Saturday, 27 February 2010


A ringtail HEN HARRIER - the first of the year - was seen flying over fields at Lilley Bottom today (John Whitehead), whilst a few OYSTERCATCHERS have now returned and several pairs of Common Shelduck.

The Green Sandpiper was again at Lynsters Farm Pool (Andrew Moon) and 3 Common Stonechats remain at King's Meads (Simon Knott). A Barn Owl was at Tea Green (Darin Stanley)

Brief summary

Three JACK SNIPE were showing at Tewinbury Reserve this afternoon, along with just one other at East Hyde. The FIRECREST was also still present at the latter site, in the usual ivy-covered hedgerow (Lee Evans).

Elsewhere, the FIRECREST is still in Box Wood, Stevenage, and 2 SMEW and 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS at Amwell.

Martin Parr recorded LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER at Danemead NR yesterday.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Marsh Tit finally nailed, whilst HAWFINCHES continue to perform - LGRE Diary Notes for today


A strong wind set in and consequently temperatures struggled to get higher than 7 degrees C. It did remain dry all day, and skies often cleared, but overall it was rather chilly.

My target today was MARSH TIT and on my second attempt, finally located two birds........

(1145-1245 hours)

Following up Alan Reynold's information of last week, scoured Danemead Reserve again for Marsh Tit but failed again. Not one was seen or heard in any of the suitable woodland where I have seen them previously.

A couple of Common Treecreepers and 1 Nuthatch were seen whilst searching, and both Great and Blue Tit.

On the perimeter of the reserve, along the muddy bridleway down from the Martin's Green car park (at TL 347 080), two male HAWFINCHES were again present, calling (ticking) frequently but very difficult to see in the low vegetation. They were favouring the east side of the track today and were again keeping to the forest floor. One of the male Hawfinches was the ringed bird.

(with Bill Last)

Again, taking AR's advice, I staked out Amwell as my next port of call, and in a very short period of time indeed, 'pished' out and located 2 MARSH TITS on the west side of the canal around the picnic tables. These birds have apparently been commuting between the feeders by the two-storey hide and this plantation. Five SISKIN were also in the trees.

Just two SMEW were on the main reserve lake (male and female), along with a few Common Goldeneyes.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

King's Meads today

Today at Kings Meads: drake Common Shelduck briefly on West pool flew off towards Amwell at 7:50am

Little Egret and Common Kingfisher on Hollow Mead
Male Yellowhammer on Tansy Mead (first record for at least a decade)
4 Siskin
2 Treecreeper in Queen's Spinney

Simon Knott

Hemel PEREGRINE still roosting

For anyone who wants to see the PEREGRINE FALCON in Hemel Hempstead who hasn't already, it was sat at it's roost this morning very obviously & easy to see even just from the car if you drive past (as my Dad did at about half ten, from the roundabout). It isn't normally on show in full daylight so today is a good opportunity to see if you have the chance.

Just incase anyone needs reminding, it usually sits on the top of the furthest right of the four beige 'columns', on the North face of the old BT centre East of the 'Magic Roundabout / Plough Roundabout' in the corner between St. Albans Road & Lawn Lane (opposite the huge old Kodak headquarters, now 'Image' apartments being rebuilt). TL 055 700 (Dan Forder).

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

HAWFINCH still present

A single male HAWFINCH was still showing today at Danemead NR, Broxbourne (Mike Ilett)

Flushing LONG-EARED OWLS unnecessarily

A response I had to write to Herts Birds email group, after individuals were requesting the whereabouts of roosting Long-eared Owls. It was not published, frustratingly....

The owls were easily to be seen by those that had any consideration for the birds. On sunny days, they roosted high in the ivy and could be easily scoped from above. I told 7 birders about them in early January, people I believed I could trust with the news. That was not to be, sadly. I know that Darin Stanley followed my directions to the inch and he saw them without disturbing them, and so did the odd other.

On my last two visits to the site, I have caught birders purposefully flushing them out of their favoured tree and when I have cajolled them about it, they were not fussed in the slightest. I hate this new cavalier attitude towards birding where no-one gives two hoots for the welfare of the bird.

