Wednesday, 31 December 2008


31 DECEMBER 2008
This evening an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was again present in the Wilstone roost, presumably the same bird as yesterday although the mask on todays bird looked more extensive than yesterdays but may be just be viewing conditions.

No sign of the Bittern again from 4pm until it got to dark to see at Marsworth (although it was seen by other observers earlier in the day) (David Bilcock)

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

'New' adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in roost

This afternoon Roy Hargreaves and I found an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the roost at Wilstone (pictures above) but there was no sign of the Bittern at Marsworth from 4pm until it got to dark (David Bilcock).



After another heavy frost, it was a glorious clear and bright day but with temperatures struggling to rise above 3 degrees C.

(joined by Mike & Rose Collard, Joan T & Martin Parr)

Following Dave Bilcock's text mid-morning, I ventured out into the cold and quickly relocated the EURASIAN BITTERN early afternoon. It was perched about halfway up the reeds not far right of the isolated tree at the back of Marsworth Reedbed and was showing well. It was generally roosting but was disturbed on occasions by mobbing Black-headed Gulls, which would force it to point its bill high towards the sky with its neck outstretched. It did some sunbathing too. It remained on view for at least two hours, eventually flying and disappearing down into the reeds at 1425 hours. Dave managed to get the two images published above.

Much of Marsworth was frozen but in the open water, 153 Shoveler, 6 Pochard and 7 Great Crested Grebes were gathered. WATER RAIL, 2 COMMON KINGFISHERS and GREEN WOODPECKER were also noted.

(with Mike & Rose Collard, Dave Parmenter & Paul Keene)

As temperatures plummeted towards dusk, the wintering EURASIAN BITTERN eventually put in an appearance at 1624 hours, flying out from the channel 60 yards in front of the Hilda Quick Hide. Instead of flying towards the far shore as it generally does, it chose this evening to frequent the short reeds at the entrance to the channel and moved about the reeds there until darkness fell.

Two CETTI'S WARBLERS were recorded, one roosting in Salix close to the hide and another singing towards the back of the reedbed, whilst 2 COMMON KINGFISHERS were very active.

Just 7 REED BUNTINGS roosted, up to 6 WATER RAILS squealing and 5 Shoveler which are scarce here.

Great Crested Grebe (1)
Grey Heron (2)
Sinensis Cormorant (2)
Mallard (43)
Common Teal (1 female)
Tufted Duck (3)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
COMMON SNIPE (4 flew out of the cut-reeds at dusk)
STOCK DOVE (1 flew in to roost)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 drumming)
Green Woodpecker
Jackdaws (447 flew to roost)
Jay (2)


On an area of lawn bathed in sunshine at 'The Orchard', 5 Common Blackbirds, a Song Thrush and a single Redwing were feeding.


This morning the EURASIAN BITTERN was showing very well at Marsworth (see above picture), sat up in the reeds along the far side between two of the newly cut channels (David Bilcock)


There is a broken reed with 4 leaves or "fingers" hanging down towards the water. About 5 feet to the right of this is another broken reed almost horizontal to the water.

The EURASIAN BITTERN was about half way twixt the two, low and facing towards Tringford Road at about 45 degrees. It moved its head several times in the few minutes I was there (Howard Clarke)

Monday, 29 December 2008

28 DECEMBER 2008

This afternoon I heard 1+ BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS by my house in Tring that then flew south in the direction of Beaconsfield Road - or possibly beyond.

This morning the 'highlight' at Wilstone Reservoir was a COMMON CHIFFCHAFF seen feeding under the concrete bank between the jetty and the North Corner. On the brief view I had it had a fairly bright green mantle (Roy Hargreaves)

Saturday, 27 December 2008


Christmas Eve 2008

Hoping to connect with Roy's 3 Shelducks, I visited the Reservoirs on Christmas Eve but failed in my quest. A large black balloon passed overhead scattering the wildfowl but did allow me to accurately click-count all of the birds present


Great Crested Grebe (20)
Mute Swans (only 6 adults left, lowest count this year)
Greylag Geese (flock now increased to 145 birds)
Common Teal (322+)
Northern Shoveler (49)
Eurasian Wigeon (538)
Tufted Duck (tremendous count of 264 birds - highest number this winter)
Northern Pochard (very high count of 161 birds - highest this winter)
RUDDY DUCK (2 drakes)
Common Coot (378+)

Herring Gull (1 juvenile)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 adult)


Just 2 Great Crested Grebes, 7 Mute Swans, 4 Grey Herons, 4 Gadwall, 7 Tufted Duck and 34 Coots.


No Great Crested Grebes, 1 fw Mute Swan, 76 Coot, 42 Tufted Duck, 3 Pochard and 1 drake Shoveler


3 Great Crested Grebes, 174 Shoveler (making 224 in total), 4 Coot and Song Thrush in full song

(impressive numbers of wildfowl present on both lakes)

Mute Swans (23 including 3 first-winters)
Gadwall (78)
Eurasian Wigeon (268)
Common Teal (115)
Tufted Duck (256)
Pochard (43)
MANDARIN DUCK (7 - 4 drakes)
Coot (13)


6 Little Grebe, 3 Coot, 6 Teal, 31 Tufted Duck and 5 Pochards
203 Black-headed Gulls, with 8 Commons and 5 adult Lesser Black-backed.

1 Song Thrush, 1 Redwing and the MARSH TIT still present

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

23 DECEMBER 2008

At Wilstone Reservoir this morning, 3 COMMON SHELDUCKS were present (Roy Hargreaves)

Meanwhile, the EURASIAN BITTERNS remain at Marsworth Reservoir at dusk (Steve Rodwell) and Weston Turville Reservoir (Tim Watts)

There are now 4 BRAMBLINGS in Tring town in Highfield Road (Roy Hargreaves)

Sunday, 21 December 2008

21 DECEMBER 2008

Today's highlight was a first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the Wilstone Reservoir roost (Dave Bilcock)

Saturday, 20 December 2008

BITTERN reappears at Marsworth

Just as it was getting dark this evening myself and Steve Rodwell managed to pick out a EURASIAN BITTERN sat low down in the reeds at Marsworth. It appeared to be roosting not far in the reedbed near the closest channel, that has been cut through the reeds.

Also a single DAUBENTON'S BAT was hunting low over the water nearby.

David Bilcock

Friday, 19 December 2008

WAXWING arrives in Tring

David Bilcock was fortunate in seeing a single WAXWING fly over his road (Highfield Road in Tring) at 0755 hours this morning - the bird flying low south over the houses and calling. It is the first individual in our area this winter and may be the forerunner of many more, as a party of 10 (one photographed above by Phil Bishop) arrived in Stevenage this afternoon.

Also in Highfield Road, Roy Hargreaves noted the presence of 5 BRAMBLINGS today (last winter he recorded up to 150 in his garden)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


A MERLIN was over the road between Cheddington and Long Marston this afternoon chasing a thrush. A friend of mine saw one at the same place twoweeks ago. The redhead SMEW was still at Wilstone Reservoir early afternoon on the southern water, best viewed from the east side looking towards the hide down the edge bordering the bund. It may not always be viewable from the hide or the car park as it is keeping in close to the edge (Mike Campbell)



Another very cold, dreary and grey day with temperatures not rising above 5 degrees C. A second successive day with rare wildfowl, following yesterday's 4 Bewick's Swans at Hilfield. A redhead Smew and a fabulous adult drake Red-breasted Merganser highlighted, courtesy of Roy Hargreaves and Simon Nichols/Rob Hill respectively. Superb finds !

