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Birding London Trip Report, 15 April

The Colne Valley with Mathew Pety – led by Gary Elton and Jack Fearnside


After collecting Matt from his Queensway hotel we headed off to our first stop at Staines Reservoirs, two large areas of water with a central causway, west of London. The weather was far from ideal with heavy rain and a cold wind. We arrived shortly after 6.30am, but staying only for a short time, deciding that nearby Stanwell Moor, an area of low-lying agricultural land, would be less exposed! We returned to Staines Reservoirs later once the rain and wind had eased (slightly). We then drove around the M25, along the Colne Valley to Springwell and Stocker’s Lakes, both old, established gravel extraction pits. After spending several hours here we moved to Cassiobury Park, an area of mature wet woodland north of Watford, followed by a brief stop at some farmland near London Colney. Our final site was the local nature reserve at Hilfield Park Reservoir, where Gary is warden, returning Matt back to his hotel at c7.00pm.

A total of 84 species was seen or heard during the day.

Species list

Little Grebe — Several were seen from the hide at Hilfield.

Great Crested Grebe — We managed good views of this attractive grebe at all suitable sites.

Great Cormorant — Easily seen at most suitable sites.

Grey Heron — Seen at various sites throughout the day, one giving fantastic views as it fished a weir on the river Gade in Cassiobury Park.

Mute Swan — seen at all suitable sites.

Canada Goose — Seen at Staines Reservoirs, Stocker’s Lake and Hilfield Reservoir.

Common Shelduck — Two were seen well at Stanwell Moor, with further birds seen at Staines Reservoirs.

Eurasian Wigeon — At least seven birds were seen at Staines Reservoirs, offering reasonable if distant views. These were very much a bonus as most birds at this time of year would have already returned to their northern breeding grounds.

Gadwall — Seen in good numbers at Staines Reservoirs, Stocker’s and Springwell Lakes and Hilfield.

Garganey — A pair were seen at Stanwell Moor and a very obliging male gave good views close to the causeway at Staines Reservoirs.

Common Teal — Seen at Stanwell Moor and Staines Reservoir.

Mallard — Seen at all sites.

Northern Shoveler — Seen at the first four sites of the day.

Common Pochard — Locally, at this time of year, a difficult species to see, so a pair at Stocker’s Lake were a good find.

Common Goldeneye — Up to six were seen at Staines Reservoirs.

Mandarin — A male was seen in flight at Staines Reservoirs, far away from suitable habitat for this species!

Ruddy Duck — A pair were initially seen at Springwell Lake, with large numbers seen later at Hilfield.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk — A male was seen flying through the trees at Cassiobury Park, which was accompanied by the alarm calls of the local woodland birds!

Common Kestrel — The first of the day was a splendid male sheltering behind one of the valve towers at Staines Reservoirs, with single females seen later at Cassiobury Park and Hilfield.

Red-legged Partridge — One was disturbed as we entered the Tree Sparrow feeding site at Courser’s Road.

Water Rail — One was heard calling from the reedbed at Springwell Lake.

Common Moorhen — Seen well at all suitable sites.

Eurasian Coot — Seen well at all suitable sites.

Little Ringed Plover — Three were on the dam at Hilfield.

Northern Lapwing — Good views of birds at Stanwell Moor.

Dunlin — A single bird accompanied the Little Ringed Plovers at Hilfield.

Common Snipe — A single bird was on one of the small pools at Stanwell Moor.

Common Redshank — Several were seen at Staines Reservoirs and Stanwell Moor.

Green Sandpiper — Two were seen well at the watercress beds in Cassiobury Park, one of which flew briefly giving views of the dark underwing and white rump.

Black-headed Gull — Easily seen at Staines Reservoirs with two others seen at Hilfield.

Lesser Black-backed Gull — A single adult was seen with Black-headed Gulls on the embankment at Staines Reservoirs; three others were seen flying over Cassiobury Park.

Herring Gull — Several immatures were seen at Staines Reserviors.

Common Tern — A distant bird was seen at Staines Reserviors, with two slightly closer birds seen at Hilfield.

Feral Pigeon — Several were seen at Springwell Lake and Hilfield.

Stock Dove — At least ten were seen at Stanwell Moor.

Woodpigeon — Common at all sites.

