Typically I managed to sleep in longer today than any other day of the long weekend bank holiday so by the time I arrived at Hilfield it was 9.30am. On the dam were 2 Common Sandpiper and a total of 7 singing Whitethroat were noted around the res. Once past the hide I had a scan over the water and the tern rafts. Unfortunately for any terns the rafts are smothered in breeding BH Gulls and a CanadaGoose nest! It was while having this scan that a duck flew into my scope view heading away from me before landing on the water. There in front of me was a stunning drake Garganey! This was only the second time I'd seen this species here with the previous time consisting of 2 male and 1 female. It also turned out to be the only patch tick of my visit. Other species noted on the walk round were a female Bullfinch, 2 male Reed Bunting and a fly over Grey Wagtail.
After leaving here I popped into my mums to see how her holiday to Istanbul went and then have her grip me off with a photo of a Laughing Dove before I headed up to Tring Reservoirs.
Cuckoo and Mandarin
First stop was Startops End Reservoir where I managed to parking space. It was fairly quiet birdwise mainly due to the amount of people walking around letting their dogs into the water. 2 Redshank and about 20 Common Tern were sat on the barley bunds and a male Yellow Wagtail flew over and landed in the horse field over the road. I quickly popped into Tringford Reservoir and happily found the male Red-Crested Pochard. Next stop was Marsworth Reservoir where almost immediately I hard a Cuckoo. After a few minutes I picked it up in a tree on the far side of the water. This was species number 150 for the year. Also heard from the reedbed were 2 Cetti's Warbler and a handful of Reed and Sedge Warbler. I wandered up to the canal and quite quickly heard a singing Lesser Whitethroat. Another Yellow Wagtail then flew over. My final stop was Wilstone Reservoir where I again nabbed a parking space. On reaching the top of the steps I scanned over to the jetty and straight away connected with a drake Mandarin. I then bumped into Steve Rodwell and Mike Hirst (nice to meet you!). Another Lesser Whitethroat was singing in the hedgerow and my first Kingfisher of the year flew by. Just then Steve said he had a Marsh Harrier and sure enough a female was over the far reeds. Surprisingly it had coloured wing tags with an orange one on the right wing and an off white on the left. After some investigating it would seem it was tagged on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent last year. Birding was then interrupted by a heavy downpour so I retreated to the car. Once it had stopped I walked round to the hide and joined Steve, Ian Williams, Dave Bilcock and Mike Wallen. The tagged harrier flew over the reeds allowing a number (59) to be seen on a tag before going out of view. A few minutes later it was back but then we realised it didn't have any tags on it! It was a second bird either a female or 1st summer male. 7 Snipe were flushed by the harriers and a male Shelduck flew in but soon vanished. A Cuckoo and Sparrowhawk were noted along with an Oystercatcher on one of the rafts.
After work I decided to have a walk around the reservoir as Carey was out with friends. A quick scan over the water produced 40+ Sand Martin and at least a dozen Swallow. On the dam was a CommonSandpiper and just then a high pitched zeeep got my attention as a Yellow Wagtail flew over. I bumped into Steve near the hide where he told me he'd had a Little Egret the day before! From the SE fountain I finally picked up 2 Common Tern hawking over the water. Other highlights were a Sparrowhawk over the viewpoint along with 2 Red Kite and a Coal Tit. As I was watching the CoalTit I noticed a small butterfly heading towards me. It was only when it briefly settled I realised it was a Thorn Moth sp. It was smaller than an Orange-Tip butterfly and a pale yellowy cream colour. I tried to get a photo but the bugger wouldn't stay still long enough! I had a quick look on Google and Early and Purple Thorn were the wrong colour so it looks like it was a Little Thorn moth. Apparently they fly in the day and even in cloudy conditions as it was today. But according to Alan Reynolds this would be a new species for Hertfordshire! So I guess its one that got away? As I reached the dam a Grey Wagtail landed briefly and a Linnet flew south. I had a quick scan along the waters edge for the Common Sandpiper and found 2 quickly followed by a 3rd that flew in.
A Sparrowhawk flew over Cassiobury Park early morning and then in the afternoon I received a text from Steve Murray informing me of a good patch tick at Hilfield. So after work I headed over and thankfully on the water were the pair of Shelduck. They were a nice grip back as I'd missed the 4 earlier on the year.
A leisurely couple of hours around the patch threw up some more year and patch ticks. On the dam was my first Common Sandpiper of the year and over the water were 20+ Sand Martin and a couple of Swallow. At the southern end of the dam a Linnet flew north. The next year tick was a Whitethroat singing along the fence line shrubs. Near the viewpoint a Lapwing was in the fields of Pages farm and a Willow Warbler was singing erratically. A Grey Wagtail flew over and onto the patch list. 10 Chiffchaff were heard singing around the reservoir and 8 Blackcap were also heard plus a silent female.
