Saturday, 31 March 2012

First Swallow and Cetti's of the Year, Colne Valley Lakes (31st March 2011)

With very little changing at the reservoirs at Tring, I decided, instead to head for the Colne Valley Lakes, particularly Stockers Lake in hope of some early migrants and the Cetti's warbler.


I arrived at Batchworth first with the plan to walk west passing Batchworth, Bury, Stockers and Springfield Lake, before returning.  At Batchworth, I had my first COMMON TERN of the year, flying elegantly over the water doing the occasional characteristical stoop towards the water.  Other birds on the lake included 2 Great Crested Grebes, several Canada Geese and amongst them a single Canada x Greylag hybrid, see photo below, any opinions on what it might be a cross with?

hybrid Canada x Greylag

The sad sight of a dead Coot was also a reminder to their territorial disputes.  On a happier note, I saw my first BLACKCAP of the year in the surrounding willow woodland, whilst a Great Spotted Woodpecker was also heard calling.


Not very much about as there were a number of dog walkers and sailing boats on the lake.  However, 5+ Great Crested Grebes, 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Grey Herons were of note.  On my return 2 Red Crested Pochard also turned up.

male Red-crested Pochard


I had the intention to stay at Stockers Lake the longest as most birds, as usual, tend to concentrate here.  In total 10+ Pochard, 8+ Grey Herons and 2 Red Crested Pochard were on the lake, whilst in the surrounding trees there were a pair of Nuthatches, 1 Blackcap and a pair of Lon-tailed Tits collecting nesting material (category D-probable breeding).  Also of note was 1 Stock Dove, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Treecreepers approaching very close to were I was stood and another pair of Blackcaps in the woodland bordering the canal.  Several birds also showed signs of breeding including both a single Stock Dove and a pair of Greenfinches, in a display flight/glide (both category D-probable breeding).  A nesting Canada Goose was also on the bank of the River Colne, were a Kingfisher also darted past.  I was also surprised to see a pair of Goldeneye still on the lake and 2-3 Egyptian Geese were also present.

Egyptian Goose

When I got to the meadow in the south west corner of Stockers Lake, bordering the canal I was very glad to see my first SWALLOW of the year, heading north low over my head.  Next, I decided to try my luck for the Cetti's along the causeway (thanks for directions Geoff Lapworth) and after a little patients, following the direction of its song , I obtained a short view of the CETTI'S WARBLER, finally bagged it for this year!  I was content with the day so far so sat down on the platform overlooking the eastern section of Stockers Lake, from were I saw a further 2 Common Terns perched on the posts in the centre of the lake and a pair of Reed Buntings collecting nest material (category B-probable breeding).  A Shoveler also swam past followed by a Kingfisher.  I was also approached by 3 Mute Swans, all bearing rings (not a big surprise since most of the Mute Swans on the Lake have orange colour rings), theirs were numbered 806, 842 and 904 (infact the ring number of the first bird could be persieved as 806 or 908 depending on the angle of the leg!).  A total of 15+ Swallows also flew over the lake followed by 2 Ring-necked Parakeets and intermittent song from the Cetti's.  Later I met up briefly with Geoff Lapworth again and together we tried to relocate the Cetti's in hope of some better view, we were not disappointed when it soon came out into the open and showed amazingly well hopping up on a fallen log and clambering over a bramble thicket.


I decided to visit Stockers Farm in hope of Wheatear, but unsurprisingly none were about due to the northerly wind direction.  However, 5+ Swallows were all chasing about the horse fields catching insects making it seem as if summer had already arrived.


Another short walk past Stockers Lake to Springwell Lake produced a further 5 Grey Herons, including a mating pair and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker.


Not a lot about except 6 Gadwall, 3 Ring-necked Parakeets, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Stock Dove, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Green Woodpecker and 1 Kestrel (my first and only raptor of the day).  The west and south bank seem particularly good for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker as the poplars grow close to the waters edge, there is plenty of dead wood and definitely no lack of nesting sites so I must check the site in future.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Cassiobury Park, Hunton Bridge and Kings Langley (28rd March)


In summery, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 squawking Pheasant (in the nature reserve) and the usual singing Mistle Thrush and 1 Nuthatch.


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I got off the bus a stop early in Hunton Bridge, rather than continue to Kings Langley so that I could spend the remainder of the afternoon walking back through the fields and look out for recent breeding evidence.  Unfortunately not much about except for 1 Red Kite and 1 Green Woodpecker.


Sheepcote Spring had 1 singing Blackcap in the woodland as well as 1 Nuthatch.  Berrybushes Wood also had its fair share of raptors including at least 4-5 Buzzards (including 1 display diving "category D-probable breeding").  Other birds of note included 2 Linnets and 1 Meadow Pipit.  On a non-bird front, I was also very surprised to see a Roe Deer suddenly bound away from me through Berrybushes Wood and 2-3 Brimstone were also on the wing.


A few more farmland birds were present including 1 Yellowhammer and 1 Red Kite, whilst 1 Peacock Butterfly was also present.  I was also surprised to see a flock of 25+ Fieldfare still feeding in the sheep field just west of the A41.