Eurasian Collared Dove — Seen well at several sites

Little Owl — Excellent views of a single bird perched against the trunk of an oak tree en route to Hilfield Park Reservoir. Matt’s bird of the day!

Eurasian Kingfisher — A calling bird in flight landed on a branch giving us good scope views at Cassiobury Park.

Ring-necked (Rose-ringed) Parakeet — Two were seen briefly at Stanwell Moor.

Green Woodpecker — A distant calling bird was heard several times at Stocker’s lake. Unfavourable weather conditions no doubt contributed to our inability to connect with this species.

Great Spotted Woodpecker — Birds were seen well at Stocker’s Lake and Cassiobury Park.

Skylark — Singing birds were heard and seen at Courser’s Road and Stanwell Moor.

Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) — Seen well at Staines Reservoirs and Hilfield.

Barn Swallow — Seen well at Staines, Stocker’s Lake and Hilfield.

House Martin — Several were seen amongst the other hirundines at Staines Reservoirs.

Meadow Pipit — At least six were noted calling in flight at Stanwell moor.

Rock Pipit — A single passage bird on the dam at Hilfield. This species is usually restricted to coastal habitats, particularly rocky ones in the breeding season, and is a rare migrant inland in Hertfordshire.

Yellow Wagtail — Initial good flight views were had of birds at Staines Reservoirs, with several others seen well on the ground at Hilfield.

Grey Wagtail — A stunning male was seen on the edge of the river Gade in Cassiobury Park.

Pied Wagtail — Seen easily, particularly at Staines Reservoirs and Hilfield.

White Wagtail — A single bird of this mainland European sub-species was noted at Staines Reservoirs.

Eurasian Wren — This elusive songster was more often heard than seen.

Dunnock — Good views were had at various sites.

European Robin — Good views were had at various sites.

Common Redstart — A stunning male paraded in full view close to the path at Stanwell Moor.

Common Blackbird — Seen throughout the day at all sites.

Song Thrush — Seen or heard at most sites.

Mistle Thrush — Seen well at Stocker’s Lake and Cassiobury Park.

Sedge Warbler — A singing male deep in the Blackthorn at Hilfield finally revealed itself and gave us good views.

Blackcap — Seen and heard at Stanwell Moor, Springwell and Stocker’s Lake.

Chiffchaff — Seen and heard at Stanwell Moor and Springwell/Stocker’s Lake.

Willow Warbler — Several were seen and heard at Stanwell Moor.

Goldcrest — Several singing birds were at Cassiobury Park, one offering good views.

Long-tailed Tit — A pair seen from the bridge at the rear of Stocker’s Lake were forerunners of a species that appeared to be seen continually for the rest of the day!

Blue Tit — Common, easily seen at all sites.

Great Tit — Seen well at suitable sites.

European Nuthatch — Several offered good views at Cassiobury Park.

Common Treecreeper — Seen well at Stockers Lake and Cassiobury Park.

Eurasian Jay — Frustratingly difficult to see with several glimpsed at Stocker’s Lake.

Common Magpie — Common at all sites.

Western Jackdaw — Seen around their nest holes at Cassiobury Park.

Carrion Crow — Common. Seen at all sites.

Common Starling — Common seen at all sites.

House Sparrow — Seen at Stanwell Moor and Stocker’s lake.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow — At least six were seen at Courser’s Road fields around the Herts Bird Club feeding site (set up to supplement the winter feeding of this drastically reduced species).

Common Chaffinch — Seen well in reasonable numbers at Stanwell Moor, Stocker’s and Springwell Lakes and Cassiobury Park.

European Greenfinch — Good views were had of Stanwell Moor and Springwell Lake, which included displaying birds.

European Goldfinch — This attractive finch was seen at Stanwell Moor, Springwell Lake and Cassiobury Park.

Common Linnet — Poor views of birds at Stanwell moor were bettered later in the day at Hilfield.

Reed Bunting — Good views were had of birds at Staines Reservoirs and Springwell Lake.

Other species

There was evidence of Mole activity on Stanwell Moor and Common Rabbits were also seen in the area. Don’t forget the cattle there too Matt! Grey Squirrels were seen at Cassiobury Park. Spring flowers included some fine clumps of Primroses at Springwell Lake and Marsh Marigolds by the bridge in Cassiobury Park.