Thursday, 26 February 2009

Expectation......but no new migrants


A much colder day than of late with a westerly element to the wind. The sun did attempt to break through but largely failed and it remained grey and overcast all day


First off, I did some ROOK surveying and in the tall trees surrounding Pendley Manor (SP 941 117), I located 17 active nests in total, with 11 visible from the Grass Roots Stadium and 6 behind the Court Theatre. A short distance away, I located another rookery of 8 nests in trees bordering the railway line SE of Tring Station at SP 953 117.

A pair of Common Buzzard was also displaying over Pendley Manor.


The 3 adult WHOOPER SWANS that Steve Rodwell had seen at 0900 hours had moved on.

Of note were: 1 Little Grebe, 8 Common Teal, 34 Tufted Duck, 2 drake Pochard, 26 Coot, 4 Moorhen, 137 Black-headed Gulls and 3 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A Common Buzzard was soaring overhead, with single Song Thrush and a Robin in song.


Very quiet, with damage noted on a window in the Director's Hide - it was completely missing.

Great Crested Grebe (single still present on marsh)
Mute Swans (7 including a group of 5 first-winters)
Canada Geese (5)
Eurasian Wigeon (19)
Gadwall (just 2)
Shoveler (3 including 1 drake)
Tufted Duck (21)
Pochard (6)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD: just 3 remaining (adult drake and two females)
Coot (43)
OYSTERCATCHER still (on island in marsh)
Lapwing (1)

Wildfowl numbers much depleted, particularly Wigeon, with the water level on Startop's End dropping to reveal a small margin of mud. A total of 41 species was noted.

Great Crested Grebe (22, with 15 on Marsworth, 2 on Startop's End, 1 on Tringford and 4 on Wilstone) Two pairs were 'dancing' in display on Marsworth.
Little Grebe (1 on Wilstone)
Continental Cormorant (2 pairs nesting on Wilstone, in the largest tree on the central bank; 25 others)
Grey Heron (1 on Tringford with 15 nesting on the Drayton Bank on Wilstone - 5 in the tallest tree, 5 in the middle belt and 5 in bushes on the Drayton Bank nearest the hide)
Mute Swan (14 adults on Tringford, a first-winter on Marsworth and none on Wilstone)
Canada Geese (18 on Startop's End, with 52 feeding in a field adjacent to Tringford)
Greylag Geese (2 with the field-feeding Canadas above)
Mallard (not counted)
Gadwall (18 on Wilstone)
Shoveler (223, with 116 on Marsworth and 107 on Wilstone)
Eurasian Wigeon (dramatic decline in numbers with just 83 on Wilstone)
Common Teal (4 on Startop's End, with 4 on Wilstone)
Pochard (52, with 18 on Marsworth, 12 on Startop's End and 22 on Wilstone)
Tufted Duck (128, with 26 on Startop's End, 25 on Tringford and 77 on Wilstone) The well-marked Scaup-type hybrid was also present on Wilstone
COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 drakes and 2 females on Wilstone)
*RUDDY DUCK (6 individuals on Wilstone - 2 adult drakes, an immature drake and 3 females)
Common Kestrel (female by B489 by Wilstone Green)
Moorhen (8 on Marsworth)
Coot (258, with 6 on Marsworth, 28 on Startop's End, 22 on Tringford and 202 on Wilstone)
Lapwing (10 on rafts on Wilstone)
Black-headed Gull (39)
Common Gull (3 adults)

Woodpigeon (not counted)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 in Tringford Wood)
Wren (1 singing in Tringford Wood)
Dunnock (1 singing in Tringford Wood)
European Robin (2 singing males in Marsworth Wood, with 3 more in Tringford Wood)
*COMMON STONECHAT (the wintering female still present in its favoured weedy patch alongside the Grand Union Canal east of the Tringford Pumping Station at SP 920 129)
Song Thrush (2 singing males in Tringford Wood)
Redwing (4 in Tringford Wood)
Common Blackbird (1 male in garden by Tringford Pumping Station)
Great Tit (3 in Tringford Wood)
Blue Tit (2 in Tringford Wood)
Long-tailed Tit (3 in Marsworth Wood)
Magpie (5)
Jackdaw (30 in Tringford Wood)
Carrion Crow (2 on Wilstone)
House Sparrow (34 by the Angler's Retreat)
Chaffinch (singing male in Marsworth Wood)
Greenfinch (1 in Tringford Wood)
SISKIN (12 in Tringford Wood)


Collared Dove, 8 Common Starlings, a singing Robin and a dead Badger in Tring Road just NE of Wilstone village.


Three different Common Kestrels noted including a male just NE of the village, another male by 'Acorns' at Westend Hill and another male by Elsage Farm. Three Moorhens were on the tiny pond by the railway by Cheddington Station at SP 922 184.


A RED KITE was hunting east of the B488 at SP 925 185, whilst a further Common Kestrel was north of Horton village.


Great Crested Grebes (2), Wigeon (pair), Teal (20), Pochard (22), Common Goldeneye (female)
Common Gulls (52), Lesser Black-backed Gull (18 adults) Grey Wagtail (female)

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

This morning there were three LITTLE EGRETS roosting in the bushes in the middle of the W"ilstone Drayton Bank. They departed at 7:20 and unusually landed in sight - in the third field away from the road just to the west of Wilstone Village.

A pair of PINTAIL were also very visible on the water to between the new overflow and the hide (Roy Hargreaves)

Monday, 23 February 2009


Friday: Wilstone Gull roost with Dave and Ian. 1 ad GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL.

Saturday: 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARD College Lake (Dave had seen 3 of these birds earlier at Startops). 2 BARN OWLS at Marsworth.

Sunday: Wilstone - 1 Little Egret, 7 Goldeneye, 1 Golden Plover over, First-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL late morning, 3 (2M, 1F) NORTHERN PINTAIL (earlier seen flying over Startops by Dave and Stuart). Woodcock and CETTI'S WARBLER recorded by Warren.

Gull roost (with Dave and Stuart) - 80 Common Gulls, 5 L.B.B.Gulls, 2 Herring Gulls.

Tringford - Female COMMON STONECHAT still.

Lakeside Garden: Male BRAMBLING and female BLACKCAP on Sat and Sun (Steve Rodwell)

Saturday, 21 February 2009

This OYSTERCATCHER remained at College Lake this morning (Dave Bilcock) - presumably one of our breeding pair.

Almost felt like Wales today at Wilstone 2 Red Kites, one Buzzard and two COMMON RAVENS calling - possibly the Dancer's End birds given the direction they came from. This evening at Marsworth 1+ BARN OWL showed well from 5pm to about 5:45 in the meadow behind the reed bed. About 80 CORN BUNTINGS flew into roost, but no sign of Bittern. However, Spring was definitely dipping its toes in the water. Great Crested Grebes were courting and nest building and quite a few birds were singing and some of the winter visitors seem to have reduced in number (Roy Hargreaves)

Friday, 20 February 2009



Spring really has arrived, with temperatures reaching a balmy 15 degrees C this afternoon. Snowdrops are bursting out all over the countryside and many birds are either in full song or pairing up. It was a beautiful day, with light winds and long periods of bright sunshine.


Thanks to Dave Bilcock, I was able to add NORTHERN PINTAIL to my Tring List in 2009. The two birds (pair) that Roy Hargreaves had found early morning were still present at 0900 hours, sleeping just south of the Drayton Bank and visible from the car park steps. They were presumably migrants. (Dave Bilcock, Steve Rodwell and Ian Williams saw both birds at 1730)

Three female COMMON GOLDENEYE were still present, along with 3 Mute Swans, 573 Eurasian Wigeon (many feeding along the top bank), 92 Common Teal, 27 Gadwall and 24 Shoveler. A total of 320 Black-headed Gulls remained from overnight, and 2 Pied Wagtails were feeding along the bank.


An OYSTERCATCHER was new-in on the island, whilst wildfowl included 6 MANDARIN DUCKS (4 drakes and 2 females), 6 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (2 adult drakes, 4 females), 123 Eurasian Wigeon, 46 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, 27 Common Teal, 27 Tufted Duck and 7 Pochard.

There was also 1 Great Crested Grebe, 7 Lapwing, 8 Common Snipe and 64 Coot, whilst JT also had the MARSH TIT on the feeder.


After receiving a late call from Howard Ginn, I raced down to Great Hampden where Howard had seen a 'buzzard' which shared some characteristics with Rough-legged Buzzard and had apparently been in the general area since October of last year. It was in the vicinity of the footpath at SP 852 017 NNE of Great Hampden village. Unfortunately, by the time I got there (1700 hours) the bird had flown off to roost.

