Monday, 31 December 2012


HAWFINCHES are still being seen in Bramfield Village, mainly in The Old Rectory Garden and the Churchyard

Elsewhere, the drake SMEW remains at Stockers Lake, with a pair plus the GREATER SCAUP at Amwell NR; another SCAUP at Hilfield and the GREAT GREY SHRIKE at Therfield Heath.

Not a particularly vintage year for me in Herts, especially considering I didn't see a Common Greenshank of all birds, but did muster together 171 species out of the 193 recorded, including two new to my County List of at least 265 - Sabine's Gull and Northern Fulmar

Sunday, 30 December 2012



Largely remained dry today with just the odd sharp shower during the afternoon; temperatures pegged back to 6.5 degrees C

In the CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS), the GREAT WHITE EGRET was showing well in Mill Farm Water Meadows, still eeking out small mammals and other prey in the long grass; Green Woodpecker noted too.

At STOCKERS FARM FLOODMEADOW (HERTS) (at TQ 055 935), a white morph adult GREATER SNOW GOOSE was present for its second day with Atlantic Canada Geese, showing particularly well. It was unringed and fully winged and was superbly photographed by Dale Ayres (see above). It is presumably an escape.

The meadows had also attracted 28 Eurasian Wigeon and 6 Pied Wagtails, whilst 12 noisy Ring-necked Parakeets were nearby in tall trees; a flock of 8 House Sparrows remained resident at the lock house.

Joan and I checked the ring numbers on the 34 Mute Swans present on BURY LAKE (TQ 053 938) and BATCHWORTH LAKE (TQ 058 940), the following all being noted - BLUE 979 - a rehabilitated individual - and '4AEJ', '834', '832', '844', '815', '624', '818', '001', '904', '819', '948', '805', '816', '841', '907', '806', '840', '813', '656', '804', '040' and '951' - the last three listed from the latter lake.

On neighbouring STOCKERS LAKE (at about TQ 048 936), the adult drake SMEW was showing well, preening and occasionally diving amongst the Tufted Ducks. Also a single Egyptian Goose and 17 Common Goldeneye amongst good numbers of other wildfowl.

At HEDGERLEY LANDFILL (BUCKS), 20 Red Kites, 24 Lapwings and several Great Black-backed Gulls of note

Friday, 28 December 2012


A new female GREATER SCAUP is present for its 5th day at Hilfield Park Reservoir with the first-winter drake still at Amwell NR (where also the 2 SMEW remain).

GREAT GREY SHRIKE is still at Therfield Heath and WATER PIPIT at Wilstone

HAWFINCHES still surviving in Broxbourne Woods

Three HAWFINCHES in the garden this morning (Wormley West End). Flew and appeared to land in Bencroft Wood, Broxbourne (Graham White)

Tuesday, 25 December 2012


At Amwell NR, both Yellow-legged and MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were seen yesterday, as well as the 2 SMEW and continuing first-winter drake GREATER SCAUP, whilst all 8 HAWFINCHES are still visiting Keith Henderson's garden in Bramfield Village

Also great to hear is the return of 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS at Heartwood Forest, with at least still one at Therfield Heath

Friday, 21 December 2012


And still present at 12.30 - best viewed from the slip road to the de vere hotel along B198 (Lieutenant Ellis Way) (per Mike Ilett) - in field SW of A10 opposite Travel Inn (per Simon West)

MERLIN at Ashwell

Driving from Bygrave to Ashwell this morning, I had good views of a fem/juv MERLIN that flew over the road and sat in a field 50yds from the verge,just south of Claybush hill, Claybush Road (per Laurence D)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Another wave of WAXWING arrivals

Initially had 27 WAXWINGS in trees by Bury End Farm in Hinxworth which flew across paddock and joined another flock - minimum 120 birds in total.

Also in North Herts the GREAT GREY SHRIKE was showing well but distantly from Duckpuddle bush looking towards the Icknield Way ( Therfield Heath)

Single RED KITES at Deadmans hill, Therfield Heath & Coombe rd

Mike Ilett

Monday, 17 December 2012

DIVER departs early - SMEW for dinner and GREAT WHITE EGRET at dusk


A dry, bright day but fairly chilly, with temperatures peaking at 6 degrees C. It was an eventful day in more ways than one, with both ups and downs........

