Thursday, 31 December 2009

BITTERN tonight at WTR

One BITTERN flew in at 16:25 from right of hide at Weston Turville Reservoir

Also 4 Water Rails, 2 Common Kingfishers, a Little Egret, 4 Shoveler, 3 Gadwall and a Little Grebe (Graham Smith)

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Birding over the festive period

Yesterday went to Wendover Woods in the morning. Only birds of note were 2 COMMON CROSSBILLS heard flying over.

With Warren and Dave yesterday the Marsworth BITTERN showed quite well opposite the hide.

The gull roost is still quite low in numbers, although there have been 2 Herring Gulls in the last 2 days and 32 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Sunday evening. This morning only birds of note around Tring Reservoirs was a male PINTAIL and the COMMON REDSHANK at Wilstone, and the female Red-crested Pochard at Startops (Steve Rodwell)

Ruddy Shelduck again

28 December: A female Ruddy Shelduck of unknown origin was at Wilstone early this morning.
4 Goldeneyes were also present (3 males and a female) (Dave Bilcock)

Weston Turville BITTERNS - 27 December

Excellent and prolonged views of two BITTERNS this afternoon at WTR. At one stage both birds were seen together. One bird walked into the main channel at about 16.15 and the second bird flew over its head into the reeds between the channel and the reservoir. The first bird stood in the channel skywatching for about 2 minutes before flying off into another channel out of sight. The second bird then appeared in the channel and spent about 4 minutes, also skywatching, before flying into the reeds. At about 4.50 something spooked a Grey Heron and a BITTERN out of the main reedbed and they flew off to the reeds on the opposite side of the reservoir from the (new) hide. The Bittern returned about two minutes later and flew into the reeds just to the left of the channel at the (new) hde end. Also several Water Rails - three were seen in 30 seconds at one point. A Brown Hare walked out into the cut area presumably to feed (Dave Parmenter)

BITTERN still

27 December: The BITTERN put in a late performance this evening at 16:20. Initially it was sat low in the reeds along the south bank, opposite the hide, before flying into the reeds nearer the SW corner (Dave Bilcock).

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Two BITTERNS now at Weston Turville

Christmas Day: First BITTERN flew in low from far right of hide at 16:15 to roost in deep reeds to front left of hide. While watching excellent views of feeding and bathing Water Rail in unfrozen stream flowing through cut out in front of hide, a second BITTERN rose from the far edge of the reeds to the right of hide at 16:25 and flew to roost close to 1st bird. An added benefit of walking off the Christmas dinner...Pete & Ginny Weisner

Friday, 25 December 2009

Happy Xmas to all of my browsers




Chris Williams did very well in fading light to get these two record shots of the GREAT WHITE EGRET present briefly on 20 December.
Meanwhile on Christmas Day, both wintering EURASIAN BITTERNS are still present - at Marsworth Reservoir and Weston Turville Reservoir

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Complete whiteout - and a male HEN HARRIER

An adult male HEN HARRIER lingered about the east bank of Wilstone Reservoir this afternoon, scattering Meadow Pipits, Redwings and Common Blackbirds. It was last seen at about 1545 hours, when it was thought to have roosted in the reedbed.

Another BITTERN - at Weston Turville

EURASIAN BITTERN showing in cut in front of hide at Weston Turville Reservoir 14.20 today (Peter Garner)

BITTERN still on Marsworth

22 December: It was good to see the Bittern this afternoon still hanging in at Marsworth. I had intended to go to the gull roost after last nights effort in the snow failed to produce anything of note (although there were 92 Common Gulls present) but after skidding down the canal bridge near the mill even Wilstone Reservoir seemed like a long way to go. Most of the reed at Marsworth is flattened by the snow (hopefully it will recover when the snow melts). It is quite a sight and certainly seemed to confuse many of the Corn Buntings that couldn't make up their mind where to roost. Any bird roosting in the reeds would be very exposed. The Bittern showed up at 4.22pm on the edge of the reeds in the S.E. Corner. It then proceeded to do a lap of the reservoir before landing in the sallows out from the overflow (Steve Rodwell)

The first BRAMBLING returns to a Tring garden

18 December: Unsurprisingly with the snow the number of birds feeding in the garden has increased.Today there were 80+ Chaffinches in the garden and, at long last, a female BRAMBLING - my first in the garden this winter. The 10+ Blackbirds were also voraciously attacking any berries they could find or Sunflower hearts as an alternative (Roy Hargreaves)

Wintering BLACKCAP in Tring - BITTERN STILL

18 December: The BITTERN went to roost this afternoon at 4.12pm. I didn't see exactly where it flew up from but it went to roost in the same area as usual. Earlier I drew a blank in the gull roost at Wilstone. In my garden at Lakeside, Tring there has been a female BLACKCAP since last Saturday (Steve Rodwell)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sunday birding - 20 December - GREAT WHITE EGRET

Late morning I gave Warren Claydon a hand with the Webs count. There were no surprises and in fact the duck numbers were quite low. Only 3 Common Goldeneye at Wilstone and the female Red-crested Pochard was at Startop's End. The most interesting sighting was 6 Lesser Redpolls briefly by the carpark at Wilstone. I was determined to find a Med Gull at the gull roost this afternoon, but again Black-headed Gull numbers were relatively low compared to a week ago.

Fortunately I was saved from another blank by Dave Bilcock's call about the GREAT WHITE EGRET (flew across Marsworth Reservoir and landed very briefly in tree at Tringford before disappearing north). The bird never quite made it to Wilstone Reservoir, and I saw it briefly from the car quite high up doubling back to Marsworth along the stretch of road going to Wilstone cemetry. Remarkably the EURASIAN BITTERN put in a very late appearance for a number of observers, going to roost in reeds on the south bank of Marsworth Reservoir about 4.30pm (Steve Rodwell)

Monday, 14 December 2009

BITTERN again tonight - worrying low number of roosting CORN BUNTINGS

SATURDAY 12 DECEMBER

WILSTONE RESERVOIR

Dave Bilcock, Roy Hargreaves and Mike Campbell all witnessed a flock of 6 adult WHOOPER SWANS on Wilstone early on Saturday morning. They flew in at 0830 hours and landed in front of the reedbed at the Cemetery Corner end, where they were photographed (DB) and settled for at least 15 minutes. I left home shortly after Dave texted me, but got caught up in a diversionary route, as the westbound A41 was closed.

By 0910 hours (when I arrived), the herd were nowhere to be found and had departed

Compensation came in the form of a pair of NORTHERN PINTAIL (roosting with 51 Shoveler on the Drayton Bank), 2 drake COMMON GOLDENEYE, the continuing BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and two COMMON REDSHANK and a juvenile Herring Gull.

There were just 5 Mute Swans present on Wilstone, along with 16 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Dabchicks.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR
(with Dave Bilcock)

9 Mute Swans (including a first-winter), 3 Great Crested Grebes, the female Red-crested Pochard from College Lake, 47 Shoveler (disturbed off Marsworth), 1 Wigeon, 11 Common Teal and 1 drake Pochard. A flock of 38 REDWING flew east.

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT

19 Mute Swans (with 2 first-winters), 24 Gadwall, 42 Wigeon, 8 Shoveler and 15 Pochard.

THE WENDOVER ARM OF THE GRAND UNION CANAL (winter survey)
Walked from Wellonhead Bridge to The Wides

A single WATER RAIL is wintering. No sign of the Mandarin Ducks however.

Little Grebe (1)
Mallard (17)
Moorhen (25 including 6 first-winters)
Coot (14)

Also noted were both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Song Thrushes, 4 Mistle Thrushes, Fieldfare, 40 Redwing, 4 Great Tits and 5 Wrens.

WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR
(complete winter bird survey)

Unusually, a good crop of wildfowl present, including 1 first-winter Mute Swan, pair of Gadwall, 15 Mallard, 25 Shoveler (17 drakes and 8 females - good count for the site) and 2 Tufted Ducks, as well as 8 Great Crested Grebes (high count), 15 Coot, 11 Moorhens, 37 Black-headed Gulls and 4 Common Gulls (including a first-winter).

Passerines included 1 Song Thrush, 14 Common Blackbird, Grey Wagtail, 10 Wren, 8 European Robins, 8 Long-tailed Tits and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

MONDAY 14 DECEMBER

Continuing cold (5 degrees C) but rather damp with light rain predominating during the afternoon.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR

At last - finally connected with the RUFFS !

The water level has risen even further, and has consequently become much more attractive to birds, with the entire site heaving with wildfowl and waders.

Great Crested Grebe (12)
Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swan (5)
Gadwall (22)
Common Teal (331)
Eurasian Wigeon (413)
Shoveler (71)
Tufted Duck (109)
Pochard (27)

Lapwing (450+)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (211+)
RUFF (2 commuting between the south and north end)
COMMON REDSHANK (1)
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (still present)
Common Snipe (9)

Black-headed Gulls (1,100+)
MEDITERRANEAN GULLS (both regular adult and 2nd-winter in roost both preening on muddy islands)
COMMON GULL (53+)

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR
(with Dave Bilcock; 1520-1615 hours)

The EURASIAN BITTERN flew from the SW corner at 1602 hours and went low below the line of the reeds before eventually landing high in the reedbed at the east end, close to the Grand Union Canal locks in Bucks. It then slowly made its way down in the reeds to sleep.

Most disconcerting was the fact that just 40 CORN BUNTINGS came in to roost. There were also 6 REED BUNTINGS.

The 14 Great Crested Grebes were still present - and 98 Shoveler feeding

Lee Evans

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Today's summary - Steve Rodwell

A very enjoyable afternoon with Don and Sandra Otter, Mike and Rose Collard and Mike Campbell, amongst others. The 2nd winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present in the Wilstone Gull roost as was the 'White' Back-headed Gull. There were also 2 RUFF (different than those photographed recently) and the BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still present. The EURASIAN BITTERN was at Marsworth again, showing well on some flattened reed on the far bank about 4.10pm. Again it flew to roost in the Bucks sector. Sandra also saw some movement in the reeds not far from where the Bittern was roosting, and there may well be a second bird present. As we left 2 COMMON REDSHANKS called from Startops and earlier there was a female PINTAIL on this reservoir. Yesterday there were at least 2 Cetti's Warbler singing at Marsworth and one this evening.

BITTERN showing well




The EURASIAN BITTERN appeared at 1610 hours this evening and showed well (per Steve Rodwell)


MEDITTERANEAN GULL makes rare daytime visit to Marsworth Reservoir


This morning Steve Todwell found the second-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL at Marsworth, which made a change from struggling to find it in the roost most evenings. Also enabled me to get a much better picture than the usual blurry roost shot (Dave Bilcock).

BITTERN is back

SATURDAY 12 DECEMBER: This evening the gull roost at Wilstone was quite disturbed from nearby shooting. One second winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosted that was seen by a number of observers. Together with Mike Campbell and Joan at Marsworth we tried for the EURASIAN BITTERN. About 10 minutes before it was dark, Mike picked it out on the opposite bank, standing at the front of the reedbed in full view. Just before dusk the Bittern flew and roosted in the Bucks section. At least 2 Cetti's Warblers singing and several Water Rails (per Steve Rodwell)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

LITTLE EGRETS rise in number

Joan Thompson counted a record 26 LITTLE EGRETS flighting out from the 'new' Stocker's Lake roost early this morning. There were also 4 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS present.

Another Saturday morning - and another brief-staying rarity (or rarities in this case, with a flock of WHOOPERS)







A herd of 6 adult WHOOPER SWANS flew in to Wilstone Reservoir at 0830 hours this morning and remained for less than 20 minutes before flying off (Dave Bilcock, Roy Hargreaves and Mike Campbell only).
The BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still present (photographed above - DB), along with the two adult COMMON REDSHANKS, 200+ European Golden Plovers and a fresh pair of NORTHERN PINTAILS roosting on the Drayton Bank.
The female Red-crested Pochard was on Startop's End Reservoir (DB, LGRE)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Med in roost

The adult winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosted on Wilstone this evening (Steve Rodwell)

Two RUFF early on but not later

THURSDAY 10 DECEMBER

A much colder day, with temperatures struggling to reach 7 degrees C. A beautiful day though, with clear blue skies, all day sunshine and a cold NE breeze. Once again, I found myself back at Wilstone, where Roy had discovered two RUFF early on, roosting on the remaining section of spit visible from the jetty. They were not be found however.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR
(Joan Thompson and Mike Campbell also checking)

Checked all of the available mud on Wilstone. The BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still present close to the Drayton Bank Hide, there were two COMMON REDSHANKS in the same area, a total of 14 COMMON SNIPE, 225 Lapwing and 473+ EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS.

A female COMMON GOLDENEYE was in 'Boathouse Corner', the juvenile GREATER SCAUP was in the SW quadrant, with Great Crested Grebes still numbering 12. Otherwise, very much the same as yesterday.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR

Great Crested Grebes (2), Mute Swan (6 adults), Common Teal (1 drake), Shoveler (4), Tufted Duck (31), Pochard (1 drake), Moorhen (12) and Redwing (8 in Hawthorns by sharp bend).

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR

Reed-cutting for the Bitterns in progress and new rides being created. Little of note other than 14 Great Crested Grebes and an adult Mute Swan still. No Shoveler !

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

No sign of yesterday's Ruff but a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT in replacement

WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER

A much milder day than of late, with temperatures reaching 9 degrees C. It was very misty and drizzly early on but this gave way to clearer conditions, with a slight SW breeze. It remained dry until darkness fell.

After it transpired that an adult RUFF had been present on Wilstone yesterday afternoon (photographed from the hide), I endeavoured to try and relocate it, and visited early afternoon.........

WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING
(1230-1350 hours)

The water level on Wilstone had increased dramatically, totally submerging much of the mud and vegetation exposed since July. This had attracted large numbers of dabbling duck back again, especially Teal and Mallard, as well as large numbers of Lapwing.

There was no sign of yesterday's Ruff but I did find a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. The full list below....

Great Crested Grebe (12)
Little Grebe (4)
Continental Cormorant (15)
Mute Swan (just 6 adults remaining)
Greylag Geese (62)
Mallard (56)
Gadwall (18)
Shoveler (94)
Eurasian Wigeon (411)
Common Teal (368+)
Pochard (22)
GREATER SCAUP (juvenile still present)
Tufted Duck (77)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (adult drake feeding off the spit)
Common Pheasants (2 males and a female feeding out in the open)
Lapwing (374+)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (638 click-counted)
*BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (one showing well and feeding on 'new' pool to left of hide)
Common Snipe (6)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 still present in the 'cut-off pool' in the NW corner

Meadow Pipits (8 on mud)
Redwing (18)
Fieldfare (1)

Adult RUFF at Wilstone







The RUFF in the centre of these three images was photographed at Wilstone Reservoir yesterday afternoon but I could not locate it today (LGRE). The photos were taken by Lucy Flowers.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Three MEDITERRANEAN GULLS this evening

This evening with Dave, Charlie, Ian, Mike and Rose Collard, there were 3 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS in the roost, plus the 'white' B.h.Gull. The med gulls included 2 second winters and an adult. Unfortunately the first winter was playing hard to get and has failed to materialise the last 2 evenings (I have never seen the 3 different age groups together). The second winter that Dave saw just before it was dark is a very interesting bird. It was seen several weeks before and is quite difficult to pick out, as the primaries have an unusual amount of black on them. There was also one second-winter Herring Gull (Steve Rodwell)

Friday, 4 December 2009

Another good Black-headed Gull roost




Both SMEW were still present late this afternoon, the male a real challenge to find as it was diving in amongst the roosting BHGs. The roost contained 2 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS (a new adult and the regular 1W) as well as the albinistic Black-headed Gull (pictured above) (Dave Bilcock).

