Wednesday, 26 September 2012

More GREAT WHITE EGRET images - a nice selection from ALAN REYNOLDS



A band of heavy rain passed through from the southwest early to mid morning before clearing away. It was replaced by very still conditions - and quite mild. Having aborted a trip down west for Ortolan/Buff-breasted Sandpiper, I was soon then hit by all manner of messages from the Northeast - with rare warbler after rare warbler found as the skies cleared. In fact by 1400 hours, no less than 3 different Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers had been found - I was well depressed....

Anyhow, I made the best of a bad situation and decided to flog around the local areas in search of that rare and although not in the same league as your Arctic/Greenish, did turn up a few surprises.....but it was hard work

(mainly private)

I decided to start at Springfield Farm where GS had 'gripped' me off the previous evening with his phone call. After liaising with him again this morning, I soon located the COMMON STONECHATS - in fact 3 of them - an adult male, an adult female and a first-year. There was also at least 1 WHINCHAT still present, as well as a single adult COMMON WHITETHROAT. The chats were concentrated well down the cinder track - much further down than usual - and were the first that I had seen in the Recording Area for a couple of years. But better was yet to come......

As I got to the point where the cinder track veered sharply to the left, I became aware of a very large flock of Meadow Pipits (100+) in the patch that had been cleared by the archaeologists' earlier in the summer. As I wandered out into the sparsely vegetated ground to check through them, I heard a liquidy alarm note and there just a few yards in front of me were 2 WOODLARKS - an adult and a first-year. I enjoyed excellent views of them for a few minutes before they flushed and flew calling across to the well vegetated pit top at the end of the track. I immediately called Rob Hill as I knew this was a species he wanted to see in the county, and then RBA, Graham Smith and Dave Cleal. As I was on the phone, both birds seemed to drop back down on the cleared area and I left them (Adam Bassett phoned me later to say that he was getting great views of one of them).

I did a thorough search of surrounding areas but only came across 8 Linnets, more Meadow Pipits, 2 COMMON RAVENS and lots of Red Kites. A group of 6 adult male Greenfinches were nearby bathing.


I then joined up with Steve Blake at Tyttenhanger where we enjoyed excellent views of a male COMMON STONECHAT and a WHINCHAT on the fenceline on the east side of the main birding pit; also a Bar-headed Goose amongst 59 Atlantic Canada Geese and two Common Chiffchaffs.


For around half an hour, it poured with rain and I sat in the car talking with the various observers that seemed to be stumbling into PG Tips on the North East Coast. With clearing skies and slack winds, I decided to take my chance on the hills and do a full circuit. Approaching the trig point, a large raptor appeared overhead and rather than the expected Red Kite, it was a juvenile OSPREY purposefully on its way SSW. It was flapping strongly rather than gliding and was following the contour of the hills and had a typically well streaked breast band, distinctive pale tips to the terminal tail band and gleaming white unmarked underwing coverts. This was at 1425 hours and by three minutes later it was gone - perhaps heading towards the Gade Valley.

As I continued up towards the Beacon trig point, I flushed a strange looking bird from the edge of the chalk track. It had a longish tail and was very dark. I thought pipit at first but when I tracked it down in the grass, I was surprised to see that it was a locustella - and quite a greyish one at that. I looked at it for ages and next to point blank range but could not make it any more than just a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER - perhaps a young one or an individual from further east.

A wave of 22 House Martins and 7 Barn Swallows passed away to the SSW (following the same line as the Osprey), whilst 50 or so Goldfinches were still resident along the top escarpment.

Dropping down into the weedy field at the base of Gallows Hill, the fenceline held 3 WHINCHATS and 2 Northern Wheatears, whilst the only other migrant I noted in the area was a single Common Chiffchaff by the car park. An awful amount of flogging around with few birds to show for it.


And so on to the reservoirs and Startop's was pretty birdless - fishermen were wading out into the water. WILSTONE on the other hand still harboured our celebrity GREAT WHITE EGRET - fishing in the shallows but in the boatyard corner and rather distant (see Alan Reynold's superb montage of images above).

All 6 Little Egrets were still present too, 16 Great Crested Grebes, 42 Mute Swans, 4 Greylag Geese, 12 Gadwall, the 3 PINTAIL, 113 Shoveler, 114 Wigeon, 313 Teal, 138 Tufted Duck, 106 Pochard and a whopping 802 Coot - RINGED PLOVER still present, 39 :Lapwing, active Kingfishers and a single remaining HOBBY - oh, and a bright and chirpy Lucy Flower !

And that was it......

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A second GREAT WHITE EGRET in Herts !

During the day I travelled to Wilstone to hopefully see (county tick) and photograph the Great White Egret. Mission accomplished on both counts.

Then in the evening I popped down to Amwell and, after a minutes at the viewpoint, both Barry Reed and Graham White called a Great White Egret, which landed for a few seconds opposite the viewpoint before carrying on towards Stanstead Abbotts.

