Saturday, 30 April 2011

Amwell NR - 30.4.11

The 2 Oystercatchers.

A brief visit with the family saw Hobby added to my year list with 2 birds over the viewpoint. Other notable birds were 2 LRP, 2 Oystercatcher, lots of Common Terns and a lost Racing Pigeon with a blue ring on its left leg with the number 25710 on it!

East Anglia - 29.4.11

The Ruff, Spoonbill and Stone Curlews.

The original plan was to get up early and drive to Northumberland to see the Black Scoter but as that had buggered off I joined Brendan Glynn, Chris Sharp and Paul Frost (nice to meet you!) on a trip to North Norfolk. We left around 8.15 and on the way had a Cuckoo fly over near Lakenheath. We arrived at our first port of call at Choseley around 11am. We found the desired field and joined a few ther birders already present. They were trying to locate 3 Dotterel in a massive field with bad heat haze so not an easy job! I almost immediately got onto a single bird (a female) and gradually got everyone else onto it but just as it started to move it joined the other 2 birds which I didn't see behind someones head! But 1 bird is all you need! A Lesser Whitethroat was 'rattling' along the roadside hedge when we arrived. We then went to the drying barns but failed to locate any Corn Buntings. 3 male Yellowhammers and a Yellow Wagtails were compensation.

Next stop was Titchwell RSPB where the highlights were 3 year ticks consisting of Common Sandpiper, Knot and Sanderling aswell as a pair of Garganey, 3 White Wagtail, LRP and a near summer plumaged Ruff.

Whilst walking back to the car news broke of not 1 but 3 Red-Footed Falcons at nearby Burnham Overy Staithe. We raced over there but failed to locate them nor the possible Tundra Peregrine or Rough-Legged Buzzard (they arrived after we had left!) We did however find a lovely adult Spoonbill (actually feeding not sleeping!), my first Sedge Warbler and Pink-Footed Goose of the year, 5 summer plumaged Golden Plovers, 3 Little Terns, and a lovely male Greenland Wheatear.

We then headed home but stopped off at Santon Downham hoping for Woodlark or Tree Pipit but we could only muster up 2 Siskin and 2 male Mandarin.

Final stop was Foxhole Heath where after a while we found 8 Stone Curlew on either side of the road along with a single Curlew and 3 Wheatears (all males and 1 of them a Greenland).

A Buzzard was seen near Hatfield and back at the car at Hunton Bridge we were saying our goodbyes as around 20 Waxwings flew NE!! (will these be my last of this amazing influx?)

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Ashridge Forest - 28.4.11

The Tree Pipit from today and a photo of the Wheatear at Hilfield from yesterday.

I decided to try for the Wood Warbler again after failing to see it on Monday. I arrived around 10.30am and waited by the pond but there was no sign. I wandered off into the woods to try to find it but again no sign. Walking back to the pond a bird flew up from off the path and into a large Oak tree. To my surprise it was a Tree Pipit! Another birder (Paul Young) turned up and I waved him over and put him onto it, unfortunately it then flew off. He then mentioned that he'd just put up a pipit a few feet away. With rubbish signal I managed to get a text out to Lee Evans and Joan Thompson and then went to look for it again. I picked it up again about 20 minutes later but it flew again. Minutes later Graham Knight, Francis Buckle, Mike Campell, Dave Bilcock and Steve Blake turned up and we all waited and waited before I decided to go home around 12.40pm. As I had said my goodbyes and turned to walk back to the car a bird flew up from the ground and perched up. It was the Tree Pipit again! I got everyone onto it and a few photos were taken before it flew off again and wasn't seen again.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Hilfield And Wilstone - 27.4.11

An early morning walk round Hilfield saw Swift added to the year list with at least 5 birds present and then a female Wheatear was on the dam.

This evening I paid a visit to Wilstone Reservoir where 2 more species were added to my year list in the shape of 2 Black Terns and 8-9 Arctic Terns.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Right Place, Right And Wrong Time - 25.4.11

A Rook eyeing up my McDonalds near Royston!!

An early morning visit to Winterton dunes didn't produce too much in the way of passerines with only a Lesser Whitethroat of note. But on a quick seawatch 5 Little Terns flew North and a couple of Gannets were distant. On the way home whilst stuck in traffic near Elvedon 9 Crossbills flew over 'glipping' as they went!

The only downside of the long weekend was the no show of the Wood Warbler at Ashridge NT, though it wasn't surprising as there were hundreds of people there enjoying the weather.

Right Place, Right Time pt 3 - 24.4.11

4 photos of the stonking male Citrine Wagtail.

As the caravan was freezing we got up early and were out by 9.30am! The plan was to head to Hickling Broad and have a look over rush hill scrape. We were 10 minutes away when the pager went off. Sod Hickling we are off to East Runton near Cromer!! Just before 10.30am we arrived on site and scanned a small field opposite the Wyndham caravan park and straight away found our quarry. There infront of the gathered crowd was my 2nd ever Citrine Wagtail but unlike the 1st winter I saw on the Scillies this one was a stonking adult male!! Truly stunning. Amazingly this small field also held 3 Yellow Wagtails, one each of White and Pied Wagtail and a Wheatear! Above you can see just how stunning it was (albeit a bit blurry!!). Just after we left the fog rolled in and the temperature dropped dramatically. At nearby Cromer a Fulmar flew past and onto my year list. Even though it was a bit cold we stopped off at Bacton and had 8 Sandwich Terns going North. 5 more were seen at Happisburgh and whilst driving through Lessingham a Lesser Whitethroat rattled away. Another visit to Breydon Water saw a dozen Greenshanks and 2 Avocet.

Right Place, Right Time pt2 - 23.4.11

The 1st winter Iceland Gull.

A lovely warm sunny day greeted us and so an ice cream was called for! Just down the road from my dads in Gorleston-on-Sea is a small car park where we had our ice cream and whilst there I had a scan of the sea and picked up a lone Whimbrel flying North! A nice year tick. Afterwards it was a toss up between visiting Corton for a Ring Ouzel or Lowestoft for an Iceland Gull. Lowestoft won! Almost as soon as we had walked onto the North denes I picked up a bright all white gull in the distance. It turned and revealed a white head so that ruled out a Mediterranean Gull. We walked down to the beach only to find people sunbathing and there was me with my binoculars!! The Iceland Gull was sat on the end of one of the groynes where I got a record shot if it through my bins. It was my first Iceland Gull since 2004. 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls flew over as we walked back to the car. On the way back to the caravan we popped into Breydon Water where there were 2 large white birds. Spoonbills!!

Right Place, Right Time pt.1 - 22.4.11

Friday morning was a bank holiday yet I was up at 6am and had a drive up to my dads in Norfolk ahead of me. Now incase your wondering about the title i'll tell you why! Whilst filling up my car at the Esso petrol station on the North Orbital 11 Waxwings flew over! On arrival in Norfolk I paid my usual visit to Winterton Dunes but this time me and the missus tried out the North dunes as 2 Ring Ouzels had been there the day before. We didn't see them but 2 Wheatears flew off infront of us and a male Yellowhammer was a year tick. After that it became very quiet until I turned round and saw a medium size raptor flying towards us. It was only when it was nearly alongside us that I noticed it had long thin wings and a white rump and long ringed tail and crucially the small black patch on the wing. It was a female Montagu's Harrier! The last one I saw was a male on the South dunes a couple of years ago. It flew off to the North and was lost to view. After a cream tea and a male Wheatear on top of a bush we went and had a look around the chalet park in Winterton and as we were leaving a male Ring Ouzel flew over my head!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Cassiobury Park + Croxley Moor - 21.4.11

A Willow Warbler singing by the council yard was probably new in and a Siskin flew over the tennis courts.

A late evening visit to Croxley Moor produced the goods with an almost instant Grasshopper Warbler reeling away roughly 100yds left of the Olds Approach entrance and showing well for a few minutes at 7.50pm. Another year tick was 1+ Cuckoo that flew over and was calling.

Cassiobury Park - 20.4.11

The Mandarins were on the river again and that was pretty much it!!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Cassiobury Park - 19.4.11

To start with today is some late news from yesterday when 12 Waxwings were reported on my RBA pager as seen flying out of the park at 6.25pm from the Langley Way entrance.

As for today the male Mandarin was showing well on the river mid morning and a late Siskin flew over. Around 10am I heard the first returning House Martins somewhere near the cricket square but as I was under some trees I didn't see them.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Croxley Moor - 18.4.11

I spent an hour after work on the moor in the hope of seeing at least 1 of 3 warbler sp. Unfortunately the Grasshopper Warbler from the other day was either not there or silent, the Sedge Warbler was the same and no Lesser Whitethroats have appeared there yet. The best bird was a stunning Kingfisher hovering abover the river and plunging in for fish and on one occasion landing on the stony bank before being flushed by a dog walker.

Tyttenhanger GP's - 17.4.11

A rare sight indeed. No not the pair of Garganey (female asleep) but my son actually enjoying birding!!

A non birding day suddenly turned into one as 2 Garganey were reported at Tyttenhanger! I finished dinner and was amazed when my son said can I come aswell?! Usually when I mention birds he says they are boring! We arrived on site and met Steve Blake and Lee Evans and almost immediately got onto the pair of Garganey though they were being quite elusive prefering to spend most of the time behind the trees and shrubs on the main pit. Eventually they were flushed by a Coot and swam out into the open had a preen and fell asleep just in time for Joan Thompson to see them.

