Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Croxley Common Moor and Wilstone


I went for another cycle ride today in the direction of Chandlers Cross via Chipperfield were I saw 1 of the remaining 2 ♂Yellow Wagtails that I found yesterday, along with 1 Ring-necked Parakeet calling over Chipperfield Road.

male Yellow Wagtail

Next I stopped at Harrocks Wood (owned by the woodland trust), not much was of note.  However, I did see 5 Nuthatches, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Buzzard, 2 Goldcrests and occasional Jays and Swallows.  I then continued towards Croxley Common Moor were I found several species of Warbler including 3 singing Sedge Warblers performing display flights from the bushes along the River Gade.  In the western corner of the NR (near the train bridge) I saw 1 singing Garden Warbler followed by a second sighting of one east along the river and a 3rd singing in the hedgerow very close to the second, in total this added up to 3 Garden Warblers1 Kingfisher also shortly hovered over the river before plunging and a second sighting (of possibly the same bird ) was seen flying back upriver.  Dozens of Whitethroats and Reed Buntings were also distributed evenly around the NR together with occasional sightings of Willow Warblers, 4+ Reed Warblers (in the dense reed bed along the Gade) and 1 Green Woodpecker1 Buzzard also flew over the reserve being chased by 7 Herring Gulls and 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Most of my day was spent chasing around the south-eastern part of the reserve trying to track down the Lesser Whitethroat that was occasionally calling from dense cover but refused to show itself, with two possible exceptions when I caught a short probable glimpse of the bird calling in flight.

1 of 3 Garden Warblers along the Gade River near the bridge
Reed Warbler

juvenile House Sparrow



Whilst I went to Croxley my brother chose to go in the opposite direction to Wilstone, as a result once I arrive home from Croxley we left straight away to pick him up.  I had a short 45 minute visit at Wilstone in which time I visited the hide, from which I saw 2 Hobbies hawking over the water, 2 Oystercatchers (resting on the spit in front of the hide), 1♂ Wigeon also along the vegetated edge of the spit and dozens of Common Terns were over the water.

1 of 2 Oystercatchers present on the spit

Monday, 30 May 2011

Chipperfield Birding

I left the house around 9:00, and cycled into Chipperfield via the adjacent fields, whilst passing through some pea fields outside Chipperfield I saw a distant yellow bird.  After taking out my bins and properly IDing it as a Yellow Wagtail I was soon on to another.  Both were singing their repetitive one syllable "tsree tsree tsree".  Below are photos of individuals from the 2♂ Yellow Wagtails in the same field, after I found them at 9:30 they were both still present onwards from 11:40, however they were not very tolerant  of  each other and occasional song flights were interrupted with chases around the field, as a result I didn't manage to get photos with both birds in.  Other birds of note were several singing Skylarks, 3 flyover Swallows and 1♂ Yellowhammer (around Bucks Hill) .

male Yellow Wagtail singing from the pea field

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Tring Trip


Today was my first day off after my As exams and I decided to spend it at Tring Reservoirs and Ivinghoe Beacon (unsurprisingly).  I arrived at Wilstone at 7:20 after a long and strenuous cycle from Kings Langley leaving the house around 5:45.  On the way to Tring, whilst passing along the canal I saw 1♂ Yellowhammer, several Stock Doves, my first juvenile Robin of the year (all seen in the horse field to the right of Chaulden Lane) and Common Terns were calling from the canal.  The most obvious birds around at all the reservoirs were the hirundines, there were literally 1000's of Swifts (not quite the 5600 recorded yesterday) but Wednesday's rain storm must have caused the fall of migrants.  From the fields leading to the nature reserve I also saw 1 Hobby fly in from Startop's direction, 1♂ Reed Bunting was in the rapeseed field and a few Common Terns also flew over head.  In addition, there were smaller numbers of Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows (in descending order of abundance (with Sand and House Martins easily reaching into the 100's)).  Soon after arriving the weather changed from cloudy to drizzle combined with strong westerly winds and even stronger downpours, this made scanning extremely difficult from the jetty, however I did see 3 Mandarin Ducks (2♂,1♀) and a  1♂ Yellow Wagtail that I accidentally flushed and flew of in the direction of Cemetery Corner in the Eastern Corner of Wilstone.  Reed Warblers were desperately trying to attract more mates due to the disastrous flooding of the reed bed which must have destroyed a large proportion of the nests.  From the hide 1♂ Wigeon was near the spit and Shoveler Pochard, Tufted Duck and 21 Greylag Geese represented the commoner species present.  Unfortunately, there were no signs of the elusive pair of Garganey from yesterday and they weren't recorded for the rest of the day.  Flyover birds included 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 1 Red Kite, and a second sighting of a Hobby (possibly the same bird from earlier in the morning).  There were very few wading birds about except 3 Lapwing.  The willows to the right of the hide were occupied by a Little Egret and 8+ Grey Herons were lined along the spit.  Passing back through the the rapeseed fields 1 Sedge Warbler was performing display flights from the bushes and I also had fantastic but brief view of a Stoat bound across Tring Ford Road on my way to Startop's End and Marsworth Reservoir.


