Sunday, 31 August 2008

Further Images of BOTH WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERNS recorded on Saturday 30 August 2008

David Bilcock very kindly provided these additional images of Saturday morning's juvenile WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERNS on Wilstone Reservoir. The first four images show the original bird (present from 0748-0835 hours) and the lower the second (present from 0834-0902 hours)

WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN ARRIVAL - 9th-10th Hertfordshire records

WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN occurrences at Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, on 30 August 2008
Ian Williams very kindly provided the images above - the top two relate to the first juvenile, whilst the lower three the second bird. There are subtle differences in head pattern and upperwing pattern.

Following a call from Dave Bilcock shortly after 0655 hours (Roy Hargreaves had just discovered an adult Sandwich Tern on Wilstone), I arrived at Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, shortly after 0715 hours. Knowing the forecast was for freshening SE winds, I had already been making my way towards the reservoir beforehand. As soon as I reached the top of the car park steps, I knew we were going to be in for an exciting and eventful morning, and as soon as I raised my binoculars, a quick scan revealed the presence of a large flock of 27 BLACK TERNS. I quickly transferred to the 'scope and checked through each one, attempting to age them individually (the large proportion were juveniles).

As Dave Bilcock approached me from the direction of the hide, all 27 suddenly gained height and flew away strongly due west at 0735 hours (the adult Sandwich Tern had done that earlier at 0655 !). After discussing the morning's birds with Dave, I wished him luck as he set off for Ivinghoe Hills CP and quipped ''with these tern flocks coming in like this, any moment it's going to hit off''. Off he went. I sat down and started to 'scope around as usual and as I scanned the skies towards the Wendover Forest ridge (mainly for an early rising overnight roosting Osprey), I picked up a very white tern coming in high from the west. In fact, within seconds it was over Stuart Wilson's Drayton Beauchamp house (in Bucks) and then over the Drayton Bank Hide (where both SW and RH were sat). Within seconds, I realised that is was a juvenile WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN and as it dropped down over the Poplars and on to the reservoir adjacent to the new outflow, the white rump, dark 'saddle' and silvery-grey upperwings soon confirmed this. It flew right past me by the car park steps affording excellent views at 0748 hours and within seconds, I contacted Chris Batty (of Rare Bird Alert) to inform him of my find. By 0749, this news was consequently broadcast to the nation's birders. I then contacted Dave Bilcock (who had by now reached Startopsend Reservoir bank) and other local observers (DB placed it on the Tring SMS text ring).

The bird then flew towards the jetty where it was almost immediately joined by 7 'new' juvenile BLACK TERNS, the eight birds then careering around the reservoir in one urgent mass. After a short while, the flock settled down and began a routine of feeding over the eastern quarter of the reservoir. DB was first to join me and within a few seconds, I put him on to it. Af Nasir, sat on the East Bank, also soon independently located it, shortly followed by SW and RH. Over the next half hour, it performed admirably from the jetty and adjacent bank, allowing the next 15 or so birders to connect (including IW, JT, SR, RDA, MW, MCo & CJ), before suddenly thermalling with the 7 Black Terns at 0832. It continued to gain height (always keeping slightly aloof and below the Black Tern flock) and continued disappearing to the west towards Aylesbury, until I eventually lost it from view (perhaps by now over Aston Clinton and well into Buckinghamshire) at 0835.

Whilst I and others were watching this bird disappear into the clouds, DB attempted to call me by phone at 0834. I thought he had left Wilstone but on his second attempt, his successful line informed me of ANOTHER White-winged Black Tern - a few hundred yards in front of me. Again, this bird had arrived alone, and was sortying in the eastern quarter. Apparently Roy, Mike Wallen and others had also got on to this second bird, and within seconds, the 9 or so observers still standing by me also quickly got onto it as I shouted out directions. This second bird was a much more contrasting individual and therefore a lot easier to locate; furthermore it was more advanced in covert moult and had a much more striking white rump. Like my initial bird, this individual also took to resting on the raft for a brief period, allowing IW, DB and MW to obtain photographs. Again, it was very active, and flew around alone until 0902 hours, when it too decided to leave, and once again departed high to the WNW (and well into Buckinghamshire - the 2nd record !!).


Critically, both individuals had bright red (rather than dark or very dull red) legs and feet, and contrasting dark chocolate-brown 'saddles'. The inner wing panel was clearly paler grey and both birds had unmarked pure white rumps (not concolorous grey with the upperparts as with juvenile Black Tern). Both birds were also gleaming white below, and lacking the dark breast patch that protrudes on juvenile Black Tern.

There appeared little difference in size between the Black and first WWBT and the bill was entirely black and perhaps slightly shorter.

The two White-winged Black Terns were only subtly different in plumage, the second individual being more contrasting between the silvery-grey upperwings and darker mantle, a cleaner and more obvious white rump and more obviously plain feathered on the tertials and rear scapulars.

PREVIOUS STATUS: 8 previous individuals, including two together in 1970 and two at Wilstone Reservoir in autumn 1994, of which LGRE has connected with four..

These records represent the eighth occurrence for Tring Reservoirs, following a winter-plumaged adult and first-winter on Wilstone Reservoir on 7 October 1929, a moulting adult on 31 July 1999 (RH, MC, B Pegrum) and further juveniles on 24-27 August 1994 (GJ White et al), 15 September 1994 (Bill Pegrum) and 31 August 2005 (RH, DB, SW, MC, LGRE, et al).

Elsewhere in Hertfordshire, two juveniles were identified at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 19-22 September 1970 (British Birds 64: 354).

Rather surprisingly (and considering the fact that Milton Keynes regularly attracts large numbers of passage Black Terns and has hosted several vagrant Whiskered Terns in the past), there are no previous records for Buckinghamshire.

