Friday, 27 February 2009
At Stockers Lake: pair SMEW, 110 Shoveler, LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER, 34 occupied heron nests, 5 GOOSANDER, 16 Goldeneye.
At Troy Mill GP: singing Chiffchaff, 6 Goldeneye, Little Egret, pair Ring-necked parakeets and a Buzzard.
At Denham GP; GOOSANDER, Chiffchaff, pair RN Parakeets (Graham White)
As for the Cassiobury Park pair of LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKERS, the directions are thus -:
Park in the main car park signposted Cassiobury Park (off of the main Watford road) and then walk diagonally across the field to the green bridge across the river. The area beyond is affectionately known as 'The Meadow' (two lovebirds were kissing & cuddling there today) and the Lesser Spots show up in the tall trees both sides of the open area. Many of these trees are dead and rotting and ideal for drumming and feeding Lesser Spots and to be in with a chance, you really need to be on site between 0830 and 1030 hours (the optimum period for activity). The male generally appears from the left, announces his arrival with his loud 'kekking' call and feeds for a while. You can hear his soft tapping on the wood and every now and again he will burst into a long cry. He usually flies from the left to the right side of the track (which is very wet and flooded by the way, wellingtons advisable) and then feeds or drums for about 20 minutes before flying off.
Last year the pair bred just 80 yards away from the meadow and I am hoping they will do the same again this year. The pair showed well at the site this morning (Lee G R Evans)
Please note that in order to prevent wildlife crime, this nature reserve is being patrolled and is under surveillance by the Hertfordshire Constabulary and is being monitored by CCTV.
I must add that I have refused to support this trust because they continually allow and support the Ruddy Duck cull which I am vehemently against. They allow Defra to shoot over this location on at least five times per winter and this year allowed a shoot to take place when 4 Black-necked Grebes had returned.
Thursday, 26 February 2009
STOCKER'S LAKE (HERTFORDSHIRE)
Eurasian Wigeon (45 on the Water Meadow by Stocker's Farm)
**SMEW (both an adult drake and a redhead were visible from 'Shoveler Hide'
LITTLE OWL (1 by the meadow)
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Monday, 23 February 2009
LITTLE EGRET: 12 roosted at Stanborough Lakes on 14 (Anthony Dorman), with 3 at Ickleford Common on 20 (Richard Webb)
EURASIAN BITTERN: Rye Meads RSPB on 7 (V.Buckel)
**BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE: an adult winter in front of the Amwell Viewpoint from 0720-0745 at least on 19 (several observers?)
SHORT-EARED OWL* - two birds on the Icknield Way midway between Royston and Therfield from at least 1-9 February
BARN OWL - singles at Graveley on 7 (T.Hemmings), Weston on 8 (R.Broadie), Whitwell on 12 (B.Peddar) and Cottered on 18 (P.Moore), with 2 at Rye Meads on 7 (V.Buckel)
LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER: a male in Northaw Great Wood on 18 (R.Callf) and another in Cassiobury Park on 23 (Ian Bennell).
MARSH TIT: 8 in Northaw Great Wood on 18 (R.Callf)
Friday, 20 February 2009
Poor quality photo on my blog: http://littlehadhambirding.blogspot.com
These are the first Mandarins I have recorded in Herts for over 5 years. Never had 6 together (Jono Forgham)
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Monday, 16 February 2009
In stark contrast to Sunday, today was very much a washout, with few highlights. It was the 'warmest' day in over three weeks, with temperatures reaching 9 degrees C and the wind blowing from the SW. It was mainly dry but largely overcast.
AMWELL NR (HERTFORDSHIRE) (0645-0745 hours)
Alan Harris had discovered the county's fourth-only Caspian Gull at Amwell NR at 1610 hours on Sunday evening and the bird had remained until dusk, allowing five observers to connect (including Barry Reed, Jan Hein Steenis, David Booth). Following the pattern of the two Icelands and single Glaucous Gulls at Amwell this winter, it was a more than 90% chance that it would still be present in the morning.
After missing the second Iceland Gull by just 15 minutes last week, I made sure I was on site by 0650 hours this time and with 9 other hopefuls, grilled the roosting gulls in the half light. Two candidates were quickly picked out but these turned out to be a first-winter Herring and first-winter Great Black-backed as daylight dawned, and after 25 minutes, it was soon realised that the bird had departed the roost post-dawn.
