January 2016


Any and all wildlife. You can send them by e-mail here. Photographs are very welcome

HMWT Winter walk at Wilstone Reservoir Nature Reserve.  
Sat. 23rd January 11:00-1:00pm
To book  click here or call 01727 858901. 
Wintering ducks and waders hopefully. 

Sunday 24th Jan is the Bittern Roost watch at Marsworth Reservoir. Join us near the hide on the causeway between Startopsend reservoir and Marsworth reservoir from about 16:00.

HMWT have set some dates for co-ordinated roost watches for wintering Bitterns. The dates are: Wed 11th Nov, Wed 16th Dec, Sun 17th Jan,Wed 17th Feb and Wed 16th March. All the main Bittern sites across Herts will be doing a roost watch on the same day including: Stockers/Springwell Reedbeds (Colne Valley) , Panshanger Park, Amwell, Stanstead, Innings, Rye Meads, North Met Pit, 70 Acres Lake, Bowyers Water and Tring Reservoirs in an attempt to get a count of the number of Bitterns wintering in Herts. We are aiming to cover both Marsworth and Wilstone and will be watching the reed beds from about an hour before sunset until it gets dark, Johne will be at Wilstone and I will be at Marsworth, if you can help see you there. Or if anyone sees a Bittern any day, but particularly on these days please let us know. Thanks Lynne.

New Volunteer task dates at Wilstone and Marsworth Reservoirs:
We’ll be at Wilstone on the 5th, 16th and 18th February and Marsworth on the 9th and 23rd February. If you'd like to come along and help out, please contact Laura on laura.baker@hmwt.org. Thanks.

Saturday 30th January 2016.
Gary Hinton - A Bittern was seen in flight from reed area to right of hide, landing near opposite the hide at marsworth this afternoon at 16:40. Watched by at least 10 people, with a cheer when seen and landing. What an fantastic experience had by all.

Thursday 28th January 2016.
Sarah Murtagh - I managed to spend a short time at the Plover Hide today. Saw 2 heron, (one flew like a star wars fighter jet) cormorant, tufted duck, mallards, moorhen and coots.
Heron by Sarah Murtagh

Cormorant by Sarah Murtagh

Mallard by Sarah Murtagh

Coot by Sarah Murtagh

Mallard by Sarah Murtagh

Moorhen by Sarah Murtagh

Saturday 23rd January 2016.
Lynne Lambert - We had two Bitterns this evening at the FoTR/HMWT Bittern watch. One bird was along the back edge and one a bit closer in the reeds on the right. There were about 20 people in all and everyone got a pretty good look through the scopes. We then saw the bittern on the right fly across the water in front of the reeds and land near where the first bittern had been, which was quite exciting. Most of the HMWT members left after this, happy with their sighting. Rose Collard picked up the birds again later but they were very difficult to see. One appeared to be building a platform, at least you could see it stretching its head up and down and pecking at the reeds.
As we left a bat was flying low over the water picking off the surface, probably  a Daubenten’s.

Saturday 23rd January 2016.
Ian Williams - In addition to Roy’s report I can add 2 raven over near the hide, several treecreeper near the hide and in Cemetery Corner and a ringed Marsh Tit coming down on seed I had scattered early morning in that area. The drake goldeneye was also still present between the reedbed and the overflow. The attached photo was taken from the jetty on Sunday morning when it was within about 20m. Also last Sunday a passage of larger gulls included several herring gull and a single Great-black back.
Goldeneye by Ian Williams

