Tuesday, 18 October 2016

After a period of about a week, this immature/female BLACK REDSTART at WOODOAKS FARM, MAPLE CROSS, finally gave itself up today, showing well now and again on the rusting silo at the back of the barns at the far end of the complex. The male COMMON STONECHAT remains too.

Other than this, HERTFORDSHIRE has proved rather quiet as of late, with a sprinkling of YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER reports (including a two-dayer near Royston), a party of 4 BEARDED TITS briefly at Stocker's Lake, up to 4 JACK SNIPE and a returning drake GREATER SCAUP at Tring Reservoirs and a MERLIN at Sandon

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Last week at Norton Green

The DARTFORD WARBLER remained all week and was actually still present today while from Wednesday to Friday, the site hosted a WRYNECK for the second consecutive autumn. Although very elusive, I did eventually manage to get a few images as it moved between patches of scrub just south of the traveller camp....

Tuesday, 6 September 2016



Tony Hukin rang me at about 1130 hours to say that he had just found a DARTFORD WARBLER whilst searching for Whinchats at NORTON GREEN. Darrel Bryant had joined him and the two observers were watching it as they spoke. Now Dartford Warbler is a pretty good bird for Hertfordshire with only nine previous records, with just 3 since 1984 (a pair at Common Wood Common, near Chipperfield, on 1st May 1897 - perhaps breeding, a male at Berkhamsted Common on 27th May & 11th July 1922, a male again there on 27th March 1927, another on 24th March 1938 & 7th May 1939, a male on 10th November 1946 & 9th November 1947, a first-winter at Essendon Golf Course on 9th November 2005, joined by an adult male on 12th December 2005, both birds surviving until 1st January 2006 and a first-winter at Tyttenhanger GP on 11th February 2006). I happened to be at Blue House Farm EWT at the time of the call so wasn't able to respond immediately but met up with Mike Ilett later in the afternoon, where we both enjoyed some excellent views of the bird, as it repeatedly perched up in the Middle Scrub, about 100 yards south of the traveller site. The bird was a first-year, Mike managing to get some nice images of the bird (see below). I stayed on site until 1730 hours, being joined by Phil Rhodes and Chris Beach and the odd other local birder. Perhaps 19 observers in total. Darrel's 3 migrant WHINCHAT were still present, as well as a single Common Whitethroat

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Relief, as BONAPARTE'S GULL reappears......

MEGA: BONAPARTE'S GULL - a first record for both Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire
After Roy Hargreaves and David Bilcock initially saw the adult winter BONAPARTE'S GULL at Wilstone on Monday (4 January), it reappeared yesterday morning (8th) and showed on and off until late morning. I relocated it with Warren Claydon in an increasing Wilstone Black-headed Gull roost at 1545 hours yesterday, the bird flying east to roost in College Lake BBOWT at 1600 hours.
Anyhow, today, in poor weather conditions, the bird arrived post-roost at Wilstone shortly after 0830 and endeavoured to wash and preen with Black-headed Gulls for an hour or so before flying south. I went venturing out into the mud-soaked farmland and relocated it in a bare earth field, about 500 yards west of Little Tring, south of the Dry Canal - taking earthworms. It was also frequenting the sheep field immediately to the west - the one just north of Miswell Farm. It was commuting between these two fields and the reservoir all day - to at least 1430 hours - delighting upwards of 90 observers, including the likes of Mike Ilett and Graham White from the opposite side of the county.
At 1535 hours, David Bilcock singlehandedly located it on nearby College Lake BBOWT, where it was sat with about 100 Black-headed Gulls out from the reserve's Octagon Hide. This represents the FIRST record for Buckinghamshire. Following Dave's call, I drove over to join him but as the reserve officially shuts at 1600 hours, he was keen to leave before getting locked in. Fortunately, the cleaners had just arrived, so I raced around to the West Bank and relocated it not that far out in amongst a whopping 5,016 Black-headed Gulls that roosted. I kept on it until 1648 hours, at which time it was virtually pitch dark - my first county tick in a long while.

