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Sunday, 9 October 2011

New PEREGRINE, Late HOUSE MARTINS & Double 1st REDPOLLS, at Piccotts End Pools

[17°C, strong W wind & overcast]


Large Juv. Peregrine, Piccotts End Pools, Hemel Hempstead, 09/10/11

I arrived back from a trip to Portugal last night so I thought I would go for an afternoon/evening cycle to Piccotts End Pools, to see if I'd been missing anything while I'd been away. Despite only being abroad for a week the change in the 'seasonal-feel' was huge. When I left only 7 days ago, it was hot, clear skies, a light warm breeze, most summer-like. Now it was cool, dark & grey, & there was a very strong wind. Everywhere littered with debris from trees & autumn leaves.

The highlights of my ride were...

In the already low light, at 4.35pm, a huge, dark Juvenile PEREGRINE came screaming low across the pools from Piccotts End Road direction, scattering every bird in sight, rendering them silent, & startling me. I was surprised at how big this bird was, having long, broad wings, long-looking tail, this bird appeared almost Buzzard-sized, whilst at the same time it looked slim bodied & athletic. It seemed to be hunting in 'taking-by-surprise' fashion, coming in low over the tree tops at speed towards me, banking left, gliding quickly over the pools, going into a shallow stoop towards a large tree, shooting up near vertical & round it, following the top of the hedge line, banking right, skimming along the brow of the field behind the pools, only a metre or so above the ground, then out of sight behind a hedge. The very poor light, ridiculous speed & close quarters made getting a decent photo impossible, though I did manage the few record shots here when the bird was a bit more distant. At it's size it must have been a young female & the fact that this was a particularly dark bird made it look all the more menacing.

Large Juv. Peregrine, Piccotts End Pools, Hemel Hempstead, 09/10/11

Juv. Peregrine going into shallow stoop, Piccotts End Pools, Hemel Hempstead, 09/10/11

Over an hour & a half later, at 6.15pm, I was stood daydreaming where the bridalway meets the N end of Piccotts End Road, when I saw a large, dark form, moving at speed, just above the hedgeline, heading towards me from Dodds Lane. It was her again, hunting in the near darkness. She tracked the hedge-top away from the village, twisted & looped over Piccotts End Road, back over the hedge, low across the field, briefly circled over the bridalway, then powered off back towards the pools. Breathtaking. It was nice to see a different Peregrine in town, maybe this one will winter locally too? Perhaps this is one of our regular BT wintering Peregrine's offspring? I'll definitely make an effort to see if this bird sticks around for the winter too...

At 4.30pm 3 HOUSE MARTINS flew over the pools battling the strong winds, they seemed to be heading W against the Westerly wind. These are quite late in the year & my latest date recorded in Hemel.

At 4.50pm 3 LESSER REDPOLLS flew over from the S & appeared to land in trees near Gaddesden Hall - these are my first Redpolls of the winter AND the first definites I have seen at the pools.

One of 3 late House Martins, Piccotts End Pools, Hemel Hempstead, 09/10/11

Also of interest at the pools this evening...

Atleast 1 LITTLE EGRET.
3 GREY HERONS - 1 Juv, 1 2nd Winter & 1 Adult.
2 MUTE SWANS.
2+ RED KITES.
c.2 BUZZARDS.
A Female SPARROWHAWK.
A KESTREL Pair.
Only 2 MOORHENS - probably my lowest count here.
A few LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS circled nearby.
A STOCK DOVE was feeding on the field with a few FERAL PIGEONS.
c2. GREEN WOODPECKERS.
4 PIED WAGTAILS feeding on the field.
GREY WAGTAIL.
A SONG THRUSH.
2 MISTLE THRUSHES.
A GOLDCREST.
Some LONG-TAILED TITS.
c100+ mixed corvids including JACKDAWS, ROOKS, CARRION CROWS, & a few MAGPIES - Jackdaws in particular perching on sheep to feed on insects, & no Jays is unusual.
c.100 STARLINGS.
CHAFFINCHES starting to start small flocks.
5 LINNETS.
Quite a few GOLDFINCHES were jangling about.

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