Friday 18 September 2015

Siskin passage, Wheatears & Yellow Wags

Hemel & Bovingdon (BMT): I can’t say that I have momentous, migrant news, but local birding has been pretty enjoyable this week. Birds have been vocal, varied and plentiful even if the majority have been common. Energy and expectation has filled the air as passage gathers momentum and preparations are made for the winter. The archetypal sight, on Wednesday, was a pair of Jays flying off from Harding’s Moor, each with an acorn in its bill. I couldn’t help but smile.

The two adults and two colour-ringed immature Little Egrets have remained faithful to their areas of the River Bulbourne. And, also on Wednesday, three Kingfishers whizzed past the end of my nose, up stream, each chasing the one in front, high-pitched calls flooding the moors. It’s a fantastic experience when these bolts of blue lightening strike and three in quick succession make the air positively crackle.

Mixed Tit flocks and Chiffchaffs (with even a few occasionally bursting into song) were numerous at both Roughdown and the Brickworks this week. One Roughdown group had even attracted the company of a beautiful Great Spotted Woodpecker. But, the most exciting avian action has been the small flocks of chattering Siskins flying over Trust land. I didn’t see or hear a single local Siskin last year so this is my first record of it on the estate, although I know others have beaten me to it. In spite of several tempting Alder trees on the Hemel moors, it’s not an easy species to see here...

So, there I was yesterday morning, walking amongst the scrub at Bovingdon Brickworks, when a flock of c20 Siskins decided to alight in the tree tops right next to me. I suspect they were drawn down by the noisy gathering of c120 Goldfinches which were nearby. Anyway, I couldn’t have been happier! It’s one thing hearing them fly over, it’s another when they perch up and give you a chance to take a proper look. They stayed just a few moments before, one by one, they fluttered back up into the air to continue south.

Sizzling Siskin

At the increasingly famous horse paddock (aka migrant magnet) on Nettleden Rd, just north of Hemel, regular checks turned up a couple of Wheatears, a handful of Yellow Wagtails and fly-through Swallows and House Martins this week. Surely, it’s only a matter of time before something a little more exotic touches down on the hallowed horse dung. Hope springs eternal.

The 2 Wheatears that dropped in at Nettleden Rd on 17th. Left & centre photos show the same bird; right, the other bird.

Yellow Wagtail, horse paddock, Nettleden Rd (on a very dull, dark day (13/9/2015)!)


  1. Our local paddock at Cotham Flash has wheatears and yellow wagtails, but I've not spotted a white arse there yet! Must cycle over and have a look in my next four days off. Remember as a young child seeing them while walking near Monyash in the Peak district

    1. It's definitely a bonus to have a local paddock or field of cattle that attracts the Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails, Simon. Good luck for your next visit. What intrigues me about the one I mention is that another horse paddock, half a mile down the road, doesn't attract a single migrant.

  2. Such beautiful pictures and an array of life. Lovely. From ARF

  3. Lovely stuff Lucy. The Jays at ML have been stashing acorns too - and mallards have been hanging around under an oak to eat them too! Never seen that before. Our first siskin were reported this week too.

    1. Hello Martin. Thank you for your comment. Mallards do seem to get up to all sorts of funny things but I've never heard of that before. What a strange sight! They're clever birds, though, when it comes to food sources. I'm glad the Siskins have made it over your way. I've never known so many fly through. Hopefully it's been a good breeding year. Look forward to catching up with you soon!


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