2-3 Red Kites were also present in the local area.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Cassiobury Park (26th March)

I had the usual spare hour off on Monday afternoon and spent it wandering around the western section of the park.
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The weather was getting progressively warmer so there was little chance of something new arriving, instead I contented myself with the sight of a flyover Buzzard and Red Kite over the nature reserve.  Also in the same area were 4 singing Chiffchaffs, 3 Nuthatches and 50+ Jackdaws circling in the sky and focusing their attention on mobbing the Buzzard.  Further birds of note included 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Jay and a pair of Pheasants in the grassy area near the hide.  The terrapin species was once again sunning itself on the log in the pond and I saw my first Brimstone of the year fly over the Gade River.

Fields behind the RSSKL (25th March)


Went for a Theo walk behind the RSSKL in the afternoon and within minutes three birds of prey had appeared, including 1 Kestrel, 1 Buzzard and 1 Red Kite.  The weather was ideal for raptors and soon the sky was full of them with a total of 7 Buzzards circling together over in the Chipperfield direction.
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As well as a further 2 Kestrels and another 2 Red Kites, a very small total of 3 Linnet were of note, followed by 15+ Meadow Pipits, several singing Skylarks and 1 Yellowhammer in the arable fields near Middle Farm and Langley Lodge Farm.  Finally, a Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker were both heard.


I had my first singing Blackcap for the year giving brief bursts of song from a holly hedge just outside my back garden bordering Love Lane.


My family and I ate dinner outside that evening, during which a bat species made a brief appearance and a single Redwing gave a call note on its migration back north.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Piccotts End Pools and Water End (24th March)

As there was a Herts Bird Club conference at Harpenden, I decided to make a morning visit to Piccotts End Pools and Water End before continuing by bike to Harpenden.  With the additional information that a Crane or Stork species had been seen flying north over Hemel towards the Pools, I was particularly intent on arriving early and eager to find it (thanks Dan for the report).

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In order to cover as much area as possible, without the bird slipping through my fingers, I decided to walk from north to south from the beginning of the footpath at Potten End Hill.  Although the conditions weren't ideal, I hoped the fog would have encourage the bird to make land fall and overnight at the pools before continuing after the fog lifted.  Unfortunately, there was no sign of it, even through the fog.  All I could find were 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Green Woodpeckers, 2 Great spotted Wooodpeckers, 2 Bullfinches (a pair), 1-2 Little Egrets and 3 Grey Herons.  In fact, there were very few birds about in the morning at the pools with the only other highlights being 1 Kingfisher, 5 Stock Dove, 1 Lapwing and a Robin doing a rather good impression of a Blackcaps song.


There is some excellently managed area of stubble field, ideal for nesting Lapwing, Hares and other farmland birds so it was definitely worth a check for Grey Partridges.  The first birds of note included 4+ Lapwing, including 1 which I presume was incubating eggs as it was sat motionless and crouched discreetly on the ground in an unusual squatting pose.  15+ Linnet also flew past as I scanned the fields as I enjoying good views of 5+ Hares.  As the temperatures rose, the raptors took to the sky including 2+ Red Kite, 2-3 Buzzards and 1 Kestrel.

 lots of rubbish shots of the Hares (all the same still very nice mammals)






As I approached the wooden bridge the wintering almost summer plumaged WATER PIPIT immediately flew up from the bank and landed near the top of a willow tree.  I barely recognised since my previous visit and almost thought it was an entirely different bird species- the definitely the biggest change in plumage of an individual bird I have seen.

Water Pipit, in transition to summer plumage

Also of note was 1 Little Egret, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Grey Wagtail followed by 1 Red Kite, 1 Buzzard and 1 Kestrel all circling together (the Buzzard and Kestrel being mobbed by Crows).  I did a thorough check of the watercress beds north of the bridge but still no sign of the Crane or Stork sp. all I could find was another flyover Lapwing, 1 Chiffchaff and a Small Tortoiseshell.


I decided to check the surrounding farmland in hope of finding more Little Owls for my survey.  My wish was soon granted when an adult LITTLE OWL made a brief appearance in a small coppice just north of Gaddesden Place.  Other birds in the area included 1 Yellowhammer and 2 Hares in the stubble field near Shaw Wood accompanied by a single Red-legged Partridge.  Raptors were everywhere including 3+ Red Kites along with many more Buzzards most of which were in almost continuous view.

any ideas what animal this belongs to Chris Packham


I decide to revisit the Piccotts End Pools again just to recheck the area for the Crane/ Stork species and bypassed the River Gade.  I was surprised to find the wintering Pintail was still on the river along with 9 Teal and another Little Egret.


Eventually caught up with Dan Forder (pleased to meet you Dan if you are reading my blog) and together enjoyed 4 Little Egrets +1 more Little Egret which I briefly saw in flight near the weir.  I didn't have time to hang around any longer as I was already late for the conference, all the same the mornings birding was rather productive and it didn't appear as if I was going to miss any new arrivals as the weather just got better.

Cassiobury Park (23rd March)

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The half hour I had in the park before school started at 8:30am was spent well wandering around the park.  In summery, I had 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Ring-necked Parakeet, the long-singing Mistle Thrush, 1 Jay and a Magpie carrying nest material "category B-probable breeding".  I made another visit to the old oak trees near the nature reserve and was very pleased to find the resident LITTLE OWL perched in the same place accompanied by 2 Stock Doves.  I also heard 1 Redpoll species calling from over the trees bordering the football pitch but could not see it.  Very frustratingly, when I visited the Herts Bird Club website later that day, I had to restrain myself from hitting my head on the table as I had narrowly missed Ian's Osprey which must have flown over my school only seconds before it was first seen.  Unfortunately, I was sat indoors totally unaware that it was perhaps flying over my head whilst I was listening to another Friday afternoon debate (well done Ian!).

