|Buntings in the Reeds|
At the start of the week, when temperatures were only just above freezing, I walked both the Hemel moors and the Bovingdon Brickworks site. I was struck by the quiet, cold, stillness. The Brickworks in particular were largely devoid of bird song or movement, there was little breeze and no noticeable insect life. But, all around is potential and promise, with fresh new buds formed on otherwise bare, leafless trees.
On Monday, I wrapped up warm and went Bunting Hunting. Dan Forder had found a couple of Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus) flitting about near Old Fishery Lane and I was keen to include them in this year’s project. I got lucky and discovered the pair loitering in the tiny reed bed beside Fishery Moor. Unfortunately, they were up and off to the Gadespring cress beds before I could say "my toes are cold and I have a hankering for a hot mince pie". One of the birds is obviously the ringed male, photographed by Dan last week. The other is either an unusually dark-headed female or is in fact another male. I didn’t get a good look. Anyway, they were lovely to see, especially in their typical habitat, a reed bed (not something we have a great deal of in Hemel Hempstead!)
|Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), feeding on nettle seeds|
One not so common species at this time of year, is the Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita). Many (sensible) UK breeding birds migrate south to the Mediterranean and West Africa. Some Scandinavian, mainland European and even Siberian birds migrate from their breeding grounds to winter in Britain. And so, during the coldest months in the UK, there is this sparse population of multinational Chiffchaffs, of varying sub-species, and from a variety of breeding grounds. It made my morning this week when, along the Bulbourne hedgerow, I came across one of these little birds, intently feeding on Common Nettle seeds. I’m no expert in determining sub-species/race but, from the little I know, I think this bird is a fairly standard nominate form P. c. collybita rather than anything Eastern and exotic. Even so, they do make me smile and it was a cheery sight on a frosty winter’s day.
Further up, where the river bends and cuts across Station Moor, a male Kestrel was perched in a sapling, eyeing up the small birds. None appealed and he returned to the air and to patrolling the grass. Over on Harding’s Moor and beyond, I came across 3 Little Egrets and, of course, the Kingfishers were active along the river.
|From the footbridge over the Bulbourne. Left (west) is Harding's Moor; right (east) is Bulbourne Meadow|
Both the young male and the young female bird were fishing in their favoured areas. I heard at least a third bird and saw what I think was a fourth bird. It’s quite difficult to keep track of them, especially if all you experience is a jet propelled fly past.
Finally, before I get to this week’s Oak photograph, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas. Roll on the Turkey and the ill-advised but irresistibly large quantities of chocolate!