Most interesting was a RED KITE roost of c20 birds in Kingsfield Wood - a new roost for me


Roy Hargreaves has discovered a pair of NORTHERN PINTAIL again this morning, both birds feeding to the right of the Drayton Bank.

Last night, the first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL was again present in the Wilstone roost. Also 3 Lesser Black Backed Gulls and earlier with Roy, 2 Herring Gulls over. At Marsworth 10 G.C.Grebes, mostly in pairs displaying, only 1 at Tringford and 3 at Wilstone. 19 Mute Swans at all reses (8 Startops, 4 Marsworth, 4 Tringford, 3 Wilstone). 1 Common Treecreeper at Tringford. Male BRAMBLING and female BLACKCAP in garden at Lakeside, Tring (Steve Rodwell, Dave Bilcock)

Thursday, 19 February 2009


I managed to miss the only EURASIAN BITTERN seen this evening at the canal end of the resevoir but had 70 CORN BUNTINGS, 28 Fieldfares, 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Water Rail, 1 Ruddy Duck, 81 Shoveler, 1 Common Snipe, 1 Common Buzzard and 70 Lapwing (Charlie Jackson)

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Wilstone Reservoir Gull roost with Dave Bilcock: First-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL, 21 L.B.B.Gulls, 4 Herring Gulls.

Wilstone: 14 Grey Herons at 7 different nest sites. 4 Yellowhammers (2 males singing).

Little Owl: 1 Marsworth and 1 Startops.

College Lake: 1 G.C. Grebe, 8 Cormorant, 3 M. Swans, 10 Mallard, 14 Gadwall, 13 Shoveler, 297 Wigeon, 87 Teal, 17 Pochard, 6 R.C. Pochard, 46 Tufted, 3 Moorhen, 46 Coot, 38 Lapwing, 23 B.h.Gulls

Pitstone Quarry: 4 Mallard, 1 Shoveler, 22 Wigeon, 3 Teal, 5 Pochard, 31 Tufted, 3 Moorhen, 19 Coot, 69 Lapwing, 391 B.h.Gulls, 12 Common Gulls.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


At the Wilstone Reservoir gull roost with Dave Bilcock this evening, large numbers of Black-headed Gulls (c.4200), 150 Common Gulls and only 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Also 58 Cormorants roosting (Steve Rodwell)


Birding from 4-30 til 6-00pm yielded:-c60 CORN BUNTINGS to roost and 2 BARN OWLS but no sight nor sound of Bitterns (Jack O'Neill)


Marsworth Reedbed Monday 16 Feb. 17.15-18.00
Two EURASIAN BITTERNS seen, one far left of reed bed near canal flying and dropping down and another flying away from righthand side near overflow and landing in middle of reed bed directly opposite.
Woodcock seen in usual flight and a couple of snipe flew from reed bed opposite, over our heads and across Startops calling. Flock of lapwing approx 14 flew over. One Pipistrelle Bat (Sally Douglas, Chaz Jackson & Chris Evans)

Sunday, 15 February 2009


Marsworth - also a single small bat, Pipestrelle type and yesterday evening with Stuart and Chris Evans a WOODCOCK was again seen flying over Marsworth reservoir. Caught up with the 5 GREY PARTRIDGE where Roy has reported them several times between Miswell Farm and the dry canal, close to the small pond where the path braches off N.E. to Little Tring.

At Tringford 4 Siskins and 10 Golden Plover over.

At the Wilstone gull roost with Dave Bilcock there were 88 Common Gulls, 1 first-winter Herring Gull (2 adults earlier over Marsworth) and only 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Some Waterbird counts (Sunday): G.C.Grebe 2 Tford, 7 Wils, 6 Mars, 2 Stops. L. Grebe 1 Wils. Mute Swan 14 Tford, 3 Stops, 2 Wils. Greylag Goose 30 Stops, 4 Wils. Canada Goose 48 Wils. Mallard 15 Tford, 45 Stops, 11 Mars, 18 Stops. Gadwall 68 Wils. Shoveler 135 Wils. Wigeon 584 Wils. Teal 41 Tford, 26 Wils. Pochard 6 Tford, 37 Stops, 7 Mars, 74 Wils. Tufted Duck 22 Tford, 62 Stops, 1 Mars, 121 Wils. Goldeneye 2 Stops, 5 Wils (on 14th Feb, Total of 11 (4m, 7f) at Wils, DB). Ruddy Duck 4 Wils. Coot 470 Wils, 34 Tford, 8 Mars, 40 Stops. Moorhen 6 Tford, 4 Mars, 3 Wils (Steve Rodwell)


Steve Rodwell and I also saw the Marsworth Reservoir EURASIAN BITTERN this evening, initially sat up in the reeds on the far side opposite the hide it then flew to the reed bed where Mike Campbell saw it this morning, where it is presumably roosting.