Cassiobury Park and Kings Langley Woods (22nd March)


In summery, I had 3 Ring-necked Parakeets and 1 calling Green Woodpecker (always the usual).


I had my first singing Chiffchaff in Kings Langley Woods for this year as I returned through it after school at 17:30pm.  I was back in the woods soon after walking Theo and was very surprised to find an immature Sparrowhawk (with a thin white bar across the end of the tail feathers).  There was also a short conflict between a Grey Squirrel and a Magpie which was attempting to occupy the squirrels drey much to its frustration.  However, the squirrel soon fled with an acorn in its mouth.  Other birds of note in the wood included 1 singing Goldcrest, 1 Song Thrush and 4 Bullfinches (2 pairs) feeding in the usual tall hedge at the western corner of the wood.

Cassiobury Park and Hampermill Lake (21st March)


I had about 30 minutes to check out some of the northern edge of Cassiobury Park, before I had to head of to school, already, there were signs of spring including 2 Collared Doves collecting nest material (twigs) "catagory B-probable breeding".  Also of note was 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Grey Heron perched on the roof of a house backing onto the northern side of the park, 1 calling Nuthatch and 1 Ring-necked Parakeet.  The ever present song of a Mistle Thrush and 2 Green Woodpeckers all typified the past months records indicating that there has been little change since late winter/early spring.


I had several hours to spare after school ended early at 13:00pm so I decided to try my luck down at Hampermill Lake, a new site for me.  The environment was much the same as the other nearby lakes such as Stockers and Bury Lake but there were "Strictly No Enter" signs everywhere and the view over the lake was rather restricted.  However, the first thing which struck me was the sudden arrival of spring at the Lake were, I noted my first singing Chiffchaff of the year and even some of my first Butterfly species, including a few Skipper species and 2 Small Tortoiseshells.  The birds were a little more numerous than in the surrounding fields, although nothing extraordinary was about.  1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Jay, and several more singing Chiffchaffs were of note.  I spent most of my time observing a pair of Long-tailed Tits constructing their beautifully engineered egg-shaped nest out of cobwebs, feathers and lichen, designed amazingly to expand whilst the chicks grow "category B-probable breeding".  In the surrounding fields, 2 Greylag Geese and 3 Canada Geese were of further note and 2 more singing Chiffchaffs were at the Sandy Lodge Golf course and the neighbouring horse paddock.  On my return past Hampermill Lake again, 22 Canada Geese were now present, a Sparrowhawk shot along the hedgerow before veering into the sky as it saw me and began circling, whilst 5 Fieldfare flew over N followed by 3 Ring-necked Parakeets and another Small Tortoiseshell.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Broadfield Farm (20th March)

I decided to check the site at which I saw the female Black Redstart two days ago just in case it had decided to stay a little longer.  Despite checking the area thoroughly it seems it has gone as I could find no further sign of it.  However, to compensate, 1 Green Woodpecker was feeding in the field, 1 Lapwing flew over (closely attended by a Carrion Crow), 1 Yellowhammer, several Skylarks and 1 Linnet were all of note.

Cassiobury Park (19th March)


A Green Woodpecker yaffling on the Kings Langley Common started the day (as it does on most).


In my morning 5 minute walk through the park in the morning 2 Redwing were the only birds of note. 
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However, I returned at 13:00pm for a usual hours walk through the park.  Most of the birds were concentrated down by the nature reserve including 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Jays, 1 Grey Heron and a Pheasant gave a squawk from the cress beds and I got a very brief glimpse of it from the hide as it strutted behind the willow bushes.  Although the weather was good, there were very few birds except for a further 2 Ring-necked Parakeets, 1 singing Mistle Thrush (I assume it is the same bird which has now been singing for several weeks), 1 Green Woodpecker and a large c.25cm long Brown Rat scuttled along the edge of the Gade River dwarfing a nearby terrified Wren.  On my afternoon return through the park 1 singing Nuthatch was of note.


1 Buzzard was perched on the usual fallen tree just north of Hunton Bridge (seen briefly from the bus as it drove past).


I was once again walking Theo at 22:30pm when a Red Fox appeared on Love Lane, before scuttling into Hill Farm.

Fields behind the RSSKL, Broadfield Farm (18th March)

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I decide to spend the rest of the weekend on the local patch and brought Theo behind the RSSKL for another walk.  This time, however, I had the intention to first revisit Broadfield Farm to check out the line of old oak trees for Little Owls as my previous attempt produced none.  The first birds of note included a calling Green Woodpecker and 18+ Pied Wagtails on stubble fields.  As I approached the farm, I noticed a pipit-like bird perched briefly on a fence post.  This would have been an unusual record in itself, as Meadow Pipits tend not to approach fields neighbouring to closely to the A4251 road but are more often found in the arable fields further west.  However, as I approached closer I was astonished to see that it was infact a BLACK REDSTART (a first for my local patch)!!  It remained in the general area for some time, favouring the fenceline around the small pond in the ditch but did on occasions disappear for several minutes in the numberous surrounding farm buildings.

female Black Redstart

 perched on a pile of weeds at the edge of the pond

 showing a little of her striking red tail

Also in the same area was 1 Fieldfare, a single Lapwing mobbing a Carrion Crow just south of Broadfield Farm and a Yellowhammer was also heard.