The second stop was at Startop's Reservoir, were I hadn't finished scanning the reservoir until a Cuckoo started calling (from Marsworth Reservoir), I located what I thought might be the bird in the ash trees on the opposite side of the reservoir.  This meant views were distant and the photos are no were near adequate for certain ID, but the characteristic call and jizz makes it an almost definite Cuckoo1♂ Red Crested Pochard was also at Startop's being very photogenic (see photos below).

male Red Crested Pochard

male Cuckoo calling


The third stop was at College Lake were I caught up on some late year ticks including the pair Little Ringed Plovers that were incubating a clutch of eggs in front of the octagon hide.  The Lapwings were causing a great deal of disturbance and at one point one of the adults soon responded aggressively by flaring its tail in the intruders direction.  I only saw 1 Lapwing Chick, although I'm sure most are still being incubated during the harsher weather.  Redshank were also about and I glimpsed 2 Reed Warblers in the neighbouring reeds and singing Reed Buntings were also heard around the southern edge of the reserve.

Little Ringed Plover brooding eggs

Lapwing a little too close for the Little Ringed Plovers liking


Most birds were in fact near the car park so there may have not been any need to walk all the way to the Beacon from Beacon Road.  In surrounding fields (mostly neighbouring the road) there was a total of at least 4+ Corn Buntings (most singing from wires), 5+ Yellowhammers (including a courting male in the car park trying to impress an uninterested female), dozens of Meadow Pipits were also in the cow fields and open grassland and 1 Willow Warbler made a brief stop in a shrub before continuing its migration.  Whitethroats were also very regular along the path including 1 female carrying food near the beacon. 1 Green Woodpecker was also in the open coppice south of the Beacon Road and 1 Buzzard was seen from the car park.

Meadow Pipit


male Corn Bunting doing its jangling song

all in all it was a successful day, most notably the highlights for me was the Stoat and massive flocks of hirundines (especially the Swifts).

PS. The Great Tits in our garden have fledged!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Cassiobury Park (24 May)

On my way to school through CP saw 2 Mistle Thrushes.  Around 3:45 I took a break from revision for the afternoon and headed out into the park towards the nature reserve.  A pair of Chaffinches were feeding their single chick in a very vulnerable location at the base of a large oak tree trunk in the middle of the park (not to mention the dozens of dog walking past regularly) followed by a pair of Nuthatches climbing low down on the trunk of the same tree.  Just outside the LNR 1 Ring-necked Parakeet flew over and 1 Mistle Thrush called.  Inside the NR 2 Bullfinches were calling in the hedgerows leading to the hide and occasional Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were still in song.  1 juv. Cormorant also flew over the canal but otherwise it was quiet.  Occasional Swifts flew over the park and probably totaled over a dozen birds.  At the Golf Course came across an occupied Nuthatch nest followed by a singing Goldcrest carrying nest material (although I am not sure whether I realy did find the nest).  A big shock came from underneath the tree as a 1 inch thick snake coloured dark green slithered into the woodland, unfortunately I didn't notice any key features or see its head but its length (+40cm) indicated a probable Grass Snake. moments later a shrew (unidentified) rushed out of cover (probably disturbed by the snake) and dived under a pile of leaves near my feet.  I found 4 occupied Great Spotted Woodpecker nests including two that were visited by parent birds (it wasn't difficult finding the nests as the chicks call continuously without a break and soon becomes unbearable).  In addition I also found 1 Blue Tit nest (with highly protective parents) and down by the bridge at the Gade River I heard a Kingfisher.

