Wednesday, 14 December 2011

First SNOW BUNTING since January 1981


The unsettled theme continued today with strong NW winds bringing a period of wet snow during the afternoon. It was very cold - the strong wind making it feel much much colder.

After missing out yesterday, and still reeling after the Ivinghoe dip, I finally caught up with our star performing SNOW BUNTING today........


Still 8 LITTLE EGRETS in the valley, most frequenting the ditches just east of Bois Mill


Joined Mike Collard, Mike Campbell and others at Startop's mid morning to find the SNOW BUNTING still showing fabulously on the foreshore at the north end of the reservoir. It was remarkably confiding and over the hour of observation, walked to within just 28 yards of the Buckinghamshire border. It thus became the second species this year (with DBBG) that I have seen from Buckinghamshire but not within it !


At very close range it was seen to have spiky (pointed) rather than rounded tail feathers and with its bright yellow bill and extensive white in the upper wings, presumably a FIRST-WINTER MALE.

A typical bunting in shape and structure with predominantly white underparts, extending to the undertail coverts. Crown tinged rufous, with a dark ear covert and a mixture of dark and pale fringed feathers on the mantle. Some warmth extending out on to the sides of the breast forming an incomplete breast-band, with paler buff streaking in the hindneck and eye-stripe. Dark-centred scapulars and extensive white in the wings, especially in flight. Primaries very dark with white tips and tertials edged with warm rufous. A dark beady eye, striking yellow bill and short black legs and feet. Typical, rippling ''prrrrii'' call when I approached it.


SNOW BUNTING is a rare visitor to Hertfordshire with just 34 previous records involving over 50 birds, at least 10 of these being at Tring Reservoirs (the most recent in January 1981)

1) The first county record related to one shot near Hitchin in January 1881, with two captured near Royston at about the same time;

2) One was shot on Harpenden Common on 24 January 1883;

3) One was shot at Royston on 16 September 1893;

4) One was shot on Royston Heath on 6 December 1893 (Foster 1914);

5) One was shot near Sandon in January 1894 (Hartert & Jourdain 1920);

6) A male was captured near Tring on 22 February 1894 (Hartert & Jourdain 1920);

7) A flock is said to have been seen at Tring Reservoirs in 1895; there are two males in the Hitchin Museum from this period, one of which was obtained at Offley about 1890 and the other at Hitchin about 1900, whilst two were said to have been obtained at Aldenham Reservoir in January 1895;;

8) One was watched at close range in a ploughed field at Letchworth in January 1913 (Foster 1914);

9) A single was between Harfield and Welwyn on 30 January 1926 (The Field 147: 283);

10) A male remained at Wilstone Reservoir from 13-20 October 1935 (Dr J.S. Carter);

11) Two birds were present at Wilstone Reservoir on 6-7 November 1944;

12) Two were again at Wilstone Reservoir on 10 November 1945 (W. E. Glegg);

13) An immature visited Wilstone on 25 October 1952;

14) One visited Wilstone Reservoir on 9 October 1953;

15) A male was at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 3 February 1957 (London Bird Report 1957: 34);

16) A flock of at least 6 birds was noted at North Mymms on 13 December 1959;

17) A female was at Rye Meads Sewage Farm on 23 January 1960;

18) A male was at Highley Hill, Ashwell, on 1 October 1960;

19) One remained at Wilstone Reservoir from 1-5 November 1961;

20) Another was seen at Rye Meads on 5 November 1961;

21) Three flew south over Welwyn Garden City on 6 March 1972;

22) Two pairs were reported from Maple Cross on 26 November 1972;

23) A male was seen at Wilstone Reservoir on 28 October 1974;

24) One remained at Hilfield Park Reservoir from 15-18 November 1978;

25) A female was apparently seen with Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers NE of Weston Hills, Baldock, on 1 January 1979 (Brian Sawford);

26) One was seen near Wilstone Reservoir on 8 January 1981 (N. Woods);

27) One was seen in flight with Meadow Pipits at Tyttenhanger on 20 November 1988 (Steve Pearce);

28) A first-winter male remained at Tyttenhanger GP from 29 November to 1 December 1996 (Lee Marshall et al) giving many local observers their first opportunity to see this species in the county;

29) A pair was located at Kelshall on 9 November 1997 (Martin Craig), one of which was last seen on 14 December;

30) One was found in Hemel Hempstead on 5 December 1997 (M. Pearson);

31) One was found at Amwell GP on 21 November 1999 (Graham White);

32) A first-winter male was seen and photographed at Barley on 3 March 2000 (Charles Doggett & Doug Radford) (photograph in Hertfordshire Bird Report 2000, page 273);

33) A bird was watched for about 15 minutes foraging in a field at Temple End on 23 March 2007 (John Camp);

34) Most recently, an immature was just 40 yards over the county boundary in Essex at Wickam Hall near Bishop's Stortford in 5-7 November 2011. Alan Reynolds briefly saw it flight into Hertfordshire on 6 November.

Additional Birds

The pair of Red-crested Pochards and 42 Gadwall were on Startop's End whilst on neighbouring Marsworth Reservoir, Don Stone located an adult female GOOSANDER which showed well close to the causeway all afternoon.

Wilstone Reservoir continued to produce the family party of 4 BEWICK'S SWANS and the juvenile DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE with the 67 Greylags in Cemetery Corner Fields, as well as 11 Mute Swans, 250 Eurasian Wigeon and an increase to 883 Coots. There was also a report of a GREAT GREY SHRIKE from the meadow behind the hide


In addition to a pair of Mute Swans on the Grand Union Canal at Bulbourne, a further 21 (including 3 first-years) were present on the main marsh at College. Other wildfowl counted included 28 Mallard, 74 Wigeon, 18 Gadwall, 1 female Shoveler, 40 Tufted Duck and 12 Northern Pochard, as well as 1 Little Grebe, 44 Coot, 8 Moorhen and a Green Woodpecker

No comments: