In between trips to Norfolk and Serbia, Jem and I have had a few days out to see what we can find.
Firstly, we decided to go up to Bramfield in Hertfordshire. Back in January we had an incredible day’s birding there, which included getting our first tickable Hawfinch, some nice Buzzards and Red Kites, and a good flock containing Yellowhammers and Lesser Redpolls. It was a cold but sunny day and – as we had done back in January – we got the train to Hertford North and then walked the three miles north-west through the countryside to Bramfield Village. Initially it was looking like it was going to be a very quiet day with little to report aside from a Kestrel, a very distant Buzzard and a Green Woodpecker. However, a decision to take a different route into the village via a dirt track to the east of the village brought us spectacular close views of a pair of Red Kites, followed by a Common Buzzard and a good thrush flock (mostly Redwings), plus Chaffinches, a Greenfinch and a pair of Reed Buntings. After a nice lunch in the posh pub/restaurant we walked the more direct route back out of the village as the sun began to set. This brought us another large thrush flock out on a field in which we counted more than 80 Fieldfares, with the occasional Redwing and a solitary Mistle Thrush.
A week later we decided to visit Thursley Common in Surrey to see if we could get a look at the wintering Great Grey Shrike. It was assumed to be a returning bird each year, but now it’s believed to always be a first-winter male, and so a different bird each year. We arrived via train to Guildford and then a local bus in glorious morning sunshine and made our way from the Moat along the boardwalk and eventually bumped into a local birder who told us that the Shrike had been showing well earlier that morning. We spent a good couple of hours in the area he sent us to, but there was no sign of the bird. We also got word that a Dartford Warbler had been seen too, although that also eluded us. We did instead get impressive thrush flocks (mostly Fieldfares), a small flock of Lesser Redpolls, a few Meadow Pipits, Green Woodpeckers, and a Stonechat. We finished off with a couple of nice Coal Tits.
The following weekend we were based at Jem’s home in South Woodford and we went out on the Sunday with her mum to Fairlop Country Park in cold and damp conditions. There were more Fieldfares to be seen, a few Jays, lots of Lapwings, and surprising numbers of Cormorants. There were also a couple of nice winter Great Crested Grebes. Eventually the weather got the better of us and we headed home to warm up. During the following week I had to go down to Dorset with a colleague to photograph inside the studio of artist Dave White. I knew there was going to be birding potential, so I took my compact binoculars with me. From the train we got an impressive Red Kite and a Little Egret perched in a tree, and by the studio we got great views of Song Thrushes and of two Common Buzzards – one perched in a tree and one on a telegraph pole.