Wednesday, 29 April 2009


A SHORT-EARED OWL late evening below Steps Hill (Steve Rodwell)

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


A LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER was drumming and calling for about 20mins around 11am this morning in the garden I was working in at Aston Hill. Later on in the afternoon a bird was calling about 400 metres away. Unfortunately these are in a private garden with no nearby access but at least they are protected and I'm hoping to keep track of them.

Also seen today of note were the other two sp of Woodpecker, a Redpoll flying over, 2 Siskins, Red Kite, Tawny Owl calling, Nuthatches and a MarshTit (Rob Andrews)


A quick look at Startops after work produced 5 YELLOW WAGTAILS on the bank by the car park.

Later at Wilstone unfortunately no Arctic Terns joined the 34 Commons despite the weather looking perfect for a drop down. Two HOBBIES were hawking across the reservoir when I left at 8.15.

A male PEREGRINE flew over Marsworth heading across fields towards Wilstone village at dusk (Rob Andrews)

Drake GARGANEY this evening

A drake GARGANEY was present on Wilstone Reservoir this evening, visible from the jetty (Ian Williams). Whether or not this is the recently present drake is unknown.


A first-summer male BLACK REDSTART and a male COMMON REDSTART were both present between Pitstone Hill car park and Steps Hill from 0900-0930 hours at least on Sunday morning (26 April) (John Langford) (photographed above)
Meanwhile, the male RING OUZEL remains for a third day in Inkombe Hole (see Dave Bilcock - top - and Francis Buckle's images above).
A frustrating morning, caused by the dense low cloud that rolled on and off of the hills early morning.The male RING OUZEL remains on Steps Hill in Inkombe Hole, favouring the Eastern slope ( nearest the car park ), please DO NOT ENTER THE HOLE. This bird is showing very well now, and can be comfortably watched at distance.Also 1 GRASSHOPPER WARBLER remains on Steps, and at least 3 GARDEN WARBLERS.
The Beacon produced nothing ( but I couldn't see too much ) until I heard a raptor call ( a stange call ) and then heard it being mobbed by crows, it appeared briefly out of the murk and I'm pretty sure it was a Marsh Harrier but just couldn't get the detail. I'm also pretty sure that I inadvertently flushed it to start with and it was sitting on the Beacon.
By 7.30am the visibility was so bad, I gave up (Mike Wallen)

Monday, 27 April 2009



Light southerly winds coupled with long periods of warm sunshine but clouding over from time to time.


Well a most bizarre evening - I trekked out after dark to the Rushy Meadow and reedbed and under a starry sky and bit-moon listened intently to a pair of WATER RAILS displaying. These 'summer' calls of Water Rail are most different to the typical squealing calls we hear in winter and are very peculiar, rising and increasing in tone. The birds sparked off the biggest night twitch at the reservoirs that I can remember !

More RING OUZELS........and COMMON SWIFT numbers increase in the rain


A broad front moved in from the south overnight bringing light SSW winds and moderate rain throughout the day (until 1630 hours at least). Temperatures during the rain struggled to rise above 8 degrees centigrade.


Finally, after several attempts, managed to succeed in seeing RING OUZEL on the Buckinghamshire hills this spring. During a visit from 0800-0930 hours, two RING OUZEL were showing well intermittently - a pristine adult male and a much duller first-summer male. They were both favouring the left hand (west) slope of Inkombe Hole and were feeding just above the tree-line and were clearly visible (and affording good 'scope views) from the second gate/stile at the wood end of the Hole.

A single LESSER REDPOLL also flew over, whilst singing warblers were well represented with 8+ Willows in Top Scrub, 3 different COMMON WHITETHROATS, 1 Common Chiffchaff and 4 Blackcaps (Francis Buckle also had a singing GARDEN WARBLER). A Green Woodpecker was also seen.


The COMMON KINGFISHERS continue to do well, with the male regularly flying back and forth to the burrow

The rain brought down large numbers of hirundines including 168 SAND MARTINS, 73 BARN SWALLOWS and at least 11 HOUSE MARTINS.


With the rain still heavy, two male YELLOW WAGTAILS were present on the bank just by the car park steps, with 24 COMMON SWIFTS overhead, 18 HOUSE MARTINS and 58 Common Terns.

RING OUZELS in Inkombe Hole - Sunday 26 April

Sue Rowe's female RING OUZEL was still showing at c8.00am although could be elusive at times, hiding in a bramble patch. A male was also present.

I had a good look around the beacon which was quiet, although 5 Wheatears were along the fenceline east of the sheep pens and a Corn Bunting was also present.

Good numbers of Willow Warblers in the area, a few Whitethroats and a Lesser Whitethroat (Rob Andrews).


Two COMMON SWIFTS this morning had increased to 20+ this afternoon. A brief fly-past by a HOBBY this morning improved to two hawking over the reservoir this afternoon. Also Ian Williams and I saw a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR on and by the concrete posts in the fields next to Rushy Meadow. Also two Common Sandpipers were around. A Yellow Wagtail in the paddock by the barn conversions in Wilstone looked good for a female Blue-headed, but impossible to rule out Channel Wagtail. There was also a White Wagtail by the jetty.

On the mammal front I saw three Chinese Water Deer, one Muntjac and a Fox - all early in the morning (Roy Hargreaves)


Mike' Wallen's GRASSHOPPER WARBLER was still present and showing well reeling from the lower path west of the s-bend along Steps Hill. Another Gropper was also reeling west of the Beacon on the southern slope of the Ridgeway near the footpath that leads up from the Dunstable road. Otherwise very little to report no Wheatears or Ouzels despite trying all likely spots (Dave Bilcock).