From now on, I shall not be divulging the presence of any Long-eared Owl roosts, as birders cannot be trusted. These are very rare birds and very susceptible to disturbance. These are local birds which bred last year in the county and require all the protection they can get. There are no end of great photographs of Long-eared Owls on the net so there is no excuse for anymore.

Along with Long-eared Owl, there are a number of local breeding birds that come under this category and specific information cannot be published on how to find them - Ruddy Duck, Hobby, Honey Buzzard, Northern Goshawk and Woodlark - all are highly susceptible. Others, such as Black-necked Grebe, are apparently protected 24/7 by CCTV, so are perhaps the only exception. However, the county powers-that-be, have constantly fallen out with me because they do not want birders to know about these either, for the very reasons I outline above. After witnessing the activities at the two owl roosts, they may well be right (Lee Evans)

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Up to 4 JACK SNIPES are still appearing at dusk at East Hyde, this individual brilliantly captured on film by Andrew Riche.

Monday, 22 February 2010


I had to drive from Welwyn to Hitchin last night, and was surprised and pleased to see a Barn Owl by the B656 between Codicote and Hitchin, just north of Langley. And even more surprised to see another on the way back, near Burnham Green (David Booth).

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Tewinbury Nature Reserve - access details

Tewinbury has been a HMWT reserve for many years. There is no access to the reserve itself but the new double storey hide affords superb views across the lagoon, channels and reed beds. A couple of years ago I videoed Water Voles from the old hide at a range of about 8-10 feet.The site lies in the Mimram valley, and contains a variety of habitats including wet meadow, tall fen / swamp, alder carr, willow scrub, willow pollards and chalk stream. The tall fen/ swamp occurs around a lagoon (overlooked by the hide) and along adjacent channels, and has a mixture of common reed, reed sweet-grass and common reed-mace. Willow scrub has been slowly invading the lagoon, but has been kept under control by Trusts staff and volunteers.

During 2006 and 2007 considerable work has been undertaken to make the swamp much wetter by removing silt build up and raising water levels. This work, combined with the removal or pollarding of willows, encourages recolonisation by common reed.

Wetland plants associated with the swamp include hemp agrimony, common comfrey, reed canary grass, water figwort, brooklime, water forget-me-not, marsh marigold, hairy willowherb, lesser celandine, yellow flag, purple loostrife, ragged robin and wild angelica. The surrounding banks support great horsetail, butterbur and town hall clock. There remain remnant tussocks of greater tussock sedge, a species now uncommon in Herts.

The swamp area is important for both wintering and breeding birds. In winter, reed buntings, yellowhammer and pied wagtail form night-time roosts in the swamp and carr. Breeding species include reed bunting, reed warbler, sedge warbler and occasionally grasshopper warbler. Mallard, coot, and moorhen also breed. Other species of note include kingfisher, water rail, snipe and woodcock. The site is also a passage stop-over for migrating warblers and other wetland birds.

The wet meadows vary in composition with the soils. Species here include meadowsweet, cuckooflower, greater birds-foot-trefoil, marsh horsetail, marsh thistle, skullcap and monkey flower. Marsh pennywort and southern marsh orchid, both uncommon in Herts, can be found. The alder carr woodlands around the meadows have notable species opposite-leaved golden saxifrage and remote sedge. Flocks of siskins and redpolls feed in the woodland during winter.

The River Mimram is a valuable chalk stream with a rich aquatic flora and fauna. River water-crowfoot, water starworts, water cress and lesser and greater pond sedge. Many different aquatic invertebrates have been recorded. Brown trout, water vole and otter can all be found within the stream. Other species recorded include 3 shrew species, harvest mice and 5 species of bat.The hide is situated at TL265139 along the entrance track to Tewinbury Farm Hotel. You are allowed to park in any of the designated car park areas. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE PARK ALONG THE ENTRANCE TRACK. (Alan Reynolds)

Tewinbury Nature Reserve

The new double storey hide at the Herts and Middx Wildlife Trust Tewinbury Nature Reserve is now open and has already proven its value. There is currently a JACK SNIPE showing well along the left hand channel viewable from the upper storey of the hide, but not visible from the lower storey.The hide is situated along the entrance track to Tewinbury Farm Hotel. You are allowed to park in any of the designated car park areas. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE PARK ALONG THE ENTRANCE TRACK (Alan Reynolds).