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (A full inventory was taken of wildfowl)
(1100-1300 hours, in part-company with Martin Page)

Great Crested Grebe (19)
Little Grebe (3)
Cormorants (16)
Mute Swans (12 adults)
Greylag Geese (117 still, plus two hybrids)
Canada Geese (14)
Mallard (32) **1,056 ducks of ten species click-counted
Gadwall (just 3)
Eurasian Wigeon (553)
Common Teal (273)
Northern Shoveler (9)
Tufted Duck (112)
Northern Pochard (67)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (5 present including a pristine full adult drake and four female-types; well scattered)
**SMEW (1 redhead and rather elusive. Initially found by Roy Hargreaves at about 0900 hours viewing from the new overflow, I relocated it after nearly two hours of searching early afternoon. It was keeping very close to the central bank and was fishing/diving at frequent intervals just offshore of the bank and on the south side of the bank. Once behind the trees, it could only be seen from the Drayton Bank Hide.
RUDDY DUCK (1 winter drake)

Lapwings (227 roosting on rafts, bank)
Common Snipe (5 roosting in sedge in front of hide)
Black-headed Gulls (40)
Common Gulls (2 - adult & first-winter)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 3rd-winter)

Jay (flew high north at 1210)
Song Thrush (1 by car park)


Tufted Duck (70)
Northern Pochard (20)
Pied Wagtail (5 in horse paddocks)
Meadow Pipit (1)


Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swan (1 adult) (scarce at this site)
Mallard (12)
Tufted Duck (29)
Northern Pochard (3)
Common Gull (8 including a first-winter)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (12 adults including a single adult intermedius)

*MARSH TIT - a very vocal and unringed bird was showing well in the scrub and trees directly opposite Folly Farm at SP 943 143.


I was delighted to come across a garden in Aldbury Village ('Hill View' at 43 Stocks Road) harbouring 15 HOUSE SPARROWS in their border hedgerow - in fact, the first I have encountered in the village this year.

Monday, 15 December 2008


The reedbed at Marsworth Reservoir is a very important roosting site for CORN BUNTINGS in winter and it has been a traditional site since at least 1980. I counted a total of 164 birds this evening

A cold, grey day, with temperatures dropping as the wind veered away from the SW. Very quiet birdwise, with little of interest


Great Crested Grebe (13)
Little Grebe (1)
Cormorant (32)
Mute Swan (15 including 1 first-winter)
Greylag Geese: flock of 117 in sodden field immediately north of Wilstone Cemetery
Eurasian Wigeon (513)
Common Teal (231)
Gadwall (only 4)
Shoveler (7)
Tufted Duck (87)
Northern Pochard (86)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 females by jetty)
Lapwing (241, roosting on tern rafts and on central causeway)
Common Kestrel (female by road)


Tufted Ducks (23) with an additional 'Greater Scaup-like' hybrid with a flat crown and striking white blaze on the forehead. Hint of a tuft at rear of crown.


Great Crested Grebe (3), Mute Swan (4), Gadwall (3), Shoveler (7) and Eurasian Coot (23)


Great Crested Grebe (3)
SHOVELER: 213 feeding around the algae bunds
Pochard (3)
WATER RAIL - 2 squealing
Common Buzzard - usual adult

Bullfinch - single male in the 'wood'
Common Starling - just 258 flew in to roost
Reed Bunting - 2 to roost

*CORN BUNTINGS - did my first complete roost count of the winter revealing the presence of just 164 birds - a further reduction in numbers and continuing the year-on-year drop in numbers at this only traditional roost in the region. The first 15 birds arrived at 1517, followed by several small flocks totalling 112 birds by 1535. A further 16 arrived at 1542, 2 at 1546, 1 at 1547 and the final 33 at 1548.

Monday, 8 December 2008



Another heavy frost being slow to clear and penetrating all day in some areas. Clear, dry and cold.

The Tring Reservoirs

Wilstone Reservoir
(1300 hours, extensively frozen with three distinct open sections)

With much of the reservoir frozen, it made it easier for me to undertake counts. Despite the conditions, there was very little of interest - 11 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Grebe, 19 Mute Swans (including a first-winter), 10 Greylag Geese, 67 Mallard, 516 Eurasian Wigeon, 241 Common Teal, just 5 Gadwall, an outstanding 235 NORTHERN SHOVELER (104 + 131), 114 Tufted Duck, 71 Northern Pochard, 4 female COMMON GOLDENEYES (in the open patch near the hide) and 3 Lapwings. 85 Common Gulls roosted (SR, DB)

Tringford Reservoir

Just 6 Mute Swans, 2 Shovelers, 3 Great Crested Grebes and 11 Coot

Startop's End Reservoir

Just 2 Great Crested Grebes, 8 Shoveler, 68 Tufted Duck and 78 Coots present. Highlight was 2 redhead GOOSANDERS - both very different in plumage (a brightly marked individual with a shaggy richly-coloured crest and strongly contrasting creamy-white underparts and a drabber bird with much less of a crest and distinctly grey underparts with little contrast. It also had much darker lores - I guess adult and first-winter).

Marsworth Reservoir
(All Steve Rodwell) 2-3 squealing WATER RAILS and 110+ CORN BUNTINGS roosted, whilst a COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was in bushes along the Grand Union Canal near Marsworth Reservoir. A pair of BLACKCAPS were also seen in Lakeside, Marsworth.

A41 Berryfields
(with Tim Watts, Tony Donnelly and others) A total of 5 SHORT-EARED OWLS hunted the fields between 1445 and 1515 hours, with a Common Kestrel successfully catching a Field Vole, a single hunting BARN OWL, 5+ COMMON STONECHATS, a Common Buzzard and a single CHINESE WATER DEER.

Weston Turville Reservoir
(1527-dusk) No sign of yesterday's BITTERN from the Susan Cowdy Hide, but 6+ squealing WATER RAILS, the continuing CETTI'S WARBLER, 15 roosting REED BUNTINGS, Grey Wagtail, Green Woodpecker, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 2 adult Mute Swans, 36 Mallard, 3 Tufted Ducks (2 drakes) and an immature drake COMMON GOLDENEYE.

Sunday, 7 December 2008


A juvenile PEREGRINE flew through Wilstone this morning at 8 am, otherwise usual ducks present. Warren Claydon had a GOOSANDER fly through later as well as a possible 1W Caspian gull that unfortunately didn't settle and headed off towards Startops. No sign there or at Pitstone Quarry at 11am, although 43 Common gulls were at the quarry with 5 LBBs and 158 BHGs (Dave Bilcock)


Earlier at College Lake (view only from the footpath along the west side asthe reserve is closed) there was a female Common Goldeneye on the lake. Also 2Ruddy Ducks, 31 Mute Swans, 35 Shovelers, 150+ Wigeon and 32 Gadwall on the marsh; 5 LESSER REDPOLLS flew over south.

At Pitstone Quarry there were 17 Teal, 3 Little Grebes and a few Tufties.

The EURASIAN BITTERN at Weston Turville Reservoir was somewhere in the reeds in front of the hide, although behind the thicker patch of growth. It flew out from near the waters edge, across the water and landed on the front edge of the reedbed.I t only stayed in view for a few seconds before clambering deeper into theundergrowth. At least 15 Reed Buntings dropped in to roost and a Common Snipe flew out of the reedbed.

All today's sightings by kind courtesy of Rob Andrews

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Cold winds yield nothing new


A bitingly cold day and after a clear, frosty start, heavy cloud soon moved in from the west bringing a period of sleet and rain. This moved away to the east after a short while leaving a cold, crisp afternoon.

TRING RESERVOIRS (late afternoon visit, at Marsworth with Mike Campbell)

Fairly uneventful, with water levels on all of the reservoirs now back to normal. No waders noted.

Wilstone Reservoir: Great Crested Grebe (12), Cormorant (27), Mute Swan (just 9 adults), Eurasian Wigeon (498), Common Teal (296), Shoveler (6), Tufted Duck (102), Northern Pochard (92), RUDDY DUCK (4), Eurasian Coot (408), Black-headed Gull (816+ and still arriving), COMMON GULL (73 predominantly adults) and Mistle Thrush (2).