Friday, 24 April 2009

Wilstone this afternoon and evening

This afternoon a HOBBY flew over my head from the car park to the reedbed at about 1.40. At about 2.25 a WHIMBREL flew in from Startops, across Wilstone and carried on into Bucks.

Later there were 4+ COMMON SWIFTS over the carpark (6.30pm) and 5 YELLOW WAGTAILS in the horse field behind the carpark, one of which may have been a female blue headed (Ian Williams)

The HOBBY was still present at dusk, along with 60 Common Terns, 5 Black-headed Gulls, 8 Barn Swallows, a drake Shoveler and 3 continuing EURASIAN WIGEON (LGRE & WC)

Three COMMON SWIFTS were present until 1950 hours (WC/SR)

Fly-through WHIMBREL

A WHIMBREL flew over Startop's End Reservoir, Tring, this afternoon (2.20pm) heading towards Wilstone.

Around 30 Common Tern on Marsworth, and 2 Yellow Wagtail flying around (Jonathan Nasir)

Exhaustive Search for migrants on the hills

Well, I've done a few miles this morning. A thorough search of Steps Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon produced very little, no Rouzels and again no Wheatears. The best I could manage was another new GRASSHOPPER WARBLER, the third here in just over a week. Clearly new in, it was gving short bursts of song but was generally quiet although the sun and the time of day might have played a factor in this.

This bird is on the bottom ( Western path ) on Steps Hill, from the S bend in the road, take the low path for 150 metres, bird on right. There was a Garden Warbler in the same area.

If you're going to try for the Gropper, this evening is probably best.

Mike Wallen

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Yet another LITTLE GULL

This afternoon a fine looking adult summer LITTLE GULL was on a barley bale when I got to Wilstone this afternoon. It seemed to leave with 3 1st-summer Black-headed Gulls at about 17:15 (Roy Hargreaves)

WHITE STORK of unknown origin in area

A WHITE STORK was circling high over the Chiltern Brewery at Terrick on the B4009 NW of Wendover at 3 pm. It may have spiralled down into fields in angle between this road and the railway line north of brewery. Take care - difficult to park along this fast, busy road (Richard Birch)

This bird has now been seen in the area four times - yesterday it overflew Wilstone Reservoir at Tring (Jack O'Neill) and last weekend it flew over the A41 near Broughton. Earlier, it had flown over Bison Hill, Whipsnade (Clive Harris)

The reeling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER was still present this morning in Rushy Meadow (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


Roy Hargreaves discovered a reeling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER in Rushy Meadow this morning (picture above taken by Steve Arlow)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009



A fantastic glorious spring day, with wall-to-wall sunshine, temperatures up to 20 degrees C and kight variable winds.

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR (1000-1100) (17.5 degrees C)

The undoubted highlight were the two COMMON CUCKOOS chasing each other from Poplar top to Poplar top on the west side of the reservoir - both calling repeatedly.

The female Mallard now has just three surviving ducklings, with the pair of Gadwall still present and the Red-crested Pochard hybrid.

A JAY flew through, with one of the resident COMMON KINGFISHERS perched by the sluice briefly and a male HOUSE SPARROW chirping from Blackthorn by the hide.

Three SEDGE WARBLERS were singing as well as 7 WESTERN REED WARBLERS. All 3 CETTI'S WARBLERS were also still on territory.

The 'Corner Wood' held singing Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Goldfinch (in full song), 2 Chaffinch, Dunnock and Wren, with two nesting pairs of Common Blackbird.


Up to 22 Common Terns

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1100-1215) (No sign of the recent Hobby nor of any hirundines)

Great Crested Grebes (5 pairs)
Mute Swan: 7 in field to east of reservoir; two further adults on reservoir
Greylag Geese: 27 in field to east. A furter bird was sat on the nest to the right of the hide
Mallard - single pair with 8 small ducklings near hide
*GARGANEY - drake still present and showing well in heavily vegetated area of water behind and to right of hide.
EURASIAN WIGEON: all 5 birds (3 drakes) still present
Gadwall (12)
Shoveler (4 - 3 drakes)
Pochard (1 drake)
Tufted Duck (85)
Common Coot: total of 116 birds on Wilstone with 11 nests detected.
Black-headed Gulls (6 present)

RED KITES: 3 drifted over at 1215, including one low over the water
Common Buzzard: 3+ at 1215 including one in swooping display
Wren - singing near car park; 3 in wood near hide
WILLOW WARBLER - just one located; a singing male in Willows near Drayton Bank Hide
Jay (1)
LINNET: single flew east over car park

IVINGHOE HILLS NR (1245-1425 hours)

I did an exhaustive sweep of the reserve, covering from the car park east to the sheep field, back to the Beacon, from the S-bend down to Inkombe Hole and then back up through the Top Scrub to the car park

Meadow Pipits - 8 territories with one nest found
Eurasian Skylark: just 9 singing males
COMMON WHITETHROAT - I could locate just 1 singing male, just along from the car park
LESSER WHITETHROAT - just 1 rattling male in Hawthorns at edge of Inkombe Hole
Common Chiffchaff: 1 singing male
WILLOW WARBLER: 13 singing males
Linnets - 16
Yellowhammer - appalling - just 1 singing male noted by the S-bend

*PASQUE FLOWERS: two colonies, with one of 16 flowering plants and another of 9.

