Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hilfield Park Reservoir gulls

At Hilfield this evening, no less than 3 LITTLE GULLS were recorded and 2 adult MEDITERRANEAN GULLS

Drew a blank on Caspian Gulls but productive afternoon nevertheless


I reserved today for some Hertfordshire birding, with a number of target birds on my list. With only 1 Caspian Gull on my county list, I decided a trip to Amwell was in order, particularly following the two birds seen last night by Graham White and Barry Reed......


The day started well with a female GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER feeding on my peanut feeders mid morning, the first record in 2012


Birded with Jeff Bailey for a while, concentrating our efforts on the feeding station behind the woodyard. Feeding was frenzied and included the presence of at least 11 TREE SPARROWS, my first in the county this year. After dropping down to just one visiting bird in the mild period in early January, numbers of this declining species have now picked up and Steve Blake has recently counted as many as 13.

Also visiting were up to 8 Yellowhammers, 7 Reed Buntings, Chaffinch, 10 Great Tits and 12 Blue Tits, as well as 2 Red-legged Partridges. A Common Kestrel was hovering nearby.

On the main pit, the COMMON SHELDUCK was still present, roosting on the spit at the west end. Also 4 Great Crested Grebes (including a pair in courtship display), 8 Cormorants, 4 Mute Swans (3 first-years), 8 Mallard, 16 Tufted Duck, 24 Coot, 82 Lapwing, 108 Black-headed Gulls, 28 Common Gulls, a juvenile Argenteus Herring Gull and 8 Lesser Black-backed Gulls


Spent from 1400-1706 hours at Amwell with mixed results. Also carried out a full inventory of the lakes. A total of 51 species was recorded -:

Great Crested Grebe (3 on Great Hardmead Lake and 1 in Tumbling Bay)
Little Grebe (2 in Tumbling Bay)
Cormorant (34 on Great Hardmead Lake)
**EURASIAN BITTERN (the wintering bird came out of the reedbed at 1710 hours and showed well at the edge of the reeds into darkness)
Little Egret (3 came into roost this evening)
Grey Heron
Mute Swan (9 present on Great Hardmead Lake, with an additional pair on Tumbling Bay Pit)
Mallard (55)
Gadwall (76 on Great Hardmead Lake and a further 5 just beyond the Reedbed Hide)
Shoveler (just 3 on Hardmead Lake, with a further 8 on Tumbling Bay Pit)
Eurasian Wigeon (26 on Hardmead Lake)
Common Teal (12 on Hardmead Lake)
Northern Pochard (8 on Hardmead Lake, 9 on Hollycross Lake, with a further 7 on Tumbling Bay)
Tufted Duck (46 on Hardmead, 12 on Hollycross and 28 on Tumbling Bay)
Common Goldeneye (6 on Hardmead including 2 adult drakes)
**SMEW (2 cracking adult drakes on the west shore of the north end of Tumbling Bay Pit)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (one made a swoop at a Green Woodpecker, freaking the yaffler out)
Common Kestrel (1)
Common Pheasant (2 in the reedbed)
Moorhen (25 in all)
Coot (impressive numbers for such a small site with 402 on Great Hardmead, 8 more by the Reedbed Hide, 8 on Hollycross and a further 86 on Tumbling Bay - 504 in total)
Lapwing (68 on Hardmead Lake)

Gulls: a total of about 600 roosted prior to 1700 hours but no Caspians unfortunately - about 250 Black-headed, 75 Common, 170 Herring, 59 Lesser Black-backed and 46 Great Black-backed

Woodpigeon and Collared Dove, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin

Redwing (17)
Fieldfare (8)
Common Blackbird (15)
**CETTI'S WARBLER (at least 3 different birds present in the reedbed, with 2 in song)
Great, Blue & Long-tailed Tit
MARSH TIT (1 scolding from the wood on the west side of the canal)
Jay (2)
Jackdaw (several thousand flying south down the valley at dusk to roost)
Carrion Crow (3)
**COMMON RAVEN (vocal pair courtship dancing over Easneye Wood)
Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch

Monday, 30 January 2012


Two 1st winter CASPIAN GULLS and at least 1 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull in the roost at Amwell this evening. Also 54 Cormorant, 8 Goldeneye, 3 Little Egret (Graham White)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Amwell railway crossing is CLOSED - alternative arrangements

The railway crossing at Amwell is still closed and the gates are locked. The materials to refurbish the crossing have been there for over a week now but Network Rail don't seem to be in any hurry to carry out the work. There is alternative parking by the old railway bridge on Holly Cross Road but there are only about 5-6 spaces. DO NOT OBSTRUCT THE GATES as they are in constant use.

There is an alternative place to park, also on Amwell Lane, that I would recommend. From the usual parking place go east towards Stanstead Abbotts until you come to Meridian Way on your left. Park sensibly on the road here. In between Meridian Way and Durham Close there is a track that leads to another railway crossing and on to Stanstead Lock. At the lock turn left and follow the Lee Navigation footpath to the viewpoint.

Alan Reynolds

Today's Highlights

I popped in to Stocker's Lake briefly today and had 2 nice adult drake GOOSANDERS, a redhead SMEW, a drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD (8 had been seen earlier), 70 Northern Pochard, 7 Common Goldeneye and 4 Siskins

At Tring Reservoirs today, the DARK-BELLIED BRENT and WATER PIPIT were joined by the first PINTAIL of the year on Wilstone and the SNOW BUNTING was at Startop's still

Two SHORT-EARED OWLS remain at Deadmans Hill, Sandon

Saturday, 28 January 2012


In Hertfordshire today, 7 SMEW (3 drakes) were seen at Amwell and a redhead at Stocker's. Single GOOSANDERS were at Wilstone and Stocker's whilst 8 Red-crested Pochards were on Bury Lake, Stocker's and a female on Tumbling Bay Lake, Amwell.

The male SNOW BUNTING and first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE remain at Tring Reservoirs and TREE SPARROWS (up to 7) continue to be seen in the Tyttenhanger area

5 COMMON SHELDUCK are to be seen at Rye Meads RSPB and a single GREEN SANDPIPER

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The third GREAT GREY SHRIKE in Herts this winter

A GREAT GREY SHRIKE was seen today at Great Munden near Puckeridge (per Steve Blake).

Monday, 23 January 2012

WAXWING briefly in St Albans on 17 January

17 January: I saw the Waxwing for about 10 minutes. Back garden of 23 Sandfield Road in Fleetville in St Albans. I kept a good lookout for the rest of the afternoon but it hasn't reappeared yet I'm afraid...Ben Smith

GREAT GREY SHRIKE reappears at Norton Green

17 January: The Great Grey Shrike was showing extremely well at around 2pm, in bushes and scrub next to the gypsy camp (Darrel Bryant)

DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE in Stevenage - 15 January

Ray Hooper and others observed a DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE on Fairlands Lake, Stevenage, on 15 January - an exceptional local record

MERLIN again at Wallington - 14 January

14 January: I went up to Wallington Road at lunchtime and immediately found a female/juvenile MERLIN sitting on one the one flat hedges about 400 yards to the NE of the gate. It sat there for an hour enjoying the sun and occasionally preening, suggesting that it had had a successful morning hunting. Despite the distance it was glowing in the fantastic light yielding superb views (Alan Reynolds)

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Drake SMEW at Tyttenhanger

Steve Blake discovered a drake SMEW on the Fishing Pit at Tyttenhanger this morning and the bird remained for most of the day - an excellent record for the site.

Meanwhile, Ryan ward and others relocated the SNOW BUNTING at Startop's End Reservoir today

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Astonishing number of LITTLE EGRETS roost at Stocker's Lake

I spent the late afternoon at Stocker's Lake to try and see how many Little Egrets were coming in to roost. There were already at least 3 birds in situ when I got there, however their behaviour on arriving at the roost is to often perch in the open, before dropping down out of view, so I can't be sure how many other birds were already present.

