Hawfinches in Bramfield's Old Rectory Garden (Lucy Flower, composite image; Bengeo Andy, below)
SATURDAY 8 DECEMBER
The cold theme continued today with another overnight frost, although temperatures by day reached a balmy 7 degrees C ! It was dry throughout, with some sunshine, and with little wind.
First thing was spent refilling all of my bird feeders and replacing the water in the bird baths. Then Steve Blake 'phoned and I quickly had to make my way east.............
TYTTENHANGER GP (HERTFORDSHIRE)
I joined Steve Blake, Steve Pearce and Ricky Flesher at Tyttenhanger, where the three of them were watching a family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS that had arrived just as Steve rang. They had presumably travelled quite some distance and were asleep at the end of the spit (presumably displaced by the increasingly freezing conditions on the Continent). One of the adults was neck collared - YELLOW with black inscription '078E', presumably banded in Siberia (I will provide details later). These were the first Bewick's in the county this year and a very welcome year-tick and remained present until at least mid-afternoon.
Other highlights on the main pit included a drake COMMON GOLDENEYE (incredibly, only the third in over 25 years at the site, per RF) and two splendid adult drake GOOSANDERS, both departing strongly to the east at 1045 hours. Two GREEN SANDPIPERS were also present, whilst a flock of 16 LESSER REDPOLLS was an additional bonus (been present in the area for several weeks now).
The roll-call was supplemented by 10 Mute Swans, 7 Teal, 10 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, 9 Tufted Duck, 54 Coot and 19 Moorhens, as well as a single Jay.
BRAMFIELD VILLAGE (HERTS)
I then returned to Bramfield Village, where over 40 birdwatchers were gathered late morning. HAWFINCH numbers have increased greatly since my visit in the week, with 5 constantly in the vicinity of the Churchyard and Old Rectory and an additional 3 seen with Francis Buckle, Roy Nye and JT in a very distant tall Ash in PARK WOOD (viewing west from the back of the churchyard). The male in Old Rectory garden afforded some excellent views as it flew up from the Yew trees into the Ash tree, with both Bengeo Andy and Lucy Flower obtaining some nice photographs (see above). For Lucy it was a double whammy - a brand new bird to boot and almost on the doorstep - magnificent.
Unlike during the week, HAWFINCHES were present almost constantly, with 3 commuting between the ground and the Yew trees in the Rectory garden and up to 5 feeding in the Yews at the far end of the churchyard (and best viewed from the playing field behind). They were pretty vocal too - especially the adult male. Well done to Keith Henderson for finding them again in our area.
Francis Buckle and I were reminiscing about Hawfinches as we stood chatting. In the 1970's, we both used to see large numbers in Bramfield Forest just to the north of the village, sometimes as many as 60 individuals some winters. How times sadly change. Anyway, make the very most of these whilst you can
Just to the south of the village, in the fields at TL 292 150, 278 Lapwing and 204 European Golden Plovers were counted; a Common Buzzard was stood in the field also.
For the past week, a BARN OWL has been hunting two rough fields to the west of COPPICE HOOP at SU 912 925 - the first in my Recording Area in over a year. Wally Smith had discovered it on an evening jaunt - Bob Jackson also connecting twice during the week. Adam Bassett and I visited this evening and were rewarded with some excellent views. The bird left its daytime roost at 1601 hours and spent the next 15 minutes quartering backwards and forwards over the two fields searching for prey.
Access is best from the footpath just north of Lude Farm but be very careful leaving your car unattended.
About 15 Chaffinches roosted in Coppice Hoop