Monday, 29 November 2010

WAXWING numbers increase in Hertford

There were 19 in the vicinity of Neal's Court at 1100 hours (per Bill Last and Roland Powers) but they flew off at 11.10am (per Alan Reynolds) - initially found by Laurence early morning

Sunday, 28 November 2010

........And another shower of WAXWINGS

5 Waxwings this morning briefly at 11.00am by junction of Guessens Road and Church Road. The birds were very mobile - in the next half hour also seen in flight over Handside Lane and Valley Road (Anthony Dorman)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Very late WILLOW WARBLER at Rye Meads

30-40 Redwings, 1 WILLOW WARBLER (ringed a fortnight ago, fat score 5, had lost c.2g since then, 2nd Rye Meads winter record), 1 Blackcap, 1 Cetti's Warber, several Common Chiffchaffs and 1 Oystercatcher (Paul Tout)

WAXWING in Bishop's Stortford

Had a single WAXWING on the Rowan in my Pynchbek garden briefly at 1.30pm today. Unfortunately it flew off and has not yet returned. A search of the surrounding area was unsuccessful (per Ron)

WAXWINGS now in Tring and Aldbury


It was a particularly heavy frost overnight, freezing over parts of Wilstone, Tringford and Marsworth Reservoirs. This gave me an ideal opportunity to get some very accurate counts of the wildfowl and Coot present as they were all forced in to smaller areas of open water. The main highlight was a flock of Waxwings in Tring town..........



The only reservoir free of ice and consequently attracting 5 Great Crested Grebes, 9 Mute Swans, 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (1 drake), 17 Teal, 3 Shoveler, 66 Tufted Duck, 9 Pochard, 192 Coot, 14 Moorhen and 2 male Pied Wagtails.


Largely frozen over but the open patches held 3 Great Crested Grebes, 8 Grey Heron, 2 adult Mute Swans, 9 Shoveler and 16 Coot whilst the woodland walk yielded Long-tailed Tit, 4 Common Blackbirds, 2 Redwing, 39 Jackdaws and a pair of Carrion Crows.


Again, a surprising amount frozen, possibly because it so shallow now, but still harbouring the highest number of wildfowl, with 20 Great Crested Grebes present, 2 Little Grebe, 42 Cormorants, 35 Mute Swans (including 11 first-years), the two Whooper Swans, 83 Mallard, 15 Gadwall, 426 Common Teal, 404 Eurasian Wigeon, a pair of PINTAIL, 82 Shoveler, 79 Tufted Duck, 122 Pochard, 1 female Common Goldeneye, 576 Coot, a single DUNLIN and a single COMMON REDSHANK.


David Bilcock discovered at least 8 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS mid-afternoon in gardens along Cow Lane not far from Tring Squash Rackets Club and Rugby Club. Roy Hargreaves managed to join him in time before they flew. I arrived shortly later and widening the search as far east to Aldbury (where incidentally up to 11 Waxwings had been recorded yesterday), I eventually relocated a flock feeding on berries by Clarkes Spring, opposite the Royal Hotel by Tring Station. All of the birds - either 7 or 8 - were adults but within minutes flew back towards Pendley Manor and the outskirts of Tring town. A single Red Kite was also in the same vicinity.


The WAXWING flock in Stevenage increased to at least 27 birds at 1500 hours yesterday afternoon whilst today, Graham Knight has 5 visiting his garden in Hertford.

Friday, 26 November 2010


Phil Bishop (photographer), Darrel Bryant and others saw these 21 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS in Stevenage this morning before they all flew off at 1215 hours. They were north of Fairlands Way at the Grace Way/Sish Lane junction.
A further 4 birds were discovered in Hertford town, in the garden of 2 Tanners Crescent.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Large number of SISKINS in Cassiobury Park

Had a walk around the Nature Reserve section of Cassiobury Park in Watford this morning. I was mainly looking for Redpolls, but only heard 3 or 4 singles and didn't manage to see them as I was in the wooded area when they (presumably) flew over. However, there was an impressive number of SISKIN there. They were being fairly mobile in flocks of varying size, but I guesstimate there to be over 100 maybe as many as 150, some in mixed flocks with Goldfinches.

