Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Day Birding in NE Herts - an excellent selection

This morning in North Hertfordshire:

Therfield Heath - the adult GREAT GREY SHRIKE nr Greys farm, viewable from Icknield Way looking towards Duckpuddle bush (TL344388). Also 1 juvenile HEN HARRIER, 2 Red Kites

Deadmans Hill - 1 male MERLIN sitting in field at bottom of hill showing extremely well, 2 Red Kites

Mike Ilett

Saturday, 24 December 2011


The juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was showing well this morning on the Sailing Lake north of the Sailing Club at Nazeing Meads. It was best viewed from Dobbs Weir Lane. Park on the concrete off the road by the bridge between the gravel pits and walk south along the Lee Valley path behind the houses (Alan Reynolds)

Friday, 23 December 2011

Wintering LITTLE EGRET numbers now at 65

At least 15 Little Egrets came into the Radwell Lake roost yesterday evening in the north of the county, whilst two Goosander were at Turnford Marsh GP this morning in the Lee Valley (Graham White)

With these additional 15 and 25 at Stocker's, 15 at Welwyn and 10 at Amwell, the wintering poulation of Little Egrets currently in Hertfordshire numbers 65

SNOW BUNTING still present today

Chris Hinton obtained these fantastic new shots of the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING along the north shore of Startop's End Reservoir today, this beautiful bird seemingly intent on staying........

Juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER just over border into Essex


Another unseasonal mild day with temperatures reaching 12 degrees C - in stark contrast to Christmas 2010 when the whole of Britain was virtually icebound and covered in snow. It was also very wet with constant drizzle.....


Instigated by Graeme Smith's email, I travelled over to the Lea Valley this morning to see the juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER that has been present there since 15 December. As Graeme stated, this bird is only just 100 yards into Essex and is showing reasonably well. The bird is favouring the middle pit in the complex, easily accessed from Meadgate Road from the east. One can park without problems by Broxbourne Sailing Club and follow the trail south to Kett's Footbridge at TQ 383 069, from where the best views can be obtained. The two pits join each other at this bridge and when Graeme saw the bird yesterday it was on the southernmost pit. Please see the maps above for more direct detail.

This same complex of pits also produced 3 GOOSANDER (adult drake and two adult females), 2 Common Goldeneye, 33 Tufted Duck, 13 Northern Pochard, 25 Great Crested Grebes and 74 Coot.


I met up with Alan Reynolds at the diver and then went over to ASHLEY FISHERY PIT at Turnford to check for Goosander. Sadly none was present (Alan had seen a drake there about 10 days ago) but we did count 1 Mute Swan (first-winter), 20 Gadwall, 43 Tufted Duck and 40 Coot, whilst a male Siskin and Great Spotted Woodpecker were recorded. Also of note were 36 roosting House Sparrows in the thick hedgerow backing on to the gardens west of the railway line and 12 Chaffinches in Turnford Brooks car park.

More recent highlights

Barry Reed and others relocated the recent Kelshall GREAT GREY SHRIKE in the Greys Farm area, viewable from the Icknield Way - this area continuing to attract all 3 juvenile HEN HARRIERS and 3 SHORT-EARED OWLS. A ringtail HEN HARRIER and up to 2 MERLINS are also being reported from the Sandon area - looking east from the green gate

At Tring Reservoirs, the DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE, 4 BEWICK'S SWANS, SNOW BUNTING and WATER PIPIT all remain, whilst at Amwell NR, Barry Reed has seen both MEDITERRANEAN GULL and YELLOW-LEGGED GULL in the roost there. An adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL is also regular at Wilstone

This winter we have at least 50 roosting LITTLE EGRETS, with 25 at Stockers, 15 at Welwyn and 10 at Amwell

GREAT NORTHERN DIVER just out of county in Essex - NAZEING PITS

A few details of a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER present for its eighth day near Hoddesdon (in ESSEX) for anyone interested in seeing it over the festive period... parking and site map including round trip distance can be found here : ( look for target bird mostly around the footbridge where it feeds, if 'missing', check around E islands and tern/corm rafts );

This map shows bird in relation to the county border

And a few photos of the bird in question from the wknd:

Graeme Smith

Monday, 19 December 2011

No sign of reported Twite


Another sharp frost overnight but as the morning progressed, a front edged in from the west bringing heavier and heavier rain from early afternoon and recovering temperatures to 6 degrees C by nightfall.

At around 1300 hours, Alan Gardiner and Steve Blake alerted me to the report of a Twite at Startop's End Reservoir by an unknown observer. I immediately spoke to Dave B but he was in Sandy, so despite the rain, made my way over to check the report out........


Jason Chapman was lunchtime twitching the SNOW BUNTING shortly after I arrived and together we obtained yet more outstanding views of this first-winter male, both in the Herts section and Bucks section of the north bank. See Dan Forder's brilliant shots above

I then did the full circumference of the reservoir - at the water's edge - but nothing more than the Snow Bunting and 3 Pied Wagtails. Like Roy, I believe the report almost certainly related to the bunting, as surprisingly enough, many features overlap if you are working from a field guide and are a relative novice.

In terms of waterbirds, little of change, with the reservoir holding 5 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Mute Swans, 65 Gadwall (highest count in a long while), 31 Wigeon, 22 Shoveler, 37 Tufted Duck, 8 Pochard, 287 Coot and 10 Moorhens.


No Twite but 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 6 Teal, 8 Shoveler, 26 Tufted Duck, 6 Pochard and 62 Coots. Marsworth Reservoir was still covered in a thin layer of ice. All of the reservoirs bar Wilstone had an ice covering of some sort.


Walked right round checking the edges and no Twite amongst the 31 wintering Linnets on the margins. No sign of the male Common Shelduck either, nor of the 5 Goldeneyes.....

The first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was still frequenting the Cemetery Corner fields with the 7 Atlantic Canada Geese and the 67 Greylags, whilst all 4 BEWICK'S SWANS were on the Drayton Lagoon from the hide.

On the water were counted 11 Great Crested Grebes, just 9 Mute Swans (most are now on College), 311 Wigeon (an increase again), 18 Shoveler, 230 Common Teal, 42 Tufted Duck, 106 Pochard and 752 Coot.

In the hedgerows, large numbers of winter thrushes feeding on the hawthorn berries including 66 Fieldfare, 22 Redwing and 12 Common Blackbirds.


In the town centre, the adult female PEREGRINE was roosting and in the main shopping precinct, 38 Pied Wagtails were roosting in the small bush in front of the British Heart Foundation charity shop

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Today's Highlights

The star performer - our male SNOW BUNTING at Startop's End (magnificently photographed above by Lucy Flower) - continues to perform well for admirers whilst in the east of the county, 3 juvenile HEN HARRIERS and a male MERLIN continue in the Therfield Heath area.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

First twitchable SNOW BUNTING at Tring Reservoirs


The unsettled theme continued today with strong NW winds bringing a period of wet snow during the afternoon. It was very cold - the strong wind making it feel much much colder.

After missing out yesterday, and still reeling after the Ivinghoe dip, I finally caught up with our star performing SNOW BUNTING today........