SMEW bonus of colder weather













Redhead and drake SMEWS (Martin Parr)
FRIDAY 5 DECEMBER

Another overnight frost and a clear, bright, sunshine-filled day, with temperatures reaching a high of 6 degrees C. The raw westerly wind had dropped and had been replaced by a light SW, making it much more pleasant to bird than yesterday. Highlight of the day was the two SMEW that Roy Hargreaves found on his early morning walk round.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING
(1130-1430 hours; with Ian Williams, Mike Campbell, John Gearing, Geoff Young and others)

**SMEWS (the first of the year and first record since a redhead on Wilstone on 16 December 2008. Like that bird, this pair were found by Roy, seen later by MC and still present when I arrived - the drake spending a fair bit of time preening as well as diving and the adult female keeping largely close to the Drayton Bank and both easily visible from the bank by the car park steps)

Great Crested Grebes (12)
Little Grebe (2)
Continental Cormorant (23 roosting)
Grey Heron (3)
Mute Swan (10, including 1 first-winter)
Greylag Geese (62)
Gadwall (9)
Shoveler (27)
Eurasian Wigeon (317)
Common Teal (96)
Northern Pochard (28)
GREATER SCAUP (still present with Tufted Ducks in SW quadrant, viewable only from hide)
Tufted Duck (101)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (pair in 'Boathouse Corner' and an adult drake in the 'cut-off' pool in NW corner)
GOOSANDER (redhead present just briefly mid morning - Mike Campbell)
Red Kite (1 perched in tree and later hunting over fields near car park)
Moorhen (66)
Coot (412)
Lapwing (416)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (126)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 in the 'cut-off' pool)
COMMON REDSHANK (mobile bird still around, moving between NW corner and mud in Cemetery Corner)
Common Snipe (2+)
Black-headed Gull (53)
Common Gull (8)

Woodpigeon (57 just east of reservoir in fields and a further 109 in the crop field opposite the Cemetery)
LITTLE OWL (sat on its usual fence)
Meadow Pipits (20 in grassy field east of reservoir)
Grey Wagtail (1)
Wren (1 on bank and another in Poplar Wood on east bank)
SONG THRUSH (5 in the East Bank Hedgerow)
Mistle Thrush (1 in full song)
Common Blackbird (marked increase, with 17 in the East Bank Hedgerow)
FIELDFARE (4 in trees along the East Bank)

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR

Great Crested Grebes (3), Mute Swan (11 including 2 first-winters), Common Teal (4), Shoveler (1 drake), Tufted Duck (24), Pochard (3 drakes), Moorhen (12) and Coot (119).

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR

Great Crested Grebes (4), Little Grebe (2), Grey Heron (8), Mute Swan (2 adults), Common Teal (8),Tufted Duck (31) and Coot (48)

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR

Great Crested Grebe (16) and Shoveler (109)

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS)

Little Grebe (1)
Mute Swan (36 including 1 first-winter)
Common Teal (11)
Eurasian Wigeon (44)
Gadwall (36)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (female on Main Lake)
Shoveler (6)
Northern Pochard (36)
Tufted Duck (30)
Coot (44)
COMMON SNIPE (1)
Redwing (16)

PITSTONE QUARRY


Little Grebe (6), Tufted Duck (27), Moorhen (6), Lesser Black-backed Gull (6 adults), Common Gull (8) and Redwing (1)

The total number of COOTS in the area = 623 birds


A drop in temperatures bring first SMEW of year

This morning the juvenile GREATER SCAUP was still on the lagoon to the right of the hide and a vociferous CETTI'S WARBLER was in the reed bed.

The undoubted highlight however was the pair of SMEW that I found. Initially I saw the redhead (presumed female), and phoned David Bilcock to alert him and ask him to put word out - it was quite cold this morning so I figured texting would take me even longer than normal with gloves on. After alerting David I then carried on checking the duck, and trying to relocate the Smew and when I refound it there was a drake with it. When I called David again he was a little concerned until I reassured him that it was only to let him know that there was also a second bird.

There was also a Green Sandpiper on the inlet to the left of the hide and a drake Common Goldeneye about. The water level also appears to be rising fairly quickly at the moment, but fortuntaely these Smew will not be able to swim into the bushes like the last one I found did.

Mike Campbell also texted me about a redhead GOOSANDER at 8:50, but I would think that this bird flew in after I had moved on from the jetty as I would be surprised if I had missed that (Roy Hargreaves)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

December Counting





CORN BUNTINGS are back roosting for the winter in Marsworth Reedbed and Northern Shovelers galore are feeding there (pictures by kind courtesy of Mike Lawrence, one of the UK's foremost bird photographers)

THURSDAY 3 DECEMBER

A 12mph Westerly wind carried very cold conditions to our area today with temperatures struggling to just 5 degrees C. It remained dry but was extremely sodden underfoot, with heavy cloud cover.

I carried out my first December counts at the reservoirs - most pleasing was the return of roosting CORN BUNTINGS on Marsworth........

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR, TRING

Great Crested Grebe (now 18 present, an exceptional gathering on this reservoir in winter)
Northern Shoveler (133 busy 'shovelling' close to the reedbed and affording fantastic views)
*CORN BUNTINGS (46 came in to roost in the reedbed)

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR

Great Crested Grebe (2)
Mute Swan (8)
Gadwall (1 drake)
Common Teal (28)
Shoveler (8)
Tufted Duck (36)
Pochard (11)
Coot (increase to 173)

WILSTONE RESERVOIR
(1545-1615 hours)

Great Crested Grebe (11)
Mute Swan (12)
Greylag Geese (57)
Atlantic Canada Geese (48)
Common Teal (211)
Gadwall (22)
Eurasian Wigeon (313)
Shoveler (15)
Tufted Duck (73)
Pochard (27)
GREATER SCAUP (juvenile still present in SW quadrant)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (adult pair together, my belated first of the 'winter' at the site)
Lapwing (200+)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (242 roosting on central spit)

The Gull Roost

Very impressive this evening with no less than 3,289 birds in by dark, including the two regular MEDITERRANEAN GULLS (first and second-winter), the albinistic Black-headed Gull, 3,244 Black-headed Gulls in total, 37 COMMON GULLS (mostly adults) and 6 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls pre-roost.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

REDSHANK flock drop in

At Wilstone this morning, the GREATER SCAUP was still on the lagoon to the right of the hide as was a male Common Goldeneye. I also saw four Lesser Redpoll, by the cress beds, that might be the same four I saw last week by Rushy Meadow. I also saw five Common Redshank land on the lagoon by the hide - although I was by the jetty at the time (Roy Hargreaves).

Saturday, 28 November 2009

BARN OWL delight

Just seen a BARN OWL 2320 sitting on top of the left hand roadside hedge opposite Wilstone Reservoir shortly before the S bend approaching from Aylesbury direction
(Dave R Lee, Pitstone)

SCAUP still with us

This morning the juvenile GREATER SCAUP was in its new usual haunt on the lagoon to the right of the hide. Also a Little Egret flew into the creek to the right of
the hide. There was a Green Sandpiper in the inlet to the left of the hide and
40+ Meadow Pipits on the mud by the hide. Finally there were eight
Red-legged Partridges on the field south of the canal where I have seen Ring
Ouzels in the past (Roy Hargreaves).