Warm sunshine saw an impressive selection of butterflies including my first GREEN HAIRSTREAK and ORANGE TIP of the year, as well as several Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Small Whites.


A reeling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER found by MW early morning was relocated in the evening, singing well until 2000 hours at least from scrub 100 yards from the S-bend on the high plateau of Steps Hill (Steve Rodwell).


A brisk NE wind blowing making it surprisingly cold. Bright and dry.


Common Terns - 42+
COMMON CUCKOO - male showing at distance at back of reservoir - my first of the year
Song Thrush - singing male still in wood
Mistle Thrush - 1 gathering food
GRASSHOPPER WARBLER: very brief snippets were heard of a reeling male in reeds about 50 yards out in the reedbed from the sluice corner (still present on Sunday, when reeled continuously early evening - JN, DB, RH, et al).
SEDGE WARBLER: 3 singing males including one in bushes on the causeway
Common Chiffchaff: 3 singing males
BRAMBLINGS - two birds present in the 'Corner Wood', with a superb male and a summer-plumaged female

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1240) (with Andy Radford)

*LITTLE GULL - adult in full summer plumage present (remained all day)
Common Terns: 18

Grey Heron (33 active nests on Drayton Bank)
Mute Swans (6 adults)
EURASIAN WIGEON (5 adults still)
Mistle Thrush and Jay

Also first HOBBY of year (Andy Radford) seen on 17 April to right of hide and perched for a while and later seen by Mike Ilett today.


A passage FIRECREST was singing from the top scrub bushes, Steps Hill, this morning. First heard west of the bridlepath, it then moved to the bushes nearer the car park where it showed well until ca. 6:20. Unfortunately as soon as Mike W arrived it stopped singing and wasn't heard again up until I left at 8:30 (Dave Bilcock).

The first COMMON SWIFT was at Wilstone Reservoir mid-morning (Mike Wallen)


Early this morning there was a singing migrant GRASSHOPPER WARBLER on Steps Hill; it showed well occasionally, clearly newly arrived, it looked tired and even closed its eyes a few times ! A TREE PIPIT overflew there also. (Mike Wallen)

Weekend Snippets

In addition to other reports for the weekend I had:

3 YELLOW WAGTAILS along the jetty side between 9.30 and 10.30 Saturday 18th
3 1st winter LITTLE GULLS passed through Wilstone towards Startops at about 5.50pm Saturday

2 NORTHERN WHEATEARS Sunday morning. One (male) on the "redstart" dung heap briefly at 8am and one on the concrete posts behind Rushy Meadow. (Ian Williams)

Monday, 20 April 2009

Rare Lesser Spot sighting


There was a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER near Fox Covert private wood which is a kilometre north of Puttenham and west of Long Marston this afternoon whilst I was doing a bird atlas survey (Mike Campbell)


The GARGANEY was still present midday, myself and Mike Campbell watched it again on the stream to the right of the hide, best viewed from the meadow behind the hide. Initially it was quite far up the stream, feeding under the over-hanging vegetation but it eventually came out and gave reasonable views over the tops of the reeds on the near bank (see picture). Don't get to close to the stream along the footpath as it will just retreat back under the bushes (Dave Bilcock)

Sunday, 19 April 2009


Steps Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon were very cold and windy this morning with little to report other than several COMMON WHITETHROATS present.

No sign of Mike's ARCTIC TERNS at the reservoirs this afternoon but the adult summer LITTLE GULL was still present at Wilstone this evening.

Eventually caught up with the drake GARGANEY (pictured above) feeding in the creek behind the hide, viewing from the path to the hide.

A male and female BRAMBLING was still present by Marsworth Wood and a COMMON CUCKOO was calling incessantly this afternoon from the hedgerow behind the reed bed (Dave Bilcock/Lee Evans)

Friday, 17 April 2009

GARGANEY still present

The drake GARGANEY was still present today, showing to the right of the Drayton Bank Hide, whilst a single CUCKOO was calling behind the hide and an adult LITTLE GULL and COMMON SANDPIPER were on Marsworth (Steve Rodwell)

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Car Parking Charges to be enforced at Marsworth

As of today, the main car park at Marsworth Reservoir (opposite the Anglers Retreat public house) will be manned by car park attendants checking for valid permits and day tickets. They told me that the passes issued by FoTR are no longer valid and all visiting birders must purchase a ticker from the machine (£1.50 per day) or request an annual permit (at £120 per annum). Those without a valid ticket will be issued with a parking summons (Lee Evans)


Warren Claydon watched a calling WOODLARK fly north over Startop's End Reservoir at 0700 hours on 15 April

Jonathon Nasir had a (BLACK-LEGGED) KITTIWAKE fly quickly east through Startop's End Reservoir at 1915 hours on 11 April.

An adult ARCTIC TERN was at Startop's End Reservoir all afternoon yesterday (15 April) (Steve Rodwell)

A pair of MANDARIN DUCKS was on Tringford Reservoir today (16th), as well as a COMMON CUCKOO on Marsworth (Ian Williams).

Several LESSER WHITETHROATS and COMMON WHITETHROATS were present on Ivinghoe Hills today (Ian Williams)

At last I connect with SHELDUCK - and more LITTLE GULLS too


The light SE winds continued but in combination with moderate rain, which did not peter out until late afternoon. In fact, the air was quite stormified and occasional bouts of thunder were heard. Such conditions are normally ideal for migrant displacement and today was no different - with an early Black Tern grounded in Bedfordshire and another spate of Little Gulls. A major influx of House Martins also took place, and Lesser Whitethroats and Common Whitethroats increased dramatically.