First thing, checked out the CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS) where there had been a report of a Cattle Egret - a species not yet recorded in the Amersham Recording Area but a potential addition to the impressive list of rare herons already achieved. No luck however, just 5 Little Egrets located......


Following a call from Allan Stewart, I made my way over to HPR where Allan had seen the GREAT NORTHERN DIVER that Ian Bennell had photographed yesterday (see above). Somehow, in the half-hour it took me to get over, Allan had lost it and despite JT, Ian Williams, Derek Turner and I searching, there was no further sign of it; no sign either of 2 redhead Smew that had been seen yesterday

In fact, HPR offered very little in way of compensation - 11 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 15 Gadwall, 13 Pochard, Common Pheasant and 8 SISKINS.

So, with the midway point reached in December, it was time to do more duck counting and off I went to TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS)......

WILSTONE RESERVOIR harboured the most numbers but overall, counts were almost 100 down on early December's counts - from 2,143 birds to 1,947....

Undoubted highlight though was a redhead SMEW - found by Steve Rodwell early on and still present when Mike Campbell and I visited subsequently; difficult tho' as it was frequenting the sheltered side of the bund and only visible from the far right of the hide. First record this winter but in line with a widespread arrival of the species from the Continent in the past week.

Also counted were 9 Great Crested Grebes (up from 5), just 6 Mute Swans, 137 Teal (well down), 12 Gadwall, just 122 Wigeon (also down), 58 Shoveler, 158 Tufted Duck, 120 Pochard (increase), the 6 COMMON GOLDENEYE (single adult drake) and 202 Coot.

There were also 46 Lapwing roosting on the tern rafts, 85 Fieldfare and 71 Common Starlings feeding together in a field, 2 Long-tailed Tits by the car park and a Mistle Thrush feeding on Yew in the churchyard.

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR held 2 Little Grebes (first here in a long time), 5 Great Crested Grebes, 46 Greylag Geese, 6 Mallard, 11 Shoveler and 8 Moorhens, whilst STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR produced 5 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans, 71 Mallard, 22 Wigeon, 18 Tufted Duck, 1 Pochard and an increase to 417 Coot.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR was the last call, with 1 Great Crested Grebe, 11 Sinensis, 2 Mutes ('682' still), 11 Gadwall, 55 Teal, 15 Tufted Duck, 5 Pochard, 87 Coot and 6 Moorhen; also 6 Goldfinches and the Song Thrush still wintering in the wood near Tringford Farm.


Met up with JT and tested out her wildfowl counting skills and techniques. I must say I was impressed and most of our independent counts tallied - although it did take an awful long time to square up Mute Swans !

So, here goes - 3 Little Grebes (wintering on the east fringe of the deep lake), 41 Mute Swans (including orange 4ABM), 34 Atlantic Canada Geese, 15 Mallard, 27 Gadwall, 3 Common Teal, 11 Tufted Duck, 10 Northern Pochard, 82 Wigeon, the 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (drake and two females on marsh), 60 Coot (59 on the deep pit) and 5 Moorhen - also Sparrowhawk, 38 Lapwing and a number of Blue and Great Tits at the feeders.


Dire, complete waste of time and a disgraceful number of discarded floating plastic bottles and drinks cans - just 8 Mallard on the water and a pair of BULLFINCHES in the wood.


Had a drive round Aldbury and Tring Station looking for Waxwings but to no avail - still huge numbers of wintering Woodpigeons though with at least 136 and 2 Stock Doves opposite Westlands Farm and 2,300 or more feeding on cereal to the west of the village near Newground Road. Common Buzzard in this area too. All of the berries have been eaten!


Following a message relayed by RBA from Ben Miller, I returned to the Chess Valley with JT and Jeff Bailey. Following a fruitless walk between Chenies Bottom bridge and Latimer Bridge, I phoned Joan so that we could check out a site where the bird had often visited three winters ago. On her way to me, she noticed it in a roadside ditch and on returning, it was still showing well, wading in shallow water of the brook. Latimer Road is a very dangerous place to be at the best of times, being very narrow, dark and steep-sided with hedgerows on either side, so we watched from the relative safety of the houses at TQ 013 986. 'Scope views weren't bad, and Graham Smith and a lady who had been walking the Chess for hours stopped by briefly to have a look. This was presumably the same bird that had wintered in exactly the same spot and in the close vicinity from 20 November 2009 until 21 January 2010 but had chosen Berkshire in 2010/2011. Weirdly, as I approached closer to get some photographs, it walked out of the brook and into the field towards me - and kept on approaching me until a guy sounded his car horn really loudly and frightened it. I contacted Stuart & Lesley Wilson who had initially located the bird on its previous visit in November 2009 and as dusk approached, took them down to see the bird from a private bridge over the stream. At 1610 hours, it flew downstream to roost, joining a total of 9 Little Egrets - flying high over Frogmore Meadow (Herts) towards Stockers Lake.

