Sunday, 28 December 2014

Home + Hilfield Reservoir - 27.12.14

The Friendly Kestrel

Finally after 3 months with no updates I've caught up with this blog!! Hopefully normal service will resume and I shall keep it up to date as possible.

On the 14th Dec I had a Peregrine over the garden which was nice!

Today I picked up my bins for the first time since the YBW at Amwell NR on the 19th October and paid my first visit to Hilfield since September. This was mainly due to decorating the new house whenever I had spare time and a bit of birding doldrums. Taking part in the Patchwork Challenge has suffered due to this and so I thought I'd better pay a visit in the hope of adding something new to the list. Unfortunately nothing new was seen although a fly over GBB Gull was only my second of the year and a BN Grebe was nice to see. A female Kestrel seemed to follow me around all day so the least I could do was take her picture!

Due to the position of the reservoir and the fact that popping in after work is ok but getting home is a traffic nightmare I have decided that next year my Patchwork Challenge patch will be Tring Reservoirs and College Lake which is easier for me to get to and from after work. So fingers crossed for some good birding.

Watford - 16.12.14

While doing some work at St.Mary's church in Watford high street 2 male Blackcap appeared in a small Silver Birch tree before flying off 5 minutes later.

KGVPF - 20.11.14

2 Grey Wagtail and a Meadow Pipit flew over mid morning.

Wiggenhall Depot - 19.11.14

15 Fieldfare flew over the car park as I arrived at work.

West Watford - 18.11.14

Before we started pruning in KGVPF s a flock of 21 Fieldfare flew over and then later on 2 Mute Swan flew over a nearby housing estate.

Cassiobury Park - 9.11.14

Whilst clearing up after the fireworks in the park I heard 2 Little Owl calling to each other and a Mistle Thrush singing and over head a Lesser Redpoll and a Meadow Pipit flew through.

Waterfields Rec - 3.11.14

While litter picking the rec I heard a Kingfisher calling as it flew along the river.

Wiggenhall Depot - 1.11.14

2 Skylark and 42 Woodpigeon flew over before we left the yard.

Back to Work - 23.10.14

Marking out the football pitches produced a nice total of 44 RN Parakeet going over KGVPF in small groups and 16 Cormorant over head. At Callowland Rec a Lesser Redpoll was seen and heard as it flew over.

Amwell - 19.10.14

Having spent a week in the SW and clocking up 9 Yellow-Browed Warbler the last thing I expected the day after getting home was to be rushing out the door for was another one! Having missed a tweet from Barry Reed saying he'd found a YBW at Amwell I then received a call from Mike Ilett telling me about it. I was on site as quickly as possible but then had to find my way to the private area the bird was on. Thanks to Brendan Glynn who was at the spot I eventually found myself there along with Joan Thompson but not the bird which had gone silent and sodded off. I hung around for another 20 minutes or so before Joan got a call from Mike saying a 2nd bird had been found near the viewpoint! I told the others and ran back to the path before fast walking ensued up to the picnic area. Mike was in position and quite quickly I got onto the bird as it flicked around in the adjacent bushes. 10 YBW in 10 days and this one my first in Hertfordshire. Both birds were reported over the next couple of days and so seen by many county birders. Only 4 had been seen in Herts before so to have two at one site on one day is quite remarkable! A quick scan from the viewpoint saw a male Stonechat, Little Egret and a calling Cetti's Warbler.

Cornwall - 18.10.14

Ring-Necked Duck

American Golden Plover

Our flight was delayed due to bad weather at Lands End but eventually we got off the islands and back to the mainland. But instead of heading straight home we made a couple of detours. The first was to Drift Reservoir. Try as we may we couldn't connect with the bird we'd come to see from the car park so we walked up to the hide and connected with our first Yank of the trip in the shape of a female Ring-Necked Duck. After watching this bird we headed for Davidstow Airfield. This was a site I'd not visited before and it wasn't really what I had envisaged but none the less on a small pool of water just off the runway was a very showy juvenile American Golden Plover. Only the second one I'd seen with the last being in 2003! Another 11 Little Egret were seen on the way home and eventually I arrived back home just after 9pm.

