Saturday, 21 March 2009

More WHITE WAGTAILS arrive this evening

The flock of at least 22 'alba' wagtails on the grass bank at the east end of Startop's End Reservoir now has at least 3 WHITE WAGTAILS in the flock this evening (per David Bilcock)



With high pressure still firmly in charge, it was another glorious day, with clear blue skies, all-day sunshine and temperatures continuing at 15 degrees C. There was a light easterly breeze. A few new migrants arrived overnight but surprisingly no Garganey. A superb male WHITE WAGTAIL and male NORTHERN WHEATEAR were the highlights.


GREAT CRESTED GREBE (pair prospecting for nest site)
Little Grebe (8)
Grey Heron (2)
Tufted Duck (14 - 7 pairs)
Coot (12)
Lapwing (1 pair nesting)
OYSTERCATCHER (pair feeding - presumably College Lake birds)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (pair - found by DB - and later relocated on Tunnel Way)
Common Gull (1 adult)
Dunnock (male in full song)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (singing male in trees on west side)
Goldfinch (2)
Rook (57)
Jackdaws (125)
Carrion Crow (46)

COLLEGE LAKE (with Mike & Rose Collard, Steve Rodwell & Jack O'Neill)

The winter-plumaged DUNLIN first located by Ben Miller last Sunday was still present, roosting on the island at the north end of the reserve (on the main lake) and best observed from the North Watchpoint. My first in the county and area this year.

Also, other waders included 6 COMMON REDSHANKS, the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS and 3+ pairs of prospecting or nesting Lapwings. A total of 19 COMMON SNIPE was still present on the marsh.

Mute Swans (pair)
Gadwall (Pair)
Pochard (4)
Shoveler (28)
*WHITE WAGTAIL (a fine male was feeding with a Pied Wagtail on the bund - the first of the year - SR, M & RC, JO'N, LGRE).
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (1 singing male)


In addition to the pair of RINGED PLOVERS, all 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS were present on the scrape closest to the road this afternoon (2 had moved over from the Quarry).

A few Linnets were also noted and a Meadow Pipit was in full display.

(with Mike & Rose)

The beautiful male NORTHERN WHEATEAR was showing well this afternoon (present for its third day), favouring the slope just SE of the main beacon trig point. Mike photographed it. It represented my first of the year.

A flock of 14 Skylarks was together, several Meadow Pipits were displaying and the COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was still singing from the scrub below the car park.

A RED KITE was over the valley (Coombe Hole) north of the B489.


Andrew Moon and I obtained excellent views of the SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT this evening on Wilstone, Andrew obtaining this fabulous selection of images above.
There were also 10 COMMON GOLDENEYES present (including an adult drake and a first-year drake) and 8 RUDDY DUCKS (2 displaying adult drakes, an additional adult drake, an immature drake and four females) (Lee G R Evans)

Friday, 20 March 2009


The very confiding transitional-plumaged SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT is still present today, showing down to just 10 yards on the rocky foreshore along the northeast bank of Wilstone Reservoir (see Francis Buckle's excellent photographs above).

SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT heralds spring migration at Tring


(cold Easterly wind but clear, bright and sunny)

Warren Claydon discovered a ROCK PIPIT at Wilstone Reservoir early evening on Wednesday 18 March. It was associating with two Pied Wagtails of the rocky foreshore at the edge of the reservoir just below the car park steps and remained until dark.

Fortunately, the bird was still present the following morning (per Charlie Jackson, and later seen by Roy Hargreaves, Francis Buckle, Ben Miller, Mike Campbell and others). David Bilcock and I were not able to get to the site until late afternoon but thankfully it was still showing very well in the same area in which it had been first found. It was showing exceptionally well and was generally moving back and forth along a 100 yard stretch of the reservoir edge and top bank, and occasionally flying as far as the jetty.

It was a SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT (littoralis) in transitional plumage and was superbly photographed by Dave (see images above). Much of the brown of winter plumage had been replaced by greyer-brown feathering, particularly on the upper mantle and head, and the obvious dark malar patch was bordering a light peach-coloured throat and upper breast patch. The white supercilium was quite well developed, extending from just behind the bill (loral area) to a little way behind the eye, whilst the underparts were still largely streaked, with long blotchy brown streaks extending from mid breast, along the flanks and short of the white undertail-coverts. The stout bill was all dark whilst the legs had a warmer element to them, with some dark orange-brown infiltrating. The outer tail feathers were off-white, but markedly whiter than the decidedly grey of petrosus Rock Pipit but not pure white as in Water Pipit.