As Graham White pointed out, I am probably the only person that has seen two separate Great White Egrets (the other one was still at Wilstone) on the same day in Hertfordshire.

I claim my prize.

Alan Reynolds

GREAT WHITE EGRET present for third day

The Wilstone Reservoir GREAT WHITE EGRET remains today, showing well to the right of the hide in the shallows. Also 6 Little Egrets, the Ringed Plover and the 3 Pintails still. Ian Bennell (top) and Lucy Flower took the excellent shots above and on my Tring Reservoirs Birding Blog you will find many, many more images of this celebrity bird.

Elsewhere we have WHINCHATS at both Batford and Tyttenhanger and a DUNLIN at Amwell (where Bill Last had an OSPREY and MARSH HARRIER last week)

Sunday, 23 September 2012


John Foster obtained some nice images of our regularly wintering adult female PEREGRINE in Hemel town centre

GREAT WHITE EGRET at Wilstone Reservoir


It was obvious today was going to be a good day. The wind was in the east and heavy rain was forecast to come in - ideal conditions for birds to be moving in front of the weather.....

As such, I headed down to the reservoirs to see what was happening

First bird I set eyes upon was a juvenile NORTHERN GANNET in the extreme NE corner of STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR - straddling the shoreline. I telephoned RBA immediately of my find, then Dave Bilcock and then JT. Dave arrived within 15 minutes but it appeared the bird was dead. I picked it up.

I then went to check the wildfowl numbers on WILSTONE RESERVOIR...

Scanning from the bank by the car park steps, I picked up an egret flying in high over DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP (BUCKS) at 0945 hours that had an all-orange bill - it was a GREAT WHITE EGRET ! It kept on flying towards the reservoir and flew along the line of the Black Poplars before checking out the ditch behind the Drayton Bank Hide. It then circled round over the hide and flew along to the right and landed on a muddy fringe at the edge of the reedbed about 150 yards right of the hide. Frustratingly, I didn't have Steve Rodwell's phone number (who I knew was sitting in the hide) so I phoned Dave Bilcock so that he could get in touch with him. Minutes later, Dave Hutchinson phoned (who was also sat in the hide) to say that they had just seen it and he had managed to photograph it !

Despite being pestered by a Grey Heron a few times, it eventually settled into feeding and could be easily viewed from near the car park steps or from the overflow. Once again, I phoned RBA, DB and JT within a MINUTE of me first seeing it arrive. It remained on view until at least early afternoon. Within a very short while, twitchers began arriving, with DB, Chaz Jackson and Mike Campbell soon to be followed by John Foster, Brendan Glynn, Chris White, Bill Pegram, Ian Williams, Lucy Flower, Paul Reed and the majority of the Tring regulars.

It was an unringed individual and most likely the same bird that has returned for three consecutive winters, being seen in the Chess Valley in its first year and in the Linford area last winter.

Wilstone also harboured 5 LITTLE EGRETS this morning, with wildfowl including at least 28 Mute Swans, 135 Common Teal, 59 Wigeon, 61 Shoveler, the 3 NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 drakes and a female - present for two weeks now), 32 Pochard and 73 Tufted Duck. A single RINGED PLOVER was feeding on the mud in the NW corner (for its second day), with 29 Lapwing, an adult Common Gull with the Black-heads and a Common Kingfisher flashing by. A tremendous number of HOUSE MARTINS was present - at least 230.

Just as the rain started at 1050 hours, Steve, I and others watched a juvenile ARCTIC TERN arrive......perhaps a precursor of what to come. An enjoyable morning

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Hemel PEREGRINE returns

The colour-ringed female PEREGRINE FALCON is back on its favoured roosting ledge in the middle of Hemel Hempstead town centre (Dan Forder) whilst elsewhere, a long staying GARGANEY remains at Rye Meads RSPB. Otherwise, very little of note to report in Hertfordshire of late.

Thursday, 6 September 2012


A juvenile MARSH HARRIER roosted overnight at Amwell on 4th/5th whilst WHINCHATS are occurring throughout the county with yet another at Batford and ones and twos at numerous sites including Heartwood Forest, Tyttenhanger GP and elsewhere. Up to 3 COMMON REDSTARTS at Hatfield Aerodrome and others in the east of the county. A GARGANEY was recently at Rye Meads RSPB.

Highlight at Tring Reservoirs has been a juvenile SPOTTED REDSHANK on Wilstone last Saturday and a flyover juvenile MONTAGU'S HARRIER on Tuesday (mostly in Bucks airspace).

Good numbers of Spotted Flycatchers have been recorded of late at a variety of sites around the county, with hirundine passage now in full swing.

More selfish suppression from HILFIELD

They just don't want to know. They just want their own little private nature reserve, yet have the opportunity to twitch birds the rest of us find. In mid August, they enjoyed a WOOD SANDPIPER that spent most of the day on the dam and invited a few trusted souls who wouldn't divulge the news to see it. Thanks a bunch. The only Wood Sand in Herts this year - I'm probably not going to see one now.

