Sunday, 31 January 2010


Mike Ilett obtained these brilliant images of the Amwell GLAUCOUS GULL that he found this afternoon at Amwell and which remained until dusk

Stevenage FIRECREST - map

The Stevenage FIRECREST is habitating the Nature Reserve woodland NW of Box Wood, the entrances situated along Gresley Way

FIRECREST for second day, and first Herts GLAUCOUS GULL of year


Well, the last day of January continued very much in the same vein as the entire month being another very cold day, with a sharp overnight frost followed by a clear, crisp day. I added just two new birds on this last day - Common Sandpiper and Firecrest.


(1340 hours) Just a brief check of the main birding pit revealed the presence of 18 Greylag Geese and the 3 continuing (and early returning) COMMON SHELDUCKS - a drake and two females.


(1430-1500 hours) Just inside the third gate along Gresley Way. the extensive Holly bordering the road just yards inside Pryor's Wood quickly yielded the superb male FIRECREST discovered yesterday. By gently 'pishing', I was quickly able to make contact with the bird and as it came forward to investigate, enjoyed some outstanding views of what is undoubtedly one of the most charming birds there is. It kept mainly very low in the holly foliage, as well as occasionally in the leaf litter, but also moved higher into the canopy, particularly when a mixed flock of Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits arrived. I phoned local birder Darrel Bryant who had struggled with the bird earlier in the afternoon and he rushed down to join me. Fortunately, I was able to keep with the bird and the two of us enjoyed outstanding views as it continued to flit from branch to branch, softly uttering its high-pitched 'zi-zi' notes. It was kept in view for half hour.


Thanks to a swift call from Jan Hein Steenis, and consequently Joan Thompson, I was able to react immediately to the juvenile GLAUCOUS GULL that Mike Ilett discovered as it flew in with pre-roosting gulls mid-afternoon.

Eighteen minutes later, I was at the Watchpoint - and at the site of the largest county gathering in a long time. There was a star-studded presence, with Mike and Jan alongside Barry Reed, Bill Last, Alan Stewart, Dan Forder, Alan Reynolds, Ian Bennell, Phil Ball, Graham Knight and many of the Amwell regulars - in fact, 28 persons in all.........

And the reason for this mass gathering - the juvenile GLAUCOUS GULL - showing very well, still standing on the ice when I first arrived. At 1540, it suddenly took flight and headed north pursued by a single Black-headed Gull. It gained height over the valley and then started to glide around before returning south and then decided to fly back down to the main lake. It landed again just north of the main island, this time on the water, but then returned to the ice, where it eventually sat down and remained until dusk. It was a fairly typical example of this northern species, being similar in size to the 7 Great Black-backed Gulls present, with coffee-brown spangled mantle, tertial and upperwing covert feathers, darker coffee head and breast feathering and contrasting pale creamier primary and outer flight feathers. The large, thick bill was distinctly pale pink-based, with a black 'blob-ended' tip, and the legs and feet comparatively long and dark pink.

As Barry Reed commented on site, the bird is most likely one of the four different individuals that have recently found Rainham Landfill to their liking. With the landfill closed on Sundays, this is the premier day for rare gulls to appear at Amwell, as individuals venture far and wide in search of food.

Amwell has repeatedly laid claim to being the best site for large white-headed gulls in the county, this being yet another example of Glaucous Gull I have for this site. There are few records elsewhere.

With so many eyes cast out over the reserve, it was unsurprising that the late afternoon period was so eventful. The list of sightings was as follows -:

Great Crested Grebe (8)
Continental Cormorant (32, many in full breeding attire)
*EURASIAN BITTERN (an outstanding showing, involving four different individuals - all at the reedbed fringe of the northern part of the main lake, some walking along the edge and out in the open and others climbing to the tops of the reeds before clumsily flying - and all eventually ending up in the reeds close to the boardwalk between hides.
LITTLE EGRET (4 in to roost)
Mute Swan (13 including four first-winters)
Mallard (77)
Gadwall (166)
Shovler (41)
Eurasian Wigeon (59)
Common Teal (12)
Northern Pochard (28)
Tufted Duck (84)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (17 including 5 adult drakes)
*SMEW (4 present including an adult drake - all on main lake)
Moorhen (27)
Coot (167)
Lapwing (238)
Common Snipe (1)
Black-headed Gull (200+)
Common Gull (94)
Argenteus and Argentatus Herring Gulls
Lesser Black-backed Gull (32)
Great Black-backed Gull (just 7)