Two WATER RAILS put on a good show in the cut-reeds, with 17 Common Snipe roosting and 218 Lapwing crammed on the islands.
A BARN OWL appeared over the adjacent canal at 0700 hours, sat in a tree for a short while before disappearing off to the south.
Other species noted included 5 Shoveler, 8 Common Goldeneyes, Grey Wagtail and 2 SISKINS. Reed Buntings were taking advantage of the milder conditions and were in full song.
PEGSDON HILLS (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Another two hour stint spent in the valley but with similar results as yesterday. Highlights included 3 RED KITES, 3 Common Buzzards, several WOODCOCK, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 5 BULLFINCHES and 10 Redwings.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS)
No sign of yesterday's pair of Common Shelduck nor 4 Red-crested Pochards, just 3 Common Goldeneye and 2 Ruddy Ducks. Grey Heron breeding activity was in full swing with 4 nests in attendance on the Drayton Bank.
SPRINGWELL LAKE (MIDDLESEX) (dusk visit)
There was no sign of the Scaup reported, this bird being most likely the Aythya hybrid present recently nearby. A wealth of wildfowl were present including 57 Tufted Ducks, 7 Pochard, 5 Shoveler, a few Gadwall and 4 Common Goldeneye.
A WATER RAIL was showing very well on the newly created marginated pools
Lee G R Evans
Mute Swan (5)
Tufted Duck (43)
Common Goldeneye (4 - adult drake & 3 females)
Sparrowhawk flew over
WATER RAIL (1 showing well on new scrape)
(Lee Evans/Sue Giddens)
GOOSANDERS (5 - 3 drakes, 2 redheads) (best count this winter)
Common Treecreeper Goldeneye
Stocker's Farm Meadows
EGYPTIAN GEESE (2)
Two EURASIAN BITTERNS were again at Marsworth Reedbed this evening (Charlie Jackson).
Sunday, 15 February 2009
First-winter CASPIAN GULL, Amwell NR, 15 February 2009 (Jan Hein Steenis)
The Sunday Roost at Amwell NR was not very big, but it did contain a first-winter CASPIAN GULL this evening (identified by Alan Harris and also seen by Barry Reed, Phil Ball, Jan and 1 other)
What cannot be seen in Jan's image is the bird's white tail with narrow black tailband (plus a few small bars) and very white underwing.
Also present this evening: 1 Yellow-legged Gull, 3 Little Egrets (5y esterday).
Friday, 13 February 2009
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Another frost overnight followed by a cold, grey day which later in the afternoon spawned another light covering of snow. I took advantage of a relatively quiet day to comprehensively survey many of my local sites.
DANEMEAD AND COWHEATH WOOD, BROXBOURNE
Following a report of a single Hawfinch in December, I visited the traditional roost-sites of this species north of Cock Lane this afternoon. Despite visiting during the optimum roost period (1400-1500 hours), there was no sign of any birds. In fact, finches were scarce, although did include a few BRAMBLING flighting in to roost (surprisingly my first in Herts this year), about 17 Chaffinches, 3 different single LESSER REDPOLLS and the odd Greenfinch, whilst other species encountered included a vocal TAWNY OWL (hooting several times during my visit), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay and numerous Blue and Great Tits (Lee Evans)
Also 8 Pochard (a site record remembering how shallow the pools are), 65 Wigeon, 63 Gadwall, 17 Tufted Duck, 29 Shoveler and 1 Water Rail (Alan Reynolds)
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Earlier, I located a female GOOSANDER on the fishing lake at Tyttenhanger. It then flew South up to the 'Willows Farm' end and circled a few times before it appeared to land again. The lakes are 90% frozen, but at least the river level has receded and the lakes are holding water within their banks, albeit very high! It is now possible to walk around as usual. On the main pit there are a good number of wildfowl species - a sure sign that the shooting season has finished! Also a Little Grebe and 24 Common Snipe (Steve Blake)
(The COMMON SHELDUCK was still present on Willows Farm Pool on 10th)
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Also 7 Little Egrets left their roost at 7.15am (Mike Ilett, Barry Reed)
Due to traffic constraints, Joan and I did not make it in time, arriving on site at 0725 !!