Also this evening 2 COMMON SHELDUCKS (photographed above and the first of the year) were at Wilstone, where the 4 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (drake and three females) remained from this morning. Unfortunately no sign of the Mediterranean Gull in the roost, which I have not managed to find on the last 4 evening visits (David Bilcock).

Wednesday, 11 February 2009



Another sharp frost followed by clear conditions and a continuing thaw. A slow-moving front dropped down from the north bringing rain during the afternoon. Little wind.


Much Common Buzzard activity with 3 birds in aerial display; also single RED KITE in area.


Fairly quiet with no sign of Roy's pair of Red-crested Pochard nor of the drake Goosander (still present yesterday). Duck numbers were well up due to an arrival of birds from frozen College Lake.

Great Crested Grebe (8)
Little Grebe (1)
Atlantic Great Cormorant (most probably Sinensis) (44 roosted)
Mute Swan (4 - including 1 first-winter)
Canada Geese (29)
Greylag Goose (2)
Mallard (29)
Gadwall (26+ - large increase)
Eurasian Wigeon (646)
Common Teal (188)
Northern Shoveler (145)
Tufted Duck (76)
Pochard (20)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (1 adult drake, 5 females)
RUDDY DUCK (3 - 1 adult drake, 1 immature drake, 1 female)
Coot (303)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 adult)
Common Gulls (6 adults roosting on ice)
Common Kestrel (2, both sat by the B489)
Song Thrush (1 feeding on snowmelt opposite Cemetery)


Great Crested Grebe (1)
Mute Swan (3 - 1 first-winter)
Canada Geese (43)
Greylag Goose (very tame bird on bank that feeds from hand)
Tufted Duck (43)
Pochard (26)
Coot (37)
Mistle Thrush (1 male in song)

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (virtually all frozen)

Pochard (1)


Great Crested Grebe (1)
Mute Swans (5)
Pochard (3)
Tufted Duck (15)

COLLEGE LAKE (marsh frozen)

Great Crested Grebe (1)
Little Grebe (1)
Mute Swan (3)
Gadwall (16)
Wigeon (53)
Tufted Duck (27)
Pochard (12)
*RED-CRESTED POCHARD (4 present including 1 adult drake)
Coot (86)

PITSTONE QUARRY (completely frozen apart from a puddle)

Mute Swan (2 first-winters)
Moorhen (2) Coot (4)
Greenfinch (1 male)


In paddocks adjacent to Honeysuckle/Park Hill Farm, where snow has cleared, 3 Lapwing, 2 Mistle Thrush and 5 Fieldfare were feeding, whilst along the entrance road to Northfield Grange, 19 Common Pheasants were feeding together (including 5 male Ring-neckeds). A RED KITE was soaring over Aldbury Nowers and later flew west over the road.


The snow-covered fields either side of the B489 at Ivinghoe were completely birdless today - not a sign of a single Skylark - whilst Down Farm was equally devoid of life with just a single male Common Kestrel and Muntjac noted.


A large roost with at least 3,867 Black-headed Gulls present by 1730 (and still coming in), the regular first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL (in exactly the same place close in to the Drayton Bank), 217 Common Gulls (including 27 first-winters) and 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (4 adults, 1 2nd-winter).

Monday, 9 February 2009


A very slippery walk in icy conditions this morning yielded the following.

1 Little Egret in the bushes on Drayton Bank, 1 Red Kite over meadow at back of hide. Also five GREY PARTRIDGE flew away from the hedge by the track through Miswell Farm, landed, and disappeared into the hedge on the other side of the field.

Also saw one male and one female BRAMBLING in the garden today with the flock of Chaffinches - these are the first I have seen since this period of snowfall commenced. Also a Pied Wagtail briefly landed on the bird table before flying off - I sometimes get them by the pond, but never on the bird table before (Roy Hargreaves)


Wilstone gull roost: First winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL, 1 adult Great Black-backed Gull, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 88 Common Gulls, 3 Goldeneye, 1 Water Rail, 5 Snipe (Steve Rodwell)

Sunday, 8 February 2009


The first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL and a first-winter GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL roosted on Wilstone this evening (see images above; David Bilcock, Steve Rodwell)


Also this morning in the 2 fields on the left-hand side of Little Tring Road as you turn off Icknield Way were 52 EURASIAN SKYLARKS, 14 in the first field and 38 in the second (David Bilcock).