CETTI'S WARBLER (1-2 by Watchpoint)
Reed Buntings (8)

Saturday, 30 January 2010

GOOSANDERS in Lee Valley

A group of 12 GOOSANDER is in the Hertfordshire section of the Lee Valley at TL 370 042, but the easiest way to find it is on the site map on the Herts Bird Club website:

Park at the car park off Cheshunt Wash by the church, walk east over the railway then take the path north immediately after the bridge - the pit is much easier to view from the west side (per David Booth)

Friday, 29 January 2010

PINTAILS briefly at King's Meads

Two females and a superb drake NORTHERN PINTAIL flew into the East pool at King's Meads at 8:30am. Unfortunately I could not relocate them at 9:45 am and I suspect they had been spooked by a dog walker. Also, the Common Redshank is still on Stockade Mead (Simon Knott)

Monday, 25 January 2010

PEREGRINE at Tyttenhanger

This afternoon:

Little Owl at pumping station
Peregrine again on pylon to right of hide (present 1:45 to 2:00, when I went for a walk around Garden Wood, but it had gone when I returned 15 minutes later)
Female Brambling in Tree Sparrow hedge (but no Tree Sparrows, or Yellowhammer s)
Pair Bullfinches in Garden Wood

David Booth

MERLIN still in Sandon area

Went with my son Stuart Sunday afternoon for a look around the Baldock area. At Deadmans Hill, all we could manage was 1 Kestrel, 1 Yellowhammer, 1 Grey Partridge and 3 Buzzard. We then moved on to the Quail watchpoint along the Baldock-Wallington road and we able to add Corn Bunting, 4 Linnets and at least 4 more Buzzards. But the bird of the afternoon award must go to the immature of female MERLIN which sat preening for about 20 minutes on top of a flat-topped hedge to the east (Alan Reynolds)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Today's summary

BITTERNS remain at 70 Acres Lake (4) and Amwell NR (2), with a pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE seen at King's Meads and Amwell and a female SMEW at the North Met Pit. The female PEREGRINE was again in Hemel Town Centre.

A further BITTERN remains at Rye Meads RSPB, a FIRECREST was seen by the canal at Amwell and GOOSANDERS were noted on Stockers (2), Hampermill Lake and on Wilstone. The regular adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL also roosted on Wilstone.

A saturation of WATER RAILS!

WATER RAILS by Martin Parr


A dry day, but overcast and still rather cold - temperatures in the afternoon struggling to a high of 7 degrees centigrade. Light winds.

A relatively local day, with a morning search for the Chess Valley GWE, a visit to Forest Hill for the Rosy Pastor and a failed attempt at the regular Merlin. Water Rail was the bird of the day, with no less than 8 seen.


At Latimer Bridge, LITTLE EGRETS tallied 4 (with 8 in the valley all told - per Ben Miller, Mike Ilett), with 11 Mute Swans including an adult and two first-winters just west of Latimer Bridge, an adult and first-winter and two adults in the Church Covert area and four adults east of Chenies Bottom Bridge. My visit at the latter site coincided with a shoot, with most birds flying out, but Grey Wagtail and 2 Greenfinch were encountered.

At Sarratt Mill House, 9 Moorhens were on the lawn, with Stock Dove and Nuthatch within the grounds, with 1+ RING-NECKED PARAKEET in the area.

A WATER RAIL was seen in the shallow stream just east of the bridge - my first of the day.


Joan Thompson and I decided to have a search for the Jack and Common Snipe that Paul Lewis and Steve Carter had flushed at Scotsbridge a week ago. We did not find the Jack Snipes but did find an exceptional number of wintering WATER RAILS - 8 in total - all frequenting shallow chalk-based streams with adequate reed cover. This is the largest number of birds that I have recorded at a single locality and in a very small surface area for a very long time.

Two LITTLE EGRETS were also seen - one adult with aigrettes particularly confiding - along with single Grey Heron, 1 female Common Teal, 3 COMMON SNIPE, female Grey Wagtail, Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Two LITTLE OWLS were calling - one either side of the playing fields - with a male Song Thrush, Chaffinch, European Robin and Wren in full song.

