The first was the over-wintering hawfinches at Bramfield. Normally two but up to 5 have been present for some weeks now. These are exotic finches, looking like a chaffinch on steroids. They are much larger and have beak more reminiscent of parrots! They are uncommon but can be regular in their over wintering haunts. Normally I've gone down to Lakeside near Southampton to get them but these were much closer.
Bramfield is a small Hertfordshire village with a lovely old churchyard. The pollarded trees made it look a bit sparse on a cold morning!
After only a few minutes I spotted a large finch on the top of one of the trees at the back of the churchyard.
You can just about make out the large bill on this smart male. Over the next half hour the two birds flew between the churchyard and the nearby rectory but never really stayed out in the open!
With the morning moving on I left Bramfield and headed off towards Milton Keynes for another bird I get most years but is not exactly common. This one was a ferruginous duck. It is well named in that the males are definitely rust coloured! Again they can be quite loyal to areas including one near Blashford which gives ridiculously awful views through a chain-link fence! This bird though was reported as being on an a lake by a housing estate so should have been easier. On getting there I quickly found a female red-crested pochard lurking near where I parked the car.
Of the ferruginous duck though there was no sign. One local had been there for 3 hours already so it was definitely not around. Two days before though it had done this and had hopped about half a mile away to another lake. So, I too hopped into my car and drove about a mile and half to a pub car park by a lake.
Almost immediately I spotted a group of about half a dozen tufted ducks and with them was another duck with a white bum and a very bright eye.
Along with the eye and the bum there was that beautiful rich rust colour as well.
I watched it for about 30 minutes as it drifted around looking quite happy and contented.What was so nice was that I was the only birder and the views were by far the best I've ever had for this species.
With lunchtime approaching and the fudge duck going to sleep I left to move on to Amwell to see if I could find any gulls.
By the time I got there it was getting quite cold and windy. The reserve was looking empty of both birds and birders. I did manage to find the female smew lurking at the back on one of the islands.
I was mainly though trying to find yellow-legged gulls in the roost. There were lots of common and black-headed gulls as well as some larger ones, mainly lesser black-backed, herring and a couple of greater black-backed. I finally though managed to get onto one bird with a mantle between herring and lesser black-backed and a very clear bright white head. This pointed to a yellow-legged but I'm not confident enough to i'd it just from that.
It though start vigorously preening in the water and I clinched it with a shot of yellow on its legs as it came out of the water.
Honestly, you can make it out!!
You can make out the intergrade mantle colour and see its clear white head on the other photos.
Other than that there was a very brief view of the long-staying bearded tit before I gave up and headed back home.
Three nice birds with the fudge duck being probably the star of the year so far!