Back again to finish off the cricket wickets but there was no sign of the Egyptian Geese. The Whitethroat was singing again as was a Skylark most likely over the neighbouring fields. A Swallow flew through as we were leaving. A Chiffchaff was still singing by the cress beds in Cassiobury Park late afternoon.
A morning was spent preparing cricket wickets for a bank holiday tournament but it wasn't easy trying to do it in heavy rain! The rain probably helped though as amazingly 2 Egyptian Geese were feeding on the grass adjacent to the playground. This is the first time i've seen them here and there is every chance they are the same 2 that I saw at Cassiobury Park last month? The male Whitethroat sang briefly by the community centre in between the rain!
For my girlfriends birthday treat we went down to Portland to stay at a spa so she could have treatments and relax and I could go birding!! News was promising on Friday morning before we had left as a Black-Winged Stilt had turned up at Radipole Lake. But due to lack of signal in parts of the journey down i'd missed the message that told me it had buggered off an hour before I arrived! A drake Garganey would have been nice had I seen it but I did actually manage a first for me in the shape of a Bee Orchid that was growing next to the main path! I tried nearby Lodmoor for the stilt but the only thing of interest there was a Great Black-Backed Gull that swallowed whole a 2-3 ft long eel! Down at Portland bill 3 Kittiwakes were seen with numerous Guillemots and Gannets but a Shag that flew past was a year tick.
The Saturday didn't really get much better bird wise with 2 Mediterranean Gulls past the bill and finding the only Wheatear on the island that day!
The last morning before we came home saw or rather heard a Lesser Whitethroat by the entrance to the spa and a half hour sea watch off the bill did finally produce a couple of good birds. The very strong wind saw that at least 20 Manx Shearwaters fly past and just before I packed up a Balearic Shearwater flew East but a bit further out than the 2 I saw there on my last stay down here.
A brief stop off further up the East side of the island at Cheyne Weares saw a pair of Peregrines flying around the cliff.
Finally after neighbouring counties had had some pretty good birds like Roseate Tern, BlackStork and Spotted Sandpiper, Herts popped up with a female Ring-Necked Duck at Wilstone Reservoir. I recieved a phone call at 7am from Joan Thompson but the crappy signal in my house stopped me from talking to her! She wouldn'y normally ring at that time so I thought it must be a good bird somewhere! Thankfully she texted me the news a couple of minutes later. Shame I had to go to work! I kept checking the pager all day hoping it would stick around. I left work and drove up there and hit the rain at Chesham. I power walked along the bank of the reservoir and bumped into Chris Sharp who put me on the bird. I managed the 3 shots above during and between the showers! Also present were 500+ Swift and 3 Hobbies. The duck was a welcome tick as i'd been a day too late for the drake at Wilstone many years ago.
As it was my weekend to have my son he was dragged along aswell as my mum for the Watford RSPB coach trip. On the journey 2 Red Kites were seen from the coach near Dummer and a male Mandarin flew past near the A337 turn off. Shatterford Bottom was our destination in the New Forest and although I missed Dartford Warbler and there were no Woodlark or Tree Pipit I was fortunate enough to add 4 year ticks to my list. Stonechat was the first with a couple of pairs present. Next was a male Resdstart which did it's best to avoid being seen by staying in the canopy, fortunately another was showing slightly better nearby. A Wood Warbler was singing and this made up for missing the Ashridge bird twice! Finally a brief Spotted Flycatcher was a nice surprise. The highlight for most was the family party of Treecreepers that I found. 1 of the young decided to fall outof the tree so I picked it up and was going to move it somewhere a bit safer when it decided to creep up my jacket and onto my face!! It then sat on the collar of my jacket where people got photos before I lent on a tree to which it then climbed onto! I also saw my first ever Pearl-Bordered Frittilary which was nice.