A flock of 62 Lapwings flew north.


I decided to try once more for the Merlin being frequently seen hunting the bonanza of small birds feeding in the winter stubble just south of Stotfold village. Although it was seen mid-afternoon just briefly, Martin Palmer, Darren Thomas and I failed to locate it between 1500 and 1700 hours.

The CORN BUNTING mass were still present (my best count today was 688 when all roosting in the Poplar trees), along with 29 Yellowhammers and 17 Chaffinch, whilst a pack of 32 Common Magpies were feeding together in the field just north of the A 507.

Friday, 22 January 2010


The Hemel Hempstead Peregrine flew in again at exactly 16.40 this afternoon. It landed in the same place on the Telecom building and proceeded to pluck its prey. By 16.55 it was too dark to see much (Roger Prue)

Thursday, 21 January 2010



A reasonable day by recent standards with some long spells of sunshine and clear spells

The Chess Valley GREAT WHITE EGRET reappeared today in the Hertfordshire section of the river and was standing in deep water not far from the Water Vole watchpoint. Interestingly, the bird has a small metal ring on its left leg but no colour rings. It also has very dark (black) legs with just a slight amount of paleness to the tibia but is very skittish, so most likely just a winter-plumaged European bird rather than a Nearctic visitor. This is the same individual that spent three weeks in the Recording Area just before Christmas, which frequented the Chess and Misbourne Valleys from 27 November to 18 December and was also seen in Berkshire.

The three LITTLE EGRETS were still present, along with the resident pair of COMMON RAVENS (the male in full display), whilst the wintering GREEN SANDPIPER and 20 SISKINS were again just east of Chesham Fishing Pits (per Chris Pontin)

The valley also saw a severe car accident at the Stoney Lane junction (the 18th accident on these crossroads since 18 December) with two vehicles colliding, the van rolling over on to its roof. Paramedics were attending one seriously injured driver, with four road traffic cars attending.

BITTERNS showing well at Amwell this evening

Just back from Amwell. Saw 2 BITTERNS simultaneously - both showing in separate reed cuts opposite the view point. As I observed one bird in the closest ride to the new hide and continue towards the hide, I decided to go and check it out.

Firstly there was a Water Rail out in the open and then I located the BITTERN hidden right in the reeds. It finally moved across in front where I watched it catch at least 5 fish (some quite large). This area it is obviously a popular fishing spot and a potential roost-site through the reeds I could see were all pushed down and the bird continued fishing until almost pitch dark (Luke Massey)

Nearby, the male RUFF was still present at King's Meads

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Gigantic CORN BUNTING gathering just over border in Bedfordshire


A band of heavy rain moved through the region throughout the morning bringing some localised flooding. Temperatures dropped for a while too (to 3 degrees C) before picking up during the afternoon. A cold SE wind was blowing.

Spurned on by Richard Bashford and Francis Tusa, I checked out the Stotfold bunting feast today and was overwhelmed by the sheer number of birds - a truly wonderful experience. Also checked out the Little Egret roosts at dusk, and caught up with a few missing Bedfordshire Year-ticks.


Still no sign of December's Common Stonechats, but 3 LITTLE EGRETS again (including two feeding in the Chess just east of the bridge), a Grey Heron and 2 Little Grebes.


Following a report of a Dipper seen on 1 and 17 January, I went over and checked the Bulbourne in both directions either side of the inn. A Green Sandpiper was the only bird noted, although the habitat is perfect for a vagrant Black-bellied Dipper.


Two RED KITES circling together at 1133 hours over Junction 8 of the M1 just east of Hemel at TL 097 076.


