Friday, 23 December 2011

Tring Ticks

Finished for Christmas yesterday, and decided on trying to get a few more birds on my county list.
Despite my 25 years of birding in Hertfordshire, my list is pretty pathetic, and this is largely due to location. Living in Stevenage, in the north east of the county, I have the Lea Valley within fairly easy reach and this has always been a favorite. However a lot of the really good birds appear in the far west at the Tring reservoirs, which for me has always been a bit of a pain to get too, as it involves going through Luton and Dunstable, or through Hemel, or around the M25-it takes about an hour when there is no traffic. As a result I have missed many good county birds, but I have decided to concentrate a bit more and try and get there more frequently.
Over the last month or so, a juvenile Drake Bellied Brent Goose has been present, and more recently a family of Bewicks Swans has arrived, but due to other commitments I never made the trip (anyway there is a very slim chance that both species might be available for me at Amwell-wishful thinking perhaps). However  much more important has been the appearance of Hertfordshire's first Snow Bunting for 30 years, so i had to go.
The journey was pretty good and I arrived just before 1000 at Startops, parking in the lay by. Climbed the bank and had a scan, picking up the usual wild fowl and some fly over Fieldfares. Noticed a couple of birders looking down and went over to join them, and eventually I spotted the very well camouflaged Snow Bunting feeding among the stones and weed along the shore. It was incredibly tame and carried on feeding while we stood a few feet above it chatting. Hopefully it will stay into the New Year.
Drove over to Wilstone and walked round to the jetty. A large flock of Canada and Greylags feeding in the field nearby held the Brent Goose. While I was there I tried to scan the shore, searching among Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits for the regular Water Pipit. It eventually flew past me and I was able to watch it feeding under the concrete lip of the reservoir.
A walk round the old canal and farmland was not very productive  apart from a few Redwing and a Goldfinch flock. I eventually made my way to the hide and almost immediately saw the Bewicks in front of me-a pair with two young. The large Lapwing and Golden Plover flock did not contain anything of note, nor did the gulls-there has been a Med roosting recently. Someone mentioned that a few Pintail had been present recently, but the only duck of note was the female Red Crested Pochard.

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