Pride of place went to an adult drake COMMON SHELDUCK 80 yards out from the new overflow - my first at the reservoirs this year (and the fourth overall)

Dave and Roy had seen yet another EURASIAN CURLEW flying around at dawn (0600 hours and again at 0620) but the only wader present on my arrival was the continuing COMMON SANDPIPER on the algae bunds.

Lingering wildfowl included the 5 EURASIAN WIGEON (3 drakes), the 4 Common Teal, 18 Gadwall, 14 Shoveler and 63 Tufted Ducks, whilst 8 Great Crested Grebes were apparent (including two displaying pairs) and 5 Common Terns.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR (1145-1216 hours)

Jonathon Nasir and I enjoyed excellent views of 4 fabulous summer-plumaged LITTLE GULLS which dropped in during the rain. They were absolutely gorgeous, with one incredibly salmon-pink breasted individual. Three had full summer hoods, with the other slightly piebald. They remained until at least mid afternoon but had disappeared by 1700 hours.

There was a major surge in COMMON TERN numbers too, peaking at 27 at one stage, whilst HOUSE MARTINS were the dominant hirundine, with 56 individuals counted on a sweep.

The COMMON KINGFISHER pair were busily excavating their nest burrow in the muddy bank.


Great Crested Grebe numbers remain high at 16 (8 pairs) but little signs of any nest-building as yet (although much displaying). Wildfowl included 8 Gadwall and 3 Shoveler.

Three male Dunnocks were in song in the hedgerow adjacent to the Grand Union Canal (in the vicinity of Lock 40), as well as 2 Wrens, Chaffinch and Robin, with the Oystercatcher-phrasing male Song Thrush still present in the 'Corner Wood'.

In the Bucks section of the reedbed, 3 WESTERN REED WARBLERS and a SEDGE WARBLER were showing well, with 2 SEDGE and at least 7 WESTERN REED in the main reedbed.


A single RINGED PLOVER was standing guard and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flew over.

PITSTONE QUARRY (1230 hours)

By early afternoon, the temperature remained stable at 12 degrees C, with just 3 pairs of Little Grebe and 7 Tufted Ducks on view.

The woodland held at least 5 singing male Blackcaps and the regular male Common Chiffchaff but the star bird was a male NORTHERN WHEATEAR favouring the two chalk mounds on the right hand escarpment.


Detouring back to Startop's on a false call, Startop's End at 1700 hours was covered in hirundines. Although most of lunchtime's House Martins had moved on, they had been replaced by at least 284 SAND MARTINS and 72 BARN SWALLOWS.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

PEREGRINE yesterday afternoon

A first-summer PEREGRINE flew north over Wilstone Reservoir at about 1500 hours yesterday afternoon (per Mick Frosdick). The presence of this bird in the area may well explain recent reports of Hobby from the reservoir - still quite early for this species, despite that some did arrive on the South Coast at the weekend

OSPREY flies north

At 1030 hours this morning, the first confirmed OSPREY of the spring flew low north over Startop's End Reservoir being mobbed by Common Terns (Jonathan Nasir)

Despite my enthusiasm for the weather conditions, Ivinghoe Hills drew a blank this morning for migrants and other than a few more WESTERN REED and SEDGE WARBLERS, very little has come out of it (per Steve Rodwell)

Tuesday, 14 April 2009



The day started dry and clear, and fairly mild. As it wore on, the wind freshened up from the Southeast and cloud moved in forming overcast skies. Temperatures steadily increased, peaking at 17 degrees C. Such conditions are excellent for passerine migration and should provide us with our first haul of Ring Ouzel and other related migrants during the next few days. Osprey and Marsh Harrier migration should also pick up.


A singing COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was in trees by Broadview Farm (SP 904 117)


Although Steve Rodwell had perched himself on the Wilstone East Bank for nearly five hours, an early afternoon visit saw me 'mop up' his findings, with the 3 LITTLE GULLS still flying back and forth over the main body of water. They included a full adult with pinkish breast and dark underwings (but with a winter head) and two first-winters. There were also 6 Common Terns.

The 5 EURASIAN WIGEON (3 drakes) were still present, along with 4+ Common Teal, 5 Shoveler, 3 Northern Pochards, 15 Gadwall and displaying 'Bluebills'.

A pair of STOCK DOVES flew into fields behind Wilstone Cemetery.


I returned to Tring mid afternoon and with Steve, Charlie and others checked the smaller reservoirs for migrants. The 3 LITTLE GULLS seen earlier on Wilstone were now commuting between Marsworth and Startop's End and were affording superb views. The adult was splendid. At one stage, they attempted to join 3 passing Black-headed Gulls but then pulled away and returned. They did however finally depart to the east at about 1630 hours.

The two 'new' OYSTERCATCHERS were still flying around and 'piping' loudly, regularly flying from College Lake to Wilstone and back again. They seemed to be searching for somewhere suitable to land and at one stage tried to land on the Wilstone tern rafts.

Four Shoveler were present on Marsworth, along with 3 pairs of Gadwall and 14 Great Crested Grebes.

The reedbed was where the new activity was being held, with 3 newly arrived WESTERN REED WARBLERS in the main section (including a vocal bird by the sluice), at least 5 singing male SEDGE WARBLERS (including one in the east reedbed by the canal) and three different CETTI'S WARBLERS (the regular birds by the canal lock and sluice and another singing close to the sewage farm). There were also three singing male REED BUNTINGS, with 14 Sand Martins and 22 Barn Swallows overhead, and a Grey Wagtail.

