Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Quiet Times

The last week in the county has been relatively quiet, despite the snow and ice, with BITTERN and Common Redshank still at Tring Reservoirs, up to four pairs of RED-CRESTED POCHARD at Stocker's Lake, an adult drake SMEW on Bowyer's Water, Cheshunt, and the wintering BITTERN at Amwell NR. At least 13 BLACKCAPS are wintering.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

GREAT WHITE EGRET gets forced out by snow and makes fleeting visit to Tring Reservoirs

A EUROPEAN GREAT WHITE EGRET that has spent the best part of the month commuting between the Misbourne and Chess River valleys was seen at Marsworth Reservoir on 20 December (David Bilcock) at around 1535 hours. It flew across the reeds at Marsworth at just over tree-top height and headed towards Tringford. Ian Williams and his son intercepted the bird and it next spent 3-4 minutes perched high in a tree at Tringford Reservoir but then took off again, initially West, then back NE. It then turned again and flew back across Startops crossing the Grand Union Canal at around the car park area and flew off strongly to the North-West. Steve Rodwell also saw it as it was in flight but no other Tring regulars.

Monday, 14 December 2009

BEWICK'S SWAN at Amwell but all I can do is dip......



Dave Bilcock, Roy Hargreaves and Mike Campbell all witnessed a flock of 6 adult WHOOPER SWANS on Wilstone early on Saturday morning. They flew in at 0830 hours and landed in front of the reedbed at the Cemetery Corner end, where they were photographed (DB) and settled for at least 15 minutes. I left home shortly after Dave texted me, but got caught up in a diversionary route, as the westbound A41 was closed.

By 0910 hours (when I arrived), the herd were nowhere to be found and had departed

Compensation came in the form of a pair of NORTHERN PINTAIL (roosting with 51 Shoveler on the Drayton Bank), 2 drake COMMON GOLDENEYE, the continuing BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and two COMMON REDSHANK and a juvenile Herring Gull.

There were just 5 Mute Swans present on Wilstone, along with 16 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Dabchicks.

(with Dave Bilcock)

9 Mute Swans (including a first-winter), 3 Great Crested Grebes, the female Red-crested Pochard from College Lake, 47 Shoveler (disturbed off Marsworth), 1 Wigeon, 11 Common Teal and 1 drake Pochard. A flock of 38 REDWING flew east.


19 Mute Swans (with 2 first-winters), 24 Gadwall, 42 Wigeon, 8 Shoveler and 15 Pochard.


Walked from Wellonhead Bridge to The Wides

A single WATER RAIL is wintering. No sign of the Mandarin Ducks however.

Little Grebe (1)
Mallard (17)
Moorhen (25 including 6 first-winters)
Coot (14)

Also noted were both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Song Thrushes, 4 Mistle Thrushes, Fieldfare, 40 Redwing, 4 Great Tits and 5 Wrens.

(complete winter bird survey)

Unusually, a good crop of wildfowl present, including 1 first-winter Mute Swan, pair of Gadwall, 15 Mallard, 25 Shoveler (17 drakes and 8 females - good count for the site) and 2 Tufted Ducks, as well as 8 Great Crested Grebes (high count), 15 Coot, 11 Moorhens, 37 Black-headed Gulls and 4 Common Gulls (including a first-winter).

Passerines included 1 Song Thrush, 14 Common Blackbird, Grey Wagtail, 10 Wren, 8 European Robins, 8 Long-tailed Tits and Great Spotted Woodpecker.


Continuing cold (5 degrees C) but rather damp with light rain predominating during the afternoon.


Barry Reed, Bill Last and others had seen an adult BEWICK'S SWAN from the Watchpoint from 0800 hours but it had departed south at around 1100 hours. Of course, I arrived just after it had flown.

There were 9 Mute Swans remaining (including 5 first-winters) and an additional first-winter that had died overnight.