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Poor weather continues

This morning the juvenile GREATER SCAUP was still on the lagoon to the right of the hide. There were also three Lesser Redpoll along the Dry Canal and Cetti's Warbler singing to the right of the hide.

Conditions were drizzly (so the light was poor), and breezy so a thorough search was not possible in the conditions and time that I had before work (Roy Hargreaves)

Saturday Counts - 21 November - LGRE


SATURDAY 21 NOVEMBER

Continuing very unsettled with strong SW winds, intermittent rain but very mild.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (full counts undertaken)
(1200-1600 hours)

Great Crested Grebe (only 11 present)
Mute Swans (43 including 7 first-winters)
Greylag Goose (39)
Gadwall (25)
Common Teal (234)
Eurasian Wigeon (211 including 62 grazing in front of the hide)
Shoveler (just 15)
Tufted Duck (73)
Pochard (15)
GREATER SCAUP (the juvenile showing well with Tufted Ducks just to the right of the Drayton Bank when looking straight out from the hide - little change in plumage)
Coot (551)
Lapwing (222)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (702 click-counted, the largest number present this autumn)
COMMON SNIPE (8 feeding in the channel)
Black-headed Gull (798 in roost)
MEDITERRANEAN GULL (first-winter present) (SR had two - first and second winter in roost on Sunday 22)
Common Gull (5)

MEADOW PIPIT (13)
GOLDCREST (1 in trees behind hide)

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR

Little Grebe (1)
Continental Cormorants (35 in feeding raft)
Mute Swan (2 adults)
Common Teal (8)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (female feeding along south bank)
Coot (23)

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR

Little Grebe (2)
Great Crested Grebe (4)
Mute Swan (8)
Canada Geese (61)
Shoveler (pair)
Pochard (21)
Tufted Duck (22)
Coot (123)
Moorhen (12)

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR

Two species which were particularly lacking on Wilstone seemed to have relocated to Marsworth.....

Great Crested Grebe (16 present)
Mute Swan (1 adult)
SHOVELERS (141 present)
Common Starling (22)

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT

Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swans (39)
*MANDARIN DUCK (high count of 20 birds in the Willow vegetation along the west bank of the main marsh - including 13 adult drakes)
Eurasian Wigeon (58)
Gadwall (36)
Tufted Duck (27)
Pochard (21)
RUDDY DUCK (2 female-types still present on main marsh)
Coot (89)
Yellowhammer (single over)

Partial albinistic Black-headed Gull at Pitstone







This morning (Sunday 22 November) the leucistic Black-headed gull was present roosting amongst the other gulls at Pitstone Quarry. This is a stunning bird as hopefully can be seen in the pictures above. When it is in flight it can be readily picked out as its upper wing is pure white except for black tips to the outer primaries. Last weekend myself and Steve saw it in the roost at Wisltone and I've also seen it at Startops.

Otherwise the juvenile GREATER SCAUP was still at Wilstone and a GREEN SANDPIPER at Tringford (Dave Bilcock).

Saturday, 21 November 2009

COMMON CROSSBILLS at Ringshall

A flock of 10 COMMON CROSSBILLS was seen in Ringshall this morning (Don Otter)

MED GULL in roost

A first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL was in the roost (Dave Bilcock) whilst the juvenile GREATER SCAUP and 6 Common Snipe were still present (Jeff Bailey)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

GREATER SCAUP still present

The juvenile GREATER SCAUP was present on the lagoon to the right of the hide - although it was actually straight out.

A Siskin also flew over this morning. There are also still good number of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails on the mud.

The water level, having risen 40mm over the weekend, has dropped back about 20mm (figures from the BWB employee). They are still pumping water out to maintain the canal level and apparently they have taken a large amount out of Tringford so this might be where the Green Sandpipers have moved to (Roy Hargreaves)

Saturday, 14 November 2009

BLACK-NECKED GREBE finally makes it on to annual list



SATURDAY 14 NOVEMBER

A very deep area of low pressure passed over the area today bringing near gale force SSW winds and more heavy rain, occasionally torrential. There was little respite from the conditions all day and mid afternoon saw the arrival of a windswept juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER at Calvert BBOWT

TRING RESERVOIRS

David Bilcock discovered an adult winter BLACK-NECKED GREBE early morning, the first record there this year. I rolled up at Wilstone at 1045 hours and dodging the heavy showers and braving the gusty wind, managed to relocate the bird, diving frequently just offshore of the central bund. It was sheltering from the wind in the small bay just east of the Drayton Bank but later moved much closer to the jetty and was still present when I left early afternoon. Roy, Mike Campbell and Charlie Jackson had all seen it before I arrived.

Also on WILSTONE RESERVOIR

Great Crested Grebe (14)
Little Grebe (2)
Mute Swan (35 including 7 first-winters)
Greylag Geese (4)
Common Teal (198 including 101 in the SE quadrant)
Gadwall (19)
Eurasian Wigeon (256)
Shoveler (87)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (single female feeding by the old boathouse inlet)
Tufted Duck (117)
Pochard (14)
*PEREGRINE (single scattering the plover flock on several occasions eventually drifting off north)
Coot (529+ including 324 in one feeding flock near the hide)
Lapwing (212)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (502)
Common Snipe (8)
Herring Gull (2 first-winters on bund)
Meadow Pipits (14 on the mud)

Dave Bilcock and Steve Rodwell did the late afternoon gull roost and discovered a 'new' 2nd-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL (see image above) and 2 Herring Gulls.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR

Water level has risen dramatically with the 'mud' in the SW corner attracting large numbers of feeding wildfowl including 7 Mute Swans (2 additional adults on Tringford), 57 Greylag Geese, 61 Mallard and 31 Common Teal.

On the main reservoir were 2 Little Grebes, 6 Gadwall, 33 Tufted Ducks, 16 Pochard and 127 Coot.

A Goldcrest was in ivy close to the road bend.

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT

Little Grebe (1)
Mute Swans (39 present including 3 first-winters)
Mallard x Red-crested Pochard hybrid
Gadwall (36)
Eurasian Wigeon (38)
Shoveler (1 drake)
Pochard (14)
Tufted Duck (27)
*RUDDY DUCK (2 female-types)

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Week so far

Despite the fog in the mornings it hasn't been too bad at Wilstone.

The juvenile GREATER SCAUP has been in the inlet by the hide the past two mornings. There are still good numbers of European Golden Plover on the spit and about 40 Pied Wagtails and 40 Meadow Pipits on the various mud banks. A single Siskin was by the hide yesterday.

Yesterday four Chinese Water Deer were on the mud to the right of the hide and there was a Red Fox this morning.

The water level has risen slightly as the lower water level post now has water around its base (Roy Hargreaves).

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Steps Hill WOODCOCK

Flushed a WOODCOCK this afternoon near the bottom end of Incombe Hole, on the path going up from near the B488/489 junction at Ivinghoe, just before where the tree-lined path opens out into the first field at the end of the gardens. Also one or two Buzzards, Common Gull, Fieldfares (Dave R Lee, Pitstone)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Weekend Gull Roosts


Saturday with Steve, Warren and Roy a 2W MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present

Sunday with Steve and Mike Campbell the below adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL roosted (Dave Bilcock)

GOOSANDER at College Lake 8/11

Wilstone: GREATER SCAUP still present, today it was close to the Drayton Bank opposite the new overflow. On the central spit a single Dunlin was amongst the Golden Plovers and CUA carbo roosting.

