At about 8am I was awoken by the vibrating of my pager on the bedside table and amazed to read that a Hudsonian Godwit had been found in Somerset. Unfortunately it was my weekend having my son and so a 6 hours in the car was just going to make him moan so I gave up any thoughts of going and turned over and went to sleep! At nearly 11am my mum rang to tell me about plans for Sunday dinner with her brother and his wife and so I asked if she fancied a trip to Somerset! She said no but she'd take my boy so I could go. Good old mum! I dropped him off and headed on my way. I arrived on site at Meare Heath NR at just gone 3.30pm and quickly walked towards the large crowd of birders already gathered even getting lucky with a Wood Warbler singing from the hedge. I took my place at the end of the line only to be told that the bird was tucked into the bank and was out of view. With that news I scanned over the water and immediately picked up some good year ticks in the shape of a Greenshank and only my 9th ever Wood Sandpiper. A Bittern then flew over with a couple of others heard booming. Just then all the godwits were spooked and in the middle of the flock was a dark bird with black armpits. It was my first ever HUDSONIAN GODWIT. This 3rd for Britain then showed well feeding and preening albeit at the back of the Meare. It was noticeably darker and heavily barred and fed like a Dowitcher sp and resembled plumage wise a Stilt Sandpiper. The bill was very long and upturned two toned orange and black. Other birds noted were a few singing Cetti'sWarblers, Marsh Harrier, pinging Bearded Tits and a White Wagtail. After a few words with Tony Blake and some more views of the godwit I headed back to the car adding my first Swift of the year. I made a couple of calls to say I was leaving at 4.18pm not realising that just 3 minutes earlier the bird took flight and at the time of writing hasn't been seen since! Talk about good timing. The journey home in the rain was made even better with Watford FC getting promoted to the Premiership!
With news of two potential patch ticks I headed up after work but despite scanning I couldn't pick out the Green Sandpiper and Greenshank that had been reported earlier in the day. However I did finally add House Martin to the list.
Just after 10am news broke of 2 Little Gulls on Marsworth followed an hour or so later of 2 BlackTern and 10 Little Gull on Wilstone. I left work and headed straight there and immediately picked out the 2 Black Tern and 8 adult summer plumaged Little Gulls. I walked to the jetty for better views but they had taken off and then spent the next 10 minutes flying over the water before heading off to Marsworth! Also seen were 3 Egyptian Geese, Oystercatcher and my first female Blackcap of the year.
News broke of a couple of Arctic Tern on Wilstone and after missing 6 earlier in the month I popped up before going to clear out my mums pond that I promised to do for her Mother's Day present! On arrival all the terns were over the far side and to save my boy walking all the way to the jetty I scanned from the top of the car park steps. Eventually I picked out one of the Arctic's sat on one of the barley bails. I got Tom onto it and he said nice but more out of politeness! It was my 100th species for the patchwork challenge this year.
To keep my boy happy I took him to play football on the common. What he didn't know was that it was Nomansland Common near Wheathampstead! Once there we walked into the woods where we bumped into Steve Blake, Graham Knight, Francis Buckle and another guy. After some hello's I heard the song of the bird we were all hoping to see. I heard it a couple more times and eventually we had great views of a stunning Wood Warbler showing off in Hawthorns. It had a metal ring on its left leg so I wonder where it had gained its bling?
As is typical after visiting the reservoirs one day something will no doubt turn up the following day and today was no different! I woke to the news of 3 Black Tern on Startops and after some chores at home I popped up and at the top of the car park steps I flushed a stunning male Yellow Wagtail. It flew a few feet and so I looked for the terns and out on one of the barley bunds all 3 were stood together.
I had a couple of hours spare so despite my car doing its best to fall apart I made it there. The male Garganey was asleep under the willows along the west side and while watching that a pair of Mandarin swam into view and onto the list. I then walked around with Steve Blake and up on the dry canal a Whitethroat was heard. We parted our separate ways and I headed off to Marsworth and Startops. As soon as I stepped out the car I could hear a Cuckoo calling and as I walked to the water a Kingfisher flew past. A Sedge Warbler was singing from the reed bed as did a Cetti's Warbler. On Startops were 27 Common Tern and a Common Sandpiper.
I then popped into College Lake more in hope than anything. I scanned all over and was pleased to find the Little Ringed Plover that had been around for a while but even better I picked out a Dunlin.
Currently at work we are having to do a one day a week course to gain a CPC licence to allow us to tow a trailer behind the vans despite us having one it for years! On a Monday we finish at 3pm but due to the course it was going to be a 4pm finish. That wasn't a problem until about 3.10pm when checking a tweet. The news made my heart race and sink at the same time. A male White-SpottedBluethroat had been found at Amwell NR!! Luckily we got out a few minutes early so I drove to pick up my son who I was dropping of at my mums and shot over to Amwell. I arrived and parked up and there on the viewpoint was the Who's who of Herts birding! I was told where it had last been seen and so staked it out through my scope. Thankfully within 5 minutes out it popped showing off its beautiful bright blue throat. Over the next 90 minutes it only showed about a further 4-5 times which was a shame but it was on my list! It was only the 6th for Herts and the first to be twitchable. It was my 5th in the UK and my first away from the Isles of Scilly and my first in Spring. While I waited for the bird to show I had a quick scan around the reserve and noted 2 Black-Necked Grebe and a single Little Ringed Plover as well as 2 Little Egret.
