This post should really start the day before when at 3.56pm I became a dad for the second time albeit nearly 13 years from the last time but this time to a girl and not a boy!
As Carey had to stay in over night I parked up in Vicarage Road cemetery and went back to the hospital to see both my girls! Just before noon I decided to go and get a spot of lunch and so popped into the football café where I bumped into a couple of my workmates. As they were working in the cemetery I popped in for a wander and a chat and as I was chatting to George a gull started making a commotion. I looked around for the expected Red Kite or possibly Peregrine but saw nothing. A few seconds later the gull called again and as I looked up an Osprey loomed into view! For the next couple of minutes the two birds slowly gained height and circled off north. 2 Osprey in under a week around Watford was certainly unexpected! Over the garden next?
The last day of March found me doing some work on the croquet lawns in the park and during my work I heard both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker calling nearby but at about 9.30am I suddenly heard a calling woodpecker that despite not hearing one since March 2011 I recognised immediately as a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. It then started drumming and that only confirmed it for me. It was drumming from the top of a dead tree on the opposite side of the path by the old tennis court area before flying off to another tree opposite the croquet lawns calling again before heading off west into the park.
I was at the bowling green at Oxhey Grange behind Watford Heath trying to get it ready for the start of the season. I was spiking the green behind my work colleague who was cutting it so about half way through I stopped to let him get ahead of me again and as I looked up I spied a large pale bird high up in the distance. For once it was heading my way slowly circling. As it was almost overhead I finally saw enough to let me ID it as an Osprey but just as it was getting lovely and close one of the local Buzzard took offence to it being there and mobbed it forcing it off north! Bloody Buzzard!! That was my 3rd Osprey I'd found while at work!
With a bit of free time I again headed off to the patch and first stop was College Lake where despite the gate with the closed sign on it being across the entrance I popped in and asked if I could have 10 minutes looking over the lake. I was allowed and so a quick scan found me looking at the Dunlin found the day before along with the usual suspects. I was just about to pack my scope up when I picked up 2 Sand Martin as they flew through north. Spring had finally sprung despite the cold wind and rain!
Over at Wilstone the hoped for Mediterranean Gull again failed to put in an appearance but 3 Goldeneye were still around, a Redshank was on the east bank and over the water another 20+ SandMartin were joined by at least 4 Swallow.
Another flying visit to College Lake saw the 2 Black Swan in occupancy and presumably the Wilstone Oystercatchers but new for the year were 2 Redshank although there had been 6 reported.
A walk around the entire reservoir at Wilstone saw some good noteworthy birds but nothing new for the patch year list. 2 Little Egret were on Drayton Bank, 70+ Fieldfare lifted off from trees near the hide after a Sparrowhawk got too close, a Treecreeper was my second of the year, what was presumably the male Shelduck from College Lake was on the water in front of the hide, the first 2 singing Chiffchaff of the year were by the hide and a Yellowhammer was singing along the dry canal. It was only when I was near the car park I bumped into another birder who asked if I'd seen the Little Owl by rushy meadow. I hadn't and I just walked past there! With time to spare I headed off there and thankfully picked it up straight away even though I'd been checking the area it was in for a while in the hope of finding one! As I was about to leave I heard a Red-Legged Partridge calling and eventually pinned it down to the same field as I had them in last year again despite looking there all year!
On the way up to the patch a Little Egret was seen in fields in Boxmoor and once up at College Lake a quick scan over the water produced a male Shelduck, female Goldeneye and a pair of Black Swan!
Grey Partridge (honestly!)
With an hour or so to kill before concentrating on the gull roost I had a wander round to the jetty hoping that the Egyptian Geese were mingling in with the Canada and Greylags but no joy. Last year I'd narrowly missed 2 Grey Partridge in fields north of Startops Reservoir and after talking with a couple of the local birders they suggested they are probably in the surrounding fields its just a case of finding them. So after scanning the geese I had a scan of the fields behind the jetty and lo and behold 2 fields away was a Grey Partridge sitting upright showing off his dark belly! A second bird then popped up next to it but then both crouched down and vanished. Luckily they kept popping up and so I managed to get a couple of ropey photos for posterity! I walked back towards the car park and found 2 Oystercatchers feeding on the grass bank. I went to get a photo of them but found that I'd drained my phone battery trying to photograph the partridges! The gull roost failed to produce a Mediterranean Gull for the year list.
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.