SUNDAY 31 AUGUST - Storms force waders and terns down

Juvenile Eurasian Curlew, Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, Herts, 31st August 2008 (Dave Bilcock)
The first twitchable Curlews at the reservoir this year and consequently my first

(Despite dawning misty and dry, severe electric storms soon moved in from the east shortly after 0900 hours and continued on and off all day. Temperatures initially plummeted but then rose again as the day progressed, giving rise to more thunderstorms later in the evening. There was much torrential rain, with localised flooding, with the wind very light and SE in direction)

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (0900-1500; birding with DB, RDA, SR, JT and others)

HIGHLIGHTS: Again, another excellent day for BLACK TERN passage, with a good selection of waders (including two twitchable EURASIAN CURLEWS - incidentally my first of the year at the site) and an exceptional overnight influx of wildfowl, including three new RED-CRESTED POCHARDS).

Little Grebe - 2
Great Crested Grebe - 18
Grey Heron - 14
LITTLE EGRET - 2 birds still present, showing very well in front of the Drayton Bank Hide. The adult attempted to repeatedly disgorge a 'fish' pellet at midday, revealing its long, pink tongue.
WHOOPER SWANS - both adults still present
Canada Geese - 158
Greylag Geese - 12
Eurasian Wigeon - 2 present - the long-staying eclipse drake and yesterday's female
Common Teal - huge overnight increase to 107 birds
Gadwall - 19
Shoveler - 66
GARGANEY still present but elusive
Tufted Duck - 137
*NORTHERN POCHARD - substantial increase to 39 birds
**RED-CRESTED POCHARD - 6 present including THREE new arrivals - two drakes and a juvenile (LGRE, DB, et al). The new birds joined the eclipse drake and two juveniles. Late August/September has long been renown as an arrival date of this species, with Chew Valley Lake in Avon annually attracting a post-breeding influx at this time (fully documented by Keith Vinicombe). There is every chance that these are natural immigrants.
Coot - 702 again on Wilstone (click-counted)

Lapwing - 199
RINGED PLOVERS - single arrived at midday, followed by two more through west at 1225 (LGRE, SR); further adult arrived 1850 (SR, Sue Rowe, Mick Ilett)
**TURNSTONE - one flew west with 2 Ringed Plovers at 1225 (LGRE)
**BLACK-TAILED GODWITS - all 23 juveniles still present but highly mobile
**EURASIAN CURLEW - two present, roosting and bathing on one of the small muddy islands, from 0915-1006 hours (DB, IW, LGRE, et al). One bird was particularly fresh-plumaged, suggesting a juvenile. Both birds flew off high to the west into Buckinghamshire at 1006; photographed.
COMMON GREENSHANK - all 5 juveniles still present
Common Gulls - 2 juveniles at 1920 (SR et al)
COMMON TERNS - 7 present until 1006, when they flew off high west
**BLACK TERNS - a flock of 25 adults arrived at 0823 hours and remained all day, increasing to 28 late afternoon (including a single juvenile). All 28 then flew off west at 1900 hours (DB, SR, LGRE, JT, SR, MI et al)

Common Pheasant - 7 in ploughed field near Cemetery Corner
HOBBY - 2+ including the juvenile
House Martins - 25+
NORTHERN WHEATEAR - juvenile still present for its 4th day in harvested hayfield between the old cressbeds and Dry Canal (SR, FB, et al)
*YELLOW WAGTAILS - 3 (adult & 2 juveniles) in ploughed field in East Corner (2nd day)
Common Chiffchaff - 1 by hide


Juvenile Common Tern present


The long-staying female RED-CRESTED POCHARD was still present with the Mallards - the 7th individual to be recorded today.


I click-counted the geese population yielding a staggering 383 Canada Geese and 43 Greylag Geese.
4 Mute Swans, 1 drake Pochard and adult HOBBY


Little Grebes - 17 present including 9 juveniles
MANDARIN - just 2
COMMON SANDPIPER still present (3rd day)
Lesser Black-backed Gulls - 20+

Impressive Black Tern Passage reaps rewards

Wow - what a day
Dave Bilcock captures today's highlights, with the top image showing part of the Black-tailed Godwit flock (the largest this year so far), the first-winter Mediterranean Gull asleep on the bund late morning and the two juvenile White-winged Black Terns - the initial juvenile and then the second

(strengthening SE wind throughout the day, grey and overcast early on giving way to very warm sunshine and clear skies, with temperatures reaching 77 degrees fahrenheit)

HIGHLIGHTS - tremendous tern passage early morning, with two different WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERNS arriving, as well as 41 BLACK TERNS and an adult SANDWICH TERN; also continuing wader passage, with the arrival of 23 juvenile BLACK-TAILED GODWITS.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (0700-1200 hours)
(birding with DB, SW, RH, AN, JT, IW, SR, CJ, RDA, MW, EG et al)

Cormorants - 33 roosting, including 16 together 'fishing'
LITTLE EGRET - adult still present and joined by a second bird that flew in at 1845
Mute Swans - 75
WHOOPER SWANS - the pair remain, but flew off east when flushed by a balloon at 1830
Eurasian Wigeon - new female arrived in evening (JT, LGRE)
Common Teal - 51
Shoveler - 67
Gadwall - 19
Northern Pochard - 17
*GARGANEY - present all day
*RED-CRESTED POCHARD - 3 birds still present

Lapwing - 274 on bund
RINGED PLOVER - 3 (2 adults and a juvenile) (flew off south at 1100 hours)
Common Redshank - 1 flew west (IW, LGRE)
COMMON GREENSHANK - increase to 5 juveniles
**BLACK-TAILED GODWITS - a flock of 23 juveniles flew in at 0905 and landed on the mud in the south corner (SW, LGRE, et al).

