Sunday, 20 April 2014

First wave of ARCTIC TERNS

Arctic Terns, Startop's End Reservoir, 20 April (LGRE)

With a raw Northeasterly wind blowing and overcast grey skies before the rains arrived late morning, it was classic conditions for an arrival of ARCTIC TERNS, taking the short cut between the Severn Estuary and the North Sea...
It was Steve Rodwell that first located the flock of 15 ARCTIC TERNS that arrived on WILSTONE early morning - a flyover WHIMBREL the further reward of those early watchers (IW, DB & SR)
I arrived on site at around 0900 hours, all 15 ARCTIC TERNS having relocated to the smaller reservoirs and showing well. They were favouring the far NW corner of STARTOP'S END and intermingled with over 20 Common Terns present. Both Common Redshank were on the bunds, as was one of the four local Oystercatchers, whilst 7 YELLOW WAGTAILS were the highest count of the spring thus far. A male WILLOW WARBLER was singing from the bushes in the car park opposite the Angler's Retreat, while House Sparrows (10) and Greenfinch (4) were far more obvious than usual. A lot of HOUSE MARTINS had arrived overnight (66+), with good numbers of both Barn Swallow and Sand Martin overhead (65 & 105 respectively). The hedgerow on the Bucks side of the canal now held two 'rattling' male LESSER WHITETHROATS, while a male Blackcap was in song from the cluster of bushes at the causeway join; 7 Mute Swans, Grey Wagtail, 3 Linnet and a particularly confiding Grey Heron were also noted (see pix below).

Common Redshanks seem to be resident on the bunds

Atlantic Canada nesting on one of the rafts

A nice male Yellow Wagtail

The first-year ROSS'S SNOW GOOSE was again with 4 Greylag Geese in the MARSWORTH RESERVOIR fields (before flying off towards Wilstone), with 17+ Common Tern, Green Woodpecker and 2 male Reed Buntings also noted. WESTERN REED WARBLERS had now increased to at least 7, with 1 SEDGE WARBLER singing and at least 2 CETTI'S.
TRINGFORD RESERVOIR held two drake Red-crested Pochards, 13 Tufted Duck, 2 Barn Swallows and a singing male Song Thrush, while WILSTONE was equally appealing with just 3 Common Terns, 80 Barn Swallow, 4 drake Pochard and a flyover juvenile Herring Gull. The number of young Sinensis being fed in the Drayton Bank colony was a remarkable 27! A Skylark was singing from the cereal crop in the NW corner.
Steve Rodwell observed the first COMMON SWIFT on Saturday at Wilstone

Tuesday, 15 April 2014



Still a cool wind blowing but in sheltered areas, feeling pleasantly warm in the wall-to-wall sunshine.

It was another day spent locally with the addition of just one new 2014 species for me in the end - COMMON WHITETHROAT....

I started off at CROXLEY COMMON MOOR (HERTS) in the hope of Cuckoo or Common Whitethroat but it was hard going with very few migrants present. A pair of GREY WAGTAILS was busy building a nest beneath the canal bridge, while a singing male WILLOW WARBLER, 5 Blackcap and 3 Common Chiffchaff were the only migrants of note. More regular species encountered included Mute Swan, 6 Canada Geese, Moorhen, Lesser Black-backed Gull (pair), Mallard, Wren, Robin (4), Common Blackbird, Dunnock, Greenfinch (4), Magpie, Carrion Crow (3), Common Buzzard, Great Tit, House Sparrow (3), Common Starling (16), Long-tailed Tit (pair), Goldfinch, Collared Dove, Jay and Stock Dove (2).

Grey Wagtails were busy building a nest...

A Carrion Crow having a stroll

Common Magpie searching for food

STOCKER'S FARM FLOOD was a distinct improvement with 3 beautiful male YELLOW WAGTAILS feeding along the shallow edge of the pool and a pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE guarding 6 goslings. Other wildfowl included 10 Canada Geese, 4 Mallard, 2 pairs of Gadwall and a drake Shoveler, with a pair of Coot and 2 pairs of displaying Lapwing. Hirundinesincluded 4 Barn Swallows and a Sand Martin, with 8 House Sparrow, 12 Common Starling, 2 Ring-necked Parakeet, Dunnock and 6 Pied Wagtail also noteworthy.