By the time I had finished counting (the last bird that I saw came in at 16.43) I had reached the astonishing total of 49 birds - I suspect however that the true total could be even higher, since it is surprisingly difficult to pick up the birds coming in to roost as many of them come in quite high before rapidly dropping down into the roost and quickly disappearing from view.

Most birds came in either singly, or in two's, with one group of three.Aproximately 30% of the birds came in from the west (presumably having come up the Colne Valley) and the rest came in from the NE. It is really staggering that this many birds are wintering in the area considering the paucity of records along local river valleys (Colne, Chess and Misbourne) so one really has to ask the question - how far are they travelling to their feeding areas. The difficulty with monitoring Little Egret roosts is that most birds leave shortly after dawn and likewise many birds arrive only just before dusk.I have counted this many birds at Broadwater, but I haven't checked that roost there for some considerable time (I believe that Paul Lewis did check that roost recently and failed to see any). It is interesting to speculate whether the Broadwater birds have moved up to Stocker's - certainly it does seem to be an ideal roost site with plenty of shelter from winds in all directions.

I also counted 383 Fieldfares roosting there, along with a pair of Goosander and a drake Red Crested Pochard.

Andrew Moon

Friday, 6 January 2012

An abortive search of Tree Sparrows and another Little Gull dip


A much calmer day than of late with a light westerly wind and predominantly blue skies. In fact it felt very pleasant with temperatures reaching 11 degrees C. Completely dry.

Despite both species being seen this morning, I managed to miss both the Tyttenhanger Tree Sparrows and the Hilfield Little Gull. Highlight was censusing roosting Bramblings..........


A solitary Long-tailed Tit paid a brief visit to the garden


Although Tony Blake had seen two by the feeding station in the morning, I completely failed in my quest to locate any Tree Sparrows at Tyttenhanger. I was also horrified to find that the Coursers Road site had been trashed and was no longer - a bank of mud now replacing the Tree Sparrow hedgerow and feeding station. The gravel workings have extended.

The main birding pit produced 2 Great Crested Grebes, 8 Cormorant, 4 Mute Swans, 8 Common Teal, 33 Tufted Ducks, 34 Coot, 128 Lapwing, 100+ Black-headed Gulls and a healthy 76 Common Gulls whilst the hedgerow and neighbouring countryside yielded 6 Red-legged Partridges, Common Pheasant, Green Woodpecker, a singing male Song Thrush, Robin, Chaffinch, a female House Sparrow, Common Kestrel, 3 Common Blackbirds, a Fieldfare, 2 Common Starlings, 6 Great Tits and 4 Blue Tits. The game strip held just 4 Yellowhammers and 8 Reed Buntings.


A wasted visit. Despite being seen at Hilfield earlier, I could not find the first-winter Little Gull at either Aldenham Country Park or Hilfield Park Reservoir - highlight were the 6 MANDARIN DUCKS still (4 drakes).


This was my first opportunity at a comprehensive survey of the roosting finches of Penn Wood this winter and I was delighted at the presence of so many birds, despite the relatively mild weather so far.

By 1600 hours, the main Penna drive and its dense Rhododendrons held 368 roosting fringillidae. including 307 Chaffinches and a surprising 61 BRAMBLINGS - my first of this winter at the site. A single male SISKIN was also amongst them.

One hundred yards away at the Holly roost-site, no less than 398 Greenfinches roosted and 175 Redwings. There were also a further 15 Chaffinches here - and two male BRAMBLINGS - but it is possible they were part of the main Penna Ride roost.

Other species encountered included Jay, Coal Tit, Common Buzzard, Song Thrush (singing male) and 3 roosting BULLFINCHES.



