January – February 2019
More balmy blast than easterly beast
In sharp contrast to last year the final week of February included some lovely warm spring days including two new national temperature records for this usually bleak month. Sadly, the birds found were nevertheless largely unexciting.
Our WeBS counts, as usual these days, yielded duck numbers generally below the long term average. Slightly unusual was a Mandarin Duck. A count of 216 Lapwings in January comfortably exceeded the Webs figures as did a tally of 14 Jack Snipe during drag netting operations in the Meadows. A Woodcock was seen on the same day. A Yellow-legged Gull was spotted on two dates.
Up to eight Buzzards and two Red Kites were seen with Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Peregrine also regularly recorded. Marsh Harriers appeared early with a pair followed by another female in February.
Other records of note during the period included two Ravens, a Tawny Owl, and single Marsh Tits on two dates.
In a poor winter for Chiffchaffs, nine in January and six in February were unusual peaks during a period when one or two were the norm. Single female Blackcap(s) were recorded on three dates. Following a good autumn the winter thrushes declined and maxima of only twelve Redwings and eight Fieldfares were achieved. Up to three Stonechats were seen in January but there were only two records of singles in February.
Finch numbers were similarly unexciting but a count of 35 Yellowhammers at roost in January was our best for a long time. In due course we managed to catch and ring five of them.
The Hummingbird Hawk Moth which flew past our grumpiest old men in late February may have been a doomed migrant brought in by the African winds or a suicidal emergence from hibernation, but was certainly the earliest ever recorded in Herts up to the publication of Moths of Hertfordshire in 2008. A Red Admiral the following day was another such unprecedented record.