Monday, 9 February 2009
The thaw continued with a vengeance today but early on, the roads were like a skating rink where they had not been gritted overnight. Light rain throughout much of the morning increased with intensity during the afternoon.
Following last night's roosting GLAUCOUS GULL, just 5 of us gathered shortly after dawn (0657 hours) (including Mick Frosdick, Alan Reynolds, Jim Rudland and myself). In light freezing rain, the immature GLAUCOUS GULL was under observation from 0705 until 0733, before it flew off low NW.
As usual at this time of year, the bird was difficult to age with certainty but with quite extensive pale yellow in the iride and marked contrast in the upperwings, it was most likely a 2nd-winter. The heavy bill was extensively pale pink at the base with a black subterminal bar and a slight pale tip. The head and underparts were largely white but heavily blotched pale biscuit, with some darker feathering on the hindneck. The mantle and scapulars were pale, primarily pale buff or biscuit, but with no grey on the mantle and just a hint in the scapulars. The tertials did have some grey feathering, with the greater coverts whitish and slightly vermiculated.
I was surprised at the number of gulls left remaining, with 77 Herring Gulls still on the lake, 14 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, several Great Black-backed Gulls, 15 Common Gulls and over 200 Black-headed Gulls.
The Supporting Cast
A total of 61 species was recorded including my first Lesser Spotted Woodpecker of the year and first Cetti's Warbler in the county this year.
Great Crested Grebe (7)
Little Grebe (3)
Sinensis Cormorant (30+)
[EURASIAN BITTERN - seen briefly early morning - MF]
Grey Heron (3)
Mute Swan (6)
COMMON SHELDUCK (drake still feeding just off of the watchpoint)
Eurasian Wigeon (2 drakes)
Common Teal (28)
Northern Pochard (26)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (female still present on Hollycross Lake, skulking by the island)
Tufted Duck (72)
Common Goldeneye (9)
WATER RAILS (2 showing very well in the 'cut reeds' viewable from the watchpoint)
Coot (much frenzied fighting going on, particularly on the ice)
Common Snipe (14 feeding in rain on short reeds)
Green Woodpecker (2)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (4+)
**LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER (the regular male appeared at 0915 in the tall trees on the west side of the canal just south of Hardmead Lock. It fed for a short time before flying across the canal and into the dead trees on the opposite side. It then flew to the tall trees adjacent to the North Lake and river).
Dunnock (6 at the cut reed feeding station)
Song Thrush (5)
Mistle Thrush (3)
Fieldfare (22 in snow-covered field east of the river)
CETTI'S WARBLER (1+, singing erratically)
Great Tit (9)
Blue Tit (6)
Coal Tit (1)
Long-tailed Tit (8)
*SISKINS (50 by the White Hide)
BULLFINCH (pair by canal)
Reed Bunting (7 at feeding station)
After speaking to Mike Ilett and reading of his recent sightings, I decided to spend a few hours birding the open farmland in the Sandon and Kelshall areas. Conditions were virtually 'white out' with lying snow of four inches or more on the fields.
At Deadman's Hill, a total of 9 GREY PARTRIDGES was encountered (all east of the road, with 5 north of Bury Barns at TL 297 364 and a covey of 4 at TL 296 370. There were also 4 Red-legged Partridges.
In the environs of Lower Heath Farm (TL 302 377), many more GREY PARTRIDGES were seen, with 15 in one covey at TL 304 377, 9 scattered in small groups at TL 300 378 and 2 on the opposite side of the road at TL 302 372 - a total of 26.
I then walked out to the Wheat Hill Farm game strips (at TL 307 349) where an enormous number of farmland species were feeding: top billing went to 18 CORN BUNTINGS, although a gathering of upwards of 345 YELLOWHAMMERS was truly exceptional, whilst 234 EURASIAN SKYLARKS were in neighbouring crops, a few Meadow Pipits, 15 Reed Buntings and at least 36 Chaffinches. A single male Eurasian Sparrowhawk was patrolling the strips and waiting for an opportunity to catch an unsuspecting hungry individual.
Sunday, 8 February 2009
It was another heavy frost, freezing over the lying snow. Once the sun rose, temperatures climbed to 6 degrees C and the thaw continued.
I decided to spend the day birding Hertfordshire and managed three new additions to my 2009 County Year List - Common Shelduck, Northern Pintail and Jack Snipe.