Still 8 LITTLE EGRETS in the valley, most frequenting the ditches just east of Bois Mill


Joined Mike Collard, Mike Campbell and others at Startop's mid morning to find the SNOW BUNTING still showing fabulously on the foreshore at the north end of the reservoir. It was remarkably confiding and over the hour of observation, walked to within just 28 yards of the Buckinghamshire border. It thus became the second species this year (with DBBG) that I have seen from Buckinghamshire but not within it !


At very close range it was seen to have spiky (pointed) rather than rounded tail feathers and with its bright yellow bill and extensive white in the upper wings, presumably a FIRST-WINTER MALE.

A typical bunting in shape and structure with predominantly white underparts, extending to the undertail coverts. Crown tinged rufous, with a dark ear covert and a mixture of dark and pale fringed feathers on the mantle. Some warmth extending out on to the sides of the breast forming an incomplete breast-band, with paler buff streaking in the hindneck and eye-stripe. Dark-centred scapulars and extensive white in the wings, especially in flight. Primaries very dark with white tips and tertials edged with warm rufous. A dark beady eye, striking yellow bill and short black legs and feet. Typical, rippling ''prrrrii'' call when I approached it.


SNOW BUNTING is a rare visitor to Hertfordshire with just 34 previous records involving over 50 birds, at least 10 of these being at Tring Reservoirs (the most recent in January 1981)

1) The first county record related to one shot near Hitchin in January 1881, with two captured near Royston at about the same time;

2) One was shot on Harpenden Common on 24 January 1883;

3) One was shot at Royston on 16 September 1893;

4) One was shot on Royston Heath on 6 December 1893 (Foster 1914);

5) One was shot near Sandon in January 1894 (Hartert & Jourdain 1920);

6) A male was captured near Tring on 22 February 1894 (Hartert & Jourdain 1920);

7) A flock is said to have been seen at Tring Reservoirs in 1895; there are two males in the Hitchin Museum from this period, one of which was obtained at Offley about 1890 and the other at Hitchin about 1900, whilst two were said to have been obtained at Aldenham Reservoir in January 1895;;

8) One was watched at close range in a ploughed field at Letchworth in January 1913 (Foster 1914);

9) A single was between Harfield and Welwyn on 30 January 1926 (The Field 147: 283);

10) A male remained at Wilstone Reservoir from 13-20 October 1935 (Dr J.S. Carter);

11) Two birds were present at Wilstone Reservoir on 6-7 November 1944;

12) Two were again at Wilstone Reservoir on 10 November 1945 (W. E. Glegg);

13) An immature visited Wilstone on 25 October 1952;

14) One visited Wilstone Reservoir on 9 October 1953;

15) A male was at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 3 February 1957 (London Bird Report 1957: 34);

16) A flock of at least 6 birds was noted at North Mymms on 13 December 1959;

17) A female was at Rye Meads Sewage Farm on 23 January 1960;

18) A male was at Highley Hill, Ashwell, on 1 October 1960;

19) One remained at Wilstone Reservoir from 1-5 November 1961;

20) Another was seen at Rye Meads on 5 November 1961;

21) Three flew south over Welwyn Garden City on 6 March 1972;

22) Two pairs were reported from Maple Cross on 26 November 1972;

23) A male was seen at Wilstone Reservoir on 28 October 1974;

24) One remained at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 15-18 November 1978;

25) A female was apparently seen with Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers NE of Weston Hills, Baldock, on 1 January 1979 (Brian Sawford);

26) One was seen near Wilstone Reservoir on 8 January 1981 (N. Woods);

27) One was seen in flight with Meadow Pipits at Tyttenhanger on 20 November 1988 (Steve Pearce);

28) A first-winter male remained at Tyttenhanger GP from 29 November to 1 December 1996 (Lee Marshall et al) giving many local observers their first opportunity to see this species in the county;

29) A pair was located at Kelshall on 9 November 1997 (Martin Craig), one of which was last seen on 14 December;

30) One was found in Hemel Hempstead on 5 December 1997 (M. Pearson);

31) One was found at Amwell GP on 21 November 1999 (Graham White);

32) A first-winter male was seen and photographed at Barley on 3 March 2000 (Charles Doggett & Doug Radford) (photograph in Hertfordshire Bird Report 2000, page 273);

33) A bird was watched for about 15 minutes foraging in a field at Temple End on 23 March 2007 (John Camp);

34) Most recently, an immature was just 40 yards over the county boundary in Essex at Wickam Hall near Bishop's Stortford in 5-7 November 2011. Alan Reynolds briefly saw it flight into Hertfordshire on 6 November.

Additional Birds

The pair of Red-crested Pochards and 42 Gadwall were on Startop's End whilst on neighbouring Marsworth Reservoir, Don Stone located an adult female GOOSANDER which showed well close to the causeway all afternoon.

Wilstone Reservoir continued to produce the family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS and the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE with the 67 Greylags in Cemetery Corner Fields, as well as 11 Mute Swans, 250 Eurasian Wigeon and an increase to 883 Coots. There was also a report of a GREAT GREY SHRIKE from the meadow behind the hide


In addition to a pair of Mute Swans on the Grand Union Canal at Bulbourne, a further 21 (including 3 first-years) were present on the main marsh at College. Other wildfowl counted included 28 Mallard, 74 Wigeon, 18 Gadwall, 1 female Shoveler, 40 Tufted Duck and 12 Northern Pochard, as well as 1 Little Grebe, 44 Coot, 8 Moorhen and a Green Woodpecker

Monday, 12 December 2011


Alan Reynolds obtained this excellent image of this gorgeous drake GOOSANDER at Ashley Fisheries Cheshunt today.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Sunday Round-up

In the east of the county, up to 3 juvenile HEN HARRIERS remain in setaside adjacent to the Icknield Way at Therfield Heath, whilst elsewhere, the first-year LITTLE GULL continues at Hilfield Park, a female SMEW and 3 GOOSANDER are at Stocker's Lake and the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE and 4 BEWICK'S SWANS at Wilstone Reservoir

Monday, 5 December 2011


The first-winter LITTLE GULL was still present at Hilfield Park Reservoir today (Derek Turner). Tony Blake obtained this distant image from the Dagger Lane Viewpoint. An excellent December record for the county

A real HEN HARRIER treat


In line with the last two years, winter arrived in our region yesterday, with extremely cold winds blowing down from Greenland. Further north in Scotland, up to 20 centimetres of snow has fallen in Caithness, Sutherland, Highland Region and Speyside - the first significant falls of winter. It was another cold night here with an overnight ground frost and temperatures during the day hovered between 4 and 6 degrees C.

With a record number of HEN HARRIERS being seen in the Therfield area, I decided to devote the afternoon birding the area - that decision enforced after a Brent Goose - the first in Be3dfordshire this year - had flown off east from Stewartby Lake after just a short time of staying. Thanks to Mike Ilett, I was eventually able to make contact............