Another Theo walk at about 22:00pm for a final evening walk around the Kings Langley Common.  It was a very clear and starry night so I assume the Black Redstart will move of tonight leaving little point in checking the following morning.  Once again the resident Red Fox made an appearance on the Common before standing in the middle of the Love Lane road and heading into Hill Farm.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Local Patch (17th March)

Unfortunately, I was suffering from a bad back so I didn't want to rush of on any twitches or cycle anywhere over the weekend so I spent a casual weekend on my local patch searching for some early signs of breeding.


3 Skylarks in the fields just west of the A41 were my first birds of note for the day followed by the welcoming sight of 2 Lapwings display diving over the newly ploughed fields at Clapgate Farm (hopefully they'll breed).


As the rain set in and picked up, I was surprised to see 3 Buzzards take of from the woods (perhaps due to my accidental disturbance).  A flock of 62+ Black-headed Gulls also flew in from the ploughed fields accompanied by 5 Lapwing displaying and doing the occasional tumble in the air.  I remained on the northern side of the wood for a while and counted 50+ Fieldfare fly over as well as a singing Goldcrest in the woods behind me.  On of the highlights was the spectacular sight of a murmuration of 300+ Starlings take flight from the pastural fields before landing in some neighbouring trees (the largest number I have recorded by far on my local patch!).


I was hoping to refined some of last weeks Lesser Redpoll but on arriving the scene was much more quiet with on 2 Yellowhammers breaking the silence, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the line of Lime trees and 19+ Fieldfare.


At Sheepcote Spring the only birds of note braving the rain included 1 Treecreeper, coming very close to were I was standing, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Nuthatches, 1 calling Green Woodpecker and 2 Lesser Blck-backed Gulls heading north.  As the rain receded, 2 Buzzards arrived and glided east over Beechen Bottom.


On my return little had changed, except for the lack of rain.  However, 2 Buzzards were of note, as well as 1 Green Woodpecker and a brief glimpse of c.25 Siskin and Lesser Redpoll, before they landed back at the tops of the coniferous trees out of sight.


I was just approaching the farm from the west when 12 Siskin flew over in a northerly direction followed by 1 Meadow Pipit flying west.  The hamlet pond played host to a rather gruesome scene as a group of 4 male ducks (2 Mallards, 1 feral Mallard and 1 white barnyard duck (or whatever they are supposed to be called)) were attempting to drown one another by teaming up as 3 vs. 1 and began forcing their opponents head underwater whilst keeping them under using their own body weight.


The pastural fields SW of the A41 held 21+ Meadow Pipits (definitely one of the largest numbers I have seen on my local patch) accompanied by 4+ Skylarks and 2 Kestrels.

Cassiobury Park and Fields behind the RSSKL (16th March)


My first birds of note of the day included 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers which flew over Vicarage Lane as I walked down to the bus stop in the morning at 7:20am.


I arrived at 7:50am and had a short walk around the park encountering many of the usual species including 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 3 Nuthatches, and 3-4 Green Woodpeckers (only heard but still a larger number than is usual for most days).  Also of note included a total of 4 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Jays, 1 calling Redpoll sp. and a Grey Heron called loudly from the nature reserve.

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After school I was once again behind the RSSKL walking Theo, I had just entered the first field when I picked up on a falcon species heading towards me from a southerly direction.  As it came closer it soon became clear it was an adult PEREGRINE (only my second record for my local patch!)  It headed slowly and low over my head before flying onwards over the RSSKL towards Hemel.  It calmed down a little following the Peregrine but 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, a single Linnet and a calling Redpoll species were also of note.  As I was walking down the footpath towards Broadfield Farm, I noticed a Feral Pigeon in the line of oak trees, on closer inspection, I realised it was bearing a ring (my first find of a ringed bird on my local patch!), however, it was too obscured and hidden to read the number, the only information I got from it was that it was green and ringed on the left leg.  Further on, I also encountered 2 Yellowhammer, 1 Green Woodpecker, a calling Pheasant and dozens of Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls, seen at a distance near Clapgate Farm (feeding in the newly ploughed fields).


I made a little diversion from Broadfield Farm, were I hoped to find more Little Owls for my survey to Middle Farm (west of the A41) also in search of Little Owls.  Unfortunately, I found none, but did have some other surprises including a flyover Cormorant a calling Pheasant and a late migrant Fieldfare.

Watford (14th March)

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Another usual morning walk through Cassiobury Park between 8:00 and 8:25am.  1 Song Thrush, 1 Nuthatch and 1 calling Redpoll species were the first birds of the day, closely followed by 2 calling Great Spotted Wooodpeckers and 1 Goldcrest.  As there were fewer than usual people in the park and it seemed relatively still, I decided to check out the Little Owl spot in the park which Ian pointed out to me last week (thanks Ian) and was very glad to find the resident adult LITTLE OWL perched nervously and flying between the two old oak trees at the west end of the Park near the nature reserve perhaps agitated by my presence.  I didn't want to disturb it too much so I moved on, as I was, 3 Lesser Redpoll flew over in a northerly direction.  Other birds of note during my visit included 2 Nuthatch (both only heard), 2 Mistle Thrushes on the football  fields, calling Herring Gulls (in the Whippendell direction), 30+ Black-headed Gulls, 1 calling Ring-necked Parakeet and a Pheasant gave a harsh "squak" from the cress beds in the nature reserve. (not bad for a 25min. visit)


I had a few hours to spare after school before I had to head of to an after school art class and spent the time along the River Colne and walked to the farmland neighbouring Bushey Hall School.  The highlights along the river included 1 Grey Wagtail and a Kingfisher perched over the stream (surprisingly it wasn't perched on a shopping trolly in the river but in fact on the end of a branch, a slight hint of sarcasm in the last sentence).