Other highlights were two Common Kingfisher heard calling to each other on the Fishing lake (no access), 1 male Bullfinch, 1 singing Mistle Thrush, plus the commoner woodland species (tits, Great Spot Woods, Nuthatch) (Bill Haines)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

WAXWINGS in Stevenage increase to SIX

6 birds now present in same trees as yesterday in Wetherby Close until 0945 (Darrel Bryant)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Stevenage WAXWINGS - Gary Sanderson

WAXWINGS at last - my 170th species in Herts this year


The North-easterly wind continues to blow, with temperatures dropping by a degree or two each day. Very much overcast and grey and a real winter feel to proceedings.

No birding today but a spot of twitching. Dave Cleal found a BRENT GOOSE early afternoon which I was able to see half an hour later and Darrel Bryant a flock of WAXWINGS - which were affording great views mid afternoon......


Dave Cleal sent me a text early afternoon informing me of a DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE at Dorney Rowing Lakes. I jumped in the car, raced down there and enjoyed views of it half an hour later. It was an ADULT and was consorting with the 250 or so Atlantic Canada Geese on the grass and in the reserve pool and represented my first in the county this year. Dave, Kevin Duncan and I watched it until 1245 hours...................Thanks Dave


Whilst on route to the DBBG, my good friend Darrel Bryant rang to say that he had just found 4 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS whilst walking his dog close to his home in Stevenage. As each flock so far had been in and out, I did not expect them to linger, but when Darrel said that there were ample Rowans on the estate, my hopes were raised. As soon as I had seen the goose, I phoned Darrel back and he said that there were now 5 birds and that they had moved a few roads. He very kindly agreed to keep on them for me.

It was 55 miles between sites and as predicted, it took me just over an hour to arrive. Darrel was still watching them fortunately and within seconds of my arrival, I had connected. They were commuting between a tall roosting tree and a flowering Rowan adjacent to No 30 Wetherby Close, about half a mile from the usual Waxwing areas in the town.

The five birds consisted of three adults and two first-winters and the views were typically first-rate. All five were still present when I left at 1420 hours.

North Buckinghamshire had also seen an influx of WAXWINGS today, with 43 recorded by Paul Gibbs. Just one of these remained this afternoon but nevertheless Paul Keene was able to get this cracking shot published above.

Monday, 22 November 2010

WAXWING in St Albans Sunday

"I saw the bird in Praetorian Court (a cul de sac) which is just off Vesta Avenue. It’s a residential area with private parking (permit holders only) but people can park in the surrounding streets. The bird was in a small tree which has lots of berries but didn’t stay long and I kept checking throughout the day but it didn’t reappear" - Paul Thrush

Sunday, 21 November 2010


A dull day at Amwell was made up for by six DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE which flew south at 9:30. The Bittern showed to a patient group (i.e. not me) and the Red-crested Pochards are of course still on Hollycross Lake.

Impressive amounts of Lapwings by day (at least 400) and Greater Black-backed Gulls in the roost (50) - Jan Hein Steenis

Friday, 19 November 2010

First Tring Merganser in 6 years


A much brighter and warmer day than of late with predominantly clear skies and light SE winds. Although I was glued to the computer all morning, the afternoon was brightened up when I took a call from local birder Jeff Bailey - he had just found a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER at Tring - the first at the reservoirs since 26 December 2004..........


At around 1230 hours, Jeff Bailey located an odd sawbill roosting close to the main spit and as it woke up after 15 minutes or so, he realised it was a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. Jeff immediately phoned me up and went through its salient features with me and I agreed to come straight out to join him. Before I left the house, I contacted David Bilcock, so that he could inform the local grapevyne, and about 40 minutes later, I arrived on site.

Jeff was still standing on the jetty watching the bird, whilst Roy Hargreaves had snatched views and was already leaving. Mike Campbell was attempting some video and Martin Parr some distant record shots. Ian Williams and Mick Frosdick were to join us later.

The bird was sleeping when I arrived, floating just a few yards out from the spit, between the jetty and the Drayton Bank, perhaps just 40 yards from the latter. It was a fine and dapper drake almost moulted out of eclipse and was typified by its bright rosy-pink slim bill (slightly broader at the base), its gloss green head, its abrupt steep forehead, reddish-pink eye, shaggy nape, white neck collar, black-streaked pale brown breast, gleaming white undercarriage, black mantle and back, grey uppertail and lightly vermiculated grey sides. The undertail-coverts were pure white but with marbling at the tips.

The upperwing pattern was marked with dark outer primaries and extensive white bars on the lesser and greater coverts, the secondaries and even the tertials. The underwing was also gleaming white with contrasting dark flight feathers.