It was freezing cold watching from the layby at the top of Coombe Road and after half an hour and no raptors at all, I contacted Mike Ilett for advice. Mike knew the Therfield area well, having conducted much valued Atlas work in this area, and suggested I took the footpath leading east out of Therfield village, at the end of Mill Lane (at TL 339 376). This was excellent advice and after finding myself a sheltered spot out of the wind, about 200 yards east of the Icknield Way, scanning with the 'scope soon revealed the presence of no less than 3 ringtail HEN HARRIERS. In fact, all three individuals were favouring a strip of setaside just west of the Icknield Way at approximately TL 345 389 and were on view throughout my observation period over an hour mid afternoon. All three birds appeared to be juveniles, with varying amounts of heavy streaking on the underparts, ranging from light ginger to quite warm rufous. I concentrated on the outer primaries with all three individuals exhibiting FIVE fingered primaries - and therefore eliminating the possibility of being Pallid Harriers (of which 35 or more have appeared in Britain this autumn and over 300 in Scandinavia). All three birds had a broad wing structure, were quite heavy in terms of flight (not agile and light) and were long-tailed. They were invariably marked on both the upperparts and upper tail, with one bird having a reasonably noticeable greater covert/forewing patch and the other two much less so. The feathers of the mantle were noticeably pale fringed, with all three having well marked facial patterns and warm basal colour to the underparts. One bird that I saw better when walking down the Icknield Way did appear to have some paleness in the iride and was therefore likely to be a juvenile male. This bird like the others had a lot of warmth in the upper tail and a narrow buffish border to the tail tip.

I have never before seen three Hen Harriers in the county at one given time and knowing the scarcity of this raptor in Britain nowadays, this was a real treat indeed. Of course, they represented my first in the year in the county.

Walking this area produced a lot of birds: just over 100 Eurasian Skylarks in stubble east of Park Farm and a large covey of 23 GREY PARTRIDGES there; 240 lapwings, 38 European Golden Plovers and 4 Red Kites; also a nice Red Fox.

North of Hill Farm in Therfield, the FALLOW DEER herd numbered 122, including 5 stags and a number of fawn coloured individuals and one white marker animal.

A flock of 22 Chaffinches and 5 Yellowhammers were near North End but searching Deadman Hill and then the Wallington Road, failed as usual to yield any Merlin sightings (nor any Short-eared Owls surprisingly). Five more Red Kites were seen.

I also recorded 6 more GREY PARTRIDGES near Lannock Hill south of Baldock at TL 310 243

Sunday, 4 December 2011

SHORT-EARED OWL at Tyttenhanger

This morning RBA reported a SHORT-EARED OWL at Tyttenhanger at 9:30. I wasn't able to go down straight away, so I decided to go down at dusk. This proved a good move, as the owl appeared over the sheep field just after 4pm, and showed well for about 10 minutes. It flew mainly over the area between the main pit and the hedge across the field (David Booth)

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


In the east of the county, up to 6 SHORT-EARED OWLS and a ringtail HEN HARRIER were today in fields between Kelshall/Therfield Heath and Sandon's Deadman's Hill

Today's Sightings

The single first-winter TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE remains at Tyttenhanger GP, along with the 2 WHITE-FRONTED GEESE and 4 Greylag Geese (per Steve Blake)

Also, the first-winter LITTLE GULL is reportedly still at Hilfield Park Reservoir (per RBA)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

LITTLE GULL at Hilfield Park Reservoir

There is an unconfirmed report of a first-winter LITTLE GULL at Hilfield Park Reservoir this afternoon.........

TUNDRA BEAN still there

The first-winter Tundra Bean Goose and 2 Eurasian White-fronted Goose were still on the sand spit this morning, although while I was there the Bean Goose took flight twice. The first time it flew southward at 9:25 and returned at 9:45, and again at 10:50. When I left at 11:30 it did not appear to have returned and on a last scan of the sand, the White-fronts and Greylags could not be seen.

This does not necessarily mean that they have moved on, as they have been seen feeding in the 'cow' fields at the back of Willows Farm car park. Also seen today - Dunlin, Snipe, 26 flyover Golden Plover and a Peregrine Falcon scattering everything (Steve Blake).

Sunday, 27 November 2011

More from Tyttenhanger

A circuit of Tyttenhanger GP today produced 10 Lesser Redpoll in Garden Wood behind the hide, and the Tundra Bean Goose and two Eurasian White-fronts out on the silt. Some photos attached above (Alan Reynolds).


The first-winter TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE remained with the two WHITE-FRONTED GEESE at Tyttenhanger today

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Today's first-winter TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE at Tyttenhanger - some superb images from Mike Ilett

TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE at Tyttenhanger


A very blustery morning with a strong SW wind blowing. Temperatures were pegged back to 11 degrees C, with cloudy conditions prevailing......


At around 1050 hours, I received a phone call from Steve Blake informing me of a 'Bean Goose' at Tyttenhanger. It had just arrived and was 'jittery'

Being an excellent county bird, I jumped in the car and just as I was arriving on site some 23 minutes later, Steve phoned again to say that the bird had just that minute flown off high south (at 1115 hours). I was mightily cheesed off, as the section of M25 between Junctions 21 and 22 inevitably and repeatedly cost me valuable minutes with the continuing roadworks. As it was, I decided to drive around to the northern entrance to the pits and as I was doing so, Steve phones again with the news that the bird has flown back on to the pit !

I was particularly pleased therefore to see it still present as I 'scoped from the first 'bridge'. I then walked around to the farm to get better views. I joined the finders (Steve Blake, Ricky Flesher and Steve Pearce) as well as Graham Knight and Phil Rhodes (and later to be joined by Mike Ilett and Robin Pearson). The bird was loosely associating with the other geese present on the pit - 40 Atlantic Canada Geese and the two - an adult and juvenile - EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE - and after swimming on the water for 20 minutes or more eventually climbed out on to the sand spit and started preening and then sleeping. The views were excellent and both Steve Blake and Mike Ilett obtained some excellent photographs and video footage (to be published later).

The bird with its thick, dark, short neck and relatively short, stumpy bill was an obvious TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE. This bird, unlike the family party I saw at Cainhoe last weekend, had only a limited amount of orange on the bill, restricted to a thin line towards the tip of the bill. The legs and feet were dull orange whilst the flanks were uniform and upperwings boldly fringed with thite. The most distinct white edges were on the tips of the secondaries and the greater coverts whilst the others were more subdued and less white in appearance. The bird was a first-winter.

It roosted on the sand for some time, occasionally taking on a more alert posture, before returning to the water but for no apparent reason, flew off again south at 1237 hours. I watched it fly over the wood and then drop down, seemingly on the farm reservoir south of Coursers Lane. Allan Stewart and I later went over there but just as we did, a shooting party arrived, and consequently Ian Williams picked it up returning once more to the main pit at 1340 hours. It was still on the main pit when I departed the site some 15 minutes later.

Bean Geese are rare vagrants to Hertfordshire with just nine previous records involving 40 individuals. At least one of these was believed to be an escape -:

1) A party of 15 were seen near Royston on 15 January 1881;
2) One was shot in Munden Park, Watford, during the winter of 1890/91;
3) Two were noted in the Colne Valley at Maple Cross on 16 February 1979;
4) A bird of somewhat suspect origin was at Hooks Marsh, Cheshunt, from 31 March and 2 May 1981; what was presumably the same bird was seen at Rye Meads on 9 May 1983 and again in the Lee Valley during February to April 1986 before returning to Amwell from 10 March to 20 May 1991 and 5 January to 17 May 1992;
5) Two were reported at Maple Cross on 24 February 1984 but were considered by the observer to be feral birds;
6) One remained with Canada Geese at Wilstone Reservoir from 9 February to 23 March 1985;
7) Two Tundra Bean Geese were at Wilstone Reservoir on 4-5 January 1997;
8) Two adult Tundra Bean Geese visited the HMWT Meadows at Rye Meads RSPB on 2 December 2004
9) A party of 14 Tundra Bean Geese visited Wilstone Reservoir on 26 January and 7 February 2006 but remained in the interim period at neighbouring College Lake BBOWT and surrounding farmland.

