Thursday, 16 April 2009

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.

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