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.

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

CHIFFCHAFF in Sainsbury's car park, Apsley

Monday, 22 December 2014

Another photo of Probable SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF at Kings Langley

Revisiting the Possible SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF of recent at KLAS Kings Langley Fishery (Kings Langley Lake), I was looking through some of the photos again when I came across one I had overlooked as it was SO bad, but on closer inspection this pic may be the best one to show the bird as it looked in the field & also shows some of the identification features...

Note the following in the photo:

  • Greyer, paler nape than mantle & crown
  • Slight green tinge only in flight feathers
  • Faint wing-bar - sometimes mentioned in the identification of some 'Sibes'
  • Pale grey patch on shoulder
  • Buff supercillium (eye-stripe)
  • Paleish cheek with darker rear/lower border - can see in this pic that the cheek is infact buff/tan toned
  • Very pale (almost white) below
  • Gentle buff tone in flanks - this photo is more true to the lighness of the buff colouration than the others
  • General greyish-brown colouration with lack of yellow & greens despite yellowish cast to photo

A Google image search quickly brings up birds that seem to match this one. & with the combination of this & the call, which was bang-on for me, I'm now feeling pretty confident of its ID.

GREAT CRESTED GREBE, 3 POCHARDS (2 Males) & Male GADWALL at KLAS Kings Langley Fishery.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

LITTLE EGRET S over Corner Hall to roost, 16.16

Wintering CHIFFCHAFF at KLAS Kings Langley Fishery

Had a quick look for the Possible Siberian Chiffchaff (tristis) & Scandinavian Chiffchaff (abietinus) between Kings Langley Fishing Lake & the Grand Union Canal this morning to see if I could nail the 'Siberian', & get somebetter shots of the 'Scandinavian', because as Samuel Perfect rightly pointed out, the abietinus race has not actually been proven to be present during Winter in the UK despite being likely. I had no luck with either, though I did manage to photograph one of the regular British-type CHIFFCHAFFS (collybita) Wintering there.

This bird appearing more like what I'd expect for a regular Wintering Chiffchaff, note the cheeks are quite dark & close in shade & hue to the crown, & if you squint or look from further back the bird appears to have a dark head. The breast, flanks & belly are closer in shade to the nape & mantle giving the bird a pretty uniform overall appearance. The eye ring is very obvious against the darker face, the legs brownish-black, & the supercillium (eye-stripe) narrow & clearly green-yellow even in dull, grey light conditions. Even the green-yellow streaking in the breast & flanks is obvious in the dull conditions. Compare these features to the birds photographed yesterday & the differences become more apparent, though there is a variation in individual collybitas.

Regular collybita CHIFFCHAFF Wintering at KLAS Kings Langley Fishery

One of the friendly ROBINS at KLAS Kings Langley Fishery

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


The Possible SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF (tristis) showed itself for a minute or so again this morning, between KLAS Kings Langley Fishery & the Grand Union Canal. I was alerted to it by its single call, a slightly squeaky, slightly down-slurred piping whistle. It spent a few seconds in branches overhanging the lake then flew up into the tops of the trees & bushes on the canal towpath until I could no longer find it. I managed to get a few more record shots, though the bird looks a bit darker in them due to being against a bright reflection in the water. The greyness on the nape is apparent & I noticed it seemed to have a small pale grey patch across its 'shoulder', as well as the supercillium (eye-stripe) looking obviously peachy-buff today. As the bird moves around its tones appear to change, looking brown above & white below one minute, then brown envelope above & milky tea below, then greyish tree bark above & pale peach below, but each time standing out as different to the other CHIFFCHAFFS on site, which there are C.3 of. Of the other Chiffchaffs, there is at least 1 definite 'normal' British-type Wintering CHIFFCHAFF (collybita) looking all dark green-brown, dusky below with dark cheeks & face with a slim yellow-green supercillium. Then there is the bird I got a view of today near to the 'Siberian', which was generally pale, dull greyish green-brown, with a pale throat & face but darker around the belly & under-tail coverts, & obvious but gently-yellowish supercillium. Its call sounded as a regular Chiffchaff, an upslurred quick 'huit' or 'whiip'. It had pretty pale bordered cheeks compared to that of collybita, but the lower eye-ring was more obvious against it than on the 'Siberian'. It's legs were reddish dark-brown rather than the jet black of the 'Siberian' & the bill definitely paler. In fact the general appearance of this bird was not dissimilar to a dull Willow Warbler, & I was surprised that the primary projection looked a bit longer than I was expecting on a Chiffchaff, with the gaps between tips being progressively larger nearer the wing-tip too, rather than even like a regular Chiffchaff. This bird has to be a SCANDINAVIAN CHIFFCHAFF (abietinus).