In addition to the geese, the pit held 4 Great Crested Grebes and 133 Lapwings, whilst 2 Red Kites and 8 European Golden Plovers flew over; Allan Stewart and I had 12 TREE SPARROWS at the Tyttenhanger Farm Feeding Station

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Male HEN HARRIER lingering at Hatfield Aerodrome

Here is some more information about this bird. I had met Alan Reynolds in the area as he has kindly agreed to produce a site guide and wished to walk around the area with someone who knows it reasonably well.We followed the public footpath from the Hatfield Road to a point near where there used to be double gates into the airfield from the footpath. When looking around we saw a large raptor about 10m above the ground not far from the fence with the former BT compound along with a substantial number of startled Fieldfares. It was immediately obvious that the bird was a male HEN HARRIER which flew across onto the old airfield at low level and flew towards Hatfield. We watched it for about 10 minutes and then lost it from view. About 30 minutes later it appeared again a little to the north of its original position and the bird flew over the old BT site and climbed to some height before dropping over the hedge onto the airfield again. It must have been within 100m of us at times but unfortunately nether of us had a suitable camera with us to take a record shot.This bird could still be there now as it was clearly hunting over the rougher areas of vegetation. It was easy to see from the public footpath so there is no need move away from this track to see the bird if it is still there (Alan Gardiner)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Kelshall GREAT GREY SHRIKE still in situ

GREAT GREY SHRIKE showing well at 14.30 in row of large trees at the bottom of the field opposite the junction at the top of Coombe Road, TL324366 (Roger Millard)

Permissible Footpaths - Beech Farm

I have marked in red the permissible footpaths at Beech Farm. Park at Notcutts or thereabouts and follow the trail - the Short-eared Owls being best viewed from the main central track. There is no need nor justification to leave this clearly marked trail. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, HARASS THE OWLS OR DISTURB THEM. They will remain all winter if not disturbed

Beech Farm - unacceptable behaviour

Up to 4 SHORT-EARED OWLS are currently wintering at Beech Farm - at the site of the former Hatfield Aerodrome. They are part of a nationwide influx of the species in Britain following an exceptional breeding season due to an explosion of Field Voles. It has come to my attention that these particular owls are being unnecessary hounded, mainly by photographers. This is totally unnecessary and unacceptable. The birds can be perfectly viewed from the maze of public footpaths criss-crossing the common and there is absolutely no need to leave these footpaths. Approaching the birds when they are roosting on the fenceposts is intolerable and unnecessary hounding. We want these birds to remain all winter so please adhere to viewing instructions.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

And more wintering SHORT-EARED OWLS.....

Two or probably 3 SHORT-EARED OWLS around Deadman's Hill, Sandon, from the green gate about 15:45 this afternoon. Two were distant and flying high - almost soaring, one was down on the feeder on the set-aside. After, I had some cracking views of one near the gate of the first house on the right as it got dark. The owl then flew along the road and back past me at about 3m distance. I was standing out of the car, but it appeared unconcerned (Rob Davies)

Friday, 18 November 2011

SHORT-EARED OWL evening spectacular


A much cooler day than of late with SSE winds pegging temperatures back. A dry day though, and fairly bright......


The juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was still showing very well today, frequenting the extreme NE corner of Caldecotte North Lake. It was diving almost continuously and also ventured out on to the main lake. As both Simon and Ben have already expressed, the bird is particularly photogenic, and swims within 30 feet of the boardwalk.

DIRECTIONS: From the A5, take the H10 Bletcham Way eastwards. Just after the Brewer's Fayre pub, take first right on to Monellan Grove. Within a few yards, turn left on to Caldecotte Lane and then left again on to Wadesmill Lane. This road takes you under the Walton Park underpass and after about 150 yards turn left in to Chase Avenue. Continue on until Redcote Manor cul-de-sac appears on your left and park sensibly as you come across the bay.

This was the first time I had ever visited this particular part of the lake and I was impressed by the number of waterbirds present - 6 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Mute Swans (2 first-winters), 38 Mallard, 5 Gadwall, 13 Tufted Duck, 28 Coot, 1 Grey Heron and a COMMON KINGFISHER.....

Allan Stewart and I then checked Caldecotte South Lake where a further 8 Great Crested Grebe, 11 Mute Swans (including family party of 6) and 83 Coot were noted.


Following up on a report, Allan and I visited the Woodland Hide at Linford Reserve. In the 45 minutes that we were present, a procession of Great and Blue Tits visited the two feeders consistently. There were also 3 black-capped tits visiting throughout, including two pale cutting-edged MARSH TITS and what appeared to be a WILLOW TIT. All three birds were typically vocal, the apparent Willow Tit making the nasal call most frequently associated with that species. It was also very bull-necked in appearance, with the black extending slightly further back on to the hindneck, the white cheeks contrasting with the warmth of the head and the sides and flanks very richly coloured. The black bib was more extensive and patchy and the crown colour more drab and plain. The wing panel however was very ill-defined and difficult to see.

The Woodland Hide also yielded 4 Bullfinches, 30 Fieldfares, 28 Redwings and 2 Song Thrushes, whilst Black Horse Lake held 9 Great Crested Grebes and Linford Lake 14 Little Grebe (all in one flock), 54 Mute Swans and 62 Common Teal on the pool by the Swans Way.


We had a good look round for Tree Sparrows but failed to locate any and likewise failed in our quest to locate the Great White Egret......

However, driving down the track towards Gayhurst Manor, we were surprised to find a COMMON RAVEN 'guarding' the road and gathering horse hair in its beak. Surely it was not nesting already. Anyway, as we approached, it cronked a couple of times and then flew off in the direction of this spring's nest. The same pony fields yielded 40 Meadow Pipits and 15 Pied Wagtails.

Little Linford Wood was devoid of any maize crop and consequently any Tree Sparrows or farmland birds but 5 Fieldfare were noted.

At SP 850 440, the large lake to the west of the M1 held 42 Mute Swans.


Nothing new had arrived - in fact the adult Eurasian White-front had departed.

The juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT was still in the usual field adjacent to Rushy Meadow, the family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS in the isolated pool in the NW corner by the Black Poplars and 3 Little Grebes, 65 Greylag Geese, 2 drake PINTAIL, the female RED-CRESTED POCHARD and 5 COMMON GOLDENEYE on the main reservoir.


