Monday, 26 September 2011

Hemel RSPB trip to the Ver Valley and Tyttenhanger (24th September)


Both my brother and I went on the Hemel RSPB trip to the Ver Valley and Tyttenhanger.  We joined up at the Verulamium car park around 8:00am, but only got going after about 20 minutes as we waited for the rest to arrive.  This left time to start listing birds from the car park including a Nuthatch, flyover Grey Wagtail, Jay, and 2 Mistle Thrushes.  We were led by John Fisher through the local area starting at the church outside the Verulamium Museum.  We noted 4+ Mistle Thrushes, as well as a Goldcrest and 1 House Martin.  Unfortunately the Gorhambury Estate that we planned on walking through was closed due to a shoot going on, instead we took the alternative route along the A5183.  Although we expected to see less via this route we still encountered coveys of Red-legged Partridges consisting of 1 on the estate, and 2 coveys of 6 and 12 on the NE side of the A5183 road.  1 Buzzard and 5+ Skylarks were also noted.  We then continued along the bridleway past Shafford Farm were we encountered a Reed Bunting, perched on the electricity wire and an ad. Little Owl near the dam.  As we wound our way through the grazed fields we also saw 2 Linnets, 1 Red Kite, a flyover Hobby, 2 Buzzards and a Grey Wagtail at the Redbournbury Mill, our final destination were we continued by car to Tyttenhanger.

Little Owl standing in the open in the open door of an old shed

 Little Owl hiding from a mobbing Chiffchaff

 view over the grazed wet grassland near Redbournbury Mill

 Grey Heron surprising flushed from a field

 Grey Wagtail at the Redbournbury Mill



Soon after arriving we were notified of a Black Tern that commuted between both the NE and the main pit.  Also on the mud was a Redshank, 2 Common Gulls and 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls6+ Buzzards were also circling together over the east side of the pit and a Kestrel was also actively hunting over the grassland to the west of the NE pit.  A good flow of 25+ Meadow Pipits also flew west over the pit.  Other birds of note included 7 Mistle Thrushes, 10 Gadwall (7, 3), 5 Shoveler (1,4) and a Hobby.

Black Tern on the NE pit spit amongst B H Gulls for protection

view over the main gravel pit at Tyttenhanger

Black Tern commuting between the NE and main pit

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Cassio. Park and behind the KL School

Unfortunately didn't get to go sailing today as the minibus was full but I did see 10+ Ring-necked Parakeets in the north-east corner of Cassio. Park on my way to school.  Also went behind the KL School to check the playing fields for gulls however, due to crazy motorbikes making excessive noise very few birds decided to stay.  As a result I viewed over the village and Hemel Hempstead from Barnes Lane were 100's of House Martins were concentrated over the village fisheries and stretching to Hemel.  I only saw the beginnings of the crow roost as I saw a flock of 20+ Jackdaws fly over the Nash Mills woods followed by smaller groups of c.4 birds.  10+ Meadow Pipits also flew around over the uncut pasture field next to the farm infront of Barnes Lane.  Thought I'd also try to see the Little Owl that is often further down Barnes Lane, as usual the ad. Little Owl was perched on the usual horizontal poplar branch and allowed excellent views.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Tring Reservoirs with the Watford RSPB Group

I took the train to Tring today were I had planned to meet the Watford RSPB group at Wilstone Reservoir at 10:00am.


However, I intentionally left early and arrived at Marsworth and Startop's End Reservoir at 8:55 and instantly had a Kingfisher bolt towards me as I came in at the western corner of Marsworth Reservoir.  A first look over Startop's was rather unproductive.  However, after scanning the reservoir more vigilantly I counted 64+ Black-headed Gulls, 50+ House Martins, 3 individual Swallows, 1♂ eclipse Wigeon, 7 Mute Swans, 9 Great Crested Grebes and 1♂ eclipse Red Crested Pochard.


Marsworth was much quieter and in comparison only had a pair of Mute Swans, 2 Great Crested Gebes, 50 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls followed by a second (or possibly the same) group of 50+ House Martins, this time attended by 10+ Swallows.