Note buff flanks, white belly, light undertail coverts, buff supercillium, greyish nape & pale grey area on 'shoulder'.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

2 REED BUNTINGS at the old cress bed stream at Old Fishery Lane, Boxmoor.

1 of 2 REED BUNTINGS at Old Fishery Lane, Boxmoor - this bird is ringed but the ring unreadable.

WREN displaying to another hidden in undergrowth at Fishery Moor, Boxmoor.

2 EGYPTIAN GEESE NW low over KLAS Kings Langley Fishery, 10.33

Monday, 8 December 2014

Interesting CHIFFCHAFF at KLAS Kings Langley Fishery near Grand Union Canal

From the path between KLAS Kings Langley Fishery & the Grand Union Canal this morning I was alerted by a whistling call that sounded alot like it was some sort of waterfowl, very nearby in the margins of the large lake. It sounded alot like a young juvenile Coot, which would be pretty unusual at this time of year. On searching the edge of the water there was no sign of where the call was coming from but I could clearly hear it so I was baffled, but then right infront of me in the branches overhanging the lake I noticed a CHIFFCHAFF associating with a GOLDCREST & a LONG-TAILED TIT flock, but that call wasn't a regular Chiffchaff! I moved to view it better through the branches & it became aware of me, & with that the call stopped, though it continued to feed close by. It then struck me was how light the bird was, almost white below the belly to the under-tail coverts, whiteish throat, quite pale cheeks & generally washed out aroung its head, more brownish-grey than normal. But then how its flanks & some of its breast looked an obvious warm buff tone, in fact if I were to describe it to the extreme, compared to the bird I had seen here two days ago, which I would describe as 'dark green', this bird looked 'pale orange'! It was hard to judge the finer tones as it kept flitting behind branches & going against sky, then bark, then water, but the greenest part as far as I could see was its flight feathers. It had quite an obvious beigeish supercillium (eye stripe), more obvious above & behind the eye than I'd expect, & it somehow looked longer than a regular Chiffchaff, or at least its head looked longer as it appeared to have a slightly longer bill than normal & a less 'squashed-in' face.

With the general appearance of the bird & the mystery call which seemed to come from it, is it a SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF?

Before it dissapeared with the flock I attemped to grab some record shots to look at later, but it was extremely difficult through the branches & against the changing background. Below are the rubbish pics I did manage but the lightness & colour doesn't show so well in the more detailed shots as they are against the sky, the really really terrible shots on the other hand do atleast give an idea of the tones as they are against a more neutral, less bright background. An interesting detail that they do show is that the cheeks are pretty light for a Chiffchaff with a thin dark border.

Note the buffish supercillium, pale cheeks with thin darker outline, lightness of underneath & throat, greyish back of head.

3+, Probably 4, LITTLE EGRETS dropped into Two Waters / Durrants Hill Fishery to roost / pre-roost, flying in from W, 15.55

NUTHATCH & 2 COAL TITS at Noake Mill Lane, Piccotts End Pools.

RAVEN at Piccotts End Pools


HEMEL MEGA: SHOVELLER at Piccotts End Pools