As we watched it at rest, it was eventually jostled by a Coot and forced to wake up. It then became quite active and spent several minutes bathing, washing and preening, occasionally flapping its wings. At 1415 hours, it climbed out of the water and on to the stony spit, sat down briefly and then jumped up again and resumed preening. It was then the target of an annoyed Lapwing, who pecked at it and forced it back in the water, and then once back in the water, another Coot and a Mute Swan had a go at it - they simply did not like his punk-inspired hair cut! Fortunately, he did find another resting spot and floated asleep for a further 20 minutes. He then awoke again and started swimming, flew a short way and swam close to the spit and onward towards the jetty. At 1456 hours, he took flight and gained height and went off strongly into Buckinghamshire airspace towards Wendover.

It represented my 169th species in Hertfordshire this year and was the first to be seen at Tring since December 2004. The 29 recorded since 1970 are as follows -:

2) 1970: two females at Tring Reservoirs on 5 December;
4) 1973: a pair at Tring Reservoirs on 9 December;
5) 1975: a drake at Wilstone on 23 April (incidentally my first Tring sighting of this species)
10) 1979: an unprecedented influx when 15 or more occurred in Herts involving 3 female-types at Wilstone on 20 February and a pair there on 4 March;
12) 1983: a pair visited Wilstone on 3 April;
14) 1986: a female was at Wilstone on 12 October and another from 9-12 November;
16) 1987: two remained at Wilstone from 5-16 February;
17) 1988: a female visited Wilstone on 18 October;
18) 1991: a female visited Wilstone Reservoir on 18 November;
19) 1993: a drake at Wilstone on 19 November;
23) 1995: a female was at Wilstone on 15 January followed by a redhead on 6 December and three birds, including a drake, on 15 December;
24) 1996: a drake visited Wilstone on 24 March;
25) 1997: a female remained on Startop's End Reservoir from 22-26 December;
27) 2000: a pair was seen by Dave Bilcock on Wilstone on 12 April;
28) 2001: a drake visited Startop's End Reservoir on 13-14 December;

29) 2004: a redhead was at Wilstone late afternoon on 26 November

In addition to the celebrated merganser, Wilstone this afternoon yielded the continuing BLACK-NECKED GREBE, 5 Little Grebes, the two adult Whooper Swans, a drake PINTAIL, 83 Wigeon, 206 European Golden Plover and a very confiding first-year COMMON KINGFISHER by the jetty. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers also flew over the jetty.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Only just outside Herts - VELVET SCOTER and SLAVONIAN GREBES at Broadwater


Another very dull and dreary day with intermittent patchy rain, grey overcast skies and temperatures peaking at 11 degrees C


Just outside the Recording Area - at Broadwater Sailing Club near West Hyde - the VELVET SCOTER continues its stay but there was no sign of yesterday's two SLAVONIAN GREBES, one of which Paul Lewis managed to capture on film (see above)

The first-winter drake VELVET SCOTER remains on site but is very difficult to locate, roaming far and wide over the complex. Paul Lewis again managed a record shot (published above by kind permission). It is best to view it from the Colne River footpath, along the West Shore.

Also seen were the following species -:

Great Crested Grebe (12)
Little Grebe (5)
Continental Sinensis Cormorant (27)
Mute Swan (5)
Greylag Goose (1)
Egyptian Goose (2)
Gadwall (7)
Shoveler (43)
Eurasian Wigeon (5)
Common Teal (15)
Northern Pochard (17)
Tufted Duck (337)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (9, including 3 drakes)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (1)
Coot (248)
Black-headed, Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls
Woodpigeon and Collared Dove
Ring-necked Parakeet (6)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Wren, Dunnock & Robin
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (3 present, 1 by the west side and two behind the sailing club)
Goldcrest (2)
Long-tailed, Great & Blue Tits
Jay & Chaffinch
LESSER REDPOLL (8 near the car park)
SISKIN (roving flock of 43 birds by the Colne)

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

WAXWING in St Albans

On the way back from work this evening a Little Owl flew across the roadjust outside Pitstone.

A good day at work today just out of the area, near St Albans. At 10.45am I could hear a WAXWING calling from some large conifers on the edge of thegarden I was working in. It kept calling with it's lovely ringing sound fora couple of minutes before flying off strongly to the North-west. There was no sight or sound for the remainder of the day. A few Redpoll and Siskins also around during the day (Rob Andrews).