Well, what a spectacular. I arrived on site shortly after midday and after following the footpath to just beyond the Poplar plantation, came upon the three stubble fields harbouring an impressive number of wintering farmland species. A guy was walking four dogs in the fields and was scattering birds everywhere. Consequently, the 'clicking' mass of CORN BUNTINGS erupted, moving from the east field to the west and landing in the shorter stubble just short of the houses. Now, I had a chance to click-count them, and carefully panning the 'scope from left to right, amassed an enormous total of 738 birds (five counts in total, registering 611, 696, 738, 722 and 704 whilst in the stubble). Later, the flocks dispersed into two main groups, and on one occasion all flew up into the tall Poplars - this resulted in even higher counts, with the peak reaching 859 birds - a flock of Spanish steppe proportions and truly awesome. This is the largest single flock of Corn Buntings I have ever recorded in Britain and a truly significant find. Corn Buntings have become seriously depleted in numbers in recent years so a flock of this proportion is truly outstanding. The birds were quite wide-ranging during my stay, smaller parties branching off and flying south across the A 507.

In addition to the Corn Buntings, there were also 220 EURASIAN SKYLARKS, 38 Chaffinch, 25 Reed Buntings, 50 Yellowhammers and several Linnets, as well as 34 Stock Doves (in one feeding flock), 87 Common Starlings, 106 Redwings and a few Fieldfares. Two Common Kestrels were in the vicinity but I did not see the Merlin (despite returning towards dusk).


See map opposite. Leave the A1 at the A 507 Shefford turning and continue west on the new bypass to beyond the second roundabout parking in the layby on the south side, often utilised by a 'bus' cafe. Walk back east towards the A1 and after 150 yards, walk north past the 6-bar metal gate and take the track off to the right. Continue 120 yards through the small plantation and this brings you out into the large stubble fields, where the central footpath provides you with ample opportunities for viewing. The fields are just SW of Stotfold village.


A late afternoon visit at 1613 hours revealed the presence of 1 adult Mute Swan and 12 LITTLE EGRETS standing on the east wooded shore pre-roost.


At dusk/dark at 1647 hours, a total of 8 LITTLE EGRETS was roosting on the south island, along with 4 Grey Herons (including a pair busily repairing a nest). The lake also held 8 adult Mute Swans

Hemel PEREGRINE again

The adult female PEREGRINE, photographed above by Martin Parr, was again present in the centre of Hemel today, roosting in the same spot (per Dan Forder)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Large numbers of COMMON GULLS

Has anyone else noticed particularly large numbers of Common Gulls in thelast few days? I saw quite a few dotted around whilst driving round thecounty on Sunday, and there was a flock of at least 500 this lunchtime infields between Freedom Farm and Blackfields Farm, to the south of Hertford (Graham Knight)

More PEREGRINES today in Herts

In addition to today's Hemel Hempstead adult, PEREGRINES were also seen at Tyttenhanger and at Rye Meads (2).

Other sightings today included the Bittern again at Amwell, and 6 Goosander and the SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF and 9 Common Chiffchaffs still on the River Colne at Troy Mill / Broadwater Sailing Club.


I was busy picking up a few bits in Tesco when I received a call from Jim Rudland to say that there were 3 DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE at Amwell.

I rushed home to drop off the shopping (yes even birders have to do shopping), pick up my binoculars and head off to to Amwell.

The 3 birds were still there but after about 20 minutes took off and looked as if they were about to depart. But, after a couple of laps of the pit, they landed again and settled down. Whether they will still be there in the morning is anyone's guess. (Alan Reynolds)

A 'new' wintering urban PEREGRINE


Temperatures took a slide again and dropped by a couple of degrees (to 7 degrees C). It was also very misty again, although a cold and freshening SE wind started to set in. It remained dry. Once again, I spent my day birding locally, with just a few highlights, primarily three JACK SNIPE and a very showy 'urban' PEREGRINE.


There was no sign of the Ruff and two Common Redshanks that Roy Hargreaves had seen standing on the ice from the Drayton Bank Hide about an hour earlier - the only waders on view being 45 Lapwing.

There was a major increase in waterfowl on the reservoir since my last visit, with much of the ice now restricted to the west shoreline in the NW corner. Counts included 13 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Little Grebe, an increase to 9 Mute Swans (including 2 first-winters which flew north and an adult and first-winter which flew in), 40 Greylag Geese, 615 Eurasian Wigeon (my highest count of the winter), 10 Gadwall, just 9 Shoveler, 302 Common Teal, 67 Tufted Ducks, 18 Northern Pochard and 5 COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 adult drakes and three females).

A single juvenile Argenteus HERRING GULL and adult Lesser Black-backed Gull were among 211 Black-headed Gulls roosting on the ice.

