November – December 2019

Our third ever Merlin, a Whooper Swan, a Siberian Chiffchaff and a very late Swallow all brightened a dull period.


Merlin on the Scrape (Oliver Stephenson)

November – December 2019

The star bird of the period was the Merlin that landed on the Scrape bund for long enough to be photographed by Oliver Stephenson. This November bird was only the third record for the site and our first since 1997 of what is still a very rare visitor to the south of Hertfordshire.

Although wildfowl counts have been unremarkable, one of the highlights was a Whooper Swan which landed early one December morning, and stayed overnight before leaving the following morning for Amwell. Our first returning Shelduck appeared on schedule at the beginning of November. A Bittern was seen from time to time throughout the period, and one or two Little Egrets were also occasional throughout.

Waders included the usual Snipe and Lapwing, up to six Green Sandpipers, and seven Jack Snipe found during drag netting in the meadows; and a Woodcock was on the peninsula at the end of December. A Yellow-legged Gull was recorded on two dates.

Up to nine Goldcrests were seen daily and a Coal Tit, still a comparative rarity here, was found feeding in the willow-tunnel outside the RSPB centre. Two Bearded Tits were discovered in early November and reports of one or two continued well into December. Our final Swallow made it into November, and two Blackcaps were also reported one day in mid November.

Up to six Chiffchaffs were seen daily in November with numbers increasing to ten in December; one of them was a Siberian Chiffchaff (P. c. tristis) type bird seen throughout December, and eventually caught and ringed at the end of the month.

Winter Thrushes seem to have passed quickly through the site this year with few remaining in the area. The weather in nearby Europe has been mild and it is possible that many birds have not bothered to venture this far south and west. Similarly we’ve had no Redpolls or Siskins so far.

Up to three Stonechats have been regularly seen in the meadows where one or two Water Pipits have also been unobtrusively feeding.

After some years of reporting Yellowhammers as hanging on by the sheath of their bills, numbers seem good at roost this winter with numbers increasing through November to 61 by the end of December. There are also good numbers of Reed Buntings around this winter with 61 counted in November. A nice display of Bunting symmetry!

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