Sunday, 14 November 2010

TREE SPARROWS at Brookman's Park

A good record this morning of 8 TREE SPARROWS south of Brookmans Park, in set aside near the junction of Hawkshead Lane and Blue Bridge Road. I don't know the exact location, but the junction seems to be at TL245031 (contributed by Graham Knight & HBC)

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Amwell today

Birdwise there were no real surprises:

1 drake Pintail, 3 Red-crested Pochard (female, Hollycross), 1 Mandarin (female), 5 Goldeneye (3 drakes), 2 Yellow-legged Gulls (adults, in roost), 3 Cetti's Warbler (at least), 1 Chiffchaff and 11 Redpoll (flyovers) - Jan Hein Steenis

Just over the border - VELVET SCOTER at Broadwater


Did not bother to go out this morning after receiving so much abuse from certain quarters relating to my recent TV appearance and from the continuing fallout still being aired on the BirdGuides website. Had tried to address the subject in a candid interview with One-Show regular and wildlife enthusiast David Lindo but still the sniping continues unabated.

Anyway, JT eventually shook me out of the doldrums by informing me of a local mega just down the road - in the form of a VELVET SCOTER at Broadwater Sailing Pit in Middlesex..........

(Dry but cold and overcast)

Simon Buckingham had located the bird early afternoon and from 1330-1410 hours, I enjoyed some good views of it, as it dived and preened towards the north end, in amongst the vast hordes of Tufted Duck.

It was clearly a much larger bird than the accompanying Aythyas and was obviously an immature VELVET SCOTER. By the fact that it has some light yellow on the bill suggested it was a drake. Much of the belly was pale, indicating first-year, and apart from the overall dark brown plumage, it had a weak off-white ear covert patch behind the eye. The broad pure white secondary panel was seen well each time the bird preened.

Tufted Ducks were in abundance, with 602 logged, whilst other wildfowl present included 15 Gadwall, 6 Common Goldeneyes and a single Egyptian Goose.

Around the car parking area, Mick Frosdick and I enjoyed views of 8 LESSER REDPOLLS as they fed at the tops of the trees.

The bird is literally just 200 yards from both the Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire borders, frustratingly from the latter from my point of view as I still have not seen a Bucks Velvet Scoter. It is situated at TQ 043 896 and best viewed from the Colne riverbank footpath on the west side of the pit. Parking is limited but available at the end of the lane at TQ 048 890 from where one can walk across the muddy causeway west to the Colne footpath.


Four Egyptian Geese grazing near the barns.


All 3 wintering LITTLE EGRETS on site, two just east of Bois Mill and one near Chenies Bottom. A young Grey Heron was feeding on the grass verge of Latimer Road.

At the Fishing Lakes, no sign of the recent Great Crested Grebe, but COMMON KINGFISHER, 4 drake Northern Pochards, 5 Tufted Duck and 5 Coot.


Highlight this morning in the garden was a male SISKIN - my first of the autumn. Still up to 12 Goldfinches present on the Nyger seed.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Hilfield KITTIWAKE

Tony Blake obtained this superb photograph of a first-winter KITTIWAKE at Hilfield Park Reservoir at the weekend (Sunday). Incredibly, the bird lingered for most of the day. Two LITTLE GULLS were also seen that day, an adult and a first-winter.

Both ROCK and WATER PIPITS at Tring, and 7 DUNLIN


A pretty dismal day weatherwise with strong NE winds and intermittent showers. Much colder than of late.

After arriving very late for my date with One Show chat host David Lindo, I eventually got myself out of Central London early afternoon. I then got delayed further after there was a very serious accident on the A41 near Watford but eventually got to Tring just before 1300 hours. I undertook a full inventory of wildfowl etc but the poor weather was useless for passerines.....


A first-year Mute Swan, 6 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Coot and 38 Shoveler were all of note.


A further 17 Great Crested Grebes noted, along with 4 adult Mute Swans, 14 Common Teal, 28 Tufted Duck, 4 Northern Pochard, an adult drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD, 5 Moorhen and 158 Coots.


Very quiet and barren with just 2 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Tufted Duck and 23 Coot present.

(1400-1445 hours)

Not that much different to the weekend with 5 Little Grebes, the continuing BLACK-NECKED GREBE, a LITTLE EGRET, 25 roosting Cormorants, 24 Mute Swans, the two adult Whooper Swans, 79 Greylag Geese, much less wildfowl but 5 NORTHERN PINTAIL and 2 female COMMON GOLDENEYE and 312 Lapwing.

