Sunday, 26 July 2015

After the rain, a PECTORAL SANDPIPER.....

Yesterday afternoon at around 1545 hours, BirdGuides took a text informing them of a PECTORAL SANDPIPER at Startop's End Reservoir. Not having heard from Dave, Steve or Ian, I contacted them all immediately but nobody had heard anything, and Steve had actually checked Startop's for the third time at about 1300! I managed to get hold of Mike Campbell and he agreed to go down but Steve just pipped him - confirming the bird's continued presence at about 4pm.

I arrived some 15 minutes later to find the bird - an adult - showing well on the expanse of mud in the SW corner, seemingly 'sheltering' in the company of the roosting Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls. Being a rare vagrant in our region, the bird consequently attracted a fair bit of attention, with around 35 people arriving during the next couple of hours, including JT, Jeff Bailey, Francis Buckle, Sally Douglas, Barry Reed and others from farther afield. Ian Williams, having been birding at Welney WWT in Norfolk, arrived later in the evening and actually watched the bird depart just after 2030 hours.

It represents just the 8th record for the Tring Reservoirs Recording Area, the 1969 individual being my first-ever in the UK -:

1) Marsworth Reservoir, 14th September 1949;
2) Wilstone Reservoir from 19th October to 13th December 1969;
3) Tringford & Wilstone Reservoir from 3rd September to 7th October 1973;
4) Tring Sewage Farm on 11th October 1986;
5) Wilstone Reservoir on 29th-30th October 1988;
6) Startop's End Reservoir from 9th-19th September 1989, moving to Wilstone on 21st;
7) Wilstone Reservoir from 7th-11th September 2011.

Here is a selection of my best images from yesterday afternoon -:

Friday, 24 July 2015

Heavy rain all day grounds WOOD SANDPIPER and hordes of SAND MARTINS....


It began raining shortly after 9 o'clock and was forecast to continue all day into darkness. Entrepid birder Steve Rodwell typically braved the weather and phoned me late morning with news that he had just found a juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER at College Lake - the first locally of the year. I raced over and joined him and Mike Campbell in the Octagon Hide, where all three of us watched the bird until 1320 hours, when it suddenly started calling repeatedly and flew off strongly east. Despite a lot of rain, I did manage to get a few images....

Two COMMON SNIPE were also present on the marsh, while a COMMON REDSHANK flew through. The big story of the morning however were the number of grounded SAND MARTINS - at least 45 here and a further 350 at Tring Reservoirs...

At Pitstone Quarry, highlight was a newly-arrived breeding-plumaged DUNLIN - with 6 Little Ringed Plovers and an adult Common Gull remaining

A juvenile COMMON SHELDUCK was new in at Startop's End Reservoir, where 24 Mute Swans, an adult OYSTERCATCHER and 80 Sand Martins were counted, whilst Tringford Reservoir yielded a single Little Egret and 60 more Sand Martins

Wilstone Reservoir held 3 GREEN SANDPIPERS, 13 Little Egrets, a pair of adult Hobbies and at least 185 Sand Martins.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Another College AVOCET and an OSPREY passes through......

Another very warm day, with temperatures peaking at 76 degrees fahrenheit. Quite a bit of cloud, the odd light shower and a fresh SW breeze...
After a worrying start, the COMMON SWIFTS in my CHAFFINCH HOUSE colony have peaked at 22 birds, suggesting an excellent breeding season.......
At around 9.45am, Steve Rodwell 'phoned to say that he had just discovered a PIED AVOCET on the main marsh at COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT RESERVE, so I headed straight over....
Twenty minutes later and the bird was still there, showing very well in front of the Octagon Hide. It was a fresh juvenile as can be seen from my assorted shots below. Mike Campbell joined me in the hide, as did Francis Buckle and Richard Woodhead shortly later. The bird remained present until at least 1300 hours.

Nothing much else in the wader line other than 15+ Lapwing and the local Oystercatchers (an adult and youngster keeping close together at times), while Common Terns have fared well, with 13 fledged juveniles in vegetation in front of the hide.

Other species noted included 2 Great Crested Grebe on the main marsh, 4 Mute Swans, 7 Gadwall, 2 Tufted Duck, Sparrowhawk, 3 Red Kite, Green Woodpecker, Common Starling, 15 Goldfinch, 6 Linnet, Bullfinch and Western Reed Warblers.
Over at nearby WILSTONE RESERVOIR, newly arrived were 2 Common Sandpipers, while the adult GREEN SANDPIPER was still in the bay by the Drayton Bank Hide. Lapwing numbers had now increased to 177, while other species encountered included 8 Little Egret, 9 Pochard, 15 Gadwall, 47 Tufted Duck, 18 Mute Swan, 8 Black-headed Gull, 8 Common Tern, Grey Wagtail, 4 Linnet and a Reeve's Muntjac.
Knowing that lucky old Rodders was still skygazing, I nipped back to the car for a rest but as I watched him walk back towards the car park, I saw him shudder in excitement and almost drop his 'scope. I knew he was on to something so I darted out of the car to the top of the steps - it was an adult OSPREY being mobbed by several local Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The bird remained on view from 1237-1245 hours, making short circuits of the reservoir, but then thought better of the gulls and flew off strongly west and into Buckinghamshire airspace - heading in the direction of Weston Turville. Don't know why, just knew I had to hang around - Steve Rodwell is just so good at finding birds (or then finding him!). Johnny Lynch was also fortuitously in the car park and observed the Osprey with us.

With Steve heading home for lunch, I felt it safe to head off and look elsewhere - TRINGFORD being my target. At the west end, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Mandarin Duck, 2 Stock Doves, Common Kingfisher and 5 Black-headed Gulls but no sign of the juvenile Water Rails of late, while the woodland trail produced Common Treecreeper, 2 male Blackcap and large numbers of Comma & Ringlet butterflies and at least 1 Holly Blue. Walking right round, the return lap yielded the 4 Mute Swans, 23 Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe, Grey Wagtail and a singing male Common Chiffchaff.

Still plenty of mud on STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR but not much to show for it, although 10 Moorhen, 18 Canada Geese, 3 Greylag Geese, 41 Black-headed Gulls, 6 Common Tern and 2 Lapwing were making the most of it. At least 122 Coot remained, 22 Mute Swan and 4 Great Crested Grebe.
Dropping in at SHARDELOES LAKE, highlights there included 48 Coot, adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, both Great Spotted & Green Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, a singing male Reed Bunting and 6 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS.

Steve then phoned me again - he had only gone and relocated the juvenile PIED AVOCET in PITSTONE QUARRY - a new site tick. With two youngsters having a swim there, it was a race against time, but fortunately the bird was still present as I arrived at 1550 hours, along with 15 LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and 5 Common Swifts. Phew - what a day!!