Tuesday, 29 September 2009


Ashley Stowe's video and images of the Wilstone LEACH'S PETREL

OSPREY report

I have had an email sent in reporting an OSPREY at Panshanger yesterday evening at TL 276 114 which appears to be very close to the roundabout of the A414 and B195 at Cole Green.

In past years Ospreys have been seen in this area for some length of time; if anyone does go to see if an Osprey is still around could they ensure they do keep to the public rights of way and not enter the Lafarge quarry as happened a few years ago much to Lafarges annoyance (Alan Gardiner)

Sadly no sign today but a further selection of images

Only the fourth-ever LEACH'S PETREL to grace Tring Reservoirs - captured on film here by IAN WILLIAMS

Monday, 28 September 2009

LEACH'S PETREL at Wilstone Reservoir - the 20th county record

A LEACH'S PETREL flew in to Wilstone Reservoir just after 1435 hours this afternoon, where it was visible from the Drayton Bank Hide, flying over the northern section of the reservoir between the car park steps and the central bank. Unfortunately I was returning from Cornwall at the time (on the M5) and was on route for a special rendezvous in South Warwickshire, where an Aquatic Warbler was on the menu.

I immediately texted DB, SR and MW, phoned BAM to talk to him direct and of course spoke to Joan. JT had very kindly informed RBA so information had quickly gone ''national''.

The bird, most likely that seen and photographed at Stewartby Lake (Bedfordshire) on Saturday 26 (Peter Smith et al, 12th county record) just 15 miles away as the petrel flies, after being jostled by Black-headed Gulls, quickly relocated to the deeper water at the eastern end of Wilstone, where it was best viewed from the jetty on the east bank. A procession of local birding visitors were rewarded with excellent views throughout the afternoon and evening, Ben Miller obtaining the excellent photograph reproduced above. In the main, it just sat quietly on the water, avoiding attracting unwanted attentions, but occasionally took to the air and was immediately mobbed by all and sundry. It remained present right into darkness, and was still present as all light faded into gloom at 1945 (SR, DB).

Leach's Petrels inland in Britain are incredibly rarely ever seen at the same site on a second day so chances of it being present tomorrow morning (sadly, the first opportunity I will get to search for it) are very remote indeed.

Previous Leach's Petrels in Hertfordshire

Leach's Petrel is a rare vagrant to Hertfordshire with today's bird representing only the 20th occurrence. It is only the fifth record for Tring Reservoirs.

The very first county record was in December 1823 when one was 'obtained' (per Yarrell 1825) followed by a second shot dead in a field at Croxley Green on 26 September 1896 (published in Trans Herts Natural History Society XIV: 78). Another was then found dead in the county at Cassiobury Park, Watford, in late November 1905 following a severe winter storm and another arrived in similar circumstances at Poynders End, Hitchin, on 12 November 1931 (British Birds XXV: 229).

In more modern times, there was a large 'wreck' of Leach's Petrels in Britain in autumn 1952 (Boyd 1954 in Ibis XLVII: 137-63) and no fewer than three individuals were found in Hertfordshire: picked up by a cat in Hemel Hempstead on 30 October; found alive at Royston on 31 October and found dead in Bishop's Stortford on 1 November. It was then a further eleven years before another was found - flying low north over the lagoons at Rye Meads at 1515 hours on 21 September 1963.

The following year, Tring Reservoirs recorded its first sighting with a bird on Wilstone on 22 November 1964, whilst the tenth record involved a bird found dead in Stevenage on 19 October 1969.