College Lake: Paul has just found a GOOSANDER on the marsh, a drake moulting out of eclipse, which promptly swam behind a clump of willows and disappeared. No doubt still present but roosting out of view.

David Bilcock

Monday, 2 November 2009

MED GULL

Steve Rodwell observed a first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the Wilstone Reservoir roost this evening - roosting amongst 700 or more Black-headed Gulls. At least 1 DUNLIN was also still present.

First day of November pretty much a washout

NOVEMBER 2009

SUNDAY 1 NOVEMBER

Heavy rain persisted throughout the morning along with blustery WNW winds making birding conditions very unpleasant. It finally cleared early morning with brighter conditions following, although the wind still remained strong. Temperatures struggled to 15 degrees C. Despite an excellent Saturday where rare wildfowl was the main theme and a dapper male Black Redstart attracted the crowds, Sunday was largely a let down for me.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, TRING

There was no sign of Saturday's Common Goldeneye but overnight rain had pushed water levels up attracting large numbers of dabblers to the SW shore - including 6 Mute Swans, 10 Greylag Geese, 143 Mallard, 15 Shoveler and 37 Common Teal whilst the open water held 4 Great Crested Grebes, a pair of Gadwall, 43 Tufted Ducks and an impressive 86 Northern Pochards.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR

Sadly, the road running alongside the reservoir harboured a fresh Badger casualty.

Few birds on Tringford - just 3 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Grey Herons, 1 Mute Swan, 2 Common Teal, 8 Gadwall and 6 Northern Pochard.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR

Totally windswept - 3 DUNLIN from the Drayton Bank Hide being the highlight, with the juvenile GREATER SCAUP still feeding on the east shore.

LONG MARSTON (HERTFORDSHIRE)

No sign of yesterday's adult male Black Redstart enjoyed and photographed by many (see blog)

WINGRAVE AREA (BUCKS)

Two adult Moorhens on the village pond at SP 870 192 with 41 Linnets just north of Lower Windmill Hill Farm at SP 872 184.

GROVEBURY SAND QUARRY (BEDFORDSHIRE)

Just outside the Tring Recording Area, 6 DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE were present until at least 0945 hours in driving rain (Johnny Lynch). They were not there when I visited mid afternoon.

TONGWELL LAKE, MILTON KEYNES (NORTH BUCKS)

The pair of GREATER SCAUP were showing very well diving frequently in front of the main island at Tongwell Lake at SP 867 423. Both birds were adults with the drake just moulting out of eclipse with patchy grey in the flanks, light grey vermiculations on the mantle, a black breast, a rich dark green sheen to the head and a pale blue bill with a dark nail restricted to the tip. The adult female had an extensive white blaze, extending on the forehead as well as at the sides of the bill, a similarly patterned bill, flat and broad dark brown head and breast and dark grey vermiculations on the sides, flanks and mantle.

FOXCOTE RESERVOIR (NORTH BUCKS)
(with Jenny Wallington; late afternoon)

Great Crested Grebe (7)
Little Grebe (5)
Mute Swans (38 including 6 first-winters)
Gadwall (41)
Eurasian Wigeon (343)
Common Teal (27)
Shoveler (19)
Northern Pochard (23)
Tufted Duck (63)
*RING-NECKED DUCK (the adult drake was still present roosting in the weed-covered section at the north end directly opposite the hide - occasionally lifted its head and still largely in eclipse plumage)
COMMON GOLDENEYES (3 present, my first of the autumn - an adult drake, a first-winter drake and a female)

Saturday, 31 October 2009




This superb adult male BLACK REDSTART (photographed by both Dave Bilcock and Chaz Jackson above) was discovered in Long Marston village by Johne Taylor this morning and remained near the church in the vicinity of 17, The Bromley, throughout the rest of the day.

Early morning in the rain

Wilstone: Very wet but GREATER SCAUP was still present and a single DUNLIN amongst the large flock of Lapwings from the hide.

Startop's End: 2 COMMON GOLDENEYES and a leuistic BHG on the mud with the other gulls (snowy white, with milky tea coloured primaries) (Dave Bilcock).

ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANTS wintering at Tring


Both the Forvie colour-ringed ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANTS have now returned for another winter at Tring. This morning CUA was roosting in front of the hide at Tringford (see picture above). This is the FIFTH winter it has returned, first appearing as a juvenile in December 2005 and every winter subsequently.

Also DXA was still at Wilstone this morning roosting on the exposed bar opposite the jetty. This bird first appeared at Ting in November 2007.

Both these birds return back to Forvie each summer, and have been recorded at the Ythan Estuary.

If you see these birds locally, or better a different bird with a white darvic on its left leg with black 3 letter code, could you pass on the details to Raymond Duncan who coordinates the ringing project raymond@waxwing.fsnet.co.uk. (Dave Bilcock)

Friday, 30 October 2009

SCAUP images




Local birder Martin Parr obtained these excellent images of the Wilstone GREATER SCAUP this afternoon - note how the grey fearhers are now coming through on the mantle and sides

Two Med Gulls in roost

Two MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were in the Wilstone roost tonight, an adult with a noticeably greyish head (still moulting into winter plumage) and a first-winter bird. Probably over 700 Black-headed Gulls at 4.45pm. The adult then flew off with several hundred gulls, before returning just before 5.00pm and the first-winter came in about 4.50-4.55pm. The Black-heads were very unsettled and almost all of the birds headed off just before it was too dark to see (Steve Rodwell)

GREATER SCAUP still present

FRIDAY 30 OCTOBER

Wind in the Southwest, still very mild, dry but mainly overcast. After seeing a fair bit of Woodpigeon passage today, checked out the Hills but it was a waste of time - virtually nothing to be found and almost birdless. Just the odd Chaffinch moving.

STARTOP'S END

Checked out the resident HOUSE SPARROW population and was pleased to find 15 roosting in the large conifer on the corner of Watery Lane, attracted in to the cage harbouring the Queleas and Cockatiels at the back of the Angler's Retreat garden.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR

Nothing new. The juvenile/first-winter GREATER SCAUP was still showing very well, feeding just north of the jetty and in amongst the feeding Canada Geese. As Jason commented, moulting in quite a few new grey feathers now.

Wildfowl also included 43 Gadwall, 3 NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 adult drakes), 159 Shoveler and 28 Mute Swans (7 first-winters) as well as just 4 COMMON SNIPE, 119 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER and 2 adult COMMON GULLS

Lee Evans

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Big rise in COMMON SNIPE numbers

This morning a CETTI'S WARBLER was singing in the cressbed bushes. A Green Sandpiper in the bay by the hide, 14 Common Snipe around, 40 Meadow Pipits on the mud banks by the hide and the juvenile GREATER SCAUP close to the jetty - it really does come in close to the bank at times.

I also had a group of Bullfinch fly over, but I was under trees and couldn't see them (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Major thrust in CHAFFINCH passage










WEDNESDAY 28 OCTOBER

Another day with little wind at first but increasing southerly and SSW later, with intermittent drizzle and continuing warm temperatures (18 degrees C). I spent much of the morning on the hills but was disappointed with general passage, the main thrust of birds moving well to the east of the Ivinghoe complex. There were good numbers of thrushes - but not the numbers I expected - but exceptional numbers of Chaffinch. Some kind soul had strategically placed some apples in the 'Ring Ouzel clump'.