Also encountered were 4 Mute Swans (single pairs at Church Covert and on Bois Mill Pond), 2 COMMON KINGFISHERS, 13 Common Magpies at roost, 2 Greenfinches and a large Bat species

Sunday, 16 December 2012


Steve Murray had brief views of a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER at Hilfield Park Reservoir today whilst over at Amwell, Phil Bishop photographed the drake GREATER SCAUP in the sunshine (see above) (Smew pair also still there).

Over in the east of the county, GREAT GREY SHRIKE and both species of eared owl still at Therfield Heath

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Amwell today - SCAUP, SMEW & GOOSANDER

Amwell is starting to pick up now with the long-staying GREATER SCAUP, a pair of SMEW and a female GOOSANDER (see picture above) all present today at Tumbling Bay. In front of the viewpoint were Common Snipe, Water Rail and six Buzzards but the Bittern remains elusive (Alan Reynolds)

Friday, 14 December 2012


Wet and windy all day and what little news there was, came from Amwell, where both the GREATER SCAUP and the SMEW pair remain

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Showy BITTERN at Rye Meads RSPB

Thought you might be interested to know there was a BITTERN within 4 metres of the Water Vole Hide at Rye Meads today at 3.10pm. I didn't see it when I first looked out the hide but once I started hammering it flew up and then landed 40 metres further south in the reedbed. I saw one very close to there two years ago when we had the major frost so it could be a regular user than no one is spotting.

Luke Shenton
Reserves Officer
Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


All 9 HAWFINCHES remain in Bramfield village today, still commuting between the Old Rectory Garden and the Churchyard Yew trees. Apparently, the berries of the Yew are quite toxic to birds, so the birds tend to concentrate on cracking open the seeds (stones) on the ground.

Amwell today

Wow - look at me now - advancing nicely. In just over a month, Amwell's juvenile drake GREATER SCAUP has transformed from a uniform brown drab duck to this fine form.

Alan Reynolds also photographed this female MARSH HARRIER at Amwell early afternoon; it appeared above the James Hide and then circled the reedbed for about five minutes before flying off south at around 1250 hours. This is a very unusual December record for the county.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Belated News: TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL in Herts

Last year, an apparent TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL was with Common Crossbills for a very brief period near Spencers Green (Dancers End), in a private plantation

HAWFINCH numbers increase by one

The Bramfield (wintering) flock of HAWFINCHES has now increased to 9 birds, the entire flock feeding at close range on the fallen Yew berries in Keith Henderson's garden in the village.

If you stand patiently at the entrance to the church, many of the birds will perch and fly over looking towards the tall trees in the Old Rectory

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Saturday's neck-collared BEWICK'S SWAN

078E and her partner and their two offspring at Tyttenhanger (Steve Blake)

078E was ringed in Flevoland in the Dutch Polders in 2008. She usually winters in the Nene Washes and may well have overshot Cambridgeshire on Saturday. The transmitter is no longer working.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Bits & Bobs

At Amwell NR today, Bill Last saw 1 BITTERN, the pair of SMEW and the continuing young drake GREATER SCAUP, whilst Tony Dorman counted 17 Little Egrets coming in to roost on the main island at Stanborough North Lake, Welwyn Garden City. JT and others had 10 WAXWINGS briefly in Bramfield Village

Cold weather movements continuing

Hawfinches in Bramfield's Old Rectory Garden (Lucy Flower, composite image; Bengeo Andy, below)


The cold theme continued today with another overnight frost, although temperatures by day reached a balmy 7 degrees C ! It was dry throughout, with some sunshine, and with little wind.

First thing was spent refilling all of my bird feeders and replacing the water in the bird baths. Then Steve Blake 'phoned and I quickly had to make my way east.............