However, as I set up my 'scope and worked my way across the expanse of mud between the new overflow and the hide, I located SEVEN DUNLIN in amongst the 204 roosting EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER and then two pipits working their way along the edge.

One was the clean-looking WATER PIPIT of the last few days whilst the other was a dingy and heavily streaked SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT - a belated first in the county this year for me. Both birds worked their way around to the white 'froth' built up by the strong wind and afforded excellent views down to just 40 yards.

The ROCK PIPIT was typically very Meadow Pipit-like but was very heavily streaked and saturated on the underparts on a warm background. The streaks were long and extended right down the flanks. The upperparts were dark with little evidence of bracing with a pale whitish eye-ring on one side of the head and an eye-ring and a weak pale line behind the eye on the left side. The loral line was clearly dark and the stout bill quite pale orangey at the base of the mandibles. The upperwings were generally uniform olive-grey or olive-brown but had obvious pale whitish fringes to the greater and median coverts forming obvious bars. The chin and throat were unmarked and quite buffish or pale cream in colour and on the tail, the outer feathers were off-white or greyish-buff. The legs were predominantly dark but with an obvious hint of dark orange-brown. For about five minutes, it bathed in shallow water and preened, and on one occasion when it had an altercation with one of two Pied Wagtails, it uttered a sharp, explosive, metallic ''peeest' note as it flew.

Side-by-side, the WATER PIPIT was much cleaner-looking, with much whiter underparts/basal colour and much more strident, shorter and less extensive streaking. It was also a much paler brown bird on the upperparts, with more striking white-fringed wing-bars, white tail-sides and a white throat. The lower mandible was more yellow-toned in colour and the head pattern was typified by an obvious white eye-stripe. Once again, the lores were dark, the bill very slightly longer and the legs and feet very dark almost black. It was by far the more elegant pipit of the two.

Large flock of EGYPTIAN GEESE at East Hyde

These Eight EGYPTIAN GEESE were at the side of the Lower Luton Rd, East Hyde, just inside the Beds boundary, today (Robin Pearson)

SHORT-EARED OWL briefly at King's Meads

This morning on Mill Mead, I flushed a SHORT-EARED OWL at 8:50am. I then watched it hunting either side of Manifold Ditch until I lost it at 9:00am flying into Widow's Mead. This is the first SEO seen on Kings Meads since 2006 (Simon Knott)

Monday, 8 November 2010

BITTERN at Amwell

Simon Knott did exceedingly well capturing this superb shot of the first EURASIAN BITTERN to return in Hertfordshire this winter.

GREATER SCAUP at Wilstone - images by David Bilcock

The first-winter female GREATER SCAUP present at Wilstone Reservoir on Sunday - the first of the year in the county.

Saturday, 6 November 2010


A first-winter KITTIWAKE was present in the gull roost briefly this evening. Myself and Roy watched it fly in and settle on the water close to the hide at ca.16:05, after a short while it joined the resting BHGs on the exposed shore between the new overflow and the hide. Shortly after Steve had joined us from watching the WATER PIPIT by Wilson's Jetty (it's second day) all the gulls suddenly took flight and a large number flew off towards Grovebury. As we couldn't relocate the Kittiwake it presumably left with these (David Bilcock).

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

BITTERNS return to Amwell

At mid-day today the first Amwell EURASIAN BITTERN of the winter was showing well for at least hour an hour as it moved across the bays cut in the reeds opposite the Water Vole Watchpoint.

Also 4 Red-crested Pochard on Hollycross Lake and what now appears to be a 1st winter male Pintail opposite the viewpoint, but elusive (Alan Reynolds)

One of the male BEARDED TITS at Amwell - BARRY REED

Monday, 1 November 2010

BEARDED TITS arrive at Amwell - 30 October

A total of 3 BEARDED TITS - a ringed male and a pair - were discovered at Amwell NR early morning Saturday 30 October - showing on and off in front of the James Hide until mid-morning (Bill Last, Barry Reed, et al). The male showed well from the viewpoint at times and was wearing a silver BTO type ring. It flew off high to the south-east at approximately 12.40pm (per Anthony)

Flyover GOOSANDER at Amwell

29 October: Fairly quiet at Amwell this afternoon apart from a fly through female GOOSANDER heading northwest (Alan Reynolds).