Friday, 30 November 2012

The fruits of Windmill Road (Hemel Hempstead)

It was a feeding frenzy - several heavily-laden berry trees bordering Windmill Road, attracting a wealth of birds...........

I was most surprised to see both Woodpigeons and Common Magpies feasting on the berries, the latter hiding them in the grass

The Tanners Crescent WAXWINGS

The location - two Pink Sorbus trees in front of numbers 7 and 9

The birds - 4 in total, including a first-winter


This is the set up: Pink Sorbus tree in front garden of 49 The Avenue

A flock of 18 Waxwings was constantly present, along with the odd Continental Blackbird

York Road, Stevenage, this morning

Most likely a returning pair. This Pink Sorbus in York Road has been a traditional site for Waxwings for many years

Today's WAXWINGS in Bengeo

Some smashing shots taken by Andy this afternoon

WAXWING jamboree


Another sharp frost and another glorious day but with temperatures really struggling to get beyond 3 degrees C. Superb light conditions and many photographers out trying to make the most of it

WAXWINGS really have arrived in earnest in our area now and I made every effort to see those present in HERTFORDSHIRE today..........

Following an early morning call from Darrel Bryant, I started off in STEVENAGE, where two adult WAXWINGS were performing incredibly well in the lone Pink Sorbus tree at 99 York Road - a regular stop-off for this species. Along with the finder, I was able to get some nice images of the two birds, both of which were still present at 1005 hours when I departed.

It was then off to BENGEO, where no less than 18 birds were performing extraodinarily well in the Pink Rowans in the front garden of 49 The Avenue. There were quite a few photographers present and one kind resident even offered us tea and coffee. In fact, many local residents were interested in what was the attraction. And then, when driving away from the site, I located an additional 12 birds in the berry-bearing shrubs by 133 The Avenue - so 30 birds in total.

Less than two miles away, in TANNERS CRESCENT, HERTFORD, a smaller party of 4 birds was also showing well, again favouring Pink Sorbus at the front of numbers 7 & 9; one of these was a first-winter.

So, 36 WAXWINGS encountered in total, the first of many hundreds I suspect - although not one was colour-ringed.

Over in WINDMILL ROAD, HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, the 3 or 4 heavily-laden berry-bearing trees at the Lower Yott junction were bustling with birds, including 9 Woodpigeons, 11 Common Blackbirds, 1 Mistle Thrush, 6 Common Magpies, 4 Chaffinches and 22 Common Starlings all feasting on the fruits. Nearby, on the River Gade, a single Little Egret feeding.

Still no more to be found in areas closer to my home though, just a single Little Egret on the CHESS, and an adult Sinensis Cormorant

Thursday, 29 November 2012

At last - twitchable WAXWINGS in the county (tomorrow I come)

WAXWINGS today included 2 in Long Marston, 17 at 45-47 The Avenue in Bengeo and 4 in Tanners Crescent in Hertford, whilst elsewhere in the county, a juvenile COMMON SCOTER, 2 adult MEDITERRANEAN GULLS and an adult Yellow-legged Gull at Hilfield Park Reservoir (LGRE) (Scoter found by SM and later seen by JT, DT), the fw drake GREATER SCAUP at Amwell Tumbling Bay Lake, pair of Common Stonechats at King's Meads, Hertford, and the GREAT GREY SHRIKE, SHORT-EARED OWL and Barn Owl at Therfield Heath.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


A flock of 22 WAXWINGS was in Bengeo, near Hertford, today, often in The Avenue, whilst in Watford yesterday, 12 were seen in Langley Way.

Also yesterday, two female COMMON SCOTERS were present at Amwell NR, along with the long-staying first-year drake GREATER SCAUP

Monday, 26 November 2012

WAXWINGS in Sawbridgeworth today

14 apparently

Icknield Way birding


Well, what can I say. It really has rained a lot in recent days and on Saturday, non-stop for the best part of 17 hours ! Parts of the West Midlands are now testament to that fact, and are under several feet of water where rivers have burst their banks.

It did rain a lot again last night but eventually gave way to clearer conditions from the north this morning. I had to get out.

Although my temperature gauge was recording just 8 degrees C, it felt considerably milder in the field. It was flat calm too - all in all pretty pleasant.

QUEEN MOTHER RESERVOIR (BERKSHIRE) is certainly having a good run at the moment and it was here that I started my birding day. A juvenile LONG-TAILED DUCK had arrived overnight and was showing very well, close inshore to the NE bank, about 200 yards along from the Yacht centre. It was diving frequently, staying underwater for at least 28 seconds a go. The first-winter RED-NECKED GREBE was still present too, but much further around than before, as well as 22 Tufted Ducks and 2 Meadow Pipits. Two excellent birds less than a mile from my home county.

I then headed north-eastwards into HERTFORDSHIRE, where I wanted to recce a few species for later in the New Year. I spent several hours in the vicinity of THERFIELD HEATH, walking the Icknield Way north from Mill Lane for a couple of miles. Some outstanding birding was to be had, although I failed to find the 2nd-winter male Hen Harrier present recently in the area.