My next stop was at Wilstone were I arrived around 9:30.  Due to the recent good weather most of the long staying goodies including the Little Stints and Pec. Sand. have moved of as have most of the Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, the situation wasn't helped as a man had reportedly walk along the bund with five dogs causing great disturbance to the resting waders/ gulls/ ducks and other birds that have probably left as a result.  However, after meeting up with the Watford RSPB group at the top of the car park steps we gained good views of a Buzzard in the horse fields behind the Reservoir running through the grass searching for worms.  Surprisingly a Chiffchaff was still in song in the poplars east of the Reservoir.  From the fields leading to Wilstone in Cemetery Corner a mixed finch flock worked its way towards the poplars and Pied Wagtails were feeding in the stubble field, followed by a flyover Buzzard.  Wilstone Reservoir, as usual, was the most productive with increasing numbers of Lapwing now wintering at the reservoirs, today's flock was easily 200+.  Only 2 Little Egrets were noted as were the feral pair of Whooper Swans, 2 Ringed Plovers, a juv. Black-tailed Godwit and good numbers of Teal, Wigeon (mostly in eclipse plumage), and a surprising site of 4 Hobbies over the poplars above the Drayton Hide.  The view was only brief and suggested that there was at least one intruder as there was some claw contact with two birds and the local breeding residents only consist of a pair and one juvenile.


As usual very little at Tringford Reservoir but still worth a visit for a look at the resident Kingfisher which we encountered several time during our time there as well as a Green Sandpiper that was frequently chased around the reservoir by 2 Sparrowhawks1 Little Egret was also noted as were 2 flyover Yellow Wagtails, 2 Gadwall, Shoveler and an adult Hobby.  I have also promised myself to take at least five blog worthy images on all my future RSPB trips, hopefully this will brighten up my blog and prevent me from ignoring my camera to much, anyway here are a few last minute results all taken at Tringford Reservoir.


Great Crested Grebe

rather obliging Great Crested Grebe


Kingfisher with wings outstretched in flight

same Kingfisher with folded wings (highlights wingspan difference whilst in flight)

Mallard up-ending

juv. Lesser Black-backed Gull (still not entirely sure could be a juv. Herring Gull, any opinions?)

ad. Mallard (scruffy) but still a nice combination of colours (now I'm speaking like an artist)

Rainbow Trout (often jumping half a foot out of the water to catch insects)

flock of House Martins over the Reservoir

only a quick flyover ad. Hobby

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Local Patch

Starting at 8:00am and bringing Theo with me I walked through the KL Wood.  Most of the usual woodland birds are now feeding in large mixed flocks including a large group of Nuthatches, Blue/Great/Coal and Long-tailed Tit at the bottom of the woods.  Singing Wrens were also noted as was 1 Jay and a Great Spotted Woodpecker30+ House Martins were also at the bottom of the woods and were soon spooked by 2 flyover Buzzards.
My second outing of the day was behind the playing fields at the KL School at 10:30am were several more species were present including a Kestrel, 2 Swallows, 2 Yellowhammers, 1 Linnet, 1 juv. Green Woodpecker, c.10 Pied Wagtails, 30 Black-headed Gulls and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  I then headed down into the village were a strong wave of rain came over, luckily there was some cover at the canal which was brightened up by a first for my Kings Langley list, a Kingfisher.  Unfortunately, the views over the fishing lakes was very restricted so could only count 4 Tufted Ducks, c.10 Coot and 2 Mute Swans.  On returning through the KL Woods I came across 1 Treecreeper, 1 Nuthatch and surprisingly a Chiffchaff still giving small bursts of song.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Cassio. Park, Bury Lake and a Hobby from the bus

The morning bus trip into Watford at 7:45am was, as usual, very uneventful except for a brief glimpse of a Hobby (looked like an adult due to the dark slate/black coloured back) and was heading towards Kings Langley, seen from the roundabout at Junction 20.  Also on the journey saw 1 Grey Heron perched in a dead tree to the right of the road at Hunton Bridge, also a prime sight for Red Kite but unfortunately none today.  Only 2 Ring-necked Parakeets seen today along the short walk between Stratford Way and WGSB.  Also went sailing today at 2:00pm but little was there except for a couple Mute Swans.  The drop in wind in comparison to last week has meant fewer migrant birds past through and no hirundines or Terns were noted.