When two fisherman and their barking dog walked along, they flushed the bird and it uttered a sharp, explosive, single ''vissssttt' call-note, uttered twice in well separated intervals.

(The bird is still present today, Friday 20 March)

Also of note were 62 FIELDFARE flying north at 1715


At last, I finally caught up with SAND MARTIN (all other regular Tring birders had seen them over the weekend during my absence) with 19 birds feeding over the reservoir early evening.

A migrant flock of birds was also present on the east bank of grass including 16 'alba' wagtails (all mostly adult male Pieds but including two very alba-like first-year male Pieds), a Grey Wagtail and 2 'grey' Meadow Pipits (Lee G R Evans)

The first day of spring (Friday 20 March) saw a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER at Tunnel Way Development, Pitstone (Steve Rodwell) - the first in our area this year. The SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT was still showing well on Wilstone (per Francis Buckle)

Arrived back in the UK to some glorious spring weather - with temperatures hitting 15 degrees C and with high pressure dominating giving clear blue skies and 'wall-to-wall' sunshine. Despite being knackered, just had to get out in such wonderful conditions - and hopefully find a few migrants. The undoubted highlight of my day was the return of one of my drake 'bluebills' - he had survived yet another winter cull (just one more to survive my boy!)


Marsworth 'Wood' held 2 singing Chaffinches, 2 Wrens, a Robin, a Blue Tit and a singing male COMMON TREECREEPER - my first at the reservoirs this year.

The female RED-CRESTED POCHARD was still showing very well, with 2 adult Mute Swans, a Grey Heron and 12 Great Crested Grebes in attendance.

A BRIMSTONE butterfly was my first as were 3 singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS - one in the tall Poplars at the back of the Sewage Farm and two more in the trees at the back of the reservoir.

Thanks to Jonathan Nasir, I was able to finally add CETTI'S WARBLER to my Tring Yearlist - a fine and very showy singing bird in the small reedbed adjacent to the Grand Union Canal at SP 925 138. It was singing almost continuously.


Frustratingly no Sand Martins but 4 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Gadwall, 67 Tufted Ducks, a male Common Kestrel and 35 House Sparrows (by the Angler's Retreat)


Great Crested Grebe (8)
LITTLE EGRETS (2 birds roosting on the Drayton Bank)
Eurasian Wigeon (just 23 birds remaining)
Common Teal (2)
Shoveler (73)
RUDDY DUCK (adult drake)
Lapwing (3)

COMMON GULLS (small easterly passage, with 6 birds migrating east in half an hour - 2 adults 4 first-summers)

Woodpigeon (227)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Green Woodpecker (1)

SMALL TORTOISESHELL (my first of the year)

*Just after Dave Bilcock and I left Wilstone, Warren Claydon discovered a fabulous SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT on the reservoir edge just below the car park steps. I was not able to get back to him.


The pair of RINGED PLOVERS were still showing well on the development area; they were mating at one stage.


Very quiet with 4 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 2 pairs of Lapwing and the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS noted.


Sadly, a Badger was dead on Beacon Road at SP 958 168

Migrants were thin on the ground and I failed to locate the single male Northern Wheatear in the Sheep Pens (4 had been present there from Friday to Sunday) - just 2 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS (in scrub near the car park) and a few Common Gulls flying east.

DOWN FARM, near ALDBURY (SP 960 146)

The farmer has introduced some guineafowl to a pen adjacent to the farm which in turn has attracted 11 Chaffinches, 2 Yellowhammers and 3 CORN BUNTINGS to the feed. Two Meadow Pipits were also by the dungheap.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


While working at Slapton today I could hear EURASIAN CURLEW calling a few times during the day in the distance. One flew over north at 3.00pm. Also COMMON RAVEN calling and 2 Buzzards overhead.

Later there were 16 SAND MARTINS at Marsworth/Startops Res'.

Yesterday at Aston Hill there was a fantastic half an hour when 2 Common Treecreepers were singing at each other almost non-stop. Lovely song. Also around were COMMON RAVEN, Marsh Tit, Red Kite, Tawny Owl and a few Siskins.

