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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.

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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.

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