11-12) Two birds were recorded in 1977 with an extremely unusual sighting at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 8 May 1977 (Barry Goater) and a more typical occurrence at Startop's End Reservoir on 15 November (BTO);

13) One was found alive at St Michaels School, Stevenage, at 0700 hours on 14 December 1978 (R.A.Smith) but subsequently died and is now mounted in Stevenage Museum;

14) The first twitchable individual in the county was that at Stanstead Abbots Gravel Pits on 3 October 1982 (D.Carr, Alan Harris, John Redwood, et al);

15) One was at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 3 September 1983 (Colin Bushell);

16) One was at Cheshunt GP on 25 November 1984 (the late Rupert Hastings, S.Middleton, T.Robson);

17) A corpse was found in a copse near Puckeridge on 9 September 1986 and is now in the collection of Letchworth Museum (per Pete Walton);

18) One was at Wilstone Reservoir on 7 September 1990 from 1700 hours until dusk (Andrew Moon);

19) A bird over the lake at Hertingfordbury end of Panshanger Park on 17 September 2005 (Scott Poynter);

20) A rare opportunity to connect with this ultra-rare seabird came on 6 December 2006 when Mike Campbell discovered an individual on Startop's End Reservoir. It remained all day and was eventually enjoyed by over 45 observers).

Sunday, 27 September 2009


An adult PEREGRINE is present for a second day roosting near Lilley on a pylon at TL 117 280 this evening (Paul Anness).

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Another ROCK PIPIT at Hilfield

Not much for a whole day in the field.

At Hilfield Park Reservoir this morning a few mipits over, with one SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT calling with them. On the reservoir, 46 Great Crested Grebe, 34 Shoveler, 16 Ruddy Duck.

At Oxhey Woods, a couple each of Ring-necked Parakeet and Sparrowhawk. At Cheshunt Gp/Holyfield, 33 Chiffchaff, 2 blackcap, single Common Stonechat and Whinchat, 1 common sandpiper, 8 Egyptian Geese, 10 + Common Buzzards (Graham White)


129 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS on Allens Green Airfield this morning. The first large party locally this Autumn (Mike Harris)

COMMON REDSTART in Aston End 25/9

COMMON REDSTART this morning at Aston End, east of Stevenage, in hedgerow about 600 yards north of the ford (Phil B)

Tyttenhanger GP 23/9

No excitement today, but a flock of 25 YELLOW WAGTAILS with cattle in the field next to the Willows Farm car park was a nice sight. There was also a HOBBY over the main lake. The escaped White-cheeked Pintail was also still present (David Booth)

Norton Green 23/9

Norton Green; 23 September; Darrel Bryant

Red Kite
2 Common Buzzard
1 Kestrel

1 Whinchat
1 Stonechat
1 Lesser Whitethroat
1 Blackcap
4 Yellowhammer
4 Green Woodpecker(family party)
1 Stoat

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

FIRECRESTS in Broxbourne Woods

Firecrest (Bill Baston)
There were two FIRECRESTS this morning at Danemead NR in Broxbourne Woods.

Previous records of GLOSSY IBIS in Hertfordshire

Following Steve Blake's remarkable discovery, I detail below the previous records of GLOSSY IBIS in the county -:

1) A bird was shot at Wilstone or Marsworth Reservoir, Tring, in October 1826 and the mounted specimen painted in watercolour by H.Higgs and exhibited in Wardown Park Museum, Luton;

2) One was shot on the lake in Ball's Park, Hertford, by a Mr Pantia Ralli, on either 10 September or 10 November 1881 (Field 26 November 1881: 792). It was preserved by Tutt of Wigmore Street in London.

3) One was shot near the village of Waterford by Mr J.Roberts in November 1887 (Gladwin & Sage 1959).

In addition to the Glossy Ibis records, Hertfordshire also became home to an escaped PUNA IBIS (Plegadis ridegwayi) (an endemic ibis of the Andean Mountains of western South America - see pages 173-175 in Hancock et al, Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills of the World for further information). It was first seen at Kimpton Cress Beds and at Whitwell from 4 May 1980 onwards, although had previously been seen at King's Walden in April 1980. It survived in the area until at least 15 December 1982 (LGRE, Richard Webb, Barry Reed, Bill Last, et al) before becoming a more permanent fixture at the cressbeds and then was almost resident (and often ridiculously confiding) until 29 December 1999 - a period of over 19 years.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Searching for the Ibis proves fruitless


Well it was a very excited Steve Blake on the phone mid morning after he had just witnessed the first-ever GLOSSY IBIS to be recorded in the county since 1887 ! The bird had flown several circuits of Tyttenhanger GP Main Pit in an attempt to land on the spit but its efforts were scuppered as its archaic profile frightened the roosting gull flock and it was consequently chased away to the NW by two persistent individuals. It never did land and local patchworker Steve was in the unenviable position of being the only observer to witness this colossal event. One could argue that with over 37 juvenile Glossy Ibises touring Britain at the moment, it was perhaps inevitable that one would finally overflow Hertfordshire airspace.