It's only a very small nature reserve just east of the A4008 but is a nice quiet spot near the Bushey Hall Golf Course.  Not a great deal of note except 2 calling Green Woodpeckers, a total of 5 Jays and a Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding on the fairway of the Golf Course.


This held some ideal habitat for Little Owls (a new focus for a survey I am conducting) and within seconds of lifting my bins, an adult LITTLE OWL came into view, perched on one of the numerous old trees, many with suitable nest holes surrounding some excellent hunting grounds.  Glad with my new find, I moved on and on my return encountered a further 1 Ring-necked Parakeet, 2 Song Thrushes, 2 Skylarks and a calling Pheasant.

WGSB and 500 bus trip (13th March)


Not much again today as I was for much of the day in school but between lessons I did note 6+ Pied Wagtails on the tarmac and playing fields within the school grounds.


I was just passing through Hunton Bridge by bus at c.17:00pm but as it approached the M25 junction 20 when 200+ Woodpigeons suddenly erupted from the surrounding fields, perhaps a predator was flying over!  Unfortunately I couldn't see any from were I was siting, the only explanation I could find was a single flyover Grey Heron.  Other birds of note from the bus included 1 Kestrel and 1 Grey Heron perched in the usual dead trees south of Hunton Bridge, and 2 Pheasants at the M25 junction 20 roundabout.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Cassiobury Park (12th March)

The usual walk through the park in the morning yielded a calling Redpoll sp. at the east end of the park.  In my early afternoon walk through the park much more was of note including 2 Grey Herons down by the nature reserve and 2 calling Nuthatches.  Also in my visit 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers were about (only saw two of them) and a Green Woodpecker was also yaffling.  Two other birds of note included a single Jay and Goldcrest.  However, the biggest surprise was the find of a tortoise species (most likely a escape) basking on a branch in the middle of a pond near the flooded meadow (which has now dried up) before it dropped into the water and didn't re-emerge.

Fields behind the RSSKL (11th March)

Another Theo walk behind the RSSKL for about an hour at 9:15am.  The weather was more reminiscent of summer with:
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Two flocks totaling 60+ Linnet started the day nicely in the first field behind the school followed by 1 singing Skylark and a Yellowhammer, 2+ Redwing and a distant Red Kite circling near the A41 towards Chipperfield.  After crossing the A41 and heading down towards Middle Farm I was astonished to see a total of no less than 6 Buzzards circling above in the thermals created by a beam of sunshine coming through a gap in the clouds.  Also in the area, 3 Skylarks in their song flight were of note along with a flyover Lapwing, 2 Canada Geese, and a small flock of Linnet amongst some Chaffinches in the arable fields surrounding Middle Farm.

Local Patch Birding with Redpolls everywhere (10th March)

Started out at 9:00am from Kings Langley and went through the fields behind the RSSKL towards Berrybushes Wood via Langley Lodge Farm.  The weather was ideal and the damp ground and overcast skies meant more birds were present than usual.
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1 Goldcrest feeding in the lower canopy of the coniferous trees in the car park of the RSSKL was the first bird of the day followed by calling Yellowhammers in the first field behind the RSSKL.  The neighbouring field outside Clapgate Farm held a flock of 55+ Common Gulls along with several Black-headed Gulls (although these were much less numerous).  After crossing the A41 I encountered 3 Skylarks in their classic song flight high over the fields, although I did notice their territories are rather sparse and widely space, another indication that this species might unfortunately not be doing particularly well in this area.  As I approached Langley Lodge Farm, 70+ Fieldfare took of from the tall trees and moved over to the hedgerows nearer to the carriageway.  2 Yellowhammers and 2 Song Thrushes were also of note in the hedgerow leading to the farm.  The small pond neighbouring Langley Lodge Farm was rather productive with a mixed flock of c.20 Siskin and Lesser Redpoll, including at least 1 stunning male with a pink chest.  I headed on further SW through the farmland where I encountered a further 2 Yellowhammers and 2 Skylarks.


I was passing Berrybushes Wood when a large mixed flock of c.50 Siskin and Lesser Redpoll erupted from the west end of the wood.  In the same time a second flock consisting mainly of c.30 Lesser Redpoll flew over west in the direction of Bucks Hill.  As I walked up the track towards Model Farm I was treated to a further 6+ Lesser Redpoll perched in the hedgerow.  I met up with Colin Everett at Sheepcote Spring (pleased to meet you eventually and thanks again for the tour) and soon pointed out a flyover Lapwing (a rather scarce bird in the Kings Langley area only a km north of the sight) and 2 Ring-necked Parakeets (also a bird I have not recorded in Kings Langley before).  We also enjoyed views of a Buzzard which later came to perch on a lamp post towards the motorway.  Other birds of note in the near area included Goldcrests singing in the nearby wood, 1 calling Green Woodpecker, 2 Mistle Thrushes mobbing the single Buzzard and a calling Treecreeper.  As we approached the Model Farm we were both treated to excellent views of c.30 Lesser Redpoll busily drinking in the small puddle and drinking trough with the occasional Siskin.

dozens of Lesser Redpolls visiting the water trough for a precious sip of water (unfortunately I didn't find a Mealy amongst them)


one of the several stunning male Siskins

Further down the track we encountered 2 MARSH TITS (a year tick), also a scarce bird in the Kings Langley area and a further reminder to me how much the bird life can change over a matter of kilometers from one site to another.


