FRIDAY 11 JANUARY
The day started off bright, sunny and calm but later clouded over, whilst temperatures struggled to get higher than just 3 degrees C. There was no rain to speak of.
I had reserved today for my first real outing into HERTFORDSHIRE, with a number of target birds on the menu. Rather remarkably, the last three years in the county have resulted in me seeing exactly 171 species. I managed all of my targets bar Tree Sparrow.....
At LYNSTER'S FARM, WEST HYDE first thing, the usual field held 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE, 60 Woodpigeons, 18 Jackdaws, 8 Common Magpies, Carrion Crow, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 1 Redwing
I then went up to ASH GROVE in HAREFIELD where last year I saw 4 Tree Sparrows in gardens. All change this time I am afraid with no feeders, tall fences and no birds. Plenty of suitable stubble fields though with Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Ring-necked Parakeet, Common Starling and a beautiful pair of BULLFINCHES all seen.
Being such a calm and glorious morning, I then decided to visit BROADWATER SAILING CLUB, where just to the North is the RIVER COLNE on the Herts/Middlesex border. This is the only real wintering place in the county for wintering CHIFFCHAFFS and this morning the overhanging branches were alive with them. In a section of river no more than 100 yards long, there must have been at least 17 birds, the majority fairly standard-looking Collybita and a number of darker, greener, longer-winged abietinus candidates. Nothing present suggested tristis. However, one particularly bright Phyllosc did take my eye, having noticeably bright feet, straw-brown coloured legs, yellow breast, rich yellow supercilium, yellow about the face, pale bill and seemingly long primaries - it had to be a wintering WILLOW WARBLER. There was another pale legged bird present but this bird was clearly a Chiffchaff.
The same stretch of COLNE also held 2 Robins, Dunnock, GREY WAGTAIL, Pied Wagtail, 18 Redwings, 1 Great Crested Grebe and a cracking adult drake GOOSANDER.
TROY MILL GP adjacent was brimming with waterbirds and the most inhabited in winter I had ever seen it. COOT were the real story and no less than 527 of them were trawling the pit for weed. Also counted were 22 Mute Swans, 43 Gadwall, a pair of Wigeon, 3 Pochards, 56 Tufted Ducks, 2 Grey Herons and 4 Great Crested Grebes.
COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS) was my next destination where Tringford's redhead SMEW had relocated for the day, showing very well on the main marsh in front of the first hide. The 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were still present in the far NW corner of the Deep Pit, whilst 16 Mute Swans, 138 Wigeon, 22 Gadwall, 58 Tufted Duck, 19 Pochard, 43 Coot, 2 Moorhen, 28 Lapwing and 1 COMMON SNIPE completed the counts.
Tree Sparrow was once again on the menu in the Tyttenhanger/Lemsford areas but despite traipsing round across massive hectares of fields at CROMER HYDE GAME STRIPS and other previous haunts, I totally drew a blank; just 2 birds seemingly reported in the county this year.
In fact the game strips were very poor producing lean returns, just 35 Cjhaffinches in total, no Yellowhammers, 6 Reed Buntings, 25 Common Pheasants, Magpies, Coal Tit, 14 Fieldfare, a male Linnet, Song Thrush and a Common Buzzard.
I spent the rest of the afternoon at AMWELL NR, partly in the company of Jay Ward. Leaving a flock of 55 Goldfinches in Alders by the entrance, I soon located the female NORTHERN PINTAIL which had been found earlier. It was at the south end of the Great Hardmead lake, consorting with Gadwalls by the wooded island. That pit also held 5 Mute Swans, 44 Gadwall, 9 Shoveler, 40 Wigeon, 45 Tufted Duck, 100+ Coot and a large number of roosting gulls, including 128 Lesser Black-backs, 12 Great Black-backs, 72 Herring and 54 Common.
Tumbling Bay Lake to the north of the lock gates held the continuing first-winter drake GREATER SCAUP, the redhead SMEW, a single female Common Goldeneye, 16 Pochard, 44 Tufted Duck, 3 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Little Grebes.
Towards dusk and watching from the Viewpoint, the EURASIAN BITTERN flew to its usual roosting spot at 1620 hours, whilst 2 Little Egrets came in and a Red Fox prowled about in the open