Anyhow, along with Steve, I spent the next several hours trying to intercept it and perhaps second-guess where it may have landed. Sadly, both of us failed in our quests. Steve took the option of continuing to scour the Tyttenhanger complex and neighbouring gravel pits, ditches and fields whilst I drove out to Tring Reservoirs and environs, where conditions offer the best feeding prospects for a tired and hungry vagrant ibis.

Weather today saw a change in wind direction - from northeasterly to westerly - but temperatures remained high and skies were predominantly clear.


My first stop was Pitstone Quarry but with a new building being put up on the south bank of the workings, disturbance had guaranteed complete departure of avian life bar 14 Little Grebes and 18 Tufted Duck.

(1200-1300 hours)

Once up the steps, I immediately tracked down all LITTLE EGRETS - just in case our rare visitor had been attracted in by them. All 11 was still present but 9 were roosting and just 2 were feeding. Nothing was with them. The water level was so low that the bar between the Jetty and Drayton Bank was now exposed - so much so that some enterprising angler just had to walk across it and in turn flush everything in sight - just as three balloons had ruined my visit the previous evening. I notified the bailiff John and he very kindly agreed to sort out some more signs. We also further discussed the very distressing behaviour of certain East Europeans as regards to our ever-declining Mute Swan stocks too - I counted just 28 birds today.

Anyway with no Plegadis to view, I decided to undertake a full inventory of birds present once they had all settled back down. A total of 1,524 birds was seen - of 29 species.

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (2 first-winters, awkwardly getting out of the water and 'running' across the bar)
Continental Cormorant (17)
Grey Heron (4)
LITTLE EGRET (all 11 present, all unringed. Interestingly, one juvenile was very dark flecked about the upper mantle whilst another bird actually 'sat' on the mud)
Mute Swan (just 20 present)
Atlantic Canada Goose (26)
Mallard (126)
Gadwall (18)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (just 1 present; 8 had been seen yesterday - SR)
Shoveler (118; several drakes now in good plumage)
Eurasian Wigeon (83)
Common Teal (massive increase with at least 413 counted)
GARGANEY (single with Teal feeding to north of hide)
Pochard (11)
Tufted Duck (34)
Red Kite (3 in area)
Moorhen (82)
Coot (473)
Lapwing (just 14 birds - massive departure)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 near hide)
**SPOTTED REDSHANK (the two juveniles were still present, presumably both from the same nest and favouring the muddy edge between Cemetery Corner and the former boathouse site)
Black-headed Gull (33)
HERRING GULL (juvenile showing well by hide)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Meadow Pipit (4 overhead)
YELLOW WAGTAIL (4 still present in the ploughed field NW of the new overflow)
Linnets (2)


Great Crested Grebes (7 birds still present including this year's three late-brooded juveniles, one of which was still begging of its parents)
HOBBY (an adult showing well, hawking back and forth over the reedbed; in view from at least 1305-1325)


Great Crested Grebe (2)
Mute Swans (just 8)
Greylag Geese (12)
Tufted Duck (32)
Coot (126)


Jay (1 flew over)

MEGA....MEGA....GLOSSY IBIS at Tyttenhanger - the first county record

"WHAT A MORNING"!! - Got to Tyttenhanger this morning doing my usual daily round of Willows Farm, Fishing Lakes and Main Pit. By the time I reached the main pit, I had seen nothing more exciting than a female Blackcap around the fishing lakes. The Main Pit was very quiet, except for the usual Gulls, Lapwing and the very noisy arrival of 22 Greylag Geese. But other than that, just one Common Snipe and a handful of Swallow passing over West to keep me interested.

