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