AMWELL NR (1200-1400 hours)
Following a call from Barry Reed, made my way to Amwell, mainly in the hope of seeing Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a male and female of which had been showing well just north of the White Hide entrance in tall trees adjacent to the canal and Lea Navigation. I did not see the woodpeckers despite a long search (they were last seen at 1100 hours) nor the wintering Bittern that showed well from the Watchpoint early afternoon but did rack up some 53 species of bird, the highlight of which was a drake PINTAIL, my first in the county this year.
Great Crested Grebe (5)
Little Grebe (2)
Sinensis Cormorant (22)
Grey Heron (4)
Mute Swan (4)
COMMON SHELDUCK (1 drake)
Common Teal (25)
Eurasian Wigeon (2 drakes)
Shoveler (7, including 2 drakes)
*NORTHERN PINTAIL (drake roosting on the heavily wooded island opposite the hide at the south end of the reserve)
Tufted Duck (42)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (female roosting on island on Holywell Lake)
Common Goldeneye (2 drakes, 6 females)
Moorhen and Coot
WATER RAIL (1 showing well in cut reed area)
Common Snipe (5)
Black-headed, Common, Herring & Lesser Black-backed Gulls
Great Black-backed Gulls (3 loafing adults on posts)
Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, COMMON KINGFISHER, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Starling, Carrion Crow, Rook and Jackdaw.
Common Buzzard (3)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (1)
SISKINS (50 in Alders close to the White Hide)
*LESSER REDPOLL (1 on feeders by the Bittern Hide)
REED BUNTING (7 at the cut reed feeding area in front of the Watchpoint)
A pleasant afternoon spent in the company of reserve warden Barry Trevis and David Booth. The highlight was a single JACK SNIPE which moved from a small stream at the back of the cressbeds to the cressbeds themselves - my first in the county this year and one of two birds present on the reserve since Monday.
A total of 4 Common Snipe was feeding on the beds, along with 3 different GREEN SANDPIPERS (one of which, a first-winter, had been ringed at the site in July 2008) searching for freshwater shrimps to eat, a superb WATER RAIL, 30 SISKINS, 9 Great Tits at the feeders and a single Song Thrush on the beds.
SUNDAY MORNING (8 FEBRUARY)
STOCKER'S LAKE (still largely frozen)
RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (7 present) (JT et al)
GOOSANDER (adult drake and female)
Common Goldeneye (9 including 4 adult drakes)
[SMEW (redhead present) (several observers), with that and 2 adult drakes still present on 7th (Geoff Lapworth)]
Ring-necked Parakeet (2)
SISKIN (20 in Alders)
NUTHATCH (1, scarce at this locality - Andrew Moon, LGRE)
(LGRE Total = 98 – 8 February - those marked in blue)
1) Great Crested Grebe
2) Little Grebe
3) Sinensis Cormorant
4) EURASIAN BITTERN
5) Little Egret
6) Grey Heron
7) Mute Swan
8) WHOOPER SWAN
9) Greylag Goose
10) Canada Goose
11) DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE
12) Common Shelduck
13) Egyptian Goose
14) Mandarin Duck
19) Eurasian Wigeon
20) Common Teal
22) Red-crested Pochard
23) Tufted Duck
24) Common Goldeneye
27) Ruddy Duck
28) Red Kite
29) Common Buzzard
34) Red-legged Partridge
35) Grey Partridge
36) Common Pheasant
37) Water Rail
41) European Golden Plover
42) Common Sandpiper
43) Green Sandpiper
44) Common Redshank
46) Common Snipe
47) Jack Snipe
48) Black-headed Gull
49) Common Gull
50) MEDITERRANEAN GULL
51) Herring Gull
52) Yellow-legged Gull
53) Lesser Black-backed Gull
54) Great Black-backed Gull
55) GLAUCOUS GULL*
56) ICELAND GULL*
57) Stock Dove
59) Collared Dove
60) Tawny Owl
61) SHORT-EARED OWL
62) Barn Owl
63) Little Owl
64) Common Kingfisher
65) Ring-necked Parakeet
66) Green Woodpecker
67) Great Spotted Woodpecker
68) LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER
70) Meadow Pipit
71) WATER PIPIT*
72) Pied Wagtail
73) Grey Wagtail
75) BOHEMIAN WAXWING
79) Song Thrush
81) Mistle Thrush
83) Common Blackbird
85) Cetti’s Warbler
86) Common Chiffchaff
88) Great Tit
89) Coal Tit
90) Blue Tit
91) Marsh Tit
92) Long-tailed Tit
94) Common Treecreeper
95) NORTHERN GREY SHRIKE
100) Carrion Crow
101) COMMON RAVEN
103) House Sparrow
104) TREE SPARROW
108) LESSER REDPOLL
113) Reed Bunting
115) CORN BUNTING
Saturday, 7 February 2009
At King George V Res: 1 RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, 200+ Fieldfares around the banks, 36 Goldeneye, 9 Goosander, 3 Wigeon, 97 Pochard.
