Due to many boring reasons I won't mention on here I've not been out birding for a couple of weeks so to get my fix I've had to look out to my garden. So far this month I've added Cormorant and MistleThrush to the garden list thanks to single fly overs but today around 9am I was stood by my patio doors looking out when every bird suddenly took off. Thinking a Sparrowhawk was about to come through I was amazed to see a small but chunky falcon appear from the SE heading at just below tree top height passing over the end of my garden before disappearing behind the houses opposite. It was obviously just passing through rather than hunting as it never broke from its direct and fast wingbeats and in the morning sun it's slaty grey/blue upperparts, thin black terminal band on the tail and orangey brown underparts were pretty obvious. It was only a male Merlin!! It became number 55 on the garden list and by far the best bird so far! Its only the 4th I've ever seen in Hertfordshire too. Just got to hope I see a Hobby in the summer now!
I had a couple of spare hours so I decided to have a walk around the park. It was its usual quiet self with a couple of Coal Tit on the feeders from the hide and a pair of Pheasant under the feeders picking up scraps. But just as I was walking back to the car I came across a couple of rather interesting birds. The most noticeable was a Blue and Gold Macaw and with it an Amazon Parrot! I'd seen the Macaw last year flying around but this was the best view I'd got of it. Apparently from what I've heard the owner comes in in the morning and lets them go and then comes back to collect them! Not sure I'd want to let a few thousand pounds worth of exotic birds loose with Peregrine and Sparrowhawk around!
Even without holding much hope that yesterdays Franklin's Gull would reappear myself and a few of Herts keenest listers ventured over to Amwell just in case! Standing at the viewpoint I quickly heard the familiar pinging of a Bearded Tit. After a couple of minutes the female bird that had been present for a while flew from one small clump of reeds to the next. Only my 3rd in Herts! Other birds to keep us interested were a flyby Kingfisher and fly over Peregrine. The next good bird was a 2nd winter Yellow-Legged Gull which again was only my 3rd in Herts. This was followed by a smart 1st Winter Caspian Gull but no sooner as I went to get a photo it flew off and landed too far away to be worth bothering with! This was only my 2nd for Herts! As dark fell and all hopes of the Franklin's being found had diminished I picked out a pair of Mandarin coming off the island just as the locals said they would. These were soon followed by a further 5 pairs! So 12 Mandarin together represented my biggest ever flock in Herts beating 11 seen a few years ago at Wilstone! On the walk back to the car I joined a few people looking out into the gloom and quite quickly a Woodcock flew past us. All in all a good couple of hours even if I did suffer my first Herts dip in a couple of years.
During the morning I popped over to my mums to have a shower as mine had packed up even before having a new one fitted and once showered I had a spot of lunch while looking out into her garden. Bingo up popped the male Blackcap that had been visiting for the last few days. In the afternoon Myself and Carey headed over to her parents for dinner at a nearby pub in Chesham. The day before a Franklin's Gull pitched up at Fen Drayton lagoons in Cambridgeshire and for some reason when leaving the pub I checked my pager only to find that it had appeared briefly to a lucky dozen or so birders at Amwell! The second 1st for Herts in 3 weeks! It was only when I started receiving phone signal again I had a barrage of missed calls and texts telling me such. Thankfully in a way it only staying for 20 minutes meant that I wouldn't have got there in time to see it before it flew anyway.
I headed up to the patch for the evening gull roost and found most of the gull present were congregated on the remaining bits of dry land. But before paying attention to them I headed over to the jetty to see if I could find the 2 Egyptian Geese in amongst the Greylags. With no sign of those so I walked back towards the overflows but as I reached the NE corner I noticed a large gull heading my way and on getting it in the bins I identified it as a 2nd winter Herring Gull. Not amazing in bird terms but not overly common at the reservoirs and so was a nice patch year tick. It got even better as I reached the top of the steps as I picked out another large gull flying over the reedbed. I got it in the scope and was delighted to see it was an adult GBB Gull. This species is even more uncommon here and I think I was lucky last year seeing 3! I spent over an hour scanning the gulls but didn't pick out the hoped for Mediterranean Gull before I was too cold and headed home at 4.30. Dave Bilcock then tweeted that the Med had been seen at 5pm! Typical. One other bird of note was a white colour ringed BH Gull TJCY which was a returning bird from Poland!
A trip to the north Norfolk coast with the Watford RSPB group saw us head to Cley NWT. The day before there had been a good selection of birds with Grey Phalarope, Red-Necked Grebe and Smew all being seen. But typically as we arrived we found out that all 3 had gone! Myself and Bob Harris walked up to the new Babcock hide in the vain hope the phalarope had reappeared but it hadn't. During the muddy walk to the hide I added my first year tick of the trip with a nice male Stonechat sat on top of a clump of reeds. From the hide were 2 Water Pipit and 5 Knot. Walking back towards the reserve I scanned over the floods and picked out 7 Ruff for the year including one with a very white head and neck and around 40 Dunlin. Walking up the East bank I heard the pinging the call of some Bearded Tit but only caught very brief glimpses of them in flight. A scan of the sea didn't produce a great deal as the wind direction was all wrong blowing off the land. 5 Common Scoter,7 Red-Throated Diver and singles of Guillemot and Kittiwake were the only things written down. As I reached the beach car park I had a scan of the 200+ Brent Geese in the hope of seeing the Black Brant which had been present at the start of the year but again failed. I then spent the rest of the day sat in the hide looking over Pat's Pool hoping the adult Caspian Gull would put in an appearance. 25 Avocet brightened the day up as did a pair of Marsh Harrier but suddenly all the ducks grazing to the right of the hide took off and in swooped a female Hen Harrier. As it turned out the Caspian Gull failed to show!
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.