MONDAY 19 MARCH (LGRE DIARY NOTES)
A glorious day weatherwise following a sharp overnight frost. Predominantly blue skies, bright sunshine and a light westerly wind.
WATERCRESS COTTAGE LOOP TRAIL, CHESS VALLEY (BUCKS)
Following up a call from Chris Pontin, my first valley COMMON CHIFFCHAFF of the year was singing from the tall Poplar trees by Pow Wow Lake; 8 Gadwall were also freshly arrived, whilst the pair of Mute Swans were still in attendance.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming, with a male Goldcrest singing from thick ivy, 2 Wrens, a pair of Long-tailed Tits and a singing male Great Tit.
(Chris had earlier had 4 Ring-necked Parakeets fly over)
On the lower Chesham road, yet another dead Badger by Bois Mill Cottages.
CHENIES BOTTOM (BUCKS)
Two pairs of Mute Swan were in close proximity near Latimer Bridge, with 4 Little Egrets on the new lake west of the bridge at Chenies Bottom.
KING'S LANGLEY (HERTS)
Checked out a report of a female Black Redstart seen close to Junction 20 of the M25 yesterday but failed to find the correct farm nor the pond accompanying the grid reference ! Anyhow, whilst there, I then took a call from Darrel Bryant who had just found a BLACK REDSTART at Norton Green. Having missed out on two yesterday, I made my way straight over.......driving north up the A1, noticed two more dead Badgers within a mile of each other by the Welwyn Garden City exits
NORTON GREEN (HERTFORDSHIRE)
With Darrel's help, I quickly located his BLACK REDSTART, still frequenting the small scrubby bushes situated around the burnt out rubbish and caravan parts just yards south of the gypsy encampment. It was a young male, most likely a first-summer (slate-grey on the upperparts). It was consorting with a nice male NORTHERN WHEATEAR.
As I walked along the eastern flank of the site, I discovered a second BLACK REDSTART, this time an adult female. It was in the vicinity of some dumped hosing and was showing well. I phoned both Darrel and Mike Ilett to tell them of the update and I was talking to Mike, I had to make a very hasty retreat as three 'youths' were attempting to break in my car parked by the metal gate. One of them was watching me whilst the other two were trying to open the doors. BE VERY CAREFUL WHERE YOU PARK YOUR VEHICLE AT THIS LOCATION.
I then decided to visit the Sandon area in the hope of locating Merlin or Hen Harrier
SANDON, DEADMANS HILL & THERFIELD AREAS (HERTS)
Spent virtually three hours in the area with scant rewards
Yet another dead Badger noted - this time near the Bury Barns entrance
A nice male GREY PARTRIDGE was with 2 Red-legged Partridges close to the Horseshoe Wood Farm entrance, with another pair of GREY PARTRIDGE in the field south of Upper Heath Farm.
No less than 74 BROWN HARES were logged in the area, and three herds of FALLOW DEER
Totalling up the Rook nests lining the A505 came to an impressive 83 active
Just SW of Deadman's Hill, the fields and game strip thereabouts produced 330+ LINNETS and 18 CORN BUNTINGS
I came back through BEDFORDSHIRE, stopping off firstly at PEGSDON HILLS (birdless) and then BARTON HILLS (just 3 Yellowhammers). Finally added a county COMMON CHIFFCHAFF at DUNSTABLE SEWAGE WORKS and then headed back to Herts
TRING RESERVOIRS (HERTS)
Spent the last hour of daylight at Tring whereby WILSTONE offered 23 Great Crested Grebes, the DARK-BELLIED BRENT, the pair of Little Egret, 57 Teal, 46 Shoveler, Wigeon pair, 4 Gadwall, 18 Pochard and an impressive 237 Tufted Ducks. Highlight was a party of 10 COMMON GOLDENEYES - adult drake, first-winter drake and 8 female-types.
The pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were on STARTOP'S, with a singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF in the Black Poplars behind MARSWORTH REEDBED. The CORN BUNTING roost was well attended with 151 birds arriving. With Jack O'Neill for company, we watched the BARN OWL appear over the meadow from 1820 hours