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.