A few Siskin overhead and a Treecreeper near the Gade Avenue entrance to the park made it onto the notes section of my phone as did a Common Gull chasing a Black-Headed for it's food. I also recieved news of 12 Waxwings on Langley Way on the 27th between the shops and park entrance so most likely the same group as I had a few days ago?
The morning started with a Meadow Pipit over the toilet block before I left the park to do some pruning on the nearby Cassiobury estate. I then had to tip the prunings at our Oxhey depot where along the drive a female Kestrel gave close views and 15 Redwing flew over. I was back in the park for the afternoon and saw around 25 Siskin by the mini railway and from the hide were a pair of Pheasant which were the first i'd seen in a while. But the best bird was a female Mandarin on the river just south of the meadow bridge in with a group of Mallards.
A wet and dreary day was brightened up by 1 possibly 2 male Mandarin. The first was on the canal just south of the canal bridge followed by another or the same on the fishing pit. Apart from that 2 Coal Tits were seen from the hide 2 Siskin and 5 Redwing flew over.
With just 1 month to Christmas I thought i'd get in an early prezzie by driving up to Aylesbury in the search of a small flock of Waxwings. Around 11am myself and my girlfriend arrived on site and immediately had 4-5 flying around but after a while all 24 birds flew into the trees and started feeding on Rowan berries. I went to photograph them but found my camera battery had died and is most likely totally dead so the pics above were taken on my phone.
15 more Fieldfare flew over the yard first thing and mid morning a Mistle Thrush was heard singing. During the afternoon the first drumming Great-Spotted Woodpecker of the winter was heard near the cafe.
The highlight of the day happened on the way to work when driving along Stratford Way towards Hempstead Road a small flockof 12 Waxwings flew SE towards the park. I immediately turned around to try and re-find them but drew a blank. Whilst in the park a Lesser Redpoll flew over as did 17 Fieldfare that headed over the paddling pools. 8 Mute Swan flew over the woods near the fishing lake and were later found on the canal (2 adult + 6 juv).
On the football pitches with the Black-Headed Gulls were 2 Herring and a Common Gull. Then on the way back up to the yard after opening the toilets 12 birds flew South and looked remarkably like Waxwings but annoyingly they didn't stop. Thankfully around 3 hours later 3 birds flew out of the park over the Shepherds Road entrance and with a single trill I finally nailed my first Waxwings of the year but hopefully not my last seeing as there are thousands invading the country again this year. Just before the end of the day 20 RNParakeets flew through.
5 Mallard flew over the car on the way in to work and while at work a mixed flock of winter thrushes flew overthe yard consisting of 8 Fieldfare and 5 Redwing. A Cormorant circled over the canal briefly and a single Lesser Redpoll was in with 20 Siskin. A Grey Wagtail was in the car park and 3 Coal Tits were seen on the feeders from the hide. Finally a Little Egret flew along the river.
c.60 Siskin were seen near the mini railway and in with them were 3 Lesser Redpoll. A Grey Wagtail flew over the pools and a Little Egret was along the river. On the watercress beds was a juv Mute Swan. And around the council yard in the morning were 3 Goldcrests.
The Siskin flock were still around the mini railway numbering closer to 50 birds now and included in the flock was at least 1 if not more Lesser Redpoll with another over the car park just before lunch. A GreyWagtail flew onto the paddling pools where it joined a flock of 75+ Black-Headed Gulls. In the woods a Goldcrest was with a mobile tit flock and a Sparrowhawk upset the woodland birds by zooming through. The highlight was my first Little Egret of the autumn/winter period that flew over the rustic bridge.
At least one Fieldfare flew over the yard this morning but was only a heard as I was reading the paper before work and didn't get out in time to see how many there were! The flock of c.40 Siskin were again by the mini railway with a 2 Redwing over the toilet block. A Meadow Pipit flew over the paddling pools. A Grey Wagtail was seen feeding along the overflowing river near the hide and a Sparrowhawk was hunting just before the end of the day but the best bird was a single Rook that flew south over the toilet block mid morning. This was the 4th bird for the year after 3 flew over in January.
A quieter day today with no park firsts! A Grey Wagtail flew over the paddling pools as did 25 Redwing. 6 Mistle Thrush were around the cricket outfield including one induldging in a bit of singing. A Skylark flew over the east end of the park and 2 Meadow Pipit headed over the car park. 5 Pied Wagtail were feeding in the ruts left by the lorries in for the fireworks at the weekend.