**MEDITERRANEAN GULL - first-winter roosting on bund with Black-headed Gulls from 0940 and showing very well. It then flew to right of hide and fed for a while before flying off south at 1056 (DB, LGRE, et al).
*YELLOW-LEGGED GULL - 1 juvenile present briefly (RDA, SR, LGRE)
*SANDWICH TERN - 1 adult arrived with a Black Tern at 0645 hours and stayed for a few minutes before departing (DB).
**BLACK TERNS - initial 6 birds flew in shortly after 0600 hours, followed by a single at 0645. All departed to the west. These were then replaced by a further 27 birds from 0700-0735 hours and a further 7 from 0748-0803 (DB, AN, LGRE, et al). Again, all departed to the west.
***WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN - a juvenile arrived from the west over Stuart Wilson's house and the Drayton Bank Hide at 0748 hours (LGRE et al) and remained until 0835, when it flew off high WNW into Buckinghamshire airspace. At 0834, a second juvenile flew in (again alone) and remained until 0902, when it too flew off high west into Buckinghamshire (DB, RH, MW, LGRE, et al) (see separate entry). Both individuals were photographed. FIRST BUCKINGHAMSHIRE RECORDS
Common Terns - 3 noted including an odd-plumaged juvenile late morning.

RED KITE - 1 drifted over at 1223 hours
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - 3
HOBBY - 4 birds still present including the locally fledged juvenile
Barn Swallows - 15+
House Martins - 36+
YELLOW WAGTAIL - 1 flew NE at 1840 hours

COAL TIT - 1 present and singing from tall Poplars by Wilstone Little Farm.

(with Charlie Jackson)

An adult HOBBY was showing well, hunting over the cornfield just below the Beacon main car park, with 4 WHINCHATS still present on the fence line, along with the juvenile male COMMON STONECHAT.


Very quiet in the heat of the afternoon - just 4 CORN BUNTINGS noted.

28-29 AUGUST

The images above (all taken by Dave Bilcock) show the continuing chats present just below the Beacon car park at Ivinghoe Hills NR.
From top to bottom - Northern Wheatear and Whinchat together on wires; the juvenile male Common Stonechat; male Northern Wheatear and Whinchats
Today's (Thursday 28 August) highlight was 7 RINGED PLOVERS and the continuing juvenile DUNLIN present on Wilstone Reservoir early morning (Dave Bilcock). Otherwise, 28-29 August has been fairly static with GARGANEY remaining the highlight.
Two adult SANDWICH TERNS flew in to Wilstone Reservoir at 0630 hours on Friday 29 August and remained for 15 minutes before flying off west with a Common Tern towards Broughton. Five minutes later they returned but after a further five minutes, they again flew off at 0655 (RH, DB & SW only).

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

DUNLIN fresh in but otherwise more 'chats'

Wednesday 27 August
(Another warm day, with fresh SSW winds, overcast skies and dry conditions)

Undoubted highlight was a juvenile DUNLIN that joined the 2 adult Ringed Plovers on the island all day, as well as a healthy count of juvenile CORN BUNTINGS and more passage WHINCHATS.

(1430 intermittently to 1800 hours; with SR, FB, SW & DB in part)

Grey Herons - 13 feeding in the shallows
Mute Swan - 78 present
WHOOPER SWANS - adult pair still
Canada Geese - 94 early evening
Common Teal - 27
Shoveler - 64
Red-legged Partridge - pair still present in field behind new overflow
*Coot - 610 click-counted today indicating sharp decrease in numbers
RINGED PLOVER - 2 adults remain on islands
*DUNLIN - juvenile present all day, feeding on small muddy islet (DB, SW, MW, SR, FB, LGRE, et al)
COMMON GREENSHANK - 3 juveniles remain present
COMMON SANDPIPER - 2 juveniles still
HERRING GULL - 1 juvenile on spit

Common Buzzard
HOBBY - juvenile still present
House Martins - 63 still
Barn Swallows - 15+
NORTHERN WHEATEAR - juvenile present in 'Meadow Fields' (SR, FB)


Steve Rodwell recorded the continuing juvenile male COMMON STONECHAT and 3 WHINCHATS earlier in the day but I saw none of these this evening - the field had been completely harvested.

PITSTONE HILL (all birds congregating in stubble by fence at cSP 953 146)

**CORN BUNTINGS - 16 present in flock including 7 very freshly plumaged juveniles (resembling Bobolinks or Yellow-breasted Buntings!!)

Meadow Pipit - 14
Common Skylark - 25
*WHINCHAT - 2 along fence (SR, LGRE)

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Satellite-tracked OSPREY

Osprey 'Beatrice', trapped and satellite-tagged in Morayshire (Roy Dennis)
Beatrice's Details: Is a neighbour of Logie (another satellite-tracked Osprey); she is the breeding female at nest B16 near Forres in Moray and is colour ringed green 5B. This year, she was first seen at Logie's nest on 1st April 2008, with a young male osprey 'red 7J', but quickly moved back to her own nest, when her mate returned from Africa.

Green 5B was ringed as a chick in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire on 8th July 2000 by Ian Francis and Stuart Rae. She was one of three chicks. She arrived at nest B16 in 2003 but by the time a new mate settled in, it was too late to breed. She reared one chick in 2004, and two chicks each year 2005-2007, and has another two young this year. Her mate has been the same bird - which I ringed 'ochre TK' on Forestry Commission land near Elgin in 1998.

