Saturday, 11 February 2012

Hilfield and Aldenham (11th February)

The half term has started so I only set out after 9:45am in order to catch up on some much needed sleep.  I decided to twitch the 6 Scaup that had turned up at Hilfied Park Reservoir on the 6th February.


On arriving I decided to go straight to the viewing platform, were I was shortly accompanied by two other birders.  The reservoir was largely frozen over and only two areas remained ice free including a pool, bordering the reedbed on the south side and a second one in the south west corner, although the center pool had shrunk to only a few square meters and was only accommodated by 5 Great Crested Grebes before even they abandoned it.  After some distant scanning from the platform and straining our eyes to the limit, we were rewarded with 4 SCAUP (a life tick) amongst the commoner Tufted Ducks, Gadwall, Wigeon, Pochard, Moorhen, Coot and Great Crested Grebes.  Although distant, it was surprisingly easy to separate them from the smaller Tufted Ducks, by their paler back, and very different, more robust, when seen in profile.  For much of the time they remained resting and rarely lifted their heads, however after a long wait they became more active, swimming strongly and even diving frequently.   Later on the female appeared bringing the total to 5 SCAUP (4,1).

♂ Scuap, second bird to the left of the moorhen in the reeds

some Scuap somewhere amongst the Tufties

 view over the distant reedbed

Hilfield Park Reservoir

 thank you scope once again

 two, possibly three of the male Scuap together infront of the gap in the reeds

Unfortunately I couldn't find the juvenile as the viewing platform was simply to distant and the sun had begun to silhouette the birds against the water.  However, a surprise flypast BITTERN (a life tick) made a good turn out to the start of the day.  Next to the viewing platform, 6 Siskin were feeding on the alder trees before moving south and 2 Song Thrushes fed together at the edge of the woodland.  A Sparrowhawk also made two passes infront of the platform, the second time returning north across the reservoir with prey.  Around midday little had changed except for a brief flyover flock of 13 Lapwing and a Green Woodpecker infront of the platform.  At least 8 Little Grebes were amongst the rest of the wildfowl, which also included 5 Mute Swans and several Cormorants.  Other birds of note included a Goldcrest, 1 Jay, 1 Treecreeper, 1 flyover Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Heron, and only 9 Redwing and 1 Fieldfare, although a lot more were heard and I wasn't paying the later two much attention.


I still had much time to spare as I had already seen both target species of the day so I decided to get a little closer to some wildfowl by visiting Aldenham Country Park Reservoir.  As predicted the birds were closer and were separated into two large congregations on the lake.  Each group was keeping a small area in the east and west from freezing over, although sadly this was made all the more difficult by a lot of human disturbance.  The usual species including Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Wigeon, Gadwall were all present in good numbers and 3 Mandarins (2, 1) (a year tick) were hid amongst the low branches of trees as they sat on the snow covered ground.  After a few minutes of scanning the ducks 300+ Black-headed Gulls flew in together with dozens of Common Gulls and 1ad. sum. Herring Gull, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Dozens of Great Crested Grebes were also on the lake but I was rather upset at the sight of 1 Great Crested Grebe with a red elastic band stuck around its throat/chest, it was consistently trying to break itself free in vein, yet unfortunately all I could do was stand helplessly and look.  On the brighter side 2 Little Grebes were amongst the wildfowl on the western pool and a total of 51 Fieldfare flew over.  I decided to make a round walk of the reservoir, which I have never done before.  This excursion (mostly through the surrounding woodland) clocked in 3 Ring-necked Parakeets, 2 Song Thrushes, 2 Redwing, 2 Jays, sevearl caling Siskin with 1 seen, 2 Mistle Thrushes and 1-2 Red Crested Pochard, one amongst a group of Mallard in the north east corner and a second (possibly the same bird) in the eastern pool.

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