Over the last few days at least 3 CORN BUNTINGS have been singing atPitstone Hill (Rob Andrews)

CURLEWS nearby

A very pleasant walk this afternoon along the canal between Cheddington and Horton Wharf turned up a few good birds:

1 COMMON RAVEN over Horton Wharf;
1 Red Kite;
3 EURASIAN CURLEWS flew north over Horton Wharf;
5+ Buzzard;
and 4, maybe 5 Lapwings indulging in territorial behaviour in a few of the surrounding fields.

Rob Hill

DUNLIN discovery

College Lake - A winter plumaged DUNLIN on the island on the main lake, and a drake NORTHERN PINTAIL on the marsh. Also 15 Common Snipe, 5 Redshank plus an Oystercatcher flew towards the quarry.

Pitstone Ind Estate - 2 Ringed Plover still, but still no LRP yet

Startops/Marsworth - Female RCP still, on Startops this morning. 1 SAND MARTIN over the causeway and a Cetti's singing from Marsworth reedbed (Ben Miller)


A few birds of note from today;

A COMMON SHELDUCK briefly early morning on Marsworth (Dave Bilcock)

2 Ringed Plovers on Pitstone Industrial Estate scrape, with 1 Common Redshank on the flooded pool south of the estate

3 Common Chiffchaffs singing along the canal between Startops and Bulborne

1 female Red-crested Pochard still on Marsworth

Raptors very much in evidence today, high counts included 7 Common Buzzards together from Ivinghoe Beacon car park, 4 Red Kites together over Marsworth (a good count for the ressies) and a large female Sparrowhawk over Wilstone (Ben Miller)


This morning the two Little Egrets left before 6:20, 5+ Sand Martins arrived and there were 2+ Chiffchaff seen and heard by the hide. Also two Siskins flew into trees between the jetty and the north corner.

Also, with Ian Williams, saw my first Linnets of the year by the Dry Canal.

Just seen three Buzzards soaring over Tring - not something you would have seen 20 years ago (Roy Hargreaves)

'New' MED GULL tonight

A superb adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL arrived at the Wilstone Reservoir roost ar about 6pm on Sunday 15 March. Unfortunately I couldn't find the adult in near summer plumage. Also 5 L.B.B.Gulls and 33 Common Gulls.

In addition to the other COMMON CHIFFCHAFF records there was also one at College Lake and one at Pitstone Quarry. 1 Cetti's Warbler also at Marsworth, 1 Siskin at Pitstone Quarry and 2 at Monument Drive, Ashridge.

There was a small Starling roost at Marsworth, c.30, and on Friday about 200 Starlings roosted at Wilstone (Steve Rodwell)

WHEATEAR push on Ivinghoe Hills

Saturday 14 March

4 Cracking male NORTHERN WHEATEARS on the South slope of Ivinghoe Beacon, around the whole field and down to the Sheep Pens, 1 of these sang a couple of times. 2 COMMON STONECHAT and a singing CORN BUNTING at the sheep pens too (Mike Wallen).

Two pairs of GREY PARTRIDGE seen, with a pair below the Beacon (Steve Rodwell) and another on Steps Hill (Mike Wallen)


A good roost again this evening (14th March) with Steve Rodwell and Francis Buckle, the highlight being an adult winter LITTLE GULL which was found unfortunately just after Francis left - the first of the year. The first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL was initially showing well near the shooting blind, before moving to the open water in the center of the reservoir amongst the bulk of the Black-headed Gulls. I have attached record shots of both birds above (Dave Bilcock)

Saturday, 14 March 2009


With temperatures reaching a balmy 15 degrees C, overnight saw a major arrival of incoming migrants, with SAND MARTINS (including 14 on Wilstone), COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS, NORTHERN WHEATEAR and COMMON STONECHATS appearing.

Friday, 13 March 2009

First CURLEW of the Year

This evening with Steve, Charlie, Mike Campbell and Stuart, the adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was still present in the roost. Two SAND MARTINS were in front off the hide early on and another party of 8 headed west along the north bank.

Also a single EURASIAN CURLEW flew over the reservoir heading NW towards Puttenham at ca.5pm (Dave Bilcock)


David Bilcock managed to obtain these excellent images of the adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL this evening, in the SE corner of Wilstone Reservoir



Continuing mild with light SW winds; occasional light rain but generally overcast


I then drove over to Tring, in the hope of connecting with some early migrants, especially Ben Miller's SAND MARTIN of this morning. Sadly, none were to be found, not even any singing Common Chiffchaffs; I also failed to locate the Marsworth Cetti's Warbler too.