We caught the female osprey in the evening 9th July using a decoy and a dho gaza net. She was in very good condition weighing 1862 grams: her wing length was 546mm and tail 235mm. Her ring number was BTO 127049. We fitted a GPS satellite transmitter and then released her; she flew straight to her favourite perch, a tall larch tree next to her nest.
On 18 August 2008, whilst on return migration to Africa, 'Beatrice' flew SE at 48 km/hr over the Chiltern escarpment between Dagnall and Ivinghoe Beacon at 1100 hours.
See for the entire return migration of this adult female Osprey

Recent Images from Wilstone - Dave Bilcock

Top - the latest view of Wilstone Reservoir revealing just how much mud is now showing
Bottom 4
This adult tern was present with 6 adult Common Terns on one of the islands on Monday 25th. It was extremely unusually plumaged but was in active wing moult. It was very whitish-grey on the mantle like Roseate Tern, and had moulted to white its forehead feathers. The bill had a reddish base, some black and a yellow tip. It was presumably a Common Tern.

Ivinghoe Hills Nature Reserve 24-26 August

Juvenile Northern Wheatear, Ivinghoe Hills NR, 25 August
Juvenile Whinchat, Ivinghoe Hills NR, 25 August
Adult male Common Redstart, Ivinghoe Hills NR, 25 August

All above images taken by Dave Bilcock


Two very vocal COMMON RAVENS flew over the car park then along the ridge towards Aldbury Nowers at 1625 hours (LGRE)


A small fall involving 4 juvenile WHINCHATS, 3 NORTHERN WHEATEARS and a juvenile male COMMON STONECHAT on the fenceline and unharvested cornfield just below the main Beacon car park (DB, SW, LGRE, FB, JT & SR).

Also 5 Linnets, several Meadow Pipits and 2 MARSH TITS in vicinity


At least 3 juvenile WHINCHATS, the juvenile male COMMON STONECHAT, 3 juvenile NORTHERN WHEATEARS and 2 COMMON REDSTARTS all remain at Ivinghoe Hills NR today, as well as a charm of at least 43 Goldfinches (SR/LGRE)


Adult Little Egret, Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, 26th August 2008 (Francis Buckle)

Two juvenile Common Greenshanks, Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, 26th August 2008 (Francis Buckle)

Tuesday 26 August
(Fresh SW winds, fairly warm and cloudy)

HIGHLIGHTS - juvenile ARCTIC TERN briefly prior to 0700 hours (DB), continuing GARGANEY and COMMON GREENSHANKS and large increase in Northern Shoveler numbers. Two RINGED PLOVERS new in and successful breeding by GREAT CRESTED GREBE on Marsworth

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1500-1600; with Steve Rodwell)

Mute Swans - 78 present
WHOOPER SWAN - 2 adults remain present
Greylag Goose - 1
LITTLE EGRET - adult still present
Common Teal - 45
*GARGANEY still present, now right of hide amongst Teal
NORTHERN SHOVELER - large increase to 63 birds
Northern Pochard - 17 still
Lapwing - 196 on bund
RINGED PLOVERS - 2 adults on 'new islands' (MC, SW, SR, LGRE)
COMMON GREENSHANK - 4 juveniles still present
COMMON SANDPIPER - 2 juveniles remain

Common Buzzards - 3
HOBBY - 3+
House Martins - 56+


Mute Swans - pair present with two dark cygnets
Barn Swallows - 25
Pied Wagtails - 13
*YELLOW WAGTAILS - 3 juveniles present on East Bank and showing well


The female Red-crested Pochard still present with Mallards
*GREAT CRESTED GREBE - 4 present including an adult carrying one very small, stripy young bird on its back - late fledging.