I joined Steve Blake, Steve Pearce and Ricky Flesher at Tyttenhanger, where the three of them were watching a family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS that had arrived just as Steve rang. They had presumably travelled quite some distance and were asleep at the end of the spit (presumably displaced by the increasingly freezing conditions on the Continent). One of the adults was neck collared - YELLOW with black inscription '078E', presumably banded in Siberia (I will provide details later). These were the first Bewick's in the county this year and a very welcome year-tick and remained present until at least mid-afternoon.

Other highlights on the main pit included a drake COMMON GOLDENEYE (incredibly, only the third in over 25 years at the site, per RF) and two splendid adult drake GOOSANDERS, both departing strongly to the east at 1045 hours. Two GREEN SANDPIPERS were also present, whilst a flock of 16 LESSER REDPOLLS was an additional bonus (been present in the area for several weeks now).

The roll-call was supplemented by 10 Mute Swans, 7 Teal, 10 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, 9 Tufted Duck, 54 Coot and 19 Moorhens, as well as a single Jay.


I then returned to Bramfield Village, where over 40 birdwatchers were gathered late morning. HAWFINCH numbers have increased greatly since my visit in the week, with 5 constantly in the vicinity of the Churchyard and Old Rectory and an additional 3 seen with Francis Buckle, Roy Nye and JT in a very distant tall Ash in PARK WOOD (viewing west from the back of the churchyard). The male in Old Rectory garden afforded some excellent views as it flew up from the Yew trees into the Ash tree, with both Bengeo Andy and Lucy Flower obtaining some nice photographs (see above). For Lucy it was a double whammy - a brand new bird to boot and almost on the doorstep - magnificent.

Unlike during the week, HAWFINCHES were present almost constantly, with 3 commuting between the ground and the Yew trees in the Rectory garden and up to 5 feeding in the Yews at the far end of the churchyard (and best viewed from the playing field behind). They were pretty vocal too - especially the adult male. Well done to Keith Henderson for finding them again in our area.

Francis Buckle and I were reminiscing about Hawfinches as we stood chatting. In the 1970's, we both used to see large numbers in Bramfield Forest just to the north of the village, sometimes as many as 60 individuals some winters. How times sadly change. Anyway, make the very most of these whilst you can

Just to the south of the village, in the fields at TL 292 150, 278 Lapwing and 204 European Golden Plovers were counted; a Common Buzzard was stood in the field also.


For the past week, a BARN OWL has been hunting two rough fields to the west of COPPICE HOOP at SU 912 925 - the first in my Recording Area in over a year. Wally Smith had discovered it on an evening jaunt - Bob Jackson also connecting twice during the week. Adam Bassett and I visited this evening and were rewarded with some excellent views. The bird left its daytime roost at 1601 hours and spent the next 15 minutes quartering backwards and forwards over the two fields searching for prey.

Access is best from the footpath just north of Lude Farm but be very careful leaving your car unattended.

About 15 Chaffinches roosted in Coppice Hoop

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE in field between Bramfield and Waterford at TL300 152 near Priest Wood today (per HBC website)

SMEW are back on cue

A pair of SMEW appeared today at Amwell NR, with the drake GREATER SCAUP still there and a single EURASIAN BITTERN observed. Further south in the Lea Valley, 2 BITTERNS are now back at 70 Acres Lake, visible from the main hide.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012



Continuing cold and dry but with little wind.

Set off at about 0900 hours to bird HERTFORDSHIRE, 4 Red Kites just to the north of ABBOTS LANGLEY being the largest congregation I have seen there.

Then got to WELWYN GARDEN CITY, where in front of the Council Offices in College Road, I and others obtained excellent views of WAXWINGS as they fed on the Pink Rowan. They were very difficult to count but the maximum I got to was 51 birds. One bird flew into a glass window and stunned itself, allowing very close approach, whilst another was so drunk on berries, it could be approached to within a couple of inches. The berry-bearing shrubs were also attracting Mistle Thrushes and Jays.

I then joined Derek Girvan and others in BRAMFIELD VILLAGE, observing from the St Andrews Churchyard at TL 292 156. There was an awful lot of standing around and during the three hours that I was present, just one adult male HAWFINCH was observed - both occasions flying in or out of the Old Rectory garden to perch briefly in the tall trees of the churchyard. It was also very nice to meet the resident birdwatcher that found them, the three birds (adult male and two females) frequently visiting the Yew in his garden to feed on berries.

