Garganeys, Amwell, 4 March 2010 (Simon West)
THURSDAY 4 MARCH
Although temperatures in the south climbed to 7.5 degrees C, a cold easterly wind made it feel very bitter. It remained bright throughout, with long spells of sunshine and clear blue skies.
Recent days have heralded the arrival of spring with many waders returning to breeding localities, including Curlew, Common Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover, as well as some early returning migrants such as Little Ringed Plover, Northern Wheatear, Sand Martin and White Wagtail. There has been a wave of coastal GARGANEYS but it still came as a surprise when Alan Reynolds telephoned to say that Bill Last had discovered a pair at Amwell - a very early date. Frustratingly, I was in Dorset, and a mere 198 miles away........
CHESS RIVER VALLEY AND BOIS MILL LAKE (BUCKS)
Three LITTLE EGRETS were still lingering today, along with a single CONTINENTAL CORMORANT at Bois Mill Lake.
GREAT HARDMEAD LAKE, AMWELL NR (HERTS)
As soon as I returned from Dorset, I drove over to Amwell and was very pleased to see that the two GARGANEYS were still present and showing well. They were an adult pair in pristine fresh spring plumage and although asleep on some branches for most of the time opposite the Tom Gladwin Hide, both birds (and accompanying pair of Common Teal) were rudely awaken by an Atlantic Canada Goose, which hissed and chased them, forcing them to relocate a few yards away. Joan Thompson joined me in the hide, with both birds still showing well when I departed at 1630. Garganey represented my 200th species of 2010.
Earliest Arrival Dates of Garganey in Hertfordshire since 1970
1970: 3 drakes at Broxbourne GP on 25 March;
1971: 3 at Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, on 14 March;
1972: a pair on Wilstone on 18 March;
1973: None recorded all year;
1974: drake on Cheshunt GP on 17 April;
1975: a drake on Wilstone on 2 April;
1976: a drake at Stockers West GP on 1 April;
1977: three drakes and a female at Wilstone Reservoir on 5 March;
1978: a drake at Wilstone from 10-17 May;
1979: None recorded in spring;
1980: None recorded in spring;
1981: A pair were on Wilstone on 18 March;
1982: A pair were at Broxbourne GP on 27 March;
1983: A breeding pair were at London Colney from 18 March;
1984: A pair was at Wilstone on 25 April;
1985: None recorded in spring;
1986: A pair was at Tyttenhanger GP from 19-22 April;
1987: A pair arrived at King's Meads on 1 May;
1988: a pair at Amwell GP on 2 April;
1989: a pair arrived at King's Meads on 13 May;
1990: one was at Wilstone Reservoir on 9 February with a female in spring at King's Meads from 19 March;
1991: a drake was at Tyttenhanger GP from 30 March to 2 April, when found dead;
1992: a drake at Wilstone on 14 May;
1993: a drake at Wilstone from 22-30 May;
1994: a female wintered at Wilstone and remained until 8 January; a pair arrived there on 29 March;
1995: a drake at Wilstone on 22-23 March;
1996: a drake at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 8 April;
1997: an overwintering drake at Rye Meads and Rye House Marsh from 1 January until 5 March, with the first migrant drake at Wilstone on 29 March;
1998: the overwintering drake was again present and remained at Amwell GP until 4 April;
1999: the regular wintering drake was at Amwell from 27 February until 19 April with a migrant pair present on 21 March;
2000: a pair at Wilstone on 6 April, whilst the regular male overwintered again at Amwell;
2001: the regular drake was last observed at Rye Meads from 1-7 January; a pair at Tring Sewage Farm on 19 April;
2002: two drakes at King's Meads on 29 March;
2003: an early drake was at Amwell on 2 March;
2004: a drake at Rye Meads on 7 May;
2005: two drakes at Wilstone from 21 March;
2006: a single drake at Cooper's Green GP on 17 April;
2007-2009: No data
There have been instances of wintering by Garganey in Hertfordshire on three separate occasions, including a long-lived drake which survived from 1997 until January 2001. However, in terms of genuine immigrants, today's pair are the second-ever earlies arrivals, following the drake at Amwell on 2 March 2003.
Also at Great Hardmead Lake this afternoon were 8 Grey Herons, 6 Mute Swans, 38 Eurasian Wigeon, 15 Common Teal,18 Gadwall, 12 Shoveler,112 Tufted Duck, 16 Pochard, 8 Common Goldeneye, 5 SMEW (an adult drake and four redheads) and 6 Great Crested Grebes.
HEMEL HEMPSTEAD (HERTS)
The adult female PEREGRINE was roosting in its usual spot and showing very well (see Dan Forder's superb array of new images above).
A41 (HERTS) - dead Badger on westbound A41 near Dudswell.
MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (HERTS)
No sign of the Red-crested Pochard pair but 11 Great Crested Grebes, 2 adult Mute Swans, 105 Shoveler, 3 Tufted Duck, 5 Northern Pochard and 3 Coot; some 62 CORN BUNTINGS roosted.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR (HERTS)
Four Great Crested Grebe, 76 Coot, 22 Tufted Duck and 30 Northern Pochard.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS)
(1745-1825 hours; with Steve Rodwell)
The number of roosting gulls has decreased dramatically with just 1,200 Black-headed Gulls estimated this evening, along with 87 Common Gulls and 6 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls; Steve located the 2nd-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL, this bird being the same as that present on 27-28 February and photographed by David Bilcock above. It has some blackish feathering coming through on the head, with a blood-red bill and black band and black primary patterning.
Two LITTLE EGRETS flew in to roost on the Drayton Bank, whilst wildfowl included 8 COMMON GOLDENEYE (3 adult drakes), diminishing numbers of Eurasian Wigeon (just 214) and 18 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Gadwall, 26 Shoveler, 96 Tufted Duck and 38 Pochard.