Two female BLACKCAPS in my garden at Tring Lakeside. 1 Water Rail on the Wendover Arm of the canal behind Marsworth, plus 1 seen and several heard at Marsworth Reservoir. c.40 Goldfinches in the field beside Tring Sewage Works (the one behind Marsworth Reservoir) (Steve Rodwell)


At Marsworth with Chris Evans till dusk, no sign of the Bittern although a WOODCOCK was again seen just before dark.

2 LITTLE EGRETS again roosting at Wilstone, only saw 1 last night. Number of Black-headed gulls in the roost again reduced, also only 61 Common Gulls and 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in addition to those reported by Dave.

On Saturday a few waterbird counts.

Mallard: Tringford 40, Startops 53, Marsworth 6, Wilstone 48, College Lake 93, Total = 240. Tufted Duck: Tringford 19, Startops 42, Wilstone 104, College Lake 103.
Pochard: Tringford 3, Startops 27, Wilstone 141, College Lake 19, Total = 200.
Teal: 54 Tringford, 121 Wilstone, 8 College Lake, Total = 183.
Gadwall: 4 Tringford, 45 Wilstone, 30 College Lake, Total = 79.
Shoveler: 136 Wilstone.
Eurasian Wigeon: 653 Wilstone, 135 College Lake, Total = 788.
Ruddy Duck: 6 Wilstone.
Common Goldeneye: 2 Wilstone, 2 College Lake.
Mute Swan: 10 Tringford, 4 Startops, 5 Wilstone, 3 College Lake, 2 Pitstone Quarry, Total = 24. Greylag Goose: 1 Startops, 35 Wilstone, Total = 36.
Canada Goose: 60 Startops, 2 Wilstone, 91 College Lake, Total = 153.
Coot: 30 Tringford, 72 Startops, 4 Marsworth, 416 Wilstone, 61 College Lake, 14 Pitstone Quarry, Total = 577.
Great-crested Grebe: 1 Tringford, 1 Startops, 4 Marsworth, 16 Wilstone, Total = 22.
Little Grebe, 3 Tringford, 6 College Lake, Total = 9.



The highlight of a cold day at College Lake was a BARN OWL quartering over the large field of rough grassland at the north of the reserve. Fingers crossed it noticed the Barn Owl box up at that end! Also 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARD and a female Common Goldeneye (Nancy Reed)


This afternoon with Mike Campbell; First-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the Wilstone gull roost. At Marsworth the EURASIAN BITTERN flew to the Bucks corner again at 5.35pm, and there also was a WOODCOCK. Earlier 2 WATER RAILS at Marsworth by Lock 41 and at College Lake with Rob Andrews the 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were still present, plus a MARSH TIT on the feeders (presumably the bird from Pitstone Quarry of last November (Steve Rodwell)

Saturday, 7 February 2009


A true winter scene. Dave Bilcock's evocative shots reveal the extent of the snow cover at present - the heaviest and most prolonged spell of snow since at least 1991

Friday, 6 February 2009


Further heavy snow befell the region overnight with the roads in the area gridlocked by dawn. It is virtual complete 'whiteout'

This evening the EURASIAN BITTERN put in a late appearance for both Rob Andrews and I, flying across the back of Marsworth reservoir at 5.23pm, landing somewhere in the Bucks corner. No sign of the Barn Owl but we heard a Little Owl and also saw a WOODCOCK. (Steve Rodwell)


The drake GOOSANDER is again back on Marsworth Reservoir. Yesterday I forgot to mention at Wilstone 1 Water Rail, 1 Little Egret roosting, 43 Cormorants roosting and 31 Gadwall (Steve Rodwell)


A stroll along the canal between WTR and Wendover this afternoon produced at least 6 Little Grebes (photographed above by Mike Lawrence). Also in the area of emergent vegetation about halfway along (where a fence panel is at right angles to the water on the far bank) a meadow pipit, a Goldcrest and a COMMON CHIFFCHAFF, as well as lots of activity from finches and tits. Great squabbling between the numerous Mooorhens over an apple core I dropped (David Oldfield)

Thursday, 5 February 2009


For more about the wider aspects of Tring Reservoirs please visit the Friends of Tring Reservoirs website at

Friends Of Tring Reservoirs - the organisation

Friends Of Tring Reservoirs is a local conservation organisation formed in 1993 to promote the conservation of this important Site of Special Scientific Interest. With Over 400 Members, FoTR has become a significant voice in the local environment and became a charity organisation in 1999. The objectives of FoTR are:

For the public benefit to preserve and conserve the flora, fauna and natural environment of Tring Reservoirs and surrounding areas.

