Saturday, 11 April 2015

Back in Herts (30th March-10th April)

30th March:

I had no plans set after handing in my dissertation so despite having an excess of spare time I had yet to find something to do.  As it happens, Dan and his girlfriend were heading to Kent on the 30th so I cheekily sidled in for a lift.  We bundled all my household stuff in the car and headed off to my home back in Herts.  A quick nip past Stithians to fill the feeders took longer than expected but we still enjoyed decent views of the Slavonian Grebe, Reed Buntings and most of the other usual stuff.  Highlights from the car journey included 4+ Ravens and 5 Roe Deer (the bird list for the full journey totalled over 30 species despite poor weather and darkness falling).

31st March:

Back in Kings Langley now and have been patching and mothing regularly again.  My first day back greeted me with my first Swallow of the spring flying around the KL fisheries before moving north.  8+ Red Kites were circling around the valley despite very strong winds.

1st April:

Drake Teal on the KL fisheries, I think it's my first on patch!

2nd April:

I borrowed my brothers bike for the day with the intention of cycling to Stocker's Lake in search of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker that has been showing on a near daily basis.  Unfortunately, I had no success but other highlights included a Redshank perched on one of the tern rafts (a decent find for the area), 2 Oysetercatchers and 4 Goldeneye (1 drake, 3 females).  The Little Owls at Stockers Farms seem to have suddenly disappeared according to a local patcher as neither have been seen for about a month.  Exotics included the usual Black Swan and 2 Egyptian Geese lingering at the western edge of Stockers Lake and a drake Mandarin on the canal by Cassiobury.  Despite no sign of the Lesser Pecker all day, the definite highlight appeared whilst I was on the causeway overlooking it's favourite drumming tree, a Weasel cropped up in front of me in the short grass!  It checked the coast was clear before proceeding to bound ahead, stopping again, then leapt into the brambles on the other side of the grassy bank.  I gave up the search around mid-afternoon as I had to be back by 3pm but on returning to the bike realised to my dismay that the back tire was totally flat, damn!  There was nothing for it other than to do the gruelling 8 mile trek home pushing the bike beside me.  My first Brimstone of the year and a Fox hunting by the canal was some consolation.

4th April:

Record count of 107 Stock Dove on Kings Langley patch, 15 Yellowhammer, Little Owl, flyover Swallow and 1 Lapwing.

6th April:
Spent the day at Staines and had a good time scanning both basins for the full morning.

Staines Reservoir: 5 Avocet, Little Gull, 4+ Black-necked Grebe, 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Red Kite, 3 Redshank, 2 Lapwing, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Swallow, 1 Brimstone, 4+ Small Tortoiseshell and 1 Peacock.

Avocets on the north basin

The drained north basin of Staines Reservoir

Staines Moor offered decent views of a sum plum Water Pipit that by chance happened to drop in at the River Colne whilst I was sat on the concrete bridge overlooking the moor in hope of some northward bound bird traffic.  Other bits and pieces included 2 Red Kites, 4+ Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 2 Lapwing, 1 Redshank, 1 Kingfisher, 18 Meadow Pipit, 2 Cetti's Warbler, 1 House Martin (my first of the year) and 5 Peacock.

That evening I was setting up the moth trap in the local woodland around 9pm when a Lapwing flew over giving its display flight calls, bizarre!

8th April:

Patching whilst walking Theo.  Had my first Yellow Wagtail of the year fly NE over Balls Pond Farm and the resident Little Owl was showing nicely.

9th April:

The target for the day was Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and the destination Withey Beds local nature reserve.  Ephraim and I woke up at 5am, set off half an hour later and arrived on site at 6:30am to be greeted with thick fog and a low temperature.  We weren't put-off though and began our search, wondering along the boardwalk and overlooking the neighbouring field.  The hours went past and when the fog finally lifted at c.9am, three other birders arrived and together we stood back and waited for the male to appear in its favourite drumming tree.  Finally, at around 10am we scored when the male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker bounded in and began drumming on the upper dead branches!  Other highlights from the Withey Beds included 1 Snipe, 1 Water Rail, several Treecreepers running around, 2 Swallows and several Great Spotted Woodpeckers.  We also had a classy male Ring Ouzel fly north over Croxley Common Moor, 5 Mandarins (3 drakes, 2 females) on the canal at Cassiobury Park, and Green Woodpecker (completing a three woodpecker day!).  We also had our first Small Whites of the year at the moor.

10th April:

Patching produced a single Marsh Tit in Scatterdells Wood, 7 Yellowhammers a couple Linnets and my first Common Tern of the year flying north through the valley in Kings Langley.

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