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around Hemel Hempstead...

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Sunday, 23 December 2012

2 HERRING GULLS over dual carriageway at Jarmans Park


Sunday, 16 December 2012

3 GREY HERONS at roadside near roundabout N of Gadebridge Park


Another LITTLE EGRET S over Piccotts End Pools


MEADOW PIPIT at Piccotts End Pools


4 COMMON GULLS S over Piccotts End Pools


GREY PARTRIDGE calling at Piccotts End Pools


Adult HERRING GULL S over Piccotts End Pools


GREATER SPOTTED & GREEN WOODPECKER at Piccotts End Pools


2 LITTLE EGRETS & 1 STOCK DOVE at Piccotts End Pools


RED KITE & BUZZARD at Piccotts End Pools


KINGFISHER at Piccotts End Pools


3 COMMON GULLS, 1 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL & 1 BLACK-HEADED GULL in near Summer plumage on flood at Gadebridge Park


Sunday, 30 September 2012

8+ MEADOW PIPITS at Water End


GADWALL at Water End


2 LESSER REDPOLLS at Water End


Juvenile PEREGRINE FALCON circling low at Water End


1st Winter HERRING GULL SW over Nettleden Road, Water End


7 RED KITES in fields & air around Highpark Wood N of Nettleden Road, Water End


CHIFFCHAFF at Piccotts End Pools


2 MEADOW PIPITS at Piccotts End Pools


C40 LINNETS at Piccotts End Pools


MEADOW PIPIT at Piccotts End Pools


2 LITTLE EGRETS at Piccotts End Pools


LITTLE EGRET at Piccotts End Pools


SISKIN at Piccotts End


Sunday, 23 September 2012

NEARBY: GREAT WHITE EGRET at Wilstone Res & Juv GANNET found dead at Startops Res

Both at Tring Reservoirs, a GREAT WHITE EGRET is in the reedbed, viewable from the hide at Wilstone Reservoir, & a Juvenile GANNET was unfortunately found dead on the bank near the steps at Startops End Reservoir this morning.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

2 GREY WAGTAILS at Water Gardens opp. Premier Inn


New PEREGRINE stuck on KD Tower in June!


I've just noticed a very interesting post on the RSPB Community website. A user called 'Falcon?' photographed a different PEREGRINE to our wintering Female, stuck on a terrace on the KD (Kodak) Tower in June! Apparently it crash landed onto Falcon?'s terrace & took ten minutes to work out it could not fly off through the glass barrier. When it did finally fly off it left behind the prey it had caught, a fledgling Thrush.

PEREGRINE on terrace on KD Tower, Hemel Hempstead.
© 'Falcon?'

PEREGRINE on terrace on KD Tower, Hemel Hempstead.
Lack of 'Pink CX' ring on right leg differentiates this bird from our regular wintering Female,
who's Winter roost is funnily enough just out of shot to the right.
© 'Falcon?'

Great to hear of another PEREGRINE in Hemel, especially in the summer months, & funny how this is so close to the Winter roost of our regular bird, in fact the roost is only just out of shot to the right. With these two PEREGRINES, the semi-regular SAKER HYBRID Type, & a  GYR/SAKER HYBRID Type being seen in the immediate area within the year, PLUS the Male PEREGRINE I saw at Piccotts End Pools last Winter, Hemel Hempstead is becomming a bit of an urban Peregrine hotspot!

The original post on the RSPB Community website can be viewed > HERE <.



Monday, 17 September 2012

Hemel PEREGRINE returns early to Winter roost

The colour-ringed Female PEREGRINE is already back at her Winter roost on the 'old BT building', near the 'Magic Roundabout'. This will be her 4th Winter at this site & this is the earliest recorded return date for this regular bird.

For directions to view the PEREGRINE at its Winter roost click > HERE <.

Friday, 7 September 2012

GREYLAG GOOSE at Water Gardens opp. Market Sq.


Escaped INDIAN RUNNER DUCK (Mallard) on Canal at B&Q, Corner Hall

Been around since about April.

GREY WAGTAIL at Corner Hall opp. Honda garage


NUTHATCH at Gadebridge Park


LITTLE EGRET at Piccots End Pools


LITTLE GREBE at Piccotts End Pools


2 GREY WAGTAILS at Piccotts End Pools

+ 4 PIED WAGTAILS

2 MEADOW PIPITS at Piccotts End Pools


Making an effort & keeping it simple.

With no time for birding for a while I've decided to create some time, even if it means waking up before the the birds do, 3 hours sleep should be plenty!

I've managed to set up a network of emails too that means I can post my sightings straight away to almost everywhere I want to in one email, so now I have no excuse for not writing up my records online.