Yesterday, whilst in the garden 5 Coal Tits were feeding in the fir tree at the end of the garden (2ad. feeding at least 3 chicks).  The Blue Tit nest infront of my window also seems to have gone quiet as no more adults are visiting the nest and I haven't heard the chicks for at least a day and a half, hopefully they've fledged successfully.  The Great Tits are still in the nest although they are showing signs of soon leaving as they are exercising their wings and are approximately the same size as the adults now.

Just returned today through the woods and saw my first successfully fledged Great Tits, consisting of at least 4-5 young and both adults.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Jay in the Garden

Just saw a Jay come down to the bottom of the garden next to the pond and take a frog from the edge were it was particularly vulnerable, the sight wasn't particularly pleasing.  The pond has produced several baby frogs and most are heading into the woods were I have found dozens earlier last week.  The Great Tit nest is also going well and at least 4-5 chicks have so far survived despite a brief visit from a Magpie which realised getting to the chicks through a 28mm hole would not be worth it.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Wasp Beetle

Whilst helping out in the garden today I came across this fantastic Wasp Beetle crawling over the wood pile in the front garden, incredibly realistic colouring (for a wasp)!

Wasp Beetle

 These photos of bees were taken several days ago on the Chive flowers during good sunlight.

 an unIDed bumblebee species

Another failed attempt at getting one in flight

KL Woods and Barnes Lane

I left the house around 6:10 am for a break from revision.  The weather was too good for finding any late stranded migrants (clear skies with no cloud cover, temperature still quite low) and KL Woods was quite quiet with only a few Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest, as a result I soon left and headed behind the KL State School and Barnes Lane 1 Mistle Thrush was feeding on the playing field and 1 Whitethroat in the neighbouring farmland.  Further along Barnes Lane the list improved and the highlight of the day came as a medium thrush sized bird flew into the tree over my head but quickly diverted its flight path into a nearby tree were I realized it was a Little Owl.  It remained perched on an exposed branch from around 7:15-7:20 with an earthworm which it had recently caught, instead of eating it it headed of further down the avenue of trees towards Rucklers Lane were it probably has a nest with chicks.  Along the hedgerow leading to the underpass of the A41 there were also 4+ Linnets, several Whitethroats, 1 Green Woodpecker (heard) and a Swallow.  The adjacent fields also had several Skylarks, still singing and protecting territories as well as a total of 4 Yellowhammers and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker also along the lane.  Scatterdells Wood also remained quiet and most of the birds around were only heard including 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker(1 feeding young in a nest hole), 1 Green Woodpecker and 1 Nuthatch.  A pair of Blackcaps was also at the far end of Scatterdells Lane.  4 Swallows also flew over the horse field whilst I walked back to KL at 9:20.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Cassiobury Park and KL Woods

Same route as yesterday but an earlier start.  Exam in morning followed by a brief walk through Cassio between Cha Cha Cafe and Stratford Way.  On the way had at least 10+ Swift.  KL Wood only took 15 mins to walk through but still saw 1♂ Bullfinch and a Red Fox skulking away into the undergrowth near top of woods also heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker and several Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Cassiobury Park and KL Woods

Just came back from an exhausting days exam.  On my way through Cassiobury Park had 3 Stock Doves and a pair of Mistle Thrushes.  The afternoon return walk through KL Woods included another Mistle Thrush, 1 Treecreeper and 3 Blackcaps.  Near the top of the woods 1 Muntjac Deer crossed the path directly infront of me seemingly oblivious, later in the evening around 11:30pm heard it barking in the front and back garden of our house but could not see it.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Fields behind RSSKL

Went for a short walk behind the RSSKL fields for a short break.  Despite leaving around 4pm there were still a large number of birds around most of which were near the barns after crossing over the A41.  1 Red Kite was the only raptor I saw however there were dozens of Starlings flying low over all the fields carrying food back to chick in the nest.  The rain clouds forced numerous hirundines down closer to the ground including 9+ Swallows, 13+ House Martins and 9+ Swifts (these numbers are the largest totals counted at the same time in order not to accidentally recount single birds).  12 Stock Doves were also feeding in the horse fields behind the cattle barns and 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull flew over.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Canal (13 May)

Had to walk home yesterday from Watfrord as the bus service stopped at 7pm, I joined the canal at the grove and saw the usual ducks.  However, at Hunton Bridge a Kingfisher flew past me (around 20:10) down a side-steam to the main canal, a nice end to a very stressful day.  1♂ Blackcap was also at the waters edge but was too nervous to be bother to bath or take a drink.

Garden (12 May)

restricted to the house and garden for the past few weeks due to approaching exams however the time has been by no means wasted.  1 group of at least 9 Swifts flew over the house in a northerly direction, wit a group of 4 indulging in a high speed chase around the houses at roof height, followed by a single Swallow, probably already building a nest in the eaves of the local houses.  A pair of Great Tits have successfully nested in Ephraim's bird box in the garden and with the installation of a nest box cam we have been able to monitor their progress, at present 6-7 chicks are in the nest, however due to the poor quality of the footage and the camera not revealing the whole nest the exact number is difficult to tell.  The first flight feathers are beginning to emerge and their primaries and secondaries are reaching 1cm and are growing at a rate of 1-2mm/ day!  Both other Blue Tit boxes are occupied however I have not observed any birds approach one for several days so we may be down to only 1 nesting pairs of Blue Tits in the garden.

Cassiobury Park (11 May)

Morning walk to school at 10:15, 4 Swifts and 2 Mistle Thrushes in the park.  Later in the day around 1:40 went for a longer walk for a break during lunch.  3 Stock Doves, Ring-necked Parakeet (heard) and at least 5 Great Spotted Woodpeckers around the park and down by nature reserve and canal.  1 Green Woodpecker was also near the entrance to the park at Stratford way, seen bounding away in flight.  A small flock of c.50 Starlings were also in the same area.  Warblers preferred the canal part of the park and Chiffchaff and Blackcap were both heard (probably unpaired males still trying for a mate).

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Barnes Lane

Went out for a 7:30 morning walk to Barnes Lane.  The weather was humid, almost entire cloud cover and frequent showers probably stopped local migration as I didn't see a single hirundine.  The playing field was occupied by 1 Stock Dove, mixed within a small group of Woodpigeons.  4 Lapwing were also displaying over the fields behind the KL school and flew in the direction of the canal later in the morning.  I also heard several Blackcaps and 1 Yellowhammer, but remained elusive.  Whitethroats were singing near the underpass of the A41 and at least 4 Skylarks were singing in the neighbouring fields.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Barnes Lane and Shendish Manor

After finishing today's Art exam went on a short walk along Barnes Lane towards Shendish Manor.  It was relatively late by the time I got out (c.6pm) but still managed to fined a few birds.  In the neighbouring fields to the horse field 1 Buzzard was perched on the fence post.  Not much else was about except at Shendish were 1 Willow Warbler was showing well and singing.  At least 1 Whitethroat was also sculking in the shrubbery behind Shendish Manor together with singing Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps.  On my return 4 Swifts were hunting over the horse fields followed by a singing Skylark.  The KL school playing fields hosted 1 Mistle Thrush, a small flock of Starlings and 8 Linnets.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Cassiobury Park and KL

On the way to school at 7:55, along Waterside( which runs parallel to the canal), I saw my first Swifts of the year comprising of a small flock of 10+ Swifts.  Also had an As Art exam today followed by a brief visit to Cassiobury Park local nature reserve, 1 Mandarin Duck was on the small stream in the east of the reserve.  Also 3 Ring-necked Parakeets flew over and Blackcap and Chiffchaff were both singing.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Recent Sightings

Came back from sailing today at Bury Lake were there were 3 Red Crested Pochards present (2♂, 1♀) with two chicks.  2 Common Terns were also feeding at the lake and at around 2:45 5 Egyptian Geese flew over.  There were several Ring-necked Parakeets calling in Cassiobury Park this morning and 3 Stock Doves were also near the path (seen on my way to school at 8:10).  There are still good numbers of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing in the KL woods and at least 2 Bullfinches were in the lower part of the woods on Thursday.  12+ House Martins were also flying over the house in the late afternoon with 2+ Swallows.