Saturday, 17 December 2011

Barnes Lane (17th December)

The Large flock of Skylarks that I encountered yesterday drew me back again today in the hope of finding a rarity such as a Lapland Bunting amongst their ranks.  The bird variety was much the same as yesterday, with occasional Redwing and Fieldfare as well as a calling Green Woodpecker and a single Song Thrush in the playing field behind the KL School.  After the A41 bridge there were more birds to behold including yesterdays flock of Skylarks, they have now split into two roughly equal groups (one consisting of 80+ birds), the first in the right hand field close to the A41 and the second in the same field but closer to the paint-balling location.  Amongst them were 15+ Linnets and 7 Pied Wagtails.  Unfortunately, searching for the hoped Lapland Bunting was more difficult today as they were largely hidden amongst the stubble, unlike yesterday when they were feeding more in the open.  Also of note was 1 Yellowhammer, and a 2 Red Kites, circling together over Phasels Wood.  Other raptors included 2+ Buzzards (with more individuals, possibly the same birds seen on other separate occasions), 1Kestrel (putting up a good chase with the Skylarks and making a few close catches) and a Sparrowhawk.  The highlight undoubtedly was the unexpected sight of 8 probable WHITE-FRONTED GEESE flying in a NE direction, towards Berkhampstead in a triangular formation, hopefully they'll drop in at Tring Reservoirs today or tomorrow to confirm my record.

Despite being quite distant, making size comparison rather difficult, they appeared smaller than the usual Greylag Geese and more slender necked.  The White forehead was clearly visible as they flew towards me (although hidden at a side on view and from behind).  From underneath the distinct wide and thick dark brown/black baring on the belly was clearly visible covering the paler brown/grey belly and chest.  The brown colouration became darker towards the head and was darkest (nearly black) bordering the white forehead).  The underside of the wings were rather plain dark brown (although I paid little attention to them, they did not appear to have any distinct markings).  The vent, undertail coverts and underside of the tail were pure white.  The white vent extended slightly into the lower chest were it appeared to be "cut off" by two dark bars on the lower part of the chest, nearly separating it from the white vent.  The uppertail was only glimpsed and appeared dark brown/black.
(Samuel Perfect)

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