Marsh Tit by Ian Williams

Marsh Tit by Ian Williams

Treecreeper by Ian Williams

Treecreeper by Ian Williams

Roy Hargreaves - Saturday 16th is currently the last day that the Bonaparte’s Gull was seen that I am aware of. I did the WeBS count that day and there were no surprises wildfowl-wise but I did hear a singing Coal Tit by the hide at Tringford and when I finished the count from there was able to see it as well. Sunday it snowed and I walked down in the afternoon and the highlight was a Chiffchaff by the jetty feeding on the ground. I checked the reservoir and Miswell Farm and no sign of the Bonaparte’s but its usual field was frozen so all the Fieldfare and gulls had abandoned that field. On Monday the reservoir was well and truly frozen but with a couple of small patches of water remaining open. A male Tufted Duck x female Pochard hybrid was on the ice-free area on Drayton lagoon and superficially resembled a male Lesser Scaup, but was the same size as a Pochard. The Shelduck and three Goldeneye were also about but the highlight was an adult Mediterranean Gull on the fields by Miswell Farm. On Wednesday little change again but a Pied Wagtail was loathe to move and so made for a nice photo. Thursday a Lesser Redpoll was feeding along the Dry Canal and three female Goldeneye were on Wilstone. On Friday I did the gull roost with David and what we assume was the same adult Mediterranean Gull appeared in the roost, which was still present at 16:50 and so may have stayed at Wilstone rather than flying to College Lake – although David did see a lot of gulls flying over Marsworth while doing the Bitterns.
Today most of the ice had gone and the Shelduck and a couple of female Goldeneye were about on Wilstone with one coming in reasonably close to the jetty in the sunshine. Startops had the 1st winter Scaup firmly in Herts by the artificial islands and Tringford had one Little Egret and while I was watching a male Muntjac feeding in an unconcerned manner I could hear a Nuthatch and after finishing photographing the Muntjac I was able to find the Nuthatch, which was less co-operative and eluded my viewfinder.
Pied Wagtail by Roy Hargreaves

Goldeneye by Roy Hargreaves

Muntjac by Roy Hargreaves

Ian Bennell found this Marsh Tit at Cemetery Corner, Wilstone this morning.
Marsh Tit by Ian Bennell

Wednesday 20th January 2016.
Alan Horsley - 1st winter male Scaup on startops on 16th jan 2016.
Scaup by Alan Horsley

Stan Sear - Just a few sightings from the last week or so, Today 19/01, 13 or 14 Snipe, and from the 14/01,a bird which I think is a  Yellow Hammer along the Wendover  Arm, but I could be mistaken. Also a Long Tailed Tit at Startops to the right of the hide each side of inlet stream,
Yellowhammer by Stan Sear

Long Tailed Tit by Stan Sear

Friday 15th January 2016.
Lucy Flower - At least 2 Goldeneye (pair) this afternoon, swimming between car park steps and new overflow.

Sarah Murtagh - I went to the Plover hide today. I saw 2 heron, 2 swans, 2 tufted ducks, 2 magpie, hope they were not expecting the ark! Here are some pics :-)
Grey Heron by Sarah Murtagh

Grey Heron by Sarah Murtagh

Mute Swans by Sarah Murtagh

by Sarah Murtagh

Tufted Duck by Sarah Murtagh

Wednesday 13th January 2016.
Sally Douglas -  Marsworth - At dusk 2 Bitterns flew out of the main reed bed across to the far reeds and climbed up to roost. A third one then climbed up from that area (unseen earlier) also to roost. A flock of approx 25-30 Corn Buntings flew in to the reed bed. Also seen was a Water Rail, 4 Snipe, Grey Wagtail and a Kingfisher perched at the edge of main reed bed. The Scaup was showing well on Startops.

