Monday, 27 January 2014

Dungeness - 26.1.14

Great White Egret
Staying up late to watch the film probably wasn't the best idea as I had to be up at 6am for the Watford RSPB coach trip down to the Kent coast. The weather forecast looked pretty crap but I went anyway. The journey down was traffic free and we arrived just after 10am. First stop was the beach with the wonderful nuclear power station in the background. The wind was annoyingly strong and made seawatching almost impossible. However I had a go and managed to pick out 6 year ticks. A few Gannet were either close in or far out and auks numbers were huge with both Razorbill and Guillemot seen tho mainly the latter. A few Kittiwake were seen including some heart racing juvenile birds that almost always make you think Sabine's! Just beyond the patch a small group of Common Scoter were riding the waves and in the 20 minutes I gave it 8 Red-Throated Diver flew past with one stopping on the sea briefly. Lots of gulls were around the patch but I didn't pick out any Little Gull. Along with Ken Miller we had a quick look around the moat for the Hume's Warbler but by now the rain had started and only Blackbird, Robin and a Rabbit were seen.

Next stop was the ARC pit. While everyone else headed for the dry hide or screen I felt a bit mad and decided to walk down the main road to have a look over the New Diggings (which are probably quite old now). It turned out to be a good idea for as soon as I scanned over the water I picked out the 2 Black-Throated Diver swimming close together and just behind them was a female Goosander. Happy with that I went back to the ARC and plonked myself down in the screen hide. Just before I arrived 2 Great White Egret had flown in but only one was on view along with a Little Egret. At the far south end I noted 2 more Great White's but I could not find anymore of the 7 reported the day before. My first male Goldeneye of the year was the only other bird of note. It was then time to leave but I had another moment of madness and decided to walk up the entrance track rather than try to remove wet clothing to get on the coach only to have to put it back on again in a few minutes. I scanned the garden of the farm for Tree Sparrow but only found a Great Tit and on my walk I noted a flock of around 40 Curlew and a female Marsh Harrier that looked rather sorry for itself in the rain. The rest of the reserve was a blur of wind and stinging the face horizontal rain but from the different hides I had cracking views of two female Smew and my first Teal of the year while out on Denge Marsh a single Shelduck looked out of place and a fly over Turnstone. But just as the weather forecast had predicted no sooner as I sat on the coach out popped the sun! 15 year ticks in all taking the tally to 89 for the year. Bloody rain!

Late Night Hoot - 25.1.14

I had an evening in alone after Carey had gone to see a friend so I wasted a couple of hours watching the film Pacific Rim all about massive monsters and equally massive robots. It was fairly enjoyable and once it had finished I turned the tv off and thought I could hear Tawny Owls calling. I opened the living room window and sure enough at least 3 birds were calling to each other.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Dross - 24.1.14

Possibly the same Sparrowhawk from yesterday again flew over the yard as did a Cormorant. Hopefully things will improve on here in terms of interesting reading as tomorrow I'm off to Dungeness with the Watford RSPB group but looking at the weather the only thing I'll get is pneumonia!!

Dull - 23.1.14

A Sparrowhawk over the yard at Wiggenhall Road was the only thing of note.

Hilfield Reservoir - 19.1.14

This post should have gone in front of the last two but I can't be arsed to delete them and type them out again!

 As I had Tom I thought I'd drag him around the reservoir for some fresh air and hopefully get to see some of the birds that were being ringed close up and hopefully add some more species to my Patchwork Challenge list. It turned out that I had already missed 4 PWC ticks that morning so things looked grim. Just then the ringers arrived and out of the bags appeared a Goldfinch which tom wanted to stroke but was told no he can't! But he was allowed to gently hold and release a Blue Tit which seemed to make his day. One of the ringers then received a phone call from Tony Blake who was scanning the water to say he had just found a Mediterranean Gull. So up the steps we went and as is usual it was on the far side. It was a 2nd Winter bird but unlike the mainly black wing tipped individual I had on new year's day this one had mainly white wingtips. So there is a good chance it's a different bird. The walk round was pretty uneventful with only Green Woodpecker new for the list and seeing 2 female Goldeneye. It was only as I was locking the main gate that a BH Gull flew over sounding annoyed that I looked up and saw it was attacking a Sparrowhawk which was another tick. So after 3 visits I've now seen 57 species which from the challenge's scoring system gives me 59 points. Better that I thought but compared to other sites it's most likely useless!

January Butterfly - 22.1.14

A fairly warm feeling day (well for January anyway) saw a Peacock butterfly flying along St.Alban's Road, Watford. I only noticed it as two young girls were walking down the path and one of them started ducking and screaming as the butterfly started to flap around her! Bird wise a Siskin over Callowland Rec was the only thing of note.

Watford - 21.1.14

The only bird of note was a Goldcrest that appeared in a small shrub bed opposite Cassiobury Park while re-staking a street tree.

Cassiobury Park - 18.1.14

As I'm no longer working in the park it made a nice change to pay a visit and not feel like I was at work! The only trouble with not working there anymore is that my year list is struggling with things that I'd normally pick up so I was hoping to add a few new birds on our walk round today. As it turned out only 1 was added with 3-4 Coal Tit on the feeders viewed from the hide.

Year Ticks - 17.1.14

My first Siskin (71) of the year flew over Oxhey Grange bowls club and 2 Green Woodpecker (72) were seen in Cassiobury Park an hour later.

Marking Out - 16.1.14

First thing at work a Grey Heron was perched on top of one of the garages whilst it was still dark then later in the day a Grey Wagtail flew over Oxhey Park and 2 Red Kite were seen over Knutsford Rec while marking out the rugby pitch.

Watford - 15.1.14

As I was walking to the office in Wiggenhall Road a Bullfinch was heard calling from the trees above my car.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Chipperfield, Hilfield + Tring - 11.1.14

The Pink-Footed Goose
A nice sunny day for once so on opening the curtains my first Buzzard of the year flew past quickly followed by a Sparrowhawk.

As I'm taking part in the Patchwork Challenge I thought it best that I should have a proper walk around Hilfield and try to add a few more species to the list. On reaching the top of the steps 4 Buzzard were flying over the north pines and in amongst the trees was my first Grey Heron (58) of the year. During the walk around I noted 2 Bullfinch, 2 Treecreeper, 4 Lesser Redpoll and finally caught up with the Goldeneye that had been present for a few days. The last bird of my visit was a screeching Water Rail. In all I added 10 more species for the challenge. I just now have to write up the list and work out my points.

As I had a couple of hours of daylight left I headed up to Wilstone Reservoir. I walked round to the jetty but there was no sign of the Water Pipit but in the hedge behind was a female Reed Bunting. Next stop was the hide where I had a scan and straight away found the Black-Tailed Godwit in with the Lapwings. Just then Dave Bilcock said he had the Pink-Footed Goose in with the small flock of Greylag Geese. It had been found before Christmas but had disappeared so was a welcome tick. At least 30 Snipe were huddled together in a gap in the reeds and 2 Little Egret were seen flying around.

Watford - 9.1.14

While driving along Vicarage Road a Sparrowhawk flew over.

Harebreaks Rec - 8.1.14

Today it was a quick case of checking the football pitches to see if they were playable and while at Harebreaks Rec at least 300 Woodpigeon flew over as did a Grey Wagtail. Just then I heard the drumming of a GS Woodpecker (56) before it flew a short distance.

Chipperfield - 7.1.14

After a quiet day at work I went home and while walking back to the flat I heard the call of Skylark (54). I looked up and saw at least 9 flying south. A welcome year tick. Shortly after a Sparrowhawk (55) flew past the living room window and also onto the list.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Watford - 6.1.14

A Red Kite was seen again near Knutsford Rec and that was about it!

Weekend Sightings

A quiet weekend with occasional moments of looking at birds saw a couple of Red Kite viewed from the flat and in Hemel Hempstead town centre a flock of Canada Geese were a year tick. A Grey Wagtail was on the flooded river outside of TK Maxx.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Claim To Fame

In a recent post I mentioned that a highlight for last year was identifying the welsh Orphean Warbler from photos on the internet. After a text from fellow birder Bob Cripps I downloaded the January edition of Birdwatch magazine and there in print is my name! It's the third column near the bottom.

Also of note from today (3.1.14) was a Bullfinch in Cassiobury Park and a Red Kite over Knutsford rec.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Watford - 2.1.14

Today it was back to work and straight out marking the football pitches. Between all the sites another 16 species were added including Stock Dove and Grey Wagtail taking the year list to 51.


My plan was to head to Devon and Dorset and clear up a few of the good things down there but due to the continuing crappy weather and the fact I was still in bed at 10.30 meant that wasn't going to happen! I stared out of the living room window and the first bird of the year was a Red Kite. Just after noon I'd had enough and donned the waterproofs and headed for Hilfield Reservoir. This year I have chosen to do the Patchwork Challenge and luckily for me Hilfield scrapes in at just under the 3km square patch limit. Half way around to the hide I was beginning to think I should have stayed indoors as I shielded my eyes from the driving rain. I sat in the hide and for the last couple of hours of daylight scanned through all the birds and noted them down. An adult Great Black-Backed Gull was one of only five gulls on the water and was a patch first for me. 2 Black-Necked Grebe were a nice bird for the list. Soon after I was joined by Steve Murray and between us we tried to find the day before's Kittiwake but unfortunately it wasn't seen though Steve did find a nice 2nd Winter Mediterranean Gull just before it got too dark. The day ended on 35 species.

Missed Mega's 2013

Here is a depressing list of Mega rarities that turned up last year which if I'd been in the right place at the right time I'd have seen. But I didn't!

1. Forster's Tern
2. American Coot
3. American Herring Gull
4. Black-Browed Albatross
5. Pine Grosbeak
6. Baikal Teal
7. Harlequin Duck
8. Rock Thrush
9. White-Throated Needletail
10. Ascension Frigatebird
11. Bridled Tern
12. Swinhoe's Petrel
13. Fea's Petrel
14. Bulwers Petrel
15. Yelkouan Shearwater
16. Little Shearwater
17. Red-Billed Tropicbird
18. Black + White Warbler
19. Elegant Tern
20. Great Snipe
21. Wilson's Warbler
22. Eastern Kingbird
23. White's Thrush
24. Sykes Warbler
25. Isabelline Wheatear
26. Hudsonian Whimbrel
27. Thick-Billed Warbler
28. Cedar Waxwing
29. Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler
30. Ovenbird
31. Siberian Rubythroat
32. Cape May Warbler
33. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
34. Myrtle Warbler
35. Mourning Dove
36. Hermit Thrush
37. Lesser Kestrel
38. Orphean Warbler
39. Yellow-Breasted Bunting
40. Ivory Gull

If I'd seen all of those my UK list would be 467!