After the excitement of yesterdays lifer came a Watford RSPB coach trip to one of my favourite reserves up in Suffolk. The birding started before we had even arrived as I spotted a Stone Curlew in a field to the right of the entrance track! Once on the reserve a Marsh Tit was added to the year list along with many Cetti'sWarbler, 4 Bittern, 4 Treecreeper and a few Marsh Harrier. Other highlights for the day included 8 Bearded Tit, 8 Little Tern, Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Little Gull, a 2nd Summer Mediterranean Gull, a colour-ringed Kittiwake, a stunning summer plumaged Grey Plover, 2 late male Wigeon, LRP, Curlew Sandpiper and a Great White Egret. I also added 2 new butterfly species with Brown Argus and Small Heath.
As you may have (hopefully) read I had a bit of a disastrous weekend last weekend when I dipped the Greater Yellowlegs in Hampshire and then not even getting a chance to get to Norfolk for the CitrilFinch! Fast forward 6 days and news came on the pager that the yellowlegs was on show this time on the reserve at Titchfield Haven. I enquired on Twitter as to what it was doing and I got a reply back saying it looks settled and its sleeping. With that news I decided to try again and so after picking up young Ephraim Perfect who had enquired about a lift we were off. Traffic on the M25 and then roadworks on the M3 meant it took a little longer to arrive than had hoped but arrive we did, found a space and bought our permits. A fast walk in the fairly warm sun meant I as sweating in more ways than one but I needn't have worried as upon arrival at the Pumfrett Hide I clapped eyes on my first GREATER YELLOWLEGS as it fed on the far side of the North scrape. Finally after seeing 8 LesserYellowlegs I had its bigger cousin on my list! A pair of Mediterranean Gull and Avocet were the only other noteworthy birds.
I'd finished work and then at 6.30 I had an appointment with the chiropractor in Kings Langley. I'd planned to visit Wilstone afterwards for a summer plumaged Turnstone on the jetty and had texted Carey to say as such. Near the end of my appointment I could hear my phone ringing but couldn't answer it. Thinking it was Carey getting back to me I checked my phone on the way to the car and saw a text from Steve Blake and a missed call from Mike Illet! Something's just been found at Amwell. I listened to Mike's voicemail to hear the words Roseate Tern at Amwell!! I quicklyphoned Carey and asked if she could put my dinner in the microwave as I may be some time! The M25 was being kind and so I was on site within 25 minutes. A brisk walk up to the viewpoint and there it was sat on the mud my first ever Roseate Tern in Herts. In fact it was everyone's first as the only previous record was from Tring in 1969! It was ringed on both legs meaning it was from Coquet Island's population in Northumberland. It was a bit flighty and so gave newcomers some stressful moments but it was present until 9pm allowing many to connect even if most were in the doghouse for leaving half way through dinner! Thanks to Adrian Hall for finding it and Mike and Steve for the news.
Amwell has now produced my last 3 Herts ticks in the shape of Yellow-Browed Warbler, Bluethroat and the Roseate Tern. What will number 4 be?!
All day Saturday the amazing disappearing Greater Yellowlegs in Hampshire was on view near the village of Titchfield. This bird first found in January had only showed 5-6 times since and so thinking that perhaps it may do a repeat performance I headed down with my mum and boy to hopefully see it. Checking the pager on the way came back with no news so it wasn't looking great. It got even worse when 25 minutes from the site the mega alert went off. As my son was in the car I resisted from using expletives but I was still seriously pissed off as the 2nd Citril Finch for the UK had just been found in Norfolk. If I were on my own I'd have turned round and gone but with others in tow I couldn't. We arrived on site and nabbed a car paring space and wandered down to the floods. a pair of Stonechat were a year tick but on the flood 100+ Black-Tailed Godwit were minus the Greaterlegs. I then finally met Phil Bishop of Amwell fame and had a chat. My mum and son walked down to the beach while I had a look elsewhere but the bird had done another vanishing act! A Black Swan in Hill Head harbour was about as exotic as it got! News on the way home became even more depressing as the finch was showing well!