All in all it was another enjoyable trip and thanks go to Steve, Ricky and Brendon for allowing me to join them and Ricky for doing all the driving. Despite the birds that we did see it was ironic the only 2 Yanks of the trip were on the mainland and because of this and the fact that Shetland pulled in a host of Mega's it seems that next year we will be heading North. This and the fact that next August I'll be turning 40 so it'll be a post birthday treat to myself!

Scilly - 17.10.14


Our last day on the islands was a quiet one birdwise. Another brief seawatch from Peninnis produced singles of Manx Shearwater and Great Skua but I did find a pod of around 100 Dolphins way out near the horizon. Thankfully at least one person got on a couple of them to prove I wasn't seeing things. Steve and I again split off from the other 2 and headed down to Higher Moors where we bumped into a couple looking into a field. When we asked what they were looking at they said a Whinchat. At the back of the field sure enough was a Whinchat which was a nice trip tick. This was quickly followed by another at nearby Porth Hellick in the same field as another male Ring Ouzel which I saw briefly but Steve didn't despite spending sometime looking for it. The final new bird for the trip list was a group of Ringed Plover sheltering from the wind.

Scilly - 16.10.14

Having only spent a couple of hours on St.Agnes on the first day we decided to spend the day there today. Before the boat left we paid our daily visit to Porthcressa but only saw a Wheatear for our troubles. Up on the Garrison the one Yellow-Browed Warbler that was left in the Sycamore was showing well.

Short-Toed Lark

Ring Ouzel

Grey Plover

Over on aggy we eventually found Castella Down and in a field with some cows we saw our second Short-Toed Lark of the trip though this one was somewhat closer. Personally I think STL is a very ugly bird! News of a Grey Plover saw us heading back towards the quay as somehow I'd not connected with one all year! As we passed the campsite a bird flew up from the grass and onto some rocks. It was a male Ring Ouzel! It showed well before flying into fields but soon returned to the campsite fields but unfortunately it was flushed by a birder in a bright blue coat who thought he wasn't close enough to it stood where he was. Twat! A stop off near the lighthouse for a Short-Toed Lark proved to be a waste of time as the bird turned out to be a soggy Skylark! Down at the Fruit Cages I connected with my 8th Yellow-Browed Warbler of the trip as it fed just above our heads. My 9th YBW of the trip followed soon after with a bird along Barnaby Lane that was in close proximity to a Firecrest. Myself and Steve then headed out onto Wingletang for a spot of seawatching off of Horse Point. Steve found the only notable bird with a Great Skua flying past which was another silly year tick for me. With only an hour or so until the boat back we walked back towards the quay only to hear that the Grey Plover was back on view so a mad dash back to the campsite and finally I connected with it!

Scilly - 15.10.14

Prickly Stick-Insect

Black Redstart

The day again started off at Porthcressa beach. Just offshore was an adult Mediterranean Gull. We then walked up to Penninis Head as the weather was fairly windy a bit of seawatching was in order. It was pretty quiet and so after just 30 minutes and 2 Manx and a single Balearic Shearwater we called it a day. We headed back to Old Town where in the churchyard I finally connected with a Prickly Stick-Insect. Try as we may we couldn't find the Smooth one so that will have to wait for another visit. News of another Red-Breasted Flycatcher on the Garrison saw us pay a visit but it was pretty elusive and views in the end weren't brilliant. By this time we had had enough and so headed back towards the flat but before we made it back there we bumped into a mini twitch around Porthcressa. Up on the rooftops was a stunning male Black Redstart that showed well. Out in the bay we connected with a Sandwich Tern.