Yet another visit but this time including all 4 reservoirs. On Wilstone I managed to see the pair of Garganey from the jetty despite the gale force wind! From cemetery corner I scoped my first Common Tern of the year and up on the dry canal I had a quick look at the manure pile in the field and bingo I found my first Wheatear of the year! A few singing warblers were dotted about but near the new overflow I scanned for any sign of the Mandarins that had been seen the day before but with no sign of them I was more than happy to find a Common Sandpiper! 16 Sand Martin flew in as I was leaving.
Next stop was Marsworth Reservoir where the only thing of note was my first Reed Warbler singing from the reed bed. On Startops 3 Redshank were the only thing of note. A pair of Shelduck and Red-Crested Pochard were seen on Tringford Reservoir from the hide.
An after work visit produced the good with 5 patch ticks seen. The highlight was a lovely drake Garganey off the jetty and in the field behind the jetty were 4 Egyptian Geese. 2 Oystercatcher, LittleEgret, 23 Linnet and a Redshank were written into the notebook. 2 Willow Warbler, 4 Swallow and 4 Sand Martin were new for the year and with a couple of minutes to spare before leaving a Barn Owl finally put in an appearance which after over 6 attempts at seeing it was a relief!
A walk around the reservoir added a couple more for the patch list. 2 Treecreeper chasing each other in the wood at cemetery corner and the first singing Blackcap of the year. 9 Chiffchaff were singing and the Shelduck pair flew in. A female Mallard with 11 chicks was a cute surprise when walking back to the car.
Before we headed home we popped into Weybourne in the hope of some more year ticks. On the small pool adjacent to the car park the pair of Garganey were still present. These were only my 3rd and 4th of this stunning duck in Norfolk so were a pleasure to see. Next stop was the coastguard cottages east of the car park. On the walk up a Chiffchaff was singing and 2 adult summer Mediterranean Gull flew past but there was no sign of the hoped for Iceland Gull during our visit. Arriving at the field just east of the cottages I was dismayed to see the size of it and the thought of trying to find the target birds in it. Luckily after about an hour an old couple waved us over and sure enough on the field edge were 2 male Lapland Bunting. One had more chestnut on the nape and the other had an almost black throat. Both nice to see as were the 3 Yellowhammer at the other end of the field and lots of Skylarks.
As we were in Norfolk we headed over to Caister to see my dad but not before an hour or so seawatching from the end of second avenue. It turned out to be quite fruitful with 11 Red-Throated and 3 Great Northern Diver, a single Razorbill and 1st winter Mediterranean Gull going past along with 50+ Gannet.
We had an early start as a drive up to a B+B in Holt was needed for a couple of days away. We arrived in Cromer just after 9.30am so we parked up and walked into the town for a spot of breakfast. Once finished we walked along the seafront and as luck would have it a couple of Fulmar flew past! A Rock Pipit was also heard.
Seeing as we couldn't get into our lodgings until 4pm we drove along the north coast through some of the top birding sites Norfolk has to offer. I popped into Cley visitor centre for a toilet break and ended up buying a new Moth book and getting new eye cups for my bins costing a total of £50! As news was quiet on the reserve I fancied a seawatch from the beach car park. After another £1.50 to get in I scanned the sea for about an hour. 30 odd Brent Geese flew past as did the odd sight of a Grey Heron but the about half way out I picked up 5 Sandwich Terns heading east. A quick scan of the reserve picked out singles of Redshank, Shelduck and Avocet.
Heading back to our B+B I slammed on the brakes as off in a roadside field were 2 Grey Partridge. Dinner was had in Wells with a view over the marshes. Hundreds more Brent Geese were roosting and 2 Little Egret were doing likewise.
While sat at the lights at J20 of the M25 a Lapwing flew over a nearby field.
As a large tree had come down over one of the paths in the woods 3 of us were sent to clear it. No sooner as a chainsaw had been started up a Woodcock flew out from its roost and disappeared from view. This was a welcome tick for my Cassiobury Park and WW list. Though how many more I'll add seeing as I don't work in there anymore is anyones guess!
Another walk around Wilstone for patch year ticks saw a couple of additions. A male Yellowhammer was a sight for sore eyes up on the dry canal but a lone Egyptian Goose on the Drayton Bank was a huge relief after missing it a few times. 2 Oystercatcher and at least 6 Chiffchaff were also noted.
As I had a few minutes to spare I popped into College Lake to see what was about. I bumped into Ed Griffiths who said there was a Shelduck on the far side and so with a quick scan I picked it up and onto the list it went.
As it was the 3rd anniversary of when we first met myself and Carey booked into the Pendley Manor hotel in Tring for a romantic night away. This was good news as first thing in the morning a drake Common Scoter was found at Wilstone! So after nervously asking if we could make a very minor and very quick detour I found myself at the top of the car park steps and thanks to Steve Rodwell I got straight onto the scoter. A quick couple of photos later (albeit after sunset) and we were off for dinner and our night away!
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.