The advancement of the education of the public in the flora, fauna, the natural environment and related subjects with particular reference to Tring Reservoirs and the surrounding areas.

How FoTR try to achieve these objectives:

Has two places on the Tring Reservoirs Liaison Committee which influences decisions made about the management of the reservoirs. The more members we have, the more influencial our voice is.
Conservation work
Raise awareness of issues affecting Tring Reservoirs
Have a stall at local events to encourage membership and raise awareness
Maintain records of flora and fauna in the area, with particular emphasis on birds
Organized Walks


Benefits of membership include:

a regular newsletter, 'Grebe'
Annual Report
Bird checklist
Car Sticker
Special interest walks
Opportunity to contribute to volunteer conservation
Opportunity to help with surveys
Annual General Meeting with guest speaker or other activity
Exclusive use of the 'Plover Hide' hide at the Thames Water Sewage Farm Lagoon



Another belt of heavy snow arrived overnight dumping up to eight inches over the Chilterns District and making the main artillery routes impassable for much of the morning. Dunstable and Luton were particularly badly hit, but also Milton Keynes, Oxford, Aylesbury, Tring and Amersham. Once the snow had turned to rain and then dissipated, it warmed up and at one stage reached 6 degrees C. The snow began to melt but from late afternoon, the temperatures plummeted once more and were hovering just above freezing at the Marsworth Roost.


Whilst driving down the B489 towards Ivinghoe, I suddenly came across large numbers of Woodpigeons feeding in snow-covered fields either side of the road (NE of Town Farm at SP 954 165 and SP 955 164). I stopped off to count them (a minimum of 4,000 birds) and was astounded to find a massive flock of EURASIAN SKYLARKS associating with them. An incredible 772 was click-counted - by far the largest number I have recorded locally in a very long time. I was absolutely delighted as numbers of this charming farmland bird have been declining nationally and this was a very substantial number. Whether or not they are local birds or immigrants from the continent is unknown but it sure is impressive.

DIRECTIONS: The B489 is a busy and dangerous road in this area and there is no parking other than the entrance/access road to Town Farm.


Steve Rodwell had discovered a fabulous adult drake GOOSANDER early afternoon on Marsworth Reservoir, which both Roy and Dave B saw shortly later (in fact, Dave obtained one of his excellent 'trademark' photographs of the bird, depicted above). Fortunately, much to my surprise, it was still there when I arrived at 1445 and showed extremely well until at least 1506. It was favouring the extreme north end of the reservoir and took to 'fishing' in the shallows, fairly close to the reedbed near the locks. It was an awesome bird - so handsome - and represented my first of the year in the Recording Area.

The reservoir also held 12 Northern Pochard, 47 Shoveler and 6 Great Crested Grebes whilst neighbouring STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR yielded a further 17 Pochard and 17 Shoveler. Just 1 adult Mute Swan was with Mallards on the Grand Union Canal, whilst FIELDFARES were passing over in small numbers and 35 House Sparrows were noisily arguing around STARTOP FARM.


From 1525-1620, WTR was birded. There was no sign of either Bittern but feeding in the one small area of open water were 6 Great Crested Grebes, 10 Pochard and a single drake Eurasian Wigeon.

A single LITTLE EGRET fed to the left of the hide, with 3 Grey Herons in active prominence, 2 squealing WATER RAILS, a flighty flock of 35 hungry Fieldfares, 2 Wrens and a single CETTI'S WARBLER.


I then decided to return to Tring Reservoirs, stopping off briefly at Wilstone where Steve Rodwell had seen 4 COMMON GOLDENEYE and 90 COMMON GULLS and 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the roost.

By 1700 hours, the last of just 88 CORN BUNTINGS flew in to roost, whilst the beautiful drake GOOSANDER flew off south at 1645 and the usual male Eurasian Sparrowhawk did his pass through the reedbed.