The paddock fields to the east of Marsworth and the Grand Union Canal yielded just two male YELLOW WAGTAILS today, and two remaining male WHITE WAGTAILS.


At 1700 hours, the drake GARGANEY appeared from the Drayton Bank and swam along the front edge for a short distance before disappearing back into the dense overhanging vegetation and out of view. Later, Neil Fletcher saw it to the right of the hide. This individual is particularly elusive and remaining out of view for long periods. The noisy male OYSTERCATCHER also did a fly-around.


Very quiet this evening with little birding activity; the pair of Gadwalls were still present.


Despite being widespread in other parts of the region, there was still no sight nor sound of Grasshopper Warblers at Wendover this evening. Much of the plantations have now substantially grown up and the location does not look that suitable any more. Only time will tell.

There were two singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, a singing Common Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, 4 Robins, 4 Carrion Crows and a female Common Pheasant briefly captured by a dog.



After spending the morning in Bedfordshire and Leicestershire, I finally pitched up at Wilstone at 1345 hours, in time for the scoter but well after the male Hen Harrier and 2 Sandwich Terns had departed - both mega birds for the reservoirs.

The adult drake COMMON SCOTER was still showing well out in the main open patch of water and easily viewable from the car park steps or from near the jetty. It was part of a major displacement of the species inland, involving at least 90 birds. David Bilcock obtained some photographs of it.

All 5 EURASIAN WIGEON were still present, along with 4 Common Teal, whilst 1 Common Tern was present, my first COMMON SANDPIPER of the Tring Area year and a Song Thrush feeding along the top of the reservoir bank.


Common Terns had increased to a minimum of 15 birds whilst a single ARCTIC TERN was also present - occasionally roosting on the green algae-control bunds (again, excellently photographed by DB).

10 Mute Swans were present on the adjacent canal.


Three Common Gulls (all immature) flew high east, whilst the Paddock Fields yielded 9 YELLOW WAGTAILS, 7 Meadow Pipits and 12 Barn Swallows.



Sinensis Cormorants (29 - 4 pairs breeding)
Mute Swan (5 adults)
Gadwall (12)
Coot (3+ pairs nesting)
GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS (2 immatures flew east)
HERRING GULLS (passage of first-summer birds with 6+ flying east)
Black-headed Gulls (10 over)

House Martins (8)
Jay (1 in trees on the central bank)

Lee Evans


Ben Miller Update - Tues 14 April

Startops/Marsworth - Had the place to myself early am, a very pleasant contrast to yesterday afternoon! 1 adult winter LITTLE GULL on Marsworth with 10 Common Terns (poor phone-scoped pic attached). 2 OYSTERCATCHERS together on the causeway were presumably migrants rather than local birds; both flew off just before 7am and were later seen over Wilstone (RH). 2 Cetti's and 1 Sedge Warbler singing from the reedbed.

Pitstone Industrial Estate - 3 Ringed Plovers, 1 Little Ringed Plover

College Lake - Quiet other than the usuals; 2 Oystercatchers, 4+ Redshank, 1 Common Snipe, 1 Common Tern.

Yet another CURLEW......and more LITTLE GULLS

EURASIAN CURLEW: Presumably the same bird which Steve Rodwell picked up over Wilstone which headed towards Startops; he phoned me and we heard and saw it circle both Startops and Marsworth for 5-7 minutes before settling in the cattle field behind the canal.

2 adult summer LITTLE GULLS (LGRE et al) were still there at 12.30pm; they sat on the barley together for 10 minutes (Mike Collard)


A good morning on the IVINGHOE HILLS started with a RING OUZEL chacking by the S bend, not seen until a 'black bird' flew off low through the bushes towards the Beacon. A few minutes later a EURASIAN CURLEW flew East along the Beacon and then off to the North. 10 minutes later David Bilcock found 2 RING OUZELS on the Beacon which may have included the same one, although they were some distance away.
I then located a singing GRASSHOPPER WARBLER on Steps Hill, on the bottom path, which myself David and Stuart enjoyed. I then walked around the bottom path with Stuart where the surprise was a singing Sedge Warbler, which I think may be the first I've recorded here and my first of the year.
Nothing of note in Income Hole but a singing Common Whitethroat on the slope above was my first of the year.
10 Common Terns at Startops were the only birds of note there.
Weston Turville Res' held my first Western Reed Warbler of the year.
(Mike Wallen)

Twitchable ARCTIC TERN

This ARCTIC TERN was present with up to 16 Common Terns on Startop's End Reservoir today (Sunday 12 April) (photographs taken by Dave Bilcock)


At 12.45pm on Sunday 12 April, Martin Parr discovered 2 adult SANDWICH TERNS roosting on the concrete structures on Tringford Reservoir. The birds remained for at least 25 minutes before flying off east and were part of a widespread arrival of the species in the Midlands area. They were also seen by Dave Bilcock and Steve Rodwell amongst others. Dave managed the two images above.


A much bigger flock of SISKIN - perhaps 50 or 60 - very excitedly flitting about in tops of the Larch trees at the top of the hill near the cafe (Sue Rowe)

SUNDAY 12 APRIL - midday update

Steve Rodwell, Joan Thompson and Rose Collard were very fortunate in witnessing a cracking adult male HEN HARRIER fly low over Wilstone Reservoir at midday, moving slowly northeast towards Puttenham. A EURASIAN CURLEW also flew through

SUNDAY 12 APRIL - drake COMMON SCOTER drops in

This superb drake COMMON SCOTER arrived overnight at Wilstone (Dave Bilcock et al) and remained, visible from the main car park steps, all day (and was part of a nationwide overland arrival of this species)

The COMMON SANDPIPER was also still present.

