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).

  • cloud 0/3
  • wind 0-1/3
  • temp. 1-2/3 increased to 2/3 by the afternoon
  • fog 1-2/3
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.

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