Little Grebe (1)
Great Crested Grebe (12)
Gadwall (92 on the main lake)
Wigeon (33 on main lake)
Common Snipe (9 on one of the islands)
Reed Buntings (9 on seed)

(Game strips at TQ 206 117)

Checked out Luke's Tree Sparrow site in the game strips east of Symondshyde Farm but no joy - just 2 Red-legged Partridges, 8 Chaffinch and a single Reed Bunting in area (TQ 206 117 - note revised grid reference for site)


Better success with 8 TREE SPARROWS in the hedgerow behind the woodyard, along with 18 YELLOWHAMMERS, 2 LESSER REDPOLLS and 2 Bullfinch.


At last - finally connected with the RUFFS !

The water level has risen even further, and has consequently become much more attractive to birds, with the entire site heaving with wildfowl and waders.

Great Crested Grebe (12)
Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swan (5)
Gadwall (22)
Common Teal (331)
Eurasian Wigeon (413)
Shoveler (71)
Tufted Duck (109)
Pochard (27)

Lapwing (450+)
RUFF (2 commuting between the south and north end)
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (still present)
Common Snipe (9)

Black-headed Gulls (1,100+)
MEDITERRANEAN GULLS (both regular adult and 2nd-winter in roost both preening on muddy islands)

(with Dave Bilcock; 1520-1615 hours)

The EURASIAN BITTERN flew from the SW corner at 1602 hours and went low below the line of the reeds before eventually landing high in the reedbed at the east end, close to the Grand Union Canal locks in Bucks. It then slowly made its way down in the reeds to sleep.

Most disconcerting was the fact that just 40 CORN BUNTINGS came in to roost. There were also 6 REED BUNTINGS.

The 14 Great Crested Grebes were still present - and 98 Shoveler feeding

CROSSBILLS in Broxbourne Woods

Had a pleasant day at the eastern end of Broxbourne woods - in Brambles/Cowheath/Danemead woods. Highlight was a MEALY REDPOLL with Siskins and Blue/Coal tits; also 5 COMMON CROSSBILL feeding on larch cones & 6 Lesser Redpoll in the area. (Laurence Drummond)

Sunday, 13 December 2009

CASPIAN GULL again in Amwell roost

Probably the same CASPIAN GULL as two weeks ago was present at Amwell from about 3:15 pm (found by Barry Reed). At first it was quite close to the Gladwin hide (sitting on a submerged branch), but unfortunately it flew off into the group before I got a chance to take a picture. It flew towards the viewpoint at about 4:10 and swam around in the twilight until we all left (at 4:22).A drake Merganser, quite a few Yellow-legged Gulls in a range of plumages and the Bittern provided distraction. Eight people saw the Caspian Gull – the news was disseminated immediately but only one twitcher (Amwell regular Jim) turned up (Jan Hein).

Nice flock of TREE SPARROWS

Barry Trevis and Luke Massey went to Cromer Hyde Farm today and found 16 TREE SPARROWS in a hedgerow there.

13 LITTLE EGRETS roosted....and BITTERN still at Amwell

Saturday 12: After Graham White departed, the BITTERN (finally) put in an appearance (distant but out in the open, from the viewpoint). 2 Yellow-legged Gulls and 13 Little Egrets roosting when I left (Jan Hein van Steenis)

Redhead SMEW at Amwell

At Amwell Saturday 12 December: redhead SMEW, 3 Chiffchaff, 4 Cetti's warblers, 3 Water Rails, 2 little Egrets, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 9 Goldeneye, Red-crested Pochard. (Graham White)


Saturday 12 December: A morning walk around Stanborough north lake gave a close view of a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER apparently associating with a flock of siskins/goldfinches. A truly amazing find -haven't seen one for several years. Also a kingfisher. (Pete Thornley)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Amwell today

At Amwell today: redhead SMEW, Bittern, 11 Little Egret.(Graham White)

There were also a pair of SMEW on Broadwater GP

What A Difference A Day Makes. Two RUFF briefly on Wilstone


A much colder day, with temperatures struggling to reach 7 degrees C. A beautiful day though, with clear blue skies, all day sunshine and a cold NE breeze. Once again, I found myself back at Wilstone, where Roy had discovered two RUFF early on, roosting on the remaining section of spit visible from the jetty. They were not be found however.