The following species were also observed in Bramfield village :-

Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Nuthatches (affording superb views and allowing to be photographed), 29 Fieldfare, 6 Redwing, flyover Siskin, 8 Greenfinch, 11 Chaffinch, Blue, Great & Coal Tits, 6 House Sparrows, 5+ Jays, 50+ Jackdaws, Goldfinch and 1 Goldcrest.

Had a brief look at TEWINBURY NR (TL 261 141) but virtually nothing to see - 6 Mallard, 2 Coot and a Little Egret on the River Mimram. Nearby, at LEMSFORD SPRINGS NR (TL223 122), the cressbeds held 3 GREEN SANDPIPERS, 4 Little Egrets, a Grey Heron and a Grey Wagtail, along with Green Woodpecker, 10 Common Magpies, Red Kite, Song Thrush and Wren in the adjoining field.

I then checked STANBOROUGH PARK (TL 229 112), where the North Lake held 5 Mute Swans, 54 Mallard, 4 Coot and 8 Moorhen and the South Lake just 2 Great Crested Grebes.

Last stop of the day was in AYLESBURY (BUCKS), at the GATEHOUSE LANE TRADING ESTATE (SP 806 144), where with Paul Keene and his dog warden friend Ann, we recorded 66 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS. Sadly, one first-winter had been injured just below and behind the eye and was bleeding and was busily feeding on its own. It allowed me to approach it to within a couple of feet and was still quite perky but did remain in the Rowan tree until dusk. Strangely, the remaining flock of 65 all flew in calling late afternoon as if to encourage the bird to join them to roost. They then all flew off towards Fairford Leys.

Monday, 3 December 2012

WAXWINGS in Welwyn

A flock of at least 50 WAXWINGS is now in Welwyn Garden City - by the council offices along College Way

Meanwhile, the juvenile COMMON SCOTER remains on Hilfield Park Reservoir, with 26 Mandarin Ducks on neighbouring Aldenham Reservoir


Alan Reynolds connected with the 3 HAWFINCHES today as they spent 20 seconds at the tops of the tall trees in the churchyard at Bramfield. Alan acknowledged tht the birds are spending most of their time in the adjacent Rectory Garden. Here is a record shot Alan did well in getting.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

GREATER SCAUP growing up

Top county photographer Alan Reynolds took these images today of the young drake GREATER SCAUP in Tumbling Bay Pit, North Amwell; it is advancing well with much grey vermiculating coming through.

HAWFINCHES at Bramfield

Today, 3 HAWFINCHES were in trees in Bramfield Churchyard - a traditional site.

Also, WAXWINGS remained at several sites, including 19 in Bengeo and 3 in Hertford, as well as 2 in Ware (on Trapstyle Road) and 17 on Oughtonhead Common, Hitchin.

Waxwings in Bengeo (Alan Reynolds)

Saturday, 1 December 2012


Alan Reynolds is a true professional - his images are absolutely superb. Above are just two of his recent examples.

In Hertfordshire today, WAXWINGS were sighted at Tanners Crescent, Hertford (3; many observers), The Avenue, Bengeo (18; many observers), Pondcroft, Welwyn Garden City (12; Mike King), Bradmore Way in Brookmans Park (24; Rupert Lee) and by the Cromwell Hotel in Stevenage (2; Paul Howard)

SCOTER at Hilfield - 3rd day

This juvenile COMMON SCOTER, initially found by Steve Murray on Thursday 29 November and excellently photographed by Ian Bennell above, was still present today, as was the first-winter drake GREATER SCAUP at Tumbling Bay Lake, Amwell.

Elsewhere, single GOOSANDERS included a drake at Stockers Lake (Geoff Lapworth) and a redhead at Wilstone (LGRE)

Friday, 30 November 2012

The fruits of Windmill Road (Hemel Hempstead)

It was a feeding frenzy - several heavily-laden berry trees bordering Windmill Road, attracting a wealth of birds...........

I was most surprised to see both Woodpigeons and Common Magpies feasting on the berries, the latter hiding them in the grass

The Tanners Crescent WAXWINGS

The location - two Pink Sorbus trees in front of numbers 7 and 9

The birds - 4 in total, including a first-winter


This is the set up: Pink Sorbus tree in front garden of 49 The Avenue

A flock of 18 Waxwings was constantly present, along with the odd Continental Blackbird