I'm excited to get back out there...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

HEMEL MEGA: ARCTIC TERN at canal at Corner Hall / Boxmoor


ARCTIC TERN hunting along canal between B&Q, Corner Hall & Hemel Cricket Club, Boxmoor for at least 5mins at 13.15, coming within 8 meters! - First for Hemel.

[At such close range obviously short-necked/bull-headed with long tail streamers giving it a 'wings forward' look compared to a Common Tern's more 'Gannet' proportions. Clean, light looking wings with clean dark edge. Shorter, stubbier-looking, plain wine red bill. Greyish below enhancing light cheeks. Appearing more floaty & buoyant than Common Tern.]



Monday, 2 April 2012

PEREGRINE + RED KITE Record

Whilst at work today...


Water Gardens

Female COOT - I can't remember the last time I saw a Coot here.
Female MALLARD - the particularly well marked one with a white-ringed neck.


Corner Hall offices

4 RED KITES - circling high together towards Town Centre c.10.45 - as far as I know a Record Count for the Town Centre.
BUZZARD - a lightish bird gliding high SW 11.10.
Female SPARROWHAWK - c.12.10.
Large RAPTOR - Buzzard-sized or bigger with white markings gliding high N 12.20.
COAL TIT - singing
CORMORANT - circling low over canal 14.10.
RED KITE - circling low 14.25.
Female PEREGRINE - circling slowly heading S 16.45 - I was alerted by the concerned call of a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL.
Female SPARROWHAWK - circled up quickly seemingly to make Peregrine aware of her presence 16.45.
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL - calling in true seaside fashion 18.10.
2 SPARROWHAWKS - flying W from Two Waters 18.10.
2 GREY HERONS - flying around high over for a minute whilst one was calling, before going separate ways 18.20.

Female PEREGRINE over Corner Hall offices.

Whilst watching the 4 Red Kites this morning I saw what looked like pieces of brown paper falling from the clear blue sky. At first I presumed one of the kites had dropped whilst 'playing' with it as they often do. Though on further observation the pieces of paper were falling over a largeish area of sky & from higher up than the Kites were soaring. The only logical explainations I can think of are either that this was paper that had been burnt on a fire somewhere last night (hence the brown appearance), the hot air from the fire carrying the pieces high up into the cold night air, then, as the saying goes, what goes up must come down? Or, perhaps the pieces were from a fire burning this morning, then carried up by the thermal that the Kites were soaring on then as the pieces reached the top they popped out of the thermal & fell to the ground? Either way it was a very perculiar sight.





Sunday, 1 April 2012

Who am I fooling?

I'm not going to write any April Fool's sightings here today or any pinches or punches, but instead would like to mark today as a bit of a fresh start, beginning of spring, new tax year's resolution for the fool that is me.
I've been finding it very hard since starting this blog to keep it up-to-date, with many posts being late or completely missing. This is due to having an increasingly heavy workload (which I can't complain about), finding more & more so that my time at the computer is committed to work activities, & any free time spent out in the field itself, as well as balancing all this with a busy home & social life. So, I'd just like to make an apology for any of those loyal readers out there who so often come here to read about their local birds only to find I haven't written in weeks!
To make up for my lack of posts in the past few months I'm going to put some extra effort back into writing this blog, even if it means writing posts on my mobile phone & sending them through when I get a moment. Spring migration is under way & so over these important next few weeks I will strive to get all of my sightings of birds arriving in the Hemel area onto here asap for anyone interested.
Luckily my new design project is based around British birds & wildlife, & so this may give me some extra opportunities to spend time in the field, hopefully meaning I get to find a few of those migrants that I would have otherwise missed.

Good luck when birding this spring - VELORAPTOR

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

LIVE Sightings

Now that I've been using the 'LIVE Sightings' feed (on the right) for a while & have a feel for it, & taking into consideration that Spring is on its way along with the rush of migrants it brings, I will from now on only be posting live sightings regarded as very good records, first migrants & birds that I think people would like to make an effort to see. I will no longer post live sightings regarding birds such as Buzzard, Red Kite, Grey Wagtail or Bullfinch for example, or other birds that are regular in Hemel, unless there is something extraordinary about the record. Hopefully, instead I will be posting lots of live sightings of great spring migrants & rarities.

Good Luck when birding this spring - VELORAPTOR

Monday, 13 February 2012

HEMEL MEGA: WATER PIPIT at Water End!


I have had some time to look through my record shots taken during an excellent afternoon yesterday (post > HERE <) birding at the Great Gaddesden side of Water End, just on the edge of Hemel Hempstead, & after analysing some distant record shots of an odd Pipit I saw I have a feeling that my suspicions may be correct, that it might in fact be a WATER PIPIT.

[NOTE 13/02/2012: I have had responses confirming my identification of WATER PIPIT from a number of people including David Darrell-Lambert who sent me a very useful ID guide he's written which can be read > HERE <.]