Tringford Reservoir: Great Crested Grebe (10), Little Grebe (2), Mute Swan (2 adults), Mallard (8), Gadwall (1 drake), Shoveler (4), Tufted Duck (6), Pochard (7) and Coot (21).

Startop's End Reservoir: Great Crested Grebe (just 4, huge decrease), Mute Swan (3 including the first-winter), Mallard (27), Teal (1 female), Tufted Duck (75), Pochard (8) and 68 Coot.

Marsworth Reservoir: Great Crested Grebe (5), Mallard (6), Pochard (12), SHOVELER (224 mass-shovelling as usual by algae bunds), Coot (4), Sparrowhawk (1 female), WATER RAIL (2 squealing) and Redwing (8).

The singing CETTI'S WARBLER burst into song by the overflow at 1620, 52 CORN BUNTINGS and 3 Reed Buntings flew in to roost and just 500 Common Starlings in small groups roosted in the reeds.

Friday, 28 November 2008

28 NOVEMBER 2008

The PEREGRINE was hunting over the fields by Downs Farm south of Pitstone Hill this morning.

Very quiet around the reservoirs, a single female NORTHERN PINTAIL was on Wilstone otherwise little to report.

In the gull roost at Wilstone this evening ca.2000 Black-headed Gulls.


27 NOVEMBER 2008

There was a redhead GOOSANDER on the canal between Horton Wharf and Ivinghoe Locks this morning whilst I was doing a Bird Atlas square. There was also a COMMON RAVEN in one of the fields.

Mike Campbell

Monday, 24 November 2008

Cold snap brings down GOOSANDERS

Drake Goosander moulting out of eclipse, Tringford Reservoir, Tring, 22 November (Dave Bilcock) - one of four birds that passed through that day.


David Bilcock recorded four GOOSANDERS on Saturday 22 November - an adult drake on Tringford and three 'redheads' on Wilstone Reservoir. All four birds stayed just briefly and were presumably associated with the cold, NE winds.

On Sunday 23 November, a COMMON SHELDUCK was present on Wilstone, along with 5 COMMON GOLDENEYES and a 3rd-winter YELLOW-LEGGED GULL briefly. Three HERRING GULLS were in the evening roost.

A juvenile ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANT bearing a white darvic ring with green lettering roosted on Wilstone (all Dave Bilcock and Steve Rodwell)

Friday, 21 November 2008

21 NOVEMBER 2008

A first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosted on Wilstone Reservoir this evening (Dave Bilcock)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Roosting Starlings at dusk make a wonderful sight


A colder day, with a fresh westerly wind blowing bringing down the overall temperature. Dry throughout with the odd bright period.

Skirting around the Hunt's Green area, a raptor survey revealed the presence of 3 RED KITES, a Common Buzzard and a single male Common Kestrel.


Two RED KITES were over Long Meadow in Aylesbury with a third bird over the Tring Road; all at 1310.


Following a call from Mike Collard, I followed up a report of a drake American Wigeon or hybrid - as I expected, it related to an adult drake CHILOE WIGEON present at Wilstone Reservoir earlier in the month. Interestingly, this escaped bird was feeding alone on the closest bank of the first trout pool. At the back of the pool were 22 Eurasian Wigeons (14 drakes).

There were also 3 Grey Herons at the pools, a single fishing Cormorant and 3 Redwings in adjacent hedgerows.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (birding with Peter Leigh)
(1400 hours)

Great Crested Grebe (16)
Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swans (15 adults)
WHOOPER SWANS (2 adults still)
Greylag Geese (94)
Eurasian Wigeon (332)
Common Teal (256)
Gadwall (5)
Northern Shoveler (85)
Northern Pochard (59)
Tufted Duck (97)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD - adult female, straight out from car park
COMMON GOLDENEYE (3 females together in NW corner)
RUDDY DUCK (1 winter male)

Lapwings (432)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (243, most now roosting on the bund with the rise in water level)

Lesser Black-backed Gull (2 adults roosting)

LITTLE OWL (roosting out in the open in bush behind car park)
Pied Wagtails (2) Grey Wagtail (1)
Meadow Pipit - 1 in NW corner
REDWINGS - 25 in 'Overflow Hedgerow'


3 Great Crested Grebes, 13 roosting Sinensis Cormorants, 5 adult Mute Swans, 4 Gadwall and 4 Pochards.

Walking through Tringford Wood and then back along the canal towards Little Tring Farm yielded -:

COMMON TREECREEPER, Great Tit, Blue Tit (4), Long-tailed Tit (two parties totalling 12 birds), Wren, 5 Goldcrests, 15 Common Blackbirds (including 9 in isolated berry-bearing shrubs adjacent to the canal and 6 around Little Tring Farm and Manor House), 3 Redwings, 2 COMMON STONECHATS (a pair by the canal and horse paddocks), 7 Goldfinch, 3 European Robins and 25 Feral Pigeons (on the flour mill).


Tufted Duck (23), Pochard (7), Lesser Black-backed Gull (7), Common Gull (4) and Linnet (4)


Black-headed Gulls (180)
Jackdaws - 373 click-counted; all feeding in the Kale field
Rooks - 122
Carrion Crows (20)
Stock Dove (7)
Common Starling (27)
Skylark (8)
Linnets (83 in flock - large reduction)
Yellowhammer (5)
Meadow Pipit (1)
*COMMON STONECHAT - single male by Kale field opposite entrance to farm


Great Crested Grebe (26), Mute Swan (2 adults with 1 first-winter), Tufted Duck (63)

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (1515 until dusk) (with Peter Leigh)

**SHOVELERS - 166 in feeding frenzy including a large gathering of 50+ birds that were all 'shovelling' together in one tight mass. Extremely entertaining to watch.
Great Crested Grebe (9)
Tufted Duck (4)

WATER RAIL (2 squealing)
Little Grebe (1 fishing in the new cut)
Fieldfare (6 over)
Redwing (4)
Common Gull (4 over)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (hunting near dusk)

GREY WAGTAILS - communal roost at the edge of the reedbed involving 7 birds, a single male of which was extremely vocal as dusk approached.

Reed Bunting (3 roosted)

*CORN BUNTINGS - a total of 120 roosted. The first 45 arrived before 1530 hours, perched up high on the trees above the main causeway. These were followed by a single at 1540, 6 (1542), 9 (1544), 21 (1555), 10 (1557), 5 (1559), 10 (1601), 9 (1604) and the last 4 at 1609.

**COMMON STARLINGS (1,600+ roosted) A remarkable spectacle: the first flock of about 500 birds first started wheeling around at 1550 with smaller groups of up to 120 birds joining frequently from thenon. The flock gradually got larger and larger, with the usual acrobatics following. At around 1605 hours, one group of 650 birds broke away and flew towards us and went in with a loud 'whoosh' into the reeds just left of the new cut through. The sound was amazing. These birds then gradually moved from the left side of the cut to the right hand side, where there is more protection. The remaining 1,000 or so birds then roosted at the opposite end of the reservoir, in the smaller reedbed not far from the canal.

Saturday, 15 November 2008




26 Great Crested Grebes, 2 adult Mute Swans, 63 Tufted Ducks and 2 RUDDY DUCKS.
(Much earlier, MW had seen a redhead GOOSANDER briefly)


Great Crested Grebes (3), Little Grebe (1), Grey Heron (12 roosting), Sinensis Cormorant (18), Mute Swans (4 adults), Common Teal (3), Tufted Duck (12), Pochard (4) and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. The undoubted highlight was a group of 6 MANDARIN DUCKS (5 drakes and a single female) by the overhanging trees and vegetation in the SW corner.
(Earlier, Dave Bilcock had seen and photographed 5 drake RED-CRESTED POCHARDS - see top image - but they had clearly gone).


