The first House Martin for the park this year was heard calling over the car park and just the few spring warblers singing still. At home a baby Blackbird was taken away by a Carrion Crow despite the parents best efforts to scare it away.
The day got off to a normal feel with a Cormorant flying south along the canal but just after 10am myself and my boss were cutting the grass in the overflow car park. He was on the ride on mower and I was strimming and as he was running up along the fence line I stopped to move out of his way and when I looked up to my amazement there were 2 huge heron sized pure white egrets flying low south between the car park and the river. They were Great White Egrets!! They were just above tree top height and were very close to each other with the top one even pecking the lower one at one stage. They both had large yellow/orange bills and long dark trailing legs and were on view for around 30 seconds before they were lost to view behind the trees in the car park. Frustratingly they ignored the water in the park and headed off south but of course they could have already been in the flooded areas and I only saw them leave. These of course were the first record for the park and hopefully when accepted by the Herts bird club they will be the first multiple sighting in the county. After all that excitement the only other bird of note was a Sparrowhawk over the nature reserve.
After work I headed up to Wilstone Reservoir and walked round to the hide where a Wood Warbler had been singing on and off all day. After about 20 minutes I finally heard it and it carried on and off for another 20 minutes but annoyingly it didn't show. From the hide 50+ Swift and over 100 Swallow were overhead and in the scrub by the hide a female Reed Bunting was seen and a Whitethroat heard. News then came on the pager of a Blue-Headed Wagtail over at Startops End Reservoir so I shot over but despite at least 10 Yellow Wagtails I couldn't find it. I did however find a nice male White Wagtail in the paddocks and in the canal hedge 2 Lesser Whitethroat. On the res itself a Black Tern was with an Arctic Tern and 30 or so Common. A Kingfisher flew along the canal and a female Red-Crested Pochard was by the layby steps. More Swallows and Swifts were overhead with some Swallows and the odd Sand Martin resting on top of the horsepats! Pretty good day all round!
News on Thursday of a female Rock Thrush at Spurn got the juices flowing but they were stopped by the thought of having to keep my 9 year old son entertained on a 9 hour round trip! As it turned out the thrush did a friday night bunk and so my plans turned elsewhere. A Subalpine Warbler in Suffolk was initially ID'd as a Western which I saw down in Dorset a few years ago but when it was re-identified as an Eastern thats where I was heading. So myself and my boy set off quite late in the end around 11am and arrived on sight at Languard NR just before 1pm. A casual walk to join a small group of birders (including Joan Thompson, Lee Evans, Chris Sharp and young Ephraim Perfect who looked pleased at gripping off his older brother who had just gone back to Cornwall today!) resulted in a minute or so later a stunning male EASTERN SUBALPINE WARBLER popping out on top of a clump of gorse. For the next 30 minutes or so this little beauty flicked around the shrubs giving ample opportunity for photos but as for me and my hold my camera to the scope approach it proved fairly tricky to keep up with it but im happy with the 2 shots above. A scan of the sea produced nothing and on the common 10 Wheatears made it onto the list. Finally some sort of tick for the year albeit a sub-species tick. (lets hope its split soon!).
Well what a great day in the park today. The first Willow Warbler for the year was singing from near The Gardens entrance and better still was only the 4th modern day record of Cuckoo that called twice from the far end of the meadow. 2 Buzzard went over during the day and the first Common Tern of the year flew south over the new cress beds. Finally 3 Mandarin (2 male) were on the river by the meadow bridge.
A Lesser Redpoll was heard as soon as I arrived at work and another heard bird was the Cetti's Warbler that burst into life again after going missing/staying silent since its dicovery last Thrusday! In the woods Chiffchaff and Blackcap were singing. A Grey Wagtail flew over the rustic bridge and a Red Kite was high over the yard. The Mandarin pair were still on the river.