Cassio. Park (13th September)

Just a usual school day today preventing me from doing any birding except for a very short walk through the park in the morning at 8:10am seeing 5+ Ring-necked Parakeets.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A different route around my local patch

A relatively early morning start at 7:05am to Kings Langley Woods was relatively quiet except for a large increase to at least 41 Pied Wagtails on the cricket field.  2 Sparrowhawks also flew over me together at the bottom of the woods (clearly showing a difference in size indicating a male and female).  I was also very pleased to find the first recorded of nesting House Martins in the Kings Langley tetrad (TLOOR)!  There were at least two nests one being attended to by an adult in which I could hear the calls of a second bird inside the nest.  In adition 30+ House Martins were also swirling in a flock over the nesting site down Blackwell Road.  From the bottom of the village I headed back uphill via Toms Lane to the farmland near Numbers Farm.  2 Yellowhammers and 5 Mistle Thrushes were the first birds of note but bird activity didn't increase much until later in the morning when a flock of 14 Linnets and 1 Buzzard flew over.  When arriving at Parsonage Farm I turned right, back towards Kings Langley, encountered a group of 4 Jays, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Meadow Pipit, and a pair of Buzzards on the way towards to the RES organisation.  The Buzzards showed well for at least half an hour allowing me to make a detailed study and comparisons.  I also decided to sketch and take notes on the key facial features for gender and aging purposes.  A Sparrowhawk was also in the same hedgerow being mobbed by probably the same group of 4 Jays whilst a Green Woodpecker took flight to avoid the building confusion.  A Grey Wagtail was a highlight to the trip down along the River Gade seen from Home Park Mill Link Road.  Even better were 2 Hobbies (1 ad. 1 juv.) that I saw just south of the village roundabout over the A 4251 near Clapgate Farm.  A great step forward towads proving their local breeding status.
A walk with Theo (our dog) behind the KL School was also productive as I came across no less than 10 Yellow Wagtails (including 9 in the sheep fields neighbouring Chipperfield Road and 1 flyover at the A41 bridge).  Also of note were 1 Red Kite, 1 Buzzard and an unusual raptor (despite being distant the main features included its brown hood, extending round the throat and crown, long/ buff streaks on its flanks, dark underside to the wings and tail (which had a white edge) and its slightly smaller size than the mobbing Carrion Crow, this matches very much the same description as the bird I photographed last year of which I posted up about on the 10th March 2011).

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Twitching the Pectoral Sandpiper at Wilstone Reservoir (9th September)

A very early finish to my school day at 1:00pm meant I could just about rush to Watford Junction to catch the 1:26 train to Tring and run/walk from Tring Station to Wilstone Reservoir bypassing Marsworth and Startop's End Reservoir and quickly scanning the mud surround to check whether the Pec. Sand. hadn't decided to make a trip here instead of staying at Wilstone.  I soon continued to Wilstone were at the jetty at least half a dozen people were fixed at looking at the bund infront of the jetty.  Thankfully it was still there as I took my first look at a Pectoral Sandpiper (a juvenile female).  It was also a great pleasure to meet Mr L G R Evans for the first time on the jetty (just in case you're reading my blog Mr Evans).  The Pec. Sand. fed mainly along the south side of the spit amongst c.20 Ringed Plover and after around an hour of watching the P.S. and as the crowds trickled away she came very close to the end of the jetty so that one could study the precise plumage as well as the split supercilium, the white V on the mantle and scapulars, the streaking on the chest ending abruptly at a point, the dark yellow legs, the pure white underparts and a red-brown tinge to the streaked upperparts all pointed to a juvenile bird.  Being a female was ruled out by the fact that she was, although large than the accompanying Ringed Plovers and dwarfing the remaining Little Stint, still remained smaller than the usual size of a male.

  my brothers footage of the Pectoral Sandpiper at Wilstone Reservoir, on the bund

Later in the day after visiting the hide and observing the Pec. Sand in flight I also scanned the mud in the Drayton Lagoon which held 2 Black-tailed Godwits and 2 Common Sandpipers.  Also of note were the almost constant company of the family of 3 Hobbies.  A last visit around to the jetty again revealed the Pec. Sand as well as a juv. Black Tern (new to my year list) and a fly over Sparrowhawk, scaring most of the Lapwings and waders into flight.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Cassio. Park and Bury Lake (7th September)

Soon after catching the bus at 7:40am a picked up on a Hobby circling the fishing lakes down in the village, seen from the KL high street near Jubilee Walk.  Cassio. Park was relatively quite except for 1 Green Woodpecker and 2+ Ring-necked Parakeets.  At 1:30pm I was at Bury Lake to go sailing were good wind provided ideal sailing opportunities and brought in a fly over Red Kite and Great Crested Grebes on the water.  I Also have plans to twitch the Pectoral Sandpiper tomorrow on Friday but I still have another day of school ahead before I can go, hopefully its still there.

