Whilst cutting the tennis courts first thing I noted 5 Pied Wagtail on the grass collecting insects with 3 of them being juvs. I had noted adults with beaks full of food around the yard in previous weeks so it would be nice to think they were born in the park somewhere. 30 minutes before home I was unloading stuff from the van when I heard a call coming from the trees in the corner of the yard. For a second I couldn't put my finger on what was making it but then out popped a Marsh Tit (I see them so infrequently I forget what they sound like!) Only the 3rd time I have seen this species in the park it was a welcome year tick and nice to know they are hanging on around the area. Seconds later a Red Kite flew over.
A day spent cutting back the weeds from the paths in the nature reserve saw a fly over Cormorant and a few warblers still singing i.e Chiffchaff and Blackcap but the highlight was the high pitched call of a Kingfisher as it flew along the river. Due to the high water levels since last year this is the first sighting in the park this year.
After the excitement of Sunday the first 3 days of the week were very quiet in the park with just the regular things being noted. However this morning whilst litter picking the car park I wandered up to the log benches incase of a pile of rubbish but was amazed to find sat on top of the furthest log bench a male Wheatear. No sooner had I found it a dog walker flushed it and it flew off strongly SW. Whether it's a failed breeder, a late arrival or one that is longing to be back in Africa already I dont know! Other note worthy birds were a RedKite that drifted over the cricket pitch just before lunch and 3 Swallows that flew north mid afternoon.
Saturday mid morning and I was still in bed eating toasted tea-cakes and drinking tea with a day of shopping, a bank visit and cinema planned when the shrill of my pager mega alerting from the front room filled the air. I knew exactly what it would be it was just a case of where it was. Sure enough it was a PacificSwift and it was in Suffolk. Due to the fact that if I didn't go to do the jobs I had planned today it would be another fortnight before i'd get a chance again so all day pager messages teased me with news that it was still present and showing well. As news was still positive and the bird was still around at 9.30pm I had a small feeling it may be there in the morning. With that in mind I woke at 4.30am and was out the door by 5am. just before 7am I was on site and had just missed the last parking space so I had to park near the level crossing. There was still no news on the bird but I started the 3 mile walk to the hides but unlike yesterday when people were running/jogging I took a leisurely stroll and along the way added a singing Nightingale to the year list. I was 50 yards from the first hide when the news I had hoped for appeared on the pager. It was still here! So after a short jog I grabbed the last seat in the hide and got onto the area where it was showing. Unfortunately it was showing for a split second every few minutes as it popped up above the reeds. With the poor viewing we left the hide and went to stand on the bank where we could over look the area better. After a few minutes I finally picked it up my first PACIFIC SWIFT but very distant and for the next hour or so I had numerous views as it swirled around with it's common cousins. The long deeply forked tail, white rump and slender scythe like wings were obvious even at a distance. Other birds noted were a male Bullfinch, pair of Marsh Harrier, Little Egret, family party of Shelduck with 9 juvs, 13 Avocet, 8+ Black-Tailed Godwit and a singing Lesser Whitethroat. The walk back was a lot quicker as one of the locals very kindly gave me a lift back to my car along with Graham Higgins a birder from Hemel Hempstead who I passed as he was leaving as I arrived! Nice to have met you Graham.
With it being still early I cohse to continue north and have a few hours at Minsmere. I parked up and within seconds my first Bittern of the year could be heard booming. The Stone Curlew family wasn't showing so I continued along to the beach and into the east hide. More Avocet and Blackwits were on show but then the couple next to me found a wader and ID'd it as a juv Knot. I got onto it and re-identified it as a CurlewSandpiper! Another Shelduck family was present but with only 7 juvs. A couple of Cuckoo were heard and at least 10 Little Egret were dotted around. 2 adult Mediterranean Gull were over the beach. I arrived at the levels hoping that the Spoonbills were present but alas they weren't but 3 summer plumage SpottedRedshank (my first in that plumage for a while) were nice compensation. Near the west hide I scanned one of the pools in the reeds and in with a group of Gadwall was a small duck which was sleeping. I was hoping it was a female Garganey and sure enough it woke up showed it's head and bill and hey presto it was! It was my 150th species for the year and my 50th Garganey in the UK. All in all a great days birding.