As I got to the viewpoint on the Maize field (East bank).I noticed all the gulls had risen from the spit. Raising my bins expecting to see either a raptor or large Gull making a pest of itself, to my utter shock I was on to a GLOSSY IBIS being chased by 20+ Gulls. At first I thought it was going to carry on over the sand spit and leave but it turned and followed the line of the West bank (Anybody on the Footpath that side would have had fantastic views). It again tried to land in the area of Willow shrub near Pylon Corner, (left of the Hide) but was still being pursued by two Gulls. It rose again and flew back to the Spit end, but unfortunately carried on this time, climbing all the time and lost to view over the Model Railway site (gulls still in hot pursuit). I had a look for it in the Colney Heath common area and other fields around the site. But "Needle in a Haystack" came to mind! Eventually gave up at 1:30 (Steve Blake)

Perhaps not altogether unexpected considering the 35 or more Glossy Ibieses currently in the UK. A brilliant record though. I immediately went out and scoured all waters to the NW of Tyttenhanger, including the Tring Reservoirs complex. Sadly no sign as of yet. Let's hope it is not the one that got away. Well done Steve - well deserved considering the effort you have put in this year (Lee G R Evans)


6 Green Sandpiper - Standalone Farm, Letchworth (on the nature reserve pool)

31 GREY PARTRIDGES - Deadmans Hill (Mike Ilett)

PEREGRINE in East Herts

An adult female PEREGRINE rose off farm fields, having just eaten, with a fully distended crop at Trims Green at 11:45 this morning. It circled lazily on a thermal gradually gaining height and drifting southwards towards Sawbridgeworth. It was lost to sight at 11:52 (Mike Harris)


Over the weekend, SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPITS appeared at Wilstone Reservoir (19-20th) and on the dam at Hilfield Park Reservoir (briefly on 20th)

Saturday, 19 September 2009

SPOTTED REDSHANKS at Tring Reservoirs

Old 'Rodders strikes again - he finds two SPOTTED REDSHANKS - the first of 2009
A GARGANEY was present about midday (I guess this is the same bird that was earlier seen at the quarry). The number of YELLOW WAGTAILS in the field beyond the overflow built up to 24. Just after 6.00pm Charlie and I saw 2 SPOTTED REDSHANKS arrive. Also 1 Green Sandpiper, 4 Snipe, 2 Ringed Plovers and 3 Pintail (Steve Rodwell)

First ROCK PIPIT of the autumn
This morning a good showing of Little Egrets, the male COMMON STONECHAT was still on the hedgerows near Rushy Meadow and a calling SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT flew over about 20 metres above the ground accompanied by a Meadow Pipit (Roy Hargreaves)


The BLACK-TAILED GODWIT discovered at Tyttenhanger GP early morning (Steve Blake et al) remained present until 17.45 when spooked by gunshots and appeared to fly off high to the south east. Hobby also present (Anthony Dorman)

Flyover COMMON CROSSBILL at Amwell

Today it was rather quiet at AMWELL, but if you sum it up I guess it looks acceptable.

1 Red-crested Pochard (female) (Hollycross Lake)
6 Wigeon
3 Little Egrets
1 Hobby
at least 7 Snipe
1 Green Sandpiper
1 Common Sandpiper
1 Yellow-legged Gull (1st year)
2 Yellow Wagtails (over)
1 Stonechat
1 COMMON CROSSBILL (over, sounded like a "Bohemian Crossbill" (vocal type restricted to Black Pine forest))

(Jan Hein Steenis)

Friday, 18 September 2009

Amwell today

This afternoon: 3 Pintail, 7 Common Chiffchaff, 1 Stonechat, 3 little Egret, 8 Buzzard, 1 Common sandpiper, 40 Swallow (Graham White)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Kings Meads today

Today on King's Meads: 2 Black-tailed Godwits; 2 Dunlin; 25 Snipe; 2 Whinchat; 1 Stonechat; 25 Meadow Pipit; 30 House Martin; 30 Goldfinch; 10 Yellow Wagtail (Alan Reynolds)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

