WEDNESDAY 09 APRIL
The day started with an overnight frost and clear skies. Temperatures soon recovered though and by afternoon it was pleasantly warm, the light SW wind pushing temperatures up to around 14 degrees C.
It was around 1730 hours that I finally managed to get out to do some birding and with Chris Pontin finding 1-2 Willow Warblers at CHESHAM FISHING LAKES, that's where I headed. As it was, the skies had clouded somewhat and the temperature had dropped - there being no sign of the immigrant warblers, just a single singing Common Chiffchaff and 5 Blackcaps. Barn Swallow numbers had increased though (to eight) while also new in were 2 HOUSE MARTINS and a single SAND MARTIN - both species new to the Recording Area List this year.
A pair of Atlantic Canada Geese was nesting on the island but both Great Crested Grebes were on the water suggesting that they may have abandoned their first attempt. A total of 31 Tufted Ducks was a good count, with 8 Coot noted (one pair nesting) as well as 3 Grey Heron (the Pow Wow pair chasing away an intruder), Red Kite, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Wren (4), Common Blackbird (4) and Common Starling (5). A male Mistle Thrush was singing from the top of the Poplar trees.
Part of the 31-strong flock of Tufted Duck present
I suddenly heard the loud cries of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and upon looking up, realised that they were mobbing an OSPREY and I shouted to Chris (who was now with me, intent on showing me the Willow Warblers) to try and keep on it while I attempted to photograph it. The two gulls chased it overhead but rather than just flying away, the Osprey circled around numerous times in an attempt to fish the lakes. It was under observation from 1810-1820 hours and unlike the College Lake Osprey I found last week, was flying at treetop height rather than many hundreds of feet high in the sky enabling me to get some form of record shots. Still with gulls in tow, the bird eventually flew off purposefully towards Chesham. Although I have seen numerous Ospreys in the Chess Valley over the years, this was the first I had ever seen at the fishing lakes. Ospreys had featured heavily in the region today with singles at Tyttenhanger, Amwell and Maple Cross, the latter just half an hour earlier probably the same individual.
I then decided to drive over to KINGS LANGLEY, where Ephraim Perfect had discovered a singing CETTI'S WARBLER - the first record for the area. Hemel birder Dan Forder very kindly helped out with detailed directions (see map below) and from 1900-1945 hours, the bird was singing and occasionally showing every five minutes or so. It was frequenting an area of overhanging vegetation on the west shore of the Grand Union Canal parallel with the fishing lakes, to the north of the fallen Poplar and ranging some 70 yard stretch of canal bank.
I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of birdlife present in this fairly restricted area of south Hemel (actually NASH MILLS District) with Mute Swan, Tufted Duck (21), Great Crested Grebe (pair), Moorhen and Coot (10) on the main lake and Magpie (pair), Song Thrush (2), Greenfinch (4), Chaffinch (5) and Common Starling in the parkland surrounding. In addition to the 4 singing Blackcaps in the scrub bordering the canal were a singing male WILLOW WARBLER and Common Chiffchaff