Saturday, 20 February 2010

More snippets

The 17 Red-crested Pochards remain at Bury Lake, Stocker's, with the 3 SMEW still on the main lake there (per Geoff Lapworth), whilst 23 Mandarin Ducks was a good count for Aldenham Country Park (per JT)

OYSTERCATCHER at Amwell - first of 2010

Joan Thompson recorded the first OYSTERCATCHER of the year in Herts this evening, Amwell NR also yielding 3 continuing BITTERNS, 3 SMEW and at least one female Red-crested Pochard.

One male HAWFINCH is ringed !

On one of the images above when enlarged, you can see a ring on the right leg of this Broxbourne male HAWFINCH, which was already noted by Joan Thompson in the field.
We watched this individual for a second time just before 2:30 (when it flew off, I assume to roost) with three other observers.
There was also a male Brimstone at Danemead: spring is here! (Jan Hein Steenis)

BARN OWL performing at Tring Sewage Farm


No change in the general weather, with continuing cold temperatures (4.5 degrees C). It was a clear bright day, with long periods of uninterrupted blue sky, but as darkness loomed, heavy snow started to affect the Chilterns, and by the time I got home in Little Chalfont, had settled considerably.

Although the day was spent relatively local, some main target species were once again missed, in particular the three long-staying Twites in Cambs, and Lesser Redpoll.


Taking up Steve Blake's very helpful advice, I tried again to locate Lesser Redpoll. Steve had seen four birds in the week, feeding with Siskins along the River Colne between the two bridges. Afternoons are not the best times to look for such species, particularly when there are dogwalkers everywhere, and it came as no surprise that I failed to locate the flock anywhere in the Alders.

What I did see were Great Spotted Woodpecker, Moorhen, 13 Goldfinch, 12 Fieldfare, 5 Redwing and 2 Song Thrushes. I shall have to return another day.


Arrived rather late and only really concentrated on the gull roost.

I was surprised to find 3 Grey Herons already nest-occupying on the central Drayton Bank, a single LITTLE EGRET was roosting there, and 2 adult Mute Swans had returned.

Wildfowl included 575 Eurasian Wigeon, a pair of Gadwall, 18 Shoveler, 27 Northern Pochard and a whopping 228 Tufted Ducks, along with 4 COMMON GOLDENEYES (including 2 adult drakes) and 18 Great Crested Grebes.

The regular adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was part of the well-strung out roost tonight, with 2,646 Black-headed Gulls roosting by 1710, along with 82 Common Gulls. A juvenile British Herring Gull also put in an appearance.


Delightfully, 83 CORN BUNTINGS flighted in to roost not far out from the causeway at Marsworth Reedbed at 1715 hours - my largest count at the site this winter.

A single CETTI'S WARBLER was singing, as well as a solitary male Song Thrush, with 8 Shoveler, 7 Common Teal and 6 Gadwall on the Sewage Farm.

Thanks to Steve Rodwell, I was finally able to add a new species to my Hertfordshire Year List today - a gorgeous BARN OWL performing eloquently at the back of the sewage farm from 1720 hours onwards. Steve had seen the bird last night and just as he had predicted, it appeared 20 minutes before it got pitch black and too dark to see. After it appeared from its roost-site, it hunted over the rough field for a short time before alighting on the sewage farm perimeter fence, where I was able to enjoy some outstanding views of this most charming of British birds. What a delight (Lee G R Evans).

HAWFINCHES give themselves up for many others

I arrived at the HMWT Danemead Nature Reserve at 12.00pm to look for the HAWFINCHES that had been reported in the morning. There had been one or two sightings during the morning but none since 11.00am.

At about 1pm Joan Thompson, Jan Hein van Steenis and myself decided to have a walk through the reserve but didn't see or hear very much apart from a Marsh Tit and a couple of Nuthatches. As we were returning to the main track Jan picked up a Hawfinch call deep in the trees where Lee had seen them yesterday. We made our way back to the track and eventually found the bird about 25 yards away sitting in the open half way up a tree. The three of us and Jonathan Lethbridge had excellent views for a few minutes before it flew off (Alan Reynolds)

Friday, 19 February 2010

Friday Round-up

Male FIRECRESTS remain at East Hyde and Box Wood, Stevenage, with up to 5 JACK SNIPE still in the stream at East Hyde and 1-2 Green Sandpipers.