King's Mead selection

The 2 Black-tailed Godwit are still present along with 2 Dunlin, 7 Snipe, 1 Whinchat and 3 Yellow Wagtail (Alan Reynolds)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A Red Letter Day - GREY PLOVER, more wildfowl and a Tring record count of LITTLE EGRETS


After failing badly in Suffolk first thing, with near gale force northerlies and driving rain, I made my way back to Hertfordshire and after a brief fattening up of my latest gathering of Edible Dormice, rushed out to Tring at pager reports of a Grey Plover at Wilstone. I was delighted to find it still present early afternoon, along with an ever-increasing throng of wildfowl and a record gathering of Little Egret.

Even at Wilstone, the wind was strong NNE, with heavy cloud and occasional showers.

(with Dave Cleal)

Great Crested Grebes (19)
*LITTLE EGRET (a new record count of 11 birds)(see Dave Bilcock's photograph above)
Mute Swan (32)
Gadwall (32)
*NORTHERN PINTAILS (four present, including one with Wigeon by the jetty on the east side and three together south of the hide)
Shoveler (marked increase; 87 birds)
EURASIAN WIGEON (major overnight increase with at least 62 birds present)
Common Teal (numbers keep going up and up with at least 203 counted)
Northern Pochard (106)

RINGED PLOVERS (all 3 juveniles still present; in NW corner)
**GREY PLOVER (the first of the year, a superb juvenile, showing to the right of the hide. Lanky bird, with long greyish legs, and a distinct grey wash of streaks across the mid-breast. Much whiter on the vent and undertail coverts with a white area at the forecrown, darker grey ear-coverts and fresh and neatly patterned dark-centred coverts on the upperwings, scapulars and mantle feathers. Characteristic black axillaries (armpits) when stretching and preening, with a white rump contrasting with a darker grey and barred upper tail and a striking white outer wing-bar on a dark outer hand. Photographed by DB later in the afternoon - see above - and still present at dusk. Superb record - TAW, LGRE, DC, Jason Chapman, et al)
Lapwing (major decrease - just 152)
RUFF (1 juvenile still present)
COMMON SNIPE (4 on the mud)


COMMON REDSTART spends a fifth day on site at Batford

Darin's first-winter male COMMON REDSTART was still present in its favoured hedgerow just east of Batford today - its 5th day on location

Monday, 14 September 2009

.....And yet another NORTHERN WHEATEAR

A NORTHERN WHEATEAR located on wire fencing in field beside the weedy field (same place as last year). Saw it on the fence one moment dropped down & came up again, nice views. I then walked up the path to the other side of the hedge but only 20 yards to observe at a better angle and the bird disappeared. looked around everywhere.... nowhere to be seen. Field looks perfect for wheatears with short grass and cow pats everywhere.

Meanwhile the first-winter male COMMON REDSTART is still showing well in its usual hedgerow for its 4th day (Darin Stanley)

King's Meads today

2 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, 15 Snipe, a Dunlin and a Green Sand this morning.


Heartswood Forest, Sandridge

Highlights were a pair of NORTHERN WHEATEARS showing well at times in the ploughed field where the main forest is to be grown, 2 Skylarks and around 80+ as well as 25 House Martins, 3 Barn Swallows, a Sparrowhawk and 30 Greenfinches (Luke Massey)

Batford COMMON REDSTART still present

The first-winter male COMMON REDSTART was still present in its favoured hedgerow today (Saturday 13th) - nice views in the scope in the Autumnal sunshine.

This record constitutes only the 4th Common Redstart in this hedgetow since I started this patch in March 2008. on par with the amount of Wheatear records I have had in the same area!

Alas I have had no wheatears passing through this area this Autumn & again (though the field looks good for them) still no Autumn Whinchats.