Great Crested Grebe (3), Little Grebe (1) and Mute Swan (2 adults and a first-winter)


Great Crested Grebe (16), Little Grebe (3), Grey Heron (5 - making a total of 17 overall), Mute Swans (just 10 adults), WHOOPER SWAN (both adults by hide), Eurasian Wigeon (311+), Common Teal (235+), Gadwall (16), Northern Shoveler (158), Tufted Duck (127+), Northern Pochard (56), RED-CRESTED POCHARD (dark-billed female-type by central spit), GOOSANDER (redhead still roosting between new overflow and Drayton Bank - see images above taken by Francis Buckle - with possibility of second redhead seen), Coot (300), Lapwing (458), EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (302), Common Snipe (6+ - note that 26 were seen on 14th), and DUNLIN (on remaining islands - SR et al).


Little Grebe (7), Tufted Duck (25), Pochard (6), COMMON GULL (18, including 17 adults and a first-winter) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (6 adults).

Most intriguing was the presence of 27 Carrion Crows feeding on the mud; also 4 Magpies.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

GOOSANDER heralds large duck influx

A return to damp, dismal and very grey conditions, with persistent and steady rain from mid-afternoon

Highlight today was an exceptional gathering of NORTHERN SHOVELER and my first Tring GOOSANDER of the year


Two Moorhens in the pool by the railway bridge

Long Marston (Cricket Club Fields)



Woodpigeons (72 on wires just NE of the Wingrave Road roundabout)

Startop's End Reservoir

Great Crested Grebes (28), Mute Swans (3 - 1 first-winter), Mallard (8), Shoveler (1), Tufted Duck (65), Pochard (11), Coot (68), Common Gull (1 adult), Common Blackbird (4) and Goldcrest (3).

Tringford Reservoir

Great Crested Grebe (2), Grey Heron (12 roosting in trees), Mute Swans (3 adults), Tufted Duck (8) and Coot (34)

Marsworth Reservoir

Great Crested Grebe (6 including two first-winters), Mallard (18), COMMON KINGFISHER, Redwing (1 over), Wren and CETTI'S WARBLER (still near overflow)
Highlight was a staggering feeding 'frenzy' of 197 NORTHERN SHOVELERS - the highest gathering of the year so far. They were all 'shovelling' around the algae bund 'balls'.

Wilstone Reservoir
With recent heavy rain, the level has raised substantially and with it, large numbers of wildfowl.

Great Crested Grebe (16)
Sinensis Cormorants (high count of 51 roosting)
Mute Swan - just 9 adults
Greylag Geese (19)
Mallard (43)
Eurasian Wigeon (587+ - huge increase)
Common Teal (334+)
Gadwall (33 - large increase)
Northern Shoveler (22)
Tufted Duck (145)
Northern Pochard (96)
Ruddy Duck (1 winter drake)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 females just off car park)
**GOOSANDER - a single 'redhead' was roosting in the NW corner, easily visible from the hide or new overflow.

A total of 1,264 ducks was counted comprising of ten species

Lapwing (504)
Common Snipe (5)

COMMON GULLS (2 roosting on spit - an adult and first-winter)

Collared Dove - 3 on wires at Wilstone Great Farm
Common Starlings - 360 in fields NW of reservoir


Constant rain, very unsuitable weather for hunting owls and consequently none seen

Tim Watts and I watched the juvenile HEN HARRIER arrive from the east at 1605 hours and after a couple of passes at a male and female Common Pheasant in the long grass, it flew towards the far hedgerow and was lost in the gloom at 1608.

Jackdaws were flighting to roost all evening, with 222 too the SW by 1608, with 24 Rooks and the odd Carrion Crow mixed in with them; 2 Goldcrests moved west along the car park hedgerow.

Monday, 10 November 2008


All Sightings and Counts today from STEVE RODWELL

G.C.Grebe 54 (22 S, 8 M, 6 T, 21 W),
Little Grebe 10 (2 S, 2 T, 6 W),
Cormorants 51 roosted Wilstone,
Mute Swan 33 (3 S, 1 C, 10 T, 19 W),
Greylag Goose 21 (2 C, 19 W),
Canada Goose 2 (1 C, 1 W),
Wigeon 400+ Wilstone,
Teal 272 (3 S, 5 T, 264 W),
Tufted Duck 195 (62 S, 1 M, 7 T, 125 W),
Shoveler 153 (1 T, 152 W),
Mallard 126 (16 S, 32 C, 15 M, 22 T, 41 W),
Pochard 99 (6 S, 93 W),
Gadwall 21 (12 T, 9 W),
Ruddy Duck 2 Wilstone,
Pintail 1 Wilstone,
Moorhen 82 (10 S, 3 M, 5 T, 64 W),
Coot 547 (55 S, 3 M, 6 T, 484minimum W),
Lapwing 379 W,
Golden Plover 400+ W,
Grey Wagatil 4 (2 S, 2 W),
Kingfisher 2 (1 S, 1 W),
Siskin 1 Startops.

W=Wilstone, S=Startops, M=Marsworth, T=Tringford, C=canal next to Startops

Two COMMON STONECHATS in field behind Tringford (between flour mill and pumping station).
81 Feral Pigeons flour mill.

Marsworth at dusk: Starling Roost, 1 Daubenton's Bat.

Wilstone Gull roost with Dave:2000+ B.h. Gull, 41 Common Gulls, 4 L.B.B. Gulls, 1 adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL
Earlier there was 1 2nd winter Herring Gull.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Neighbouring HEN HARRIER continues to draw crowds



(A pleasant day, with light SW winds and much milder temperatures than of late)
(1200-1320 hours, with Adrian Conlon et al)

Great Crested Grebes (15)
Little Grebes (5)
Sinensis Cormorants (41)
Mute Swans (18) Interestingly, a family group of 9 birds - adult pair with 7 cygnets - flew around the reservoir at 1241 hours and then headed off east. Such a large family group is quite unusual and I cannot help thinking that it is the same family of 9 which originated from the Chess River Valley where I live and I last recorded two weeks ago. A first-winter was killed overnight (presumably by a Red Fox) with its remains adjacent to the isolated pool in the NW corner.
Greylag Geese: 18 including the sick juvenile
Eurasian Wigeon (332)
Gadwall (7)
NORTHERN PINTAIL - an adult drake was showing well by the hide
Common Teal (235+)
Northern Shoveler (105)
Northern Pochard (71)
*COMMON GOLDENEYE - 2 females showing well favouring the North Bank by the car park
RUDDY DUCK (6 still)
Eurasian Coot (579)
Moorhen (96)

Lapwings (428+)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (404, but very flighty)
Common Snipes (3 roosting in front of hide)

Black-headed Gulls (154+)
Common Gull (1 adult)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (3 adults)

Common Pheasants (2 'Ring-necked' males in front of hide)
RED KITE - 1 over
Common Buzzard - 1 over

Meadow Pipits - 5 on North Bank
Grey Wagtails - 2 first-winters in front of hide
Common Chiffchaff - 1 by hide
Long-tailed Tits - two groups, one of 8 and 1 of 13

Just outside the recording area


A record 37 observers was present at 1600 hours, all anticipating tonight's 'show'. First to perform, as usual, were the SHORT-EARED OWLS, with all three birds hunting widely across the fields for over half an hour.

At 1635 hours, I located the juvenile HEN HARRIER, once again appearing from the east and then flying across the road and to within 75 yards of the large, assembled crowd. Fantastic views were obtained, allowing me to fully explain and illustrate to others the intracacies of ageing ringtail harriers. The viewing lasted just over four minutes as at 1639, it dived down into the long grass and did not reappear.

A noisy flock of 17 Greylag Geese flew SW, 2 COMMON STONECHATS were seen, 3 Roe Deer, 27 FIELDFARES, 352 Common Starlings SE to roost and as dusk approached, a beautifully close BARN OWL.