19-25 AUGUST

All records relate to Wilstone Reservoir unless otherwise stated

Great Crested Grebe - 17 on Wilstone throughout
Little Grebe - up to 10 on Wilstone, mainly juveniles
Sinensis Cormorant - up to 41 roosting
Grey Heron - up to 12
*LITTLE EGRET - single adult present from 19-26, favouring muddy bay to right of Daryton Bank Hide
Mute Swan - 73 on 22nd with an overnight increase to 80 on 23rd; 78 on 24th, with 75 on 25th
Whooper Swans - the adult pair which oversummered at Dunstable Sewage Farm arrived overnight on 23rd and remained until at least 26th (SR, LGRE, et al).
Greylag Goose - 1 remains on Wilstone
Canada Goose - 257 in College Lake on 25th (Ben Miller)
Barnacle Goose - bird of unknown origin present on 19th
Gadwall - 29 present throughout
Northern Shoveler - gradual increase from 21 on 18th to 33 on 25th
Eurasian Wigeon - eclipse drake remained until 20th
Common Teal - increasing daily, from 33 on 18th to 45 on 25th
*GARGANEY - present throughout
Northern Pochard - 17 present throughout
*RED-CRESTED POCHARD - eclipse drake and 1 juvenile remained until 22nd
Tufted Duck - 108
RUDDY DUCK - present throughout with 2 adult drakes, an adult female and 2 juveniles present on 25th
OSPREY - details forthcoming on my website
Red Kite - up to 8 birds present daily, including at least 3 juveniles
Common Buzzard - again, up to 8 birds seen daily
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - family party of 5 birds survives
Common Kestrel - 2-5 seen daily
HOBBY - 4 present on Wilstone (including 1 juvenile) with a further 4 in College Lake (2 juveniles) (LGRE, Ben Miller, et al)
Red-legged Partridge - pair noted on 24th (LGRE, SR, WC)
Common Pheasant - present
Water Rail - 1 adult present throughout (Ian Williams)
Moorhen and Coot - present; no counts undertaken
RINGED PLOVER - 1 flew over on 24th (LGRE, SR, WC)
Lapwing - 311 on bund
Common Sandpiper - 2 juveniles present throughout
COMMON GREENSHANK - 2 juveniles present from at least 18th were joined by a third juvenile on 21st and a fourth (the Pitstone Quarry juvenile) from 24th-26th (LGRE et al)
*ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWIT - 4 juveniles were present from late afternoon until 2005 hours on 19th (AN, DB) - see photographs
*EURASIAN CURLEW - 2 visited Wilstone briefly (0630 hours) on 22md (RH, DB)
Black-headed Gull - up to 400 in area
**WHIMBREL - 1 flew over on Wilstone on 24th (SR)
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL - at least 5 birds present in area throughout, including two adults and three juveniles (LGRE, DB, et al)
Lesser Black-backed Gull - up to 90 birds present, with a mixture of both internedius and graellsii
Common Tern - up to 10, with 7 adults present on 25th (including an abnormally plumaged individual - see notes)
*ARCTIC TERN - 1 juvenile during heavy rain on Startopsend Reservoir at 0740 hours on 24th (Mike Wallen)
Stock Dove - resident pair seen daily
Woodpigeon - 360+ ny Dry Canal
Collared Dove - present
Little Owl - 1 adult roosting in tree behind car park
COMMON SWIFT - recorded daily, but with just singles on 23rd, 24th & 25th
Common Kingfisher - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Sand Martin - very small numbers noted
Barn Swallow - noted passage, with 60+ through on most days
House Martin - large numbers present daily, with 86 on 25th
Pied Wagtail - 11 present on Wilstone including 1 juvenile still being fed
YELLOW WAGTAIL - 5 on 21st (WC), with singles on 22nd and 24th. Five flew east on 25th (LGRE)
Grey Wagtail - 5 including 2 juveniles
Wren, Dunnock & Robin - present
*WHINCHAT - juvenile present in hedge by new outflow briefly on 25th (Stuart Wilson)
Mistle Thrush & Common Blackbird - present
Blackcap - at least 8 still remaining
Lesser Whitethroat - 2 still remaining (to 25th)
Common Whitethroat - 1 trapped on 25th
Sedge Warbler - 15+ in reedbed
*CETTI'S WARBLER - adult female and juvenile trapped in reedbed on 25th (MC, WC)
European Reed Warbler - 30+ in reedbed
Willow Warbler - 1 trapped on 25th
Common Chiffchaff - 20+ remaining
Goldcrest - 14+
Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit; Common Treecreeper, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow & Rook
Common Starling - peak of 51 birds
House Sparrow - 43 by Marsworth 'Angler's Retreat' garden
Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch & Greenfinch
**COMMON CROSSBILL - 4 over on 25th (WC, MC)
Reed Bunting - 3-5 present

Monday, 18 August 2008


Up until 18th August, a total of 24 species of wader have been recorded in the Tring Reservoirs Area in 2008 - see below

  1. Oystercatcher
  2. Little Ringed Plover
  3. Ringed Plover
  5. European Golden Plover
  6. Lapwing
  10. Dunlin
  12. Green Sandpiper
  13. Common Sandpiper
  14. Common Redshank
  16. Common Greenshank
  19. Eurasian Curlew
  21. Woodcock
  22. Common Snipe
  24. RUFF


Today's Images (top to bottom)

Juvenile Common Greenshank, with Saturday's adult in full breeding attire roosting on the bund (Dave Bilcock)

Roosting gulls in Pitstone Quarry, with one of our juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls (Dave Bilcock)

(with Dave Bilcock)

Following the excitement of the weekend, today's strong SW winds and frequent rain showers put paid to any new arrivals, and even with the wind in the SE further east and north, none of today's Black Terns made it to Wilstone. The main highlights were COMMON GREENSHANKS and the continuing GARGANEY, with a big increase in Common Teal and large white-headed gulls..

Gadwalls - 25+
Eurasian Wigeon - drake still present
Common Teal - major increase, with 29 feeding in the shallows this evening
GARGANEY - showing very well on mud to right of hide
Northern Shovelers - increase to 21 birds
Tufted Duck - 31 by car park
RED-CRESTED POCHARDS - all three birds still present
GREEN SANDPIPER - 1 adult still
COMMON GREENSHANKS - the two juveniles present for a second day, showing very well right in front of the hide.
Common Tern - just 4 birds remaining, including two juveniles

HOBBY - 3 birds still present including the juvenile
COMMON SWIFTS - 44+ this evening, feeding low over the reservoir
Sand Martins - 20+
House Martins - 57+
WILLOW WARBLER - 2 juveniles present in the hedgerow adejacent to the new overflow


The juvenile COMMON GREENSHANK was still present

A large flock of gulls was commuting between the quarry (to wash and bathe) and the ploughed field at Harvington Park (at SP 937 143) and the grass field west of Northfield Road and immediately south of Park Hall Farm at SP 947 133. The flock comprised of 173 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (19 + 67 + 87), 5 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS (the adult and 4 juveniles) and 346 Black-headed Gulls.