Marsworth Reservoir

There was much Great Crested Grebe activity, with 14 birds still present, with a single drake Gadwall, 8 Pochards and the returning female RED-CRESTED POCHARD with the few Mallard on site.

Startop's End Reservoir

1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Pochard, 54 Tufted Ducks, an adult drake RUDDY DUCK and an adult Common Gull.

Wilstone Reservoir (1500 hours)

Most surprising was the number of Black-headed Gulls loafing - 457 in total - with 2 Common Gulls. Also with them in the SE corner were the two regular MEDITERRANEAN GULLS - the first-winter and an adult in virtually full breeding attire (the forehead was still pure white and the bill was still transitional, whilst the white 'eye-lids' were not fully formede).

Otherwise, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Grebe, 4 pairs of Sinensis Cormorant nesting in the tallest tree, 9 Common Teal, 12 Gadwall, 23 remaining Eurasian Wigeon, 115 Shoveler, an adult drake RUDDY DUCK and 13 COMMON GOLDENEYES.


There was no sign of the two Ringed Plovers just 6 migrant Pied Wagtails.


Again very quiet, with all 3 Oystercatchers absent, 5 Lapwings, 4 COMMON REDSHANKS (my first in the area this year), 2 Common Teal, 9 Shoveler, Pochard and 2 adult Mute Swans.


An adult Great Crested Grebe was present (perhaps last year's breeder) and 6 Little Grebes.

First SAND MARTIN of year

College Lake - 2 Oystercatchers, 4 Redshanks, 5+ Snipe

Pitstone Industrial Estate Scrapes - 2 Ringed Plovers

Startops/Marsworth - 1 SAND MARTIN over the causeway at the Bucks end. My earliest ever in the local area, by three days! (Ben Miller)

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


Marsworth Reservoir - have been last 4 nights but no sign of the Bittern. Monday 9 March max.26 G.C.Grebes, 1 Cetti's Warbler singing, 1+ Water Rail heard, 5+ Snipe.

Monday: Wilstone Gull roost: arrived after 6 pm. The first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL was again on the straw bails immediately in front of the steps (Dave had also seen the adult earlier).

Today (Tuesday 10 March): Ashridge monument drive, 2 Mandarin's still, no luck with LSW.

Pitstone Industrial Estate: 2 Ringed Plover and 2 Lapwing.

Pitstone: 6 GREY PARTRIDGES near pond on Westfield Road just before industrial estate.

Startops Reservoir: Female Red-crested Pochard.

Monday, 9 March 2009


Spot the Med ! (Dave Bilcock)

This evening 2 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were present in the Wilstone roost, a new adult (pictured above) and the remaining first-winter, although I only saw one as Steve and Charlie located the 1W after I left (ca. 6pm) (Dave Bilcock)


Highlights from various sites visited today (7 March):

Pitstone Industrial Estate: 2 Ringed Plovers were present on the wader flashes

Pitstone Quarry: single Oystercatcher with gulls on far shore and 9 Little Grebes present

College Lake: 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Redshanks and a hybrid duck.

Wilstone: juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL again in the roost this evening. This bird is particularly obliging as it sits on the barley bales allowing it to the readily picked out (see picture above).


Saturday: Steps Hill/Ivinghoe Beacon: 1 Golden Plover, Male Stonechat, 3 Siskin.

Ashridge - Monument Drive: 2 Mandarin Ducks (with DB, SW).

Pitstone Quarry: 32 Common Gulls, 1 Herring Gull, 26 Coot, 21 Teal, 17 Tufted, 2 Mallard, 4 Moorhen. (310 B.h.Gulls Sun).

College Lake: 1 L. Grebe, 2 Mute Swan, 51 Tufted, 8 Mallard, 5 Teal, 1 Wigeon, 1 hybrid R.C. Pochard x ?, 38 Coot, 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Redshank, 15 Lapwing, 5 Snipe. (Sunday, also 1 G.C. Grebe, 6 Canada Goose, 6 Cormorant, 7 Shoveler, 6 Pochard).

Startops: 1 G.C.Grebe, 2 Mute Swan, 35 Tufted, 24 Pochard, 13 Mallard, 24 Coot. Adjacent canal: 2 Mute Swan, 3 Canada Goose, 18 Mallard, 4 Coots.