A splendid performance by up to 4 SHORT-EARED OWLS at dusk, including 3 typically pale individuals and a single darker bird. Also no less than 6,500 Jackdaws flew noisily in to roost - this being one of the largest roosts of this species in Britain

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Swooping down after prey, Alan Reynolds captures one of the 2 Beech Farm SHORT-EARED OWLS on film

WHITE-FRONT at Tyttenhanger - and SHORT-EARED OWLS still present nearby

At 2 pm I visited Tyttenhanger to try and see the Tree Sparrows but unfortunately there was no sign of them in the hedge by the maize strip, just 1 Yellowhammer and 1 Reed Bunting of note (but 25 Red-legs in the neighbouring field). I decided to scope the pit from the high vantage point here, and quickly found 5 grey geese in the marshy area on the right. 4 of these were Greylags, but I was delighted to find that one of them was a White-fronted Goose. The sun was already quite low and was giving the birds a rather soft/colourful tint, but I must admit that I thought the bill of the White-front was rather orange (and not pinkish like the bird I saw yesterday at Wilstone), and it also had quite heavy stomach barring. This made me think it might possibly have been a Greenland... but on speaking to Lee by phone and realising how exceptionally rare a Greenland Wh-fr would be in Herts, I'm sure in retrospect it will prove to be a European White-front and the low light was playing tricks, making the bill appear more orange-ish than it really was. But a great bird all the same, and I was really pleased to see it.

I then moved on to Beech Farm / Hatfield Aerodrome area, where from 2.55 onwards, I had great (if brief) views of hunting Short-eared Owls, with about 9 or 10 connections in the next 30 minutes. There were clearly at least 2 birds (1 paler and 1 darker), but I thought there might possibly be three hunting (although I never saw more than 1 at a time). A real pleasure to see these beautiful birds (Jason Chapman).

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Other Highlights from Sunday

The 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS remain at Beech Farm and the GREAT GREY SHRIKE at Kelshall



Continuing very unseasonally mild (17 degrees C) with long bright periods and light SE winds......


Undoubted highlight today were a herd of 10 BEWICK'S SWANS (7 adults, 3 juveniles) which arrived from the east over College Lake (Paul Reed) before eventually settling close to the Drayton Bank on Wilstone at 0945 hours (Steve Rodwell et al). Dave Bilcock and I managed to see them shortly later, all 10 still present at 1015 hours. In fact, Ian Bennell and Dave Hutchinson saw them much later, DH obtaining the nice images above....

Otherwise, it was the same as yesterday, with the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE still feeding in the grass field just west of Rushy Meadow

Saturday, 12 November 2011

........And finally a DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE


At first thing this morning, the Chiltern area was bathed in a blanket of dense fog. This has followed some intense rain overnight. Winds were once again in the SE, fairly light and warm. At around 0930 hours, the fog started to lift and giving way to bright periods.

It was another eventful day on the local birding front with some excellent birds being found. Before I had even left the house, Steve Heath had watched 4 Common Cranes fly NE over Southill, and whilst mapping out my route for the day, Roy Hargreaves did it for me by finding a DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE.......


A single LITTLE EGRET was present as I drove past

(0945-1300 hours)

I parked up at Drayton Beauchamp bridge at 0945 hours and walked eastwards along the canal towpath. I could see the Brent almost immediately but obtained the best views after walking 250 yards along. The bird, a rather tired-looking juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE, was feeding on the grass in the large field adjacent to Rushy Meadow, two fields north of the Dry Canal. It was less than 40 yards from Buckinghamshire! For some of the time, it stood up and fed, but in the main, sat down and munched voraciously on the blades of grass. It was very alert though, always keeping an eye on people, dogwalkers and the odd Common Buzzard flying over. It also got quite spooked when a Black-headed Gull landed next to it and snatched some grubs from the ground. With its indistinct off-white neckring, pale mantle and clear-cut wing-bars, it could easily be aged as a juvenile.

In the 90 minutes that I stood there watching it from the canal (and beckoning it over the border), just 6 birders came and went - RH, Chaz Jackson, Mike Campbell, Francis Buckle, Ian Williams and David Bilcock - Dave of course obtaining the two images published above. A welcome Herts Yeartick considering how many have passed through the London Area this past week.

The fields either side of the Dry Canal were surprisingly plentiful in farmland species, with a flock of 60 Fieldfare noted, 3 Mistle Thrush, 4 Bullfinch, 8 Yellowhammer, 25 Meadow Pipit, 9 Linnet, 30 Goldfinch and 27 Skylark. A Sparrowhawk also whizzed through.

A comprehensive check of WILSTONE RESERVOIR failed once again to yield any sign of Steve Blake's Thursday Twite. The rollcall included 30 Mute Swans, the 2 adult Whooper Swans, 65 Greylag Geese, 4 Gadwall, 238 Eurasian Wigeon, 90 Common Teal, 65 Shoveler and 92 Northern Pochard and highlighted in 5 NORTHERN PINTAILS (2 adult drakes, a first-winter drake and 2 females), a RED-CRESTED POCHARD, 5 female COMMON GOLDENEYE, 411 European Golden Plovers, a single DUNLIN, 2 Common Snipe and the wintering WATER PIPIT.

The neighbouring reservoirs were at the lowest water levels in decades, with Marsworth even now falling dramatically. TRINGFORD RESERVOIR held 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, several Teal and Shoveler and 28 Tufted Duck, whilst STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR produced 14 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Mute Swans, 14 Canada Geese, 5 Gadwall, 65 Teal, 15 Pochard, 11 Shoveler and 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (1 adult drake, 1 adult female and a first-winter female).

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR added 4 Great Crested Grebes, a single Mute Swan, 27 Shoveler and 4 WATER RAILS feeding in the open on the mud; a Wren was in full song.


Although frustratingly unbeknown to me I drove past a flock of 15 Pintail at Grovebury Pit (perhaps the largest county flock in over two decades), Brogborough Lake did not disappoint. Joining Bob Chalkley on the bank in front of the windsurfing centre at the east end, the two of us very quickly latched on to the 3 BLACK-NECKED GREBES found earlier by Neil Wright. They were in amongst a large raft of Coot. Somewhat surprisingly, they constituted the first in the county this year and represented my 188th county species of 2011. Initially, they were visible about half way down the lake but as a shooting party arrived on the north shore and started blasting Mallards on the water to death, virtually every bird on the lake became unsettled.

Minutes earlier, as I started to count the Coot flock, I was somewhat surprised to see a juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER surface in my 'scope view - another first for the year. This bird proceeded to swim towards the east end of the pit, affording both Bob and I some excellent views. Unlike some individuals, it dived and surfaced after a relatively short space of time and was initially easy to keep on. Literally seconds before the shooting began, Lol Carman waltzed up and managed a couple of views in my 'scope but then we lost it for some time, BC eventually relocating it down the southern flank of the lake. It was then seen on and off throughout the afternoon and was still there when I left the site at 1445 hours.

After eventually finishing the Coot count (256 birds incidentally), I concentrated on counting the other wildfowl present on the lake, including 13 Great Crested Grebes, 117 Tufted Duck, 198 Northern Pochard, a pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARD and 9 COMMON GOLDENEYE (including 3 drakes).


Gypsy Lane Pits yielded 230 Greylag Geese and a single Barnacle Goose but it wasn't until I spoke with SCB that I realised that the geese I had driven over to see were not with them. In fact, the party of 10 EUROPEAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were sitting in the large grassy field immediately east of the G & M Growers site to the north of the main road. They comprised a family party of 2 adults and 8 juveniles - the largest single brood of White-fronts I have ever seen in the UK. The same field also harboured a covey of 10 GREY PARTRIDGES

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Local Mega - TWITE at Wilstone


It was another mild day today with the wind still blowing from the south. It was also fairly misty first thing before the sun shone through, giving way to clearer skies


With CDRH phoning me on a daily basis with 'another' batch of Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Queen Mother Reservoir, I visited Wilstone in the hope that one may have made landfall there, particularly as Herts has been largely devoid of this species in 2011. As suspected, there were none, and in fact virtually nothing different from what has been there on recent days.....