In addition to the hand-tame first-year Mute Swan and Atlantic Canada Goose, wildfowl today included 12 GADWALL (6 pairs), 32 Tufted Ducks and 3 Northern Pochards. Chris Pontin also saw 2 Reed Buntings - the first in the Recording Area this year.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

A two SHRIKE day

1 showing distantly from the Therfield to Royston road looking towards the Icknield Way (from Duckpuddle Bush)

1 at Norton green this afternoon also

3 Little Egrets at Whitwell cressbeds but no sign of any Raven in the area.

Mike Ilett

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Stevenage GREAT GREY SHRIKE - a superb gallery of images taken by Mike Ilett

Therfield Heath today - both SHRIKE and HEN HARRIER still being seen

Two visits today on the last day before returning to work. The morning one failed to produce the GREAT GREY SHRIKE and the consolation was a small flock of Golden Plover flying low over the fields at Grey's Farm, a Red Kite with something in its talons gliding menacingly over various flocks of feral pigeons, linnet (of which large numbers) and mainly black-headed gulls. Another Red Kite was seen. A HEN HARRIER did perch briefly on the hedge that runs perpendicular to the 'shrike hedge'. This was all from around 9.30 to 11.

In the afternoon, a cheery woman told me as I headed down the Icknield path that I had missed the GGS, that it was in a different place from usual (much higher up the hill) and that it had flown off. I met a birder from London who was looking for it and we wandered down to the 'usual' hedge anyway. Where we saw the shrike. It showed well for a while, and we got a bit blasé so started looking for raptors. Didn't see anything other than a Kestrel. It was very windy by then. This visit was early afternoon, from 1 till about 2.30 (Matt Roberts)

Birding the WATFORD and TRING areas: 4 JANUARY 2012 (LGRE)


The day started off dry but fairly windy, with temperatures hovering around 9 degrees C. Thick cloud then moved in from the west leaving a dull and largely wet afternoon

Today I concentrated my efforts in the Watford and Tring areas of Hertfordshire, eventually adding just 6 new species to my 2012 list.........There were a few highlights, not least the terrific number of wildfowl wintering on Aldenham Country Park...............


Although I visited here with the sole intention of finding MANDARIN DUCK, I could not believe the number of wildfowl wintering on the reservoir. It was mightily impressive

After quickly securing the target bird - MANDARIN DUCK (of which 6 were present under the eaves, including 4 drakes), I set upon click-counting the remaining waterbirds......

Great Crested Grebe (3)
Little Grebe (3)
Grey Heron (2)
Mute Swan (15 including 4 first-years)
Atlantic Canada Goose (97)
Mallard (66)
GADWALL* (184 present - an internationally important figure, considering that just 25,000 winter in Britain)
Eurasian Wigeon (322)
Common Teal (just 1)
Northern Shoveler (7
Tufted Duck (47)
Northern Pochard (3)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (2 adult drakes at west end)
Coot (488)
Moorhen (16)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 adult)

Also noted were 2 Ring-necked Parakeets, 2 Carrion Crows, 5 Redwing and a SISKIN.


Despite an exhaustive search, there was no sign of the recent long-staying first-winter Little Gull - perhaps it only roosts here?

What was notable however was the large number of Great Crested Grebes wintering - no less than 57 birds, by far the largest congregation in the county.

Also counted were 2 Little Grebes, 26 Cormorants, 2 adult Mute Swans, 35 Tufted Duck, ****************************** and 284 Coots. An adult argenteus Herring Gull was also present.


And on to a spot of woodland birding in the hope of finding Woodcock, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Common Treecreeper, Lesser Redpoll and the like. You'll be lucky......

What I did find in an hour stomp around a very muddy trail was 2 Green Woodpeckers, 5 Common Buzzards, 5 Carrion Crows, 150 Redwing, 2 male Chaffinches, Wren and a mixed feeding flock containing Nuthatch (my first of the year), 3 Great Tits, 6 Blue Tits and 12 Long-tailed Tits.


In the town centre, the Grand Union Canal held 1 first-winter Mute Swan and 54 Mallards.


Very damp, muddy and blustery but I did a full circuit of TRINGFORD RESERVOIR logging everything avian - the reservoir held 2 adult Mute Swans, 53 Coot, 9 Tufted Duck, 3 Northern Pochards, 5 Teal, 195 resting Black-headed Gulls and a single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull whilst the surrounding woodland tracts produced 1 Greenfinch (flyover), 3 Robins, 7 Common Blackbirds, 1 Redwing, 4 Fieldfare, 5 Rook, 15 Western Jackdaws, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Blue Tits and best of all, 3 SISKINS in the largest row of Alder trees at the west end. A female Grey Wagtail was also seen.