Scilly 14.10.14


Possibly the best days birding of the week coincided with the other 3 deciding to go on the mini pelagic with Paul! After last years trip where I felt ill for 90% of the it which concluded in me getting thrown up on I chose it give it a miss this year! As Chris wasn't too keen on boats either I made arrangements to meet him at Rosehill where after a few minutes we connected with a lovely Red-Breasted Flycatcher. We then moved onto Lower Moors to look for a Yellow-Browed Warbler but the only warbler we saw was a Reed Warbler foraging at the top of a 20 foot ivy covered tree! As we walked on towards Old Town the CB crackled into life with news of a Merlin heading over Lower Moors and sure enough 5 seconds later it flew past and onto the trip list. We had a quick scan over Old Town Bay and were just deciding where to go next when the CB told us of a Wryneck on the Garrison so off we headed. We arrived and got into position and quickly got onto it and watched it as it probed for ants on the track. I obtained a few photos of it but only the one above was any good! Onwards we then walked up to the campsite where we connected with not 1 but 2 Yellow-Browed Warbler in a Sycamore tree. We then decided to head towards Carreg Dhu gardens for a Firecrest. We did see 2 Peregrine circling high over the island but in the gardens it wasn't to be a lucky day as trying to listen out for a Firecrest while 2 women laughed like mad Hyenas was impossible. Infact these 2 women became a problem as we seemed to bump into them wherever we went! A few Clouded Yellow butterflies were noted which is always nice. What I didn't realise is that I was almost killing Chris with the amount of walking we were doing so walking round the SE tip of the island probably wasn't a good idea and it was only later when we saw Paul at the log that I found out just how knackered he was! Sorry Chris. 6 Redwing were noted at Maypole before a final visit to Lower Moors where we immediately struck lucky with the Yellow-Browed Warbler as it showed well low down for us. Back at the flat I met up with the others and told them what I'd seen as did they. News then broke of 4 Ring Ouzel up on the Garrison so seeing as it would be a Scilly tick for Ricky we popped up to have a look. They gave us a merry dance but we finally pinned one day in a field below the football pitch. These 4 were small fry compared to the number that passed through Dungeness. An amazing 800+ were seen there with many hundreds all along the east coast!

Scilly - 13.10.14

The morning started off at Porthcressa beach with at least 7 Swallow and singles of Wheatear and Stonechat. We then headed up to the Garrison where we added Spotted Flycatcher to the trip list followed by the strange sight of a Spoonbill flying east towards the airport!

We then headed over to Tresco for a potential Scilly tick. 15 Little Egret were in the Tresco channel which was an important sighting for me as this group took me past the 1,500 Little Egret seen in the UK mark! We set off for the north end of the island but despite there being 30-40 other birders present we couldn't find the Dotterel that had been present for a few days. On the walk back we saw the Buzzard and the assorted ducks etc on the great pool including the 4 Whoopers. News then broke of a Monarch butterfly by the abbey gardens so I steamed off ahead of the others but again there was no sign on arrival. A Yellow-Browed Warbler was calling from inside the gardens but didn't show itself. Just then someone became excited and as I turned around there flying towards us was a large butterfly. It was the Monarch! It flew up into a group of trees and despite seeing where it landed nobody could re-find it. Not exactly the views I'd have hoped for with my first UK Monarch but views all the same.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Scilly - 12.10.14

Jack Snipe


Black Redstart

Short-Toed Lark + Snow Bunting
Richard's Pipit

Our first full day on the islands started off with a walk past the health centre again but only a Blackcap was seen this time with another near Old Town Church. News of a Jack Snipe at Lower Moors saw us pay a visit and sure enough we found it bouncing among the reeds with 3 of its common cousins. A Water Rail and a Kingfisher added a splash of colour. We then headed to the windsock at the southern end of the runway where in with plenty of Meadow Pipit was the Short-Toed Lark and Snow Bunting. The rest of the day was spent visiting what felt like the rest of St.Mary's! My first White Wagtails of the year were seen at Rosehill with my first Black Redstart anywhere for 2 years was seen on Porth Mellon. We stopped off for a cream tea at Juliet's cafĂ© and as we were eating I spotted a Peregrine over the quay. This was followed by news over the CB'sof 4 swans flying in over Samson. Steve said I doubt we'd get them from here to which I replied there they are! As they flew over Tresco they were ID'd as Whooper Swans which was a Scilly tick for me. After our snack we wandered over to the golf course where eventually after much walking around we connected with our 2nd Richard's Pipit in 2 days. We then connected with a Yellow-Browed Warbler at Newford Duckpond but then I went one better and found my own at Content albeit very briefly.