At 15.25, whilst stood talking to a lovely couple at TL 03338 10684, 35m SSW of the wooden bridge crossing the River Gade, a Pipit flew in from the S uttering a single sharp 'vueest' or 'fuisp' call. The bird alighted the hand rail of the wooden bridge & despite the poor misty light I could very obviously see two light wing-bars on each wing, a paler area around the secondaries, a light supercilium widening behind the eye, & very clean, pale underparts. The bird appeared generally cool greyish brown with darker flight feathers apart from the two white-looking wing bars & the mantle / back / scapulars which appeared to be a warmer, richer shade of brown, you could almost say 'slightly chestnut-tinged' in comparison to the rest of the bird & seemed to have no obvious streaking, coming across quite uniform. Apart from the whitish eye stripe, submoustachial stripe & throat the head was generally grey-brown but a hint darker on the crown & ear coverts. There seemed to be hardily any streaking or speckling to the breast or flanks, from the distance I was viewing from it just appeared like a light shading along the flanks, sides of the breast & where you'd expect a  malar stripe to be. The rump appeared to be a bit paler than the rest of the birds back, it's legs appeared to be red-brown, & when the bird flew after 20 seconds or so, I saw white outer tail feathers (which can just be seen as corner tips in the photos) & the two thin wing bars on each wing before it disappeared out of sight, bounding off N over the trees surrounding the private fishing pool.

As it was hard to see all of the details in the dim light at that distance I thought it would be useful to grab a few record shots. I couldn't really see the preview image on  my camera well enough at the time as I have a graze on my LCD & it was also misting up so I waited until I could view them on my computer. Despite them being very poor at that distance & high ISO they do show many of the features.

With the features noted & viewable in the photos I can't help but feel this bird is a WATER PIPIT. And interestingly, a few weeks ago I noted an odd looking Pipit at dusk that I failed to identify, which gave a similar single sharp call in a puddle beside the dried up stream less than 1 mile away NNW behind Wyevale Hemel Hempstead Garden Centre. I'm thinking this could have been the same bird & if so would mean it is wintering in the area.

Take a look at my record shots below to see what you think. Any comments or opinions are welcome & I apologise for the very poor quality of the pics in advance.

[NOTE 13/02/2012: After confirming the ID & the bird being subsequently refound today in the same area, by Samuel Perfect, I have had many messages asking for the precise location to look for the WATER PIPIT as well as the JACK SNIPE & WATER RAILS I'd seen there, plus the Drake PINTAIL that was still there at the time, originally found by Lucy Flower. To help in finding the birds I have created a map with precise locations & relevant info > HERE <.]

Possible Water Pipit at Water End.

My write up of the afternoon at Water End is > HERE <.

Directions for Water End WATER PIPIT, JACK SNIPE, PINTAIL & GREY PARTRIDGE.


Water Pipit on the wooden bridge at Water End - 12/02/2012.

As I have had quite a few requests for the exact location of the WATER PIPIT I found at Water End on 12/02/2012 (write up of visit > HERE < & post on realising the ID > HERE <.) so I have created this map of the area with markers of where to look for WATER PIPIT (in aqua), JACK SNIPE, PINTAIL, WATER RAIL & GREY PARTRIDGE, as well as other birds of interest in the area, & other species that are possible there at this time of year (in purple).

I have included parking places (in green), access points (in yellow), landmarks & my recommended route (in orange) for those of you who may only have a little time if visiting on a lunch break or before work.

Water bodies or wetland habitat in question are in blue & other relevant places are in pink.

The whole area is also good for MEADOW PIPIT, COMMON SNIPE, LAPWING, TEAL, GADWALL, LITTLE EGRET, GREY WAGTAIL, KINGFISHER, REED BUNTING, YELLOWHAMMER, BULLFINCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, BUZZARD & RED KITE.

If you click on any of the pin-point markers it will display the info relavent to that point & you can view the map in a larger format including the full key > HERE <. On the larger map I have tried to put the pin point markers in the key in the order you would come across them if you walk from a certain parking area, until they cross over with the main route.
The grid reference for the wooden bridge is TL 03252 10231.

You may also find this printable map & guide to walks in the area useful > HERE <.

Good luck to any of you who venture out to find the little beauty.





Sunday, 12 February 2012

HEMEL MEGAS: Search for PINTAIL at Water End turns up WATER PIPIT, JACK SNIPE, GREY PARTRIDGE, WATER RAIL, WIGEON & more!


Drake PINTAIL at the flood meadow at Water End.

After hearing that Lucy Flower had amazingly found a Drake PINTAIL on one of the small private fishing pools at Water End two days ago, I decided to cycle in the snow to see if it was still about, & to add it to my Hemel Life List. From looking at her photo & my previous experience finding other 'good' ducks there I could tell that it was on the small pool surrounded by trees NW of the 'S-bend' bridge, on the Great Gaddesden side of the hamlet.