Marsworth: 24 G.C.Grebes, 1 Mute Swan, 15 Shoveler, 13 Mallard, female R.C.Pochard, 11 Coot, 2 Moorhen. 1 Cetti's Warbler.

Tringford: 1 L. Grebe, 7 Mute Swan, 36 Canada Goose, 42 Tufted, 1 Pochard, 9 Mallard, 2 Gadwal1, 15 Teal, 18 Coot, 4 Moorhen.

Wilstone: G.C.Grebe 7, 1 L. Grebe, 11 Greylag Geese, 24 Canada Goose, 1 Egyptian Goose (SW), 155 Tufted, 43 Pochard, 21 Gadwall, 48 Wigeon, 107 Shoveler, 28 Mallard, 5 Ruddy Duck, Teal 17, 13 Goldeneye (4M, 1F), 1 Oystercatcher (flew from College Lake area and returned back towards that direction), 5 Lapwings, 2 Snipe. Gull roost also had 84 Common Gulls, 1 L.B.B.Gull.


Wendover Woods: 1 Raven, 10 Siskin.

Wilstone: 2 Little Egrets (1 roosted). Gull rost with Dave: 180 Common Gulls, 8 L.B.B. Gulls, 1 Herring Gull. 42 Cormorants roosted.

Pitstone: 2 of the College Lake Redshanks went to the small floodwater pond on farmland just before the Pitstone Industrial Estate.

Marsworth (evening): 1 Woodcock, 5+ Snipe, 1 Water Rail heard.

Steve Rodwell


This afternoon myself, Stuart and Ian located a 1W MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the roost at Wilstone, this is the first I've found in the roost since 22nd February. Gull numbers were down from earlier in the week when ca.5000 BHGs were present on Monday, which is the largest number I've seen this winter (Dave Bilcock)

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


Had a brief stop at the Monument at Ashridge between 11.00 and 12.15 this morning in between jobs and had a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER calling noisily for about 5 minutes in the vicinity the small pond opposite the main car park. The bird was moving rapidly around the area rarely settling in a tree for more than a few seconds. I chased around after it but was only rewarded with a fleeting flight view as it headed away from me. Very frustrating.

Also several Nuthatch, 2 Stock Dove, 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers and a Marsh Tit (Charlie Jackson)

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


1 EURASIAN BITTERN was present on Marsworth (fourth concecutive evening). Didn't show until virtually dark - 6.11pm. No Barn Owls but 1 present on Saturday and Sunday. 1 Tawny Owl calling (from Tringford area) and the Little Owl from Startops still calling most evenings.

Also at Marsworth 1+ Water Rail calling, my first CETTI'S WARBLER of the year, a total of 13 G.C. Grebes and 3+ Snipe.

On Sat March 1st still large number of B.H.Gulls roosting at Wilstone c.4000ish, 40+ Common Gulls, 3 Herring Gulls and 1 L.B.B. Gull (3 L.B.B.Gull and 35 Common Gulls on Sunday). The Cormorant roost at Wilstone on Sunday was 52. Also of note on Saturday was a high count of Jackdaws (100+) flying towards Wilstone Village (Steve Rodwell)

Monday, 2 March 2009


Encouraged by Don Otter's message earlier in the week, I started the day by searching for LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER along Monument drive. After an hour eventually located a female, feeding in the top of a tree along one of the tracks that runs parrallel to the road, approximately 3/4 the way up the drive on the right-hand side. After a while it settled down and started preening and I was able to scope it until it was disturbed by a Great Spot landing in the same tree.

Lots of Great Spot activity, drumming and calling, but the Lesser Spot was silent throughout.

Also present was a flock of ca.30 LESSER REDPOLLS feeding in the tops of the Birch trees close to the car park half way up the drive (Dave Bilcock)

The superb image portrayed above was taken by Garth Peacock.




This morning there were two LITTLE EGRETS roosting in the usual bushes. They flew out together, but one returned later, which may have been the third bird.

Ian Williams spotted an EGYPTIAN GOOSE flying in from the North and there were eleven COMMON GOLDENEYE still and a Red Kite and Buzzard flying around as well.

The Egyptian Goose remained until at least mid-morning, often skulking in vegetation within the Drayton Bank (Dave Bilcock/Lee Evans). Dave managed a couple of record shots, published above.