We made a decision to head towards Chipperfield so that Colin could point out some of the birding hotspots in the area and we certainly weren't disappointing as 2 Buzzards flew over and at Topcommon 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers were of note followed by a calling Green Woodpecker.  Best of all was the find of an adult LITTLE OWL perched on the edge of a hole in the side of a tree just NNW of Topcommon itself.

Little Owls at Topcommon


A Green Woodpecker soon joined the Little Owl in the same tree followed by 2 flypast Jays which soon alerted the resting Owl and triggered it to start calling in alarm.  I also had a brief view of a possible Chiffchaff amongst the hedges, 1 Treecreeper in the sparsely wooded area neighbouring the houses and 2 Siskin flew over towards Chipperfied.  On our way back, 1 Green Woodpecker was heard and Colin, with his expert hearing pointed out the call of a LITTLE OWL as we past the north side of Berrybushes Wood.


We headed back down to Hunton Bridge passing several previously occupied Little Owl sites, unfortunately we didn't find any birds here.  However, as we came down Langleybury Lane a Kestrel flew past and 5 Linnets flew over in a westerly direction, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker was of note and we had a distant record of a single Cormorant heading north up the canal.


I said goodbye to Colin (thanks once again for a very enlightening walk around your local patch) and headed down the canal towards the small green space at Clarendon Farm.  Unfortunately the previously water filled ponds are still dry so bird life was rather restricted.  I couldn't find anything of note so headed back home back along the canal.  The last birds of the day included a shy Little Grebe diving and hiding amongst the overhanging vegetation of the canal and a calling Kingfisher up one of the tributaries were the Gade River splits from the canal.

4 Red Kites were also in my local area, however this is a sensitive species so releasing information may be unwise if they attempt to breed.

Cassiobury Park (9th March)


5+ Pied Wagtail were on the playing fields and concrete and 1 Herring Gull was calling outside whilst siting in my geography lesson.


Whilst waiting for the bus at Cassiobury Drive (I do a lot of bus stop birding thanks to many delays and absence of buses) I was alerted to a circling Sparrowhawk high over the estate moving northwards being mobbed noisily by a Herring Gull forcing it of its territory (perhaps a sign of Herring Gulls breeding locally (apparently they are still considered absent from the tetrad in terms of breeding status so I hope to change this in the coming year).


The bus was just entering Kings Langley and was passing the field just west of the A4251 when 3 Greylag Geese flew in and landed in the field, an unusual species to be seen on my daily commute in and out of Watford.


Once I got home I was soon out the house again walking Theo (my dog) through the Kings Langley Woods.  Nothing of significant importance but 3 Bullfinches were a nice surprise along with 1 Mistle Thrush and 1 calling Nuthatch.

No Aurora but plenty of Tawnys (8th March)

My dad and I went down Barnes Lane on Thursday were we hoped to see the distant spectacle of an aurora.  Apparently, there has been a recent and considerably large solar flare which is only now reaching the earths atmosphere and is responsible for creating this stunning spectacle at a lower latitude than usual.  Unfortunately, we were fruitless in our search for the aurora as there was considerable cloud cover in the north (were they are reported to occur).  However, we were both treated to 2-5 calling Tawny Owls (including 1-2, and 1-3♂) around Scatterdells Wood area, Rucklers Lane and one even calling from a tree along Barnes Lane.  No Little Owls were at the usual location outside the hamlet along the line of poplar trees, however the visibility was poor so confirming its absence was not possible.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Cassiobury Park (8th March)

Didn't get much time at all to do any birding today as I had to rush to school to get on with chemistry coursework, orchestra and the rest but on my return about 16:40pm I was treated to a good view of one of 2 Nuthatches and 1 Ring-necked Parakeet.  Also saw a single Bullfinch from the bus as it was feeding in the hedgerows in the middle of the A41/Hempstead Road roundabout just outside Watford.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Kings Langley and Cassiobury Park (6st March)

  • cloud 3/3 shade 1/3
  • wind 1/3
  • temp. 0-1/3

I left late for school today and whilst walking past the KL Common 2 Redwing flew over in a westerly direction, a rather unusual direction given the time of year.  As I was walking down Vicarage Lane I was first alerted to a small flock of panicking Starlings circling in a condensed flock over The Glebe, a rather unusual occurrence to happen on its own accord.  However, when I looked skywards I was thrilled to see the explanation was a PEREGRINE heading north over the Lane with strong/rhythmic wing beats, pointed wings and an unmistakable jizz.  This represents a local patch tick!!


Nothing out of the ordinary with 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers of note (2 of which were only heard), 1 calling Green Woodpecker, several calling Redwing as they flew overhead, 1 Pied Wagtail and a Ring-necked Parakeet calling near the Cha Cha Cha Cafe.