And no reason for it - absolutely none - only total selfishness

Everybody in the world knows that Black-necked Grebes breed at Hilfield and according to the signs all around the site, are protected by 24 hour camera surveillance. Black-necked Grebe - a species with a population of over 4 million in Europe alone. And don't believe the hype - egg thieves are not targeting these - not when they can walk up to BNG nests and take the eggs out of them in Cambs and Tyne & Wear. In fact, as everyone knows, these grebes would be far safer if we were ALL allowed access to the site and not just the privileged few. Birders should be more concerned in condemning this coalition, what with plans of extending Heathrow Airport and driving HS2 through miles and miles of unspoilt Bucks countryside. And Boris Johnson - he wants an airport in the Thames.......

Oh and before I forget, this is the very reason why I no longer post or supply my sightings to the Hertfordshire Bird Club. Apparently they are in cohoots with this policy - the Wood Sandpiper being submitted to the website but never posted. And the very reason why I no longer provide Bucks with any records either, not after I was specifically targeted of NOT being told about the Wilstone Savi's Warbler by those that are involved with the production of the Bucks Bird Report. Remember, there are a lot of selfish birders in this region who do NOT want you to hear about nice birds - they just want to keep them within their little clique. And the Savi's was an absolute disgrace - Sri Lankan and the others all trespassing out in the reedbed in an attempt to see it whilst two-facedly claiming that's what others would do if 'Evans was told about it - bloody cheek

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The WHITE PELICAN in Stevenage - my images from last week

Chomping on Moorhens and Mallards, luckily this Staffordshire escapee was recaptured

New colony of FIRECRESTS discovered


A juvenile SPOTTED REDSHANK briefly at Wilstone late on Saturday evening was the weekend highlight locally (David Bilcock), whilst I mustered up 5 WHINCHATS at Springfield Farm Quarry on Monday (03 September).

With a band of thick cloud to the north of the Chilterns, I was quite hopeful this morning and set off early to the Hills. A light to moderate NW wind was blowing and blue sky and sunshine was the norm. It was still pretty warm.

(0730-1130 hours)

I did a full circuit of the Hills, partly in company with Francis and Chris. It was a fairly productive morning. Highlights included a flyover TREE PIPIT at 0916 (my third in recent weeks), an elusive COMMON NIGHTINGALE that moved from scrub by the S-bend to that adjacent to the end of the fenceline below the Beacon and two juvenile COMMON REDSTARTS (both new) on the upper fenceline between the two gates, 170 yards north of the main car park.

Chris had seen 5 COMMON REDSTARTS yesterday (an adult male and female in scrub to the south of the car park, 1 on Steps Hill and two on the SE slope towards Gallows Hill) and 2 WHINCHATS but we could not find any of them today.

There was a steady trickle of hirundines moving west over the Beacon all morning, totalling 13 House Martins and 24 Barn Swallows, whilst further diurnal passage involved 2 Meadow Pipits and a single juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker. There were two juvenile NORTHERN WHEATEARS around the sheep pen and a further in the field at the base of Steps Hill whilst other migrants included a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER by the S-bend gate, 4 Common Whitethroats, 2 Blackcaps, a LESSER WHITETHROAT in Incombe Hole and 8 Common Chiffchaffs.

At least 240 Goldfinches were in a massive 'charm' just SE of the trig point, including nearly 50% juvenile, with 8 BULLFINCHES around the site of note and a single CORN BUNTING.

Most unusual was a MARSH TIT in isolated Hawthorns 80 yards east of the Beacon, with another one in more typical surroundings in Top Scrub. Lots of butterflies were on the wing (mainly Meadow Browns, Small Heaths and Ringlets) including some nice fresh Brimstones.


Three VIOLET HELLEBORINES were photographed (see blog), one of which was still in pristine condition, but there was no sign of the male pale morph Honey Buzzard from the gate viewpoint at Hill Farm. In fact, there was no apparent raptor movement today. A pair of Mintjac were enjoying the sunshine.


Decided to revisit some extensive woodlands that had yielded both breeding Woodlark and Hobby in the past and was delighted to find large numbers of FIRECRESTS in an area where 3 singing males had been recorded in May. At least 16 birds were recorded, mainly in three noisy family parties, whilst Goldcrests were in double that number, in excess of 35 birds. The area was now being used for motorbike racing and was soon to be visited by loggers.

Other species noted included Common Buzzard, Common Chiffchaff (3), Nuthatch (2 family parties), Common Treecreeper (5), Coal Tit (numerous family parties), Robin, Wren (2) and Great Spotted Woodpecker


All four baby Great Crested Grebes were doing well although again, only the single male to be found. Also 1 juvenile Little Grebe on site. Two Grey Herons, 76 Coot, 2 COMMON TEAL, 5 Gadwall, Grey Wagtail and Common Treecreeper, whilst migrants represented by 4 Barn Swallows, 1 SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, 1 juvenile WILLOW WARBLER and 1 LESSER WHITETHROAT.