Five SMEW remain at Amwell NR, with an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL again in the roost at Wilstone Reservoir. The adult BLACK-NECKED GREBE remains at Hilfield.

At least one pair of NORTHERN GOSHAWK has started to display on territory, with five pairs of COMMON RAVEN now attending breeding sites and 3 TREE SPARROWS at the Tyttenhanger Farm Feeding Station.

LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKERS have begun drumming, with the Whitwell garden feeder still visiting

Up to 7 LONG-EARED OWLS remain at a border location

HAWFINCH delight


Although still very cold (5-6 degrees C throughout the day), it was a much brighter than of late, with long clear periods and some pleasant sunshine. It was also very calm. I decided to make the most of the conditions and did some local 'target birding', concentrating on some species I was missing from both my Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Year Lists. It was partly successful. Bird of the day was undoubtedly HAWFINCH.


My main target bird here was Marsh Tit but despite searching from 1100-1330 hours and walking acres of forest. I just could not locate one bird or territorial pair. I played the calls of male Marsh Tit in many different suitable areas, including those very kindly recommended by local observers, but failed.

I had concentrated my efforts on Danemead Nature Reserve, where I had seen 6 Marsh Tits on some occasions in previous years, and was absolutely delighted to find at least two very vocal male HAWFINCHES in this area. The birds were feeding on the ground between the sheep field of Danemead Reserve and the main muddy footpath that leads down from the Ermine Street (Martin's Green) Car Park and as I walked past them, they flew up into the vegetation and called loudly. The sharp 'ticc' enabled me to locate them, allowing me to enjoy some superb views. The vegetation and branch makeup in this area was very dense and it is possible, certainly from the calling, that more birds were involved. Certainly, two bright males were sat close together. They sat calling for about five minutes and then, after several Chaffinches returned to the ground, they did the same.

To reach this area, one needs to park on Cock Lane in the car park aforementioned. Follow the muddy bridlepath NW and as it inclines after 150 yards, the reserve entrance and information boards appear on the left. Between here and the large blue plastic barrel, to the left of the track, are where the Hawfinches are.

Whilst not locating either Marsh Tit or Lesser Redpoll, the following species were encountered: Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker (2), Nuthatch (3), Great Tit (11), Blue Tit (16), Long-tailed Tit (9), Chaffinch (15) and SISKIN (4).


A LITTLE EGRET was feeding in the River Beane


Just 2 LONG-EARED OWLS remained in their favourite roost-site and alarmingly, on my arrival, both birds were purposefully flushed by some moronic local observer. I gave him a piece of my mind, but he walked away unconcerned. Just one very good reason why Long-eared Owl roosts like this MUST be suppressed at all costs. All five birds can all be seen safely and clearly in a 'scope from the bank above, so there is absolutely no need to flush them. Long-eared Owls love sunshine, so it was really a great shame that their roost-site was upset in a way like this. Once I had seen the two birds fly out of the ivy, I had a look under the tree, and there were at least 50 pellets. I wonder if anybody can make a use of them?

I also recorded 2 GREY PARTRIDGES and a RED KITE at the owl site.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

First CASPIAN GULL of year

A first-winter CASPIAN GULL was reported at Amwell GP early afternoon, whilst at least 1 BITTERN, 6 SMEW (2 drakes), 3 female Red-crested Pochards and 2-3 Cetti's Warblers remain present (many observers) - Elsewhere, the male FIRECREST and at least 4 JACK SNIPES remain at East Hyde, 16 LITTLE EGRETS roosted at Radwell Lake, 7 at Amwell and 6 remained at Whitwell Cressbeds (various observers)

EGYPTIAN GEESE still present on Lynster's Farm Field


In stark contrast to yesterday, when it sleeted all day long, causing localised flooding, today was glorious, with blue sky throughout, winter sunshine and light southerly winds. Temperatures reached 8 degrees C.