Unusually for me on my way there I headed straight past my usual haunt at Piccotts End Pools without stopping, knowing that the pools were frozen solid. In doing so I saw a single LAPWING in the horse field between the pools & Leighton Buzzard Road & as I passed I saw 2 BUZZARDS flying low around Thrift Wood just beside the road, including one particularly large bird.

As I passed the Red Lion & entered Water End I glanced across onto the River Gade in case the PINTAIL had moved to this actually more likely spot, but there was no sign of it there so I continued & arrived at the metal gates on Nettleden Road & made my way across the snow covered rough grass...

Once at the private fishing pool at 14.50 I refound the Drake PINTAIL sitting on the ice under the bushes on the far bank with a few TEAL. After a while it swam around the corner out of view & I didn't see it again until 16.20 when Lee Evans & myself attempted to refind it. It had moved further upstream & was often commuting with a group of TEAL between the very shallow stream, basically in Great Gaddesden, & the most Northern part of the weir-dammed private fishing pool, both in the main flood meadow area S of Piper's Hill. There weren't really any opportunities for a proper photo but I did take a few record shots.

The Drake Pintail with Teal in its favoured area
on the secluded private fishing pool, Water End.

Drake Pintail with Teal & Mallards, Water End.

Now on setting out today my goal was to find the Pintail, but as I like to find my own birds I set myself a target bird to find, which was Jack Snipe. Well to my disbelief, before I'd even arrived at the Pintail pool, I rounded the corner of the lightly fenced off bog area to see a JACK SNIPE sat beside the steam! As I took it by surprise (though I don't think it was as surprised as I was) it took off vertically in typical Snipe fashion although not as hurriedly, less panicked & in a straight line in comparison to the urgent, explosive & zig-zagging take-off of a Common Snipe. As well as looking tiny it also appeared more floaty in flight with shorter, more rounded wings & the short bill held more downward pointing than a Common. I remember thinking this when I found two Jacks at Boxmoor the previous winter & in fact on seeing a Jack Snipe fly they remind me more of a miniature Woodcock. After a few seconds it landed only meters away in the long wetland grasses growing across the stream & as soon as it alighted between the tussocks it became invisible. I then didn't see the bird for a while until looking hard for it again once Lee Evans arrived, where he found it at the edge of the stream once again. A BROWN HARE was also hiding in the long grass for the whole time I was there & I didn't notice it until it darted out from between the tussocks, across the stream, & towards the field to the W where Hares usually congregate.

1 of 2 Jack Snipe at Boxmoor during Winter 2010/11.

Almost instantaneously after seeing the Jack Snipe a WATER RAIL ran through the vegetation just beside me in the small area of bog. I managed to grab a quick shot but with the bird being so well camouflaged, climbing between branches, & moving quickly in the dim light it isn't fantastic. Shortly after I saw the bird again, then again running around the fence on the snow, then again after a while, flying a short distance down stream. A bit later I saw a 2nd WATER RAIL walking on the ice at the Pintail pool with Lee, no Lee wasn't walking on the ice with the Rail, though a rail would be handy when doing so, Lee pointed the Rail out to me.

Water Rail at Water End.

Whilst talking to a lovely couple that I met, & admiring a GREY WAGTAIL with them, I was alerted by the call of a Pipit that sounded too sharp to be a Meadow Pipit. I looked up & saw a pale looking Pipit fly in from the S & land on the wooden bridge over the stream about 30m NE of where we were stood. I couldn't get a good look at it in the short time it was perched on the hand rail due to how far away it was, the misty air & dull light, but I did notice that it had some odd features. The details I could make out were rousing my suspicions towards a certain rare Pipit that strangely migrates North for the winter from its mountainous nesting grounds in the Alps, to vegetated water-bodies in the Northern Continent. I snapped a couple of record shots to look at later just incase, & it was just as well because after that the bird flew out of sight & I didn't see it for the rest of the day.

Now into the future... Well, on analysing & sharing my rubbish pics the next day I realised my suspicions were very valid, because the Pipit was in fact, a WATER PIPIT! a bird I definitely didn't have on my 'expect-the-unexpected-list', unexpected it certaily was, especially in the Hemel area. Now I hope to see the couple again as it would be nice to let them know they'd too seen a Wipit. Details of realising the identification are > HERE <.

Water Pipit at Water End.

Water Pipit at Water End.

Grey Wagtail at Water End.

