The Mute Swan with the orange ring 843 was on the canal as was a Kingfisher and the female Mandarin. 2 more Mandarin flew North along the canal but not identified to sex. A Grey Wagtail was around the waterfall and a Little Egret was by the meadow with 2 Bullfinches in the meadow. 1 of the Little Owls called from the usual Oak trees.
A fairly productive day started with 12 Siskin over the toilet block followed by 6 Skylark heading in all directions. The male Pheasant was heard in the meadow and the female Mandarin was still on the canal. 6 Mistle Thrush were on the brow of the hill but the best bird of the day was the first Little Owl of the year for the park and myself when it started calling near the top football pitch.
The star bird of the day in the park was the single Greylag Goose that flew NW over the car park around 8am. Amazingly there wasn't a record before 2011 but this bird is the 4th record now totalling 20 birds! While out pruning the ring road a Red Kite flew South over the town hall and peace hospice being mobbed as it went. And back in the park a juvenile Woodpigeon was seen already!
The Twitch and 4 record shots of the stunning Common Yellowthroat.
While walking up to the viewpoint at Amwell on Thrursday the Mega alert sounded on my pager for the first time this year with the amazing news of a Common Yellowthroat in South Wales. I had to put going out of my mind as it wasmy weekend with my son. Luckily for me my good old mum said she would look after him for a bit so that I could go! So I left at 6.45am and was on site around 9.15am. I parked up and wandered down to the field entrance and paid my pound. I got into position along with around 100 or so other birders and luckily within 5 minutes out popped my first ever COMMON YELLOWTHROAT. In the early morning sun the bird shone like a yellow and green beacon as it flitted around in the long grass. I managed the record shots above in the few occasions it popped out. It went missing for minutes at a time then popped up just a few feet away from where it was last seen. I spent just over an hour on site before having to head home to be with my boy. Numerous Red Kites were seen going and coming along the M4 and a Raven near Swindon was a bonus year tick.
Another Skylark flew over the paddling pools this morning and the Little Egret was still on the river. The female Mandarin was again on the canal with the local Mallards. In the meadow 2 Great Spotted and a Green Woodpecker were seen along with a Treecreeper but no Lesser-Spotted yet. In the afternoon a Red Kite was over the far East end of the park being mobbed by 3 Carrion Crows.
After numerous reports from Amwell NR overthe last few days concerning Caspian Gulls I decided to pay a visit after work today. I arrived on site at 4.30pm and bumped into Joan Thompson, Derek Turner and Barry Reed and a couple of others I didn't recognise (should have introduced myself!). Unfortunatley there were no Smew present but a couple of Cetti's Warblers burst into life. Thankfully after just 10 minutes I had another scan through the gulls and re-found the 1st winter Caspian Gull just beyond the right hand tern raft. Not being the biggest fan of gulls especially juv/1st winter plumages I felt quite chuffed to have picked it out. The long thin bill and white head and breast certainly made it easy to find. I managed 1 photo of the bird that wasn't blurred but which i'm having trouble getting on here at the moment so as soon as I can I will get it on here for your viewing. This bird represents my first Herts tick of the year.
A planned trip to Norfolk was abandoned just South of Thetford when rain started falling and immediately turning to ice which made driving somewhat scary! A Buzzard decided to land on the grass on the central reservation near Baldock which was nice of it! So as I was near Lackford Lakes I decided that was as far as I was going. On arrival the car park resembled an ice rink as it hadn't even thawed a bit. Unfortunately 99% of the lakes were frozen with only 2 small ice free patches everything was crammed into them. 6 Goldeneye was about as good as it got duck wise but some Lesser Redpolls (including a lovely red fronted male), a small flock of Siskin and 2 Water Rails were also seen. The highlight though was 1+ Marsh Tit which gave me the run around trying to pin it down only to get back to the visitor centre and have one on the feeders just outside the window! The most amusing scene though was of a Moorhen haning off a seed feeder by it feet whilst flapping its wings as it knocked seed onto the floor where it could eat it easier!
On the way home I decided to pop to Sandon in the hope of a year tick or two. I pulled up next to the green metal gate and 2 other birders were already there. My mates Brendan and Chris! They put me onto 4 Grey Partridge straight away (year tick) and I also noted 4 Buzzard and a couple of Yellowhammer but the star of the show was a Merlin that flew through hunting the small passerines but it was annoyingly distant so sexing it wasn't possible though a male had been seen the day before.
3 Photos of the Scaup and the crappy Bittern shot! (honestly it is one!)
In the park this morning 50+ Redwings and 75+ Fieldfare flew East but the afternoon produced some top draw birds. My first Red Kite of the year flew low South over Watford High Street station at 2.30pm and around 100 Redwing were seen. With news of 6 Scaup and a Bittern being seen mid morning at Hilfield Reservoir I decided to brave the elements for a little while longer and head over there after work. I arrived at 3.40pm and there was already a couple of thousand gulls present but I was looking for other things. Eventually I located the Scaup but could only find 5 of the 6 birds (3 adult males, adult female and 1st winter male). I managed to get a couple of photos (see above) but they just wouldn't lift their heads up long enough for me to get a awake photo! All of a sudden most of the gulls got up alerting me to a Peregrine that was circling over followed 15 minutes later by a Buzzard. Just before I was going to leave I had a try to find the Bittern and as luck would have it 5 minutes later I picked out a bird crashing through the reeds before walking into the cut area and having a very quick preen. I managed probably the worst photo of a Bittern ever taken before it disappeared again. I called Steve Murray and he rushed round to the damn where after a few minutes of searching he re-found it sat high up in the reeds. It dropped down and carried on walking where amazingly it flushed out a second bird that was hidden from view!! For the last couple of minutes of daylight we watched the 2 Bitterns trying to find a cosy spot for the night. The cold was too much by now so I went home happy with 2 Hilfield ticks under my belt!
The snow seems to have had the same effect with thrushes here as they had at home yesterday. Both Redwings numbered close to 100 and Fieldfares seemed to be everywhere with 4 large flocks flying over. A Kingfisher flew along the canal and 2 Little Egrets were on the river. 6 StockDoves were flying around near the cafe and 4 Treecreepers were dotted around the park.
A male Common Crossbill and 4 photos of the Parrot Crossbill.
With the prediction of heavy snow forecast for the Saturday evening I was up at 6.30am and headed of for Black Down NT in W.Sussex in the hope of adding another new species to my list. I arrived on site just after 8am and along with 2 other birders promptly took the wrong track! After 15 minutes of walking and not getting anywhere we turned round and just before the car park found the main track we should have taken! Along our wrong turn 2 Bullfinches were seen and a few Siskin and Crossbills were heard but eventually we were in the correct place and within minutes a flock of around 40 Crossbills flew in. Quickly the shout went up that the target bird had been found and sure enough for the next 15 minutes we all watched the female PARROT CROSSBILL. The only other bird of note was a Woodlark singing somewhere in the distance. I arrived home safely and sure enough down came the snow.
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.