I finally got around to heading over to Hilfield but again not as early as i'd hoped for as I was helping my brother with his garden (telling him how to do it anyway!). After the usual struggle up the c.106 steps I sat down and had a scan but no hirundines were on view. I caught up with Hilfield regular Steve Murray about what had been seen recently and was just thinking about going for a quick wander when he shouted that he's got 2 possible Curlews. Looking skywards I saw nothing until he said they were below treetop level. I picked them up but annoyingly they were flying away from us but luckily they turned round and headed back towards the reservoir. This gave us the chance to see that they both had short downcurved bills. They were Whimbrel! Eventually they landed out of view in the fields of Pages farm. I called Tony Blake who was somewhere on site and he replied he was just going to call me to say he'd heard Whimbrel calling. A brisk walk round to near the viewpoint ensued only interrupted by a calling Common Sandpiper. At the viewpoint they were in the horse field showing well. After 20 minutes I had to go and as I reached the path they called and flew over my head and headed south. A Sedge Warbler sang briefly and 2 Grey Wagtails were on the dam but as I reached the valve tower a sandpiper took off and landed a short distance away. Expecting it to be the Common Sandpiper I'd heard earlier I was amazed to see it was a Green Sandpiper. Another call to Tony was made and after he'd seen it he like me had a Hilfield tick though I had two with the Whimbrel aswell.
A later start than I wanted meant an early visit to Hilfield didn't happen but an afternoon stroll with Carey around my old local patch of the Mundens was a pleasant alternative. The warm weather brought out 4 Buzzard thermaling high overhead. At least 4 Blackcap and 4 Chiffchaff were singing and 2 RN Parakeet were inspecting a nest hole. Other scribblings in my notebook were a singing Treecreeper, a pair of Gadwall and a Mallard with 7 chicks on the pool but a Snipe that was put up by a fisherman was an embarrasingly late year tick! 2 Little Egret were a patch tick but as it was my first visit in over 2 years i'm sure I have missed other things in between.
At least 4 Lesser Redpoll were still around the yard first thing and mid morning a Red Kite flew high over the yard. The best bird of the day though was my first Willow Warbler that was singing from a small row of trees behind the offices at the councils Wiggenhall Road depot. The Mandarin pair were on the river near the meadow late afternoon but in a very quick search there was no sight or sound of yesterdays Cetti's though it may well be around still.
After Mondays first for the park Peregrine and Tuesdays first RL Partridge for about 60 years todays mega was a singing Cetti's Warbler that was heard from the old cress beds just downstream from the meadow bridge and weir. This becomes just the 2nd record for the park with the last being in May/June 1997. Not the 80's as i'd earlier thought in my message to the Herts Yahoo group. A single Swallow flew over (ID'd by my boss so he must be learning!), a singing Chiffchaff and at least 2 singing Blackcap.
Another visit to KGVPF produced a Sparrowhawk, Linnet and 2 Swallow and finally a Blackcap at the Oxhey depot.
2 Lesser Redpoll around the yard was the only highlight for me for the day in the park but they were well and truly trumped by a text message telling me of a Red-Legged Partridge that was seen walking down Langley Way and flew off towards the park after it was attacked by a cat!! Its the first RLP since at least the 1950's.
In the afternoon 2 Swallow flew over KGV playing fields in west Watford. Also present were 2 male Blackcap, 8 LBB Gulls (2 1st winter) and an adult Herring Gull. But the highlight was a singing Whitethroat, my first of the year.
The day started off with a bang with the first park record of Peregrine Falcon. I was just getting into the van when I noticed a bird of prey circling over the gardens of Cassiobury Park Avenue. Immediately I knew what it was so getting my work mates on it I ran to the car and grabbed my bins and there it was. A Peregrine! On size it was probably a male. It was on show for about 3 minutes before haeding towards the town centre where last Tuesday young Ephraim Perfect (see his blog in my blog list) had see what was most likely a pair (judging by size difference) over the YMCA building. Here's hoping they find somewhere they like the look of and stay to breed? The other year tick was a singing Blackcap. The pair of Mandarin were still by the rustic bridge and singles of Linnet, Little Owl and Buzzard were noted.
