WEDNESDAY 21 JANUARY
Following calls from both Mike Ilett and Alan Reynolds yesterday, I made plans this morning to visit BRAMFIELD VILLAGE where the HAWFINCH flock has returned for the winter. Although pretty murky and grey and with temperatures struggling to get above freezing, I arrived on site at about 0900 hours. Francis Buckle, Tony Hukin and others had already seen 3 birds but they had flown off in the direction of the Old Rectory. Knowing a garden on that side of the road where they favour, I walked around and in no time at all espied two birds feeding on the ground beneath a Yew tree in the front garden. Both birds quickly flew and joined 3 others in flying back to the churchyard, where some excellent 'scope views were obtained. All 5 then dropped down into a garden where some 19 or so Greenfinches were also feeding, between the churchyard and the next road. I then located an additional 3 birds feeding in a garden behind the pub car park, all 8 eventually perching together in the tall trees within the churchyard. Throughout the hour or so I remained, the birds were very mobile, perching only briefly before returning to the gardens. Very vocal though, uttering the high-pitched, sharp 'ticc' from the evergreens. The village map below shows the favourite haunts occupied by the Hawfinches......
Bramfield Village also yielded 2 Mistle Thrush, 4 Song Thrush, 5 Redwing, 15 Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Nuthatch and a flyover flock of 32 Linnet.
In PANSHANGER LANE, this Common Buzzard made repeated attempts to cart off a dead Rabbit from the road...
Francis, Tony and I then visited AMWELL GP, where the drake SMEW was still present on Great Hardmead Lake, showing distantly from the watchpoint on the far SE bank. Just 2 Common Goldeneye too, but no sign of yesterday's Pintail - presumably flown back to Rye Meads. Northern Shoveler numbers were impressive, with 84 counted, with 16 Gadwall, 107 Wigeon, 62 Teal, 45 Mallard, 73 Tufted Duck, 22 Pochard, 335 Coot, 1 Mute Swan and 8 Great Crested Grebe making up the numbers.
Up at Tumbling Bay, a COMMON RAVEN circled overhead, while along the trail to Hollycross Lake, 2 Bullfinch, a Coal Tit and a MARSH TIT were the highlights, the latter feeding on the ground beneath the feeders.
Moving north, I drove through THERFIELD VILLAGE, where 15 House Sparrow, 2 Greenfinch and 45 Fieldfares were noted - the Pedlars Lane Rookery harbouring 21 nests. Not a single Grey Partridge to be found in the area unfortunately, but the Fallow Deer herd east of COOMBE ROAD (KELSHALL) held a total of 117 animals.
At least 66 Rook, 35 Jackdaw and 8 Common Gulls were at DEADMAN HILL (SANDON), while driving all round searching for Grey Partridge did eventually reward me with a flock of 200+ CORN BUNTINGS near WALLINGTON - 50+ Yellowhammer too, 15 Linnet, Common Kestrel, 4 Red-legged Partridge and 265 Fieldfare also.
It was then time to relocate to BEDFORDSHIRE, where a Stock Dove flew across the road in STOTFOLD. Not a sniff of the Great Grey Shrike at SANDY SMITH NR, CLOPHILL, nor of any Common Stonechats nor the Little Owls, but 35 Fieldfare, 8 Redwing, 7 Common Blackbird, 26 Yellowhammer and 9 Reed Bunting noted.
All 6 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (3 pairs) were still in the QUEST PIT (STEWARTBY) (with 2 Mute Swan, 58 Wigeon, 62 Pochard, 45 Mallard and a Meadow Pipit in there) and a male PEREGRINE roosting on the chimney in the brickworks.
At dusk, I visited a traditional WOODCOCK roost, where 15 individuals emerged from the plantation between 1650 and 1715 hours