The GREAT GREY SHRIKE, present for its second winter, was showing well, and was watched to pursue and kill a Dunnock. Like recent days, it was inhabiting very much the same area - the hedgerow that runs due east at about TL 348 395.

Nearby, two daytime-roosting otus were showing well

Lots of farmland birds on offer, particularly winter thrushes and buntings, the following of note.....

Red Kite (1)

Common Buzzard (8)

Common Kestrel (4)

*GREY PARTRIDGE (covey of 13 birds)

Red-legged Partridge (62 in numerous coveys)

Woodpigeon (around 300, including a partial albino individual)

Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)

Song Thrush (7)

Mistle Thrush (3)

Redwing (just 25)

Fieldfare (58 - single flock)

*Common Blackbird (at least 76 noted, feasting on berries in the hedgerows - many black-billed first-years)

Common Magpie (8)

Jay (2)

Common Starling (106 on wires - one feeding flock)

Chaffinch (45)

Linnet (318, including one large flock east of the Icknield Way)

Yellowhammer (65 in stubble)

* CORN BUNTING (single flock of 25 birds in stubble)

Also 3 Brown Hares there, and 15 Rabbits.

I then checked the COOMBE ROAD at KELSHALL scanning the fields (TL 325 375) - no birds but 94 Fallow Deer (including 4 marker animals) and 23 Brown Hares. Close to BALDOCK, I had a singular feeding flock of 800 Woodpigeons in cereal crop.

It was then off to BEDFORDSHIRE for the afternoon but I fared really, really badly.

Despite what Steve Blain says, the overwintering male Merlin was just nowhere to be found - not anywhere at Broom. Although he connects perhaps once every four visits, I never connect - and today was just another repeat of such.

At the HATCH site (TL 155 484), nice covey of 7 GREY PARTRIDGES besides the road, but approached Priory Country Park from the east was an absolute no-go - the Great Ouse flooding the entire area making it impassable (and consequently no Slav Grebe).

I then chased after DJO's Waxwing flock (34 birds I believe) but I got there too late - they had all flown off to roost - the site by the way is just off of the new bypass at the Kempston turn-off. At the first roundabout, take Wolseley Road into the Woburn Road Industrial Estate and after 200 and 450 yards respectively, are the flock's favouring feeding berry-bushes by 'Paragon' and 'Kempston Radiators' (TL 028 463). Ran out of time to try for Barry Nightingale's additional 8 Waxwings, at their traditional location of Woburn.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

WAXWINGS in Hatfield

A flock of 5 WAXWINGS is in the Swallow Gardens, Herons Way area of South Hatfield. This is a turning off Woods Avenue which is reached by driving up Bishop's Rise from the Galleria, the Woods Avenue turning is on the left if you approach from this direction.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

WAXWINGS in Watford

Three WAXWINGS have just (1005 hours) flown south over the Shepherds Road entrance to Cassiobury Park and lost to view behind the houses there (Ian Bennell)

Monday, 19 November 2012

LONG-EARED OWLS at Therfield Heath

Two LONG-EARED OWLS have been present at Therfield Heath since the end of October and were initially reported by the Information Services. They are roosting in an area of scrub that has absolutely no access and are therefore only seen when they are inadvertently flushed. This weekend for example, they flushed from the hedgerow bordering the Icknield Way. So, in essence, not worthy of a special trip. However, 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS have been performing towards dusk at the heath and a male HEN HARRIER has been regularly seen - and of course there is the wintering GREAT GREY SHRIKE.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


Phil Bishop photographed the Therfield Heath GREAT GREY SHRIKE this morning

Therfield Heath Saturday

Therfield Heath. It's a great raptor spot at the mo. This is my report of yesterday:

A great couple of hours birding this afternoon at Therfield Heath. Starting at the village of Therfield itself, I walked the Icknield Way towards the Royston Golf Course. I did have one bird as the 'target' and wasn't disappointed, but in fact my expectations were far exceeded in the end.

I'm not going to be specific about any of the locations on the Heath, but simply relate some of the birds I saw. Ubiquitous were the CHAFFINCHES, up to 100 over the Heath, and it was pleasing to see two BRAMBLINGS in among them. There may have been more, but there was a lot of ground feeding going on, so only when the flocks were disturbed did one get to see them as they flew to bushes for cover. GOLDFINCHES also strongly in evidence, though I was disappointed not to see Bullfinch in the areas where I have seen them plenty of times before.

The other predominant birds were YELLOWHAMMERS, of which there were getting on for 100 in various locations, 45+ CORN BUNTINGS, and a total of 120 or so LINNETS (very mobile so there could be some double counting in there). There was also 1 REED BUNTING. Both GREY and RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGE were much in evidence, the former seeming to outnumber the latter, pleasingly. A flock of 23 SKYLARKS croaked as they flew overhead.

A flock of 36 GOLDEN PLOVERS and then 6 LAPWINGS flew over and there were clearly 3 RED KITES out and about. There were at least 4 COMMON BUZZARDS, 2 KESTRELS and, eventually, 1 SHORT-EARED OWL, but a lifer for me was a LONG-EARED OWL, and then another. Also, a BARN OWL was hunting over the Heath. Most pleasing of all was the glorious male HEN HARRIER, harassing various fauna and avia on its way to a presumed roost.

Perched imperiously and ominously was a GREA T GREY SHRIKE (my target) but I saw this relatively late in the day, in among 30 or so FIELDFARE and the odd REDWING. As well as 1 MISTLE THRUSH and 1 SONG THRUSH, there were great numbers of BLACKBIRDS, more than 40 up and down the path and in the hedges leading off. I thought I saw the pale wings of a Ring Ouzel too, but I'm a bit of wishful Ouzel thinker, so I won't claim it!

A brilliant couple of hours' birding, then. There are plenty of berries and good habitat for birds of prey and their prey, so I do hope to see Merlin and Ringtail Hen Harrier on my next visits.

Matthew Mellor

Saturday, 17 November 2012

SCAUP's growing up

Another superb signature portrait from ace photographer Alan Reynolds - showing Tumbling Bay's (Amwell) young drake GREATER SCAUP attaining grey vermiculated feathers on the scapulars and mantle. Bird still present today

Away from Amwell, Wilstone had its WATER PIPIT whilst Therfield Heath yielded GREAT GREY SHRIKE, male HEN HARRIER and both species of rarer owl

No Waxwings reported today in Hertfordshire but some showy birds in Sandy (Beds) on Sunderland Road Industrial Estate

Thursday, 15 November 2012

No Waxwings or Bearded Tits


It was pretty dense fog here in the Chilterns until mid morning but then skies cleared and a pleasant day followed. No sign of any precipitation and temperatures climbed to 7 degrees C.

On a sad note, I lost one of my local Badgers overnight, the animal killed by car along Flaunden Bottom at TQ 005 000

As soon as the fog cleared, I drove down to my local polling station in CHORLEYWOOD and lodged my vote for Tim Starkey. On the cricket ground there, no less than 228 Black-headed Gulls and 1 first-year Common Gull were feeding - the largest number I have ever seen congregated there (see images below).

I followed up the sighting of 5 WAXWINGS at Cassiobury Park but failed to find them and then drove northeast to AMWELL........

,,,,,,where I was greeted by a smug-looking Bill Last asking me for my permit. He and his partner-in-crime had seen both juvenile BEARDED TITS two hours hence but they had flown off from by the Watchpoint to the much denser and extensive area of reedbed further north. As to be expected, I failed to see them.

It did give me an opportunity though to finally see the GREATER SCAUP - a first-winter drake that had been present for three weeks or more. As Bill acknowledged, it was now growing up and starting to look like a Scaup - with neat grey/black vermiculating on the scapulars and shoulders, some darkness to the head, a bright yellow eye and black nail restricted to the tip of the bluish-grey bill. A nice bird and showing well in Tumbling Bay (from the Watchpoint, walk north for 700 yards to just beyond the lock gates and then cut in to the right on a well-trodden track and view to your right).

I also noted 26 Greylag Geese, 8 Mute Swans, just 66 Shoveler, 3 Wigeon (1 drake), just 8 Teal, 6 Shoveler, 4 WATER RAILS, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Cetti's Warbler and 2 Reed Buntings. A flock of at least 82 SISKINS was encountered, with 8 LESSER REDPOLLS mixed in, for a while the flock visiting the track to drink on the puddles; 4 BULLFINCHES too

Alan Reynolds and I stood chatting for some time at the Watchpoint and I was very pleased to see the hard work that Alan and others had put in to managing the NW corner of the main lake - superb work - hopefully to pay off with some nice waders.

WAXWINGS in Cassiobury Park

A mobile flock of 5 WAXWINGS in Cassiobury Park this morning (per Captain Ralph)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


Mike Ilett informs me that a pair of BEARDED TITS are present for their second day at Amwell NR, showing sporadically from the main watchpoint

Also, WATER PIPIT still at Wilstone Reservoir

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A lot going on at THERFIELD HEATH - SHRIKE'S back for a second winter and harriers

At Therfield Heath near Royston today, the GREAT GREY SHRIKE, SHORT-EARED OWL and 3 HEN HARRIERS were seen, including a second-year male - all visible from the Icknield Way

Three WAXWINGS appeared in the county today, being seen briefly in St Albans, whilst 2 LONG-EARED OWLS were discovered in thickets in the SW of the county.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Bengeo BARRED WARBLER - images

Only the third-ever for Hertfordshire following singles trapped at Rye Meads Sewage Farm on 19 August 1972 and 16 August 1975. This bird was present in a heavily vegetated back garden in Bengeo and may well still be in the area. Alan Reynolds kindly emailed me the images after they had been sent to him by the finder for identification.


A first winter BARRED WARBLER was photographed in a front garden in Bengeo Street, Bengeo yesterday lunchtime – just opposite the large church. Mike Ilett and myself had a look for it this afternoon, but no luck – however it is most likely to be around in one of the back gardens where there are a lot more bushes. Rather surprisingly the bird is ringed and appears to lack a tail.

Barry Reed