TUESDAY 27 MARCH
Another very unseasonally warm day with temperatures again reaching 66 degrees F this afternoon; wall-to-wall sunshine and light SE winds.
After a brief flirtation with Hertfordshire this morning, I spent the rest of the day in Bedfordshire, catching up with a few more migrants........
SHERRARDSPARK WOOD, LNR WELWYN GARDEN CITY (HERTS)
A new site for me and a tremendous relic ancient woodland site. It is one of Hertfordshire's largest and most important Oak woodlands and extends to approximately 80 hectares (200 acres) and has some of the county's finest Oak and Hornbeam trees. It is an ancient woodland for which there is archaelogical evidence to suggest that people lived there some 4,000 years ago. It is also home to an important colony of Hazel Dormice.
Anyway, the reason for my visit. After hearing of numerous reports of LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER from Monks Walk, I decided to visit this morning and was not disappointed. Chris King first espied it - a nice male moving quickly through the tall canopy of Hornbeams to the right of the tree-lined avenue. It called just once and moved rapidly through the trees. A very welcome Herts year tick and a nice new site tick.
The area also held both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, several Nuthatches, Common Treecreeper, Great and Blue Tits, nesting Stock Dove and Chaffinches.
Being positioned on the A1, I was relatively convenient for Bedfordshire and as it was, Matt Burgess discovered a passage flock of Little Gulls......whilst driving north, a pair of MANDARIN DUCKS flew across the A1 at Welwyn, just over a mile south of Junction 6.....
DEREK WHITE'S EGGS A1 PIT, BIGGLESWADE (BEDS)
A nice selection of waders present including a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, 2 Ringed Plovers, 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Common Redshanks, several Lapwing, a GREEN SANDPIPER and a Little Egret
PEACOCK'S LAKE, BROOM GP (BEDS) (1130-1230 hours)
After an initial dipping session, I joined finder Matt Burgess at the watchpoint and enjoyed good views of his 4 winter-plumaged adult LITTLE GULLS. The birds were extremely restless and active and on at least two occasions, thermalled up very high in the sky and attempted to fly off east; both times they returned back down though. MJP, Pip and SCB soon caught up with them too.
Not many wildfowl left on the lake, just 3 Wigeon, a few Teal, 4 Shoveler and a scattering of Tufted Duck and Pochard, along with 8 Lapwing and 1-2 Common Redshank.
Whilst keeping on the Little Gulls high in the sky, several raptors were intercepted, including 3 Sparrowhawks, a Red Kite and a number of Common Buzzards. A single SAND MARTIN was also picked up.
At least 2 Common Chiffchaffs were singing in the vicinity
WILLINGTON GP (BEDFORDSHIRE)
Not a great deal to report but 304 Barnacle Geese on the grass, 8 Meadow Pipits in the new plough and 2 Common Shelducks, 8 Wigeon, 2 Oystercatchers and 2 Ringed Plovers on Dovecote Pit. Again, also 2 singing Common Chiffchaffs
PRIORY COUNTRY PARK, BEDFORD (BEDS)
The surrounding parkland yielded my first Beds male BLACKCAP of the year, along with 2 more singing male Common Chiffchaffs. The country park itself was heaving with people with dogs galore entering the lake at the eastern shore
Checked out a number of other sites but nothing worth mentioning - just numerous singing Common Chiffchaffs.
At FLAUNDEN (HERTS), I noted my first Orange Tip butterfly of the year