James Heron - Some pictures from Wilstone. The Bonaparte gull spotters on the jetty, (from Leicestershire, Dorset, Norfolk) did eventually find it. It's somewhere in the 2nd picture. Impossible to pick it out without the very good scope one chap had, so I had a good view through this.
Bonaparte's Gull Twitch

There is a Bonaparte's Gull in there somewhere. 
 Meanwhile going un-noticed elsewhere......
Great Crested Grebe by James Heron

Pochard by James Heron

Moorhen by James Heron

Shelduck by James Heron

Lapwing by James Heron

Little Egret by James Heron

Lesser Black Backed Gull by James Heron

Shoveller by James Heron

Monday 11th January 2016.
Sally Douglas - First opportunity to catch up with the Bonaparte's (lifer) after returning from Scotland. Upon arriving it didn't look good to see only two people there and then to be told it had just flown! However, luckily a chap on a buggy drove across the field where the gulls were feeding and after scrutinizing them as they landed I located it. Cannot compete with Ian's brilliant flight pictures but, in very poor light, managed some static shots - one clearly showing the grey back of the neck and another the comparison in size to Black-headed Gull.
Bonaparte's Gull with Black Headed Gull by Sally Douglas

Bonaparte's Gull by Sally Douglas

Bonaparte's Gull by Sally Douglas

Bonaparte's Gull with Black Headed Gull by Sally Douglas

Sunday 10th January 2016.
More of Ian Williams' excellent shots of the Bonaparte's Gull at Wilstone Today.
Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams

Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams

Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams

Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams

Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams

Black Headed Gull vs Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams

Slovenian Grebe by Ian Williams

Slovenian Grebe by Ian Williams

Ian McConnell - Had a quick walk around Marsworth today.  A few Herons about, a single Little Egret perched in trees in the far corner and plenty of Robins about.  On the way back around at the corner of Startops and Marsworth, there was a single Fieldfare posing nicely for a few minutes, the first time I have been able to photograph one. Moving on to the Plover Hide to sit and have a drink, I took a nice Mute Swan Portrait as the usual pair were there feeding in front of me.  Two Buzzards flew over and there were lots of Bullfinches about, unfortunately always in amongst foliage so I was unable to get any clear shots, so will keep trying.
Female Pochard by Ian McConnell

Fieldfare by Ian McConnell

Heron by Ian McConnell

Mute Swan Ian McConnell

Bob by Ian McConnell

Saturday 9th January 
A selection of Ian Williams' excellent shots of the Bonaparte's Gull at Wilstone Today.
Bonaparte's Gull with Black Headed Gull by Ian Williams.

Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams

Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams

Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams

Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams.

Bonaparte's Gull with Black Headed Gull by Ian Williams.

Bonaparte's Gull by Ian Williams.

Wednesday 6th January 2016.
Roy Hargreaves - When I set out from home Jupiter, Venus and Mars were visible in a clear sky and I was relieved that it was still clear when I arrived at the hide at Wilstone as clear skies often result in mist and that really does hamper viewing. Anyway from the hide I saw a male Pintail and from by the overflow the Shelduck was about and the two roving Egyptian Geese were stood briefly on the bank in front of the hide before disappearing. From the jetty the male Goldeneye was reasonably close but moved out along the shrinking spit as the water level continues to rise. I looked through the gulls by the reed bed and about the fourth or fifth gull that I saw was the Bonaparte’s Gull. I wasn’t really surprised it was still about but it was much easier to be certain about it this time and I phoned a few people within seconds of seeing it and was relieved that it stuck round for a reasonable number of people saw it. I suspect the car park could be busy tomorrow morning judging by conversations being had on other email groups.

David Hutchinson - Bonaparte's Gull seen today at distance from bank between jetty and cemetery corner before all the gulls took flight.
Bonaparte's Gull (with Black Headed Gull and Lapwing) by David Hutchinson. 

Wednesday 6th January 2016.
John Fisher - Wilstone - Drake pintail
Marsworth – 2 poss 3 bitterns to roost
Startopsend - First year drake scaup