At long last, finally connected with the resident pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE at Lynster's Farm, both birds waddling away from the manure pile when the farmer drove his tractor into the shed. This represented my 108th species in Hertfordshire this year.

A GREEN SANDPIPER was feeding on the farm pool, with 31 Atlantic Canada and 2 Greylag Geese also in the field.

Large numbers of birds were feeding in the field including 78 Woodpigeons, 1 Stock Dove, 64 Jackdaws and 22 Common Magpies.

A RED KITE was soaring above Maple Cross.

Male FIRECREST still present at East Hyde

Spent alot of time up at East Hyde today, probably one of the people who was up there the longest (from 10am and leaving around 2.30pm). In that time i repeatedly saw the male FIRECREST, it was spotted by a small group of birders in the trees nearest and opposite the bridge, after spending some time watching it it was obvious that it had a very set routine where it would work it's way along the treeline, often staying at the back of the trees rather than the road/bridge side before returning back to the beginning again. This made it a very easy bird to view but due to the poor lighting on the side it frequented and it's very quick darting movement it was a hard bird to keep up with and especially hard to photograph! Saying that it showed well, never left this tree-line and was there all day so as far as Firecrests go it's got to be worth going to see! The Little Owl was both inside and outside its hole showing well in the sun, Red Kites, Buzzards, Wrens, Chaffinches, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits were all present as were Mallard, Little Grebe, Teal, Canada Geese, Magpies, Blackbirds, Robins and Gulls. No Snipe or Jack Snipe were seen in the time I was there nor Green Sandpiper, I think a Water Rail was seen and a Grey Heron put on a great display coming close to the bridge and in the space of 45mins eating 2 Frogs and 1 Vole. Overall a great day, lots of birders and photographers all enjoyed great views of the Firecrest and lots of local's passing by were also shown the bird or at least told of it. Photos should appear on my blog ( sometime tonight! (Ben)

Monday, 15 February 2010

MED GULL in Amwell roost

An adult winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL was at Amwell GP for about 10 minutes around 4 pm on Saturday afternoon. It then flew off high to the southwes (Jan Hein Steenis)

Saturday, 13 February 2010


As I had suspected on my visit earlier in the year, two FIRECRESTS are present in the Holly trees close to the entrance in Box Wood, Stevenage

Friday, 12 February 2010

A bumper day for my yearlisting exploits - LGRE Diary Notes


Another very cold day, with temperatures not rising to more than 5 degrees C. Some heavy sleet showers fell, especially during the morning.

The day was spent in Hertfordshire, attempting to mop up on a few species that I was still missing locally. Egyptian Goose was the only disappointment.......


A single RED KITE was sat in a tree close to the churchyard in the village.

(1000-1047 hours; with Peter Leigh)

My first opportunity this week to get to the reservoirs. Fortunately, the three EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE found by Roy Hargreaves yesterday morning were still present and showing very well with just 2 Canada Geese in the first field west of the main car park. It was an adult pair with a single youngster (in full first-winter plumage). As Mic and Jan Wells walked along the bank, the three birds spooked and flew on to the main reservoir, landing in front of the Drayton Bank Hide and still present when I left at 1247. They represented my 104th Hertfordshire species of the year.

Also still present and showing well was the adult drake SMEW found by Roy much earlier - feeding just to the right of the shooting butts on the central bank - the second drake I have seen on Wilstone in recent times.

This also gave me the opportunity to count the wildfowl, overall much depleted in number. The reservoir was still very high in terms of water level. Once again, I could not find the resident Little Owls.

Great Crested Grebe (high count of 22 birds)
Little Grebes (3 together)
Continental Cormorant (21)
Grey Heron (1 pair at the nest in the central bank)
Mute Swan (none)
Greylag Geese (67)
Eurasian Wigeon (556)
Common Teal (33; marked decrease)
Shoveler (28)
Tufted Duck (73)
Northern Pochard (56)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 adult drakes, 3 females)
Coot (537)
Lapwing (83 in flight)

A female Eurasian Sparrowhawk was plucking a dead Woodpigeon in the crop field opposite the Cemetery, with two Carrion Crows looking on.


