Thursday, 21 July 2011

EUROPEAN SHAG today at Wilstone


Although temperatures recovered today, the general theme of sharp, short showers continued.....

Surprise of the day was a juvenile EUROPEAN SHAG found by Steve Rodwell this afternoon.....


Dave Bilcock and I followed SR, RH, Mike Campbell, Jeff Bailey and others and were able to see the juvenile EUROPEAN SHAG this evening - still roosting in exactly the same place it had first been found - on the shingle edge of the central Drayton Bank almost under the Sinensis nesting trees. In over an hour of observation, the bird barely moved, and sat hunched up with its head tucked in. Its health may not be in the best condition. It was a fresh juvenile, with white throat and vent/undertail coverts heavily contrasting with the soft, smoky-brown underparts. The upperparts were a darker brown, with some patterning on the wing-coverts, the structural differences between it and the roosting cormorants being the much smaller size, sleeker bofy, much slender bill (yellowish in colour) and shorter, slimmer neck. The legs and feet were quite pale and appeared to be unringed. The crown was markedly peaked at the front of the head. Dave managed to get a record shot of it roosting (see above) and it was still present when I departed at 1910 hours......


The European Shag is an occasional winter visitor and rare passage migrant to Hertfordshire with perhaps one record per annum. Sage (1959) listed 18 records (see below)

Bryan Sage in his ''History of the Birds of Hertfordshire'', published in 1959, listed the following -:

At Tring Reservoirs, immature birds were shot and killed on 14 October 1903, 22 October 1908 and 16 January 1917, with a further juvenile present on Marsworth Reservoir from 30 August to 7 September 1913. Two immatures were present on Wilstone on 26 December 1926, with further birds noted there in winter 1937, with up to three immatures present from 21 February to 21 March, one of which stayed/survived until 17 June.

Elsewhere in the county, one was found alive in Hitchin in January 1911 (kept alive for a week before dying), with another held in similar circumstances after being picked up exhausted at Hitchin Railway Station on 26 November 1912. A further exhausted bird was found in Knebworth on 7 February 1954, followed by three more in the Lee Valley in a nursery garden at Hoddesdon on 7 February 1935. The latter were all transferred to London Zoo. At Cheshunt GP, an adult was seen on 15 February 1954, with a released juvenile there from 16 February to 7 March. Additional records involved a juvenile shot near Aldenham Vicarage on 21 December 1909 and a bird at Hamper Mill near Watford on 7-9 September 1939 but most intriguing and perhaps pertinent to today's bird was a ringed juvenile from Bass Rock, East Lothian, on 4 July 1936 picked up exhausted in Rickmansworth on 12 December 1936.

Gladwin & Sage (1986) cited 66 records for the period 1958-82, including an unprecedented 51 individuals during a 'wreck' in March 1962. Prior to that year, a further ringing discovery had been noted: a juvenile ringed on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, on 11 June 1957 recovered in Bishop's Stortford on 21 December 1957. The March 1962 wreck included a flock of 28 birds on Wilstone on 11 March and birds were present in the county up until 5 May that year.

The status since 1970 is extracted from my Hertfordshire database and includes 158 individuals since 1970, including some exceptional influxes in some winters -:

1) One on the canal in Cassiobury Park, Watford, on 10 January 1971;
2) A juvenile at Wilstone Reservoir on 23 October 1971;
3) A juvenile at Wilstone Reservoir on 21 November 1971;
4) One at Cheshunt GP on 18 February 1973;
5) One at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 26 January 1974;
6-20) Up to 15 immatures were present at Wilstone for at least a month from 15 January to 15 February 1974;
21-22) Two juveniles remained at Rye Meads from 19-20 February 1974;
23-37) Up to 15 were present at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 29 November to 7 December 1974;
38-39) Two were present at Rickmansworth GP on 17 February 1975, with possibly a further bird on 16 March 1975;
40) A juvenile visited Wilstone on 22 November 1975;
41) An exhausted juvenile was trapped and ringed at Hemel Hempstead Water Gardens on 29 November 1975 and then released at Wilstone Reservoir, where it stayed until 4 December. Miraculously, it returned to the water gardens on 8 December;
42-43) Two juveniles were present at Cheshunt GP on 11 September 1976;
44-46) Singles were noted at Wilstone on 10 September, 22-23 November and 28 December 1978;
47) One at Cheshunt GP on 24 February 1979;
48) One at Troy Mill Lake on 28 February and 2 March visited Stocker's Lake on 1 March;
49) A juvenile at Stanstead Abbots on 28 December 1979;
50) A juvenile was picked up in an emaciated state at Hartham, Hertford, on 15 February 1980; it had swallowed a fish hook but was rehabilitated and later released in Lowestoft Harbour, Suffolk;
51-54) Four juveniles arrived at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 31 August 1980;
55) A juvenile visited Wilstone on 10 September 1980;
56) One flew over Amwell GP on 23 November 1980;
57) One was at Stanstead Abbots GP on 8 November 1981;
58) One flew over Rye House Power Station on 12 August 1982;
59) One was seen in Stevenage on 7 November 1982;
60-61) Two adults were at Hampermill Lake from 22 January until 5 February 1983;
62) A juvenile was at Rye Meads on 28-29 October 1983;
63-74) A flock of 12 arrived at Tring Reservoirs on 9 February 1984. The flock remained, dwindling to 10 on 11 February and two until 20 February. Two of the flock found dead had been ringed on the Isle of May and on the Farne Islands;
75) One was at Stanstead Abbots on 4-5 February 1984;
76) A juvenile bearing a green ring on its left leg appeared at King's Meads, Hertford, on 9 February 1984 and was then seen in Ware town centre next day and perhaps Amwell GP on 11 February;
77-78) Two were at Cheshunt GP on 10 February 1984, one remaining until next day;
79) An immature was seen at Rye Meads on 15 February 1985;
80) A juvenile was at Stocker's Lake on 5-8 September 1985;
81-94) A flock of 14 adults was present at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 14 November 1985, with 3 still present the following day;
95) One was at Cheshunt GP on 16 November 1985;
96) One visited Amwell GP on 15 December 1985;
97-98) Singles were at Tring Reservoirs on 6 August and 7 September 1987;
99) One remained at Amwell GP from 20-23 October 1987;
100-106) A party of 7 were seen at Stanstead Abbots GP from 25-27 February 1988; 4 were still there the following day with 2 on 29 and 1 remaining until 3 March 1988;
107) A juvenile was at Amwell GP on 26 February 1988;
108) A juvenile was in Ware town centre from 26 February until 7 March 1988;
109) One visited Broxbourne GP on 3 March 1988;
110) One was at Cheshunt GP on 5 March 1988;
111) One visited Wilstone on 10 March 1988;
112-115) An adult and three juveniles were at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 13-16 March 1988;
116-119) Three birds visited Tyttenhanger GP on 18 March, with 4 there on 23-27 March, 3 to 2 April, 2 to 25 April and a surviving juvenile until 18 June 1988;
120) One at Rickmansworth on 18 March 1988;
121) An adult in full breeding plumage was at Wilstone Reservoir from 17 December 1988 until 20 January 1989;
122) One was at Rye Meads on 8 January 1989;
123) A juvenile was at Wilstone Reservoir from 23-26 December 1989;


124-130) A party of 7 was at Wilstone Reservoir on 26 January 1991 with at least 2 remaining the following day;
131) One was found dead at Amwell GP on 7 April 1991;
132) One was in Stevenage on 25 January 1993;
133-135) Up to three individuals were present at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 27 January to 6 February 1993, again on 6 March 1993, with 1 to 17 March;
136) One was at Stocker's Lake on 30 January 1993;
137) A juvenile was on the River Lea in Ware from 10-26 March 1993;
138) One was at Cheshunt GP on 20 March 1993;
139) One was at Cheshunt GP on 17 October 1993; but died overnight;
140) One visited Wilstone on 19 October 1993;
141) Another visited Wilstone on 14 November 1993;
142) One was at Amwell GP on Christmas Day 1993;
143) One appeared at Watkins Hall Farm at Watton-on-Stone on 20 February 1994;
144) An adult was present at Hollingson's Mead on 17-19 March 1996;
145) One visited Wilstone on 9-10 March 1997;
146) One was on the River Rib at Standon on 29-31 March 1997;
147) One was at Amwell on 7 September 1997;
148-149) Two were present at Sleapshyde GP from 21-26 April 1998 with one remaining until 30 April;
150) One was ringed at Rye Meads on 7 November 1998;
151) One was seen at Rye Meads on 23 January 1999;


152) A juvenile ringed on the Isle of May in June 2000 was present on the River Lea in Ware on the extraodinary date of 1 June 2001;
153) One was at Tyttenhanger GP on 5 July 2002;
153) A juvenile was at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 9 September until 24 December 2002;
154) Another juvenile ringed on the Isle of May as a nestling on 2 July 2004 was present at Wilstone from 24 November until 2 December 2004;
155) A juvenile was present on the Grand Union Canal in central Berkhamstead on 25 March 2005;
156) A juvenile was at Wilstone Reservoir from 18-27 November 2007;
157) A juvenile was at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 15-17 August 2008;

In addition to today's SHAG, Wilstone also produced 33 Great Crested Grebes (including 3 youngsters, 1 still begging for food), 12 Little Egrets, the Mandarin Duck, 39 Mute Swans, 7 Wigeon, 4 Common Redshank, 4 Common Sandpipers, a Yellow Wagtail, 2 Green Woodpeckers, 30 Western Reed Warblers and a pair of House Sparrows commuting between the Willows on the North Bank and Wilstone Great Farm

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