There have been a few sightings of Sabine's Gull across the UK in the last week or so, but it was a total surprise when a juvenile was reported at Amwell late on the 16th, roosting with the Black-headed Gulls. It was too late to pop down so an early start saw about a dozen birders the next morning waiting in the dark and the rain for the chance to see this scarce gull. Sadly, only one person got onto it before the roost flew out still in the dark! The only slim chance was that it might return to roost again the same evening. In slightly better weather with another small crowd waiting it was spotted about 4pm. Such a tiny bird and sadly distant, but a local mega! I only managed a couple of record shots in the gathering gloom.
The model airplane area just outside Baldock is a noted area for birds especially on passage and can include Wheatear and Yellow Wagtails. Barry Reed found this stunning Black Redstart in the morning, so I could not resist a trip up there in the afternoon. The light was good, and the bird showed quickly, but at a distance. It liked perching on some traffic cones and with a bit of patience, I managed to get into a good position and waited for it to come closer.
It would dive down from a cone onto the ground to feed, moving from cone to cone. At one stage it flew up to catch insects.
What a fabulous bird!
An RSPB SE Herts Group car trip to Abberton with a first stop at the Layer Breton causeway. The original planned destination was Rainham Marshes, but with week long problems on the M25, a switch was needed. Ten group members met up for a good days birding. Some of the usual suspects were there, including Egyptian Goose, Lapwing and a Kingfisher.
There was one distant Goldeneye and a couple of distant Great Egrets, but also four Black-tailed Godwits close in on the mud.
Also showing very well was the long staying Hybrid Baikal Teal.
Next stop was the Layer de la Haye causeway where, after a bit of searching we managed to pick out a Slavonian Grebe. It was distant so just a record shot here.
And also distant, a female Long-tailed Duck.
Much nearer however was a Great Egret, keeping company with some Little Egrets.
A visit to the Visitor Centre did not add much to the day list apart from Marsh Harrier, but a coffee was welcome! A quick stop past Billets farm added some waders including Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Ruff. Next was a ride round to the church in the hope of seeing a reported Great Northern Diver. A couple of people saw it, but it was at extreme distance and looking into the sun. With the day slipping away, there was just time to stop again on the LDLH causeway, adding a distant Scaup. Close in were a few Wigeon.
One of the Great Crested Grebes was also on the shore and preening. It appeared to be ok, but always a worry with so many cases of Bird Flu.
A pair of Redshank were also close in.
The Goosanders are always great to photograph, and often can be found by the sluice fishing. In total there must have been about 12 to 15 females and only 3 males. Here are some shots of the females.
And a few of the males.
All in all, a great day out!
I was doing some recruitment for the RSPB SE Herts Local Group at Rye Meads which just happened to coincide with the Rye Meads Ringing Group catching two Bearded Tits in their mist nets. Very privileged to have a quick peek at them after they were weighed, checked and ringed, and before being safely released. The firsts shots are of the female.
And the male.
Beautiful birds, and the ringing group do a lot of valuable work.
About a week later (6th November) I managed to photograph a juvenile Whooper Swan from the Gadwall hide. At the time of posting, it is still at Rye Meads.
Rye Meads has certainly turned up some good birds recently.
A short post about my visit to Grafham Water, primarily to try and see the American Wigeon that had been there for a few days. All the photo's are record shots as everything was fairly distant with the low water levels. Some good ducks were seen including Long-tailed Duck, Scaup, Goldeneye and this Pintail.
Waders included Lapwing, Redshank, Little Stints and this flock of Dunlin.
I had nearly given up hope of seeing the American Wigeon, but just as I was leaving it was located by two other birders. I believe it had drifted in to join the large Wigeon flock not far from Mander car park. It really stood out with the green face patch and creamy head stripe. Shame it was distant, but a few shots below.
Grafham Water has proved to be a great spot this year with Great Northern Diver, Snow Bunting, Cape Gull and now American Wigeon!
A couple of visits recently, starting with the Draper hide where some works were planned on the scrape. As this commenced, a chance to get some shots of birds relocating including these Gadwall.
The light was just right for this lumbering Grey Heron.
Three of four Green Sandpipers were present including this one ringed in November 2020.
At the Gadwall hide, duck numbers were building up, but no sign of the Bittern that has been reported for a few days. However, a lone Common Snipe was on the island in front.
The 20th October started with torrential rain, but then improved, so I spent some time at the Kingfisher hub. The male was perched up when I arrived, but then the heavens opened again. He braved the downpour for 15 minutes before flying off. I thought that was it, but the rain slowed and the sun came out, and the action began!
Whilst the breeding season has long passed, the male was joined by the female, both obviously keeping an eye on their breeding territory. Both birds fished with the male catching quite a large baby Carp.
Both birds spent some time preening.
I was the only person in the hide, and the changing weather conditions made it a magical couple of hours!
Some great views, and as a footnote I popped in on the 22nd October and just before closing time spotted this distant Water Pipit. A great bird for Rye Meads.
A couple of local walks recently, firstly checking up on the Peregrines on All Saints Church. Both male and female have been regularly seen on the tower and on the 21st, the female, Flo was sitting up giving some great views. Born on Salisbury Cathedral, she seems to have made Hertford her new home.
Next, on to Park Mead with brief views of a Water Rail. Meadow Pipit numbers are starting to increase and I managed a couple of shots.
Stonechats have also started to move down from their moorland strongholds for the Winter and the Meads usually holds 3 or 4 pairs. The female was quite wary.
But the male afforded much closer views.
He then caught a very hairy caterpillar, and had great difficulty dealing with it!
As the light was starting to get worse, time to try some different shots.
Fantastic to see such a wealth of wildlife, 20 minutes walk from home!
A Jack Snipe had been reported at Lemsford Springs and was showing well. However, a visit on the 11th October was unsuccessful despite waiting around three and a half hours. Three Common Snipe were however present and gave some good views.
Also present was an intriguing Water Rail that had what looked like a foreign ring. Hopefully, if it stays, it may be able to yield some better views to pinpoint its origin.
Undeterred, I returned the following afternoon and the Jack Snipe offered up some great views!
It's the first record at Lemsford in five years and thankfully it seemed to be unfazed by this huge hybrid Mallard!
I even managed to remember to take some video, which shows its classic bobbing action.
My best ever views of this tricky, but beautiful bird.
The first RSPB SE Herts Group coach trip of the new season was a great success with brilliant weather and over 80 species of bird spotted. Walking down to the new Reserve centre a Greenshank and Stonechat were spotted and a Hobby whizzed past. Whilst photographing a Redshank it panicked and flew off. The reason being this passing Peregrine.
Four Spoonbill were showing opposite the Reserve centre.
A late Clouded Yellow butterfly was a good find.
Only one Wheatear was present, but eventually came a bit closer and allowed some good views.
Further round on one of the pits was a small group of Golden Plover with a lone Grey Plover.
It was then down to the beach with iconic views of the Dungeness Power Station.
Sadly there was some disturbance from dog walkers so failed to get any shots of the Sanderlings, but did get the Oystercatchers as they flew off.
I did manage to get shots of Dunlin and Ringed Plover on the beach.
Heading back, a Redshank was posing well on the riverbank.
Altogether an excellent trip!
As promised, some of the waders seen at Hannafore Point, West Looe. Starting with the Oystercatchers, one of which can be seen with a limpet.
One evening a small party of Ringed Plovers flew in.
Two or three Dunlin were present for most of the time, and with patience, allowed some close shots as they fed.
And the final wader was Ruddy Turnstone. Good to be able to get some pictures with a great background!
A great week with generally good weather, amazing light and some brilliant birds.