FRIDAY 12 FEBRUARY
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.......
DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP (BUCKS)
A single RED KITE was sat in a tree close to the churchyard in the village.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS)
(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)
Tufted Duck (73)
Northern Pochard (56)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 adult drakes, 3 females)
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.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR
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).
COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS)
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.
COW ROAST (HERTS)
A covey of 8 Red-legged Partridges north of the A41.
HILFIELD PARK RESERVOIR (HERTS)
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.
EAST HYDE (HERTS)
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.
KIMPTON AREA (HERTS)
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.
WHITWELL CRESS BEDS (HERTS) (TL 183 212)
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.