This trio of Yellow Wagtails was a pleasant surprise at Stocker's Farm Flood....

while this pair of Egyptian Geese were accompanying 6 goslings

A couple of pairs of Gadwall were present...

and this male Shoveler

looks promising for Lapwing with birds displaying

Stockers Farm is a superb site for House Sparrow and this male was busy taking grubs from the leaves

also helping out with nest building

and doing a lot of chirping!

Quite a few Common Starlings on the hedge

and one of several Barn Swallows back

(a closer view)

Stockers Lake Flood as it is at the moment

Over at WEST HYDE, CORN BUNTING numbers had increased to 4, along with 8 Skylark in the cereal crops. A lot of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies too.

Corn Buntings

Small Tortoiseshells

and Peacock butterflies

At WATER END, the Rookery held 25 active nests and a male Blackcap was singing, with a pair of Barn Swallow at LOWER GADE FARM south of DAGNALL.

Thanks to Ian Williams, I soon located the first of two singing male COMMON WHITETHROATS along the DRY CANAL at WILSTONE - the first of the year for me. This walk also produced a male Blackcap, a male Yellowhammer, Wren, Chaffinch and Goldfinch as well as a host of butterflies including 8 Brimstone, 2 Orange Tip, Small White and 5 Small Tortoiseshell. Once again, I failed in my quest to locate the Little Owl at Miswell Farm - my 5th attempt in recent weeks.

A male Common Whitethroat skulking on the Dry Canal hedgerow

A major surprise in DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP HAMLET was a cracking male BRAMBLING having a drink in a roadside puddle - presumably a migrant on its way east. A few Greenfinch were also about, as well as 6 Jackdaw, Dunnock and Wren.

On MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (TRING), CETTI'S WARBLERS had now increased to 3 singing birds, with a second singing SEDGE WARBLER in the reedbed at the east (Bucks) end. Otherwise, 3 Blackcap, Song Thrush and 1 Common Chiffchaff, with a female Mallard with 9 ducklings, the Greylag Goose pair, 2 Great Crested Grebe, an increase to 10 Coot, 8 Common Tern, the 1 Mute Swan, Grey Heron and a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

The Mallard family but how long will the chicks survive?

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR yielded 4 Great Crested Grebe, 37 Tufted Duck, 6 Mute Swans (including '4ABK', the drake Red-crested Pochard, Common Redshank, 2 Common Terns, a flyover Oystercatcher, Green Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, 4+ Barn Swallow, Common Buzzard, a pair of Long-tailed Tits and a male Reed Bunting. Highlight was a male YELLOW WAGTAIL in the second horse paddock north of the reservoir.

Little to add from TRINGFORD RESERVOIR other than 4 Great Crested Grebe, nesting Mute Swan, 38 Tufted Duck and 23 active Rook nests.

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT was also very quiet with waders represented by Lapwing (6 pairs), Common Redshank (4+ pairs) and Oystercatcher (1 pair) and migrants by 2+ Blackcap and 2 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS. As at the reservoirs, a worrying number of paired up Lesser Black-backed Gulls (seems to be a pair on Wilstone, Startop's, Marsworth & College).

PITSTONE QUARRY is still looking in excellent condition and today housed a Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe, nesting Canada Geese, 6 Tufted Duck, 6 Coot and 6 Moorhen, with a pair of Common Redshank and male Pied Wagtail on the mud and singing Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the wood.

DEEP MILL LANE POND supported 2 Little Grebe and two family parties of Coot (both with 5 young apiece), with LITTLE MISSENDEN WATER MEADOWS harbouring a pair of Gadwall and Grey Heron, with Barn Swallow and 5 House Sparrow nearby.

Peering through the hedgerow at Deep Mill Lane Pond

One fledged nest of Coot

and another

At SHARDELOES LAKE, another pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls was in residence. Nothing new to shout about but all 3 Mute Swans, 44+ Canada Geese, 5 pairs of Gadwall, 28 Tufted Duck, a female Northern Pochard, 1 of the Great Crested Grebes, 10 Little Grebes and 38 Coot, 11 nests of the latter now being occupied. A single Grey Heron was on the island, with Jay, Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap completing the list.

One of 11 active Coot nests

and it's set to be a record year for breeding Dabchicks