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING was still showing very well on the foreshore adjacent to the steps in the NW corner (see the superb new shots above), whilst the reservoir held 13 Mute Swans (3 first-years), just 3 Great Crested Grebes, 249 Coot, 29 Gadwall, 22 Pochard, 31 Tufted Duck, 18 Wigeon and 12 Moorhen.

Once again the gull roost on the mud was numerous and included 182 Black-headed Gulls and 9 Common Gulls (including 2 first-winters).

The perimeter banking held 8 Pied Wagtails

At MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, just 1 Great Crested Grebe was present, along with 25 Shovelers. A flock of just 17 Common Starlings was in Marsworth and Church Lane once again yielded a BULLFINCH.

A brief detour to COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS) to see the 4 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (drake and 3 female-types) (my first in the county this year) before moving on to WILSTONE RESERVOIR, where the East Fields geese flock held 70 Greylag, 29 Atlantic Canada and the continuing single first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE.

Birding at the reservoir was difficult because of the rain and wind so a full count was not possible, although just 8 Great Crested Grebes was pitiful (and with the other 4, 12 is the lowest winter total for this species I have ever registered - perhaps they have all moved to Hilfield Park!). Just 2 female Common Goldeneye could be seen.

A single check of the gull roost yielded a minimum 3,300 Black-headed and 84 Common Gulls but not one large white-headed gull species.

For the last hour of daylight, I returned to MARSWORTH where the reedbed bunting roost was pathetic - just 9 CORN BUNTINGS flew in and 4 REED BUNTINGS (perhaps, because of the foul weather, they had all roosted prior to 1500 hours this afternoon - I hope so). A single Goldcrest in the wood was also of note.

NORTON GREEN and the shrike

The site is very, very muddy at the moment so bear that in mind when visiting in your ''work clothes'' - wellington boots are desired. It will take a good eight minutes to walk to the north end of the site where the bird is favouring and it is best to park by the gate at the most southerly access point (better still and to be on the safe side opposite the pub in the hamlet)

Be very careful when viewing near the traveller's camp - the dogs are dangerous and will bite. Also, be extremely careful not to be seen to be 'scoping/photographing towards the encampment - this will only rile up the travellers and if they realise there is a lot of interest going on, it could have serious repercussions

If you stand and 'scope from 60 yards south of the camp ridge, you are out of sight and can still easily get good views of the shrike when it pops out of the hawthorns and scrub

The bird is still present and showing well today (per Darrel & Mike Ilett)

Lee Evans

SNOW BUNTING remains into the New Year

Apart from the 4 Bewick's Swans, everything remains the same at Tring in the New Year - the wintering DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE, WATER PIPIT and this splendid first-winter male SNOW BUNTING - beautifully captured on film by Richard Wignall


Richard Wignall has very kindly emailed me these latest images of the wintering adult female PEREGRINE FALCON in the town centre of Hemel Hempstead - her fourth winter of residence. She is a ringed adult female, most likely of captive stock, and breeds at a quarry site just north of the county where so far, she has successfully reared 11 youngsters

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

PIED WAGTAIL roost in Welwyn Garden City

I visited the Pied Wagtail roost in Wigmores North, Welwyn Garden City, this evening, and counted 300 birds, 50 in the tree outside Connells and 250 in the tree outside Putterills. This is the highest number I have recorded here (David Booth)

Winter storm batters the South East


Gale force winds and torrential rain associated with a very deep depression tracked quickly east across the country and swept through our region all morning. It typically wreaked havoc bringing down a large number of trees and chimney stacks, with winds gusting at 70 miles per hour at times. Then, at around 1300 hours, the rain stopped and the wind dropped substantially, leaving a clear and bright middle part of the afternoon, although hail and rain returned later.