At Rye Meads Meadows; 1 WATER PIPIT.
Friday, 6 February 2009
I am most interested in a report of a EURASIAN BITTERN at Sarratt on 18 January. Can somebody kindly furnish me with further details - this is a very important record and a bird I would like to search for. It is likely to be in Buckinghamshire. As usual, it is an anonymous report.
**COMMON BITTERN: one mobbed by crows as it flew up the Chess River Valley, landed briefly on private land and then flew off towards Sarratt village (unknown observer)
COMMON SHELDUCK: 1 arrived at Tyttenhanger Willows Farm Pool on 1 February (Clifford Smout) and remained in the area until at least 6 February, with 3 at Amwell NR on 4 February
PINTAIL: 1 at Amwell NR on 2-4 February (Alan Reynolds)
*DUNLIN: 1 reported at East Hyde on 3 February (T Easter) - the first in Herts this year and an extremely unusual visitor at this location
GREEN SANDPIPER: singles at Tyttenhanger GP on 24 January, at Beech Farm on 25 January, the long-staying bird at Scotsbridge Mill to 5 February at least, still 4 at Lemsford Springs on 2 February (Clifford Smout)
*JACK SNIPE: 2 at Lemsford Springs on 4 February (P Moss) with one still present today (Barery Trevis)
PEREGRINE: 1 at Woodoaks Farm on 26 January (Geoff Lapworth), with a juvenile at Amwell NR on 27 January (David Booth) and the regular escaped individual on Southgate House, Stevenage, on 26-30 January (A Ford et al)
Little Owl: 2 calling at Felden (Colin Everett)
BARN OWL: 1 along the A5183 by Rothamsted Park on 27 January (Darin Stanley)
Stock Dove: 64 at Puckeridge on 3 February (Murray Orchard)
COMMON STONECHAT: the male remained at Woodoaks Farm until at least 1 February (Geoff Lapworth)
Blackcap: singles in suburban gardens in Welwyn Garden City on 24 January, Jersey Farm on 25 January, Codicote on 31 January, Hitchin on 2 February, Hertford on 3 February, 2 males near Hemel Hempstead
Common Chiffchaff: 2 at Amwell NR on 29 January (Ernest Leahy) with 1 at Stanborough Lakes on 1 February (Anthony Dorman)
Marsh Tit: Puckeridge on 3 February and Panshanger Park on 4 February
Siskin: 120+ at Lemsford Springs on 28 January (P Moss) with 30 over Shire Park, Welwyn, on 3 February (W Bishop)
Thursday, 5 February 2009
A very pleasant morning with briliant sunshine and little wind. The main pit has thawed out to some degree so there are now some areas of open water. The fishing lakes are almost entirely frozen.
Sightings of some interest were :-
European Golden Plover 25 (Flying around)
Water Rail 2
COMMON SHELDUCK 1
TREE SPARROW 8
Yellowhammer 1 (most of the large flock seems to have moved on now the game bird feeding has been reduced)
Reed Bunting 1
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
The thaw continued after a light overnight frost with temperatures reaching 5 degrees in the afternoon sunshine. Clear skies eventually gave way to more cloudier conditions but the SE wind remained rather light.
COLNE VALLEY PITS (MIDDLESEX/HERTS)
I then decided to do a comprehensive survey of the Colne Valley waterbirds, working my way from south to north. Many of the pits were frozen or partly frozen. The results were thus, with a total of 2,658 birds counted of 17 species :-
Great Crested Grebe (80)
Mute Swan (107)
Atlantic Canada Goose (248)
Greylag Goose (76)
Common Teal (15)
Eurasian Wigeon (99)
Northern Shoveler (266*)
Tufted Duck (474)
Northern Pochard (198)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (just 4 located - JT had 7 yesterday)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (35)
**SMEW (2 adult drakes)
RUDDY DUCK (18)
Denham South Pit (TQ 060 880)
GOOSANDERS (2 adult drakes and an adult female)
Tufted Duck (33)
Broadwater GP (TQ 045 895)
A large number of birds present, with particularly impressive numbers of Great Crested Grebes.