Nearby, 382 Woodpigeons was in the crop field opposite the Cemetery.


Shooting was in progress scattering the 70 Atlantic Canada Geese and 48 Mallard present on the lakes and the 4 Common Teal on one of the field pools. A single COMMON SNIPE and 3 JACK SNIPE provided excellent views as they flew up, whilst passerines were represented by Green Woodpecker, 5 Fieldfares and a pair of Bullfinch. A superb male Eurasian Sparrowhawk was sat nearby in a tree.

On the A41 floodmeadows just as you leave the Aston Clinton roundabout held a pair of Mute Swans.


Very quiet with 5 Grey Heron, 2 adult Mute Swans, 8 Common Teal, 2 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler and 15 Tufted Duck counted, and 17 Greylag Geese feeding in the field opposite the sewage farm.


Just 3 Mute Swans, 6 Common Teal, 6 Gadwall and 26 Pochard of interest


The main marsh was still largely frozen and fairly birdless, whilst the lake held 1 Little Grebe, the 3 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Common Teal, 38 Gadwall, the female Red-crested Pochard of suspect origin and 166 Coot (sharp decrease in numbers). A party of 28 Lapwings was present on the island.


Still largely iced over with 4 Common Teal feeding and a flock of ice-roosting gulls consisting of 194 Black-headed, 8 Common and a single adult Lesser Black-backed.


Despite a lengthy vigil, the resident pair of Common Raven failed to put in an appearance, and all that was noted was a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Bullfinch.


Another fruitless search. A male Common Stonechat - the only individual currently surviving in the area - has been present since just before Christmas but I could not find it today.


Following a call from local birder Dan Forder, I drove down to Hemel town centre, where he had discovered an adult PEREGRINE roosting on a building. I got there at about 1530 hours and the bird was still there and showing very well, roosting on the lower roof of the building to the SE of the town centre roundabout at TL 055 063. It was clear from the visible droppings that this was a regular roost site for this beautiful bird and yet another example of the urban preferences this species has now acquired. The bird was very easy to see with the naked eye and many shoppers took an interest as I looked up at it. Dan was able to obtain an excellent selection of images, which I have reproduced above.

Lee G R Evans

King's Meads RUFF still present

The aythya hybrid again roosted at the West pool with 19 Pochard and departed east at 9:15am with 15 Pochard. The Lesser Scaup mimic seems likely to be the same bird that has frequented Amwell in recent winters.

The RUFF and COMMON REDSHANK were again feeding on Stockade Mead. The Ruff commutes with the Lapwing flock to their new roost on the New River bank beside the East pool and shows an injured leg in flight confirming Lee's observation of a limp of yesterday.

Also Little Egret flying west at 8:10am, Kingfisher, 6 Siskin on Little Mead and 4 Common Stonechat (Simon Knott)

Monday, 18 January 2010

More snippets

This lunchtime:1 redhead SMEW on Bowyers Water, plus 1 Little Egret,

Yesterday (17/1) - North Herts: Baldock - Bygrave rd - 180 Linnet, 250+ Skylark, 2 Corn Bunting (feeding in sheep field); Deadmans Hill - 4 Grey Partridge, 50 fieldfare; Therfield / Icknield Way - 8 Grey partridge, 55 Yellowhammer and Radwell Lake (4 - 5pm) - 14 Little Egret (came into roost) (Mike Ilett)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

BITTERNS showing well at 70 Acres Lake

Visited Fishers Green for the BITTERNS today and was rewarded with at least 3 birds out in the sunshine between 10.30am - 12.00, and quite close views, then went back to Lemsford Springs NR where 3 Little Egrets, 2 Green sandpipers, 2 Water Rail,all noted but no sign of any snipe 12.45pm - 3.30pm (Paul Hackett)

SMEWS increase to 5 at Amwell, and RUFF still present

An unexpectedly high count of 5 SMEW at Amwell today (4 redheads), also 2 Red-crested Pochard and 3 Lesser Redpoll. (per Graeme J. Smith)