For local interest the list of passage birds in these fields since March 2008 is -:


Not forgetting a pair of GREY PARTRIDGE in both years, LESSER WHITETHROATS, 2 RED KITE sightings & a HOBBY.though few & far between, results do mount up when you work a patch virtually everyday (Darin Stanley)

Another migrant COMMON REDSTART

Just got back home from a walk around the Mundens Estate/Otterspool area, my first visit to my old local patch in nearly 2 years and what a great walk it turned out to be! Easily the highlight was a female type COMMON REDSTART which looking in my old records for the estate is only the 2nd record following a male reported to me in May 1990. Its only my 3rd in Herts following a male at Jersey Farm and the Batford bird last year.

The entrance gate to the estate is a swing gate to the right of the big black metal gates at approx TQ 123 987 adjacent to the A41. Go through the gate and walk for c.1 mile eventually walking over a set of cattle grids. Carry on and once you have reached another set of cattle grids next to an open wooden gate and a metal sign pointing to Aldenham, cross the grid and walk a few yards up the tarmac path and view the hedge line on the left with the cut grass field. It was favouring half way down occasionally perching on the barbed wire fence. TQ 131 999.

I managed a couple of very poor record shots digibinned using my girlfriends head as a rest!! These will be on my blog asap ianbennellsbirdingblog.blogspot.com (Ian Bennell, 13 September)

Friday, 11 September 2009

Another migrant MARSH HARRIER

A friend of mine has just seen a MARSH HARRIER in fields to the south-east of Stapleford (village on the road between Hertford and Stevenage). It was quartering fields to the east of the road, a short distance south of the railway bridge (Graham Knight)

A moderate NE wind continuing with a fair bit of cloud cover and intermittent bright, sunny periods. Still fairly warm. Considering the excellent conditions, migrants continue to be thin on the ground and wader passage virtually nil. Buzzard passage has also surprisingly ceased.

(1400-1430 hours)

A single first-winter male COMMON REDSTART (located yet again by Darin Stanley) was showing very well on the wire fence alongside the hedgerow south of the layby on the B653 just SE of Batford during the half-hour period that I was present. It was constantly being pestered by two territorial Robins and on many occasions they chased it after it dropped to the ground to take grubs from the horsepats.


The two WHINCHATS were both still present showing well on the perimeter fence 150 yards east of Dane Street.


Very quiet - no sign of any black-capped tits - but interestingly a 'black' or melanistic Grey Squirrel.


An adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL was roosting amongst 115 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in ploughed fields south of the B489.


Very quiet, with the two adult WHOOPER SWANS, 5 Mute Swans, 18 Greylag Geese and 8 Northern Pochards noted. No sign of the earlier Pintail nor of any Yellow Wagtails.

(1600-1700 hours; with Ian Williams)

Surprisingly quiet, with virtually no new arrivals

Little Grebes (increase to 5 birds, with an additional 7 on Tringford and 2 on Startop's End - all immigrants from neighbouring Pitstone Quarry where the water level has dropped dramatically)
LITTLE EGRETS (all 6 birds still, all fishing in the shallows in front of the Drayton Hide)
Mute Swans (36)
Common Teal (131)
Shoveler (47)
Wigeon (5+)
Pochard (108)
Gadwall (13)

HOBBY (single adult)
Red Kite (2 over)

RINGED PLOVERS (2 juveniles remaining on mud in NW corner)
COMMON GREENSHANK (2 juveniles still)
RUFF (just 2 juvenile males present this afternoon)

Barn Swallow (45)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Still a trickle of WHINCHATS getting through

WHINCHATS today include 2 at Beech Farm (Alan Gardiner), 2 at Norton Green (Darrel Bryant) and 2 on Croxley Common Moor (TAW). The image opposite was obtained by Luke Massey.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

RINGED PLOVERS and RUFFS at Wilstone Reservoir


A remarkably warm day with temperatures reaching 21 degrees C. A strong SSW wind blowing, bringing cloudy overcast conditions.

Flushed with excitement after seeing my first Cambridgeshire PALLID HARRIER (and what a fabulous bird this near-adult male is), I came back to earth with a visit to Tring Reservoirs.