The usual gulls were present including 28 Black-headed Gulls, 1 Common Gull and 5 Pied Wagtails on the playing field and concrete.


On my from school at 17:10pm through Kings Langley Woods came across 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 singing Goldcrest and a calling Green Woodpecker.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Cassiobury Park (5th March)

I had a little free time today between 14:00-14:50pm and spent the time (as usual) in Cassiobury Park for a bit of a break.  Not much was at the eastern end of the park (near the Cha Cha Cha cafe) with the main birds of note including 25+ Redwing feeding in the leaf litter and 1 Ring-necked Parakeet.  A flock of 43+ Black-headed Gulls were on the football fields.  However, most of the activity was down along the Gade River where several Mallard were dotted along the river with 2 Mandarin (a pair) amongst them on the flooded meadows in the nature reserve.  I was also alerted to the harsh "squak" of a Pheasant coming from the cress beds (apparently an unusual occurrence in the Park) and a Kingfisher shot out of the woods infront of me before briefly alighting on a bulrush.  A Bullfinch feeding in the slough berry hedgerow in the same area was also a nice surprise.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Dungeness, luck does run out eventually. (3rd March)

In order to arrive at Rye at 8:30am I had to put in the extra effort of cycling to Watford at 4:15am, which unfortunately meant I had to get up at 3:30am all for the hope of finding a Penduline Tit at Dungeness.


I was just reaching Watford and was about to cross the bridge over the canal when an Owl sp. flew over the road in line with the canal going south.  From the glimpse I had from the bike it appeared overly white/pale brown however it could have been darker as I only saw it in the headlamps of car.  It had a wavering flight with very slow relaxed wing beat but I could barely ID any other notable features.  I pulled over to the side of the road, locked up my bike and walked a short distance down the canal towpath hoping to relocate it along the bank.  I assumed it had gone into the neighbouring field (which is ideal for owls) but unfortunately getting a look over the fields was very difficult and I still had to get to Watford Junction on time.  I then heard the call of a Tawny Owl, perhaps the same bird as I walked back to collect my bike.  Note to self- check the area for Barn Owls.


I arrived at Euston with about an hour to spare before the next train left to Ashford International (the next leg of my journey) so decided to spend the early hours of the morning checking the wildfowl along the Serpentine in Ridgmont Park.  It was still in near darkness and there was no lighting in the park, all the same I still managed to see 3+ Shoveler (2,1), dozens of Tufted Ducks, Pochard, 2+ Gadwall a ♂ Red Crested Pochard and 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE (a year tick) not a bad start to the day for central London. Also of note were 2 Grey Herons and dozens of Herring Gulls beginning to congregate as they circled over the lake.


I still had a further 10 mile cycle ride ahead to get to Hanson ARC were the Penduline Tit was last seen yesterday.  c.20 Curlew were the first birds of note as they came in to land into some flooded fields as I passed on my bike.


I arrived eventually at c. 9:30am (over 4 hours journey time) at Hanson ARC Pit.  On the way to the screen the unmistakable song of several CETTI'S WARBLER came from the sides of the ditches (naturally none showed themselves).  I sat down in the screen hide and within minutes I glimpsed a large brown bird dive into the reeds, after a few seconds it re-emerged at the side of the reedbed as a stunning BITTERN, it provided amazing views and approached to within meters of the hide occasionally poking the water’s surface and adopting its unusual gate.  Within my stay a further 2-3 BITTERNS showed for brief periods of time as they flew into some of the reeds neighbouring the pit.  To the left of the hide a Pipit flew out from the side of the bank in a short loop.  It too showed well and provided a good all round view of itself including its buff/white supercilium, slate-grey head, light streaking on the back and pale yellow lower mandible which all pointed towards a winter plumaged WATER PIPIT.  As I searched the reads for the Penduline Tit the sound of Herring Gulls shrieking at something drew my attention.  I raised my bins to see initially the Herring Gull before a GREAT WHITE EGRET (a yea tick) loomed into view.  It did a short circuit before landing out of view behind the reeds.  However, 2 GREAT WHITE EGRETS soon took flight again from the same spot and flew to the line of reeds/bushes on the north side of the pit.

2 Great White Egrets

One bird still had the pale yellow mandible of a winter bird whilst the second had a predominantly darker beak, nearly fully black indicating a summer bird.  Other birds of note during my wait included 1 Little Egret, 1♂ Reed Bunting, 9 Curlew in the shallow water at the west end of the pit amongst dozens of Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls.  Wildfowl were also numerous including 100's of Wigeon, and lesser numbers of Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard and Shelduck.  Despite putting in considerable effort and scanning the bullrushes and reeds the Penduline decided to remain elusive.  Even covering the whole western and southern sides of the pit didn't work although a stunning ♂ Stonechat along the shingle bank and 1 Chiffchaff next to the Hanson ARC hide were nice surprises.  A local patch birder also pointed out a ♀ Marsh Harrier coming over the reedbeds and informed me of the local population of Tree Sparrows at Boulderwall Farm.


I dipped out on the Penduline Tit and decided to go and visit the reserve to try my luck with the Long-tailed Duck.  I checked the back garden of the Farm as instructed and was glad to set eyes on several Tree Sparrows (a year tick) making regular visits to the feeders.  