It then became even worse on the Monday. While eating my lunch the mega alert went off again. It wasn't the Citril Finch being re found (it had flown off just after 6am) but it was the mainland's first Moltoni's Subalpine Warbler a nice male on Blakeney Point,Norfolk with a probable female with it. I'd officially had enough!!
Back in 2007 I needed 3 species of pipit to complete the set on the UK list. The Autumn of that year provided an opportunity to add both Pechora Pipit in Wales and Buff-Bellied in Oxon and Berks. Roll forward 8 years and I'd still not had a sniff at adding the last one of the set a Red-Throated Pipit! The nearest I'd come was 2 on Scilly in I think it was 2011 that turned up 4 days after I'd left and another 2 again on Scilly last year about 2-3 weeks after I'd gone home. Many are seen every year but all of them have been on remote islands or fly overs so when news broke of one on the deck on the Derbyshire/Gtr Manchester border I started to think can I get it. After years of not getting close to one I decided to see if it flew off but by the time I realised this one was sticking I'd stupidly left it too late to go so it was great news on the morning of the next day that it was still present. I jumped in the car and headed north through endless roadworks on the M1. I turned off at the Chesterfield exit and finally witnessed the twisted spire of the church! I got through the town and no sooner had I entered the Peak District park I hit traffic that held me up for nearly an hour. It turned out everyone was heading to Chatsworth House! The traffic jam did have a good advantage in that I heard a singing Pied Flycatcher between Robin Hood and Baslow!
Eventually I arrived on site and walked up to join about 30 other birders. The bird was still present but currently down a dip and out of site. Just then up it popped and finally RED-THROATED PIPIT was on my list and the pipit family was complete! The bird was a stunning summer plumaged bird with its lovely orangey-red throat and face and a much paler body compared with the Meadow Pipits nearby. For the next 30 minutes it played hide and seek with us and so I only managed a distant heat hazed photo but I was very happy to had seen it. I'd even given up going to see Watford FC's open top bus parade back home for this! With a 3 hour home journey ahead of me I made my way home but allowing myself enough time for a detour into Bedfordshire. Back in Chesterfield and stuck in traffic near a park and shopping area I heard a Crossbill calling from some pine trees but I didn't see it before I drove off.
The traffic was fairly kind and I made good time but just before the turn off I wanted the traffic started to build so that made my mind up and off I came. The village of Lidlington was my next stop and so I parked up and followed the released details up to the fence of the Amptill proving ground. Others had talked about 1,2 or 3 visits over many hours waiting for a glimpse of the bird in question so I wasn't holding my breath about seeing it if I was honest. 20 minutes had passed starting down a small ride between the trees when suddenly at the far end a stunning white, green, red and blue bird ran across my scope view and off into the woods. A total of 2 seconds viewing of my first ever LADY AMHERST'S PHEASANT wasn't what I had hoped for but at least I'd only had to wait 20 minutes and not 20 hours for it! I stuck around hoping for another view but all I had was a few calls. Supposedly this is the last remaining bird of its kind and so its on the list but in brackets!! A singing Garden Warbler was nice on the walk back to the car.
A report of a male Whinchat saw me pay another visit to the reservoirs but despite searching till sunset I couldn't find the bird. But scanning the manure field I finally nailed the 2 Red-LeggedPartridge albeit it distantly!
With news of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler behind the local sewage works I decided to pay a visit to Marsworth. On arrival at least 3 Swift were overhead which were a year tick up on the patch. I walked down alongside the (dry) canal which was full of water and had a Lesser Whitethroat rattle in the hedgerow. While listening out for the gropper a Peregrine flew over and eventually the gropper reeled a couple of times which was a relief!
I then popped to Wilstone and after a few minutes picked out my first Hobby of the year in the trees next to the hide.
A meal out back in the village with my family was enjoyable until the landlord of the pub said he was cold so started a log fire. 30 minutes later and it was roasting hot so I went and sat in the car outside and had a Bullfinch in the trees and a pair of Raven displaying overhead.
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.