Walking back from the Drayton Bank Hide at 1440 hours on Saturday 16 August 2008, Dave Bilcock looked up to see two large, long-necked and long-legged birds drifting slowly low over Wilstone Reservoir. Dave quickly alerted Warren Claydon and together both observers watched in bewilderment as 2 WHITE STORKS circled low over the centre of the reservoir. As they were gliding in the sky and drifting very slowly eastwards, Dave immediately contacted a number of Tring regulars and the twitch to see them then began.
I had returned home to grab a few hours sleep when Dave rang, so I was up with a bang and back in the car within a minute. DB very kindly provided me with a running commentary of the bird's whereabouts as I drove as fast as I was able to the A41.
By 1503, the two birds were drifting east over Wilstone village and had disappeared from view for both Warren and Dave. Fortunately, Roy Hargreaves and Mike Campbell then took over, as they had intercepted both birds from positions on Startopsend Reservoir bank, close to the Angler's Retreat. The two birds circled over their heads and then continued east over Marsworth village before veering more to the south and over the horse paddocks. They then continued on a straight line, presumably following the Grand Union Canal, and continued south over Bulbourne at 1520. Two minutes later, Ben Miller intercepted them from Northfield Road, and watched them drop low down into fields north of Tring Station. Fortunately, I was on the phone to Ben whilst he was watching them, and within five minutes I was with him and Rob Andrews.
At 1524 hours, I saw them rise from the field and they flapped a short way further south and disappeared behind a ridge. I discovered a footpath leading down to the area opposite Aldbury Nowers and beckoned over RDA and BAM to join me. Mike Campbell arrived minutes later. The two birds had landed in a large cornfield being harvested and were showing extremely well (at SP 946 125). We sat quietly just below the ridge and 'scoped them. I contacted RBA Pagers and kept them regularly informed of events. ALL local birders were contacted.
Both birds remained wary of the combine as it continued its harvesting around them. One bird briefly searched for rodents (unsuccessfully) whilst the other rested. They were both unringed and in immaculate condition. Dave Bilcock obtained an excellent selection of images (see above).
Both birds were virtually identical, with very light pink leg colouration and a slightly deeper pink bill colour. One bird had quite an extensive blackish tip to the bill, with the other less so, whilst the greater and median coverts were white and fresh. The upperpart feathers all had a slight brown cast to the white, with just a slight white edge to the black flight feathers. In flight, the primaries were entirely complete, unbroken and fresh. These features all confirmed ageing as two JUVENILES, presumably both from the same continental nest.
At 1618 hours, the two birds were disturbed by the combine and took flight. However, the 54 minutes they were on the ground allowed the following 16 observers to connect - LGRE, BAM, RDA, MCa, JT, Cliff Tack, IW & son, DB and two daughters, Francis Buckle, Ian Bennell, Michael Frosdick, Bob Chalkley and Mike Wallen. They gained height rapidly, and after circling high above Tring Station very slowly thermalled SSE towards Northchurch Common. They remained in view for at least 25 minutes, allowing both Ben and Mike Ilett to observe them from the old A41 at Cow Roast. I last saw them at 1643 hours, as they disappeared into the clouds and moved as if heading towards the M25.
Previous Records in Hertfordshire
For many, this was their first White Stork in Hertfordshire, but for all bar me, this was their first in the Tring area.
Prior to 1978, all records of White Stork in Hertfordshire were considered to be escapes (this is most likely an incorrect assumption on the behalf of previous authors).
Gladwin & Sage 1986 stated ''One shot in Hatfield, about the end of July 1883, was undoubtedly an escaped bird. Later, three were shot near Hertford in July 1891. More recently, in 1960, an adult was in the Broxbourne, Cheshunt and Wormley areas between 6-26 December, and again on 15 January 1961 (British Birds 54: 180). Again, this was treateda s an escape, because of its December arrival date''
One flew SSW over Marden Hill in the Mimram River Valley on 9 July 1978 (Trans. Herts. Nat. Hist. Soc. 28: 38, 1980). It had earlier been seen over Ware on 22 June.
One was seen by P. Tate gliding over Loudwater Rickmansworth in the direction of Croxley Green at 0855 hours on 5 June 1986.
A first-summer present at Dundridge Manor, near Buckland Common, near Cholesbury (Bucks) from 28th-30th May 1996 drifted high over Wigginton and Tring towards Ivinghoe Beacon mid-morning on 30 May (LGRE)
An adult was in a marshy area just outside Kimpton on 12 May 2002 (Claire Gooden).
An adult which flew low over Bengeo, Hertford, on 27 July 2003 (Clive Fleming) was also seen over Hoddesdon earlier the same day.
An adult that roosted overnight on a telegraph pole in Jack's Lane, Harefield (Meddlesex) (Simon Buckingham, LGRE, AVM et al) flew low into Hertfordshire towards Troy Mill at 0618 hours on 18 September 2003 (AVMoon).
In 2004, an adult of suspect origin was watched distantly beyond Ware from Amwell GP on 9 April (Toby Austin) before being seen at King's Mead for about 20 minutes the following day (Alan Reynolds). There were a number of reports of the same bird in the same area for the next month, with the last report over Hertford on 15 May (Nicky Parish).
In 2005, one was seen in Hertford on 21-22 April (P.Ligett).


(Fresh SW winds)

Wilstone Reservoir

Highlights - another day of wader activity, with 37 BAR-TAILED GODWITS and 4 WOOD SANDPIPERS noted. A MARSH HARRIER appeared in the evening.

Great Crested Grebes - 16 still present, including 1 juvenile
Little Grebe - 5 juveniles
Grey Heron - 8
Sinensis Cormorants - 41 roosting
Mute Swan - 72 present
MANDARIN DUCK - adult female still present but now in distress; seems to have botulism and has taken to hiding in the vegetation in front of the hide. Occasionally wanders out to the bund, where it drinks at the edge.
EURASIAN WIGEON - single drake still present
Common Teal - increased to 12
*GARGANEY - still showing very well to right of hide.
Gadwall - 17+
Northern Shoveler - 13
Northern Pochard - 7 still
RED-CRESTED POCHARD - all three birds still present
RUDDY DUCK - 2 adult drakes, 2 females

Lapwing - 250+
RINGED PLOVER - 2 flew over early morning (RH)
Common Sandpiper - 1
GREEN SANDPIPER - adult still present
**WOOD SANDPIPERS - a party of 4 juveniles landed on the bund at 1720 but were flushed by a Hobby at 1742. Three then flew off high SW whilst the other returned to the bund. Three minutes later, the sole remaining bird did the same, and flew off strongly SW at 1745 (SW, WC, DB, MC, Tom Hines, et al).
COMMON GREENSHANK - 2 new juveniles, present all day, and showing very well in the evening on the mud just right of the hide.
**BAR-TAILED GODWITS - 37 flew west across the reservoir at 0705 hours (AN, DR, SW, MC)

YELLOW-LEGGED GULL - juvenile flew west at 1313 (LGRE)
Common Terns - 6 remaining including 2 juveniles

**MARSH HARRIER - a juvenile appeared from the north at 1835 hours (LGRE) and flew fairly low across the reservoir before gaining height and slowly flying SSE towards Tring at 1841 (SW, MC, WC).
HOBBY - 3 still present, including juvenile
PEREGRINE - immature male again during afternoon

LITTLE OWL - roosting in tree behind car park
Common Kingfisher
Grey Wagtail - 2
COMMON SWIFT - 9 present in evening
Sand Martins - 60+ including 26 south in evening
House Martins - 70+
LESSER WHITEHROAT - 1 in hedgerow
SPOTTED FLYCATCHER - single showing well in hedgerow due north of new overflow 'bridge'

Ivinghoe Hills NR

The male COMMON REDSTART remains in Incombe Hole, along with 3 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS. (Dave Bilcock)


Juvenile Wood Sandpiper, Wilstone Reservoir, 16 August 2008 (Dave Bilcock) The 166th species noted in the RECORDING AREA this year

(Fresh SE wind for most of the day, eventually veering SW in evening; warm and dry; mostly cloudy)

After finally getting to sleep at 4am (I had been working on a White Wagtail identification paper into the early hours), I was awoken at about 0645 by David Bilcock, informing me of a WOOD SANDPIPER in front of the hide at Wilstone. I pulled myself together as best I could, and made my way immediately there.......

Wilstone Reservoir, Tring

I arrived at Wilstone Reservoir at 0745 hours, and with JT's help, was guided to the WOOD SANDPIPER feeding at the side of the bund. It was a very fresh juvenile and by the time I got to the hide, was showing exceptionally well. After feeding for a lengthy period, it wandered towards the top of the bund and started roosting with the Lapwings. With so many raptors around at present (Peregrine, up to 4 Hobbies), the bund flock were restless and on a couple of occasions, the Wood Sandpiper was disturbed and flew up high, noisily circling the reservoir. On two occasions it did this, it returned to exactly the same place but on the third, at 0905, I watched it fly to a tiny dot very high SW.

Twenty minutes later, however, I saw it returning to the central causeway, and for the rest of the day, it roosted or occasionally fed in the vicinity of the single shooting butt, directly opposite the main car park.

It was the first Wood Sandpiper to be recorded at the reservoirs since 2001 and during the day, was eventually seen by upwards of 45 observers. Wood Sandpiper is a rare passage visitor, with the highest number recorded being 9 on 22nd August 1943.

The following are all of the Wood Sandpipers recorded since 1985, 17 in total -:

Tring Sewage Farm on 21 August 1986; Tring Sewage Farm from 16 August to 12 September 1987; 2 at Tring Reservoirs on 9 May 1988; adult at Wilstone Reservoir from 3-20 August 1988; Wilstone Reservoir on 12 August 1990; Pitstone Quarry on 14 May 1993; Pitstone Quarry on 2 May 1994; Wilstone Reservoir on 9-11 August 1995; Pitstone Quarry on 31 August to 2 September (with 2 present on 2nd); Wilstone Reservoir on 5 September 1996; Wilstone Reservoir on 11 August 1997; singles at Wilstone Reservoir on 1 and 5 September 1999 and 2 on Wilstone Reservoir on 19-20 August 2001.

Further highlights included a party of 3 juvenile LITTLE EGRETS, which flew in from the west as I walked along the bank at 0748. The three birds remained until 0810 before flying off east (and eventually pitching down again near Cheddington Airfield - per SW/DB) (see Ian's images).

Systematic List (0746-1130 hours)
(birding with RH, SR, JT, IW, AN)

LITTLE EGRET - 3 juveniles were present from 0748-0810 hours only (seen previously by Mike Wallen at Broughton Trout Pools, the previous day)
EURASIAN WIGEON - eclipse drake still present
*GARGANEY - juvenile still present, to the right of the hide.
Northern Shoveler - 7+
RUDDY DUCK - adult drake roosting on bund
Lapwings - 269 on the bund
COMMON SNIPE - adult present briefly on the bund
GREEN SANDPIPER - adult still present on the bund
**WOOD SANDPIPER - juvenile present all day (SW, RH, DB et al)
Common Terns - 7 still present

Eurasian Sparrowhawks - 3 present, including a recently fledged juvenile (from the Poplar nest) roosting on one of the butts.
PEREGRINE - the immature male was sat on a post early morning (RH/SW)
HOBBY - 3 still present (including juvenile begging for food)
House Martins - 72

Grey Wagtail - 1 juvenile

CHINESE WATER DEER - adult and juvenile still present, running along the mud to the right of the hide (see Ian's images)

Pitstone Quarry

The juvenile COMMON GREENSHANK was still present, along with the 2 Great Crested Grebes. DB also saw 3 YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS mid-afternoon.