I received an email from one of the friends of the park letting me know that on Sunday 9th she saw the female Mandarin on the canal with 6 juvs in tow! This is the largest brood so far in the 4-5 years they have now bred in the park.
A Swallow flew over the toilet block and a Nuthatch family were in the yard with adults flying in and out feeding the noisy young. Later in the day down at KGV playing fields a Grey Heron looked into view over the community centre closely followed by 2 Peregrine Falcon! They circled over for a few minutes before heading towards the town centre.
It was Carey's nephews birthday and the party was at the scout camp in Phasels wood just off the A41 near King's Langley. During the day a Cormorant and Red Kite flew over and Blackcaps were singing in the woods.
Once we had woken up and had breakfast we headed to Camber Sands for a walk on the beach. Within minutes i'd had another year tick when a Little Tern flew past. 5+ Sandwich Tern ,2 more Med Gull and a Grey Heron were noted. After a nice ice cream (mint magnum incase you wondered!) We drove down the road a bit and parked up in the beach car park and I had another seawatch. On the sea were around 120 Common Scoter. A few more terns flew past and 2 Swallow and a Swift flew in off. Next stop was the ARC pit at Dungeness where I was hoping to see the drake Garganey that was there yesterday but there was no sign.
After letting the heavy rain subside we headed off towards Dungeness where we took a trip on the miniature railway to New Romney. After lunch we went down to the beach by the power station. Tom threw stones into the sea while Carey walked up the beach and I had a quick seawatch. Around 40 Common Tern were at the patch and 30+ Common Scoter flew east but then I picked up a dark bird on the sea. Immediate thoughts were dark morph Arctic Skua and after a few minutes it got up and started chasing the terns and sure enough my thoughts were correct. Another Med Gull was seen in the beach car park at Camber on the way home.
The half term holiday arrived and as a surprise for Tom me and him went to Wembley to see Watford take on Crystal Palace for a place in the Premiership. The stadium was amazing but the game and result wasn't as we lost 1-0. But despite the result Tom was in for another surprise. We got home just after 7pm and packed up the car and went on a long booked holiday down to the south coast. we arrived around 9.30pm got the keys and unpacked the car and went to bed!
The next day dawned grey and wet but we are British and a bit of rain wasnt going to stop us enjoying ourselves. The plan was to go to Rye but I took a wrong turning somewhere and we ended up in Hastings! After a nice pie and mash to warm the cockles we took the cable car/train up to the top of the cliff and onto Hastings country park. Thankfully the rain stopped and it brightened up. 3 Whitethroat were singing and around 10 Fulmar were along the cliff but a loud cronking alerted me to not 1 but 5 Raven flying along the cliff. Back at the holiday park a Yellow Wagtail and 2 Mediterranean Gull flew over.
After yesterdays excitement at finding only my 4th Herts Firecrest and my 33rd in UK another game of football was called for! As luck would have it I re-found it a bit further along the road and it was still there on the way home too.
To keep my son quiet I took him up to Chipperfield common for a game of football and just as we reached the last house along King's Lane I heard a Firecrest singing from a tree in thee front garden. To make sure I was actually hearing what I thought I was hearing (as i'd not heard or seen one for nearly 2 years!) I played the song of Firecrest on my phone at a volume I thought it couldnt hear. How wrong was I as within a couple of seconds it flew over the road and nearly landed on my head while investigating before it landed in a hedge behind me giving myself and my boy crippling views down to within a foot! That certainly made the day a bit brighter! 2 Red Kite flew over the common during the kickabout.
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.