(Joan Thompson and Mike Campbell also checking)

Checked all of the available mud on Wilstone. The BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still present close to the Drayton Bank Hide, there were two COMMON REDSHANKS in the same area, a total of 14 COMMON SNIPE, 225 Lapwing and 473+ EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS.

A female COMMON GOLDENEYE was in 'Boathouse Corner', the juvenile GREATER SCAUP was in the SW quadrant, with Great Crested Grebes still numbering 12. Otherwise, very much the same as yesterday.


Great Crested Grebes (2), Mute Swan (6 adults), Common Teal (1 drake), Shoveler (4), Tufted Duck (31), Pochard (1 drake), Moorhen (12) and Redwing (8 in Hawthorns by sharp bend).


Reed-cutting for the Bitterns in progress and new rides being created. Little of note other than 14 Great Crested Grebes and an adult Mute Swan still. No Shoveler !


What a difference a day makes ! The numbers of EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS was much depleted today with just 412 in the Hoggs End area. The highlight was 64 EURASIAN SKYLARKS in stubble just NE of Beech Hyde Farm at TQ 112 090 and 5 Fieldfares feeding on Rowans by the farm.


A pair of RING-NECKED PARAKEETS was enjoying the sunshine and taking up territory by a hole in a dead tree, 50 yards west of the Conference Centre.

The lake held 9 Mute Swans, 2 Little Grebes, 13 Tufted Ducks, 43 Coot and 17 Moorhens, whilst 123 Canada Geese were feeding in the field adjacent.

Just 1 LITTLE EGRET was east of Bois Mill, with the woodland surrounding Latimer Hall harbouring 2 Mistle Thrush, 9 Common Starlings, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 22 Redwings, 11 Goldfinch, 1 Song Thrush and a Nuthatch.

The 4 Mute Swans (2 adults and 2 first-winters) remain on Bois Mill Lake, with Chesham Fishing Lakes yielding the continuing Great Crested Grebe (the only wintering bird in the Recording Area), an adult Mute Swan, 11 Tufted Duck, just 1 drake Pochard, 34 Coot and a Song Thrush

Wednesday, 9 December 2009



Spent some time studying and counting the vast EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER flock traversing the A5183. They were concentrated in the fields SE of Punch Bowl Lane at TQ 125 095 and after several concerted 'click-counts', the total number of birds peaked at 2,734 birds. Young Luke Massey obtained these atmospheric images above. This flock was in addition to 638 birds I counted at Wilstone earlier.

These same fields held 5 different Common Buzzards (all dark morph) and 2 Common Kestrels.

A single LITTLE EGRET was in the River Ver just east of the road at TQ 124 112 (Lee G R Evans)



A much milder day than of late, with temperatures reaching 9 degrees C. It was very misty and drizzly early on but this gave way to clearer conditions, with a slight SW breeze. It remained dry until darkness fell.

After it transpired that an adult RUFF had been present on Wilstone yesterday afternoon (photographed from the hide), I endeavoured to try and relocate it, and visited early afternoon.........

(1230-1350 hours)

The water level on Wilstone had increased dramatically, totally submerging much of the mud and vegetation exposed since July. This had attracted large numbers of dabbling duck back again, especially Teal and Mallard, as well as large numbers of Lapwing.

There was no sign of yesterday's Ruff but I did find a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. The full list below....

Great Crested Grebe (12)
Little Grebe (4)
Continental Cormorant (15)
Mute Swan (just 6 adults remaining)
Greylag Geese (62)
Mallard (56)
Gadwall (18)
Shoveler (94)
Eurasian Wigeon (411)
Common Teal (368+)
Pochard (22)
GREATER SCAUP (juvenile still present)
Tufted Duck (77)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (adult drake feeding off the spit)
Common Pheasants (2 males and a female feeding out in the open)
Lapwing (374+)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (638 click-counted)
*BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (one showing well and feeding on 'new' pool to left of hide)
Common Snipe (6)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 still present in the 'cut-off pool' in the NW corner

Meadow Pipits (8 on mud)
Redwing (18)
Fieldfare (1)

GREAT NORTHERN DIVER briefly at Amwell today

How many Herts birders have got Great Northern Diver on their garden list? Well, that good fortune came my way today - of course it didn't actually land in the garden (though I do have a 2x1 metre pond should the next one come in a bit lower) - but I had a nice view of one flying over Ware from my spare room window (the room I am sitting in now typing this) this morning. I will have to admit it wasn't the result of endless hours of patient logging of visible migration over Ware - it was a case of more than just a little bit of help from my friends.