Tree Sparrows, near the feeders in the reserve car park

On arriving at the visitor center I was informed that the Long-tailed Duck had been sighted this morning near the southern end of the main pit overlooked by the reserve visitor centre.  My first stop of was at the Makepeace Hide were I joined several other eager observers all in hope of seeing the duck.  Despite their long efforts they were disappointed not to have seen in yet; as a result I decided to scan the pit from several different points from south to north, whilst stopping of at each hide.  The only birds of note on the way included 2 Ringed Plover (a year tick) and a flock of 20-30 Golden Plover (a year tick) and 2 Tree Sparrows at the reserve centre feeders.  At the final most northern end of the pit I was scanning from next to the Dennis's Hide when I picked out the ♀ LONG-TAILED DUCK (a life tick) amongst a small raft of Tufted Ducks, I quickly passed on the news to the staff at the visitor centre and was soon joined back at the viewing point by half a dozen more observers.  Unfortunately, during this time the bird had disappeared (again) but I was relieved to refined it once again in the same area.  It was mainly diving during the time and only intermittently showed for one or two seconds, not long enough to get it in the scope, however after a little patience it gave up diving and swam about for some time providing excellent views.

female Long-tailed Duck


I tried once again to find the Penduline at a more suitable time of day (15:00 till 16:30pm) but once again failed.  The only birds still of note included 2 Pintail (1,1), c.20 Curlew and some more explosive song from the Cetti's Warblers.


On the bike ride back my journey was once again slowed by a strong westerly head wind however, I was rather surprised to see a flock of c.20 SNOW GEESE including 2 "Blue Morphs" (most likely escapes or feral) feeding amongst Greylag Geese on the grassy verge of the lakes just north west of the road.

presumed escape Snow Geese

Kings Langley and Cassiobury Park (1st March)

  • cloud 1/3 shade 1/3
  • wind 0/3
  • temp. 0-1/3


The "Chwing" of a Siskin or Redpoll sp. alerted me to a single flyover bird, an unusual record for this location.


The usual birds were present although most were only heard and not seen including 1 yaffling Green Woodpecker, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Nuthatch, 1+ Redwing, 1 Ring-necked Parakeet and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Virtually the only bird of note that I saw was a single Jay.  I also saw my first Red-tailed Bumble Bee of the year whilst waiting at the bus stop along Hempstead Road at 15:30pm.

Scatterdells Wood evening tetrad work (TL00L)

No record yet existed on the Herts Bird Atlas, New Winter Atlas of Tawny Owls in the TL00L tetrad of Whippendell Bottom.  With only 1 day left before the closing date I decided to leave after school at 8:30pm to search the area.  The weather was ideal with:
  • cloud 3/3
  • fog 0-1/3
  • temp. 1/3
and an eerie silence suitable for any calling Owl.  Scatterdells Wood was my best bet and on arriving I was soon glad to heard a single TAWNY OWL calling form the northern end of the wood and soon after a TAWNY OWL began hooting in reply.

Cassiobury Park (28th February)


1 Buzzard was an unexpected sighting perched on a fallen tree just east of the A41 near Hunton Bridge and the usual 2 Grey Herons were perched in the dead tree just S of Hunton Bridge.


Another usual walk through the park at about 7:50am.  1 Stock Dove of note at the usual place at the entrance to Cassio Park from Stratford Way, 2 calling Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Nuthatch also calling and a shrieking Ring-necked Parakeet.


4+ Redwing flew NNE over Vicarage Lane.

Birding from the bedroom window (28th February)

I was finishing of Geography coursework late in the evening and only got to bed at 1:20am on 28th February, I had still not fitted much birding in yesterday so I planned to listen out for calling Tawny Owls to add to the "New Winter Atlas" records.  To my utter surprise I was soon greeted with the call of a ♂ TAWNY OWL hotting just outside the my bedroom window and an added bonus as it is new to the herts bird atlas new winter record.

Tetrad Work in KL (TL00R) and Whippendell Bottom (TL00L) (26th February)

With the "New Winter Atlas" soon ending on the 29th February I was tasked with finding some of the commoner bird species that had not yet been recorded around my local area. 


I started out with Theo (my dog) behind the RSSKL but only walked along the eastern edge of the field in hope of finding Stock Dove, unfortunately none were present today and the only birds present included Blackbirds, Chaffinches and Robins feeding amongst the stubble.


On a previous visit on the 19th June 2011 I had found an adult and 2 juvenile Little Owls just east of Whippendell Bottom itself and despite revisiting the same location on several following occasions I could never relocate any Owls.  However, today I was in luck when I was taken totally by surprise at the site of an ad. LITTLE OWL perched in the open and resting in bright sunshine in the horse field just west of Balls Pond Farm.  Surprisingly, 1 Grey Heron was also standing in a nearby field at Balls Pond Farm.  On the opposite side of Chipperfield Road (east of Whippendell Farm) a flock of 60+ Redwing were hopping about amongst the horses on the open field.  Other birds of note in the same area included 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Green Woodpecker a calling Jay and a single Treecreeper in "The Wings" at the eastern end of Scatterdells Wood.  After emerging from the woods again I noticed a Grey Heron flying towards Kings Langley from a NW direction over the A41.  A flock of 42+ Skylarks were in the fields neighbouring Barnes Lane and a further 2 Skylarks rose into the sky doing their classic song flight.