Thursday, 6 November 2008


This evening was devoted to one of our regular get-together socials, organised by local birder Francis Buckle. The theme was Sri Lankan food, of which I of course opted out of and had fried Whooper Swan instead !!
It was a tremendous social evening and very well attended, with Francis and Maggie, Rob Andrews, Steve and Vicky Rodwell, Mike and Rosie Collard, Charlie Jackson, Peter & Erika Lyons, Rachel (Indra's friend), Mic & Jan Wells, our IT man Patrick Boys and of course Carmel and I. The cuisine was prepared by Charlie's wife Indra, who must be thanked for her hard work and effort in keeping Francis satisfied.
Despite the poor weather and the cancelled fireworks party, the Valiant Trooper was heaving and Carmel and I only just made it home before midnight. Well done Francis.
Inset top, from left to right, Chaz Jackson, Mic and Jan, then Peter Lyons, Maggie, Patrick and Rachel; bottom, LGRE with top man Steve Rodwell



MARSWORTH RESERVOIR: 41 Shoveler, 1 Little Owl, 1 Water Rail, 17 Long-tailed Tits including several ringed birds (interestingly a similar number were around the back of my house, just over the Lower Icknield Way in Tring and not very far from the Tring Reses, which also included several ringed birds (perhaps the same birds?), and was a part of a larger tit flock around Lakeside, including 2 Coal Tits and 2 Nuthatches), several bats pm, including what I presume to be Daubenton's Bat (medium sized, flying low over the water).

WILSTONE RESERVOIR Gull Roost - large numbers of Black-headed Gulls, at least 1500, 13+ COMMON GULLS, 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 1 adult HERRING GULL and 1 first-winter GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL. Also 1 COMMON GOLDENEYE and 1 Little Owl


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Woodcocks, Continental Blackbirds, Goldcrests and Golden Plovers - two Whooper Swans too

Common Blackbirds presumably of Continental origin have invaded the Hills in the past two days (images below by Mike Lawrence), whilst two adult Whooper Swans early afternoon were considered to be genuine immigrants (Tim Watts)


In the early hours of daylight, there was little wind, but as the day progressed, the cool NE airflow set in again. It remained grey and overcast all day, with poor visibility, and with temperatures peaking at 9 degrees Centigrade.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (two visits today, one midday and the other 1320-1540 hours, the latter in part-company with Cliff Worrall and Leighton Buzzard-based birder Timothy Andrews)

Great Crested Grebe (22)
Little Grebe (7, including feeding group of 5)
Sinensis Cormorant (45 roosting in trees and on central spit)
Grey Heron (4)

A total of 1,022 birds involving 13 species

Mute Swans (20, including two first-winters)
**WHOOPER SWANS (the two regular adults remained but were briefly joined by two additional adults - both very wary - which touched down in the SE quarter visible from the hide. They remained until a huge black balloon disturbed them - and everything else on the reservoir - at 1340, when they flew off strongly east - Cliff Worrall, LGRE).
Greylag Geese (19)
Mallard (43)
Common Teal (277)
Eurasian Wigeon (316)
Gadwall (13)
Shoveler (112)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 adult drakes by central spit and female in SE quarter from hide)
Tufted Duck (122)
Pochard (86)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (1 female flew up from the isolated pool in the NW corner)
RUDDY DUCK (6 still present)

A huge rise in Golden Plover numbers and with 3 juvenile American Golden Plovers in Southern England, well worth keeping under close scrutiny

Lapwings (344)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (massive increase with the roosting flock click-counted at an impressive 594 birds today)
Common Snipes (9)

Black-headed Gulls (77)
Common Gull (1 adult)
Lesser Black-backed Gulls (4 adults)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (female over)
Woodpigeon (36 in isolated tree near car park, with 150+ in flight over fields to north as balloon passed over)
Collared Doves (8 on wires by Wilstone Great Farm)
Green Woodpecker (1 in Poplars near Drayton Bank Hide)
COMMON KINGFISHER (see and heard several times by new outflow)
Pied Wagtails (flock in NW corner feeding on large expanse of mud now increased to 14 birds)
Grey Wagtails (3 with the above)
Meadow Pipits (just 2 remaining on mud)
Mistle Thrush (1)
FIELDFARES (24 flew south at 1452)
Common Starlings (35)

*BRAMBLING (a superb winter male landed briefly in the tree adjacent to the new overflow. It nasally called a few times before flying off with a single Chaffinch - LGRE, Timothy Andrews).


29 Great Crested Grebes noted, 23 Cormorants in feeding flock, Little Grebe still, 2 Greylag Geese, 5 Common Teal, 44 Tufted Duck, 8 Pochard, 15 Long-tailed Tits (in and around the car park) and 9 FIELDFARE west.


6 Great Crested Grebes (including the 2 noisy late juveniles)
Northern Shovelers (8, 4 pairs)
CETTI'S WARBLERS (2 separate birds calling/exploding from the reedbed)

After receiving a call from Steve Rodwell informing me of a flock of 70 'grey' geese in fields near Wing, I drove the circuit north of the reservoirs embracing Long Marston, Wingrave and Cheddington searching for the flock. I searched all suitable farmland but to no avail. In my quest, I observed the following -:

A CHINESE WATER DEER south of Leighton Road, opposite Wingbury Farm and east of Wingrave, with a single RED KITE hunting farmland north of this road east of the farm.

A very pale Common Buzzard was perched at the top of a dead tree north of Crafton, with another CHINESE WATER DEER feeding on the grass verge SE of Mentmore Park Farm.

Driving through Cheddington village revealed the presence of 57 Common Starlings, 14 House Sparrows and 11 Collared Doves.


Walking in from College Farm, I then checked College Lake for the geese flock. I was impressed by the variety and number of ducks present.

Mute Swans (21 present including a first-winter)
Eurasian Wigeon (284)
Gadwall (117 - this is where they have all gone!)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (6 present - 4 drakes and 2 females)
Tufted Duck (41)
Pochard (2 drakes)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (adult female with Wigeon)
Eurasian Coot (46)


After being disturbed from here earlier by JT, I returned in the afternoon to do a more thorough search of the area. Surprisingly, it was much quieter than yesterday with far fewer thrushes to be found, in particularly Fieldfare. What was apparent was the large numbers of COMMON BLACKBIRDS in the murky, grey conditions, presumably mostly 'Continental' birds. Some 150 were in Top Scrub and Steps Hill, along with a small number of REDWINGS. Whilst scrambling about trying to locate a Ring Ouzel (MW had seen one earlier), I flushed 3 WOODCOCKS from dense cover in Top Scrub and the Bluebell Wood, whilst other migrants included 25 Goldcrests and 3 COMMON STONECHATS on the Sheep Field Fence. Five BULLFINCH were also noted.


Spent time with the friendly owner of Down Farm enthusing about the large numbers of birds in his fields. Checking the last remaining crop field of maize, we flushed an almighty 3,700 Woodpigeons and 372 Common Starlings. He informed me that in the past few months he had killed just under 1,000 Woodpigeons (apparently they are a foreign delicasy, the supermarkets selling them for £2.20 per bird). I was mightily impressed by his knowledge of nature and his efforts to harbour wildlife on his farm and surrounding fields. He knew full well, for example, the differences between Woodpigeon and Stock Dove, even in flight). Very few small birds were encountered in the fields to the west of the road, apart from a few Yellowhammers and Chaffinches; a RED KITE scattered a flock of 75 Skylarks and just under 250 LINNETS.

And, just outside the Tring Recording Area


Just north of the county boundary at 1600 hours, I joined Johnny Lynch (the finder), Lol Carman and Bob Chalkley at Grovebury Sand Quarry. At the south end of the deep pit and just on the edge of several hundred roosting gulls, I located the erect shaggy-crested juvenile/female RED-BREASTED MERGANSER roll-preening with 2 Great Crested Grebes. Sitting body very low-in-the-water, this grey-plumaged bird differed from the rather similar Goosander in its slighter build, more rakish profile, much slimmer bill and less contrasting head. There was little contrast between the grey of the breast and the orange-brown of the upper neck, with just a thin dark line on the loral region (not a dense dark loral area) and an uptilted, pale pink, thin bill. On preening its wings, the forewing was dark rather than pale, with an obvious pure white secondary bar separated by a narrow blackish bar. The short crest was untidy and spiky.

