Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Birding the Watford and TRING area - 4 January 2012 (LGRE)


The day started off dry but fairly windy, with temperatures hovering around 9 degrees C. Thick cloud then moved in from the west leaving a dull and largely wet afternoon

Today I concentrated my efforts in the Watford and Tring areas of Hertfordshire, eventually adding just 6 new species to my 2012 list.........There were a few highlights, not least the terrific number of wildfowl wintering on Aldenham Country Park...............


Although I visited here with the sole intention of finding MANDARIN DUCK, I could not believe the number of wildfowl wintering on the reservoir. It was mightily impressive

After quickly securing the target bird - MANDARIN DUCK (of which 6 were present under the eaves, including 4 drakes), I set upon click-counting the remaining waterbirds......

Great Crested Grebe (3)
Little Grebe (3)
Grey Heron (2)
Mute Swan (15 including 4 first-years)
Atlantic Canada Goose (97)
Mallard (66)
GADWALL* (184 present - an internationally important figure, considering that just 25,000 winter in Britain)
Eurasian Wigeon (322)
Common Teal (just 1)
Northern Shoveler (7
Tufted Duck (47)
Northern Pochard (3)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (2 adult drakes at west end)
Coot (488)
Moorhen (16)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 adult)

Also noted were 2 Ring-necked Parakeets, 2 Carrion Crows, 5 Redwing and a SISKIN.


Despite an exhaustive search, there was no sign of the recent long-staying first-winter Little Gull - perhaps it only roosts here?

What was notable however was the large number of Great Crested Grebes wintering - no less than 57 birds, by far the largest congregation in the county.

Also counted were 2 Little Grebes, 26 Cormorants, 2 adult Mute Swans, 35 Tufted Duck, ****************************** and 284 Coots. An adult argenteus Herring Gull was also present.


And on to a spot of woodland birding in the hope of finding Woodcock, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Common Treecreeper, Lesser Redpoll and the like. You'll be lucky......

What I did find in an hour stomp around a very muddy trail was 2 Green Woodpeckers, 5 Common Buzzards, 5 Carrion Crows, 150 Redwing, 2 male Chaffinches, Wren and a mixed feeding flock containing Nuthatch (my first of the year), 3 Great Tits, 6 Blue Tits and 12 Long-tailed Tits.


In the town centre, the Grand Union Canal held 1 first-winter Mute Swan and 54 Mallards.


Very damp, muddy and blustery but I did a full circuit of TRINGFORD RESERVOIR logging everything avian - the reservoir held 2 adult Mute Swans, 53 Coot, 9 Tufted Duck, 3 Northern Pochards, 5 Teal, 195 resting Black-headed Gulls and a single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull whilst the surrounding woodland tracts produced 1 Greenfinch (flyover), 3 Robins, 7 Common Blackbirds, 1 Redwing, 4 Fieldfare, 5 Rook, 15 Western Jackdaws, 5 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Blue Tits and best of all, 3 SISKINS in the largest row of Alder trees at the west end. A female Grey Wagtail was also seen.

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the first-winter male SNOW BUNTING was still showing very well on the foreshore adjacent to the steps in the NW corner (see the superb new shots above), whilst the reservoir held 13 Mute Swans (3 first-years), just 3 Great Crested Grebes, 249 Coot, 29 Gadwall, 22 Pochard, 31 Tufted Duck, 18 Wigeon and 12 Moorhen.

Once again the gull roost on the mud was numerous and included 182 Black-headed Gulls and 9 Common Gulls (including 2 first-winters).

The perimeter banking held 8 Pied Wagtails

At MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, just 1 Great Crested Grebe was present, along with 25 Shovelers. A flock of just 17 Common Starlings was in Marsworth and Church Lane once again yielded a BULLFINCH.

A brief detour to COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS) to see the 4 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (drake and 3 female-types) (my first in the county this year) before moving on to WILSTONE RESERVOIR, where the East Fields geese flock held 70 Greylag, 29 Atlantic Canada and the continuing single first-winter DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE.

Birding at the reservoir was difficult because of the rain and wind so a full count was not possible, although just 8 Great Crested Grebes was pitiful (and with the other 4, 12 is the lowest winter total for this species I have ever registered - perhaps they have all moved to Hilfield Park!). Just 2 female Common Goldeneye could be seen.

A single check of the gull roost yielded a minimum 3,300 Black-headed and 84 Common Gulls but not one large white-headed gull species.

For the last hour of daylight, I returned to MARSWORTH where the reedbed bunting roost was pathetic - just 9 CORN BUNTINGS flew in and 4 REED BUNTINGS (perhaps, because of the foul weather, they had all roosted prior to 1500 hours this afternoon - I hope so). A single Goldcrest in the wood was also of note.

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