In the afternoon we visited Keyhaven Marshes where there was a distinct lack of waders (though low tide and evaporation of the inland pools doesn't help!). 3 late Dark Bellied-BrentGeese were seen aswell as 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 3 Little Egrets, 2 Sandwich Terns a late Wigeon, LRP, 130+ Dunlin and a Greenshank. 21 Eider offshore were a year tick. My first Painted Lady of the year was a surprise given the cool weather and strong wind.
Time for an update I think! The male Mandarin was still on the river along with amother Mallard and 3 chicks. The logs by the car park seemed to attract a Great Spotted Woodpecker looking for bugs. 7 House Martins were flying around the cricket square again and later in the day at nearby KGV playing fields a Whitethroat was singing from the shrub beds adjacent to the community centre.
The best bird of the day award goes to the first Common Tern of the year that was seen along the river occasionally hovering looking for fish. The male Mandarin was again on view and the female was reported to me yesterday. We had to put water on the cricket square yesterday as it's been so dry and today the House Martins were nicking the mud for their nests!! Another pair of Swifts were seen mating on the wing and the Whitethroat was still behind the bowls club. Amazing how there has been 2 possibly 3 singing males this Spring but as of yet no females.
The male Mandarin was still on the river and a Kingfisher zoomed past me near the Rustic Bridge. In the council yard a Nuthatch was doing it's best to be a woodpecker as it banged on the fence trying to dislodge insects!
Of note today was the return of the male Mandarin, 10 Swift including a pair mating were overhead, 2 Swallow over and 2 Whitethroat were singing (behind the bowls club and in the Northern part of the nature reserve). A Kingfisher was heard in the nature reserve aswell but the highlight was a family party of Long-Tailed Tits of which 1 of the little juvs flew out of a hedge and nearly hit me in the head!!
At home a Goldcrest landed on the washing line about 3 feet from me as I was getting in the washing!
Today saw no sign of any Mandarins on the river, so possibly young have fledged and they are hiding?! Also present were 2 Whitethroats. The usual one behind the bowls club and one down near the cress beds. The cress beds also held 2 Coot and at least 1 mallard chick with it's mother.
Also just remembered that while going up the A41 a Hobby flew over just South of the Tring turn off.
5 House Martins were flying over the cricket square and (another?) Whitethroat was singing near the car park. Whilst a Sparrowhawk went through and the male Mandarin was still on the river. In the afternoon at KGV playing fields a flock of 22 Swift were screeching overhead and a Red Kite flew West before being mobbed by 2 CarrionCrows and a LBB Gull!
The highlight in the park was a singing Whitethroat in the back garden of the house next to the Langley Way entrance. 3 Swallows flew over the tennis courts early morning and Swift numbers had risen to 10 and House Martin to 4. At least 9 RN Parakeets were present and a juvenile Robin and Blackbird were seen.
After work I went to pick up my son from school in Kings Langley and whilst driving through Hunton Bridge a Common Tern flew over the road with a fish in its mouth. 3 Swallows were over Wayside Farm in Kings Langley and an after school kick about on Kings Langley Common saw a single House Martin and a lovely Red Kite flew low over us.
Another good day was had even though I didn't see some of the goodies! whilst down near the river I heard the scratchy song of a Sedge Warbler (only the 3rd record). I later bumped into Ian Jackson of the Pinner RSPB group and he told me that he'd been in the park since 5am doing a dawn chorus and along with the Sedge Warbler he'd had 2 Cuckoos calling before flying off in different directions. These were the 2nd and 3rd modern day records for the park. Ian had also been told that the Little Owl was still near the 2 Oak trees. I also noted the first Swifts of the year with 4 over the meadow, a single House Martin and the male Mandarin was still on the river.
Back to work after 11 days off. (why does it always go quicker when your off work?!) Thankfully there were some good birds to be had with a House Martin going over followed the male Mandarin still on the river and my first Garden Warbler of the year near the Rustic Bridge and then this afternoon a singing Whitethroat behind the bowls club.
An afternoon kickabout with my son at Evergreen FC on South Way saw my first Swifts away from a major water area with 2 flying over the nearby houses. But within the boundary fence of the adjacent film studios were 2 singing Whitethroats and a Chiffchaff.
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.