At 1444 hours, I received a call from Dave Bilcock - he and Warren had just found 2 WHITE STORKS circling low over the centre of the reservoir. The two birds then very slowly drifted east before veering more NE over Pitstone village (1445-1459). They then continued over Startopsend Reservoir and Marsworth village before drifting south over the horse paddocks and following the Grand Union Canal (1500-1520). At 1522, both birds flew low over Northfield Road and disappeared behind the railway and canal, where they both settled by a conbine harvesting a large cornfield at SP 946 125. The two birds, both juveniles and presumably from the same nest, then remained in the field, affording excellent views for up to 20 observers, until 1618 hours. They then took flight, and remained in view, as they very slowly flew along the Bulbourne river valley into a strong Southeasterly wind and circled constantly until over Northchurch Common and the old A41 until 1643. They then started flapping strongly and disappeared in the direction of the M25, about 200 metres up.
(See WHITE STORKS separate entry)

Wilstone Reservoir (evening visit, with DB, IW, FB)

The drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD was again present
A superb COMMON GREENSHANK in full breeding plumage was showing well on the bund
COMMON SWIFTS - a flock of 55 flew directly south over the reservoir at 1750

Friday, 15 August 2008

PITSTONE QUARRY - access instructions

Pitstone Quarry straddles the Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire county boundary and is situated at SP 944 143. It is an excellent place for migrant waders and roosting gulls and can be adequately 'scoped from the west bank.

At the Pitstone roundabout on the B489, take the road towards Aldbury and after 100 yards, park in the layby on the right at SP 942 141. Carefully cross the road and enter the wood opposite and follow the public footpath right for 75 yards. A track then leads off to the left and comes out through tall nettles to the top of the chalk quarry bank from where the entire quarry can be 'scoped. The gulls and waders tend to congregate on the edge of the islands.

Harriers march on through but with few takers - FRIDAY 15 AUGUST SIGHTINGS

All 6 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits in flight (Jill Pakenham)
Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits feeding, with the lower picture showing the moulting adult (all 3 by Dave Bilcock)
Yellow-legged Gulls: images depicting two different juveniles and the adult present in Pitstone Quarry today (all taken by Dave Bilcock)
The lower image is a view of Pitstone Hill (Dave Bilcock). This is where the ringtail Montagu's Harrier was lasts een this morning.


As yesterday evening's electric storms moved away to the east, the Chiltern district became calm with a full moon. Consequently, this morning dawned clear and dry, with blue skies prevailing and a light SW breeze. With the sun out, temperatures soon climbed, peaking at 72 degrees F mid afternoon. With such good weather, it was hardly surprising that migrating raptors would take to the air, with both MONTAGU'S and MARSH HARRIER recorded during the day. Unfortunately when DB first discovered the ringtail Montagu's, I was unable to respond, and within ten minutes it had disappeared. Subsequently, when SR found the juvenile Marsh Harrier this evening, I was four miles away, and again dipped out.
First for the Recording Area this year - species 165
The bird, a ringtail, most likely an adult female, was initially seen at 0730 hours sat on a post, a quarter of the way along the fence line between the bottom of Incombe Hole and Pitstone Hill car park. Unfortunately, no sooner had Dave 'scoped it, it took flight and then slowly quartered the large corn field by Down Farm and the fields below Pitstone Hill. It last disappeared behind a ridge in the field to the SW of Pitstone Hill, where it may have landed. It was not seen again all day, with Dave and Steve looking intermittently through the day and LGRE and others this evening.

(1450-1900 hours; with Joan Thompson; later with SR, MW, IW, AN)

*ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS: the 6 birds that flew in to Wilstone Reservoir at 0730 hours (Steve Rodwell et al) remained all day, commuting between the large expanse of mud to the left of the Drayton Bank Hide and the mud fringe in front of the reedbed on the right hand side. They appeared to be a family party, with a moulting adult (largely in winter plumage) and 5 identically plumaged juveniles. The flock were rather flighty but showed extremely well at times, allowing a number of observers to photograph them (see above) (LGRE, DB, MW, JT,JP, AN, et al).
With these six today, the total of Black-tailed Godwits now recorded on Wilstone this autumn is 13.

Sinensis Cormorants - 27 roosting (4 pairs bred this year fledging 9 young)
Mute Swans - 67
MANDARIN DUCK - female still present, roosting on bund
EURASIAN WIGEON - drake still present
Common Teal - 7
Gadwall - 20+
*GARGANEY - juvenile still present to right of hide
Northern Shoveler - 8
*RED-CRESTED POCHARD - just two birds present today - the eclipse drake and a single juvenile
Northern Pochard - 7

*MARSH HARRIER - a juvenile drifted high south over the reservoirs 1722-1732 (Steve Rodwell; Clive & Alison Woodward & Roy Hargreaves) and was last seen as a 'dot' heading south over Tring.

Whilst looking for the Marsh Harrier shortly later, I noted at least 7 Common Buzzards, 2 RED KITES and 3 HOBBIES.

Ringed Plover - SR & FB had one fly around calling briefly at 1630
GREEN SANDPIPER - 1 adult still present
*DUNLIN - 2 juveniles flew around the reservoir very briefly at 1845 hours before heading off west (SR, LGRE, JT, AN & IW)

*Common Terns - 5 still present. However, just prior to 1900, a total of 14 birds was present, 12 together flying noisily high over the reservoir.

Common Kingfisher
House Martins - 56

(with DB & JT)

An adult and 2 juvenile YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS were present (together) on the chalk island, all showing well (DB & SR had additionally seen the third juvenile and a first-summer earlier); also 33+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls

The family group of 7 MANDARIN DUCKS was still surviving, as well as the 2 Great Crested Grebes


A COMMON RAVEN flew over Aldbury Nowers at 1800
Barn Swallows - 30 in Aldbury village

Along with Ben Miller, Francis Buckle and JT, spent some time late afternoon searching the fields west of Ivinghoe Hills NR and north & south of Pitstone Hill for the ringtail Montagu's Harrier but with no joy.