Monday 4th January 2016.
Roy Hargreaves - Sometimes people ask me how come I don’t get bored when I go to the reservoirs practically every day or why I bother when so little turns up. This morning probably answers those questions, because stuff turns up when you least expect it and if you aren’t there you won’t see it. I was time-constrained this morning as I had someone collecting something for work and theoretically it was any time after 9am. With that in mind I went down to Wilstone Reservoir in the car and knew I would only cover that reservoir. From the hide the Shelduck was still about and from the Jetty the male Goldeneye was also still about but no sign of yesterday’s male Goosander.
I scanned the edge of the water by the reeds and most of the gulls were facing into the wind and so I was getting a great view of their vents. However, I noticed a smaller, slightly darker gull in with the Black-headed Gulls and also noticed that it had pinkish legs and grey running up the back of the neck onto the rear of the head. I was really excited at this point but more than a little stressed as time was limited and my eyes kept watering in the cold wind. The bird appeared to have a black bill that was shorter and thinner than those of the Black-headed Gulls. At some point it and a few other gulls took off briefly and I was fairly sure it had pale undersides to the primaries. Or was I hallucinating, after all I’ve had Bonaparte’s Gull on my radar for years and always thought it would be tough to spot one in the roost or indeed during the day at distance. Anyway the bird was still back-end on and I didn’t dare take my eyes off it to phone anyone or reach for my camera in case it stretched its wings or flew off. Of course when it did stretch its wings I could only see the upperwing so no joy there. At 9:05 it flew up by itself and over to the fields to the south and sure enough it lacked the dark underwing and was a Bonaparte’s Gull and I was late for work. As I walked back to the car I rang David and Ian and tried other people and headed for home. I saw David at Cemetery Corner and just after I got home he phoned to say it was back so I put a text out and phoned Rare Bird Alert.
Unfortunately it wasn’t seen after David left but we will both be looking for it tomorrow morning.
I have attached some of David’s photos, which he has kindly said I could use, and I must admit they make it look a lot easier to identify than it was when I was watching it!
Bonaparte's Gull with Black Headed Gulls by David Bilcock. 

Bonaparte's Gull with Black Headed Gulls by David Bilcock

Sunday 3rd January 2016.
Roy Hargreaves - At roughly 14:30 on Sunday it stopped raining so just before 15:00 I headed to Marsworth to see if I could add Bittern and Corn Bunting to my year list. Sure enough after a few scans I saw a Bittern up in the reeds sky pointing and flaring its head and neck feathers and mentioned it to Mike and Ted Wallen who located a bird that was walking along the edge – so a second bird. Both birds proceeded to disappear in the reeds and that was it for a while and Mike and Ted left. I then spotted what was presumably the bird I had seen before and put two other people on to it. Scanning right I also saw what I assumed was the bird Mike and Ted had seen earlier and soon after Rob and Ian turned up and we enjoyed these birds. Then the right hand bird flew left and over the first bird and soon after the first bird was joined by a third bird and they seemed to get on just fine with no aggression displayed between them. The two came right to the front of the reeds and showed very well before one then the other flew right and landed right in the middle of the reed bed and out of sight.
What was interesting was the interaction of the Bitterns with two quite happy to perch reasonably close to each other but the other bird displaying aggressively whenever another Bittern came anywhere near it. Ian said that two had been seen close together before so one wonders what triggers one bird to behave this way and the others not to. Also it was interesting to note that all three seemingly built platforms and two of them moved away from them to seemingly roost elsewhere. This could have been due to the wind picking up a little but that is speculation on my part.
Only 13 Corn Buntings landed in the top of a tree before roosting but I can’t help wondering if the low number is due to the mild winter we are experiencing. Also the Scaup was still on Startops.

Saturday 2nd January 2016.
Roy Hargreaves - Yesterday wasn’t too bad with the Scaup present on Startops, a pair of Red-crested Pochard on Tringford and a flock of 20 Siskins in Tringford Wood with a few Goldfinches. On Wilstone the Shelduck and pair of Goldeneye were still present.
Today the weather was pretty grim so I only did a quick tour of some of the reservoirs. Marsworth was very productive as I saw what I assume was the drake Goosander that flew off yesterday before I could get there. Also a male Cetti’s Warbler was singing and the Scaup was still on Startops.
Goosander by Roy Hargreaves

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