The bird had previously been very mobile, working its way through the gull roost and diving almost constantly. John had initially discovered it at 1300 hours and it was still present as I left the site at 1630.

The pit held large numbers of birds including 3 COMMON GOLDENEYES (adult drake with two females), 22 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Eurasian Wigeon, 26 Tufted Ducks, 11 Pochards and 236 Lapwings. The gull roost contained at least 500 birds.



Another good morning, this perhaps the best Autumn I've had here.

Two WOODLARKS flew over together, 1 RING OUZEL, good numbers of Redwing, Fieldfare but the highlight was an invasion of Blackbirds, with many on the hills and others passing over all of the early morning.


Monday, 3 November 2008



Another cold and grey day with a brisk (and increasing) NE wind blowing. Mainly dry but with intermittent drizzle late afternoon.

(1030-1230 hours)

Great Crested Grebe (20)
Little Grebe (6 including a group of 4)
Mute Swans (24 including the first-winter still)
WHOOPER SWANS (adult pair still, noisily calling on the central spit)
Greylag Geese (17)
Mallard (34) Gadwall (7) Eurasian Wigeon (263) Common Teal (297 click-counted)
Chiloe Wigeon - the escaped adult was still present with the Eurasian Wigeon. This species natively breeds in South America in southern Argentina and Chile, as well as on the Falkland Islands. It migrates north to winter in Paraquay, Uruquay and extreme southern Brazil (see photograph above, taken by Will Forrest).
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Just 1 female noted)
Northern Shoveler (148) Tufted Duck (117) Northern Pochard (72)
COMMON GOLDENEYE: the adult drake and single female were both still present

Eurasian Coot (484) Moorhen (107)

EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (big increase overnight, with 303 birds click-counted on the mud
Lapwing (341)
DUNLIN (just 1 remaining from Sunday and this bird too flew off south at 1215)
Common Snipes (14 roosting on the spit in front of the hide)

Lesser Black-backed Gull (5 adults roosted on the spit)

Collared Dove (1 at Wilstone Great farm)
Pied Wagtail (11 feeding on the mud in the NW corner)
Grey Wagtails (2)
Meadow Pipits (7 feeding on the mud and short vegetation in the NW corner)
European Robin (marked increase, with 9 in the surrounding hedgerow)
Common Blackbird (8 in the small wood between the Farm Shop and East Bank)
Song Thrush (male singing in the small wood)


Water birds included 7 Little Grebes, 14 Tufted Duck, 4 Pochards and 2 Eurasian Coot, whilst roosting gulls included 2 adult Commons, 5 adult Herrings and 16 adult Lesser Black-backeds.


Following 40 FIELDFARE feeding on berries on the sheltered west side of Beacon Hill, very large numbers of winter thrushes were recorded in 'Top Scrub' and the 'Copper Beech belt'. The flocks contained predominantly REDWING, with c600 counted, with 80 FIELDFARE, at least 50 Common Blackbird and 3 Song Thrushes also noted.

Two Green Woodpeckers were also recorded, with 170 Jackdaws in a nearby field.


Much FALLOW DEER activity, with some 70 animals encountered. Very quiet birdwise, with just Coal Tit of note. Sadly, a dead Badger was by the houses in New Road, Northchurch.

GREY PLOVER arrives after appalling overnight conditions; also large DUNLIN flock


After a belt of very heavy rain passed over the region overnight, today dawned very still and misty. It remained very grey all day, with the NE wind picking up again in the afternoon. It also remained rather cold. These conditions resulted in an excellent day locally with the highlight being a juvenile GREY PLOVER and an impressive flock of DUNLIN

(1100-1400 hours, birding with SR, FB, MC, and others)

Great Crested Grebe (19)
Little Grebe (5)
Cormorant (23)
Mute Swan (21 including the first-winter)
WHOOPER SWAN - both adults back on the main spit (2nd day)
Greylag Geese (15)
Mallard (43)
Eurasian Wigeon (250+)
*Chiloe Wigeon - an adult drake moulting out of eclipse was with 56 Eurasian Wigeon close to the Drayton Bank Hide and showing very well. It had first been seen on Saturday 1st (RH, SR, LGRE, FB, MC, et al).
Common Teal (298+)
Northern Shoveler (125+)
Northern Pochard (76)
Tufted Duck (105)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 adult drakes on spit)

A juvenile landed on the main spit from the jetty at 0930 hours (Ed Griffiths) and then quickly flew from there towards the hide. It was relocated at 1015 and then remained on view, mainly in the far right bay from the hide, until dusk (Mike Collard, Dave Hutchinson, LGRE, SR, FB, SW, RH, DB). It was 1100 hours when I first saw it, feeding on the far mud and viewed from the north bank. Mike Collard had very kindly informed me of the bird some 25 minutes earlier when its identification was unknown, I enjoyed much better views from the hide, where it could be seen to be obviously larger than the Golden Plovers, longer-legged, much greyer in plumage and heavier-billed. It had very beige, lightly streaked underparts, fading to white on the lower breast and undertail-coverts, with heavily notched and neatly spotted upperwing-coverts and similarly-patterned mantle feathers. It had a slightly darker area on the ear-coverts and a darker cap, with an ill-defined whitish eye-stripe and a noticeably heavy, all-dark bill. It fed typically plover-style on the mud, taking short, fast steps and deep pecks at the ground, similar in fashion to the Lapwings.
Later in the afternoon, it was seen in flight from the top of the car park steps, flying back and forth over the SE quarter. The black axillaries were diagnostic, as well as the bold white upper wing-bar and pure white rump and lightly barred uppertail. The long legs did not trail beyond the tail. I did not hear it call.

DUNLIN - 15 in total, the highest number recorded this year, with 3 from Saturday in with the Golden Plovers to the north of the hide and a 'new' flock of 12 which arrived mid-morning in the misty conditions.

Common Snipe (6)

It was a remarkable day for gull passage with the pre-roost Black-headed Gull flock containing a single first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL (SR), a total of 21 Herring Gulls either over or roosting on the spit (including 9 east at 1210) (SR, LGRE), 21 Common Gulls (SR) and 48 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (SR). Most impressive (and rare) were up to 5 GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS, including two adults, two first-winters and a third-winter bird (an adult and first-winter roosted on the spit for over two hours) (SR, LGRE, FB, RH).

At least 1 ROCK PIPIT was seen near the new overflow late afternoon (SR), whilst other species noted included COMMON KINGFISHER and a single YELLOWHAMMER west.

DAUBENTON'S BATS were seen at both Wilstone and Marsworth, as well as the regular female CHINESE WATER DEER (SR).

At Startop's Farm/Angler's Retreat garden, 31 HOUSE SPARROWS were counted.


A large flock of LINNETS consisted of 204 birds (in stubble opposite Down Farm entrance), with 15 Goldfinch mixed in, with 537 Woodpigeons in the area and 273 Rooks.

On the Down Farm side, the stubble field there held 5 Yellowhammers, several Chaffinch, 125 Common Starlings and 175 Jackdaws


This morning myself and Roy Hargreaves saw a ROCK PIPIT briefly on the shore near the car park steps at Wilstone. Otherwise, the COMMON REDSHANK remained and a single COMMON GOLDENEYE was present.

When Af's Snow buntings were flying over the Beacon I was walking along the footpath from Pitstone Hill car park to Incombe hole, if only they had headed West along Steps Hill I might have connected with them! Excellent record though Af, just shows what must go through undetected. Good numbers of Skylarks, Corn Buntings, Linnets and Yellowhammer were in the fields around Down farm and ca.300+ Woodpigeons.
2 Ravens in a search of the fields north of the Beacon.

