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

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Monday, 30 September 2013

Numbers of LINNETS (at least 1 flock of C.15), SKYLARKS (at least 1 flock of C.5, & MEADOW PIPITS (3+) starting to build up around Nettleden Road, Water End.

5 SKYLARKS S over Piccotts End village.

TREE BUMBLEBEE at Piccotts End Pools

2nd Winter COMMON GULL at Piccotts End Pools.

CHIFFCHAFF singing at Piccotts End Pols.

2nd Winter HERRING GULL, 2 LBB GULLS, RED KITE & BUZZARD at Piccotts End Pools.

BULLFINCH, 2 MISTLE THRUSHES, some SWALLOWS & C.2 JAYS at Piccotts End Pools.

REED BUNTING, 10+ LINNETS, 3+ MEADOW PIPITS, KINGFISHER & 3 Juv. CORMORANTS at Piccotts End Pools.

3 LITTLE EGRETS, 5 LINNETS, SKYLARK, MEADOW PIPIT, 4 STOCK DOVES & 2 Juv. CORMORANTS at Piccotts End Pools.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

C.2 YELLOW WAGTAILS over Betjeman Way, Gadebridge.

MEADOW PIPIT over Betjeman Way, Gadebridge.

YELLOW WAGTAIL, GREY WAGTAIL, PIED WAGTAIL & MEADOW PIPIT at Piccotts End Pools.

2 LITTLE EGRETS & KINGFISHER at Piccotts End Pools.

Large Female SMOOTH NEWT (COMMON NEWT) on footpath S of Piccotts End Pools.


SMOOTH NEWT (COMMON NEWT) on footpath at Piccotts End Pools.



A large Female SMOOTH NEWT (COMMON NEWT) was on the footpath heading towards Piccotts End Pools from the S this morning which was nice to see. It was completely still & didn't move when approached so I took a couple of snaps, then as it was directly in the 'tread zone' I decided to move it to a safer spot beside the footpath. I took this opportunity to take a couple of photos showing its size compared to my hand. Unfortunately I only had the 150-500mm on the Pentax so it wasn't ideal for taking pics at close range, but fortunately I was carrying my waterproof Lumix compact, which meant I could also take a short video...



5 YELLOW WAGTAILS with cattle at Piccotts End - in field W of village.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

2 Female TEAL at Great Gaddesden

10 LINNETS at Great Gaddesden - 1 almost caught by Female SPARROWHAWK.

Constant movement of MEADOW PIPITS around Piccotts End Pools.

LESSER WHITETHROAT at green at Piccotts End Pools.

LESSER REDPOLL at green at Piccotts End Pools.

NUTHATCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER & GREEN WOODPECKER at Piccotts End Pools.

WILLOW WARBLER at green at Piccotts End Pools.

HOBBY perched at the green at Gaddesden Hall, Piccotts End Pools - then chased by Female SPARROWHAWK.

1+ BULLFINCH around the green at Gaddesden Hall, Piccotts End Pools.

GREYLAG GOOSE with 90+ CANADA GEESE at Piccotts End Pools.

C.4 MEADOW PIPITS, KINGFISHER, LINNET, GREY WAGTAIL & C.2 STOCK DOVES at Piccotts End Pools.

TREE BUMBLEBEE at footpath to S of Piccotts End Pools.

Friday, 13 September 2013

BARN SWALLOW x HOUSE MARTIN Hybrid at Gadebridge Park


Juvenile SWALLOW x HOUSE MARTIN Hybrid with C.200 Hirundines in rain
at N Gadebridge Park football pitch. 13/09/13