IVINGHOE HILLS NR
(0800-1100 hours)

STOCK DOVES (2 local birds followed by a migrating flock of 10 in from the NE at 1019 hours)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Eurasian Skylark (68 over)
REDWING (just 156 over)
FIELDFARE (135 in total, passing in flocks well to the east)
Song Thrush (just 1 in Top Scrub)
Coal Tit (2 by car park)
MARSH TIT (a vocal individual carrying a thistle head in the car park)
CHAFFINCH (the big story with birds passing over continuously totalling 974 by the time I left)
Linnet (26)
BULLFINCH (marked arrival with at least 9 noted, including 3 female/immatures in Top Scrub and two more in scrub below the car park)
CORN BUNTING (5 over - single and party of 4)
Yellowhammer (1)

DOWN FARM/PITSTONE HILL FIELDS

There are two fields which are harbouring large numbers of wintering farmland birds at the moment - the large ploughed field immediately south of the Ridgeway at SP 955 145 and the stubble field to the west at SP 953 145. I keep plodding away at them in the hope of locating a Twite, Richard's Pipit or Lapland Bunting but alas, again today, no sign of any of these vagrants. Good numbers of common birds though -:

Woodpigeon (322 - all local birds)
Stock Dove (19 in with the Woodpigeons)
Eurasian Skylarks (42)
Meadow Pipits (28)
COMMON STONECHAT (a male frequenting the fenceline at the north end, by Grim's Ditch footpath, by SP 952 145 - present for at least a week)
LINNETS (163 - carefully grilled, particularly when I gently eased them all on to the fenceline - no Twite with them)
CORN BUNTINGS (22 in the plough)
YELLOWHAMMERS (28 in the plough, mostly at the north end)

PITSTONE QUARRY

The south side is now completely dry

Little Grebe (13)
Moorhen (4)
Common Gulls (5 adults)
Lesser Black-backed Gulls (111)

COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT

Apart from a few Pochard and the gulls, all of the birds were on the main marsh.

Mute Swan (45 present including 2 first-winters)
MANDARIN DUCK (pair at west end)
Eurasian Wigeon (125)
Gadwall (33)
Shoveler (3 including an adult drake)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (adult female)
Northern Pochard (3 with an additional 5 on the main lake)
Tufted Duck (49)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (45 on the islands)
REDWING (13 flew SW)
CHAFFINCH (23 over, mainly singletons)

WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING
(1230-1300 hours)

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swans (25 including 7 first-winters)
Atlantic Canada Geese (32)
Cormorants (27 including 3 ringed individuals, one of which was the returning Forvie adult)
Gadwall (large increase - 45 present)
Common Teal (216)
Shoveler (high count of 194)
Pochard (96)
*GREATER SCAUP (the juvenile was still showing well on the east side, hugging the bank)
Lapwing (166)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (297 roosting on the bund)
COMMON SNIPE (8)
Black-headed Gulls (298)
COMMON GULLS (3 adults)

Monday, 26 October 2009

CROSSBILLS still in the forest

My best views for a long time of COMMON CROSSBILLS this morning,19 of them sitting in a bare Field Maple at Chivery Hall Farm, Bucks.They flew off back towards Wendover Woods (per John)

Continuing GREATER SCAUP, DUNLIN, PINTAIL and LITTLE EGRET

MONDAY 26 OCTOBER

Whenever the clocks go back, I always sense a feeling of sadness and cannot help feeling that the autumn migration is nearly over. I harp back to the sounds and sights of late summer and think back to my last Common Swifts in my village at the end of August - another year is once again coming towards a close.

Today, it really did still feel like summer. It was surprisingly warm (with temperatures reaching 16 degrees C by midday) with clear, calm and sunny conditions and a fresh southerly wind.

There was no sign of the Osprey in the Chess Valley this morning so I moved south to explore a 'new' site for me - 'Hogback Wood' between Forty Green and Beaconsfield.

A41 Trunk Road

A dead POLECAT-type on the westbound A41 near Buckler's Lane at TL 053 036

WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING
(1600 hours until dark; with BBC correspondent filming forthcoming documentary)

Little change in water level. The gulls failed to roost but did gather prior to flying off NE towards Leighton Buzzard.

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebes (8 now present - the original 5 and an additional flock of 3)
ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANT (a ringed adult from Aberdeenshire roosting on the central bund)
Cormorants (43 roosting at dusk)
LITTLE EGRET (1 present in Cemetery Corner which flew off strongly NW to roost at 1657 hours)
Mute Swans (25 including 7 first-winters)
Gadwall (13)
Eurasian Wigeon (258)
Common Teal (127)
Shoveler (109)
Tufted Duck (83)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (a fine adult drake now moulted fully out of eclipse)
Northern Pochard (80+)
*GREATER SCAUP (juvenile still showing well, diving for food close to the eastern bank)
Coot (338)
Lapwing (298)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (147 roosting on the central bund)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 in the SW quadrant)
COMMON SNIPE (7)
DUNLIN (one mingling with the Golden Plovers on the bund)
Black-headed Gull (731 pre-roost)
COMMON GULL (2 adults)
Argenteus HERRING GULL (1 adult)
Lesser Black-backed Gulls (7)
Grey Wagtail (2)
Common Starling (7)

Quiet start to new week following the clock change

Monday morning - very quiet for passage on the Ivinghoe hills this morning, hardly surprising given the wind direction and strength yesterday. Four CORN BUNTING went over before dawn and there was a BRAMBLING in with Chaffinches in the Beech trees between the main car park and the 'S' bend.

I then moved onto Wilstone Res where the juvenile GREATER SCAUP and partial albino Coot were still present near to the jetty but on the side towards the car park (Mike Wallen)

College Lake 25/10

Wildfowl numbers are finally starting to build up with around 150 Wigeon, 80 Pochard, 60 Tufted Duck, 13 Mandarin and single figures of Shoveler,and Gadwall. The female Red-crested Pochard was still present and still good numbers (for here) of Mute Swans at 48 including 3 juveniles. Four Common Snipe is the best I have managed so far this Autumn.

Juvenile Peregrine, Buzzard and 3 Red Kites flew over during the day (Paul)

Gull Roost 25/10


This evening was the first the gulls remained to roost at Wilstone. Approximately 600 Black-headeds were present and in addition to the above first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL Steve Rodwell found, 2 Common gulls and one Lesser Black-backed Gull were also present (Dave Bilcock)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Migrant COMMON CROSSBILLS

Another great morning, not for quantity but for quality, enjoyed with David Bilcock.

Highlight was only my third ever record there of COMMON CROSSBILL when a flock of 14-18 flew over us , 5 minutes before sunrise.

A first winter RING OUZEL flew across in front of us and up onto Ivinghoe Beacon where it landed in a clump of bushes at the East end but was not seen again.

Otherwise pretty typical late October fare with a few Thrushes and Finches over, and a COMMON STONECHAT near the 'S' bend (Mike Wallen)

Roosting MEDITERRANEAN GULL















There is a first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the Wilstone Reservoir roost this evening (found by Steve Rodwell), whilst the juvenile GREATER SCAUP is still present (new images above taken by Chaz Jackson).

Charlie also photographed the piebald Coot

Saturday, 24 October 2009

ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANT returns















The juvenile GREATER SCAUP was still present at Wilstone this morning (new image attained above) as well as the Aytha hybrid (see two images). Also amongst the roosting cormorants was one of the returning colour-ringed ATLANTIC (carbo) birds from the Sands of Forvie in Aberdeenshire, coded DXA. I think this is its 3rd year it has wintered around Tring (David Bilcock).





Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Another RING OUZEL

I finally had a day off today so although not on the hills for dawn, I covered them more extensively than of late. It was pretty much typical Autumn fayre but with a noteable number of Song Thrush on the hills.Whilst walking up the beacon I accidently flushed a RING OUZEL which must have been perched up in one of the small bushes on the South-eastern slope, it flew away from me and up and over to the North side of the beacon. It was clearly different to the stunning male in the area on Monday. It flushed from about 150 metres, and I suspect it newly arrived last night. It appeared to drop into the bushes just down from the kissing gate which is 300 metres East of the trig point; this is an area that has regularly held them in previous Autumns.

Highlight however was my second obvious continental Song Thrush in three days. This bird was in the top scrub over the road from the car park, it was one of a pair, the other looker paler and slightly greyer than 'ours' but the obvious continental was superb. It was really grey and white, just like the bird of a couple of days ago and whilst it could be argued that many of ( if not all ) the migrants on/ over Steps in Autumn are from the continent there is no doubt in my mind with these grey birds. I have only seen three birds like this in Bucks, one at the rear of my garden a few years back and these two in the last few days. This 'cline' in Song Thrush reminds me a bit of chiffchaff with grey ones further East.

A quick look at Startops produced nothing of note. At Wilstone the highlight was the juvenile GREATER SCAUP still present near the jetty and the North shore. No Rock Pipits but up to 20 Mipits were commuting between the Northern bank/ jetty area and the field behind. Other birds of note were 2 Pintail and c120 Golden Plover (Mike Wallen)

SCAUP

The juvenile GREATER SCAUP is still present on Wilstone Reservoir

Monday, 19 October 2009

Aythya Hybrid on Wilstone







This drake Northern Pochard hybrid was also present on Wilstone today roosting with Pochard on the central spit. In recent days it has been at Calvert BBOWT (Bucks) where Tim Watts obtained these excellent images (Lee Evans)

SCAUP surprise





















MONDAY 19 OCTOBER

The wind veered SE this morning, the first time in a long while, with the raw and freshening breeze continuing throughout the day. It brought in low cloud and intermittent drizzle and saw a light fall on the hills.

IVINGHOE HILLS NR (BUCKS)
(1200-1400 hours)

Pride of place went to a stunning male RING OUZEL and unlike all of the previous individuals at Ivinghoe this autumn, was actually 'settled' and 'twitchable'. Mike Wallen had discovered it first thing and had very kindly placed details on the local email group; Mike Campbell had searched but failed to find it. I arrived at midday and relocated it after about fifteen minutes but it had moved. It was showing extremely well, feasting on Hawthorn berries, in the cluster of bushes and scrub just 100 yards NE of the S-Bend at SP 961 164 and could be easily 'scoped from the main footpath leading up to the Beacon looking over to the right (east). It was very vocal, 'chacking' frequently, particularly when in flight, and was a well-marked individual albeit quite scaly. It had a well-defined white breast-band.

This same clump of bushes had also seen landfall of a good number of 'migrant thrushes' with 10 or more CONTINENTAL SONG THRUSHES and 7 dark-billed CONTINENTAL BLACKBIRDS. I was surprised though at the lack of REDWINGS - just one flock of 68 birds passing over high to the south over Coombe Wood.

There was little sign of much other migration apart from the constant diurnal passage of low-flying, mostly singleton Chaffinch - a total of 27 passing to the west in the two hours I was present.

A MARSH TIT was unusual in scrub below the main car park, whilst Jays were again much in evidence (12+ flying to and fro gathering acorns) and 4 COAL TITS were together in the main wood above Incombe Valley.

A single Yellowhammer passed over, 14 Meadow Pipits and two local Great Tits. Top Scrub was particularly uninspiring with yet again not a single warbler in sight - and no thrushes either.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR
(1415-1600 hours)

Wilstone Reservoir is now at the lowest I have ever seen it with the mud in the SW quadrant the most expansive on record and the water in that sector in great danger of drying up completely. There was little evidence of any new arrivals and in fact, the large European Golden Plover flock of recent weeks had disappeared. I undertook a complete inventory of the site and in doing so located a juvenile GREATER SCAUP. However, I couldn't believe myself on this one, firstly because I had previously written it off and secondly because of all of the current controversy surrounding the Marlow flock (see images of putative Greater and Lesser Scaups on Uploaded Images Files on Bucks Bird Club Website). I did not dare put it out, following my comments reference the Marlow birds, and summonsed a second opinion from Mike Campbell and Joan Thompson (both observers I knew would be close at hand and without commitment). Mike of course came armed with his video camera and took a lengthy piece of film (watch his highlighted edits at http://www.flickr.com/photos/16605076@N05/) and I also contacted David Bilcock who I can always rely on to get something of a good record shot at least (see his images above as well as two stills from Mike's video sequence). I was totally convinced that the bird was a juvenile Greater Scaup but found the circumstances barely conceivable after events of the previous 24 hours.

Anyway, here's the documentation:

GREATER SCAUP (juvenile)
I discovered a juvenile whilst click-counting the Coot flock just after 1420 hours. It was showing extremely well in the extreme NE end of the reservoir and was feeding alone but in close accompaniment of the Coot. It was occasionally joined by the odd drake Tufted Duck and male and female Northern Pochard and was slightly larger than Tufted Duck but with a noticeably wider and more spatulate-shaped bill, dark grey in colour with the dark nail restricted to the tip. The head was large and rounded and the neck long with no hint whatsoever of any tuft at the rear of the crown, with a clearly evident pale crescentic area of pale feathers around the ear-covert area (extending down to the lower part of the face) and buffish-white extensive patches at either side of the base of the bill (but significantly not forming a thick blaze over the top of the bill on the forehead). It was also much warmer (paler brown) in body colouration (than female Tufted Duck), with warm brown sides but a dark brown head and neck. When roll-preening, its belly and under-carriage was seen to be gleaming white. It had a very dull brownish-yellow eye, typical of juvenile Aythyas, and obvious grey legs when preening. The mantle was very dark brown but interspersed with a few new grey vermiculated feathers, several of these also bearing through on the fore-flanks as well as on the scapulars. In flight, the wing was seen to be broader than Tufted Duck but very similar in pattern, with a striking white bar across the secondaries and primaries petering out to grey in the outermost two primaries. It had a very unique diving ritual too - leaping right out of the water when diving - quite unlike that of the technique preferred by Tufted Ducks

And now for the other birds encountered -:

(43 species)

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (3)
Continental Cormorant (21)
Grey Heron (6)
Mute Swan (18 adults)
Atlantic Canada Goose (30)
Mallard (76)
Gadwall (18 including 12 drakes)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (3 present including an adult drake now maturing out of eclipse)
Northern Shoveler (156)
Eurasian Wigeon (215)
Common Teal (338)
Pochard (121)
Tufted Duck (72)

Red Kite (2)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (female flew south over)
Common Kestrel (male)

Common Pheasant (male, with 9 more feeding in a field south of Tringford)
Moorhen (63 including 25 together near the hide)
Coot (382)
Lapwing (65)
RINGED PLOVER (1)
DUNLIN (1 juvenile still)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 feeding on the south shore)
COMMON SNIPE (increase to 9 birds)

Black-headed Gull (102)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (7 including a juvenile)

Woodpigeon (37)
*SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT (the two birds still present between the Jetty and Cemetery Corner)
Pied Wagtails (37 feeding in the large field immediately north of the new overflow)
Wren (3)
Dunnock (2)
European Robin (4 in the Drayton Wood)
Mistle Thrush (2)
Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits
Magpie (1)
Jackdaw (18 by Wilstone Great farm; 36 in field by Cemetery Corner and 102 near Little Tring)
Rook (15 by Little Tring)
Carrion Crow (6)
Common Starling (7 in trees behind car park)
Chaffinch (1 over)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

ROCK PIPITS hang on

This morning the juv Dunlin and a Ringed Plover were on the mud to the right of the hide. I also had three Bramblings fly over the meadow behind the hide. Two SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPITS were between the North Corner and the jetty and when I got to the jetty Ian Williams and Mike Campbell were there and told me about a third Rock Pipit and a possible group of five that had flown over. There was also a pair of Pintail by the spit (Roy Hargreaves).

SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPITS at Tring Reservoirs

SATURDAY 17 OCTOBER

In what has been an exceptional autumn for this species at the reservoirs, with at least six individuals involved, THREE were recorded yesterday afternoon.

Roy Hargreaves alerted us all to the presence of two birds early in the afternoon, after he watched both birds feeding close to the Jetty on the east side of the reservoir. Dave Bilcock was quick on the scene and located the third bird in exactly the same area. Fifteen minutes later and Mike Campbell and I joined DB, the two birds being quickly located halfway along the East Bank. They were typically mobile being regularly shifted from pillar to post by an array of fishermen, dog walkers, general public on the mud and joggers. Fortunately, in a moment of quietness, the three of us enjoyed excellent views for five minutes as the two fed in the NE corner, eeking out Craneflies and other grubs from the scant vegetation growing out of the concrete bank.

The third bird had been flushed and had flown out on to the central muddy ridge out from the spit but after the two birds keeping close together had been additionally flushed again and had flown off east towards the fields, I relocated the singleton showing fantastically at just 25 yards range in the bay just south of the jetty.

The amount of variation in this autumn's Rock Pipits at Wilstone has been remarkable, with the initial long-staying bird of a few weeks back having just a pale eye-ring. Yesterday's three individuals all had an invariable amount of white on the lores and above the eye. One was particularly well-marked with quite an obvious whitish supercilium, whilst the other two had just like a short arc of white behind the eye and a diffuse line to the bill. The amount of dark 'washing' on the underparts is very variable between individuals too, but generally brownish in colour (beneath the noticeable streaking, particularly down towards the flanks). All three birds were very white on the lower vent and undertail-coverts.

The bill colour of all three birds was near-identical, being predominantly dark but with some warmth to the lower mandible. They also shared the dark brown leg colour.

It was virtually impossible to see the critical outer tail feather pattern (enabling unequivocal separation of autumn littoralis from petrosus) and the intrinsic variation that exists between both adults and first-winters of all of the pipit species further complicates the matter of racial identification. However, of all inland birds trapped or seen tail-stretching, all have been undoubted littoralis and I remain of the opinion that it is only Scandinavian birds that are undertaking this annual overland migration to wintering grounds in NW France and in the SW of Britain.

Wilstone Reservoir last night also yielded a juvenile DUNLIN and 2 RINGED PLOVERS as well as my first winter thrushes - 30 REDWING, 3 Song Thrush and 7 Continental Common Blackbirds being present in the small Poplar wood on the east bank towards dusk

Another good vizmig morning on the Ivinghoe Hills

Another good mornings passage, haven't added up the numbers yet as carried out a co-ordinated count in 15 minute blocks. With much assistance, and pleasant company of David Bilcock and Rob Hill. Chaffinch's were invading, particularly early on with over 150 in first 15 minutes before sunrise. Hundreds of Redwing over but not massive flocks and not the thousands of late.

A single RING OUZEL 'chacked' briefly from the top scrub but not seen.

A BARN OWL near Long Marston on the way to the hills this morning (Mike Wallen).

Friday, 16 October 2009

Yet another ROCK PIPIT and a very late HOBBY

There was a SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT by the jetty this morning which flew off just after 8am over the poplars in Cemetery Corner. Otherwise one/two GREEN SANDPIPERS and a Chinese Water Deer.

Also had a juvenile HOBBY circling over the house in Tring this morning - checking back through recent HBC reports this date is actually not the latest for the area. However, I did check very carefully to make sure it wasn't something else! (Roy Hargreaves)

Thursday, 15 October 2009

First COMMON GOLDENEYE return

Nothing as spectacular as 15 Common Scoter at Wilstone this morning. One male and two female COMMON GOLDENEYES were newly arrived. Otherwise a Lesser Redpoll, two Green Sandpipers, about 70 Golden Plover and c300 Redwings were the highlights (Roy Hargreaves)

Amazing sight at Ivinghoe

During a vigmigging episode this morning, along with large numbers of REDWINGS (3,000+), Mike Wallen watched a flock of at least 15 COMMON SCOTERS fly SW over the escarpment - a most incredible sight and record. They were almost certainly the 19 COMMON SCOTERS that later dropped into Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Another excellent day on the Hills - high REDWING passage

WEDNESDAY 13 OCTOBER

Another prime day for diurnal bird migration. A very light NE wind continued with high cloud bearing a few 'blue' breaks and temperatures of 13 degrees C. I spent the morning up Ivinghoe Hills viz-migging and was highly rewarded - an excellent passage. I then walked acres of farmland in search of Lapland Bunting, Richard's Pipit, Twite and Greater Short-toed Lark

IVINGHOE HILLS NR

Viewed mainly from the first hump towards the Beacon and the extreme northern edge of Steps Hill, with migration ongoing throughout

Thrushes were the main proponent of passage, moving both northwest and southwest, the largest single flock being of 145 birds. REDWINGS were once again the dominant species with a total of 1,286 noted. Many flocks made landfall in 'Top Scrub' with birds 'seeping' all around in the Hawthorns, including one with a white tail. CONTINENTAL SONG THRUSHES were also in abundance with at least 22 encountered, along with 12 Common Blackbirds, just 3 FIELDFARES and 3 MISTLE THRUSHES. Two RING OUZELS were also involved with the movement, both birds landing briefly in the scrub just west of the tall Beech trees. Both birds were males.

A liquid collection of notes announced the arrival of 5 WOODLARKS from the southwest, the five short-tailed birds flying in a loose flock very low over the contour of the hills and heading east towards the transmitter, whilst Eurasian Skylarks numbered 12 (a single and parties of 4 and 7). Meadow Pipits numbered just 34.

A relatively constant passage of finches went overhead with 24 Chaffinches, 2 BRAMBLINGS, 17 Greenfinch and 1 Linnet, whilst 16 Goldfinches were in Top Scrub as well as 4 Bullfinches.

There was not a warbler to be found but 12 Jays, a COAL TIT, 9 Long-tailed Tits, a migrant GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, 3 Green Woodpeckers and a pair of COMMON STONECHATS were to be seen between the S-Bend and Incombe Hole.

A total of 353 Woodpigeons was in trees at Coombe Wood, whilst raptors overhead included two Eurasian Sparrowhawks and 5 different RED KITES (including two juveniles).

DOWN FARM, ALDBURY

I did an extensive search of the fields west of the road where very large numbers of birds are feeding. The stubble field at the far west (at SP 955 144) is in superb condition and full of food, whilst many Skylarks were also favouring the ploughed field adjacent. Species noted were as follows -:

GREY PARTRIDGE (3)
Woodpigeon (190)
RED KITES (2)
Meadow Pipits (85)
Eurasian Skylark (133+)
YELLOWHAMMER (18)
*CORN BUNTING (24)
LINNET (157)

WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING
(1330-1500 hours)

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (6)
Mute Swan (14)
Gadwall (17)
Wigeon (117)
Common Teal (336)
Shoveler (153)
Pochard (32)
PINTAIL (just 1 located)
Greater Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrid (female-type)
Tufted Duck (144)
Coots (403 including at least one piebald bird)

Lapwing (311)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (147 roosting on mud)
RINGED PLOVER (2 in NW corner)
GREEN SANDPIPER (2 near hide)
COMMON SNIPE (9)

LITTLE OWLS (2 on fence)