The only other main highlight today was a drake PINTAIL on Wilstone, roosting with a major arrival of dabbling duck (particularly Wigeon and Teal) on the Drayton Bank

Monday, 4 January 2016

BONAPARTE'S GULL at Wilstone - a First for Hertfordshire

Well it just goes from bad to worse. Not content with gripping me off with a BONXIE that lasted only too briefly at WILSTONE last November, Dave Bilcock managed to successfully well and truly do the double this morning when he photographed an adult BONAPARTE'S GULL from the jetty. Apparently, Roy Hargreaves had stumbled upon the bird at about 0850 hours, pondering upon its identification for a while before it flew and revealed its diagnostic wing pattern. He then telephoned Dave to tell him the bird had flown towards the Dry Canal but as Dave arrived on the scene, the bird must have double-backed and joined the Black-headed Gulls loafing along the Cemetery Corner edge of the reservoir. Dave phoned me immediately and other local observers while Roy hastily contacted Ian Williams and Rare Bird Alert. From onsite at 0934 hours, Dave tweeted two images he had just taken through his 'scope on Twitter, at which time I sped over. Unbeknown to me, Dave then had to leave to take one of his teenage daughters to Brighton, leaving the bird still on the reservoir edge.......
Francis Buckle and Mike Campbell arrived on site within 5 minutes and hotfooted it round to the jetty. According to Dave, who saw both observers arrive, the Bonaparte's was still present in the roosting gulls. Stuart Wilson joined them very quickly afterwards and within 20 minutes, I was on site. At one point, the Black-headed Gulls had all flown up but quickly resettled, but search as hard as we could, the bird had somehow managed to get out and had disappeared. Disaster! Over the next hour, I grilled every last 173 Black-headed Gull on the reservoir, before relocating to Startop's End to check the flock loafing over there. I also went through every Black-headed Gull in the fields south of the Dry Canal, as well as birds in Pitstone Quarry and at College Lake BBOWT. It had vanished. The Wilstone pre-roost gathering of Black-headed Gulls gathered pace from about 1430 hours but instead of the usual 1,500 or so birds, less than 250 turned up and despite the best efforts of DB, IW, WC and I, it was not to be. I rushed over to College Lake before dark, but could not find it among the 850 or so Black-headed Gulls roosting there. What a fiasco and yet another dip on a County First - ditto the Hilfield Park/Amwell Laughing Gull!
Anyway, this is what I did see!
On WILSTONE, highlights included the continuing COMMON SHELDUCK, 63 Greylag Geese, 115 Mallard, 10 Gadwall, 78 Wigeon, 370 Teal, 155 Pochard, 142 Tufted Duck, a pair of COMMON GOLDENEYE, 348 Lapwing, 153 European Golden Plover, 6 Little Grebe, a 2nd-winter Herring Gull and Grey Wagtail.
On STARTOP'S END, the adult drake GOOSANDER of the last few days was joined by a female, both flying off late morning, with the first-winter drake GREATER SCAUP showing well in the SE corner, 4 Little Grebe, 231 Coot, 14 Pochard and another Grey Wagtail.
TRINGFORD produced Red Kite and Common Kestrel, along with a single Little Egret, 9 Grey Heron, 22 Teal, Green Woodpecker and Kingfisher, while 38 SISKIN and 6 Goldfinches were feeding on Alders in the 'Rookery'.
Both CETTI'S WARBLER and COMMON CHIFFCHAFF were on MARSWORTH, while at the evening roost, all 3 EURASIAN BITTERNS were on view (one performing admirably), with 6+ Water Rails squealing and 16 CORN BUNTINGS in at the reedbed.
COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT held the 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE that I had found at Startop's yesterday morning, along with the pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARD, 125 Coot, 65 Gadwall, 20 Wigeon, 25 Pochard, 97 Tufted Duck, 72 Lapwing, the Coal Tit and 7+ Reed Buntings.
I could only find 1 of the 3 wintering COMMON STONECHATS on PITSTONE HILL, where 33 Fieldfare and 2 Redwing flew west

Let's hope the Bonaparte's Gull gets relocated - hats off to Roy and Dave for yet another star-spangled find!!