As I rode to work this morning in the drizzle I cut through the football pitch at the North end of Gadebridge Park, some gulls were resting so I stopped to check them out. As I got my binoculars out of my rucksack the drizzle got heavier & in dropped a flock of C.30 Hirundines from the North, staying to feed up, SWALLOWS mainly shooting low over the grass & HOUSE MARTINS wheeling around overhead.
My adrenaline suddenly started pumping as I picked out a Swallow with a whitish rump through the drizzle, hoping it was going to be a Red-rumped Swallow I tried my best to stay on it. From a fleeting glimpse of it face-on I noticed it had a slight pale area on the face, appearing mainly around the throat, perhaps less than I'd expect for a Red-rumped, but it was a terrible view so I couldn't be sure what I could see. I lost it for a few moments as it flew up to join the increasing number of Hirundines above me, now numbering C.60, & whilst trying to find it I noticed a MISTLE THRUSH feeding nearby on the football pitch. Now the drizzle had turned to rain & this prompted 8 MEADOW PIPITS to drop in from the NW, appearing to go down at the rough field at Howe Grove, near the horse stables at Fletcher Way, Highfield. I then glimpsed the 'light-rumped Swallow' again, skimming across the grass towards me from across the field. I got my bins back onto it & got a slightly better view of it's face, that's when I realised that unfortunately it wasn't a Red-rumped Swallow, but something interesting none-the-less. It was either a Barn Swallow x House Martin Hybrid or a Barn Swallow x Red-rumped Swallow Hybrid, but it was just too tricky to get a decent view in the rain. I lost the bird again & thought I wouldn't be able re-find it as by now the Hirundine flock above Gadebridge Lane had increased to C.200, & me, my binoculars, & my camera were very wet. But then from nowhere it came zipping past, closer than before. I managed to fire off some shots which was very hard as the bird was very fast in low light & I couldn't really see what I was doing in the rain, especially with water in my viewfinder. I then lost the bird & could not re-find it, the rain started to ease off leaving me completely soaked & the Hirundines started to move on, heading S over Gadebridge Park. I tried to analyse the photos in the field but I couldn't really see the preview on my camera as it was dripping wet, so I thought I would wait until I got to work to scrutinise my very poor record shots.

Once at the office, out of the rain & dried off, I looked at the photos keeping my mental notes in mind, & it immediately became apparent that it was a Juvenile BARN SWALLOW x HOUSE MARTIN Hybrid. It had a cleanish white rump, medium-short forked tail with no white spots & no white on the under-tail, no light patches on its nape, Juvenile Barn Swallow-like chest-band & paleish lower face, but without a noticeable pale forehead above the bill (making the bird appear pale-throated but with a dark fore-head). The bird was obviously round-bodied & plump, being shaped more like a House Martin, rather than having the slender, tapered body of a Swallow. Its movement & jizz were also different in comparison to the other Swallows feeding near it, with its wings not 'lapping'/flicking out as much as you'd expect from a feeding Swallow. I think I also may have heard this bird call, sounding more like a House Martin, but I couldn't say so for certain, when at one point the majority of the Hirundines were grouped together up high apart from this bird & about 3 other Swallows hunting low over the grass. As this bird passed me, when I took the photos, I heard what I was sure was a House Martin call close to me, but from what I could see all of the House Martins were too high up & far over Gadebridge Lane for me to hear, especially as it was raining, & the only other birds nearby being the few feeding Swallows.

8 MEADOW PIPITS over SE at N Gadebridge Park football pitch - when rain picked up appeared to go down to rough field at Howe Grove, nr horse stables at Fletcher Way, Highfield.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

HEMEL MEGA: Goose Galore - 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE, Large CANADA GOOSE Flock & First GREYLAG GOOSE at Piccotts End Pools.


EGYPTIAN GEESE at Piccotts End Pools.

As I approached Piccotts End Pools on the footpath from the South this morning I thought to myself 'please be something different here today, there's probably not enough exposed shore for many waders but maybe some interesting wildfowl, even just a Tufted Duck would do'. Then as I continued I heard the 'honk' of Canada Geese, which in itself is not unusual. But as I rounded the hedgerow to join the stretch running along side the pools I was amazed to see a massive flock of geese resting & preening at the pools. In fact, after many attempts to count them I can say there were at least 159 CANADA GEESE! By far the biggest count ever here, with my highest previous count being 18, only last week, & only 9 before that!

Accompanying the Canadas was a single GREYLAG GOOSE, which in itself is a good record as I have never seen one or seen records of any here before! I wondered whether this flock, including the Greylag, are in fact the usual wintering flock from the Water Gardens in town, & Hemel Cricket Club at Boxmoor, which haven't been seen since last Winter, & usually include a single Greylag?