This evening 2 Herring gulls were in the gull roost and 3 DUNLINS amongst the Lapwings at Wilstone.




I had 5 SNOW BUNTINGS flying north over Beacon Hill this morning at 9.10am. I initially heard one and looked up to see it fly over my head. I could then hear others calling, and got another 4 which the single bird then joined. The group flew low over the north side of Beacon Hill and headed for the road. Frustratingly, I didn't have my phone on me, and there was no one else around to share the sighting with. Also 1 male BLACKCAP, a pair of COMMON STONECHATS, and a reasonable flurry of Redwings, Fieldfares, and Woodpigeons. There were also a couple of Goldcrests flitting around so maybe worth a look in the scrubby area for something more unusual.




The second largest thrush movement that I have seen this Autumn , with good numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare over. Finches were the first birds on the move with a few more BRAMBLING trickling through and a single COMMON CROSSBILL was a real surprise, they're very rare up here. Later whilst watching some thrushes arrive, they suddenly scattered and a female MERLIN came ploughing into them from behind, I didn't see it take one as they all disappeared into the top scrub. A Grey Heron also passed over which are also unusual here.


Friday, 31 October 2008

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker visits Wendover garden

I was looking out in my Wendover garden at lunchtime hoping to see one of these early Bramblings people ahave been talking about when a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER appeared. It moved around for fifteen minutes feeding on the branches of our apple trees and visited the bird bath to drink. My first garden record in sixteen years here.


31 OCTOBER 2008 - Marsworth visit at dusk

Arrived just before dusk. Looking at Lee's posting, the Shoveler must have departed from Wilstone to Marsworth Res to feed in the evening, 85 were present at Marsworth and 27 at Startops. There were also 46 Black-headed Gulls until it was dark. 1 WATER RAIL. a DAUBENTON'S BAT, rather surprising as the temperature was 5 C. Kind regards, Steve Rodwell

31 OCTOBER 2008

Two male Yellowhammers (Mike Lawrence) - the highlight of my visit to Tring Reservoirs today


Still very cold with a brisk NE wind blowing and some snow still lying in fields in sheltered areas. Remained clear for most of the day, with temperatures reaching no higher than 8 degrees.


A single Little Grebe was new in, with 6 Great Crested Grebes still present (including this autumn's two juveniles), a single adult Mute Swan, a feeding group of 20 Northern Shovelers and Grey Wagtail.

A very vocal CETTI'S WARBLER was in scrubby undergrowth adjacent to the overflow


A good selection of waterbirds with 23 Great Crested Grebes, 2 drake Common Teal, 8 Northern Pochard and 78 Tufted Ducks present.


A further 7 Great Crested Grebes (totalling 36), another Little Grebe and 4 adult Mute Swans.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1400-1530 hours)
(with Pauline Worrall & Penny Misselbrook)

Highlights included my first COMMON GOLDENEYE of the autumn and two male Yellowhammers

Great Crested Grebe (huge reduction, with just 12 counted - making 48 in total)
Little Grebe (5)
Grey Heron (2)
Cormorant (29 roosting on spit)
Mute Swan (marked increase; 32 counted with two first-winters and four 'cygnets' all new-in)
Greylag Geese (13)
897 ducks of 9 species
Eurasian Wigeon (220)
Gadwall (9)
Common Teal (312)
Northern Shoveler (135)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (3 females in the SE quarter with 2 adult drakes roosting/feeding by the spit)
Tufted Duck (133)
Northern Pochard (76)
*COMMON GOLDENEYE - an eclipse or first-year drake was sleeping with Tufted Duck in the 'SE quarter' visible only from the Drayton Bank Hide. A female or immature was present close to the new overflow, this bird being first seen on Monday 27th (RH).

Interestingly, after a presence of some 82 days, our two resident Whooper Swans have moved on

EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS - exactly 100 roosting on the mud
Lapwing - 135 on the reservoir, with a further 87 in Cemetery Corner Fields
DUNLIN - winter-plumaged bird still present
Common Snipe (4)

Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 adult roosting on the spit)

YELLOWHAMMERS* - 2 adult males were present in the hedgerow bordering the road and running parallel with the north end of the reservoir, my first in the Tring Area for some time.

(with Tim Watts - 1550-1700 hours)

Looking north from the layby situated just west of Aylesbury on the A41, Tim and I enjoyed a spectacular owl-fest.

The two SHORT-EARED OWLS were already hunting when TW arrived - 1540 hours - and continued to hunt over the large rough fields for the next 25 minutes. There is a dark individual and a paler bird. The latter slipped off to roost shortly after 1615 whilst the darker bird continued to hunt well into the evening, actually overlapping with the Barn Owls. It was particularly wide-ranging, eventually crossing over the Quainton road just prior to dusk, but was NOT seen to be successful in vole-catching.

Around 1645, the first of two BARN OWLS appeared, with both birds ranging widely too over the area.

There were also 4 Common Kestrels actively hunting, as well as a flock of 30 Linnets and 4 COMMON STONECHATS (2 pairs).

On the mammalian front, 3 different CHINESE WATER DEER and 3 ROE DEER were feeding.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

29 OCTOBER 2008


For the first time since October 1934, snow befell the Chiltern and London area overnight, leaving a thin blanket of snow throughout the region. The rain turned to snow overnight and after the band had cleared away to the west, the temperature dropped to -4 degrees freezing the snow and lying water.

I fully expected an influx of birds, perhaps wildfowl such as Goosander, but this was not to be, and the best that could be mustered were a large influx in Great Crested Grebe numbers, a new DUNLIN and a small flock of Fieldfares.

(Lying snow, very cold, light NE wind) (0900-1100 hours; birding with Steve Rodwell)

Great Crested Grebes* (influx, with 29 on Wilstone, 29 on Startop's End, 5 on Tringford and 7 on Marsworth - 70 in total)
Little Grebe (6)
Grey Heron (3)
Cormorant (15)
Mute Swan (23 including a first-winter which stayed just briefly)
WHOOPER SWAN (the adult pair remain)
Eurasian Wigeon (just 88)
Gadwall (11)
Common Teal (200+)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (4, 3 drakes and a female)
Northern Shoveler* (high count of 138 birds, all roosting on central bank)
Northern Pochard (69)
Tufted Duck (107)
RUDDY DUCK (7 including four drakes, a female and two juveniles)

Lapwing (238+)
COMMON REDSHANK (present for its 2nd day)
**DUNLIN (new winter-plumaged individual)
COMMON SANDPIPER (long-staying bird still present)
Common Snipe (5)

FIELDFARES (24 in field near Cemetery)
Skylark (3 west)
Chaffinch (1 west)
COMMON STONECHAT (in Rushy Meadow, present for its 5th day)

I then spent over an hour searching the fields to the SW of Wilstone for Roy's Richard's Pipit but despite all of the fields being covered in snow and revealing all within them, there was no sign of it.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

28 OCTOBER 2008 - Tring Mega

28 OCTOBER 2008

Roy Hargreaves watched a RICHARD'S PIPIT fly SW over Miswell Farm at 0753 hours, just SSE of Wilstone Reservoir

Here is a brief account.



Tuesday 28th October started off cloudless and with little or no wind - perfect conditions to record any birds flying over. On my way back from Wilstone Reservoir I was walking past Miswell Farm, at about 7:53am, when I heard a loud, explosive 'schreep' from immediately above my head. I immediately recognised it as Richard's Pipit and looked up to try and see it. It then called off to my right and I looked that way and when it called for the third time I managed to get on to it with my binoculars and watched it fly off, about 10 metres above the ground, to the south-west. It was clearly a large, bulky pipit and its low altitude explained both the loudness of its call and my failure to see it above me.

If accepted it will be the first or second record for Hertfordshire as another heard, but not seen, flying over Garston on 30th September at about 4pm, will also be considered.

