MONDAY 26 JULY
A band of rain moved through during the morning and eventually cleared away to the west just after midday. It remained warm though and brightened up towards evening.
I spent the day flitting between Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, the main highlight being the number of juvenile MARSH HARRIERS seen, indicating yet another good breeding season for this increasing raptor....
ASHWELL AREA (HERTFORDSHIRE)
I checked out the spoil heaps SW of Guilden Morden and NW of Ashwell village, in the vicinity of Kirby's Manor Farm and Dunton Lodge Farm (at approximately TL 262 420). The major highlight was the number of YELLOW WAGTAILS in the vicinity, with a total of 22 birds seen, predominantly juveniles.
Species encountered included Lapwing (adult on the spoil), Common Kestrel, Stock Dove, Common Whitethroat, Greenfinch (15), Linnet (8), Common Starling (feeding flock of 229) and CORN BUNTING (4 jangling males).
At nearby Bluegates Dairy just east of the River Rhee, large numbers of post-breeding Rooks and Jackdaws were feeding, whilst in Ashwell village proper, 5 pairs of House Sparrow (with juveniles) and 2 pairs of nesting House Martin were observed. Odsey hamlet held a further 4 House Sparrows (TL 296 386).
COOMBE FARM AND COOMBE ROAD, KELSHALL (HERTFORDSHIRE) (TL 325 380)
MARSH HARRIERS nesting in neighbouring Cambridgeshire have repeatedly bought their fledged families in to the cereal fields in the Kelshall and Sandon areas in recent years and this summer is no different. An adult female and four fledged dark and cream-crowned juveniles were showing very well this afternoon over the Coombe escarpment, the juveniles often sparring and 'playing' together.
This very same area also held 4-5 RED KITES, including two recently fledged juveniles, as well as 22 European Barn Swallows (successful breeding at Coombe Farm) and Eurasian Skylarks.
SANDON AREA (HERTFORDSHIRE)
As I transferred from Stumps Cross in to the Mount and Gallows Hill valley, a RED KITE was feeding on a Polecat/Ferret-cross roadkill at Crouch Hill. Nearby, 311 Woodpigeons were in roadside stubble south of Upper Heath Farm, as well as 236 Rooks.
At Deadman's Hill (TL 292 368), the long-staying COMMON QUAIL was still present and calling (at 1615 hours) and a juvenile MARSH HARRIER was quartering the cornfields.
A total of 4 Common Buzzards (including a juvenile) was seen, along with 4 jangling male CORN BUNTINGS.
In Sandon village, both House Martin and Common Swift were nesting, as well as Jackdaw and Greenfinch, with a small colony of House Sparrows just west of Therfield village on Rooks Nest lane.
HILFIELD PARK RESERVOIR (HERTFORDSHIRE)
BLACK-NECKED GREBES have done exceptionally well this year with at least 5 juveniles fledged - two now independent and three accompanying their parents. Several Little Grebes had also successfully fledged young, whilst several pairs of Great Crested Grebe were relaying.
Mute Swans accompanied 5 cygnets (a rare sight this year), whilst 41 Northern Pochard were noted.
TROY MILL GRAVEL PIT (HERTFORDSHIRE)
The summering female COMMON GOLDENEYE was still present, along with the EURASIAN WIGEON I first noted on 20 July. A total of 22 Tufted Ducklings was counted, whilst the female Northern Pochard and juvenile Great Crested Grebe were still present.
Common Kingfisher, Song Thrush, Common Chiffchaff (5), Wren and Long-tailed Tit (7) were also seen, with a family party of 5 Mute Swans on the neighbouring pit