My first day back at work after 7 weeks off with my back and annual leave was hard work after doing virtually nothing but a bit of walking whilst off but the birds made up for it. An adult Common Gull was with the Black-Headed Gulls and due to heavy rain the day before a small pool of water had appeared infront of the toilet block. On it were single Pied and Grey Wagtails, 15 Mallard and a Grey Heron! 40+ Siskin were back again for the winter by the mini railway and 5 Redwing flew over. Near the hide 2 Goldcrest and a Treecreeper were in with a tit flock, a Coal Tit was on the new feeders and a Water Rail called. A LittleOwl was heard calling from the park while I was in the car park but the bird of the day and I guess the Autumn seeing as I missed most of it was the first park record of Mediterranean Gull (a 1st winter) that circled over the cricket outfield for around a minute before it frustratingly flew off south. This bird represents the 155th species recorded in the park/Whippendell Woods.
The last day of our holiday was upon us and so after brekkie we decided to walk down to the beach and walked east towards a small resteraunt in the distance that had a large wooden walkway attached to it over the inland area of marsh. The first birds of note were a group of 7 Spoonbill on the marsh sleeping again! 4 Serin then flew over before a small bird flew out of a tree infront of us and onto the floor. It was a Redstart which was a nice surprise as it was my first anywhere this year! After watching it for a couple of minutes I caught up with the others in the small car park and to my left a small bird flitted up from the weeds and called a single Zit. I immediately recognised the call as i'd heard it once before down in Kent. It was a Fan-Tailed Warbler! It skulked around for a bit before perching up for 10 seconds to let me have a proper look at it. Once on the beach the waves were rather large even with no wind which transfixed Tom all the way to the restaurant. 3 brown birds then landed in the dunes and looking at them in the bins I was please to see all 3 were Crested Larks a bird i've also seen in Kent! After 90 minutes we finally got to the restaurant and the only Wheatear of the holiday was perched on a rope fence below. After a dinner of clams and fish we walked over the long bridge. A Cetti's Warbler called from the other side and 4 Black-Tailed Godwit flew overhead. Once on the other side we walked along the edge of the golf course and found 2 more CrestedLarks in the rough. My first ever female Sardinian Warbler perched long enough to get a good view and eventually we arrived at a new hide. On looking out just Little Egrets and Redshanks could be seen but a small pool a bit further along the path held a bird i'd hoped to see. A Black-Winged Stilt. We had a quick walk up to see it but it had gone to sleep. Realising we were being picked up in 3 hours to go to the airport we headed back but I noticed a small lake on the golf course so said i'll be 5 minutes and i'll catch you up! I was hoping for a Purple Swamphen but I only saw Coot and Moorhen plus Little Grebe, Pochard and Shoveler but then suddenly I noticed infront of me a Glossy Ibis. I managed a photo before it flew and I had to run back. The flight back was a bit of a rough landing at Luton and we got home just past midnight. A great break away with the family and a grand total of 79 species.
A sunny start soon turned to rain almost as soon as we had walked out the foyer and into a cab heading towards Faro. We got dropped off and booked a boat trip around the nature reserve offshore. A few Yellow-Legged Gulls were in the harbour and 4 White Storks were on buildings in the town. On the boat trip which lasted an hour with a skipper who didn't speak English and in the rain with no roof a Whimbrel was the first bird of note with a pair of Gadwall closely behind. The first Spoonbills were next but by the end of the trip a total of 45 had been seen. A Common Sandpiper saw us coming and flew off but a Sacred Ibis was a surprise. 3 more White Storks were distant but the hoped for Flamingoes weren't forthcoming. Possibly the biggest surprise was of another/same Caspian Tern seen heading east. I'm not entirely sure how rare/common this species is in Portugal but to find 1 or possibly 2 of them in just 4 days certainly is unexpected! Back at the hotel and whilst standing on the balcony a Little Owl called twice.
After Tom had had another cold dip in the pool we headed west again for lunch. As soon as we entered the woods a smart male Black Redstart flew up onto the roof of a small building but soon disappeard. 2 female Serin landed atop a pine but soon flew off. After lunch we strolled along the beach until 6 waders flew a short way ahead of us. 5 were Sanderling but the other one turned out to be a juv Kentish Plover! This was only my 2nd ever with my first also a juv but in Devon. Shortly after getting some photos a Dunlin joined them but a dog put them up and off they went. The only Swallow of the holiday was flying over the marshes and 6 Teal were on the water. A quick wander after the others had gone back to the hotel produced 3 more Bluethroats but none with a blue throat and another/same Crested Tit in the woods.