Around the Angler's Retreat car park and Startop Farm, 22 HOUSE SPARROWS were present, along with 3 Chaffinches and a male Song Thrush in full song. A flock of 27 FIELDFARES flew east.

A Great Crested Grebe, 43 Tufted Duck, 64 Northern Pochard and 118 Coot were on the reservoir.


Very quiet, with just 2 Mute Swans (the only ones noted), 22 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochards and 8 Coot noted.


Great Crested Grebe (6), Shoveler (35) and Tufted Duck (5).


Very poor, with few wildfowl present - Little Grebe (1), Wigeon (4 - 2 pairs), Common Teal (19), Tufted Duck (8) and Pochard (1). 66 Coot.


A pair of Wigeon were the unusual sight here, with 17 Common Teal, 35 Tufted Duck and 8 Coot. Roosting gulls included 143 Black-headed and 8 Commons.


A covey of 8 Red-legged Partridges north of the A41.


Attempted to make it to the public viewpoint but as on previous visits, was hounded and attacked by the horses loose in the field. The white horse was particularly frisky and kept kicking out. They did not like my tripod and it may well frighten them.

A single BLACK-NECKED GREBE was showing very well at the extreme north end of the reservoir - my first of the year (105). It was in transitional plumage and had already acquired its bright golden ear coverts and had much black coming through on the head and breast.

Little of note otherwise, just 6 Great Crested Grebes, 29 Gadwall and 32 Tufted Ducks.


At the north end of Cootes End Lane (at TL 128 166), the highly mobile passerine flock eventually yielded 8 BRAMBLINGS (my first of the year - 106), 22 Chaffinches, 18 Yellowhammers and 3 Reed Buntings - all frequenting the tall Oaks and scrub opposite the first layby (and suitable for just 2 cars parking). A Skylark was also in adjoining fields.

I flushed up 5 GREY PARTRIDGE from the field (scarce here) and also noted Sparrowhawk (patrolling the hedgerow), 1 Song Thrush, 2 Redwings and 8 Fieldfares.

At the bridge site (with DS), a WATER RAIL was showing well feeding along the main river bank, with 2 Mute Swans, 32 Gadwall, 4 Common Teal and Mallard noted. There was no sign of any Green Sandpipers or Jack Snipe in the stream, although Darin Stanley returned at dusk and recorded at least 5.

There was no sign of the Little Owls in their favoured tree.


Yet again, I failed in my quest to locate any Egyptian Geese. A total of 15 Gadwall were west of the mill on the flood meadows. Also 13 Moorhens, and 48 Rooks nearby.

The resident pair of COMMON RAVENS were very active and showing extremely well, the male being very vocal and repeatedly calling from a manure heap adjacent to the nesting tree. A single RED KITE was also in the area.


Seven LITTLE EGRETS were present today and showing very well from the road; also 8 Moorhens. A single ROE DEER was feeding with Sheep out of their buckets.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

JACK SNIPE numbers increase again

stopped off on route home at East Hyde - 4 JACK SNIPE; and 1 COMMON SNIPE

Saw 2 JACK SNIPES at first, close in by the hedge in the slipstream, feeding together, then 5 minutes later, 2 more appeared from nowhere, 3 feeding together and 1 on the opposite side. Looks like they must fly in at dusk from the surrounding flooded areas or beyond (Darin Stanley).


Roy Hargreaves discovered three EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE on Wilstone Reservoir this morning, mingling with the resident Greylag Geese. They were present until mid-morning at least (per Brendan Glynne)

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Early BLACK-NECKED GREBE back at Hilfield

Yesterday I went to Hilfield Park Reservoir to try out the public viewing platform. As has been stated recently, HMWT have carried out a lot of work to remove the trees in front of the platform which now affords commanding uninterrupted views across the southern half of the reservoir.

From this elevated position with a scope I could easily see birds hugging the far bank and southern reed beds with all the usual suspects - Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Coot etc.

It then started to snow and I was just about to leave when an absolutely cracking BLACK-NECKED GREBE appeared in flat calm water just 10 yards off the shore in front of the platform. Definitely one of those "If only I had a camera moments".