Playing fields at the KL School (6th September)

Fewer birds than my previous visits but strong winds and a late visit didn't help.  However, 2 Green Woodpeckers (1ad ♀, 1juv. ♀) were feeding.  8 Black-headed Gulls were also at the back of the field but numbers later rose to 30+ birds and several more over the canal area seen from Barnes Lane as well as 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull.  I also viewed the Crow roost for a second time which included similar numbers as last time, consisting of 70+ Jackdaws and Carrion Crows.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Playing field behind the KL School

I was glad to get out past 6pm this evening to go behind the KL School to check for any probable gull flocks after coming back from my first day of school this term.  Unfortunately on arriving the gulls decided to fly just  as I arrived after which they landed in the far southern corner of the playing field just out of sight.  However a few birds of note did pass through including 1 Hobby that flew low over the northern length of the field in a NNW direction, in the exact same direction that the previous Hobby took on the 23rd August.  After c.30 minutes the gull flock took flight again with half the flock deciding to remain at the back of the field whilst the rest flew east towards the canal and fishing lakes in the village.  The remaining flock only consisting of Black-headed Gulls and 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Next I decided to scan the fields adjacent to the playing fields on the opposite side of the road were, soon after beginning to scan I noticed a large mixed flock of 70+ Carrion Crows and Jackdaws come to roost in the woodland in Long Dean Nature Reserve at 7:30pm.  1 Little Egret was also a first for my Kings Langley list and was flying in the direction of the fishing lakes in the valley from a NNW direction.  Despite the fast fading light and grey sky bringing rain a Muntjac Deer was still visible from Barnes Lane as I viewed it walk across the grass field east of Woodlands Road.  I finally made a late night visit at 8:00pm to the KL Woods to check whether the bait of peanuts that I had previously laid out for Badgers in the ditch had worked as I found a group of burrows in the SE of the woodland that might be belonging to them.

London (4th September)

A great day out in London first going to the National Gallery to see some of the best art in the country if not in the world (in my opinion) including some of my favourite artist, Van Gogh's, with paintings such as, "Vase with Twelve Sunflowers", "Van Gogh's Chair", "Wheat Field with Cypresses" and my favourite "Two Crabs".  Enough about art and I soon decided to walk to the Tate Modern were I hoped to find the resident Peregrines.  Fortunately when arriving the RSPB stand was there showing passers both members of the pair of Peregrines that were perched as usual on the Tate Modern tower.  After about 15 minutes of watching the male decided to leave as the rain got worse, however the female preferred to stay on the ledge rather than follow the male.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Tring Reservoirs and Ivinghoe (2nd September)


As always had an excellent day out at Tring Reservoirs with three new additions to my growing year list!  I arrived at c.7:00am and was lucky to arrived just as the juv. Little Stint was feeding very close to the jetty and approached up to several meters from the end of the jetty.

Little Stint

After c.20 minutes of watching it feeding amongst 8 Ringed Plovers (a mixture of adults and juveniles) it flew of towards the SE bank and continued to feed.  A Peregrine was also a surprise fly over as it headed directly over the SE edge of the reservoir towards Drayton Beauchamp.  A Whinchat was also in the overflow field showing amazingly whilst perching on the thistle plants, also in the same field were several Yellowhammer, Willow Warbler and a Chinese Water Deer was also to the right of the hide along the reeds.


The highlights at the hide were 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpipers, 1 juvenile Ruff present amongst a flock of 50+ Lapwing that occasionally took flight as the resident group of 3 Hobbies (including 1 juv.) flew over.  The juvenile being the most showy by making a close pass infront of the hide and landing on the mud giving a great oppotunity to make a good plumage comparsions with the adults.


The water level at Startop's still remains relatively high however the margins still hosted a juv. Ruff, a feral pair of Whooper Swans and 2 Hobbies over Marsworth R.



Only a short visit to the hills was relatively unproductive.  However the recent success at the reservoirs with all the key species of the day having been seen less effort was put into finding more birds, Kestrels and Linnet were the main bird of not on the downs however I also glimpse a small chat, most likely a Stonechat given the white scapulars small size and reddish brown body fly around the valley and land in a hedge were it didn't show again.

(all photos taken by my brother Ephraim)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

fields behind the RSSKL

Another dog walk behind the RSSKL produced several bird species including Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and a singing Yellow Wagtail, unfortunately out of site just over the A41 bridge on the west side.  Also 1 Buzzard flew low over our back garden later in the afternoon.

Chipperfield Common (31st August)

Very few birds showing whilst I walked through the wood but learning calls proved very useful when a Marsh Tit began to call very close in the cover of a hawthorn bush, less than a minute later it was showing well and feeding in the open with a nut (probably taken from a local feeder).