MONDAY 2 JANUARY (LGRE DIARY NOTES)
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......
LYNSTER'S FARM, WEST HYDE (HERTS)
No sign of any Egyptian Geese - just 12 Stock Doves, 4 Pied Wagtails and 6 Long-tailed Tits
THE STOCKERS LAKE COMPLEX (HERTS)
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.
THE ICKNIELD WAY, THERFIELD HEATH (EAST HERTS)
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.
STANBOROUGH NORTH LAKE (HERTS)
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........