Thursday 28 March 2024

Tring + College Lake

Just my second visit of the year to Tring started off well with a small group of Sand Martin in the NW corner along with a single Swallow. By the Waddesden Estate gate near the path up to the dry canal I heard a Willow Warbler singing and just my 2nd patch RN Parakeet flew west. 150+ Golden Plover were seen to the north of Wilstone in flight and the Pink-footed Goose was still present. The other 3 reservoirs held nothing of note but College Lake had 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Redshank and 5 Snipe which were my first of the year! 

Scotland Day 2

Black Guillemot

Black Guillemot

Red-breasted Merganser

After an indifferent nights sleep and morning fry up we headed back to Saltcoats where even before the car had stopped I picked out a couple of stunning Black Guillemots. In the end we had 10 birds and they were showing so well we could hear them calling and see them swimming underwater. Singles of Razorbill and Red-breasted Merganser were also seen along with yesterdays 3 Purple Sandpipers.


We then headed up to Lochwinnoch RSPB reserve in another new birding county for me Renfrewshire.  We crossed over the road and walked down the track to view over Barr Loch. Scattered over this Loch and Castle Semple Loch on the other part of the reserve were over 50 Goldeneye and a dozen Goosander. But the main prize on Barr Loch was the female Lesser Scaup that I managed to pick out in with a group of tufties. This was my 3rd in Britain but my first female. A female Long-tailed Duck was on Castle Semple Loch and a very showy pair of Bullfinch were seen in roadside bushes. 

After a quick cuppa we headed for home and I arrived back about 8pm. Thanks to Brendon for the fantastic driving even when full of lurgy and to Rick as usual for his company. 

Durham + Scotland

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Last autumn saw the biggest number of American passerines to ever appear on our shores with mega rarities from Scilly to Shetland and so it was hoped that during the winter some more would be unearthed. 

A Northern Waterthrush in Essex wasn’t what I’d hoped for as I’d seen the Scilly bird back in 2011 but then news broke on the 20th February of a Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler visiting a garden in Ayrshire. This one I did need having not being able to get up for the last mainland bird in Durham 10 years previously. 

Plans were made to head up with Chris Sharp but they were cancelled when he was told he had ‘his own surprise’ retirement party to attend! 

More plans were then made with Brendon Fagan and Ricky Flesher and so at 5am we headed north but not straight to Scotland but first to County Durham. We had a quick stop at Barnard Castle not to check our eyesight but to try for Dipper. Sadly the river level was too high and so we struck out. 

Langdon Beck was our next stop. This was a new site for me and looked very impressive and even more so when we spotted a couple of nice male Black Grouse. These were embarrassingly my first since I ticked them in Scotland way back in 1991! Further down the road we did see a Dipper on a small river and then Rick picked out a Red Grouse. A Barn Owl flying just after 11am was a bit of a surprise as were displaying Curlew which I can’t recall having seen before. 

After our fill in England we headed north of the border and arrived at Kilwinning just after 3pm. We parked up, crossed the road and walked through 2 sets of doors in a housing block and into the tiny garden where we joined 4 other birders. After a couple of minutes we heard a call very reminiscent of Long-tailed Tit but it was coming from a pale bird with a yellow rump! Eventually it came down to feed on the numerous bird feeders and showed brilliantly on and off. I was watching my first ever YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER which was my 9th species of American wood warbler (my favourite family group).

After taking it in for about half an hour we moved onto Saltcoats. Here we checked the harbour for Black Guillemots but they weren’t around. 3 Purple Sandpiper were thought along with many Eider and a handful of year ticks out at sea. By now we were all knackered and hungry so retired to our hotel for dinner and sleep.

Watford - 28.2.24

In the afternoon at work we had to go to Cheslyn House to empty the green bins and whilst there I heard a singing Blackcap

Norfolk Weekend - 17-19.2.24

As it was half term we booked a long weekend away in Eccles-on-Sea,Norfolk. We stupidly headed up after work on Friday and so the 2.5 hour journey took just under 4 and we arrived in the pitch black with floods everywhere! Saturday morning dawned and the view from the caravan was a mass of wet fields and some great looking shrubs which in the spring and autumn looked like they could easily produce a good bird or two.

The kids wanted to go to the beach so a quick climb over the dunes and we were there. They ran off to build sand castles and throw stones into the sea but I took half an hour to do some seawatching. 8 year ticks later including 8 Red-throated Divers and 3 Sanderling and I joined the kids to show them how to skim stones!

Sunday dawned wet again, in fact it had rained for 17 hours straight and finally dried up at lunchtime so we went out to Happisburgh to see how much more had fallen into the sea then onto Horsey for some food and to see the seals on the beach. On the drive back a male Hen Harrier drifted over the road in front of the car near Waxham. 

Monday and we packed up the car for the journey home but made a detour to see my dad in Caister. A quick stop at Rollesby Broad added a redhead Smew to the yearlist. 

I stopped at Sandon on the way home and saw just a single Grey Partridge.


Watford - 12.2.24

Whilst walking into Goodwood Rec to do some litter picking I immediately heard a Firecrest singing just off the path. It came in closer and showed well. My 6th that I’d found whilst at work! 

Tring - 3.2.24

 I finally was able to head up to Tring Reservoirs to kick off my Patchwork challenge list. It was mostly a list of the usual suspects but a Pink-footed Goose and a couple of Egyptian Geese were noteworthy. 5 Red-crested Pochard on Marsworth were my 100th species of the year.

More At Work

16th - Saw the Little Owl at Cassiobury and completed the set of 5 owls

17th - Treecreeper, Cassiobury 

26th - Skylark, Cassiobury followed on the way home with 42 Waxwings at Leavsden found by Brendan Glynn. 

Verulamium Park - 14.1.24

A family day out to St.Alban’s just so happened to coincide with a decent county bird that’d been present a while. After some trampolining and playground things for the kids we walked down to the lake where the well known showy Kingfisher was delighting both birders and member of the public by showing to a few feet. I left the others to go warm up in the cafe so I could search for the main bird but I drew a blank. 

After a nice hot chocolate I headed outside and o my third walk around the cathedral I picked up one of the breeding pair of Peregrines on the roof and eventually brief views of the Black Redstart as it flew out of a tree into bushes then up onto the cathedral then off round the corner.



Back To Work + Home

 Over the next few days I added more species to the year list. 

2nd - Ring-necked Parakeet, Cassiobury Park

3rd - 2 Raven, Hemel Hempstead 

4th - Nuthatch, Mistle Thrush, Siskin, Mandarin, Coal Tit, GS Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail + Jay, Cassiobury Park

5th - Lesser Redpoll, Cassiobury Park

6th - Dunnock, Hemel Hempstead 

9th - Greenfinch, Cassiobury 

10th - Lesser Spotted Woodpecker seen in flight twice by mini railway, 2 Chiffchaff + Chaffinch, Cassiobury Park