LITTLE GULLS fly straight through

Whilst taking Vicky out for a meal and a drink in the Angler's Retreat around midday, Steve Rodwell watched 4 adult LITTLE GULLS fly high over the canal at Startops which appeared to drop towards Marsworth.

11 APRIL - first ARCTIC TERNS of year arrive

(Midday update) Steve Rodwell has just called; there are currently 2 ARCTIC TERNS, the first local birds of the year, commuting between Startops and Marsworth with a good number of Common Terns and hirundines (per Ben Miller).


I had the woods to myself for nearly 2 hours this morning. Sat in the hide till the rain passed then continued on the Firecrest Trail. Didn't see much till I reached the top - then about 24 SISKINS up high in the conifers by the Go Ape start, with at least one LESSER REDPOLL with them - gosh it's hard to see so high up, against the grey sky. Going down again had several close views of Goldcrest which was nice - is it still a bit early for Firecrest? Last night (7pm) at Wilstone, Little Egret roosting on the bushes in the middle (Sue Rowe)


With David Bilcock we had a quite wet walk around Steps Hill and the Beacon this morning. Low cloud hampered visibility to the point that Income Hole was non-birdable by the time we left. Little to show with 1 male NORTHERN WHEATEAR by the Sheep Pens and several pairs of GREY PARTRIDGE. 8 singing Willow Warblers on Steps with an obvious increase in Blackcaps and a few FIELDFARE over (Mike Wallen)


WILSTONE RESERVOIR 11 April; Damp and drizzly though it was it wasn't too bad. One COMMON SANDPIPER was on the banks, a Redshank flew around a few times calling before disappearing and four Common Terns were on the barley bales. Also a SEDGE WARBLER singing in Rushy Meadow, along with a CETTI'S WARBLER singing behind the meadow. Didn't hear many Willow Warblers, but Chiffchaff and Blackcap were still vociferous (Roy Hargreaves)


Female MARSH HARRIER briefly appeared over WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR and within a couple of minutes was chased away by crows, heading towards Aylesbury (Friday evening) (Steve. Rodwell)

Friday, 10 April 2009

THURSDAY 9 APRIL - Drake GARGANEY highlights



With intermittent rain and strong SW winds during the day, a large number of diurnal migrants had been displaced, with large numbers of hirundines present, including a noticeable increase in BARN SWALLOWS (to 26), 3 HOUSE MARTINS and 83 SAND MARTINS.

The paddock fields on the east side of the Grand Union Canal (in Bucks) yielded a large flock of migrants, including 26 alba-types (of which three were dapper male WHITE WAGTAILS), 6 male YELLOW WAGTAILS and 2 Meadow Pipits. There were also 96 COMMON STARLINGS swarming around the cattle dung mounds.

On the reservoir itself was a lone winter adult Black-headed Gull, 14 Great Crested Grebes, the female Red-crested Pochard, 5 drake Shoveler and the 8 COMMON TERNS I saw earlier on Wilstone.

A Song Thrush was singing loudly from the small 'wood', with single male Goldcrest, 3 Goldfinches, a 'new' WILLOW WARBLER, 3 Chaffinches and a single male Reed Bunting in the reedbed. Two different CETTI'S WARBLERS were in song.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (with Ian Williams, Mike Campbell & Stuart Wilson)

Roy Hargreaves had discovered a drake GARGANEY shortly after dawn but it had not been seen subsequently. Incoming migrants included a flock of 8 COMMON TERNS (which flew off east to Marsworth early evening), an increase to 204 SAND MARTINS, 9 HOUSE MARTINS and 8 BARN SWALLOWS.

A single drake COMMON GOLDENEYE remained (IW), along with 4 EURASIAN WIGEON, 14 Teal, 5 Shoveler and 15 Gadwall, whilst 3 drake RUDDY DUCKS were in 'bubbling' display.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR (1800-2000 hours) (16 degrees C)

I relocated the drake GARGANEY at 1800 hours, skulking deep within bankside vegetation on the east side of the reservoir (at SP 919 134). It was feeding in an open channel right at the back of the vegetation and was very difficult to see. There was an active Coot's nest in the vicinity and the male repeatedly chased the Garganey away whenever it approached and on one occasion it sat on an open perch and had a ten-minute preen. I enjoyed some excellent views of it before it emerged itself again in the background. I telephoned Dave and Mike C, and along with Ian W and Stuart, we all had excellent views during the evening. At 1830 hours, the Coot attacked it again and it flew down to the extreme south end where it remained until dusk (per IW).

Tringford also yielded my first successful breeding for 2009 - a female Mallard was accompanying a brood of 12 very tiny ducklings. At least two Coot nests were also active.

There were also a pair of Common Teal, 2 Great Crested Grebes (2 more on Startop's) and singing BLACKCAP and COMMON CHIFFCHAFF.

I also located yet another ROOKERY - 9 active nests in the tall trees at the south end of the reservoir (the Tring area total now rising to 72 pairs).

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Overnight rain dropped in a host of new migrants, including an Osprey, Whimbrel and 3 Yellow Wagtails. A fresh westerly wind dominated the weather all day but it did stay dry and bright and temperatures still managed to climb as high as 17.5 degrees C.