The WATER PIPIT was still present in the bay just to the north of the jetty, as well as the party of 10 Meadow Pipits - and with them was what I assumed to be the single Linnet noted on previous occasions and first recorded on 24 October. I had heard it fly around with the pipits and casually glanced at it with the naked eye but had not actually looked at it in the bins' or 'scope. I was therefore mightily annoyed when Steve Blake rang not long after I had departed to say that he was watching a single TWITE ! If only I had not assumed that it was the long-staying Linnet and actually followed it up.

Frustratingly, the most frequently uttered call-notes of Twite are those most readily confused with Linnet and those sweet sounds uttered which actually gave this species its name are in the minority, especially outside of summer and the breeding grounds - and hence why I never picked up on its significance. A lesson truly learned

Steve kept on the Twite for several minutes, as it loosely associated with the Meadow Pipit flock close to the jetty on the east bank. On the deck, it kept largely to itself - preferring to feed on the emergent weedy vegetation higher up the 'beach' whilst the pipits mainly kept to the mud. As I was talking Steve through various pointers, the bird suddenly took flight. It called several times again and was then lost from view - the entire flock disappearing out into the fields of Cemetery Corner. Despite a long vigil, it was not seen again, nor the Meadow Pipit flock.

An excellent record Steve but I am hugely frustrated at overlooking it. Just goes to show that single birds can be replaced in exactly the same location and in exactly the same circumstances.....

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

COMMON SCOTER at last-knockings


Yet another unseasonally mild day, with temperatures reaching 13 degrees C. Although very grey and misty throughout much of the morning, the freshening southerly winds cleared the skies during the afternoon, allowing blue sky and sunny periods to prevail......

November has proved to be particularly exciting in the Home Counties with new birds turning up almost daily. Today was no exception......


The adult female PEREGRINE was roosting on the BT building this morning, whilst the Feral Pigeon population numbered at least 370 birds


Barry Nightingale discovered a first-year RED-BREASTED MERGANSER late morning on the Pillinge Pit and within the hour, MJP, Lol, Bob Chalkley and others had connected. Due to commitments, I was not able to get to the site until 1400 hours, but thankfully it was still present - and showing well roughly about half way down the pit. It was diving continuously and with its spiky crest and relatively dull bare part colouration was most likely a bird of the year (the upperwing pattern was not seen to be sure of its ageing).. The bird was still present at 1500 hours.

Large numbers of roosting gulls were present on the pit, including several Common and Great Black-backed Gulls, whilst other species noted included Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 6 Mute Swans, 6 Gadwall, 7 Wigeon and 11 Tufted Ducks.


Again, thanks to Roy Nye, I 'gripped back' SLAVONIAN GREBE, after being away in spring when the dapper summer-plumaged adult visited Priory Country Park. The bird was showing very well at the SE end of the lake and could easily be viewed from the Windsurfing Centre and represented my 187th species in the county this year - far and away my best personal year.

Also present at 1540 hours were 4 Little Grebes, 11 Great Crested Grebes, 222 Tufted Ducks, 74 Northern Pochards and the two female COMMON GOLDENEYES


Making a hasty retreat from Brogborough, I retraced my steps back down the roadwork-ridden M1 and made my way down to Hilfield Park Reservoir, where another county Year-Tick was lying in wait. Thankfully, it was a well-lit and clear evening, and dodging both JT and Derek Turner on the dam, I was able to enjoy great views of the female-type COMMON SCOTER at the aerodrome end of the reservoir. It remained until dusk and represented my 165th species in the county this year. There has been just one brief record at Wilstone Reservoir this year.

It is interesting to compare the fortunes of the Home Counties in 2011 - Bedfordshire is leagues ahead on 200 species, with Buckinghamshire on 189 and Hertfordshire just 1 behind on 188.

An influx of SHORT-EARED OWLS.........and a COMMON SCOTER

Three SHORT-EARED OWLS were discovered this evening - two at Beech Farm and another at Elstree Aerodrome

Meanwhile, a COMMON SCOTER was present until dusk at Hilfield Park Reservoir

The GREAT GREY SHRIKE remains at Kelshall at the top of Coombe Road

Monday, 7 November 2011

Alan Reynold's sees the SNOW BUNTING in Herts!

Sunday: I stated that the Snow Bunting had flown towards the silos. In fact it had flown over the silos at which point I lost interest because, as far as I was concerned, it had gone.

Since then I have checked and the silos are in Hertfordshire. This has now been confirmed by Mike Harris who has local knowledge. So it is now a Herts tick. I won't be sending in a description, just a photograph (see above). It certainly was very confiding

John Slee, the doughnuts are on me!! (Alan Reynolds)

Just 200 yards out of county - Stortford SNOW BUNTING

A SNOW BUNTING is present for a third day near Bishop's Stortford, just 200 yards over the county border in Essex.

DIRECTIONS: .On the Stortford bypass, head w along the A120 toward Hadhams and then take your first right, a farm track that leads down to an underpass where you can park. Walk North along Hadham Lodge footpath, following the east edge of the wood until you reach the NE corner where you can set off east along an exposed path to Wickam Hall where the bird is feeding 60 yards before you hit the hedgerow (Graeme Smith)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Today's Highlights

The Kelshall Coombe Road GREAT GREY SHRIKE was still present today (Ray Hooper, Mike Ilett, Brendan Glynn, et al), with a GREY PLOVER briefly in flight over Wilstone Reservoir (Dave Bilcock).

There were no reports of the Eastern Crowned Warbler today in the scrub and trees in the SE corner (200m from the hide) so I am assuming it may now have at last gone

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

GGS still present

The GREAT GREY SHRIKE was still present east of the Coombe Road this morning (several observers) whilst the adult female PEREGRINE pictured above (Dan Forder) was roosting this afternoon on its usual perch in Hemel Hempstead town centre (LGRE)

Meanwhile, Barry Reed saw a WATER PIPIT at Amwell NR yesterday afternoon.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Frustrating warbler


Spent a lot of time at Hilfield Park Reservoir today but difficult viewing and with putative CCTV on site, one has to be careful at which point you enter. There was the odd person inside, mainly looking in just one area, but the bird is mobile and seemingly, often on its own. At one stage it would have been viewable from the perimeter fence, about 75 yards along from the main airport hangar and 50 yards from the white airport buildings. There is still so much foliage on the trees that getting full views of any of the smaller birds in there is extremely difficult. Its favoured place does seem to be a line of coniferous trees not that far from the viewing platform.

Apparently Joan Thompson is in charge of proceedings and allowing access when she is in there; contact her on 07773 910 384. She was certainly in there today and yesterday but I don't know if she has actually seen the bird.


This Kelshall GREAT GREY SHRIKE was still present today, showing intermittently about 300 yards east of the top of Coombe Road. Simon West managed this series of distant images as we stood together yesterday morning..........


The EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER remains for a third day at Hilfield Park Reservoir, frequenting tall conifers at the eastern (airfield) side of the reservoir. Access is for HMWT members only or by special invitation.