Nearby, the adult male RUFF was still present at King's Mead

Saturday, 16 January 2010

BITTERNS at Amwell

A late afternoon visit produced 2 BITTERNS by the reed bed opposite the viewpoint, with one flying into roost in front of the James Hide at 1615 hours. Also 3 Water Rails along the same strip, one feeding on sprats put out for the Bitterns (cold weather allowance). Could only find 2 SMEW, a male and a female. Also a large gull roost but nothing unusual (Alan Reynolds)

Dead KITTIWAKE at Tyttenhanger

This first-winter KITTIWAKE was found and photographed at Tyttenhanger GP this morning by Steve Blake and Ricky Flesher; both observers also recorded a pair of COMMON SHELDUCK - the first to be recorded in the county this year.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Continental Cormorants murder Little Grebe

At Amwell Nature Reserve this afternoon a BITTERN walked across the Little Bunting ride below the watchpoint, 5 SMEW (male and 3 females on Hardmead Lake and a female on Hollycross Lake) and 3 female Red-crested Pochard on Hollycross Lake.

But all of this pales into insignificance compared with what I witnessed on the other side of Hardmead Lake. About 10 Cormorants seemed to be hunting as a pack when one surfaced with...........a Little Grebe. The grebe was lifeless, perhaps by being held under the water for some time and the Cormorant was trying to work out which way to turn it round to swallow it. I didn't see it go down but judging by the size of the bulge in the Cormorant's neck it wouldn't be taking off for some time (Alan Reynolds)

Ruff still present

This morning at Kings Meads: RUFF still at Chadwell Spring and adjacent wet verge of the East pool (7:50am-8:30am) but then elusive. Common Kingfisher back on its favourite perch at the footbridge next to Chadwell Spring following the thaw. Water Rail calling in Broadmead and both pairs of Common Stonechat have so far survived (Simon Knott)

Thursday, 14 January 2010


There is a large flock of farmland birds at TQ 025 925 which can be accessed from the footpath of Chalfont Lane. The reason being there is more exposed soil due to the M25 widening as there are various spoil heaps in the field. Impressively there is a flock of at least 90 YELLOWHAMMERS - the largest flock I can personally recall seeing locally. I also had a single BRAMBLING here amongst a flock of Chaffinch and Linnet . 150 Wood Pigeon and 70 Jackdaw flew over as I arrived at the start of the footpath. A few Skylark were noted as well.

Meanwhile, on the county border of the River Colne, the SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF is still present just north of Broadwater Sailing Club (per Joan Thompson)

Elsewhere, 2 JACK SNIPE remain at East Hyde, and 3 SMEW at Stockers Lake and up to 5 at Amwell NR. Two BITTERNS remain at the latter site also.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

RUFF still at King's Mead

This morning at Kings Meads: adult male RUFF at its favourite spot on the bank of Chadwell Spring; 37 Snipe including 27 day-feeding through the snow on Stockade Mead; Water Rail on Broad Mead feeding in the open in the great willowherb.

Also 8 siskin in mixed siskin/goldfinch flock on north side of River Lee next to Glaxo. The grey wagtail is again feeding today at my front door in Hertford. (Simon Knott)

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

'Bouncers' still present

There are still two JACK SNIPE to the left of the main hide at Lemsford Springs today along with a Green Sandpiper and a Little Egret.

A further JACK SNIPE is also still present at East Hyde but elusive.

GOOSANDER at Tyttenhanger

Drake GOOSANDER on Fishing lake, adjacent to the Willows farm (Steve Blake)

Monday, 11 January 2010

GOOSANDERS galore and a gathering of 'Chiffchaffs'


Temperatures climbed to 2 degrees C today, inducing a very slight thaw. Ice remains instilled on most bodies of water though and birds are still struggling.

(1030-1230 hours)

Spurned on by Andrew Moon's superb photographs from yesterday, I spent most of the day at Broadwater GP, and completed a full circuit of the Herts & Middlesex Reserve. The site was very slippery though and on my third fall, I ended up snapping my 'scope and tripod head off.

Along the River Colne, bordering the northern perimeter fence of Broadwater Sailing Club (at TQ 042 903), and on the Middlesex/Herts border, a total of 10 'chiffchaffs' was feeding from the Willows and overhanging scrub along a 75 yard stretch of river. They consisted of a single SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF (tristis), a single SCANDINAVIAN CHIFFCHAFF (abietinus), two abietinus intergrades, including a tail-less bird and 6 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS (colybita), including a very bright individual with pale legs (in fact, almost identical to a bird Marek Walford photographed in Berkshire recently).

The SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF was favouring the vegetation in the river directly north of the four green metal containers within the Yacht Club compound and is a very striking bird, easily recognisable (see Andrew Moon's brilliant selection of images above). It was typically very pale, and in the grey cloud of today, rather pale milky-brown on the upperparts contrasting with gleaming white underparts. The supercilium has a hint of buffish colouration to it but no yellow or green tones, particularly around the face. The fine bill is very black (very slightly reddish-brown at the base) and the legs are very black. After a great deal of effort, it was finally heard to utter the solemn, plaintive and somewhat piping call-note, characteristic of this species.

Three GOOSANDERS (1 drake) were on the Grand Union Canal adjacent, north of the bridge, with a further 11 of these beautiful sawbills (7 drakes) fishing on the Colne on the west side of Broadwater Pit.

The Colne also held several fishing Sinensis Cormorants, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Little Grebes, 25 Mallard, 14 Gadwall and 4 Common Teal, with Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Grey Wagtails and 6 Ring-necked Parakeets along its length.

Broadwater Pit itself had just two main ice-free areas, with large numbers of wildfowl crammed into them -:

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swan (7)
Gadwall (29)
Eurasian Wigeon (just 6)
Shoveler (18)
Tufted Duck (333)
Pochard (46)
Common Goldeneye (16)
Coot (617)

Two Lapwing were standing on the ice, a RED KITE flew SW towards Denham and a single LESSER REDPOLL was a nice surprise feeding on the Alders along the main sailing club access track.


A repeat visit from yesterday. Bury Lake today held 16 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (8 drakes) (two up from yesterday) and the 3 continuing SMEW (two adult drakes), with a pair of GOOSANDER on Stockers and the flock of 30 SISKIN showing well in the tall Alders at the farm end of the causeway (a single male Siskin was also seen at the west end).


The area around the feeding station held a small number of birds, including 8 Yellowhammers, 2 Reed Buntings,8 Chaffinches and just ONE TREE SPARROW (123). Two Red-legged Partridges were my first of the year (124) and 12 Common Pheasants were feeding with the Sheep along the Jewsons access road.

.....and first COMMON SHELDUCK

Amwell this lunchtime: 5 Smew (1 male /4 redheads) 1 Common Shelduck. 2 BITTERNS, 2 Red-crested Pochards and Green Sandpiper (Mike Ilett/David Booth)

First RUFF for the year

A male RUFF was present with Common Snipe at King's Meads, Hertford, today (per Alan Reynolds) - the first to be recorded in Hertfordshire this year

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Apparent SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF in the Colne Valley

Straddling the county border in the Willows overhanging the River Colne halfway along Broadwater GP is this SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF, found and photographed by Andrew Moon today - a superb record

SMEW at Stockers


Much lying snow still around, with many side roads still in an atrocious condition and quite challenging. The threat of heavy snow never materialised and in fact temperatures climbed to 2 degrees for much of the day, heralding a slight thaw. The easterly wind moderated during the day.

It was a tour of many local water bodies today, with the highlight being a total of 60 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS seen.


Really, just two patches of ice-free water, with one on Bury Lake and another on Stockers Lake out from the Kingfisher Hide. Bury Lake surprisingly held all of the 'goodies' including 3 beautiful SMEW (2 adult drakes and an adult female) and a flock of 14 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (7 pairs).

Bury Lake also held 3 Great Crested Grebe, 36 Mute Swans (4 first-winters), 35 Gadwall, 46 Tufted Duck, 42 Northern Pochard and 6 Common Goldeneye.

Stockers Lake held 4 Great Crested Grebes, 17 Mute Swans, 8 Eurasian Wigeon, 132 Northern Shoveler, 190 Tufted Duck, 18 Pochard and a single RUDDY DUCK - the latter my first of the year (114). Coot numbers totalled 403.

A COMMON KINGFISHER was fishing in the river, with 15 House Sparrows in and around Stockers Farm, with the wooded areas supporting 2 Ring-necked Parakeets, Jay, Common Kestrel, Common Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Long-tailed Tit.