I finally managed to brave the conditions after 1300 hours and made my way to Stevenage, where Tony Hukin had discovered a GREAT GREY SHRIKE yesterday afternoon and both Mike and darrel had confirmed its presence today in the rain and wind...........


I arrived at Norton Green at 1325 hours, only to be told by those three present that the bird had just captured a Field Vole and flown with it to the far side of the traveller camp. Like an idiot, I marched round there, only to be accosted by a marauding gang of 7 yapping guard dogs! There was no sign of the shrike and I had to make a quick and hasty retreat.

Returning back to the other observers about 20 minutes later, I was pleased to see that the bird had returned and was showing well. It was perched up just 35 yards away and was an adult and was favouring the scrub and isolated clumps of Hawthorn just 50 yards away from the camp at the extreme north end of the site. It remained on view for about 7 minutes before disappearing again. Alan Reynolds, Tony Hukin, Darrel Bryant and others turned up and after a while, the shrike reappeared and showed very, very well on top of the bushes. Alan obtained some excellent images (see above).

As Darrel stated, this is the first record of Great Grey Shrike for Norton Green and the fact that it seems to have a larder perhaps indicates that it has been around for some time. It is certainly a lot easier to see than the adult in the east of the county at Therfield Heath.

Other species noted included 48 Eurasian Skylarks (in the large stubble field adjacent), 1 Red-legged Partridge, 1 Common Kestrel, 5 Common Blackbirds, 2 Common Magpie and a male Greenfinch.


Two GREEN SANDPIPERS were present (both unringed) as well as 1 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron and 10 Moorhens (up to 5 Green Sandpipers have been present at the site this winter).


The pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE was present with 8 Canada Geese and 3 Mute Swans (1 first-winter) by the river Lea west of the B653, whilst 17 Gadwalls, 4 Common Teal (2 drakes) and 2 Little Grebes were seen from the bridge.


The adult female PEREGRINE FALCON was sat on her usual perch at 1540 hours


A covey of 8 Red-legged Partridges was west of Tring and south of the B 488 at SP 929 112


I pitched up at WTR at 1600 hours to find the hide virtually full (John Gearing, Richard Billyard, Nick Mariner already in situ). The wind was still strong and it was clear that conditions were not overly conducive. A Water Rail screamed, 1 Little Egret flew in to roost, a male Sparrowhawk did its last circuit and 4 Reed Buntings flew in to roost in the reedbed. What appeared to be a Cetti's Warbler scolded and a single lost Black-headed Gull attempted to roost.

And then, at 1628 hours, a solitary EURASIAN BITTERN flew from the reeds at the closest edge and flew to the far side. It was a regularly returning wintering bird and roosted in the usual area of reeds opposite the Susan Cowdy Hide. Despite the strong wind, it successfully made one platform of reeds but then fell off of it into the water. It gathered its composure, then climbed back up a few yards away and tried again. Eventually, after several attempts, it realised it was fighting a losing battle and as darkness approached, dropped further down into the reeds, presumably to roost close to the base.

Six new species for the Year List and particularly pleased with the shrike


The GREAT GREY SHRIKE is still present at Norton Green this morning, and showing despite the weather (Mike Ilett/Darrel Bryant)

Monday, 2 January 2012

A raw deal


In complete contrast to much of the festive season, this morning dawned clear and bright with a touch of ground frost. In fact that set the trend of the day with temperatures struggling to reach 8 degrees C and an increasingly strong and somewhat bitingly cold NW wind. Light conditions remained excellent all day but the wind during the afternoon kept many birds in shelter

Today I concentrated solely on Hertfordshire and spent the day trawling various locations. i fared particularly badly in the east compared to Mike Ilett and Bill Last......


No sign of any Egyptian Geese - just 12 Stock Doves, 4 Pied Wagtails and 6 Long-tailed Tits


I could not believe the number of birdwatchers out this morning at Stockers - perhaps 60 in number......