Adam Bassett texted me at 0930 hours informing me of a WHIMBREL on the spit at Little Marlow GP - a good year tick. I set off. No sooner had I got in the car than Simon rang - Darren Oakley-Martin (of the RSPB) had taken a call from an Amersham resident informing him of an OSPREY flying overhead. I immediately diverted to the Chess River Valley then the Ingrebourne Valley but to no avail - the Osprey had flown. And then conversely - Adam rang at 1010 hours just as I was pulling off the M40 to say that the Whimbrel had just been flushed by a Sparrowhawk and had flown off noisily westwards.....and into oblivion. Oh well, just my luck lately, but thanks guys for the instant dissemination of news..

I then decided to do a full CBC at Weston Turville Reservoir. Sadly, on route, a freshly hit Badger was on the Ellesborough Road just west of Wendover (at SP 863 075).

WESTON TURVILLE RESERVOIR (BUCKS) (Full CBC undertaken 1040-1150 hours) (32 species)

No sign of the Sedge Warbler or Marsh Tit recorded earlier in the morning

Great Crested Grebe (4)
Sinensis Cormorant (1 immature)
Mute Swan (pair, with the female incubating eggs on nest)
Canada Geese (1 pair)
Mallard (12 - 6 pairs)
GADWALL (pair keeping much to the reedbed)
Common Pheasant (male in Perch Cottage garden)
Eurasian Coot (12)
Common Buzzard (1)
Red Kite (1 over the field NW of the dam)
Black-headed Gull (1 first-summer present already possessing a full chocolate-brown hood)
Woodpigeon (22+ pairs)
GREY WAGTAIL (male by the sluice at north end at SP 859 097)
Eurasian Skylark (singing male over crop field north of the Boat House)
Dunnock (pair in hedgerow on World's End Lane opposite reservoir entrance and additional singing male on SW side)
Wren (7 territories)
European Robin (5 singing males)
Common Blackbird (1 singing male and nesting pair)
CETTI'S WARBLER (vocal individual close to the Susan Cowdy Hide)
BLACKCAP (5 singing males, with an additional pair nest-building in NE corner)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (5 singing males)
WILLOW WARBLER (3 singing males with one in trees by the entrance and two within 50 yards of each other from the boardwalk)
Goldcrest (2 singing males)
Blue Tit (9 singing males)
Great Tit (7 singing males)
Long-tailed Tit (pair nesting by Boat House)
Chaffinch (6 singing males)
Greenfinch (male flew over)
Jackdaw (7, with breeding colony in chimney of Perch Cottage at SP 866 096)
Carrion Crow (pair in field NW of dam)
Magpie (pair in field NW of dam)
REED BUNTING (5 singing males in reedbed, including an amazing white-headed individual)


A ROOKERY containing 33 active nests on Weston Road.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (HERTS) (Midday-1330 hours) (with Adrian Condon)
Despite searching, failed to locate the Common Redstart again

Mute Swan (5 adults)
Greylag Geese (32)
Gadwall (9)
Shoveler (5)
EURASIAN WIGEON (pair still remaining)
Tufted Duck (85)
Eurasian Coot (158, some now nest-sitting)
Black-headed Gull (1 adult winter - JT take note)
*COMMON TERNS (2 adults)

Common Buzzard (1 over)
Stock Dove (pair flew over)
Pied Wagtails (2 males)
Mistle Thrush (pair nesting by main car park)
BLACKCAP (singing male near hide entrance trail)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (2 singing males by hide)
*WILLOW WARBLER (2 singing males in bushes, trees and scrub behind Drayton Bank Hide - my first for the site this year)


Very quiet, with a pair of Gadwall and 5 Shoveler on the main marsh, and a singing male WILLOW WARBLER (my first in Bucks this year)


A RED KITE overflew the quarry pool flushing up a pair of COMMON REDSHANK. Great Crested Grebe still there, 5 Little Grebes, 7 Tufted Ducks, a Stock Dove (scarce here), a male BLACKCAP, singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF and pair of Long-tailed Tits.


Now largely dried up, a single pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS was still present. A Green Woodpecker was also seen, as well as a Linnet.


I then undertook a detailed survey of the ROOKERIES in Tring, with 28 active nests opposite Massey House in Brook Street (SP 926 120), 19 in Poplars west of the railway SE of Tring Station at SP 953 119) and 16 in Pendley Manor Grounds (SP 943 114) - total of 63 pairs. The 6 nests by Pennyroyal Court on Station Road which were being prospected in February now lay abandoned.


A narrow strip of deciduous woodland west of the footpath leading to Chestnut Wood yielded Green Woodpecker, a Nuthatch, European Robin and a male BLACKCAP.


This is an area of heathland where I recorded successful nesting of Woodlark in 2007. Today it is largely overgrown and Birch scrub has infiltrated. Species noted included 2 singing COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS, 2 singing COAL TITS, a male BLACKCAP and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.


A total of 5 HOUSE SPARROWS was in gardens by the Chesham Road junction (at SP 940 103) (scarce species in area) with a singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF in Bull's Wood.

Thanks to Chaz Jackson, I was able to make it back to Wilstone in the evening, where I eventually connected with the stunning male COMMON REDSTART present for its second day just SE of the Lower Icknield Way by the dried-up manure heap at SP 897 131, about 0.25 miles NW of the NW corner of Wilstone Reservoir. I located it in the hedgerow adjacent to the manure pile at 1915 hours but it was generally very elusive. It was flycatching for a short while before it became inactive and sat low down and partially obscured in the same place for over 15 minutes. I beckoned over Ed Griffiths (who was at Wilstone Reservoir) and showed him the bird as it was roosting and it was still on view when I left the site at 1945 hours (with a full moon shining).