Shortly after I arrived I noticed two large birds in flight looming out of the mist coming up stream, it was 2 CORMORANTS in Adult breeding plumage who seemed to be looking for somewhere unfrozen to land. Despite the low light & mist I went for a photo at high ISO. Now it isn't great, but does show in fact that the trailing bird is a 'CONTINENTAL' CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensisas you'd expect for an inland bird in this area of the South of England, & you can clearly see the wide angle at the back edge of the gular pouch. On the other hand, the leading bird is an 'ATLANTIC' CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo carbo) which you'd usually only expect to see at coastal locations around the British Isles, given away by the narrow angle at the back edge of the gular pouch. Both birds had noticeably different head & bill structures & I wonder if this is attributed to different habits of each of these subspecies. 

The 'carbo' bird also looked much more robust & thick set compared to the 'sinensis', as is often the case, & I wonder if this is down to the 'carbo' living in a much harsher environment where you need to be tough. It lives on wave-beaten, gale-blown rock edges of the coast, where they may have to fight over a tiny ledge to bring up their young. Compare this to the relative peace & tranquillity of the abundant lake-side trees where the 'sinensis' resides, where all of the fish it eats are contained within the water body it lives at, there's really not such a need for the 'sinensis' to be beefed up, it has it easy in comparison.

This has me thinking... so do these subspecies' digestive systems & bodily functions work differently, as seabirds such as the 'carbo' need to be able to maintain salt balance using their salt glands whereas freshwater birds such as 'sinensis' do not need to use these mechanisms? One for another day I think.

Any way... both birds went out of view, circled again about 5 minutes later looking to land, but ultimately I didn't see them again all day.

'carbo' Cormorant (left) & 'sinensis' Cormorant (right) both in breeding plumage, Water End.
[Ignoring the typically mentioned, though actually unreliable, ID feature of the amount of white feathering on their heads, note the acute rear angle of the yellow gular pouch on the 'carbo' & the right-angled to obtuse rear angle of the 'sinensis's' yellow gular pouch. - For a diagram pointing out the differences in gular pouch shape see down the page > HERE <.]

As I was leaving the area at nightfall a GREY PARTRIDGE was calling from the field to the W where a few BROWN HARES were just visible in the dark. This is a bird I have never been able to find locally until now, not helped by the fact they are becoming increasingly rare, & just hearing one in the Hemel area made me extremely happy & topped off a great few hours in the field.

The full list of birds of note seen throughout the day just within this area include...

LITTLE GREBE 1 on Pintail pool.
(sinensis) 'CONTINENTAL' CORMORANT 1 over.
(carbo) 'ATLANTIC' CORMORANT 1 over.
GREY HERON - at least 1 about.
4 MUTE SWAN 1 pair on Pintail pool & 1 pair nr. Red Lion.
GADWALL c.5
PINTAIL Drake on private fishing pool surrounded by trees.
2 WIGEON a pair on Pintail pool.
TEAL c.8 in the area.
c.2 BUZZARD
SPARROWHAWK
GREY PARTRIDGE calling from field to W at TL 03169 10264 nr. Nettleden Rd. at night-fall.
2 WATER RAIL 1 in small fenced bog area & 1 on Pintail pool.
COOT a single bird on Pintail pool.
LAPWING a single bird in Jack Snipe grass at dusk.
c.4 SNIPE about 4 in the area..
JACK SNIPE at least 1 just S of wooden bridge.
c.5 COMMON GULL c.5 inc. 1 1st Wint. low NE early pm.
KINGFISHER 1 on Pintail pool.
2 GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER a pair courting in trees S of wooden bridge.
WATER PIPIT 1 on wooden bridge.
2 PIED WAGTAIL a pair frequently visiting stream S of wooden bridge.
GREY WAGTAIL at least 1 frequently visiting stream S of wooden bridge.
SONG THRUSH at least. 1 in the area.
REDWING a few birds noticed in the area.
MISTLE THRUSH at least. 1 in the area.
FIELDFARE a few birds noticed in the area.
LONG-TAILED TIT 1 in bushes near small bog area.
c.7 GOLDFINCH c.7 in treetops neat small bog area.
GREENFINCH a few birds in bushes across river near gardens.
2+ REED BUNTING at least 2 in the area.
YELLOWHAMMER atleast 1 near pond on W side of flood meadow.

All of this & I didn't even get to properly watch the area of proper river just N of the Red Lion, look at the wide area of vegetated river next to Wyevale Hemel Hempstead Garden Centre, or visit the flood meadow N of the garden centre. In fact ALL of the species I saw apart from YELLOWHAMMER were on the 200m stretch SSE from the Pintail pool!

Details of my WATER PIPIT ID here > HERE <.
Details & map of WATER PIPIT location > HERE <.
Details related to CORMORANT subspecies ID > HERE < & > HERE <.




Tuesday, 7 February 2012

3 Pairs of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS nesting at Buncefield!



Today I was made aware by aiki & Toadflax on the RSPB Community forum, of an extremely interesting, if short, article on The Gazette Hemel Today website. Some of you may have heard about this before but it was news to me & I can't believe I missed this at the time...