(1730-1900 hours; with Steve Rodwell)

Great Crested Grebe (just 16 noted)
Little Grebe (all 3 still surviving)
Continental Cormorant (23)
Grey Heron (4)
LITTLE EGRET (5 still present, 1 fishing in the shallows)
Mute Swan (44)
WHOOPER SWANS (both adults still on Startop's End)
Greylag Geese (5)
Atlantic Canada Geese (204)
Mallard (109)
Gadwall (18)
Shoveler (43)
Common Teal (54)
Pochard (further increase - now 111 birds present)
Tufted Duck (73)
Moorhen (83)
Coot (567)
RINGED PLOVER (all 5 birds still present on the mud - an adult and four juveniles - see Dave Bilcock's excellent images above)
Lapwing (massive increase - 758 birds counted, all well scattered)
DUNLIN (1 juvenile feeding to right of hide)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 in muddy corner by old boathouse site)
COMMON SANDPIPER (juvenile showing well in NW corner)
COMMON GREENSHANK (2 juveniles still present)
*RUFF (4 juveniles including three female Reeves and one male Ruff - see DB's excellent images above)
Black-headed Gulls (106)
*BLACK TERN (juvenile - new arrival)

Barn Swallow (7)
House Martin (67+)
Grey Wagtail (1)
LESSER WHITETHROAT (1 in migrant hedgerow by new overflow - SR)

Chinese Water Deer (adult showing well on mud)

WHINCHATS still at Tyttenhanger

The 3 WHINCHATS continue to attract admirers at Willows Farm, feeding from the fences surrounding the Pumpkin Field (Luke Massey)


Saturday 5 September

I was driving back from Norfolk after successfully twitching a very confiding first-winter Ortolan Bunting frequenting the East Bank at Cley NWT Reserve, when I took a call informing me of an ALPINE SWIFT at Aldenham Country Park in Hertfordshire. Knowing that my good friend Alan Stewart was the only regular observer at this site, I rang him to find out what he knew. He was in Islington visiting his girlfriend and knew nothing of it. I made further enquiries and quickly discovered that Howard Vaughan was responsible for the news. It soon transpired that the bird had been discovered by East London birder Barry Jones whilst on a casual visit. The bird had been showing well from the main car park at 1725 hours.

It was now 1740 and I had only just driven past Barton Mills roundabout. The race was on to get there before dark. Eating up the miles was easy on the A14 and Cambridgeshire section of the A11 but I soon had to make an awkward decision - due to a fatal accident at the M11/M25 interchange, the M25 was closed and traffic was at a standstill. I chose the A404 route across to Baldock but this coincided with the air show at Duxford and everybody leaving. I spent a frustrating 15 minutes waiting to get through here and then another 10 minutes getting round the Royston bypass. Fortunately though, once through Royston, it was all plain sailing and at 1815, I got confirmation from Darrel Bryant, Barry Reed and others that the bird was still showing. Barry very kindly agreed to keep an eye on it whilst I frantically drove south down the A1.

I eventually parked up on the east side of Aldenham Country Park at 1847 hours and after dumping my car on the only space available on the pavement, ran the 300 yards to the dam where Barry and Mike Ilett were still watching the bird. Out of breath, I eventually managed after a minute to get on to the bird. It was wheeling back and forth over the wooded area on the west side of the reservoir and was consorting with 70 or more House Martins at about 500 yards distance. It was best seen when it flew high above the wood and above the pylon line and in some respects was quite Hobby-like in profile. After a while, I managed to lock on to it in the 'scope and obtain good views.


It was much larger than the accompanying hirundines with long scythe-like wings, dark brown upperparts, undertail coverts and underwings contrasting with gleaming white underparts and throat patch. It was very short-tailed and had a dark band extending from the face and head across the breast in a thin breast-band. It flew with labouring flaps of the long wings and constantly repeated a circuit, gaining height above the trees before dropping at great speed to below the horizon. The flight action was particularly distinctive, being much different to that of Common Swift, with slow flaps combined with deep beats as it enters a descent.

