Turn Your Eyes to the Skies!

Please click on this link to read my April 2017 “Nature Notes” in the Herts Advertiser: Nature Notes – 20th April 2017 (photo of Osprey by Steve Round)

hoopoe 10

A Hoopoe – a rare discovery at Tyttenhanger Gravel Pits in 2013 (photo by Steve Round)


The Herons of Verulamium Lake

Please click on this link to read my March 2017 “Nature Notes” in the Herts Advertiser: Nature Notes – 23rd March 2017


Grey Heron & chicks at nest in Verulamium Park – photo by Andrew Steele


Floods & Birds

Out and about again today I am struck by how much water remains in the ground and on the surface.  Meadows that are usually dry are now marshland and the local River Ver which so often struggles along has swelled to an impressive current complete with mini cascades over fallen logs and branches.

Flocks of wintering gulls congregate on these temporary pools and no doubt pick off the drowned earthworms that lie palely at the bottom.  If these floods had been combined with a freeze as well there would very likely be larger flocks of wintering ducks pushed southwards by even colder northern conditions.  I did spot Teal and Gadwall on one pool along with the Mallards but no great numbers.

Along the banks of the Ver I flushed a Snipe that rose abruptly in a classic zig-zagging flight – presumably an in-built defence mechanism against aerial predation.  Otherwise the river was quiet and surreptitiously went about its business of flooding the surrounding meadows wherever the bank dipped low enough to allow a small stream to form.

Eventually the path was blocked under water and I had to turn back but not before I had added six Little Egrets to the day’s list.  These small white herons seem to have no limits to their expanding territory and elsewhere I have seen as many as twenty birds roosting together in one tree.

When I was at school in the 80s and much to the excitement of local birders, Little Egrets were rumoured to be breeding in Poole harbour – one of the first and obviously successful pairs.  Now the invasion is complete and the much larger Great White Egret has decided to join its small cousin in ever increasing numbers.  While still bit of a rarity, I don’t think it will be long before the familiar Grey Heron is joined by this rather more exotic and elegant, pure white relative.  Let’s hope they get on!

Here’s a couple of photos I took last year of a local Great White Egret that graced the local gravel pits for a few weeks along with the more regular Little Egrets (admittedly I wanted to see if my phone could capture the image in my telescope.  The answer was yes, but poorly!).

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Great & Little Egrets

The Great White Egret with a Little Egret in the background