Apparently in Spring 2010, developers at the Buncefield depot site, who were renovating the area of the oil terminal explosion in December 2005, had to change plans to accommodate the nesting of 3 pairs of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS!

The protection order meant that work on the construction related site clearance & earthworks activity could only take place outside of the breeding season & the development is expected to be finished with gravel or stone to create a suitable habitat for the Plovers to nest.

Having recently seen from afar, the open, stoney & rocky nature of the landscape, short spaced-out vegetation, & the quietness & distance from the majority of human & automotive activity at the site, it had me thinking that the site could attract Plovers at least on migration, coupled with the fact that they occasionally breed not that far away near Redbournbury, so this doesn't come as a complete surprise, but very much welcomed.

To hear that not just one, but three pairs of Little Ringed Plovers may have even attempted to breed there is fantastic, though there is no published news on whether they were successful, understandably. Luckily the site is highly guarded by a 24 hour security team, high barbed wire fences, razor wire, cannot be viewed well, if at all,  from the roads & paths, & is highly dangerous to enter anyway, so any birds there are pretty well protected.

I'd love to know if they have returned since, or whether they will return again, & hope that they were or will be successful in rearing young there. It's very good to hear that the developers have been so accommodating to the Plovers, & it sounds as if they really realise the significance of such a bird choosing to breed on their land, possible proud of it. Unfortunately this isn't heard of often in recent times, most developers doing all they can to get around the 'problem' of a breeding bird or looking for loopholes in their protection to go ahead with development as they had planned even with birds listed as Schedule 1 such as these. I feel the developers at Buncefield are setting a good example of how we can build, develop & renovate whilst living with, & taking into consideration, the nature around us. You can't really ask more from them since they're going that extra mile in not only preserving but actually creating habitat to actively attract the birds to the site. Lets just hope they return this spring.

[EDIT: Through some research of my own since composing this post I have subsequently found the official mitigation plan written by RPS Group consultants in partnership with Arcadis consultants, Graham Goodall of the Hertfordshire Biological Records Centre & Ecologist Martin Hicks. It is the proposed alternative plan for development on the site which was submitted to Dacorum Borough Council on behalf of Total UK with involvement from Kodak Ltd. UK.

The document mentions the developers actually creating more suitable nesting habitat for Little Ringed Plovers, the plan includes creating lagoons &/or two ponds maintained at 10-20cm deep to create an ideal landscape for the Plovers. It also mentions plans to encourage plant life beneficial to Little Ringed Plovers whilst providing habitat suitable for the particular insects that are important food sources for the birds. It goes as far as making sure a suitable depth of gravel & stone is used to prevent the usual overtaking by undesired plants so that an optimum breeding habitat can be naturally maintained.

The plan mentions lengthening the development process to ensure minimum disturbance to the Plovers & even takes into consideration the possibility of the birds having second broods. It also includes ways to maintain a suitable nesting landscape for the Plovers at each stage of site development, including utilising a large roof on one of the buildings to create a suitable nesting area incase their favoured area is disturbed.

It is certainly refreshing to read what measures are being taken for the good of our birds & other wildlife in this particular instance of building development, especially since the plan includes actively improving the habitat in the area to encourage the birds to breed in the future.]
The link to the article is > HERE <.
The link to the Total / Dacorum Borough Council mitigation plan is > HERE <.

The shot above is one I took of a Little Ringed Plover in habitat not that dissimilar to that of some areas around the Buncefield oil terminal, although this was in Andalucia, Spain.





Wednesday, 25 January 2012

HEMEL MEGA: 3 GOOSANDERS over Two Waters!


At work at Corner Hall offices today...

LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL - 1 wandering around AM.
SISKIN - 1 calling 9.50.
3 GOOSANDERS! - I was getting some fresh air & resting my eyes from the computer whilst stood beside the canal at B&Q when I noticed the refection on the surface of 3 largish water birds flying high in a close group. As I looked up I quickly realised these weren't Mallards, or Cormorants, but 3 Goosanders, too high against the white sky to sex but otherwise unmistakable. They were flying in close formation E at 14.30, seemingly following the canal, & for a few moments hesitating as if wanting to land, possibly at Durrant's Hill Fishery (Two Waters / Apsley) but instead continued on out of sight. I was thinking that they could alight at Kings Langley Fishery or the neighbouring Gaywood's Fishery as they were heading that way when five mins later they returned, still following the canal but now heading W, still occasionally looking like coming down to land but ultimately carrying on out of sight once more. Maybe they found Westbrook Mere Fishery or Pixies Mere Fishery (Chaulden / Bourne End)? If I wasn't so busy at work I'd have gone to have a look, but either way I'm happy to have added Goodander to my Hemel Life List, especially after missing the Female that Colin Everett found at Kings Langley Fishery in Dec.'10, the only other record I know of, in fact I think I can count this as a Hemel MEGA!