Great Crested Grebe (73+)
Sinensis Cormorant (91 counted with 11 nests actively being used)
Mute Swan (15)
Atlantic Canada Goose (152)
Greylag Geese (76)
*Chinese Goose (2 adults, both pure)
Eurasian Wigeon (43)
Common Teal (15)
Tufted Duck (87)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (2 pairs)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (15)
GOOSANDER (2 adult drakes and a redhead)
Common Buzzard (1)
COMMON KINGFISHER (1-2)
Tilehouse Pit North (TQ 037 900)
Tufted Duck (11)
Troy Mill Pit (TQ 040 905)
Tufted Duck (56)
PYNESFIELD LAKES NORTH & SOUTH (TQ 035 910)
Eurasian Wigeon (32)
Tufted Duck (34)
LYNSTERS LAKE & MAPLE LODGE RESERVE - not counted
SPRINGWELL LAKE (TQ 043 925)
Tufted Duck (36)
STOCKER'S WEST PIT/INN'S LAKE (TQ 043 933)
Eurasian Wigeon (24)
Tufted Duck (22)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (3 - 1 drake)
STOCKER'S LAKE (047 935)
Great Crested Grebe (3)
Sinensis Cormorant (113, with many pairs nesting)
Grey Heron (17, with several pairs now nesting)
Mute Swan (5)
Tufted Duck (83)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (17 including 8 adult drakes)
GOOSANDER (1 adult drake, 1 redhead)
*SMEW (2 adult drakes still)
Lapwing (112 on the ice)
BURY LAKE (TQ 054 938)
Great Crested Grebe (4)
Mute Swan (87)
Canada Goose (96)
Tufted Duck (112)
BATCHWORTH LAKE (frozen)
I also checked Woodoaks Farm, where 147 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER were present in the snow-covered fields.
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
A single LITTLE EGRET was at Troy Mill and 140 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS and a few Yellowhammer at Woodoaks Farm (Joan Thompson)
GREEN SANDPIPER - regular along the Ver on the estate near Harpendenbury (TL112134), viewable from public footpath.
Red Kite - 1 today over Manor Wood
COMMON STONECHAT - the wintering individual still present near Rothamsted Farm,viewable from the public footpath at TL119135.
Sunday, 1 February 2009
With a second day of strong, freezing-cold SE winds, Wilstone Reservoir reaped the rewards. A flock of 14 adult DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE touched down early morning (from at least 0735 - per Stuart Wilson) and were identified by David Bilcock at 0747. Dave was very quick to get the message out and within ten minutes, JT had 'phoned me and kindly prompted me to check my mobile.
DBBG is a very rare bird locally and it was time for me to make a dash. I informed several other observers on the local grapevyne and also rang RBA and arrived literally seconds after Dunstable-based birder and very close friend Francis Buckle. DB was again on the phone. Oh no I thought - flying off before I got to the top of the steps ! But no, it was Dave to say that there were now 20 birds present - 6 more had flown in from the NW at 0833.
I dashed up the steps and quickly located the throng - all bunched together about 100 yards west of the jetty. Francis had to get back as he had arranged to go to Cambridgeshire and quickly departed. I walked on and joined DB, RH, SW, MCa and JT on the jetty (soon to be joined by MF) where we all enjoyed excellent views of the tightly knit flock - all 20 of them uniformly-marked adults. Dave managed a number of shots (see above).
The birds remained until at least 0935 hours when I departed but always seemed nervous and alert. Not once did they feed but occasionally the odd bird would have a drink. They were part of a widespread overland movement which included 70 over Grafham Water (Cambs), 30 over Great Leighs (Essex) and a single at Brogborough Lake (Beds). I later learnt that all 20 flew off at 1039 hours.