The day dawned hot and sunny and all Tom wanted to do was get in the pool! We nabbed some loungers and in he went but screaming that it was very cold! I left him to it and got some sun whilst watching the birds go by. More AW Magpies were in the trees along with a calling Chiffchaff then to my amazement 6 Hawfinches loomed into view and headed off north just as quickly as they had arrived. Just a few minutes later I looked skywards and overhead in a thermal were 43 White Storks!! They disappeared behind the hotel but within the hour another 29 were seen going in the same direction. Not bad considering i've only seen 3 in the UK! After lunch we wandered down to the beach and headed east towards a small group of restaurants but not before i'd seen half a dozen Sardinian Warblers in the woods. After lunch we headed west past the hotel towards some marshes. I had a quick look out to sea and noted just a few Gannets but then I noticed heading from the west a massive tern! It slowly flew past letting me note the short tail, white rump, dark out edges to the wingtips and the giant carrot stuck on its face!! It was a Caspian Tern! It continued east and out of view but half an hour later it flew back west. On the marshes it was a case of normal home fare with Redshanks and Grey Herons everywhere but then mum and Carey suddenly said whats that? A small bird had flown from the path and onto a stretch of shrubs in the marsh. After a few minutes it popped out and there infront of us was a cracking Bluethroat with a full blue throat! Annoyingly it turned round and walked into the shrubs and wasn't seen again. The only other bird of note was a distant Spoonbill doing what they do best, sleeping! We turned round ourselves and headed back to the hotel and in the pines a small bird was flitting about. Eventually it showed and it turned out to be a Crested Tit! My first since i'd seen them in Scotland back in 1991! The last good bird of the day flew past the balcony when I was stood watching the AW Magpies with a Glossy Ibis in with 3 Cormorants.
The best I could manage of the stunning Azure-Winged Magpies
As my son had been dropping lots of un-subtle hints about having never been on a plane before my good old mum booked us all 5 days in the Algarve for half-term. So early Saturday morning myself, Carey, my son and my mum were at Luton airport freezing to death waiting for the shuttle bus to take us from the car park to the airport. While waiting 32 Fieldfare flew over. Shortly after 3pm and we had arrived at Faro airport in 22 degrees and were sweating with all our winter clothes on! During the journey to our hotel (about 30 mins drive) a White Wagtail was seen on a small pool next to the airport and near the hotel a Green Woodpecker (see below!) flew away from us but it was a bird on the roadside that got me excited as there briefly was my first ever AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE! What I hadn't realised that the hotel we were staying at (Formosa Park hotel + apartments near Almancil) was on the western edge of the Parque Natural Da Ria Formosa! During the stay I saw around 50 Azure-Winged Magpies between the hotel and the San Lorenzo golf course a couple of miles to the east. They showed very well in large groups even from the balcony when going to roost but they were very fidgety and getting a good photo proved impossible with my little camera through my bins. Aside from the glorious magpies a quick walk through the small wood to the beach produced mainly stuff that I could see back home. That was until a female Serin briefly showed in a pine. Another Green Woodpecker then perched up long enough to note that it looked different facially than the birds back home in having a lack of black around the eyes with only a thin black line bordering the red moustache. Admittedly i'd not bothered looking up any local gen so when I looked at my Collin's guide I realised I had seen an Iberian Green Woodpecker ssp sharpei!!
Unless you live on the Northern Isles, Western Isles, Western Ireland or the Scilly Isles this autumn has been in terms of rare birds and lifers very dull! So one day before my break to Portugal news broke about a grebe that had been present at Wilstone Reservoir for 3 days. It had initially been identified as a Red-Necked followed by a Black-Necked. I didn't need either of these for my Herts list so didn't venture over. Then the news I was hoping for was that it was indeed a Slavonian Grebe was released and I definately needed that for Herts!! So I rushed over there to find the bird showing down to a few feet on the waters edge! A quick scan of the reservoir produced a late Swallow and a Rock Pipit near the new overflow. 2 Lesser Redpoll flew over as did 38 Redwing. Near the hide were 11 Pintail (3 male) and in the far corner of the field from the old overflow were 2 Red-Legged Partridge and in with a flock of Chaffinch I picked out 2 Brambling which were my first anywhere for 3 years. From the freezing cold to the warm Algarve!!
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.