The northern half of the reservoir is currently obscured by waterside trees along the eastern bank and HMWT plan to continue removing some of these trees over the next couple of years to gradually expand the view to cover most of the reservoir (Alan Reynolds)

Sunday, 7 February 2010


Male and female COMMON CROSSBILL in Brocket Park this afternoon. Interestingly, the female was gathering nesting material (Anthony Dorman)

HAWFINCH in Broxbourne Woods

Did my usual trip to the eastern end of the Broxbourne Woods complex, parking at the Martins green car park and walking north along Ermine Street to do my usual circuit then back to the traditional Hawfinch roost for a weekly check. As I reached the entrance to Danemead NR, I clearly heard a loud ticking call that could only be one bird ! After a quick scan of the tree tops, I located a male HAWFINCH about 50yds in front of me. It was calling loudly from the top branches for about 30 seconds and then flew lower down into a Hornbeam where it showed very well and started to give the full song with low piping and warbling notes in between ticks for around five minutes. It was eventually flushed by two horses galloping up Ermine Street -my best view ever of Hawfinch (Laurence Drummond)

Sunday sightings

At Amwell today (includes some third-party sightings): 3 Bitterns, 5 Smew (2 drakes), 3 Red-crested Pochards, 1 ad Yellow-legged Gull, 4 Little Egrets (not waited till nightfall: 7 yesterday).

At Ashley Lake (fka Turnford Marsh): 19 Goosander (10 drakes, 9 redheads) (I also had 1 drake + 2 redheads on the flood relief channel at Lower Nazeing, Essex) (Jan Hein)

Friday, 5 February 2010

King's Meads today

This morning at Kings Meads:

2 Egyptian Geese flying w at 9:50am.
Common Redshank feeding with 9 Common Snipe on Stockade Mead.
4 Common Stonechat, pair & 2f. Third female confirms 5 birds have wintered.
12 Siskin on Little Mead

Simon Knott

Stevenage FIRECREST still present

The Box Wood FIRECREST showed quite well for a few minutes at 2.30 this afternoon, low down in a small bush. Very active and vocal. Unfortunately my camera played up and I have not got any decent images. Large number of Nuthatches and Treecreepers - seemingly several of each always in view. Also at least two pairs of Marsh Tit, one in the Holly area, the other in the more open low area to the north, adjacent to the Martins Way roundabout (Phil Bishop)

Thursday, 4 February 2010


Since the turn of the new year, a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER has been visiting the gardens of Whitwell village, whilst a male has been heard calling in recent days at the regular site of Cassiobury Park.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

MERLIN showing well


Grey skies predominated, with temperatures peaking at 7 degrees C late afternoon. The forecast rain, sleet or snow never materialised. MERLIN and WATER RAIL were my two target birds of the day, with both excelling in their appearance............

(0800-1100 hours)

Returned once more to the stubble and purposefully seeded fields immediately west of Stotfold, mainly with the goal of connecting with Merlin. Took Steve Blain's advice and got there early and waited, waited and waited.

Although the Skylark flock was still in the 270 bracket, the number of CORN BUNTINGS on site is diminishing daily. My highest click-counter tally this morning was of just 452 birds, a marked decline in numbers. Yellowhammers had disappeared also.

The only raptor noted was the regular Common Kestrel but alas after three cold hours of searching, the Merlin did not put in an appearance........


Taking the kind advice of Arlesey patch workers, I then decided to try my luck in the large stubble fields straddling the village and the Blue Lagoon. Quite a few Yellowhammers and Redwings were found but still no Merlin. Frustrating or what !

Whilst in Arlesey, I took full advantage of a visit to the River Hiz, a relatively shallow river forking off the River Ivel. I walked a 600-yard stretch of river, starting just short of the Amenity Tree Nursery and continuing north on the marked footpath. This truly is a wonderful place to observe, study and photograph WATER RAILS. They were easy here, and I saw four different individuals relatively easily, one parallel to the disabled parking area and then three on the section between the north end of the nursery perimeter fence and the wooden bridge over the river.

The riverside walk also produced 3 Moorhens, 2 Wrens, 5 Song Thrushes, 8 Redwing and 6 Fieldfare.