Dark-bellied Brent Goose is a scarce visitor to Tring Reservoirs with just 14 previous records (involving 85 individuals, with previous flocks of 10, 26 and 29)
1) An adult with Canada Geese on Wilstone Reservoir from 20-25 February 1987
2) A party of 4 present for just half an hour on Wilstone before flying south over Tring town on 19 November 1989
3) Two present on Wilstone for just 15 minutes before flying off high SW on 8 November 1992 (Rob Young)
4) Three present on Wilstone Reservoir on 20-21 February 1993
5) An adult present on Wilstone from 2-14 November 1993 (Rob Young et al)
6) Three visited Wilstone on 17 February 1994.
7) A flock of 10 was noted over Wilstone on 8 November 1994
8) A flock of 26 was present on Wilstone on 3-4 January 1996 (Marcus Brew)
9) One present on Wilstone on 28 September 1998 (Rob Young et al)
10) One visited Wilstone on 2 April 2003 (Dave Bilcock)
11) A flock of 29 flew NEW over Wilstone on 20 March 2005.
12) One was present on Wilstone for 45 minutes early morning on 2 April 2005.
13) Two visited Startop's End Reservoir on 16 October 2005
14) One visited Wilstone on 5 January 2006 (Roy Hargreaves)
Elsewhere in Hertfordshire, flocks exceeding 20 individuals have included 29 adults over Amwell NR on 30 November 1986 (Graham White), 37 SE over Hilfield Park Reservoir on 20 March 2005 and 38 NE over Ware on 28 April 1993 (Barry Reed) but the record number involves 48-50 which flew over Tyttenhanger GP on 7 April 1996.
Apart from the Brent flock, Wilstone Reservoir was fairly quiet with 59 Greylag Geese in the Cemetery Corner Field (and another one dead on the jetty), 5 COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 adult drakes), an adult drake RUDDY DUCK and a lone Fieldfare. Two RED KITES were in attendance, with one flying over fields to the north of the reservoir and another over Little Tring Farm.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR
Sheltering many of the ducks including 60 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 3 Common Teal, 37 Tufted Ducks, 8 Pochard and 24 Coot.
Virtually birdless apart from 2 Great Crested Grebes - bitterly cold.
ABACUS ACRES HORSE PADDOCKS, MENTMORE
In my quest for a Bucks Grey Partridge, I spent over an hour searching the arable farmland within a radius of Mentmore. The paddocks held an impressive flock of 337 winter thrushes including 277 Fieldfares and 60 Redwings, as well as many corvids including 83 Jackdaws and 27 Rooks.
A flock of 30 more Fieldfare was in Mentmore itself, with a single Yellowhammer by Wingbury Farm. By the time I reached Wingrave there was a shoot on, and the only gamebird I spied was a single Red-legged Partridge sheltering from the guns in a Leighton Road garden in Wingrave village !
Despite interrogating Mike Campbell over potential sites in his neighbourhood, I still drew a complete blank.
STOCKERS LAKE, RICKMANSWORTH
With light fading fast, I decided to check Stocker's Lake, in the hope of seeing the Egyptian Goose pair that had been recently sighted on the water meadows by the farm. They were not there.
The main lake was also surprisingly devoid of most ducks but did include a very beautiful and graceful adult drake GOOSANDER and a very impressive flock of 173 NORTHERN SHOVELER. A flock of 19 Common Goldeneye included a number of neck-throwing displaying drakes whilst other visitors had seen a redhead Smew.
BROADWATER GP (at dusk)
For the first time this winter, I decided to visit the Broadwater LITTLE EGRET roost and was astounded to find an exceptional 48 birds present - by far the highest number I have ever counted at the site. Talking to Andrew Moon (the regular counter at the site), it transpired that this number had been present since 24th January, following his counts of 45 and 43 on 6th and 20th December 2008 respectively. The same peak number had also been counted in December 2005.
The location was also covered in large numbers of wintering wildfowl, including 105 Pochard and a redhead GOOSANDER. I also counted an impressive 46 Great Crested Grebes.
Highlights were 3 Little Egrets, 25 Gadwall, 15 Common Teal, 4 Common Buzzard, 2 Red Kite, 22 Common Snipe, 700+ EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER and 2 COMMON STONECHAT south of the Veola access road (Ernest Leahy)
This is also equal to the peak count in December 2005.
Although 10 birds are accounted for in the Chess River Valley (between Chesham and Scotsbridge Mill), it is a complete mystery where the remaining 38 birds spend their day.