At about 11.30 Bill Last phoned me at work to say he was watching a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER on the main pit at Amwell NR - it had just that minute been found by Colin Wills. This was too good to miss and I was soon running home (it's only 300 metres from my office) to get my car and head to Amwell - GNDiver is one of only about 6 species on the Amwell list that I need - so I was pretty excited about gripping it back - also I have been stuck on an Amwell year list of 139 for over a month (this is my equal best ever year list, a total that I have achieved about 3 times before) - so it looked like I was going to pass that barrier and make my highest ever total. Just as I was reaching my car Bill phoned again with the distressing news that the bird had flown off south down the Lee Valley - disconsolately I headed back towards work - another couple of minutes passed and Bill was on the phone again - the Diver had now just flown back over the viewpoint at Amwell heading high north towards Ware. I have a pretty good view over Ware from my spare room window - so I legged it back home, up the stairs and started scanning desperately. For about a minute I couldn't see anything and then suddenly there it was heading straight towards me (it was probably over Ware high street by this time). It flew straight towards my house for some time before veering south west towards the river Lee - it then seemed to turn back towards Amwell and I was just about to go and get in the car and head there when it turned again on a westerly heading - it was clearly over Kingsmead by this point - I saw it go above the A10 flyover and finally lost it to sight heading directly towards Hertford at about 11.40.

I tried to convince myself the bird was still over Amwell when I first saw it, but sadly I have to conclude that it wasn't. I know there has been debate on this group before about what constitutes a garden tick (for the purists it must land in the garden) - but it's on my own garden list - end of story (Barry Reed)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Radwell Lake LITTLE EGRET roost numbers 22 birds

To add to the overall picture, a remarkable 22 Little Egrets arrived to roost at Radwell Lake today. The first arriving at 3.55 and the last two at 4.20. Most arrived singly, with the largest group being four. Nearly all called loudly on arriving, jostling for position low down in the trees. All but two arrived out of Bedfordshire airspace (Graham White)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Amwell at the weekend

Barry Reed did a roost count at Amwell on Sunday evening and saw 14 Little Egrets.

Also of interest was a BITTERN that was seen from the viewpoint in the morning, but it proved typically elusive (per Jan Hein)

Friday, 4 December 2009

Colour-ringed LITTLE EGRET

Barry Trevis has just colour ringed a Little Egret at Lemsford Springs that was originally ringed there in January 2003. If you do see a colour ringed Little Egret please report the sighting. There are currently 6 birds at the reserve which probably roost at Stanborough.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

There are up to 2,500 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS in one flock in Hertfordshire at the moment. The flock was in the field south of Punch Bowl Lane near St Albans.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

LITTLE EGRETS roosting at Stanborough Lakes

A quick check at Stanborough Lakes this evening revealed 9 Little Egrets roosting, so I think this site has now become an established roost in its own right. There could have been more birds present, but there is still quite a lot of foliage on the trees on the roost island. Birds are easier to see in January by when all the remaining leaves will have have dropped (Anthony Dorman)

With up to 17 at Amwell (per Barry Reed) and another 17 in recent days at Stockers (per Joan Thompson), the roosting population is currently at a minimum of 43 birds (LGRE)


At last!! - Finally connected with LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER this morning after more than 2 years of looking - A male flew across the "Scrape" into Garden Wood at Tyttenhanger GP.

Have also put in a bit of time recently looking for Marsh Tit in Coppice Wood. No luck I'm afraid. It looks as though this site has joined other sites in Herts in losing this species (Steve Blake)