Despite my dip yesterday, Darrel connects with the MERLIN

Along with Dave Beer and Steve Lane, went searching for the Great Grey Shrike this morning.We spent 2 hours on site but to no avail.We did however have 2 Common Crossbills flyover calling , followed shortly by 12 Lesser Redpolls. Also a nice Red Kite seen from Coombe Road.

We then drove the short distance to Wallington and parked up by the gates , from where the Quail were viewed a couple of years ago. As soon as we got out of the car we noticed a small raptor at around 100 yards range in the bare field on the opposite side of the road. Indeed it was the MERLIN that has been in the area for the past couple of weeks. It gave great scope views for approx 5 minutes at around 12.30 when it flew to the opposite side of the road. The bird stayed grounded for a further 5 minutes and also clashed with a Kestrel, before returning to settle. The bird eventually flew over towards the radio masts until lost out of view (Darrel Bryant)

Monday, 31 October 2011

A Day Out in East Herts (LGRE)


The unseasonal mild weather continued today with warm southerly winds and intermittent light drizzle. I spent a very enjoyable day in East Herts, adding two new species to my 2011 Herts Year List.....


I started off on the Coombe Road, just NW of Kelshall, joining Simon West in the tiny layby at TL 322 372. After scanning to the east of the road, we soon located the GREAT GREY SHRIKE present for its third day, frequenting the fenceline and isolated bushes about 250 yards away to the east at about TL 325 374. It perched aloft the top of the bushes on numerous occasions, as well as the fenceposts, and appeared to be an adult, with a slight salmon-pink flush to the breast at times. It remained on view for several hours but generally kept distantly from the road.

Despite a lot of scanning from here and other sites in the area, I did not locate the Hen Harrier seen on both days of the weekend. Three Red Kites were seen from here, 4 Common Buzzards, 5 Common Kestrels, no less than 850 Woodpigeons, 4 GREY PARTRIDGES, 35 Red-legged Partridges, 8 Yellowhammers and a single COMMON RAVEN.

The Fallow Deer herd numbered 29 (including 2 Stags), with Brown Hares an impressive 54.

Moving around to the fields at Deadman's Hill (TL 296 367), one particular field to the south of the road was highly productive. An exceptional flock of 3,600 Common Starlings was feeding, along with a further 363 Woodpigeons, 127 Lapwing, 15 Linnet and several Stock Doves. An additional 7 Brown Hares were also present, whilst over the main ridge, soaring birds included 8 Common Buzzards and 6 Red Kites. A pair of COMMON RAVENS spent some time hanging in the air and later taunted a fine adult male PEREGRINE, this bird missing a couple of inner secondaries on the left wing.

Just in from the A505 at TL 294 375, a covey of 13 GREY PARTRIDGE was present and showing well.

I then drove around to the Wallington Road where in fields opposite Lodge Farm, a flock of 96 Linnets was encountered. I then came across three guys slowly walking across a crop field north of Wheat Hill Farm. Each observer was holding a bird of prey on their arm - an adult Harris's Hawk, a juvenile Harris's Hawk and an adult female Northern Goshawk. They seemed to be training the birds to hunt and as they came across a cowering Rabbit or Brown Hare, they released the birds to chase the prey. I watched them do this on 15 separate occasions - twice successfully - and on seeing two Brown Hares killed, I contacted the Hertfordshire Wildlife Liaison Officer to see if any offence had been committed. I had always been of the opinion that Brown Hares were a protected species but I was wrong. Provided the three guys had the landowner's permission (which we subsequently found had been granted), then what they were doing with the birds was legal. Keeping an eye on them for the best part of two hours did reap benefits however - the three flushing up an excellent SHORT-EARED OWL for me, which flew towards me and spent several minutes flying up and down the roadside hedgerow.

I eventually ended up on the Wallington road off of the A505 roundabout where Alan Reynolds and his son had seen a Merlin on two occasions. I quickly found the hay bales but frustratingly first a Common Buzzard and then a juvenile female Sparrowhawk were the only raptor species using them this afternoon. A flock of 42 European Golden Plover was in the fields and yet another covey of 14 GREY PARTRIDGES

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Incredulously, ringers at Hilfield Park Reservoir this morning trapped and ringed an EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER along the ringing ride beneath the conifers on the airfield side of the reservoir - the second record for Britain of this dazzling Sibe. Although misidentifying it as a Yellow-browed Warbler, it was released in bushes close to the entrance to the site, before disappearing into the tract of woodland behind the houses. Joan Thompson was quickly informed of the trapping and she took it upon herself to contact a few trusted friends that would not circulate the news more widely. Sadly, despite me driving her the length and breadth of the country, my name was not on the Selective Invitation List and it was left to another observer to ring me on her behalf. Apparently, she is under threat of being banished forever if she makes one murmur to LGRE about Rare and Scarce Birds at Hilfield - they are all to be STRICTLY SUPPRESSED. After I phoned news in to RBA of this colossal mistake, 20 or so birders turned up to have a look for the bird, but there was no sign. I shall have a comprehensive search for it tomorrow and place it on RBA immediately if lucky


Sighting was from top of coombe road in small layby. I had just pulled up along with another birder (Eric Fairey) and a chap and his wife were looking from there in their car. He introduced himself as Eric Thompson, a Norfolk birder, seemed to know his stuff, Anyway he got us onto the bird sitting on fence posts and on the top of isolated small trees. I managed to scope the bird and got really good views as did Mr Fairey.I lost the bird from view whilst submitting the news and it hadn't been relocated by the time I left, but two other birders had turned up just as I was leaving. I had a call later to say Hen Harrier was also seen from there (Ray Hooper)


Saturday: At the Coombe Road, Kelshall, this afternoon, a few lucky observers enjoyed views of both a hedgerow GREAT GREY SHRIKE and a quartering ringtail HEN HARRIER, whilst nearby, the juvenile MERLIN was still in the Deadman Hill area

Sunday, 23 October 2011

MERLIN ar Deadman Hill still

Saw Alan Eeynold's MERLIN at Deadmans Hill, hunting over the fields south east of the green gate this morning. About 80 Golden Plover north of Wallington, with at least 70 Lapwing, though also saw small Lapwing flocks all over the area (per HBC)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

COMMON SCOTER at Wilstone (briefly)

This adult drake COMMON SCOTER was present at Wilstone Reservoir for about 40 minutes today, before relocating to the main lake at College Lake BBOWT (photograph by kind courtesy of Dave Bilcock)

MERLIN at Deadmans Hill

I thought I would spend a couple of hours sunbathing at Deadman's Hill this afternoon. All the usual suspects - Buzzards, Red Kites, Kestrels, Sparrowhawk, Sky Larks and Linnets. I thought I would finish off with a quick visit to the Quail site on the Wallington Road.

The two fields either side of the farm track are now ploughed and resown, and a quick scan round revealed a small bird of prey sitting on what appeared to be a small patch of gravel in one of the fields. The range was 300-400 metres so stretching it a bit far for even a telsecope but it looked interesting. I made my way up the track and got close enough, albeit 200+ metres, to see it was indeed a MERLIN.