Scanning the far side of the reedbed I soon located the wintering EURASIAN BITTERN (at 1654), constructing its roosting platform of reedmace in its favoured area in line with the tallest isolated tree on the backdrop. Once again, I was mystified at just how the reeds could take its weight without bending over, and at one point, it climbed right to the top of the reeds and stretched its neck out to retrieve taller reeds. It remained on view for at least 20 minutes before dropping flat and blending in with the reeds.

Just as I was departing SR joined me and at dusk (1720 hours), the BARN OWL was hunting over the weedy field north of the Sewage Farm at SP 924 137. Another local Year Tick as well as in Hertfordshire.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


Very quiet today with no signs of any movement due to the cold weather.

At College Lake the 5 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were still on the marsh as was as a single Goldeneye, but no sign of the weekends Whooper Swans.

The fields below Steps Hill held ca.600 Woodpigeon but the only raptors present were 2 Common Kestrels and a Common Buzzard (see above picture). Only other bird of note was a COMMON STONECHAT along the footpath from the s-bend to the beacon (Dave Bilcock)


Rob Andrews captured this very seasonal shot at College Lake yesterday of two of the five wintering RED-CRESTED POCHARDS.


Along with the rest of SE Britain, Tring Reservoirs experienced its heaviest snowfall in 18 years today (2 February). This Northern Pochard was covered in snow (Dave Bilcock)

Sunday, 1 February 2009


IMAGES FROM TODAY TAKEN BY DAVE BILCOCK - part of the 20-strong flock of DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE present on Wilstone and the 3 adult WHOOPER SWANS on College Lake

With a second day of strong, freezing-cold SE winds, Wilstone Reservoir reaped the rewards. A flock of 14 adult DARK-BELLIED BRENT GEESE touched down early morning (from at least 0735 - per Stuart Wilson) and were identified by David Bilcock at 0747. Dave was very quick to get the message out and within ten minutes, JT had 'phoned me and kindly prompted me to check my mobile.

DBBG is a very rare bird locally and it was time for me to make a dash. I informed several other observers on the local grapevyne and also rang RBA and arrived literally seconds after Dunstable-based birder and very close friend Francis Buckle. DB was again on the phone. Oh no I thought - flying off before I got to the top of the steps ! But no, it was Dave to say that there were now 20 birds present - 6 more had flown in from the NW at 0833.

I dashed up the steps and quickly located the throng - all bunched together about 100 yards west of the jetty. Francis had to get back as he had arranged to go to Cambridgeshire and quickly departed. I walked on and joined DB, RH, SW, MCa and JT on the jetty (soon to be joined by MF) where we all enjoyed excellent views of the tightly knit flock - all 20 of them uniformly-marked adults. Dave managed a number of shots (see above).

The birds remained until at least 0935 hours when I departed but always seemed nervous and alert. Not once did they feed but occasionally the odd bird would have a drink. They were part of a widespread overland movement which included 70 over Grafham Water (Cambs), 30 over Great Leighs (Essex) and a single at Brogborough Lake (Beds). I later learnt that all 20 flew off at 1039 hours.

Dark-bellied Brent Goose is a scarce visitor to Tring Reservoirs with just 14 previous records (involving 85 individuals, with previous flocks of 10, 26 and 29)

1) An adult with Canada Geese on Wilstone Reservoir from 20-25 February 1987
2) A party of 4 present for just half an hour on Wilstone before flying south over Tring town on 19 November 1989
3) Two present on Wilstone for just 15 minutes before flying off high SW on 8 November 1992 (Rob Young)
4) Three present on Wilstone Reservoir on 20-21 February 1993
5) An adult present on Wilstone from 2-14 November 1993 (Rob Young et al)
6) Three visited Wilstone on 17 February 1994.
7) A flock of 10 was noted over Wilstone on 8 November 1994
8) A flock of 26 was present on Wilstone on 3-4 January 1996 (Marcus Brew)
9) One present on Wilstone on 28 September 1998 (Rob Young et al)
10) One visited Wilstone on 2 April 2003 (Dave Bilcock)
11) A flock of 29 flew NEW over Wilstone on 20 March 2005.
12) One was present on Wilstone for 45 minutes early morning on 2 April 2005.
13) Two visited Startop's End Reservoir on 16 October 2005
14) One visited Wilstone on 5 January 2006 (Roy Hargreaves)

Elsewhere in Hertfordshire, flocks exceeding 20 individuals have included 29 adults over Amwell NR on 30 November 1986 (Graham White), 37 SE over Hilfield Park Reservoir on 20 March 2005 and 38 NE over Ware on 28 April 1993 (Barry Reed) but the record number involves 48-50 which flew over Tyttenhanger GP on 7 April 1996.

