Documenting surprising sightings, fascinating findings, & exciting encounters, with birds, wildlife, & other nature,
around Hemel Hempstead...

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Regular visitors will have noticed a decrease in posts to the HEMEL NATURE
blog - this is because I have been living & working out of the area, & due to the job my time out
& about with nature in Hemel is limited. I am working on a new blog to come soon & hope that the work that has gone into HEMEL NATURE will prove useful & interesting to those still visiting it.

In the mean time you can follow me at my new accounts on the following social media platforms...

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Many thanks for your support,


Friday, 30 September 2011

My 1st GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER at Corner Hall Offices

[29°C & clear blue sky]

A boisterous Pied Wagtail on office roofs at Corner Hall, Hemel Hempstead.

One PIED WAGTAIL of yesterday was about again, being very noisy at times, often singing. It's a very boisterous bird, at one point aggressively chasing one of 3 GOLDFINCHES away from 'its' rooftop.
In the morning a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER flew over the roof opposite my window & between the office buildings - my first, & most unexpected, at this location.
A BLUE TIT & a GREAT TIT were both about.
A SMALL TORTOISESHELL Butterfly flew past my window.
At 10.25 a SISKIN flew over - only my second bird this winter & a repeat of yesterday.
I could hear some odd calls now & then that I presume could possibly be a RING-NECKED PARAKEET.
Yesterday's group of CANADA GEESE on the canal at B&Q had increased to 8 birds.
At 11.40 a MEADOW PIPIT flew over.
A BUZZARD was gliding over from town towards Two Waters.
Some GREENFINCHES flew over.
In the afternoon a LINNET (the first I've actually seen here) was twittering atop a tree bordering B&Q where a flock of 9 GOLDFINCHES & a BLUE TIT were feeding, before flying off E.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

1st SISKIN of Winter at Corner Hall Offices

[28°C & clear blue sky]

Today whilst working at my office in Corner Hall...

Some GREENFINCHES were about in the morning.
2 ROBINS were having a sing-off.
A BLUE TIT flew past my window.
At 9.55am a SKYLARK flew over E.
At 10.00am a CHIFFCHAFF flew past my window.
Another 8+ SKYLARKS flew over E at 10.00am on migration.
2+ PIED WAGTAILS were being noisy on the office roof tops.
At 10.30 a SISKIN flew over calling - my first of the winter.
Some GOLDFINCHES were jangling about
6 CANADA GEESE were on the canal at B&Q.
One of the inch-long WASPS, that I've noticed over the last week or so, was again inspecting the eaves - I guess these are mated Females already looking for suitable places to hibernate for the winter.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Herts Bird Club: Lee Evans saw a RING-NECKED PARAKEET fly over Hemel town today.

I noticed that Lee Evans had seen a RING-NECKED PARAKEET fly over Hemel town today. This would back up my thoughts that the call I heard at Corner Hall offices recently (see > HERE <) could be one of these noisy green arrows. I've been anticipating their return this autumn for some while.

Corner Hall Offices

Today whilst working at my office in Corner Hall...

Nearby the PEREGRINE was on its BT building roost just before 9.00am.
GREAT TIT flew past my office window, this is the first one I have actually seen at the offices as usually I just hear them in the surrounding trees.
A COAL TIT was calling.
A BLUE TIT was about.
LONG-TAILED TITS were calling.
A BUZZARD was 'mewing'.

Later the usual Adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was circling low over Queensway.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


At dusk 3 CANADA GEESE flew low W over The Old Leather Bottle pub in Leverstock Green.

I was outside Hemel today as I was attending a funeral in High Garrett, Braintree, Essex. The weather was  warm & the day was beautiful which lifted peoples spirits, & a few birds throughout the day helped mine too...

At about 10.00am, whilst on the M25, J23 at South Mimms, & crossing over the A1, a RAVEN flew up from below, above the A1, up to the M25, just beside the car. It made me jump out of my skin, then flew along beside the motorway, flapping almost in slow-mo.
A bit further away, past Potters Bar, a BUZZARD sat on a post near the roadside with its wings hanging down. It appeared to be sunbathing, though as there wasn't a great deal of sun at that time, possibly shielding it's prey.

Once in High Garrett, at the highly manicured crematorium grounds, there were MEADOW PIPITS, LINNETS & a PIED WAGTAIL about.
In the afternoon, down the road at the Hare & Hounds pub, I listened to a CHIFFCHAFF singing in the warming amber sunlight as I ate Walnuts from the tree there.

On the way back along the M11 & M25 there were 2 KESTRELS hunting the verges.
Also a BUZZARD was being mobbed by a Male SPARROWHAWK right above the motorway.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Corner Hall Offices

Seen from my office during work today...

In the morning a COAL TIT (possibly the 'new' local one) was very vocal.
A MEADOW PIPIT flew over late morning.
At 3.15pm a BUZZARD was circling over the River Gade to the W of Corner Hall.
A few GOLDFINCHES & GREENFINCHES were about most of the day.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

HOUSE MARTINS in Leverstock Green

At around 3.00pm, c.5 HOUSE MARTINS were feeding around rooftops in Leverstock Green, just NW of The Green Man pub.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Herts Bird Club: Peter Griffin saw a GREY WAGTAIL at the Water Gardens, opposite the Market Square, in the Town Centre today.

Peter Griffin saw a GREY WAGTAIL at the Water Gardens, opposite the Market Square, in the Town Centre today - this the one of the best places I know to get close views of these birds, they appear to be resident at the Water Gardens & nearby at Corner Hall, & numbers seem to be increasing in Hemel in general.


In the afternoon the usual Adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was on it's favoured rooftop on Queensway, atop one of the houses that's side on to the road at the peak of the hill between the Jet garage & the 'Nicky Line' rail bridge.
A younger LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was also floating about, it's appearance at distance suggesting it was a 2nd Winter.

Just outside Hemel a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was near South Way in Abbots Langley.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

FOXES at Piccotts End

Tonight at Piccotts End / Gadebridge, in the field N of Gadebridge Park, on the W side of Leighton Buzzard Road, there were 3 RED FOXES, 2 Adults & one younger one, as well as what were most likely 2+ PIPESTRELLE BATS hunting in the area.

Corner Hall Offices

Whilst at work at Corner Hall offices today I noted the following...

Just before 9.00am the PEREGRINE was nearby at it's BT roost.
At 9.20am a SKYLARK flew over E.
2 CHIFFCHAFFS were in bushes across the canal from B&Q, of which one Juv. seemed to be practising singing.
A ROBIN was also "singing" a scratchy song - maybe one of this year's birds.
A GREY WAGTAIL was beside the canal.
2 JAYS were commuting between Two Waters, Corner Hall & Boxmoor.
c.22 HOUSE MARTINS flew over W. (Alot of movement W it seems as I noticed Phil Tizzard reported 160 going W between 7.00am & 8.00am in Stowe, Bucks, & Mike Russell reported yesterday well into the hundreds heading W between 6.45am & 7.45am in Stopsley, Beds.)
A Juv. MUTE SWAN flew S high over.
There was no sign of the Peregrine nearby at its roost at 11.00am when I passed.
At 12.00pm a MEADOW PIPIT flew over.
At 1.30pm a GREY HERON flew over high S.
At 4.15pm, nearby, up to 100 STARLINGS were in a group of smaller flocks wheeling about near the BT building & landing on aerials.
At 16.50pm a Juv. MUTE SWAN was circling - possibly the same individual as earlier.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


This morning I noticed a trickle of groups of HOUSE MARTINS passing my Corner Hall office S, some feeding around the rooftops before heading on their way, Lee Evans was just N of me at 'The Magic Roundabout' & counted c.240 passing through in this direction (via Herts Bird Club).

The Female PEREGRINE was at its BT roost when I passed just after 6.00pm & Lee had also seen it there in the morning (via Herts Bird Club).

Lee also saw 7 YELLOW WAGTAILS go S over Hemel today & 2 GREY WAGTAILS (via Herts Bird Club).

Piccotts End CORMORANT 'ZZI' Tracked 380km Back to Isle of Man

'Carbo' Cormorant ringed 'White ZZI' (center) with 5 of the total 7 Cormorants at Piccotts End Pools

I have just received a message from Kevin Scott of the Manx Ringing Group, Isle of Man, confirming that the Cormorant at Piccotts End Pools on the 15th of Sept. 2011, (see > HERE <) wearing the ring  ZZI , is of the coastal subspecies Phalacrocorax carbo carbo. It was ringed as a Juvenile 67 days before, on the 10th of July 2011, at Stack Mooar, Maughold, Isle of Man, 236miles (380km) away NW from Piccotts End Pools, as the Cormorant flys.

This is the first ever sighting of a Manx colour-ringed Cormorant in England so we should be proud that it chose Hemel Hempstead as a place to rest & feed. The distance & direction travelled, to an inland site, seems to support my previously mentioned idea that this bird may have been forced this way by the remnants of Hurricane Katia hitting hard between Ireland & Scotland (the Isle of Man being bang in the middle), & the subsequent strong Westerly winds across England.

Cormorants of the subspecies Phalacrocorax carbo carbo (coastal habitat & rock-ledge nesting) are not as regular at inland sites as their 'Continental' Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis (inland lake habitat & tree nesting) cousins, & particularly so here in Hertfordshire.

Kevin confirmed that the text on the ring is infact dark red rather than black but does appear black when viewed from a distance, in bad light, or when dirty. The inscription reads  ZZI  (zulu, zulu, india) from the foot up rather than  ZZ1  (zulu, zulu, one).

The 'Carbo' Cormorant's 'White ZZI' colour-ring & metal BTO ring
Stack Mooar is the largest Cormorant colony on the Isle of Man & was featured on BBC's Springwatch earlier this year. To can find out more about this bird & the great work conducted by the Manx Ringing Group click > HERE < to visit the Manx Bird Ringing blog.

Below is a map showing (A) where  ZZI  was ringed on 10/07/11 as a Juvenile at Maughold, & (B) where it was located on 15/09/11 at Piccotts End. To see the movements of all Manx ringed Cormorants that have been re-recorded since the project began click > HERE <.

(A) Stack Mooar, Maughold, Isle of Man
(B) Piccotts End Pools, Piccotts End, Hemel Hempstead

Below is the interactive map showing the movements of all Cormorants ringed on the Isle of Man, live from the Manx Bird Ringing blog. You can view a larger map with key by clicking > HERE <.

View Manx Ringing Group Cormorant movements on a larger map with key

Below is an illustration that may help with identifying the two subspecies of Atlantic Great Cormorant that we get here in the UK. It is only one of the identifying features but probably considered the most reliable - the angle at the rear of the yellow gular pouch. Be warned though that it is a generalisation, both subspecies can deviate either side of these rules, athough if you see a Cormorant with a Gular pouch with rear edges at an angle obviously greater than 90° you can be certain that it isn't a carbo. Obviously these details may not be visible enough to make a confident ID in bad light or at distance, the angle can appear different when the viewing angle isnit side-on, the pouch can be distorted by the positioning of the bird's head, & sub-adult birds may not display these features fully anyway.

Comparison between 'carbo' & 'sinensis' Cormorants
Reference: Newson et al. (Image edited for clarification)
To see a great paper about the differences between the two subspecies,
click > HERE <.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

PEREGRINE Returns to Winter Roost

I had a text from Jim Middleton at 6.45pm saying that the PEREGRINE Falcon that has wintered on the BT building next to 'The Magic Roundabout' for the last 2 winters was back. Luckily I was in a car pulling onto the the roundabout (officially called The Plough Roundabout) at that moment, so I looked up at the 4 uprights on the N face of the building to see her sat at her usual roost, clearly visible even from the furthest mini roundabout closest the Kodak Tower. It was great to see that the ringed female had returned for a 3rd winter & this is the earliest recorded date that she has arrived at her winter residence.

Nice one Jim & thank you for the text.
I  will keep this blog updated with her activities over the coming months.

The winter Peregrine roost is on the BT building next to 'The Magic Roundabout' or Plough Roundabout, on the E side. Not to be confused with the Kodak Tower (now 'Image' apartments) which is on the opposite side of the roundabout.
Below is an interactive map of where the Peregrine roost is, where to view it from, where to park, & which way to walk between the spots.
The 6 Figure OS Grid Ref. for the general area is TL 055 063, the 10 Figure OS Grid Ref. for the precise location of the roost is TL 05582 06377. You can use the interactive map > HERE < to find the location by Grid Ref, simply add the grid reference to the search to the left.
If you plan on using a SatNav to visit the site the postcode is HP2 4XD.
I'd say the best place to park without annoying residents or shop owners is at B&Q (HP3 9XX)  just down the road at Corner Hall, off of Lawn Lane from the E, or Two Waters Road from the W.
The roost area is on the N side of the building, facing on to the A414 dual carriageway, also called St. Albans Road. There is a section of the building that protrudes towards the main road which appears to be an internal staircase / lift shaft. On the front of this 'tower' are 4 beige uprights & there is a ledge linking the left-hand two, & another linking the right-hand two, just down from the top of the uprights. This is the Peregrine's pad.
The Pergrine is most often seen either in the morning until about 9.00am, or in the afternoon / evening usually after 4.00pm, sometimes returning to roost with a kill.
The Peregrine's favoured perches seem to be the top of the uprights 3rd & 4th from the left when alert, sat near the front looking down over the town, or the 1st & 2nd uprights from the left, when sat puffed up & resting, hidden at the back.

An interactive map of the Peregrine roost site.
View The BT Peregrine location guide on a larger map > HERE <.

In previous years I have seen the Peregrine leave the roost & travel NE away from the town & have heard records of one flying over the industrial estate & another frequently hunting Golden Plovers in the Redbournbury area, so it is possible that this is where it may spend the day on the hunt. I have also seen it flying from the Boxmoor direction though & even flying between the offices in Corner Hall, where I work.

I hope any Hemel birders that haven't yet seen her yet get a chance to this winter, don't miss the opportunity to see this rare & beautiful addition to our town.

For more information about this bird from winters '09/'10 & '10/'11, & to see photos I took at the time, visit the Hertfordshire Birding blog by Lee G R Evans.
Go straight to the posts about this bird by clicking > HERE < & > HERE <.

Posted from VELORAPTOR's HTC HD7 Windows 7 Phone with UpdateMyFeed

MEADOW PIPIT over Corner Hall Offices

At 9.40 a MEADOW PIPIT was calling as it flew over my office in Corner Hall on migration.
A party of LONG-TAILED TITS were noisy in the car park trees at lunch time.
c.7 HOUSE MARTINS went over S on migration.

Monday, 19 September 2011

SKYLARK over Corner Hall Offices

At 10.15 a SKYLARK  was calling as it flew over my office in Corner Hall on migration.

Just outside Hemel, a KESTREL was hunting over the rough field beside Langley Lane in Leavesden in the evening.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

TAWNY OWL Calling at Queensway Again

For the second night in a row, a TAWNY OWL was 'hooting' near Queensway at about 2.30am.

Later in the day 2 BUZZARDS were soaring between King's Langley & Bedmond.

Outside of Hemel, c.3 SWALLOWS were feeding along a hedgerow near Braintree, Essex in the evening.

[COMMENT: Lucy Flower said on the 19/09/11 that she heard a TAWNY OWL in Grovehill on two nights over the last week, at c.10.30pm. Probably from the small wooded area opposite Henry Wells Square on Aycliffe Drive.]

Saturday, 17 September 2011

TAWNY OWL Calling at Queensway

At about 2.30am until I fell asleep some time after 3.00am I could hear a TAWNY OWL 'hooting'. I think it was most likely to have been calling from the Nicky Line, either side of Queensway, which is fairly wooded.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Piccotts End Pools

At Piccotts End Pools at dusk today...
2 LITTLE EGRETS landed in the stream out of view.
The 2nd Winter GREY HERON remained.
A BUZZARD was calling.

On my way there an Adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was on a house roof top on Queensway. I have seen this once already this week & again a few weeks ago. I wonder if this is part of the group that are regular at Jarman's Park.

Posted from VELORAPTOR's HTC HD7 Windows 7 Phone with UpdateMyFeed

My 1st COAL TIT at Corner Hall Offices

I heard LINNETS from my office again today as well as a COAL TIT calling, another first on my 'at work' list. Also a CHIFFCHAFF was 'hueeting' & 5+ GOLDFINCHES were jangling about.

Both Chiffchaff & Coal Tit seem to be turning up anywhere at the moment as Autumn does its thing, in fact over the last couple of weeks I've been woken early morning by the calls of both species whilst staying at my Mother In-law-to-be's near Queensway.

Colour-ringed CORMORANT at Piccotts End Pools

Cormorants 'drying' at Piccotts End Pools

After looking at my distant record shots of the 7 CORMORANTS at Piccotts End Pools yesterday, I noticed that the oldest looking & most well-built bird is ringed. It has a regular metal BTO style ring on it's right leg & a large white ring on the left leg that reads ' ZZ1 ' or ' ZZI ', read upwards from the foot, in what appears to be black text. I would be very interested to find out any info about this bird as it would be great to know where it came from & where it has been.

The colour-ringed Cormorant at Piccotts End Pools
[EDIT 20/09/11: Even though the bird appears sub-adult & so, hard to ID confidently, I have a feeling that this is a 'carbo' subspecies rather than the 'sinensis' birds that appear in Hertfordshire much more regularly. Despite the far from ideal lighting, the rear edges of the yellow gular pouch do appear to be at an acute angle & the bird does look 'thicker-set' overall. Both of these features would fit with 'carbo' which is usually associated with the coast, & so I wonder if this bird is a 'coastal carbo' that has been displaced inland, as with many seabirds over the last week, as the remnents of Hurricane Katia hit Ireland, Scotland, Wales & Northern England?]

A close-up of the colour-ringed Cormorant at Piccotts End Pools - colour ring reads 'ZZ1 or ZZI'

A close-up of the colour-ring & BTO ring worn by the Cormorant at Piccotts End Pools - colour ring reads 'ZZ1' or 'ZZI'

To see the outcome of the investigation, click > HERE <.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

? Mystery Call at Corner Hall

On leaving work at about 6.50pm I heard a call a few times that I have heard a couple of times before here, at this time of year a previous year, & in the afternoon. I looked up straight away but my view towards the call was obscured by the offices. The best way I can think to describe it is that each call sounds like an individual note of a Green Woodpecker's 'yaffle' & slightly reminiscent of a Jackdaw's 'jack' call but less 'snappy' & more 'sqwarky'. My suspicions are that it is a RING-NECKED PARAKEET, which I do see in Hemel in the Autumn occasionally, I have heard them make a Green Woodpecker-like sound before, & there is likely favoured habitat nearby to my office. I'll just have to keep my eyes & ears peeled to nail it next time & get it on my work list.

My 1st LINNET at Corner Hall Offices

Whilst at work today I heard atleast one LINNET from my office in Corner Hall which is great as it is a first for my list of birds recorded from work.

Cowering at Cows But Braving the Bulls for 40 YELLOW WAGS

1st Winter Yellow Wagtail at Piccotts End Farm

I cycled to the Piccotts End Pools area this morning for a quick look before work & as I contorted myself with bike through the gate going towards Piccotts End Farm, on Leighton Buzzard Road, I was alerted by large, dark shapes in my periferal vision... Cows.

1st Winter Yellow Wagtail with Cattle, Piccotts End Farm, 15/09/11

1st Winter &  Male (hidden far right) Yellow Wagtails with Cattle, Piccotts End Farm, 15/09/11

If you don't already know I have a overwhelming irrational fear of cows. But then I thought... Cattle = Yellow Wags, so I'll see if I can stick them out. And sure enough as I looked up I saw a splash of yellow come up from under those clumsy hooves. Infact there was rather alot of yellow going on, it was the largest party of YELLOW WAGTAILS I had seen before.

Male Yellow Wagtail with Cattle, Piccotts End Farm, 15/09/11

1st Winter Yellow Wagtail swallowing a Cranefly, Piccotts End Farm, 15/09/11

I managed to get to 37 before loosing count when they all zipped around in all directions. I estimate that in total there was over 40 of them, though they occasionally split off into two groups, one staying with the cows in the small field directly E of the farm & the other travelling S to the edge of the large field where it borders Gadebridge Park. This group was still with cows at the hedge bordering the park when I rode past at about 11.30am & I was happy to hear that Martin Parr got to connect with them here after texting him earlier on.
Most of the Wagtails seemed to be 1st Winter birds, though quite bright & appearing alot like Adult Winter / Female birds, they did show a pale base to the bill & in the continuous clockwork movement of the birds I only managed to count 3 definite bright males.

Female & 1st Winter Yellow Wagtails, Piccotts End Farm, 15/09/11

Male, 1st Winter & Juvenile Yellow Wagtails, Piccotts End Farm, 15/09/11

They appeared to be mainly feeding on Cranefly disturbed by the cattle although even passing Bumble Bees weren't safe from these voracious wags.

1st Winter Yellow Wagtail feeding on Cranefly around Cattle, Piccotts End Farm, 15/09/11

1st Winter Yellow Wagtail feeding on Cranefly, Piccotts End Farm, 15/09/11

Yellow Wagtails searching for insects in a hedge & one considers a Bumble Bee, Piccotts End Farm, 15/09/11

In the end it was definitely worth being petrified by the cows... I think.

I also saw in the following around Piccotts End Pools...

CORMORANTS (my highest count here) - 6 perched together on the old telephone post to dry their wings.
1 Adult LITTLE EGRET flew to rest in a tree.
A 2nd Winter GREY HERON sat in the tree with the Egret then wandered around the dry pools.
4+ RED KITES & 5 BUZZARDS in the air at the same time.
2 KESTRELS following one another.
About 6 SKYLARKS over S.
A loose group of up to 20 Hirundines, mainly HOUSE MARTINS & some SWALLOWS.
Up to 10 MEADOW PIPITS over S.
1 Female BLACKCAP.
One of many CHIFFCHAFFS was singing.
A TREECREEPER was calling.
Up to 3 JAYS.

CHIFFCHAFF was also singing in Gadebridge Park near the walled gardens just before 9am & a NUTHATCH was calling there later on.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Herts Bird Club: F. Mansfield saw 3 RED KITES & 7 BUZZARDS soaring together over Little Revel End today.

Just on the edge of Hemel, near Woodhall Farm, F. Mansfield saw 3 RED KITES & 7 BUZZARDS soaring together over Little Revel End today.

HEMEL MEGA: Night-time RINGED PLOVER at Piccotts End

I went for a quick ride to Piccotts End Pools before it got dark this evening just incase any Ringed Plovers or other migrant waders had dropped in on their way through to visit the dried up, muddy & pebbley pools.
I approached on the footpath that runs between Gaddesden Hall & Piccotts End Farm, from the Noake Mill Lane End so I could inspect the dried up pools on the W side first without disturbing any waders that may be there. In the end there was nothing out of the ordinary to see but it was nice to see 2 MUTE SWANS on the back pools though.

On arriving at the end of the tree line I saw 2 LITTLE EGRETS fly up from the stream at the SE corner & they appeared to go off to roost in the Piccotts End Village direction at 7.25pm.
There are the remains of an unfortunate GREY HERON strung upright in a standing position, that has got caught up in the netting over the most Southerly pool. [Another victim of these inhumane nets pulled over some of the pools to deter birds from trying to catch the fish farmed there, if the net holes were alot smaller it wouldn't be a problem but at the size they are they are the perfect trap for any unfortunate medium to large bird & to make it worse they are indiscriminate, posing a threat to any bird wondering too close to the pools. So now I've seen Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron & multiple Moorhens all fall victim to the nets, what will it be next, Mute Swan, Little Egret, Osprey?]

The grusome remains of an unfortunate Grey Heron caught in netting over one of the pools at L. Cura & Sons fish farm, Piccotts End, Hemel Hempstead found on 14/09/11

A RED FOX sneaked along the back fenceline seemingly unnoticed or ignored by the grazing sheep.
As I was leaving in the direction of Piccotts End Farm at 7.40pm a probable SEROTINE BAT flew high quite leisurely but directly NW towards the pools, apart from when looping to catch an insect.
As I walked my bike back through a very dark Piccotts End Village a probable PIPESTRELLE BAT was hunting, then to my surprise at 8.00pm I heard the upward inflected 'khu-eep' or 'pu-eep' of a RINGED PLOVER, coming from the dark sky in the direction of the pools - my first at this site. That made me happy enough just to hear one & for my prediction to have been accurate.

Here is a recording of a Ringed Plover's flight call, like the one I heard...

Corner Hall Offices

At Corner Hall Offices this afternoon a small group of HOUSE MARTINS fed before continuing their journey S.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Spotted Flycatcher

This afternoon I took a short walk up to the top of Roughdown Common, an area of unimproved chalk grassland & ancient woodland sitting between Boxmoor, Apsley & Felden, it has a disused chalk mine & is bordered by the railway & the A41. Due to being a great area of higher ground in Hemel, with sheltered spots from the persistent wind, & of this particular type of habitat, I thought it would be worth a look for any migrants taking some rest & refuelling.
Whilst ambling across Boxmoor I saw the resident Fem. KESTREL patrolling the area & a Juv. GREY HERON precariously landing in a tree there. Also very obvious was the 'huuit's of CHIFFCHAFFS, in fact this was apparent throughout the whole area visited.
Unfortunately when I reached the chalk mine off of Roughdown Road a dog walker had beat me to the secluded, chalk & grassland crater & there were no birds to mention. Though as I hiked up through the surounding scrub & woodland I could hear the sad calls of atleast one BULLFINCH.

The view across Hemel Hempstead from the top of Roughdown Common.

On reaching the top of the common I was reminded of what a great spot this would be to vis-mig birds migrating over Hemel as not only can you see over most of the town including Gadebridge Park, Boxmoor & the small wooded areas but also the two river valleys, that of the Gade & the Bulbourne. You can see very well N upstream of the Gade & quite well NW upsteam of the Bulbourne as well as where they meet at Two Waters just below this viewpoint. My thought is that any birds migrating S or W that follow either river valley would be visible from this point. And aswell as this, from the top of the slope it is a great view of the fences & hedges all heading SW from the woodland & some running along the peak of the hill which i can imagine passerines using to travel along.
I noted a steady trickle of HOUSE MARTINS heading S towards me, the largest group being c.7, aswell as more sporadic numbers of SWALLOWS, less all together but the largest group being c.11. A nice surprise & only my 2nd record in Hemel (after 2 that visited Piccotts End Pools in 2008) was a single SAND MARTIN batteling through S, over the A41 & towards Phasels Wood.
There were up to 2 BUZZARDS about & I could just make out a RED KITE in the Gadebridge Park direction with another large bird that I couldn't be 100% on being another Kite even though this is most likely. 2 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS came over S & a flock 52 STARLINGS were wheeling about constantly. Also a couple of SKYLARKS appeared from nowhere in the field I was stood in, popping up from under my nose.
I did see many passerines moving around in the hedgerows but as these are so full of leaf at the moment i couldn't latch on to anything, not even the ROBINS singing away, but then, just as I was thinking of returning to work, I saw a slim, upright looking, robin-like bird flit up from the top of some Hawthorns & return to the same spot before dissappearing out of view, there we go, a very brief but satisfying SPOTTED FLYCATCHER.
I will definitely be back to this spot to do some more serious migrant watching.

Not the Spotted Flycatcher I saw here but these are some photos of one I found around the green next to Gaddesden Hall at Piccotts End Pools on the 19/06/11.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Hurricane-force MARTINS

At about 6.10pm over Leighton Buzzard Road, just passing Hemel Police Station, I noticed from the car about 80 HOUSE MARTINS battling the South-Westerly gales at just above tree-top height. They appeared to be trying to stay grouped together but were being battered about in all directions by the wind supposedly caused by the encroaching remains of Hurricane Katia, they seemed in fact to be forced Northwards against their will by the relentless gusts. I certainly give them credit for their enduring determination.