite a few NORTHERN WHEATEARS at various sites, while Darrell Bryant and Tony Hukin had a male HAWFINCH in song near Norton Green and Graham White has had up to 21 HAWFINCH in Broxbourne Woods over the past fortnight


Had a further opportunity to photograph LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKERS today when a pair was found in the east of the county at a reasonably regular site.......

The nesting tree

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

It's all hitting off.......

A return to much warmer weather as a ridge of high pressure intensifies over Southern Britain. In fact, this was the warmest day of the year so far with temperatures reaching 18 degrees C during the afternoon
Undoubted highlight of the day was a PIED AVOCET that graced TYTTENHANGER MAIN PIT from mid morning 'til dusk - the third individual in that area this year. It was favouring the sandy spit and shallows thereabouts and was discovered shortly after a flock of Pintails and 2 Mandarin Ducks had passed through. I connected with the bird at 1650 hours, along with a few Common Snipe, 2 Lapwing, 5 Common Teal and 9 SAND MARTINS.

An adult Little Gull that moved from Weston Turville Reservoir to WILSTONE RESERVOIR at 10am was still there when I left Tyttenhanger (per Steve Rodwell) but when Ian Williams, David Bilcock and I arrived 40 minutes later, it had disappeared.....
WILSTONE proffered 7 Little Grebe (all together in one tightly knit flock), 7 Mute Swan, 34 Greylag Geese, 8 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, drake Wigeon, 96 Tufted Duck, 52 Coot, 7 Pochard and a Stock Dove while a pair of Little Egrets was nesting again along the Drayton Bank.
STARTOP'S END yielded 28 Black-headed Gulls but no Little Gull, 3 Mute Swans (including a first-summer), 66 Tufted Duck, 16 Coot and 4 Great Crested Grebe, with Greenfinch, 4 Common Blackbird, 6 Common Starling, a Common Kestrel and 2 Pied Wagtails around the periphery.
A fair bit of activity over at TRINGFORD RESERVOIR with the Great Crested Grebe pair, Mute Swan pair and Red-crested Pochard pair, drake Teal, 28 Tufted Duck and 10 Coot, 3 singing male Common Chiffchaff and a party of 35 SAND MARTIN. The Rookery was at full speed with no less than 32 active nests this year, the woodland also supporting 3 Goldfinch, 6 Robin, 9 Wren, 3 male Dunnock, 2 Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and 70 Jackdaw.
I stopped off at WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR at dusk, just in case the Little Gull had flown back, but there was pretty much nothing - 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Mute Swan, 8 Coot and 2 Moorhen.

The Sinensis colony.....

drake Tufted Duck in full attire

The Tringford Rookery in great shape with 32 active nests

The last day of March was another very warm one with temperatures once again reaching 18 degrees C and Saharan dust even making the Chilterns. It proved to be an excellent day for rare passage waders.....
After counting 15 active nests in OLD WOLVERTON ROOKERY, my first visit of the day was to MANOR FARM WORKINGS in OLD WOLVERTON, where both the transitional plumaged SPOTTED REDSHANK and winter-plumaged GREY PLOVER were still present, albeit rather distantly (see pix below). This chain of gravel workings really are looking superb this spring and should yield some excellent results, today's wader haul including Oystercatcher (pair), Lapwing (22), Ringed Plover, LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (4), GREEN SANDPIPER and Common Redshank (4). Also present were a splendid pair of GOOSANDER, 3 lingering Wigeon, 8 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 28 Tufted Duck, 2 Mute Swan and 2 Great Crested Grebe, as well as a first-summer Common Gull, Green Woodpecker and a Peacock butterfly.

Found by Rob Hill on Sunday evening, this adult Spotted Redshank was in dapper condition

....and present for a third consecutive day was this winter-plumaged Grey Plover

Goosanders hanging on and Oystercatchers on territory

.....and looking just superb this spring - just watch this space

More Rook counting followed with 5 active nests by the CHILDS WAY ROUNDABOUT, M1 JUNCTION 14 and 105 at SALFORD and a further 67 at MEADOW LANE (BEDS).
Once in CAMBRIDGESHIRE, Brimstone butterflies became apparent, with 3 along a short stretch of the A428 just east of ST NEOTS and active Rookeries including 8 nests at WINTRINGHAM HALL, 19 at ELTISLEY MANOR, 35 close to the ABBOTSLEY ROAD JUNCTION and 13 just east of CROXTON; a further 4 were by the A14 at FENSTANTON.
FENDRAYTON GP as I once knew them were barely recognisable from the changes undertaken in the last 3 years by the RSPB, the reserve being so extensive and large now that you need either a bicycle or a taxi to get round!! I parked up at the entrance and walked the muddy mile distance to the Couch Hide overlooking the westernmost MOORE LAKE where within seconds I had espied the breeding-plumaged drake BAIKAL TEAL that had been gracing the site since early in the month. It was very loosely associating with Wigeon and Teal but largely kept to itself, feeding at the west end of the lake. Not sure of its merits as a genuine vagrant from the Orient but certainly as good as the majority of recent drakes in Britain, including those in Essex and Oxon. This is now one superb reserve, full of potential and birds - highlights of my visit today including a dapper drake SMEW (displaying to some of the 28 Common Goldeneye present), 3 GARGANEY (2 drakes and a female), a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, single Black-tailed Godwit and a party of 9 LITTLE GULLS (including 2 first-years).

A pristine drake Baikal Teal of unknown origin

Limosa or islandica - a sick individual either way?

...and a dapper drake Smew

An impressive list of species included Great Crested Grebe (12), Little Grebe (3), Sinensis Cormorant (28 nests), Grey Heron, Mute Swan (4), both Greylag & Canada Geese, Common Shelduck (pair), Egyptian Goose (pair), Wigeon (28), Gadwall (42), Teal (70), Shoveler (20), Tufted Duck, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen, Oystercatcher (pair), Lapwing, Common Snipe (25), Common Redshank (6), Black-headed, Common and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Jay, Reed Bunting, 8 Cetti's Warblers, 9 singing Common Chiffchaffs and 3 singing male Blackcaps. A Fox was also seen as well as a dead American Mink on the tramway.

3 from a 9-strong flock of Little Gulls

An American Mink hit by bus

one of the many observation platforms

and we are talking big here - some reserve this is

Driving back down the A10 in Hertfordshire, Rookeries in HARSTON yielded 27 active nests and SHEPRETH POPLARS 43, while a Red Kite was seen over HAMELS PARK.
I finished my day off with a visit to AMWELL NATURE RESERVE where it was a full house at GREAT HARDMEAD LAKE to see the SPOTTED REDSHANK that had arrived mid-morning. All the hard hitters were there including Ron Cousins, Barry Reed, Graham White, Mike Ilett, Paul Hackett and Jason Ward and the bird put in an outstanding performance, commuting between the new cut up towards the hides and the shallow vegetation in front of the watchpoint.


In addition to the 'Spot-shank' were 22 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 12 Teal, 8 Shoveler, 10 Pochard, 3 Goldeneye (1 drake), 2 Redhank, Common Snipe and 2+ Little Egret, with a Marsh Tit scolding from the woodland on the opposite side of the canal.

The Amwell Sinensis Cormorant colony on the island