Monday 13 April
Another gorgeous day for mid April with temperatures soaring to a high of 70 degrees fahrenheit with wall-to-wall sunshine
Following information kindly supplied by Rob Andrews (to the BBC website), I was up at first light and out at SHARDELOES LAKE by 0700 hours. Rob had found a pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE on Sunday evening - the first-ever record for the Amersham Recording Area. Both birds had presumably roosted on the lake overnight and had relocated to the cricket field - showing well and allowing me to obtain a large number of photographs. Well pleased!
Although I failed to find RDA's pair of Teal, the early morning rollcall included 4 Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 4 Mute Swan (breeding pair and two of last year's offspring), 40 Canada Geese, 1 GREYLAG GOOSE, 6 Mallard, 9 Gadwall, pair of Pochard, 17 Tufted Duck, 22 Coot, 12 Moorhen, female Kestrel, 3 Red Kite, 4 Argenteus Herring Gulls (3 first-years & a second-year), pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Stock Dove, Common Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, 2 singing Chiffchaffs, Song Thrush, Nuthatch and Jay; the Rookery now containing at least 23 occupied nests.
Walking the DRY CANAL above WILSTONE RESERVOIR, was very pleased to find the two NORTHERN WHEATEARS still present on the manure heaps to the south, with 8 Skylark, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, male Yellowhammer, 2 Goldfinch and 3 Red Kites noted.
Little change on WILSTONE with all 3 GARGANEY still present, 3 Pochard, 28 Black-headed Gull, 2 first-summer Common Gull, a first-summer Herring Gull, 5 Teal and 8 Shoveler. The East Bank Wood held singing Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, with 22 Sand Martin and 8 Barn Swallow over.
Over at STARTOP'S END, a COMMON SANDPIPER, 2 Common Redshank and 4 COMMON TERN were on the bales, with 10 Mute Swans (including 9 first-summers), 2 Greylag Geese, female Red-crested Pochard, Mistle Thrush, Greenfinch and singing male Reed Bunting noted. A 'new' singing male WILLOW WARBLER was in trees along the west bank in the NW corner.
In the Bucks reedbed section of MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, a singing male SEDGE WARBLER was a 'year-tick', with Western Reed Warbler there (plus the 2 by the overflow), Common Kingfisher, £ Common Terns and 2 Jays; 15 Barn Swallows were overhead.
PITSTONE HILL was alive with the sound of singing & displaying Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, as well as 2 jangling male CORN BUNTINGS. A pair of COMMON STONECHAT was present too, along with Great Spotted & Green Woodpecker, Linnet, Yellowhammer and this cracking male GREENLAND WHEATEAR. A male RING OUZEL showed briefly on the south side of the hill but flew away chacking as it saw me.
In neighbouring INKOMBE HOLE, 3 male RING OUZELS were commuting between there and the bottom fenceline of STEPS HILL, with the only other migrants evident being Song Thrush and male Blackcap.
On ALDBURY VILLAGE POND, most surprising sight was of this pair of confiding MANDARIN DUCKS on the Village Pond.......
Then, just after 2.15pm, Steve Blake phoned to say that Ian Rose had found a 'Bluethroat' at AMWELL and warden Darren Bast had photographed it!! This was a true mega for Hertfordshire, none of the 6 previous records being twitchable. My closest county rival Graham White had fortuitously stumbled into the last one trapped & ringed at Rye Meads Sewage Farm on 4 April 1983 so I had added impetus to try and see this one. Following Steve's call I was off, arriving just over half an hour later at the watchpoint overlooking GREAT HARDMEAD LAKE. Around 20 Amwell birders were already on site, Mike Ilett & Barry Reed being two of those that had already connected. Darren showed me his back of camera shots and there it was - a cracking male WHITE-SPOTTED BLUETHROAT. Around 15 of those gathered had seen the bird fly a few minutes prior to my arrival from the reedbed on the left to that on the right and it was to be another 20 minutes before it was re-sighted - hugging the edge of the reedbed. It soon became apparent that it was walking a circuit of the fragmented reedbed, showing about once every 50 minutes on average. The problem was the number of observers on the watchpoint trying to get a view - numbering 65 at one point. I remained on site from 1500-1915 hours, eventually obtaining a series of largely record shots (see below) as it hopped out for just seconds at a time. By dusk, over 100 observers had connected.
It constituted the sixth county record and the first since 1983 -:
1) A male White-spotted at Aldenham Reservoir on 4 March 1942;
2) A male at Marsworth Reservoir on 23 September 1969;
3) A first-year female at Tewinbury on 12 September 1970;
4) A White-spotted found dead at Spellbrook, Bishop's Stortford, on 29 April 1978;
5) A male trapped & ringed at Rye Meads on 4 April 1983.
A pair of BLACK-NECKED GREBE in transitional plumage were also seen from the watchpoint, as well as 6 Little Egret, Egyptian Goose, 4 Gadwall, 2 Teal, 10 Shoveler, 2 Oystercatcher, 4 Redshank, 6 Lapwing, 2 Snipe, Common Sandpiper, 2 Common Tern, 2w YELLOW-LEGGED GULL, Water Rail, Common Kingfisher, 32 Sand Martin, 8 Swallow, SEDGE WARBLER, 2 Cetti's Warbler and Reed Bunting