Cassiobury Park - 16.4.11

Yes thats right I was in the park on a Saturday and not getting paid for it!! Infact I was there to walk round with Rob Hopkins who is the HMWT reserve warden. I took my son Tom aswell and amazingly when we had finished he said it was "well good"!! The onlt highlight was the male Mandarin still on the river which hopefully means the female is sat in a nest hole somewhere?!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Cassiobury Park - 15.4.11

Fairly quiet today with no sign of yesterdays juv Stock Dove but a juv Robin was early aswell. The male Mandarin was still around and a Linnet flew over the tennis courts.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Cassiobury Park - 14.4.11

2 Photos of the juv Stock Dove and a Fox at Hilfield that looks like it has spent too much time in the sun!!

The Mandarin pair flew in onto the river early morning and a Herring Gull was the first sighting in a while. At 11.30 2 Waxwings flew into the top of a large Oak next to the tennis courts and after 2-3 minutes flew off into the Horse Chestnuts behind the bowls club. Just before lunch a workmate of mine rescued a pigeon/dove from a Carrion Crow and when I had a looked I found it to be a juv Stock Dove. I let it relax before releasing it into a group of shrubs but it was still there an hour later but hopefully it'll be ok?! A pair of Coal Tits were feeding in back gardens backing onto the tennis courts and after yesterdays comment that Collared Doves not being overly common in the park I only went and found a pair nest building!!

After work I popped to Hilfield Reservoir. In with around 40 Sand Martins were 2+ Swallows and 2+ House Martins which were a year tick.

Cassiobury Park - 13.4.11

Not much birdwise in the park today with the Mandarin pair still on the river, 3 Feral Pigeons going straight through (surprisingly uncommon in the park) and 3 Collared Doves (also not all that common).

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

All the R's - 12.4.11

Another day of clearing the weekends rubbish meant nothing much seen in the park today. It hotted up after work as a Red Kite was flying over South Way opposite Leavsden Studios (which according to the advertising for the forthcoming studio tour is in London even though it's nowhere near!). Then when driving through Kings Langley A Raven flew over Kings Langley FC heading East being mobbed by 2 Carrion Crows.

Cassiobury Park - 11.4.11

Due to amazing ignorance of the minority of the park users and their inability to put their rubbish into bins, all of the day was spent clearing up rubbish from the grass. I managed to see the pair of Mandarins on the river and heard a couple of Willow Warblers.

Hilfield And Tyttenhanger - 10.4.11

The pair of Wheatears and the in-hand Jay.

A fairly early start for me, well on a Sunday anyway! A wander around Hilfield only produced 2 Common Terns for the year list but a Jay caught by the ringers was nice to see so close up. Afterwards I went to Tyttenhanger GP's where I hoped i'd clear up a few year ticks. It didn't start too well as the Wheatear in the sheep field adjacent to the miniature railway site had gone missing. I bumped into another birder who mentioned that Whitethroat and Reed Warbler were singing. I carried on and managed to pick out the 4 Redshanks on the main pit aswell as my first Little Ringed Plover of the year. Another Common Tern was sat on the mud and 30+ Sand Martins were overhead along with 2 Swallows. Whilst walking over the causeway the Reed Warbler started singing but only briefly as did a Whitethroat. I reached the hide and watched as 2 Red Kites flew over the pit and then in amazement as a young couple went kayaking on the water! At pylon corner a pair of Bullfinches flew overhead. Just before I got back to the car I checked the sheep field again and found the male Wheatear and while watching it a female ran into view!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Cassiobury MEGA MEGA!! - 8.4.11

The day started off with a Willow Warbler singing somewhere near the house as I left the front door. Around the park 2 Coal Tits were near the car park and between 10.30-11am, 16 Meadow Pipits flew over (1,7,3,3, + 2) all on the same course to the NW. Just before 1pm I had to go back to the yard to get more bin bags (as i'd worked so hard i'd run out!!) when walking back to the park vehicle I noticed a huge bird flying in with slow wing beats almost gliding at times fairly high up coming in from the East and heading West straight towards me. I thought to myself it could only be 1 of 3 species those being Common Crane, White Stork and Black Stork. I immediately got onto the phone and rang Joan Thompson (who was unfortunately for her at College Lake) to tell her and I was erring on it being a Stork sp but as it was virtually overhead I could see no obvious white T shaped belly patch surrounded by black ruiling out Black Stork and the wings (and indeed the whole bird) were all the same dull grey colour not white on the front and black on the trailing edge ruiling out White Stork. It then frustratingly veered off to the SW and was eventually lost to view as it was flying towards Rickmansworth. I was still buzzing with excitement half an hour later!! It's quite possible it is the same bird Lee Evans found in Bedfordshire on Monday and was subsequently seen in Bucks on the Monday and Tuesday followed at Otmoor RSPB in Oxfordshire later on Tuesday with a possible flying over Cookham in Berks the next day which isn't a million miles from Watford as the Crane flies!! Though where had it been on Thursday? It represents a new species for the park (obviously!) and amazingly is the 2nd new species added this week after the 2 Egyptian Geese!