A flock of about 30 SISKINS in the Alders at the beginning of the causeway eluded me.

Amwell in the snow

A visit to Amwell this morning produced two BITTERNS standing on the ice by the reed bed left of the White Hide viewed from the watchpoint. They stood motionless either side of one of the bays and looked like book-ends. They then walked, one about 3 foot behind the other, along the side of the reed bed and disappeared into the next bay. Also 4 Smew, 1 male and 3 females, on Great Hardmead Lake, 2 female Red-crested Pochard on Hollycross Lake, and 40 Siskin and 4 Lesser Redpoll in the Alders by the railway (Alan Reynolds)

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Deep Freeze movements - BEWICK'S SWANS highlight

A party of 7 BEWICK'S SWANS flew north over Garston, Watford, at 1100 hours (Brendan Glynne) and were then relocated less than an hour later at Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, when they flew NE. They then followed the line of the Grand Union Canal near Cheddington and finally landed on a small ice-free area at Grovebury Quarry, where they remained until at least 1615 hours.

Elsewhere, 4 SMEW were at Amwell NR (from viewpoint; just 1 drake), with another at Stocker's Lake, with JACK SNIPE including 4-5 at East Hyde and 2 at Lemsford Springs.

........And more JACK SNIPES

The following birds were seen this morning from the main hide at LEMSFORD SPRINGS;

2 JACK SNIPE -showing extremely well for over an hour and present for at least their second day
7 Common Snipe
1 Water Rail
1 Little Egret
2 Grey Wagtail

Darrel Bryant

Thursday, 7 January 2010

JACK SNIPES at East Hyde

The continuing snowy conditions have seen the presence of up to 4 JACK SNIPE on the county boundary at East Hyde. Mike Ilett obtained these photographs today.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Today's Highlights

A host of good winter records today, as there have been in the last few days.

Amwell: 2 Bitterns and 1 female Smew
Stockers Lake: 1 Smew, 4 Red-crested Pochard and 16 Goldeneye
Scotsbridge Mill: 4 Water Rail and 3 Little Egret

Sunday, 3 January 2010

MERLIN again at Sandon

Went back to the Wallington viewpoint again today for a second bite at the cherry and was rewarded with excellent views of a female MERLIN perched on a small dead tree / bush for 30 minutes before flying off low over the field and then hunting along the hedge adjacent to the Sandon road (Ray Hooper)

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Three JACK SNIPES at East Hyde

I spent a fantastic half-hour at East Hyde from 3.45 today, where along with a couple of other birders, I had very close and prolonged views of 3 JACK SNIPE. One of these showed in the open down to about 10m from the road bridge, very obliging! ll 3 birds were on the small stream that runs parallel to the main river channel, and which I believe to be just in Herts (though just a few metres from the Beds border).

Also on the same stream were 3 Green Sandpipers, 1 Water Rail and a single Teal; while on the main river were 6 Gadwall (Jason Chapman)

..And even more news from Stocker's

This afternoon around Stockers

3 SMEW present (2 drakes)
Just 7 Red-crested Pochards on view (3 drakes)

A Little Egret roost watch produced an interesting movement as 12 birds overflew Stockers heading for Springwell whilst 10 more dropped in to the roost. Also seen whilst watching for Little Egrets 1 Water Rail and a Woodcock flying in the direction of the canal and a hooting Tawny Owl was heard. There were two Little Owls enjoying the sunshine at Stockers Farm and 1 at Moor Park (Joan Thompson)

Two drake SMEW back at Stocker's

Blue skies and sunshine for cold walk around Stockers. Many birds including:

SMEW - 2 adult drakes
Red Crested Pochard - 14
Ruddy Duck - 2
Common Goldeneye
Water Rail
Siskin - small flock of 5 feeding, seen on path alongside Stockers Lake and River Colne.

Friday, 1 January 2010

New Years Day: SMEW highlight

Therfield / Icknield way this morning - 30 Grey Partridge, 40+ Yellowhammer, and amazingly a Common Snipe flushed from the edge of the field.

Amwell - 2 SMEW (male & redhead), 2 Red crested Pochard, and a drake "Lesser Scaup" type hybrid - also 1 BITTERN had been showing just before i arrived (Mike Ilett)