At lunch I recieved a call from Joan Thompson to say a Hoopoe had been found at Tyttenhanger GP's closely followed by a Redstart. I arranged to take Ephraim's older brother Samuel with me but unfortunately it had flown just after 1pm and there was no sign of either bird when we arrived. Compensation was had with my first 2 Sand Martin and 2 cracking male Yellow Wagtail of the year. The wagtails were in the sheepfield with an incredible 22Wheatears. Considering i'd only seen 44 Wheatears in total in Herts to see half that total in one field was quite a sight. 2 Red Kite and a Swallow were the only other birds of note.
As the weather had warmed up me and the family took a trip to the Essex coast to the worlds lngest pier. We parked up in Westcliff-on-sea and walked up to the road towards Southend noting a few Curlew and a couple of Dark-Bellied Brent Geese along the way. The list by the end of the day included 4 year ticks with singles of Common and Sandwich Tern and a 1st summer Mediterranean Gull and a fly by flock of around 80 Sanderling. 16 Great-Crested Grebe were off the end of the pier and 4 Swallow flew inland.
The damp weather meant that only a singing Chiffchaff and a few Lesser Redpoll were seen along with a couple of Siskin and still a few late Redwing. Back home in Chipperfield while walking to the pub for dinner a Swallow flew past over the fields but heading SE so its probably already had enough of the weather here and is heading back to Africa!
Even before i'd got out of bed the first bird of the day was heard calling from outside that being a TawnyOwl. Then a GS Woodpecker was again drumming from a large oak near the car.
At work a dozen Lesser Redpolls were flying around over the yard buzzing as they went whilst down near the river a Chiffchaff was still singing, a Pheasant called and a Little Egret was near the rustic bridge. On the canal a Cormorant was busy fishing then while marking out the tennis courts a Red Kite flew over as did a Meadow Pipit and a Sparrowhawk zoomed in chasing Starlings. The warm weather also saw the first Comma and 3 Small Tortoishell butterflies.
The first Linnet for the park this year flew over the bowls club this afternoon but was only heard. 50+ Redwing were still present with 3 birds singing again by the toilet block. 10 Jay were in the park includin 8 in one tree by the tennis courts around 9am doing what looked like displaying to each other. Just as I walked out of the mess room to go home 7 Lesser Redpoll flew over.
Other news from the park to reach me was the sighting of the first Reed Bunting, Blackcap and 4 SandMartin of the year. The count of 4 Sand Martin was the first multiple sighting since the 1950's and is still a species I've yet to see in the park.
A piece of news from yesterday that I forgot to add was of a Little Egret flying over Kings Langley towards the M25 whilst driving home.
A handful of Redwing were dotted around the park still and a couple of Siskin were heard around the yard including one that during it's song it mimicked a Fieldfare and Chiffchaff! I didn't know they could do that! 2 or 3 Chiffchaff were singing around the river and the male Mandarin was above the waterfall.
A quick afternoon visit to Tring saw a Buzzard over Pendley Manor. At the reservoirs a couple of Grey Wagtail were around Startops End, a male RC Pochard was seen on a quick scan of Tringford and at Marsworth another Buzzard flew over but the highlight was my first Kingfisher of the year.
First birds of note for the day were the 2 singing Chiffchaffs by the river closely followed by the Mandarin pair on the river and 2 Treecreepers chasing each other around a tree near the croquet lawns. A Grey Wagtail was near the meadow and a group of about 40 Jackdaws flew up out of the woods on the other side of the canal. A few Siskin were still hanging around the yard but the highlight of the day were a small group of Redwing in trees around the toilet block. At least 3 of the group were singing which was a nice surprise.
Stepping out the door this morning 2 Fieldfare flew over, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming from a nearby tree and Siskins could be heard from another tree. Shortly after the front spring on my car snapped and ended up costing me £100 to fix! In the park 2 Grey Wagtail flew over the rustic bridge and a few Siskin were still around the yard.
The Mandarin pair were on the river and the Chiffchaff was still singing from the old cress beds where 5 Teal flew out of towards the meadow. A Lesser Redpoll flew over the toilet block and a Common Gull this time a winter plumaged bird was in the the BH Gulls.
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.