I spent a fair bit of time working in the garden this weekend, but Sunday morning, just for a change I went to Tyttenhanger as it seems to be good at the moment for waders and migrants in general. As I have recently signed up to the Friends of Tyttenhanger Gravel Pits http://friendsofthgp.wixsite.com/ornithology I thought I might as well try and participate.
Parked as I usually do by the water works in Colney Heath and was immediately struck by the number of Blackcaps around the Model Railway club and the track down to the pits. With several singing Chiffchaffs as well it really felt like spring was getting going.
Reaching the corner of the main pit, I picked up the two Oystercatchers, lots of big gulls and some ducks and herons, but not a lot else, so I walked along the river to the woods. Here I found and heard many more Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, a couple of woodpeckers and a Nuthatch.
I forgot, as usual that the viewing screen over the main pit is a long way from the exposed mud and really needs a scope, but being able to see most of the waters edge it wasn't long before three Little Ringed Plovers were found, and a Green Sandpiper was plain hide and seek along one of the well vegetated margins. Carrying on to the causeway a small flock of Sand Martins went over, and about the same time I heard and then found my first Willow Warbler of the year.
Wandering around the farm I bumped into some of the regulars before trying my luck at the feeders but failed to see any of the Tree Sparrows-apparently they had been down a little while earlier but only a couple of people had seen them. The high point gave me a chance to look more closely at the mud, but only one of the Little Rings was still present, and seemed to be very active with display flights over the water. Later when I got back to the corner gate, joining a couple of others, a second bird had joined it and we suspect that they were paired up, and hopefully would stick around to breed. Ax Amwell seems to be in a very poor state for waders at the moment, with little hope of any staying and breeding, it looks like Tyttenhanger is going to be the place in my part of Hertfordshire.
Getting ready to leave, I had a quick look at Twitter to discover that twenty minutes earlier a Short Eared Owl had been found at Norton Green, so headed there straight away. Unfortunately just as I had walked under the motorway I learnt that it had flown off high, being mobbed by Buzzards. Bit disappointed as my only Short Eared in the Stevenage area was a distant owl flying away from me in Aston End some 30 years ago which was never identified with certainty-in those days Long Eared were still wintering in the area.