DIRECTIONS: See map below. In Arlesey village, take Mill Lane across the traffic light-controlled railway bridge and turn immediately right. Park sensibly by the houses and follow the public footpath up the east side of the River Hiz alongside the tree nursery from TL 189 359 to TL 189 368.

WALLINGTON (HERTFORDSHIRE): 50 Fieldfare in roadside field


Driving along the Rushden road, I stopped off at suitable vantage points and was delighted to finally track down a MERLIN - my first of the year (species 161). Remarkably, it was sitting on top of a partridge-feeding silo, adjacent to a hedgerow, and adjacent to a game strip. It was a beautiful male and sat there from at least 1227 to when it finally flew at 1258 hours. The game strip lies between the Bury Barns and the Rushden road at cTL 300 356. A single male Eurasian Sparrowhawk was also patrolling the game strip, whilst a party of 8 Long-tailed Tits actually mobbed the Merlin for a short while.

A pair of GREY PARTRIDGE performed well, with a flock of 33 Eurasian Skylark and a single Linnet seen, whilst Brown Hares were abundant in the area, with at least 40 encountered on various scans.

At Heath Farm on the Kelshall road, 98 Rooks had gathered, with 28 Feral Pigeons on the silo roofs, 16 Fieldfares and 12 House Sparrows (8 males) in the garden there. A Common Buzzard was nearby, and a further small group of 8 Eurasian Skylarks. A Red Fox was also seen well.

Conversely, the Reed area, either side of the A10, was largely devoid of birds, with just three Common Buzzards noted. What a difference a year makes.


Thanks to Alan Reynolds, I was able to spend an enjoyable 90 minutes in Broxbourne Woods connecting with birds. Parking up at the Broxbourne Woods (West) car park at TL 324 071 (this is the usual Purple Emperor/White Admiral car park), I followed the very muddy track (wellingtons essential) NE, passing all of the areas currently being regenerated and forested. The track drops down into a dip and then up again and after 700 yards from the car park reaches a bench and a deep ditch. Traversing the ditch brings one into a mixed area of Pine, Spruce, Larch and Cypress known as Cowheath Wood and it was here that I quickly located COMMON CROSSBILL (3 birds, very vocal, in the tall introduced Pines at TL 334 077), SISKIN (8 birds), Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Goldcrest and 5 Coal Tits. Most delightful was a fabulous WOODCOCK, trying to conceal itself with camouflage at the edge of a track through the Silver Birches.

My only disappointment was failing to locate Marsh Tits, even at their stronghold at Brambles Wood. Oh well, something for another day.....

WARNING: Be very careful in Broxbourne Woods West car park. There are several stumps in the car park that have been cut low and are very misleading. I managed to get my car completely stuck on top of one and could not move. It took me the best part of an hour to get off of it and only by constantly jacking up the car and pushing it back a short distance.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


At least 3 CETTI'S WARBLERS are now resident at Tewinbury Reserve, whilst the male FIRECREST remains in Box Wood, Stevenage, and 2 COMMON CROSSBILLS were again in Cowheath Wood, Broxbourne

Monday, 1 February 2010


Started off this morning with a visit to Pryors Wood to try and catch up with the Firecrest after missing it yesterday. Arrived at 11.00am and spend 1.5 hours with Jim Rudland, Tony Hukin and Ray Hooper scouring the holly trees on the west side of the wood. Then at 12.30pm I heard my first crest call of the two days and managed to pin down the FIRECREST to a tall holly, but only managed two goood but brief glimpses of the bird. I called the others over but the bird went deep into the holly and didn't reappear.

I then widened the search with Ray and once again heard it call, right at the top of the canopy, which in my experience is not typical of Firecrest. This time all four connected with it albeit briefly before it worked its way through the canopy further into the wood. The area is around the wooden bench on the western side of the wood.

Then in the afternoon I decided to take my son's Springer for a run through Broxbourne Woods, which turned out to be one of my better decisions. I parked in the West Car Park and walked down through Cowheath Wood and up into Brambles Wood. It was clear that the emphasis was on quality rather than quantity because the only birds that I saw were 50 Siskins, 2 Lesser Redpoll and 8 COMMON CROSSBILLS........I've had worst days!! (Alan Reynolds)