All in all, I had the Alpine Swift in view intermittently for 25 minutes - the bird finally disappearing as light faded at 1915 hours. In this time, some 40 observers connected, including TWA, Phil Ball (the long-haired one), Alan Stewart, Jonathon Lethbridge, Steve Murray, Steve Blake and numerous Hilfield regulars. Several birders arrived after 1715 hours and sadly dipped including the year-listing family clan from Somerset - Chris Craig, Ayesha and their 7 year-old daughter Mya-Rose.


It represented only the FIFTH Hertfordshire record and the first ever twitchable

1) The first involved a bird first seen at Troy Mill GP, West Hyde, on 26 September 1965 which was later relocated in St Albans on 30 September 1965 (British Birds 59: 292 & 60: 334).

2) Another was seen over Hartsbourne Golf Course, Bushey Heath, on 14 May 1977 (A. G. Clarke).

3) Fourteen years later, Geoff Goater discovered one over Hilfield Park Reservoir on 30 April 1990 which was seen independently over Watford town centre by Bob Harris.

4) On an uneventful day on 25 May 1998, Steve Rodwell identified an Alpine Swift on Wilstone Reservoir, feeding high amongst a large flock of Common Swifts.

Lee Evans
The image at the helm of this piece was taken by Simon West the next day, when the Hilfield bird relocated SW to Alexandra Palace Park in London

....and Saturday WHEATEARS

Walked around the local farmland this morning and was pleased to see a total of 3 Northern Wheatears - 1 in fields at Cromerhyde and another 2 at Symondshyde farm. Also 5 Yellow Wagtail briefly in the horse paddocks at Symondshyde before flying off south (Anthony Dorman)

Monday, 7 September 2009

It's raining WHINCHATS

Since Friday 4 September, a minor fall of WHINCHAT has taken place across the county, with 3 birds at Tyttenhanger Willows Farm, 2 at Maple Cross and 2 at Stevenage.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Raptor-Fest at Potters Crouch

Raptors galore - Red Kite, Hobbies and Common Buzzard (Dan Forder)

A walk along the footpath to the west of the Potters Crouch Plantations yesterday late morning / early afternoon produced 2 RED KITES continuously doing a circuit of the field to the NW and at least 2 COMMON BUZZARDS, one of which was involved in aerial combat with the two kites.

A Female Common Kestrel was hunting from the hay bales, a Female Sparrowhawk driting over the wood, a single juvenile BARN SWALLOW powering S in a very direct flight then 7 of various age more casually passing through later.
The highlight was 3 HOBBIES hunting over the W side of the wood, 2 Juveniles then later joined by an adult, greeting each other with excited calls, the Juveniles also seen seeing off the Kestrel & the Buzzard involved in the eariler squabble (Dan Forder)

BLACK-WIT still clinging on

I am currently testing a hypothesis that the amount of exposed mud is inversely proportional to the number of waders present. I suspect that the hypothesis will be proven to a Confidence Interval of greater than 95%.

The mud on the western edge of West Pool is now up to 15 metres wide, but there were still only the Black-tailed Godwit, 8 Snipe and a handful of Lapwing present, and the BTG and 4 of the Snipe weren't even on the mud!! Also 23 Teal, 22 Shoveler, 5 Sand Martin and 2 rather late Swift.On Park Mead a charm of 50 Goldfinches (Alan Reynolds)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Yet another OSPREY

Following Sunday's OSPREY at Tringford Reservoir, another was seen in Hertfordshire today.......

''My drive home from work was made considerably more enjoyable by seeing an OSPREY heading south over Park Street in St Albans. At first I thought it was a Red Kite having seen one near Park Street station earlier in the summer. But as it came closer that thought was quickly dispelled. It followed the course of the River Ver escorted, rather than mobbed, by four Jackdaws. I followed its progress from the A5183 until I lost it behind some houses just north of the M25. I felt it was continuing on its way but it might have stopped at the Frogmore gravel pits. It made my evening (Roger Hicks)

MARSH HARRIERS still at Sandon

Still at least 5 MARSH HARRIERS between 12.00 and 12.30 near Deadman's Hill. Also 7 Buzzard plus 4 GREY PARTRIDGE (Anthony Dorman)