Apart from the Brent flock, Wilstone Reservoir was fairly quiet with 59 Greylag Geese in the Cemetery Corner Field (and another one dead on the jetty), 5 COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 adult drakes), an adult drake RUDDY DUCK and a lone Fieldfare. Two RED KITES were in attendance, with one flying over fields to the north of the reservoir and another over Little Tring Farm.


Sheltering many of the ducks including 60 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, 3 Common Teal, 37 Tufted Ducks, 8 Pochard and 24 Coot.


Virtually birdless apart from 2 Great Crested Grebes - bitterly cold.

(joined by JT)

A herd of 3 adult WHOOPER SWANS flew in from the east at 1012 and landed on the Main Marsh in front of the Director's Hide, affording excellent views (LGRE et al). They drank several times before swimming close to the islands and were then present for the remainder of the day, allowing Dave Bilcock to obtain the photographs published above. The birds appeared to coincide with a small displacement of Whoopers elsewhere in Southern England (presumably induced by the strong SE winds) but, as with previous arrivals in the area, may just as likely have derived from the Wardown Park population in Luton.

The marsh also held the continuing single Great Crested Grebe, along with 27 Gadwall, 14 Shoveler, 3 Pochard and 4 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS (2 pairs).


The long-staying female RING-NECKED PARAKEET was showing extremely well early afternoon, favouring the tall trees by the main footpath west of the village. It was very vocal and seemed to be 'guarding' a hole in one of the trees.

DETAILED DIRECTIONS: Southcott Village is situated at the SW end of Linslade/Leighton Buzzard and is best accessed from Wing Road. Turn left into Bunkers Lane just before the lights and railway tunnel and after 400 yards, turn left into Southcott Village. Continue to the end of the road and park sensibly and courteously and continue walking west along the muddy footpath beyond the gate and stile. The track bends sharply right then sharply left and after another 100 yards opens out into a large grassy field. It is the tall trees in this vicinity that the lone parakeet favours.


In my quest for a Bucks Grey Partridge, I spent over an hour searching the arable farmland within a radius of Mentmore. The paddocks held an impressive flock of 337 winter thrushes including 277 Fieldfares and 60 Redwings, as well as many corvids including 83 Jackdaws and 27 Rooks.

A flock of 30 more Fieldfare was in Mentmore itself, with a single Yellowhammer by Wingbury Farm. By the time I reached Wingrave there was a shoot on, and the only gamebird I spied was a single Red-legged Partridge sheltering from the guns in a Leighton Road garden in Wingrave village !

Despite interrogating Mike Campbell over potential sites in his neighbourhood, I still drew a complete blank (Lee G R Evans)


Startopsend Reservoir: 50 Shoveler, 30 Pochard, 4 Pied Wagtails and on Tringford: 15 Teal, 2 Grey Herons. On Marsworth were: another 20 Shoveler, 10 Pochard, 6 Grey Herons, 2 Grey Wagtails, Kestrel, 3 Reed Buntings and 15 Long-tailed Tits. An excellent 175 CORN BUNTINGS flew to roost in the reedbed- the highest number this winter - but couldn't see any more because of the heavy snow! No Bitterns though and only 2 Starlings! (Chris Evans)


Visited Berkhamsted Common early this morning before any golfers were about, eventually managed to locate 3 LESSER REDPOLL feeding in the birches behind the tee for number 6 hole. After a while these were joined by another 9 birds, and I managed to get a few pictures before they were disturbed and headed off over the road.

Also this morning 3 adult WHOOPER SWANS were on Startop's End Reservoir, presumably yesterdays birds from College Lake (where they returned later) (Dave Bilcock)


At WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR, 1515ish, 31 December 2009, watched EURASIAN BITTERN for about 1 hour before it melted into reeds in its usual spot opposite hide. In addition, at least 2 WATER RAILS squealing in reeds to the left of the hide (Andy Radford)


I wanted to let you know that I have had to close the hide at Wilstone Reservoir today as someone had put their foot through one of the planks in the boardwalk and on repair I found that a few of the main support beams are rotten. I have put posters up at the hide, at the top of the path that leads to the hide and in the car park and the entrance to the hide has been taped up. We are hopefully going to have it repaired next week but I will keep everyone posted once I know the details and update the posters on site to let visitors know.


Paul Thrush
Reserve Officer
Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust