Thursday, 4 September 2008
WEDNESDAY 3 SEPTEMBER - GREY PHALS STEAL THE SHOW - THE FIRST IN BUCKS FOR 21 YEARS!
Adult and juvenile Grey Phalarope together, Weston Turville Reservoir, 3 September 2008 (Mike Collard)
Juvenile only (Mike Wallen)
Adult only (Ian Williams)
WEDNESDAY 3 SEPTEMBER 2008
Near gale force WSW winds 'battered' much of Southern Britain during the day, with periods of heavy rain and much cooler temperatures of late.
WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR
At 1640 hours, local ornithologist HENRY MAYER-GROSS was surveying his local patch (Weston Turville Reservoir) when he came across TWO GREY PHALAROPES sitting on the water, both displaced by the severe weather that had swept in from the Atlantic during the day. In fact, these two birds were part of a nationwide displacement of the species, involving at least 40 birds, including several others inland. Both birds were very mobile and as Henry only had his binoculars with him and had no mobile phone, he rushed off for home to get his 'scope and to phone out the news of his find.
Just over 20 minutes later, both Howard Ginn and LGRE had been informed, as well as Rare Bird Alert. LGRE then subsequently contacted Dave Bilcock (who activated the local SMS) as well as several other birders within easy reach of the site. Every attempt was also made to inform both Ben Miller and Simon Nicholls - unfortunately without success initially.
Being in Wendover, Richard Birch was first on the scene, closely followed by Mike Wallen, Steve Rodwell and Charlie Jackson. Both birds were still present at 1725 hours. LGRE arrived at 1735, with Bill Pegram, Mike & Rose Collard, Rob Andrews, Tim Watts, Mike Campbell, Dave Ferguson, Ben Miller and Jim Rose shortly later (as well as a returning Henry and 'scope!).
I clapped my 'eye' on them at 1735, the two birds feeding close to the nearest buoy at about 75 yards range. They were clearly in very different plumages, one bird being a very fresh juvenile and the other an adult already moulted into full winter plumage. They kept together on the water for the next 15 minutes, gradually swimming closer to the dam wall. They then took flight, moving through the vast number of migrant Sand Martins and House Martins towards the back of the reservoir. They alighted briefly before again taking flight and then returning to the same place from where they had originally flown. Again, they settled down and swam quite close, allowing MW, IW, MCo and DB to fire off a number of record shots (particularly of the two birds together (see above).
At 1805 hours, both birds became very agitated and were 'twittering' loudly and again took flight. This time both birds looked as though they were leaving, and flew high and away towards Wendover ridge. They gradually circled round, with the juvenile alighting again on the water but the adult flew off strongly NE at 1807 hours - and did not return. The juvenile returned to the middle of the reservoir and as the evening progressed, swam closer to the dam edge and remained present until dusk, allowing SN, JT, RH, and others to connect before nightfall.
The adult appeared to be in complete winter plumage, with uniform pale grey upperparts and upperwings, darker crown, pure white underparts, grey sides of breast and fore-flanks and a contrasting black eye-patch. The bill was straight, about as long as the head and blackish, and slightly thicker at the base. In flight, it was rather Sanderling-like, with noticeable white wing-bars.
The juvenile was much more intricately marked, with a warm orange-buff wash on the breast and fore-flanks, as well as on the face and eye-stripe, and noticeable dark chocolate-brown centred wing-coverts and tertials, most of which were fringed white or greyish-white. The mantle feathers were also surprisingly largely unmoulted and again were dark chocolate-brown, with some pale edging. As is typical with juvenile Grey Phalarope in early autumn, it had already acquired its first set of pale grey first-winter scapulars, but was still largely dark brown on the crown and hindneck and had just a little smudge of black behind the eye on the ear-coverts. Elsewhere, it was white. In flight, the wings appeared dark, but with an obvious pure white inner wingbar and white at the bases of the dark primaries. The rump was marked up the centre with dark feathers (with white either side), with a dark tail. The bill was the same as the adult, appearing all black in colour. At times on the water, it appeared slightly larger than the adult.
(The juvenile remained overnight - DP, PK, et al - but flew off strongly NW at 1230 hours)
These two birds constituted the 9-10th records for the county, and the first 'stayers' since the 'great hurricane' of October 1987; the previous occurrences being detailed below. There have been two previously at Weston Turville Reservoir -:
Halton on 19 September 1866
Found dead at Dancers End on 27 October 1928
Weston Turville Reservoir on 16 September 1935
Found dead in High Wycombe on 30 October 1952
Willen Lake on 8 September 1985 (juvenile)
Weston Turville on 16 October 1987
Willen Lake on 16 & 18-19 October 1987
Linford NR on 7 January 1998
(1830-1930; with IW & Mike Campbell)
Almost bang on cue, the first PINTAILS of the autumn arrived today, along with exceptional numbers of SAND MARTINS
Little Grebe - adult & juvenile
LITTLE EGRETS - both birds present
Mute Swans - reduction to 58 birds
WHOOPER SWAN - adult pair still
Greylag Geese - 21
Eurasian Wigeon - 3 drakes
**NORTHERN PINTAILS - 3 eclipse-plumaged birds feeding with the Mallards in the 'SW quarter' - SR, LGRE, IW, MCa, et al
*BLACK-TAILED GODWIT - both juveniles still present to right of hide
COMMON GREENSHANK - 5 juveniles
COMMON SANDPIPER - 2 still
SAND MARTINS - 50+
House Martins - 27
*SAND MARTINS - 277+
House Martins - 50+
Barn Swallows - 81
Pied Wagtail - 8
**WHITE WAGTAIL - 1 first-winter on North Bank (LGRE)
*YELLOW WAGTAIL - 2 present on North Bank