Saturday 25 October 2014

Week 40: Harrier in Hemel, Migrant Search & Territorial Kingfishers

Young Female Kingfisher in Horse Chestnut on Bulbourne Meadow, overlooking the River Bulbourne

This week, we start off 2.5 miles from Box Moor Trust land, in a Horse Paddock. This is no ordinary Horse Paddock. It is to Interesting Birds what my garden is to the Local Cat Population, irresistible. Dan Forder is passionate about local birding and has spent innumerable hours in the field in and around Hemel Hempstead. When most of us would have given up and headed to Tring reservoirs, Maple Lodge or Tyttenhanger gravel pits, Dan has persevered. His patient dedication has continued to pay off and, over the past few months, at The Horse Paddock, he’s found Wheatears, Whinchats, Stonechats and a Tree Sparrow to name but a few. This week, Monday morning, the Horse Paddock had a new arrival for Dan. A Black Redstart! This is another passage migrant in Hertfordshire and, if not the first record for the Hemel area, it is not far off it. I got there at about 10:30am and, with Dan, excitedly watched the flighty Black Redstart and a couple of Stonechats. Photographs and details of the find are on Dan’s excellent blog here and here.

Spurred on by the presence of a Black Redstart locally, I opted for the Brickworks next. Black Redstarts favour industrial habitats so I hoped that the buildings and brick piles might have lured a second bird down for a pit stop. It wasn’t to be and, although I checked through 3 lively mixed Tit flocks, I couldn't conjure up a Yellow-browed Warbler either (another passage migrant, two of which had been reported at Amwell HMWT near Hertford). The mixed Tit flocks were mostly made up of Goldcrests, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits and Long-tailed Tits but one also had a Nuthatch, another a Chiffchaff and also a few Chaffinches. Over head, I heard passage Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and around the Brickworks there were still numerous Hornets, bashful Bullfinches and chirpy Robins.

Home for some lunch and then out again to visit the Oak and Westbrook Hay. The Oak’s leaves are just beginning to take on their Autumn colours.

I searched high and low for migrants but except for an influx of Woodpigeons (really, really not what I was after), all I could find were 3 Redwing in the bushes by Preston Hill pond. Feeling worn out and deflated, I trudged back down hill to the car park at be greeted by Dan! He’d just arrived having spotted a Marsh Harrier from his office window in town. There’s a moral/lesson/joke-at-my-expense in there somewhere, I’m sure. Anyway, the bird had flown west and circled over Bulbourne Moor before moving out of sight. We made for higher ground and searched the valley and skies but couldn’t relocate the bird. Remarkably, the following day, Dan received a report that a Marsh Harrier had been spotted roosting on the gas towers by Roughdown Common. This is a great record for Dan and the Box Moor Trust and I only wish I’d seen it.

Tuesday morning, in near gale force winds, blissfully ignorant of roosting Marsh Harriers, I searched Roughdown Common. I found more than 25 sheltering Redwing and couple of Bullfinches before deciding enough was enough and taking shelter myself back home.

By Wednesday, I was worn out. I checked Roughdown again and took a leisurely stroll east along the river Bulbourne from Station Road. I’d walked across Bulbourne Meadow and was just about to carry on down river when I heard Kingfisher calls. I turned around and there, perched in the reflecting willow, were two Kingfishers, facing one another and posturing. Unfortunately, their territorial negotiations were almost instantly disturbed by a passing dog walker but the young female bird didn’t go far. The other bird was a male and I think possibly an adult male rather than the young male observed recently. I heard a third Kingfisher behind me down river. It really is wonderful to have these birds resident: feeding, breeding and thriving here.

I stayed a while and watched the young female fishing from the trees. She was very successful and it’s no wonder she is perhaps reluctant to move on from this territory.

Catch it

Lob it

Stun it

Position it

Bash its head in

Line it up and swallow it down

She looked remarkably pleased with herself having caught, killed and necked that little fish!


Dan Forder said...

Glad you got to see the Black Redstart Lucy :) though sorry I couldn't help you to connect with the Marsh Harrier. Another brilliant post & great photography as aways. Dan.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What stunning action shots of the Kingfisher. Super captures and a lovely write up too. Brilliant. From ARF

Lucy @ A Natural Interlude said...

Thank you Dan and ARF.

Martin Parr said...

Cracking set of kingfisher shots Lucy, superb work!

Lucy @ A Natural Interlude said...

Thanks Martin. I hope she refuses to move on for a little while longer ;o)