I was also very pleased to see 4 RED-LEGGED PARTRIDGES and two male YELLOWHAMMERS in the same area, as well as a singing Eurasian Skylark and 3 COMMON SNIPE. Lapwings had increased to 5 birds.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Quick early morning visit produced :1 Cettis Warbler; 3 Great Crested Grebes; 2 Kingfishers; 3 Willow Warblers; 2 Chiffchaffs; 2 Grey Wagtails; 1 Sedge Warbler (heard, but only twice in an hour); 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker; 2 Green Woodpeckers; 2 Treecreepers; 4 Blackcaps; 11 Reed Buntings (incl, 1 with a very white breast and head colouring and very little black); 2 Cormorants; 1 Yellowhammer; 1 Red Kite; 2 Gadwalls (pair); 1 Marsh Tit (Nick Mariner)

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Negative news on Common Redstart this evening

Stuart Wilson and I searched extensively for this morning's male COMMON REDSTART this evening but could not locate it.

In fact, Wilstone Reservoir and its environs was relatively quiet with little of note

Migrants were represented by 168 SAND MARTIN and 12 BARN SWALLOW, with singing COMMON CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP in the hedgerow behind the hide wood.

A pair of WIGEON was still in residence, along with 16 Common Teal and 3 Shoveler. A pair of LAPWING was present for its third week in the field to the NW of the reservoir.

A flock of 9 HOUSE SPARROWS was feeding by the Wilstone Farm Shop.

I then searched from Dunstable Downs to Dagnall for migrant Ring Ouzels but drew a blank.

In the Beech trees in Dagnall Road (the B4506) (at SP 995 176), an active ROOKERY contained 18 nests (location is in BEDFORDSHIRE)

First COMMON REDSTART of the year

As I have done for the past month, I checked the dung heap by the road - west of Wilstone's old overflow. As usual no sign of any Wheatears, but a superb male COMMON REDSTART in the hedge behind made all the fruitless checks worthwhile. David Bilcock got back to see it, and later Mike Campbell, but it was not seen later when LGRE and Stuart Wilson searched exhaustively for it. Little else to report apart from another Willow Warbler singing by the Dry Canal. This afternoon the female Red-crested Pochard was on Marsworth as was the hybrid - which really does look like a Pochard x Red-crested Pochard cross. Reasonable flocks of Sand Martins over Wilstone and Marsworth/Startops, with 10+ Barn Swallows and at least one House Martin over Marsworth. Also two singing CETTI'S WARBLERS in the Marsworth reedbeds (Roy Hargreaves)

First RING OUZELS flight in

A second, longer (including a loop up to the Beacon) walk up into the hills this morning yielded much the same birds as yesterday with the addition of: RING OUZEL - 2 Willow Warbler - 2 The RING OUZELS I was lucky to see in a tiny hawthorn bush on the rim of Incombe Hole at about 6.40. They flew off into the bottom of the hole after seeing me so I didn't get a long look - one was definitely male but I wasn't sure about the other - it flew off first and I only could see a bit of white before it disappeared. I decided to have a second look on the return journey but couldn't relocate them. One Willow warbler was singing in the scrub above the hole; the other was right at the lower end. (Sue)

Monday, 6 April 2009

Large displacement of LITTLE GULLS


My first real opportunity at local birding in over three and a half weeks. The day started off fine and fairly calm, with predominantly clear blue skies and a light SE wind. Cloud then slowly moved in from the west and the wind increased and veered to the SW.


My first LITTLE GULLS of the year (a feeding flock of 13 birds) was feeding high over the Drayton Bank Hide, flycatching with 8 Black-headed Gulls. They were associated with a widespread influx of the species across the Midlands and SE England and included three first-year birds. Stuart Wilson had initially located the flock, as well as a single COMMON TERN - the first at Tring this year.

Wildfowl numbers were much depleted, with just 1 adult drake Eurasian Wigeon remaining, 10 Pochard and 8 Shoveler.


A Little Grebe was present, along with 71 Tufted Ducks and 2 Pochards, whilst migrants included 123 SAND MARTINS and a superb male WHITE WAGTAIL feeding from the green bunds.

Five first-year Mute Swans were on the adjacent Grand Union Canal, where there was much activity from a pair of COMMON KINGFISHERS.


The female RED-CRESTED POCHARD was back again (after visiting Startop's End last week), with a pair of Gadwall, 2 Grey Wagtails on the bunds and 8 Great Crested Grebes. There were 5 singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS (including 4 in the Reedbed Wood), a singing male BLACKCAP and the CETTI'S WARBLER near the overflow.


Very, very quiet with not a hint of a migrant.



The day ( well just before dawn) started well with a BARN OWL flying along the road in front of me in Marsworth. The hills were very quiet for migrants with no Willow Warbler or Wheatear. However at about 7.30 I arrived on the trig point on Ivinghoe Beacon, as I rounded the burial mound a bird took off from the ground on the other side ( c15 metres max ). My initial reaction due to blue plumage and rapid wing beats was a Cuckoo, but it turned into a fantastic male MERLIN. It flew (very close and at eye level to start with) down the ridge to the East and perched in a small bush for about a minute allowing a scope view, before dropping out of the bush and was not seen again (Mike Wallen)