Well to top this all off, as I started to walk further up the footpath to re-count the Canadas I saw two large, bulky birds heading straight towards me from North-West over the horizon. I straight away thought 'hang on, these are something different', & as they neared I saw bright white wing panels glowing in the low sunlight against the dull grey sky. 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE! They closed in on the pools then circled many times, lower & lower, looking to land & definitely attracted to the large number of geese already at the pools, though in the end they just weren't sure & headed off slowly SSE towards Gadebridge Park. This is only the second record of Egyptian Geese in Hemel, the previous record being 2 birds that, coinsidently, I saw flying off S from the pools on the morning of 18th of August 2004! Could these be the same 2 birds & this is a route they often use around this time of year? If so they must be getting on a bit!

EGYPTIAN GEESE at Piccotts End Pools.




[Note: Possibly the same 2 Egyptian Geese as seen at Maple Cross by Chris Bessant the next day, 13/09/13. Maple Cross is only 11 miles South of Piccotts End Pools & these birds were heading that way.]

STOCK DOVE singing at Noake Mill Lane, Piccotts End Pools.

Quite a few COMMON TOAD Toadlets & a few COMMON FROG Froglets, as well as a couple of fully grown COMMON FROGS, along the footpath at Piccotts End Pools.

2 KINGFISHERS at Piccotts End Pools

4+ MEADOW PIPITS & LINNET at Piccotts End Pools.

KINGFISHER & Female KESTREL at Piccotts End Pools.

YELLOW WAGTAIL, & 2 MEADOW PIPITS low over S, at Piccotts End Pools.

2 LITTLE EGRETS at Piccotts End Pools

Record count of 159+ CANADA GEESE & 1 GREYLAG GOOSE at Piccotts End Pools

HEMEL MEGA: 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE circled low at Piccotts End Pools looking to land at 10.05 then continued S towards Gadebridge Park!


2 EGYPTIAN GEESE. More details > HERE <.



Male KESTREL & GREY WAGTAIL at New Piccotts End Farm House.

C.20 YELLOWHAMMERS at field behind Valley Green, Woodhall Farm.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

2nd unfortunate dead COMMON SHREW of recent, at field N of Valley Green, Woodhall Farm.


The second unfortunate dead COMMON SHREW I've found recently, at field N of Valley Green, Woodhall Farm - this one seems to have not survived the cold during the night.

Dead COMMON SHREW near Valley Green, Woodhall Farm.
(Photo taken with Samsung Galaxy S3 mobile phone)




MEADOW PIPIT at W side of Gadebridge Park.

Family party of 5 LINNETS at Dodds Lane N of Grovehill.

MEADOW PIPIT in fields behind Valley Green, Woodhall Farm.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

LITTLE OWL calling near Holtsmere End Lane behind Valley Green, Woodhall Farm.


LITTLE OWL - my first in this area.



EMPEROR DRAGONFLY at canal at B&Q, Corner Hall.

4 LITTLE EGRETS at Piccotts End Pools


Record shot of 2 of the 4 LITTLE EGRETS at Piccotts End Pools,
these 2 interacting with 2 of 18 CANADA GEESE .



5+ BUZZARDS, 4 RED KITES, 2 (Pair) KESTRELS & Female SPARROWHAWK at Piccotts End Pools.


Not the best photo, as I was definitely unprepared for this young Female SPARROWHAWK to shoot past me like a bullet at 3 meters range, trying to take Yellowhammers, Dunnocks & Whitethroats by surprise as it sped along the top of the hedgerow at Piccotts End Pools.



18 CANADA GEESE at Piccotts End Pools - by far the highest count here.

3 LITTLE EGRETS, 1+ YELLOW WAGTAIL & 2 RED KITES at Piccotts End Pools.

YELLOW WAGTAIL, LITTLE EGRET & HERRING GULL at Piccotts End.

2 (Pair) KESTRELS & 4 RED KITES together at Lovetts End, N of Grovehill.