The area between Baldock and Royston has been a pretty good in recent years for raptors, game birds and mammals, which is why I often take a drive up there. Over the last four years of occasional visits I have managed to see most of the commoner raptors that can be expected to be seen in southern England, and while Osprey and Honey Buzzard are a bit unlikely, the one glaring omission has been Merlin. There have been several reports, but i have never managed to locate any.
Alan Reynolds saw one at Wallington last week, and he saw it again a couple of days ago, so, with nothing much else to do today I went up there.
The ploughed fileds south of the A505 held a large flock of Lapwing-around 70 and when they went up, I saw around 80 Golden Plover. A scan produced many partridge, pheasants, Larks and Black Headed and Common Gulls. A distant raptor on a fence proved to be a Kestrel. Nearer the village, the hedges held a small flock of Yellowhammer and 8 Corn Buntings.
Driving over the Coombe road did not produce any birds, though there were a good 25 Hares in the fields, along with more game-birds.
Deadmans Hill had more Lapwing, partridge, Larks and a single Buzzard. As I got out of the car, a small dark falcon flew low down from the hill to the east and flushed several larks from the set aside before continuing. By the time I got the camera up it was gone. With Merlin now out of the way, I need to find a Pallid Harrier....
Yesterday's visit to Amwell was more social than anything, catching up on gossip, especially as there were a few people I had not seen for a while. Like many, the news of the Scarlet Tanager in Cornwall was very tempting, but the lack of sightings on Friday put us all off. Good job we did not go as it appeared to have been re-found on Scilly.
Birds were pretty much standard-a few Teal, Wigeon and Shoveller. No Goldeneye yet. Usual assortment of loafing gulls including a Greater Black Back. Despite the sunny weather and breeze, only a couple of Buzzards and Sparrowhawk seen, along with a single Kestrel. Occasional Skylarks and Meadow Pipits going over. Best birds were three Redpoll, one Bullfinch and a flyby Kingfisher.
Looks like at least one Red Crested Pochard is back for winter, but we could not locate it.