My first visit to my old patch in over a year was a brief one after getting a text from Steve Murray to say he'd just found an Iceland Gull in the roost. On arrival I picked it up as it took flight but despite a few attacks by LBB Gulls it settled onto the water long enough to grab some video of it. Only my 2nd in Herts with my first being 13 years ago almost to the day.
After a couple of moans over Twitter about the lack of bird news coming from the site it was nice to receive a tweet informing us of 6 Bewick's Swans on the marsh. Within the hour I was on site watching them from the viewpoint. A good bird for the patch list.
A quick scan of Wilstone only produced a Black Swan of any interest!
As I was off work and was up early I decided to head into the park not only to see some birds but also see how the new hub and paddling pools were coming along. Despite being told of 6 Mandarin on the river I still managed to miss them a few minutes later and there was no sign of the hoped for LSWoodpecker but I did manage to see my first Little Owl of the year. The highlight though was an Egyptian Goose the flew south. This was just the third park record. Other notable birds were a Bullfinch, 2 male Pheasants and only my second Coal Tit of the year.
After a quick haircut I headed up to College Lake to try and add some more species to the patch challenge. From the viewpoint I found 2 Snipe and a showy Water Rail. All of a sudden all the birds on the main lake took flight. The reason was a Peregrine that headed over the visitor centre. On my walk around the whole lake a Yellowhammer appeared in a hedge before heading over the centre. At the half way point a scan of the cow field produced the female Stonechat. Only my 3rd on patch.
I then popped to Tring reservoirs where I had 3 Siskin fly over the hide at Marsworth. These were the first I'd seen on the patch since I started taking part in the challenge. From the hide at Tringford I managed to find the previous days Green Sandpiper.
A wander around Wilstone added Little Egret and a couple of Raven. 12 Snipe were on the edge of the reeds and on the water 3 Goldeneye. The gull roost came up trumps (sorry to use that word!) with 4 Mediterranean Gulls of which I saw 2 (2nd and 1st Winter).
Almost 10 years ago to the day I took the day off work and headed north to Farnham GP's in N.Yorks to see a bird that I'd never even heard of the day before! The Pacific Diver on a small lake showed very well and became the rarest bird I'd ever seen in the UK being not only a first for the UK but a first for the Western Palearctic.
Fast forward to today and I joined up with Brendon Fagan, Steve Blake and Ricky Flesher on a trip up to Northumberland. Despite somehow coming off the M1 and ending up driving around Leeds we made good time and arrived at Druridge Bay CP and was amazed to find the car parking was free! The first good bird of the day were a couple of Tree Sparrows by the car park followed by a RBMerganser on the main lake. After getting our bearings we walked down to East Chevington pool where a quick scan produced 2 male Scaup and some more Mergansers. We entered the hide and soon found out it was one of the crappest hides we'd ever been in. The openings were so low down than you broke your back stooping down to view out of them but if you sat on the benches the openings were too high to view out of using a scope! Despite this we eventually came across our desired bird. The juvenile Pacific Diver swam out in front of us allowing us to take in all its subtle features and thus allowing the other 3 to claim their lifer. This bird is roughly about the 8th for the UK and one of 3 currently in the country. The other notable bird seen was a winter plumage Slavonian Grebe.
After getting some info from one of the locals we then headed further south down to the beach where the first bird we came across was a male Reed Bunting! While waiting for our target birds to arrive we scanned the sea and found 11 Red-Throated Diver. Suddenly I heard a finchy type call a sure enough in came around 40 Twite which showed down to a few feet at times. They were soon joined by our other target when 7 Shorelark flew in for a few minutes.
On our way home we made a detour to Skinningrove in Cleveland where quickly we had decent views of the long staying Eastern Black Redstart which I'd seen back in December.
On the 19th I had an operation on my nose as I'd somehow managed to snap the cartilage in my septum which was causing me trouble breathing and sleeping at night, Being housebound is only so much fun so with boredom creeping in I headed up for my first look around the patch. Wilstone was almost fully frozen over so it made scanning through the waterbirds easier. A female Goldeneye was the pick of the ducks and on my walk around Skylark and Yellowhammer kept the year list ticking over as did a Treecreeper up on the dry canal.
Tringford failed to add anything bar 2 Goldcrest for the patchwork challenge.
Mistle Thrush and House Sparrow were the highlights from Startops but Marsworth proved more fruitful with around 50 Corn Bunting coming into roost and a brief fly past of a Bittern meant I didn't have to stay till dark to see one!
After a good nights sleep it was up and out early and back to Perranuthnoe. A pair of Stonechat was a nice start to the day and eventually I came across the Hudsonian Whimbrel and called the others over to finally see the bird at their 3rd attempt! Such a pity that as I write this news of the new list we will be following from January 2018 is the IOC list which doesn't count Hudsonian Whimbrel as a separate species and so we all lose it from our own personal lists!
Long Rock was our next stop to try for the Pacific Diver but apart from 2 adult winter MediterraneanGulls on the sea and a singing Cetti's Warbler from the pool there was no joy with the diver.
At Marazion RSPB we had over 20 Snipe and a Chiffchaff that popped up in front of us.
The title post is Cornish Weekender but after cutting our loses we headed home via a couple of sites in Devon! First stop was Matford Marshes RSPB. This was a new site for all of us and after a bit of gathering details on Twitter of where to go we parked up and walked down to the viewpoint where we almost immediately got onto the 1st winter drake American Wigeon. A lifer for the other 3 but my 3rd. Another Chiffchaff greeted us on the way back to the car.
News of a Long-Tailed Duck at Topsham took us there but despite a good scan from behind the auction house we failed to see it. A flock of 40 odd Avocet were some consolation as were the first Black-Tailed Godwit and Red-Breasted Merganser of the year. With a bit of time left I showed the lads around Bowling Green Marsh. It must've been a while since I last visited as there was a lovely new hide in place of the old brick one! A good scan of the estuary from the viewpoint added our final new year tick of the day with a couple of Knot. 200+ Pintail was an impressive sight.
A great weekend and I ended on 123 species for the year.
Born and bred in Watford,Herts, I started birding when I was just 8 years old because the old next door neighbours garden was very overgrown and attracted birds to his and our gardens! I first went to the Watford RSPB group at 15 and then I joined the Herts Bird Club in the same year. I was on the Herts Bird Club committee for 3 years. I started twitching in September 2001 after i'd bought my RBA pager and within a week of owning it i'd added Red-Necked Stint and American Green Heron! I keep 2 main lists which can be seen above.