A quick couple of hours around the reservoir before heading over to be with the boy was pretty average but did produce 4 more patch ticks for my patchwork challenge. After having never seen a RL Partridge before I found another 2 in a field over the road. This was followed by a female Mallard with 13 chicks. Around the reservoir were 10 Chiffchaff 2 of which were collecting nest material. The first of my patch ticks was a singing Blackcap out of a total of 3 birds. 4 Pied Wagtail were on the dam and in the SW corner my second patch tick flew past in the shape of a male Reed Bunting. Non avian highlights were a Muntjac and my first Orange-Tip and Small White butterflies. Once back at the dam I had a mad 5 minutes when 2 Swallow zoomed through north and onto the year list. These were quickly followed by 3 Meadow Pipit also heading north and a last scan of the res produced 5 Sand Martin and the last patch tick of the day with 2 Lapwing over the far side.
Today was spent marking out the football pitches around Watford. Apart from the odd Chiffchaff singing in various parks it was pretty quiet until we reached Harebreaks rec in North Watford. As I was marking out the junior pitches I heard a familiar call coming from the adjacent woods. It was only another singing Firecrest! Possibly due to my fluorescent yellow waistcoat (which I have to wear for health and safety reasons even though I'm in a park 100 yards from a road) the bird came closer and closer singing its head off and baring its glorious crest. It certainly brightened up my day.
After a day at work neither myself or Carey could be arsed to cook so we wandered around to the Two Brewers pub in the village and after a lovely meal we walked back home. But I was briefly stopped in my tracks along King's Lane as presumably one of last years Firecrest was singing from the same gardens as last year. This was great news that they are still around and it brought my year list up to a nice round 140.
During work I received a couple of text messages informing me of a Little Gull at the res so as I finish at 3pm on a Monday I was down there promptly. On site were Steve Murray and Joan Thompson with her hubby. I got onto the gull which was an adult winter bird with just the smallest hint of black on the face. Soon after Joan left and no sooner was she out the gate then I heard the call of Sand Martin overhead. Initially I picked out 5 but the number rose to 9 before the disappeared. I had a quick look at the logbook and read that Red-Legged Partridge had been seen the day before under the feeders. I couldn't recall ever seeing one here so I turned round and looked down to the feeders and sure enough a single RLP was feeding on the floor! Just as I was walking down the steps to the car a Red Kite was seen in the distance. Not a bad hours birding.
On Thursday I joked to my son that if news from his parents evening was bad I'd punish him by dragging him out birding all weekend! Luckily for him his work had improved and so he'd escaped. But then as we were in town on Saturday shopping in Boots the mega alert went off! Due to plans to visit the cinema with my brother the twitch had to be delayed. Sunday morning and news was positive that the bird in question was still present so I dragged my boy along anyway! A short trip into neighbouring Cambridgeshire saw us arrive on site in just over an hour. As we drove up the entrance track 2 Red-Legged Partridge were in the fields to the right and then straight onto the year list. I parked up with a couple of other cars just before the very weird guided busway. Basically it's 2 concrete tracks running through the middle of the reserve that normal single and double decker buses run on! A nice 1 mile walk eventually found us on the track down to Moore Lake at the far west end of the reserve. A couple of Cetti's Warblers burst into song along the way as were a few Chiffchaff. Eventually we came across a few other birders and from the hide I got onto my first ever BAIKALTEAL. It was a stunning pristine drake fully winged and un-ringed keeping mainly to itself but loosely associating with a few Teal and Wigeon. I got Tom onto it and he replied yeah I got it and its very nice! (I'll make a birder out of him one day!). We watched swim from left to right picking off flies from the surface of the water. Once we'd had our fill of this bird I had a quick scan of the islands and picked out the head and upper body of an Avocet which was a nice year tick. On the walk back to the car I had a quick scan over another of the lakes as the day before it had held Scaup, Garganey and Smew. Apart from a Scaup and a few Goldeneye I didn't have time to have a good look for the other species. There have now been 4 accepted records of Baikal Teal so as long as this bird keeps looking wary, not eating bread thrown at it and flies off soon it has a good chance of being number 5.
Whilst sat on the sofa looking out the window I noticed a large flock of birds flying south away from the flat. I grabbed my bins and sure enough they were Golden Plover! I counted roughly 70 birds before they disappeared out of view.
On the way to Cassiobury Park a drake Tufted Duck flew over Rickmansworth Road and West Herts sports ground. From the direction of flight it most certainly flew out from the park. In the park 2 Lesser Redpoll were still around the yard.
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.