At The Magic Roundabout...

PEREGRINE - the Ringed Adult Female was on her roost on the BT building when I passed on my way home at 18.20. I hadn't seen her for a while & considered the possibility that she had left the winter roost early as the weather has been so mild recently, but clearly not.

Monday, 23 January 2012

WOODPIGEON Gang Hanging Around


Whilst on lunch at work today I witnessed a perculiar sight. Next to the tow path at Two Waters, across the canal from B&Q, 5 WOODPIGEONS were also having their lunch, feeding on Ivy berries. Now I know that doesn't sound very out of the ordinary, it isn't, but their style of feeding was. At least 3 of the pigeons were hanging completely upside-down, dangling & swinging by their feet to reach the fruits! The Ivy is undercut so there are few places to perch & the branches are flimsy anyway so these Pigeons had decided to try out their acrobatic skills, & it worked, all the birds managing to voraciously consume any berries in swinging distance. Viewing from afar they resembled African Grey Parrots, but although quite closely related to Parakeets, & despite occasionally seeing a Woodie tip over reaching food from time to time, I certainly didn't expect to ever see a group of them conciously feeding trapeze artist style. I managed to snap the following pics with my compact camera at full zoom, into the sun, then cropped, so they're not great, but you get the picture...

Woodpigeons feeding upside-down beside the tow path at Two Waters.

A Woodpigeon feeding upside-down & spread-eagled beside the tow path at Two Waters.




Friday, 13 January 2012

Colour-ringed MUTE SWAN 054 at canal at Corner Hall


Male Mute Swan taken with mobile phone at B&Q, Corner Hall.
For the last few years a pair of Mute Swans have been pretty resident in the Corner Hall / Boxmoor / Two Waters area on the River Gade & Grand Union Canal. They breed each year in the area around the small bridge over the river near Brayley Honda & B&Q, with their fluffy young often admired by passers by as they feed on the narrow stretch of grass between the main road (Two Waters Way) & the river. Over the winter I've been seeing a pair of MUTE SWANS in this same area which I am presuming are the same pair.

I remember seeing a Colour-ring on one of the swans before but never really paid much notice, so on seeing a Colour-ring on one of the swans today on the canal at B&Q I thought I'd make a note of it & see if (A) this is the same pair that breed in that area each year, & (B) where these birds were ringed & have been seen since. The Pen (Female) has an orange Colour-ring on her left leg with  054  in black text, which I managed to get a photo with my mobile phone, as well as a metal ring on her right leg. The Cob (Male) just has a metal ring on his left leg which I couldn't read this time as they are incredibly hard to see, but I will try again soon. I've sent the details of the Female's ring to Euring hoping to receive some background on this bird, though I don't expect it to have come far, it may be interesting none the less. I'll post as soon as I get back any info for those of you interested, for now here are my snaps taken on my mobile phone...

Colour-ring  054  on Female Mute Swan taken with mobile phone.



Monday, 9 January 2012

'Peggy' the MOORHEN recovers & becomes cycle safety technician

A few weeks ago I noticed a Female Moorhen with an injured left leg severely hobbling about at the Water Gardens beside Moor End Road Car Park. It looked to be in serious discomfort & possibly in pain, avoiding moving about if it could, sometimes crouching down to rest & sheltering in the hedge. I didn't have very high hopes for the poor thing & expected the worst. I considered catching it but with just my hands & no net I didn't want to cause it any extra undue stress, & I thought anyway that at least where it was it had a free supply of food from the duck-feeders, it had shelter if it wanted it, it had some safety in numbers & the weather was mild, so at least if it was going to be its last days it could do what a Moorhen does with relative safety & Moorhen amenities.

Well, despite my fears, when passing that same spot this morning, I had the pleasant surprise of seeing this tough little MOORHEN running around, yes running around, all be it with a limp, grabbing breadcrumbs before its friends could. I was amazed to see that it had recovered so well in the short space of time, & apart from the limp, was very mobile & looking much more comfortable compared to the last time. I sat & watched it feed for a while until I found myself unconsciously call her Peggy, after her peg-leg walk. I decided to take a short video of Peggy on my compact camera & with that she decided to show off by flying up onto my bike beside me, giving it a safety inspection, then when it appeared not to meet her standards fluttered to the ground with a rather clumsy landing.

Now, I'm not saying it was a sign, but, after she jumped off I took a quick look over my bike now that much of the dried mud of recent had fallen off, & to my amazement all four chainring bolts that hold the front gears on had come loose, so loose in fact that I could unscrew & remove them with one turn of my fingers! If it wasn't for Peggy prompting me to look I would never have noticed & it could have caused a potentially nasty accident. Was Peggy looking out for me because I was looking out for her? Either way I'm highly grateful to her for making me take notice, thank you Peggy.

