An hour around Stockers Lake after work in the hope of RC Pochard and Smew proved fruitless and even a Redshank on Stockers Farm Lake was missing less than 5 minutes after the finder had told me about it in the car park!! The highlights were 6 Goosanders (1 male), a female RNParakeet and a small flock of Siskin but whilst walking back to the car I heard the Redshank calling as it flew over the lake towards Springwell Lake.
Whilst in the park I popped over into the meadow area on the off chance of finding a Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker and low and behold up one popped on a tree on the right hand side of the meadow and started drumming. Joan Thompson saw it about an hour later in roughly the same place.
While clearing up prunings at Sonia Close in Watford all of a sudden the local birds started to give an alarm call so half expecting a Sparrowhawk to fly into view I was amazed to see a Peregrine fly low over the houses and fly powerfully towards Merry Hill.
On Tuesday 10th I was back in Cassiobury Park for the day doing the daily inspection and whilst trying not to drown in the overflowing river I added another year tick with a brief Brambling on the far side of the meadow and a flock of 6 R-N Parakeets but it was Long-Tailed Tits that were in evidence with at 65+ around the park including a flock of 47 that moved from tree to tree around the paddling pools.
On the 3rd I lead a small group from the Watford RSPB around a snowy and icy Cassiobury Park. The usual fair was seen including R-N Parakeets and drumming Great-SpottedWoodpeckers but on the cress beds near the fishing lake I finally saw a new species for me in the park in the shape of 2 Little Grebes. Alongside these were at least 3 Water Rails, 3 Male Teal and a handsome Kingfisher. But the best bird was saved till last with a brief Meadow Pipit that looked bemused on the snow before flying off over gardens!!
After the excitement of the G-W Gull it was back to more normal birding while at work and home. Over the next few days just 4 new year ticks were forthcoming with a Goldcrest in the garden and a fly over Skylark a couple of minutes later. 3 Lesser Redpolls in the council depot in Oxhey were a nice bonus and a Green Woodpecker the next day. But it was the 24th when my brand new feeding station in the garden came up trumps with a fine male Blackcap eating the seed and fat balls.
The 25th saw me in North Norfolk at Titchwell RSPB with the Watford RSPB on one of their coach trips. At last another chance to rack up some year ticks. A Buzzard and a pair of Egyptian Geese on the journey up were added and thankfully by the time we arrived the rain had nearly ceased which helped when writing down all the new species that were coming thick and fast. The highlights were 3 Twite in with a small flock of Linnet, the wintering Water Pipit which was my 100th species for the year and regular Black Brant, whilst on the sea along with a couple of Harbour Porpoises a group of Eider and Common Scoter held a nice Velvet Scoter and a bit further along a distant Black-Throated Diver. Just before we got back on the coach a lovely Barn Owl was seen hunting.
By the months end i'd reached 114 species for the year after adding both Kingfisher and Treecreeper in Cassiobury Park and a surprise Woodcock that flew over the car when down visiting the in-laws in Kent.
The year got off to a slow start with birds being added as seen from the house. Then a half hour visit to a local reservoir followed by a quick cuppa at my mum's house saw a grand total of 42 species for New Years Day.
Back to work on the 2nd but another 8 species were added including Sparrowhawk which was nice and aWren was species number 50. It was while at work the Mega alert went off on my pager. Looks like im off to Cleveland in the morning!!
Midnight and I was round at my friend Mick Frosdick's house and off we went up the A1 on the way up to Cowpen Bewley near Billingham. A stop over near Peterborough to pick up 2 other birders that had driven from Norwich and we were off again. We arrived at 5am and tried to get some sleep which was easier said than done in a cold car by the side of the road with near constant traffic going to the local tip but we did manage to hear both Littleand Tawny Owls!! But at 8am it was light enough to see birds so out we got and started searching.
A few year ticks were seen during the wait including a juvenile Glaucous Gull and just as we were giving up hope of seeing the bird in question people started running to their cars. It had been found round the back of the tip so with scenes like wacky races we drove round the corner where I jumped out of the car before it had even stopped and ran to where it was being seen.
After asking directions there it was an adult GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL only the 2nd for GB and the 4th for the WP (WesternPalearctic) and my first lifer of 2009 but after less than 10 minutes of viewing and people still arriving the flock of gulls it was in suddenly took off. Amazingly the G-WG was the only bird not to fly and was now the only bird on the deck! We all watched it for the next 20 minutes or so before 5 hours in the cold got too much.
A brief detour to Fairburn Ings RSPB in West Yorkshire on the way home turned out to be a great move with 6 more year ticks. These were a single Tree Sparrow on the visitor centre feeders followed by a female Bullfinch then a fly over pair of Goosander but it was the 5 Long-Eared Owls roosting around a small pond and a Willow Tit calling and showing briefly that were the highlights. Before today i'd only seen one of each of the owl and tit, the owl in 2002 and the tit way back in 1991!! The last bird of the day was a smart Peregrine.
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.