Adult winter Bonaparte's Gull, Wilstone Reservoir, 4 January 2016
(David Bilcock, 0930-0934 hours)

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A complete census of the Waterbirds of the Upper Colne Valley: 3,372 counted of which 1,702 Coot!

Unprecedented temperatures today for Christmas Week, with warm southerly winds from North Africa pushing thermometers to beyond a sultry 15 degrees C! I took the opportunity to fully census the waterbirds of the Upper Colne Valley - a staggering 3,372 being counted including a whopping 1,709 Coot - over half the total!
Great Crested Grebe (6)
Grey Heron (2)
Little Egret (1)
Continental Cormorant (8)
Mute Swan (28)
Atlantic Canada Goose (12)
Mallard (10)
Gadwall (78)
Shoveler (5)
Tufted Duck (22)
Northern Pochard (8) - [6 drakes]
Coot (619)
Moorhen (4)
*5 GOOSANDER flushed off of River Colne which flew north...
Section between Copper Mill and Black Jack's Lochs
Grey Heron (4)
Mallard (24)
Coot (4)
Moorhen (16)
Great Crested Grebe (15)
Continental Cormorant (63)
Mute Swan (10)
Egyptian Goose (3)
Mallard (8)
Gadwall (105)
Eurasian Wigeon (75)
Common Teal (3) [flushed from the River Colne]
Shoveler (12)
Tufted Duck (274)
Northern Pochard (132) [83 drakes]
Common Goldeneye (single drake)
GOOSANDER (adult drake on River Colne)
Coot (407)
Moorhen (8)
Also noted were Common Kingfisher, Fieldfare, 5 Redwing, 8 Common Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush, 2 Lesser Redpoll & 15 Siskin
Mute Swan (1)
Gadwall (16)
Coot (28)
Common Kingfisher
Grey Heron (1)
Coot (1)
Great Crested Grebe (2)
Mute Swan (2)
Mallard (16)
Gadwall (10)
Tufted Duck (25)
Coot (6)
Great Crested Grebe (2)
Grey Heron (1)
Mute Swan (2)
Mallard (8)
Gadwall (4)
Tufted Duck (35)
Coot (56)
Great Crested Grebe (2)
Tufted Duck (22)
Northern Pochard (2)
Coot (12)
Great Crested Grebe (3)
Tufted Duck (13)
Coot (8)
Greylag Geese (10); Atlantic Canada Geese (24) & Egyptian Geese (2)
Great Crested Grebe (2)
Mute Swan (2)
Mallard (7)
Gadwall (4)
Tufted Duck (17)
Coot (22)
Great Crested Grebe (1)
Gadwall (6)
Tufted Duck (56)
Coot (29)
Great Crested Grebe (8)
Continental Cormorant (53)
Grey Heron (18)
*Little Egret (48 came in to roost by 1620 hours, the most this winter)
Mute Swan (23)
Atlantic Canada Geese (24)
Mallard (15)
Gadwall (34)
Shoveler (8)
Eurasian Wigeon (52)
Tufted Duck (55)
Northern Pochard (9)
*Red-crested Pochard (24 in total including 19 drakes)
Common Goldeneye (7 including 2 adult drakes)
*GOOSANDER (5 roosted - 4 adult drakes and an adult female)
Coot (473)
Common Kingfisher
Great Crested Grebe (1)
Mute Swan (14)
Mallard (25)
Gadwall (5)
Tufted Duck (6)
Coot (44)

Lee G R Evans