Cornwall + Scilly - 11.10.14

Firecrest (courtesy of Brendon Fagan) and Common Tern
Richard's Pipit

We were up and out of the hotel early so we could get in a bit of birding before our flight. First stop again was the Hayle Estuary. 2 Common Sandpiper and a fairly late Common Tern were seen and then from the road looking over onto Ryan's Field I picked up a stonking male Firecrest that was in with a tit flock feeding in roadside Tamarisks. Once the others had got good views Ricky found a Whimbrel on the field which was a bonus year tick! A quick visit to Marazion Marsh produced nothing more than a Little Egret and a couple of Snipe.

We then headed to Lands End airport for our flight over the Scilly. Just a couple of days before I'd found out that Paul Frost and Chris Sharp (whose blog is in my blog list) were on the same flight as us for their first visit to the islands! Once on the islands we dumped our stuff in the flat and headed up to the health centre where after a short wait we had good views of the long staying Barred Warbler. News then broke of a Tawny Pipit on St.Agnes. As Steve needed it we decided to get the afternoon boat over but unfortunately for Steve the bird turned out to be a Richard's Pipit but it was a good bird to see anyway and became my 200th specie for the year.

Cornwall - 10.10.14

Rose-Coloured Starling
After bumping into the Tyttenhanger lads last year on the Scillies they kindly asked if I wanted to join them this year of which of course I said yes. So on the Friday we met at Ricky's house and set off down to Cornwall. On arrival the first port of call was a Morrison's supermarket car park where after a brief wait we found the juvenile Rose-Coloured Starling perched on a neighbouring light column.

Subalpine Warbler (honest!)

It was then we heard about a good bird at nearby Porthgwarra. After a bit of map reading and car avoiding on the narrow lanes we arrived and parked up. Not knowing where the bird was last seen we wandered around the car park and that was when I heard a single call from a Yellow-Browed Warbler in the dense cover but that was all we had from it. 2 Raven cronked into view and had a tussle with 3 Buzzard. The next noteworthy bird was a fly over Yellow Wagtail quickly followed by 2 Chough before I wandered up the path a bit further to look over a larger area. After a few minutes I picked up a bird to the right of me and was pleased to see it was the Subalpine Warbler that we had come to look for. Annoyingly after just a couple of seconds it flitted off to the left and promptly disappeared from view. I went to get all the other birders present so they could help in re-finding it. After 20 minutes or so I found it but again to vanished. Eventually it was picked up and everyone had great views. I stuck my neck out and said going by plumage it was most likely a Western rather than Eastern bird. So I was surprised to read on the pager later that day it was being called an Eastern! Most of us were hoping it'd be the newly split Moltoni's Warbler and after a day or so that was what it was being touted as but as of yet it's just down as a Subalpine sp. After our fill of the subalp we chose to do a bit of seawatching but not from the coastguards but down near the car park. I sat on a bench and immediately got onto a Balearic Shearwater! In the time we spent looking out to sea we added another 6 Balearic along with 3 Manx and 5 Kittiwake.

The final stop of the day was to the Hayle Estuary. Parking up at various points and scanning across the water we added a few more species to the trip list including 19 Little Egret, 16 Mediterranean Gull, Knot, 10 Greenshank and a Kingfisher.

Watford - 29.9.14

A good day locally with 2 Cormorant and a Meadow Pipit over Harwoods Rec followed by a surprise Greylag Goose on the cricket pitch at KGVPF! 100+ Starling were in VRC cemetery but the best bird of the day was saved till last when a Siskin flew over Wiggenhall yard as I was walking to my car!

Back Garden - 20.9.14

A Swallow was a nice surprise as it flew over the garden.

Watford - 26.9.14

The first bird of the day was a Peregrine that flew over the cemetery. At KGVPF 5 Meadow Pipit and a Linnet flew over. In Cassiobury Park a Chiffchaff was still singing as was another on a return visit to KGVPF.