Saturday, 22 November 2014

A wave of RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS inland include 6 at Hilfield Park.....

Following information kindly provided by Joan Thompson, I raced over to HILFIELD PARK RESERVOIR late afternoon (Saturday 22 November), where Steve Murray had located 6 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS - a rare bird in Hertfordshire and the first to be recorded this year. Despite the gloom (it was dark by 1530 hours!!), I managed to locate (and photograph) the six birds as they flirted with the gull roost (6,000 birds and counting) - all being 'yearlings' (eg, juveniles). I later learnt that numerous Red-breasted Mergansers had been recorded today including a flock of 8 at Arlington Reservoir (East Sussex), 4 flying west along the River Thames at West Thurrock (Essex) then Beckton (Gtr London) and singles at Angler's Country Park (West Yorks) and Staines Reservoirs (Middlesex). Most pertinent however, and perhaps directly related, were 6 juveniles present at Diddington Pit, Paxton Pits NR (Cambs) briefly earlier in the day. Two Common Goldeneyes also joined them towards dusk. Record shots of the flock follow.....

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


Both the ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD and SHORT-EARED OWL still present today at Hay Street - some brilliant new shots from FRANCIS BUCKLE below.......

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD still in residence - and now a SHORT-EARED OWL

Over at HAY STREET, the juvenile ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD continues to draw in admirers from all over the Southeast region - showing very well as it routinely carries out a hunting circuit from its base in Hay Lane Plantation. It can be easily seen from Hay Lane (just off of the A10 north of the Braughing roundabout) or from the footpath that leads away south from the lane. It has now been joined by a SHORT-EARED OWL, venturing out from cover from about 3.30pm depending on weather conditions

PARKING: there is only sufficient parking in Hay Lane for about 8 cars at the maximum so best to park in Braughing and walk up

Here is a selection of IAN WILLIAMS' outstanding shots of the ROUGH-LEG followed by my record shots of the SHORT-EARED OWL from last night...

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Checking out a Hen Harrier, I wasn't exactly expecting this!!

ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD in the 'scope!!

A stunning set of images taken by the identifier Mike Ilett...

ROUGH-LEG wooing the crowds...

Still present today and showing well (at Hay Lane Barn Plantation, Hay Street)....

Monday, 3 November 2014

A ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD near Braughing (East Herts)

Mike Ilett came across a large, pale buzzard whilst searching for a purported ringtail Hen Harrier at Hay Street early yesterday afternoon, his image posted to me over the internet quickly confirming the bird as a juvenile ROUGH-LEGGED - one of over 35 recorded in Britain over the past month (a widespread influx following an excellent breeding season after a glut of Voles in the Arctic tundra & forests). The bird was showing well and over the next few hours, Mike was able to direct 15 or so local observers on to his find (both he and Jason Ward obtaining some first-rate images over the course of the afternoon).
Otherwise engaged with an adult Franklin's Gull, my first opportunity of visiting was today - fortunately the bird being still present. As yesterday, it was patrolling the edges of Hay Lane Barn Plantation at TL 385 257, where both a recently mown hay field and rough pasture were offering ideal opportunities for the hunting of small rodents. Despite the weather, the bird was showing very well, usually perching on the outer edge of the plantation or on the recently cut hedgerow along the southern perimeter. Like virtually all of the birds involved in the current irruption, it was a juvenile, typified by its white primary bases, diffuse undertail bar, streaked breast, buff underwing coverts and contrastingly white head. When hunting for food, it would fly out from the wood and hover for several minutes over the field, before pouncing down on to the ground. By the looks of it, it could remain in the area for several weeks. Adam who lives at Hay Lane Barn was very interested in the bird and very kindly allowed those of us present an opportunity to explore the area, a tiny herd of 4 FALLOW DEER (including a stag) being my first ever record of this mammal in TL 38 25. The area also produced 8+ Yellowhammer, a couple of TREE SPARROW, 6 Redwings, Red Kite and 2 Common Buzzards.

There is only sufficient room for 7 cars to park safely in Hay Lane so parking could prove problematical if large numbers of birdwatchers congregate (the road is surprisingly busy and used by HGV's taking a short cut). The lane itself is accessed off of the A10 just under a mile north after the Braughing roundabout - towards the northern end of the dual carriageway section.

My images from today -: