Tuesday, 20 April 2010



The fine weather continued, although several degrees down on yesterday's high point of 19 degrees C. Winds remained light but frequently touched SE and as cloud increased during the day, the first rain for some time fell in the Chilterns just prior to dark.

Today was exceptional for RING OUZELS with many seen, along with more BLACK REDSTARTS and late on - a performing HOOPOE..........

(1300-1410 hours)

Instead of covering Norton Green which I had planned to do, I had to rush down to Tyttenhanger, where Steve Blake had discovered another BLACK REDSTART......

Parking by the Bailiff's Office and mobile canteen, I quickly came upon (at last) my first Herts COMMON WHITETHROAT of the year - a singing male in bushes and scrub by the conveyor belt and Fishing Pit. I was also delighted to see my first ORANGE-TIP butterflies - 3 of them flying around the small wood at the entrance.

The BLACK REDSTART - an adult male moulting towards full summer finery - was present in the fenceline bordering the paddocks situated 500 yards east of Tyttenhanger Farm and the Woodyard and was showing very well in the afternoon sunshine. It was commuting between the scattered Oak trees, a tree-stump, some flowering blossom bushes and the fence wire and was ranging along a 200 yard stretch. Steve Blake managed the record shot above. Another male COMMON WHITETHROAT was sharing this same area, whilst two pairs of TREE SPARROWS was nesting, with a male Muntjac Deer feeding out in full view. A few Peacock Butterflies were also noted.

The main pit held a pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, a pair of OYSTERCATCHERS and 6 Common Redshank, with up to 10 pairs of Lapwing in adjoining fields and singing male WILLOW WARBLER and several Blackcaps.

Shortly after I departed, yet another male Ring Ouzel was found - most probably the male that had visited Croxley Common Moor earlier in the day.


At least 16 pairs of HOUSE SPARROWS were located in the village, as well as 8 nesting pairs of Common Blackbird. Nearby, the nesting pair of PEREGRINES were utilising their usual crevice.

(1530-1610 hours)

A party of 3 adult-type LITTLE GULLS, two with full black hoods, was showing well commuting between the green algae bunds directly out from the car park and the surface area out from the jetty. There had been 6 birds present earlier in the afternoon. Interestingly, one of the birds had black peppering in the primary feathers suggesting immaturity, but had a full black hood and typically dark underwing. Two birds also had a beautiful pink wash to the underparts. Dave Bilcock obtained the excellent images above. They were loosely associating with 8 Black-headed Gulls.

The 16 COMMON TERNS from yesterday evening remained, whilst new for me was the COMMON SANDPIPER feeding out on the bunds.

Some 8 Shoveler remain, a male YELLOW WAGTAIL flew through and hirundines included 42 Sand Martins and 5 European Barn Swallows.

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the 4 Great Crested Grebes, 11 Mute Swan and 27 Tufted Ducks were present, with 5 Barn Swallows patrolling the north bank, whilst MARSWORTH RESERVOIR held 11 Great crested Grebes, 5 Shovelers, a drake Northern Pochard and 2 more Mute Swans. A further 9 Mute Swans was on the adjacent Grand Union Canal.

The horse paddocks held 1 male YELLOW WAGTAIL, 1 adult male WHITE WAGTAIL and 5 Pied Wagtails, with a GREY WAGTAIL by the canal locks and the Marsworth Canal Reedbed holding a singing male SEDGE WARBLER. A further SEDGE WARBLER was in the reedbed wood, where also the first singing male WESTERN REED WARBLER of the year was present (easily audible from the footpath close to the overflow). The male Blackcap and male Common Chiffchaff of the past week or so were both still present and a very noisy CETTI'S WARBLER was by the Sewage Farm.

Overhead of Marsworth were 6 Common Terns, 25 Sand Martin and 7 Barn Swallows.


And just outside Hertfordshire.........

Well the day was almost over but with confirmation from Paul Whiteman of a North London HOOPOE, I utilised the last couple of hours with a visit there........

I arrived on site shortly after 1830 hours and was immediately updated by Roy Woodward as to the behaviour of the bird. After leaving the east bank of the KGV Reservoir, it had flown to a neighbouring area of fields and had been lost from view. A small crowd had gathered, including Roy, Jan Hein, Lol Boldini, Jonathan Lethbridge and Paul Whiteman, and after spreading out along the A 112 opposite Yardley Lane, I relocated the bird as it flew up from the grassy field and disappeared over the hedge and landed on the lawn of the aptly-named Sewardstone Evangelical Church. As HOOPOES always do, it fed on the vicar's lawn for a few minutes before flying again and entering the air-space of a small housing estate and flats. As Alan Stewart, Paul W and I walked into the cul-de-sac, the HOOPOE flew over us and went back towards the church grounds and then went to ground for a while.

It eventually reappeared and then flew 200 yards eventually to settle in front of some barns just east of the reservoir, where 11 of us enjoyed the best show of the evening as the bird fed out on the track and in the field (see Roy's image above). The bird was constantly alert and nervous, raising its crest at every sound, and after just a very short while, flew back south and returned once more to the church grounds. In fact, this is where it roosted just prior to dusk.

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