'Peggy' the injured Moorhen conducting a cycle safety check
at the Water Gardens beside Moor End Road Car Park, Town Centre.


The dangerously loose chainring bolts noticed by Peggy.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Welcomed back to work by SISKINS

Once again the RED FOX was calling very early morning around Baylie Lane, Highfield.

Shortly after arriving at work, for my first day back at the office in Corner Hall, I popped out for milk & was alerted by sorrowful calls from the trees bordering B&Q. As expected it was 3 SISKINS flitting between the Alders.

Later on, at 13.25, a SPARROWHAWK circled over mobbed by 2 CARRION CROWS & c.30 STARLINGS.

So, I wont bore you with commentary on my 2012 Work (Corner Hall Offices) List, but incase you're interested it's > HERE <. I'll just continue to post any interesting bits as usual.

Later on in the eveing, the noisy RED FOX was up to tricks again around Baylie Lane, Highfield.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Leisurely Hemel year listing adds an easy PEREGRINE

Whilst cleaning the car this morning (the afternoon for eveyone else) at Baylie Lane, Highfield I added the following to my 2012 Hemel Year List...

8) ROBIN
9) HOUSE SPARROW
10) COLLARED DOVE
11) SPARROWHAWK - Male over mobbed by BH.Gull & C.Crow
Then, whilst on an evening cycle to get some fresh air & start the post Christmas detox I added...

12) GOLDFINCH - Boxmoor nr. K2
13) MAGPIE - Boxmoor nr. K2
14) STARLING - Boxmoor nr. K2
15) WREN - Boxmoor nr. K2
16) GREENFINCH - Boxmoor nr. K2
17) MISTLE THRUSH - Boxmoor nr. K2
18) MUTE SWAN - Canal b/w Apsley & Bennetts End
19) BLACKBIRD - Canal nr. Kings Langley Fishery
20) FIELDFARE - Canal nr. Kings Langley Fishery
21) GREY HERON - Kings Langley Fishery
22) TUFTED DUCK - c.10, Kings Langley Fishery
23) COOT - Kings Langley Fishery
24) BLUE TIT - Canal nr. Kings Langley Fishery
25) CHAFFINCH - Canal nr. Kings Langley Fishery
26) JAY - New Plantation
27) JACKDAW - Abbots Hill / New Plantation
28) SONG THRUSH - Abbots Hill / New Plantation
29) REDWING - many going to roost, Abbots Hill / New Plantation
30) LONG-TAILED TIT - Abbots Hill / New Plantation
31) GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER - Abbots Hill / New Plantation
32) DUNNOCK - Abbots Hill / New Plantation
33) BULLFINCH - c.2, Abbots Hill / New Plantation

Notable were the numbers of REDWINGS & FIELDFARES going to roost around Abbots Hill / New Plantation, tens & tens likely to of amounted to c.40 of each.
Whilst stopping off at my office in Corner Hall on the way back I managed to kick off my 2012 Work List after dark by adding a REDWING that I heard go over.

Then I made a little extra effort for the year list to add...

34) PEREGRINE - the usual Ringed Adult Female roosting on the BT building near the 'Magic' or Plough Roundabout, Town Center, 17.55

Shortly after I saw the usual c.50cm PIKE in its favoured spot below the weir at The Water Gardens near Bank Court.

On my way out to dinner I saw a small RED FOX run across Catsdell, Highfield, most likely the very vocal one of recent. And again, later on, I heard it uttering its five bark call over & over well into the night around Baylie Lane, which I had also heard very early in the morning too. Occasionally if I listen I can hear another Fox at distance responding to the call with its own.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

The 2012 Hemel Year List begins. On your marks, get set... no.

After a heavy night of excess, & waking at the Holiday Inn, still under the influence, I was in no fit state to ID any continental LBJs today, in fact the closest I got was el PJs & a chicken, ssp. rustica, from Domino's.

On leaving the hotel in a daze I did manage to use my beergogglenoculars to kick off my Hemel 2012 Year list with an amazing start...

1) 2 (or was it 1?) WOODPIGEON
2) a CARRION CROW

Then whilst collecting my pizza I added the following at the Water Gardens in the town center...

3) BLACK-HEADED GULL
4) MALLARD
5) ATLANTIC CANADA GOOSE
6) FERAL PIGEON
7) MOORHEN

And that's as far as my New Year's Day birding goes.

Later that evening & into the night the RED FOX which has been calling almost every night over the last week or so from gardens around Baylie Lane & Queensway, Highfield, was very vocal once again, usually calling a quick series of five barks & occasionally uttering their usual 'sheiking howl'.