26 OCTOBER 2008

Juvenile Greater Scaup, Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, Herts, 26 October 2008 (Dave Bilcock)


(with Steve Rodwell) (1500 onwards, got dark at 1705)

The heavy rain eventually cleared the area mid-afternoon and gave way to much colder and clear conditions.

Dave Bilcock had very kindly informed me of an Aythya duck he had discovered in the morning (in attrocious weather conditions) and that he had managed to get some 'record shots' of. It was, in his opinion, a GREATER SCAUP. Mike Campbell had seen it just prior to my arrival.

Steve and I quickly relocated the bird swimming with Tufted Ducks between the jetty and the central bank of 'Cormorant-roosting' trees and it was showing well. It was slightly larger than the accompanying Tufted Ducks and was mainly dark brown throughout but with pale grey feathering on the flanks and sides. It had a longer neck, a slight pale crescent on its lower rear face and a flatter crown, with its body profile sat low in the water. Most noticeably it had two small pure white patches at either side of the base of the bill, with the bill itself being larger than that of the Tufted Ducks, wider and longer with a small black nail restricted to the tip. It had a dull yellow eye and its head shape in particular was noticeably different from that of the 'tufted' appearance of juvenile Tufted Duck. Two boys then climbed down off the jetty and into the reservoir at 1620 and flushed many of the Athyas, with the small flock of Tufteds that this bird was with all flying up. The GREATER SCAUP flew with them affording me excellent views of the upperwing pattern - revealing an extremely broad pure white wing-bar, from the inner secondaries to within four feathers of the outer primaries. The wings were also broader than that of the Tufted Ducks and the bird itself slightly larger in flight.

Once again, full credit must be given to DB - an excellent find in abysmal birding conditions. Certainly well-deserved and the first GREATER SCAUP in the Tring area this year.

The rest of the birds

Great Crested Grebe (33)
Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swan (24)
Common Teal (235)
Eurasian Wigeon (78)
Gadwall (7)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (all 7 still present)
Northern Pochard (86)

DUNLIN still present

208 Black-headed Gulls pre-roosted, with several Common Gulls, a single Herring Gull and 3 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

19 OCTOBER 2008

This superb atmospheric shot was taken by Mike Wallen shortly after dawn of a PEREGRINE in pursuit of a Lesser Black-backed Gull over Steps Hill

(Dave Bilcock, Dave Parmenter & Mike Wallen)

Much quieter than yesterday but still 200 REDWING over and nearly 100 FIELDFARES. Three REED BUNTINGS were also noteworthy, as well as 8 remaining COMMON STONECHATS (including 5 in the Sheep Pens) and 5 GREY PARTRIDGES.

In AYLESBURY TOWN CENTRE, the resident pair of PEREGRINES remain on the town hall (Mike Wallen)


(Dry with bright periods and a mild SW airflow)

TRING RESERVOIRS (afternoon visit)

Generally very quiet with little of note apart from a continuing DUNLIN and a marked increase in Golden Plover numbers. Startopsend Reservoir continues to drop in level with the recent heavy rain providing some much needed 'new' pools on Wilstone.


Great Crested Grebes (25)
Little Grebes (7)
Mute Swans (down to 18)
WHOOPER SWANS (adult pair still)
Common Teal (201)
Eurasian Wigeon (87)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (7 still including 4 adult drakes)
Northern Shoveler (118 mainly roosting on central spit)
Northern Pochard (85+)
Tufted Ducks (92+)
Common Coot (537 click-counted)

Lapwings (512)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (202 roosting on mud)
DUNLIN - 1 remaining
Common Snipe (only 2)

Common Buzzard (2 over)


Great Crested Grebes (9), Common Teal (19), Shoveler (49) & Pochard (24)


Little Grebes (9) and Pochard (15)


3 COMMON STONECHATS in the Sheep Pens but nothing else of note


Large stag FALLOW DEER on road. The Ashridge stags are now in rut (Mike Collard obtained the excellent image above)

Hen Harrier caps off an excellent Hills Day of passage

18 OCTOBER 2008


Jon Nasir observed a ringtail HEN HARRIER fly through this evening at 1750 hours whilst he was walking through the scrubby area by the main peak car park. The bird flew relatively swiftly over his head, and after he scampered through the foliage to gain a better vantage point, watched it bank left and then down towards and over the Beacon 'Sheep Pens'. An excellent record.

18 OCTOBER 2008 - The Hills Are Alive With Winter Thrushes


(NW veering W then SW with poor visibility and light rain early morning giving rise to clearer conditions through the morning; reasonably warm. Dry)

(0700-1300 hours)

Sadly, a combination of an all-night party gig in Chesham and Dave Bilcock taking the family away to Sandy, I failed to realise the impressive winter thrush passage taking place over the escarpment and Vale until Francis Buckle 'tipped' me off mid morning. By then, many hundreds of birds had already passed over and flown west, with Steve Rodwell independently intercepting them over Tring. Both RDA and MW had already counted some exceptional numbers, with an estimated 3,000 Redwings, 300 Fieldfares and 320 Chaffinches passing over prior to 1030 hours (the latter one of the largest single-day counts ever at the site).

I pitched in shortly after 1030 hours and managed the following - a total of 907 REDWINGS west over by 1300, including individual flocks of up to 305 birds but just 5 FIELDFARES (all landing in the Copper Beech trees near the car park). Four BULLFINCHES flew west, as well as 124 Chaffinches, 17 LESSER REDPOLL, 8 SISKIN and 146 Woodpigeons. A single migrant Song Thrush was also seen.

There was a marked increase in Common Kestrel numbers over the Inkombe Hole area (with 9 on view at one time late morning), with two different juvenile female Eurasian Sparrowhawks west and a fantastic male PEREGRINE which captured a Redwing mid-air, plucked it briefly (being mobbed by three Kestrels at the time) and then flew off towards Steps Hill and the Beacon (also observed by FB, CJ and RDA from Pitstone Hill).

Moving down to the Down Farm stubble fields, the passerine flocks therein included 8 CORN BUNTINGS, 161 Skylarks, 12 Yellowhammers and 63 Linnets, with a single female COMMON STONECHAT on the fenceline. Three further male COMMON STONECHATS remained on the fence by the Sheep Pens.

(with FB, CJ & Jenny Wallington - 1320-1400 hours)

Mute Swans (20)
WHOOPER SWANS (2 adults still)
Greylag Geese (41)
NORTHERN PINTAILS - 9 still present including 6 adult drakes
*Northern Shovelers - 122 (my highest count this autumn)
Northern Pochards (84)
RUDDY DUCKS - 6 still including 3 adult drakes

EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS - 153 roosting on mud
Lapwing (498)
**DUNLIN - adult and first-winter on central spit from jetty (FB, CJ & LGRE)
Common Snipes (4)

Grey Wagtail (3)

The SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT was present intermittently between the jetty and mud in Cemetery Corner throughout the day but was disturbed by walkers at regular intervals. It was seen early morning by RH, IW & MCa and again by me early afternoon. It was favouring the upper margin of vegetation well in from the water's edge and was skulking in actions as it rifled through the leaf litter and other objects on the muddy 'beach' in front of the Poplars. It called twice in flight when flushed by a man and his dog and flew straight into the large ploughed field adjacent to the SE corner of the reservoir.


RED KITES were very much in evidence, with 3 just south of Dagnall, three more near Great Gaddesden and another being chased by 11 Jackdaws at Gaddesden Row. Further south, a beautiful first-year scavenged with up to 6 Common Buzzards on dead Woodpigeons on Briden's Hill.

(Late afternoon visit with Dan Forder and Ashley Stowe)

The OSPREY was still present but more elusive than of late (DF) whilst LITTLE EGRETS had increased to four (most likely the Wilstone four from earlier in the month). Two juvenile Little Grebes waddled precariously between pools, with 6 Redwings in Gaddesden Hall garden.