SPRINGWELL LAKE held 38 Gadwall whilst the westernmost lake at Stockers (at TQ 042 935 held an additional 54 birds, as well as 3 Mute Swans, 6 Wigeon, 68 Coot and 1 Great Crested Grebe

I did the entire circuit of STOCKER'S LAKE, counting as I went - numbers included just 7 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Grebe (on the Colne), 25 Shoveler, 2 Wigeon, 31 Gadwall, 102 Tufted Duck, 33 Pochard, 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (1 drake), 13 COMMON GOLDENEYE (including 4 adult drakes), 2 GOOSANDERS (the regular adult drake loafing obscured near the causeway and an adult female on the main water) and 77 Coot. A flock of 18 Lapwing was roosting on one of the rafts, whilst passerines included Blue Tit, Robin, 5 singing male Song Thrushes, Green Woodpecker, Jay, 3 SISKINS and 8 Long-tailed Tits. A gang of 31 Carrion Crows was perched together and my first Greenfinch of the year flew over. A pair of Ring-necked Parakeets were typically in evidence.

House Sparrow numbers by the bridge at Stocker's Farm were a healthy 16 whilst the rollcall on BURY LAKE included 4 Great Crested Grebes, 37 Mute Swans and an impressive 144 Coots.

A COMMON KINGFISHER was showing very well on the neighbouring River Colne where I also year-ticked Andrew Moon as well as a number of other local birding luminaries. The Colne also held a further pair of Mute Swans.

TROY MILL PIT (TQ 037 903)

The overhanging vegetation and trees over the River Colne north of Broadwater Sailing Club is the only regular wintering haunt of COMMON CHIFFCHAFF in the county and despite perfect conditions this morning, all I could find was just ONE wintering individual today.

The pit produced 4 Great Crested Grebes, 4 first-year Mute Swans, 2 Gadwall, 25 Tufted Duck and 55 Coot, as well as Sparrowhawk, female Grey Wagtail and Wren.


After finishing counting in the Colne Valley I made my way to the far east of the county, joining the likes of Mike Ilett, Bill Last, Darrel Bryant, Colin and others. Mike and Bill had done very well prior to my arrival having bagged Peregrine, Hen Harrier and the Great Grey Shrike

I arrived on site at about 1300 hours and stuck it out in the conditions for over two and a half hours but despite walking a mile down to the favoured area for raptors and the hedgerow leading away to Gray's Farm saw very little.

A flock of 21 European Golden Plovers flew over, whilst 5 Common Kestrels, 8 Red-legged Partridges and 2 Yellowhammers were noted. As usual, two Sparrowhawks were seen, including a nice blue male, and 5 Common Buzzards but no Hen Harriers whatsoever - or even Red Kites. It was just too windy and cold.

The undoubted highlight was the massive wintering flock of LINNETS west of the Icknield Way. At one point, I click-counted no less than 434 birds lined up alongside each other on the wires. There are certainly more than 500 birds present in the area - excellent news for a species that has generally seen a dramatic reduction in numbers.

After giving up, I tried for GREY PARTRIDGE and found two coveys (6 & 8) in fields close to the A1 just south of Baldock.


Stopped off at dusk at Stanborough and counted 19 LITTLE EGRETS into roost on the southernmost island.

Will have to try again tomorrow but weather forecast is poor........

Mike Ilett has a good day out in the county (but others not so lucky)

Startops end Res - SNOW BUNTING showing extremely well along the North bank, 2 Red-Crested Pochard

Wilstone Res - DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE in the cemetery corner with greylags

Therfield Heath - 1 Peregrine (juv) flew across icknield way and landed in field, 1 GREAT GREY SHRIKE in usual hedge at midday then seen just sth of Royston late afternoon and flew across the icknield way and lost to view heading East, 1 HEN HARRIER (ringtail), 20 Golden Plover

Mike Ilett


I received a text at 3:37 saying that there was a GREAT GREY SHRIKE at Norton Green, Stevenage, so I went up straight away, and found it at about 3:50, perched up in a small tree in the scrub in the middle of the site. I was joined by Richard Pople, and we watched it for a few minutes before it flew off, and appeared to land behind the travellers' site, but I couldn't relocate it as it became dark. It probably went to roost there, and hopefully will stick around (David Booth)