It had bold bars running down the chest and underparts, a dark brown back, a rather indistict moustachial stripe but a distinct eye stripe. I went back to the car to get my camera to hopefully get a record shot but when I turned round it had flown. I eventually found it perched in the other ploughed field. I walked round the edge of the field to get the sun behind me and managed to a get a few shots from about 250 metres. At this point it flew showing the pointed wings and rapid shallow wing beats with only one glide.Based on size I would be confident that it was a female and according to Forsman (thanks to Mike Harris for this information) the rufous tinge to the lower end of the underparts indicates a fresh juvenile (Alan Reynolds)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

KNOT on second attempt


A warm day but dominated by spells of light drizzle moving through.......


After failing to locate the Amwell RED KNOT during my visit yesterday afternoon, I returned today after receiving confirmation from Barry Reed and Alan Reynolds that it was still present.....

Although nowhere to be found again on my arrival, it flew in from the south at 1620 hours and landed on the small stony island north of the main wooded island and afforded excellent views from the Tom Gladwin Hide. It quickly began feeding and appeared to be a juvenile and remained in view for at least 20 minutes. After missing the 20-strong flock at Wilstone this autumn, this was awelcome addition to the county year list........

The late COMMON SANDPIPER was still present at the north end, as well as a GREEN SANDPIPER


The two SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPITS found by Chaz Jackson and Steve Rodwell at the weekend were both still showing well this evening - on the edge of the spit about 75 yards out from the jetty (see Dave Bilcock's image above).

This SE lagoon was also littered with birdlife feasting on the emergent vegetation, including 696 Coot, 328 Wigeon, 230 Teal, 24 Gadwall, 118 Shoveler and 4 NORTHERN PINTAILS (2 adult drakes), whilst elsewhere on the reservoir were 37 Mute Swans (a pair with 4 first-years being new), 311 Lapwings and 116 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS.


There was no sign of the first-winter LITTLE GULL of the past four days (see Dave Hutchinson's excellent shots) but 9 Great Crested Grebes and 22 raft-roosting Pied Wagtails were of note


Whist away on Scilly, local highlights included juvenile ARCTIC TERNS at Little Marlow GP (7-11) and at Wilstone briefly (8th), a COMMON GREENSHANK briefly at Little Marlow, both the RED KNOT and a RUFF at Amwell NR, at least 4 different local Peregrines and the first real influx of autumn Redwings on the Hills.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Large roost gathering of RED KITES east of the county

Between 18:20 and 18:30 this evening there was a large gathering of Red Kites over Stubbocks Wood (TL138239) and Furzen Wood (TL140243), either side of Lilley Bottom to the north-east of Tea Green. I counted at least 21 Red Kites low over Stubbocks Wood. They seemed to be moving towards the south-western end of the wood but I did not see any birds drop into the wood. At the same time there was a group of 15 circling at varying heights above Furzen Wood (TL140243). At one point I thought these birds were going to fly across the fields and join the birds above Stubbocks Wood but they continued circling over Furzen Wood. I noted a similar gathering of 28 Red Kites over Stubbocks Wood on 14 October 2010.

Two Buzzards were also seen flying out of Stubbocks Wood and circling amongst the Red Kites.While all this was going flocks of Jackdaws probably numbering more than 250 in total flew north-west across the fields and over the western part of the wood.

Roger Hicks

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


The male RING OUZEL was still present on Croxley Common Moor today (see Martin Parr's images above), still frequenting the footpath, grass and scrub about 50 yards along from the main bridge (per Joan Thompson et al).

A juvenile LITTLE STINT was today at Wilstone (along with 9 Pintail) whilst the PEREGRINE was roosting in Hemel Hempstead town centre (LGRE).

Monday, 26 September 2011


The male RING OUZEL was putting on a fine performance during my visit. Although it initially flew back to the thick scrub on the opposite side of the river at my arrival, it was soon flushed back by a passing jogger. It chacked several times before landing back on the footpath just 50 yards from the main entrance gate and bridge. Ducking down out of view, I was then able to observe the bird at close range for quite some time. It was an adult male in autumn plumage, still harbouring its bold white breast horseshoe, some of the breast scaling and the striking paleness in the wings. It fed out in the open for at least 15 minutes, gradually hopping further and further out on to the moor. A great bird and a welcome late addition to the County Year List.......

A GARDEN WARBLER also showed in an adjacent Elderberry bush, whilst 7 RING-NECKED PARAKEETS flew noisily over towards Croxley Green, a LITTLE EGRET was by the bridge and a Grey Wagtail.............

Sunday, 25 September 2011


Allan Stewart had 23 FIELDFARES this evening near Hilfield Park Reservoir - the first in the county this autumn

Long-staying RING OUZEL

This weekend, Geoff Lapworth saw Brendan Glynne's male RING OUZEL again, feeding in bushes across the river about 50 yards along from the stone bridge. A SHORT-EARED OWL was also flushed at the site (Dave & Gail Simms).

Elsewhere, Barry Reed watched a TREE PIPIT fly over Amwell and an OSPREY flew south over Warren's Green, near Stevenage, at 1045 hours (Ken Smith)

Wilstone Reservoir has really quietened down now - highlights over the weekend being the RUFF still and a first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL briefly.

Simon Knott noted a COMMON STONECHAT and several WHINCHATS at King's Meads (Stockade Mead) on Saturday

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Hemel PEREGRINE is back


After the shenanigans of yesterday in Sussex attempting to sort out a mega-rare stint at 600 yards range, today was at the opposite end of the spectrum...........

Although migrating House Martins were very much the order of the day, it was an extremely confiding LAPLAND BUNTING that stole the show


During the course of the morning, over 240 House Martins moved through south, often in large congregations. At the 'Magic Roundabout', the ringed adult female PEREGRINE was roosting on its favoured perch (its third winter at the site)

Isle of Man ringed ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANT photographed at Piccott's End, Hemel

See link -

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Lilley PEREGRINE is back for third winter

For the third year running a PEREGRINE has appeared on the usual pylon, eight days later than the 2009 bird, and two days earlier than last years. Todays bird was a large female,and the pattern was the same - it appeared just before dusk, presumably to roost. Hopefully it will hang about all winter. I cant help wondering if this is the same bird which was doing the rounds in the Barton Springs/ Pegsdon area last year (per Paul Anness)

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Recent Snippets

Brendan Glynne discovered an autumn male RING OUZEL on Croxley Green Common this afternoon, whilst Mike Ilett noted the juvenile MARSH HARRIER still at Deadman Hill.

Two juvenile LITTLE STINTS are on Wilstone today, whilst an OSPREY flew over Hilfield Park Reservoir yesterday (per Ian Bennell) and a COMMON REDSTART was by Norton Pond, Letchworth, that day.

Friday, 9 September 2011

PEC still present

The juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER remained on Wilstone this evening (see Ryan Clark's image above), as well as the 2 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, 18 Ringed Plovers (6 Tundras), a juvenile LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, the juvenile male RUFF, the single Greenshank, 3 Common Sandpipers, the juvenile BLACK TERN and 3 Hobbies (one pictured above by Ryan).

Elsewhere, Darrel Bryant saw 2 WHINCHATS and a Northern Wheatear at Norton Green and Steve Carter two WHINCHATS at Woodoaks Farm, Maple Cross.

PEC SAND is still there

A set of outstanding images of our Wilstone juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER - taken by Simon West ( )