Cassiobury Park - 7.4.11

A quieter day today with 2 Willow Warblers singing and an uncommon Linnet flying over in the afternoon. Just as I was about to leave a female Sparrowhawk zoomed into the yard and caught a Magpie but it was saved by another Magpie that flew in and started attacking the Sparrowhawk!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Cassiobury Park - 6.4.11

As I got out of my car this morning a Willow Warbler was singing near the yard and then i got a text from Mick Frosdick saying that the LS Woodpecker was drumming again. Around 8am I was watching and listening to it drumming away in the meadow. The Mandarin pair were still on the river and another Willow Warbler was singing by the cricket square mid morning. Numerous Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were around the park and around 3pm a Red Kite flew low over the croquet lawns before being chased off by 2 Carrion Crows. The warm weather brought out a few buterflies with 2 Small Whites a Peacock and my first Orange-Tip of the year.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Cassiobury MEGA - 5.4.11

Well a wet and miserable day was certainly brightened up today with a new species for the park. First point of call was the meadow but probably due to the weather there was no sign of the Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker. However shortly afterwards whilst litter picking around the paddling pools I looked up and saw 2 geese flying in from the SE. It was only when they suddenly banked to one side that I saw a large white patch on the wings. They were Egyptian Geese!!!! I watched them as they flew over the trees and the neighbouring houses before being lost to view heading NE towards Watford town centre. Obviously this was the first record for the park and amazingly the last 3 new species have all been geese! 10 minutes later my first 2 Swallows of the year flew SE overhead probably going back to Africa to escape the rain!! The pair of Mandarins were still on the river and justbefore lunch a Willow Warbler was singing in trees next to the council yard. Around 10 Lesser Redpolls were in trees near the Stratford Way entrance. At the end of the day a Muntjac was seen near the nature reserve.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Cassiobury Park - 4.4.11

This morning I again went and checked the meadow in the hope of finding the elusive Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker. I pulled up in my little park vehicle and immediately heard the LSW drumming. But then I thought it can't be as it was almost continuous with very little space in between drums and I started to think it maybe a pneumatic drill being used further away but I walked into the woods on the left hand side and found the bird at the top of a dead tree and watched it madly drumming away before it called and flew over to a large dead tree on the right hand side of the meadow. I sent a few texts to local birders and a bit later Mick Frosdick, Joan Thompson, Des Mckenzie (nice to meet you Des) and another birder (who I apologise to as your name has escaped me) were present but unfortunately the bird had gone. Hopefully it will be back in the morning. Also present in the meadow were at least 4 Blackcaps and my first Willow Warbler of the year which sang briefly. Other sightings were 2 Lesser Redpolls which flew over and numerous Chiffchaffs. The Mandarin pair were still on the river just downstream from the meadow bridge. And about 30 minutes ago (around 6.20pm) my missus went and opened the front door to put the recycling out and I immediately heard Waxwings trilling! I shot to the front door to see around 10 birds in a Sycamore tree opposite number 28. I turned round to get my bins just behind me and by the time i'd turned around they had flown!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Watford Town and Back Garden - 2.4.11

A brief shopping trip into Watford thismorning saw 6 Mallard chicks some how surviving on the filthy water of the pond then back at home while getting in the washing it looks like a pair of Greenfinches are nesting in the hedge that I was supposed to trim this weekend! Oh well another job that will have to wait! The Great Tits have chosen to nest in the box at the end of the garden for the 2nd year running. Then around 6.15pm I recieved a call from Joan Thompson to say that a female Wheatear was on the rugby pitch at Fullerians next door to the park. Typical!!

Cassiobury Park - 1.4.11

April already! The main highlights in the morning were the pair of Mandarins still on the river and for once showing very well viewable from the bench by the dog bin and rubbish bin (oh the glamour!). There was 5 each of Chiffchaff and Blackcap between the meadow and the northern part of the nature reserve.Also in the nature reserve were 2 Kingfishers and a Cormorant flew over. The first birds of the day were around a dozen Lesser Redpolls in trees around Cha cha cafe but had gone by 11am. A Little Egret was on the river further downstream than the Mandarins (possibly the first April record?) A Sparrowhawk was escorted out of the park by 2 RN Parakeets but the best was saved till last when at2.50pm a Red Kite loomed into view over the paddling pools before heading off over Whippendell Woods.