HEMEL RUGBY CLUB GROUNDS
My first unexpected stop as I came across a flock of 100+ Black-headed Gulls in their post gull assembly. I only had about 10 minutes scanning through the Gulls, in hope of a Med Gull when someone wondered through the middle of the flock and they took flight before heading into a neighbouring field out of sight. The only birds I could note in time were a few Common Gulls and a small flock of Starling.
BIKE RIDE ALONG THE COUNTRY LANES TO TRING
Several flocks of Redwing were already flying about by the time I arrived outside Tring followed by Fieldfare and a calling Buzzard. Also of note were 1+calling Siskin and 2 Red Kites and 2 Meadow Pipits over Northfield Road.
ALDBURY NOWERS NATURE RESERVE
I decided to make my first visit to Aldbury Nowers, which I had never visited before, despite making regular trips to Tring. Dozens of Redwing were feeding on the footpath floor when I entered the avenue of trees followed by more Meadow Pipit calls coming from the surrounding farmland. 8 Bullfinches was a nice surprise, on the chalk downland, just inside the reserve including 4 males. My main aim was to find a Woodcock feeding on the forest floor, however the strong winds from the W and mild temperatures did not make it a promising opportunity. Instead I continued the walk towards Pitstone Reservoir. From the chalk downland 1 Buzzard, a ♀ Kestrel, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Nuthatch (a year tick), 1-2 calling Great Spotted Woodpeckers (only heard), 1 Green Woodpecker and 2-3 more calling Bullfinches were also of note. Overlooking the reservoir was rather more difficult then I had anticipated due to strong westerly wind (2/3), 100+ Black-headed Gulls were around the water’s edge with several Common Gulls and 2 Lesser-Black-backed Gulls (a year tick) as well as 4 Tufted Ducks (a year tick).
A lot of bad-mouthing of the place has been going around recently including complaints about the number of birds visiting the reserve due to the water level, so I decided to check the area out for myself to see if anything had changed. In comparison to my previous visit more wildfowl were about including Gadwall (a year tick), Wigeon (a year tick), dozens of Lapwing, 1 Buzzard, and a single Snipe (a year tick) feeding on the marsh edge, unusually it was bobbing slightly between feeding behaviour, something I hadn't seen before. A summer plumaged possible "SINENSIS" SUB-SPECIES of CORMORANT on the north lake island was also a nice sight. Numbers of Wildfowl and Lapwing seem to be on the increase and the European race Cormorant proved to me that the reserves potential for an unusual winter migrant might be back on the rise.
Next stop of was at Marsworth Reservoir which hosted 22 Shoveler (16♂, 6♀), 1 Snipe resting in the reeds and 9 Great Crested Grebes, but unfortunately no sign of the wintering jack Snipe.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR
The main aim was to find the long-staying Snow Bunting to add it to my year list. 1 Grey Wagtail and 3+ Pied Wagtails were of note before I found the 1st. win.♂ SNOW BUNTING (a year tick) feeding voraciously near the middle of the NW bank of the Reservoir. Other birds of note included a flock of Lapwing and further year ticks included, surprisingly, Pochard and Coot.
1st-win. Snow Bunting, coming to feed only 3-4 meters from where I was standing
Lapwing over Startop's End Reservoir
I decided to squeeze in a short visit to Wilstone Reservoir, despite the fading light but was only able to connect with the juv. Dark-bellied BRENT GOOSE amongst a flock of Greylag Geese (a year tick) and Canada Geese (a year tick). Unfortunately the Water Pipit didn't show along the E bank of the reservoir but I didn't have enough time to thoroughly check. The water level here seems to have recovered significantly since my last visit and is now several inches deep at the end of the jetty. All the same the extensive marsh area on the south side did host 100's Teal (a year tick) as well as Wigeon, Coot and Tufted Duck. A sad sight of 2 carcasses of a Swan sp. had washed up on the south east side (maybe the result from the ill-looking Whopper Swan that was noted at the reservoirs earlier last year). On the brighter side, a large flock of Lapwing were on the central bund and a good number of Black-headed Gulls had congregated on the mud at the North West corner of the reservoir.
the long-staying juv. Brent Goose
coming in to land to feed
the long-staying juv. Brent Goose amongst Canada Geese
spot the Brent