Friday, 31 July 2009

Evening Gander

Vicky and I went for a wander around the Beacon and Steps Hill. Nothing of note except for 5 COMMON RAVENS. At Wilstone there was one Common Redshank (Steve Rodwell)


Sally Douglas observed two COMMON REDSTARTS in Inkombe Hole this evening.

First autumn MARSH HARRIER flies west

A first summer male MARSH HARRIER flew west over College Lake this afternoon at 1530 this afternoon but there was no sign of it at Wilstone later (Mike Campbell).

COMMON REDSTART still present

A single juvenile COMMON REDSTART is still present in Inkombe Hole (Steve Rodwell)


Steve Rodwell discovered a female-type NORTHERN WHEATEAR this morning, in the field north of Icknield Way in Tring town. This is the field where the summer 'Canal Festival' is held and the one next to the football pitch. This is the first returning Wheatear of the autumn in our Recording Area and we still await our first Whinchat

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Pitstone Quarry: 13 Little Grebes present

Wilstone: Adult and juvenile Little Egret, and adult Common Gull roosting with Black-headed Gulls early afternoon (depicted) (Dave Bilcock).

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Steady southward passage of COMMON SWIFTS

Common Swift in flight (Steve Gantlett/


With no sign of a 'barbecue summer' in site, I took advantage of today's dreary conditions to survey the non-naturalised MONK PARAKEET population. I located just 39 individuals at two locations, a 29% decrease on last year's local peak of 55 birds. Defra have made applications and consultations to destroy them but with the main colony in somebody's garden, they may have a fight on their hands.

Anyway, with heavy rain moving in from the west, I moved north to Tring Reservoirs, where I hoped something of interest had dropped out of the grey skies. Once again, I was disappointed, the highlight being a continuing southbound push of a large number of COMMON SWIFTS

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1700-1800 hours)
(rain and strong SW winds moved in from the west)

Great Crested Grebes (22 still including two young birds, one of which was born on Wilstone)
Grey Heron (5)
LITTLE EGRET (juvenile still, roosting this evening in the large fallen Willow on the west shore)
Continental Cormorant (29)
Mute Swans (noticeable increase to 43 birds, virtually all adults - post-breeding moult gathering)
Greylag Geese (5)
Gadwall (9 by hide)
Common Teal (now 3 by hide)
EURASIAN WIGEON (eclipse drake feeding very close to hide now looking very smart and fresh)
Northern Pochard (10)
COMMON SANDPIPER (1 adult on the spit in front of the hide)
Black-headed Gulls (just 14)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (1 heavily moulting 3rd-summer)
Common Terns (71 including 29 noisy juveniles)

COMMON SWIFTS (strong southerly movement and steady passage involving at least 86 birds)
House Martins (55 including many juveniles)
Grey Wagtail (1 juvenile)
Goldcrest (family group of 3 birds near hide)

Excellent early passage of SAND MARTINS thus far

It has been an excellent early autumn period for SAND MARTIN passage at the reservoirs, with several day totals exceeding 230 birds (LGRE)
Last year, the peak count was of 147 on 17 July, with 100+ present from 2-17 July (LGRE)
I have taken this opportunity to feature three of Graham Catley's evocative images of migrating Sand Martins including a close-up of a fresh juvenile (top). Graham is a brilliant photographer and I just love his images. He lives and birds in North Lincolnshire.


Local photographer and very good friend Paul Keene obtained this recent shot of a family of LITTLE GREBES of which it has been an extremely successful year in 2009

EURASIAN SPARROWHAWKS breeding successfully at College Lake BBOWT

Two noisy juvenile Sparrowhawks were calling very loudly from the plantation at College Lake BBOWT today and were later attended to by the adult confirming breeding at the reserve (Rob Andrews)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

All 3 COMMON SHELDUCKS still present and survey results of the Wendover Arm

A mainly overcast day occasionally broken by bright sunny periods. Wind remained from the Southwest with warm temperatures. There was no sign of yesterday's Common Scoter early on at Wilstone nor of the Whinchat at Beaconsfield. In fact, there was little to shout about so I concentrated on more survey work for my report. All three COMMON SHELDUCK were still present


Grebe families doing well, as well as Coot and Spotted Flycatchers still present.

GREAT CRESTED GREBE (pair tending to three young, with a second pair present. It was interesting to see how quickly two of the three juveniles have progressed, one being now quite well grown. The smallest one still kept very close to its mother and kept on repeatedly trying to scramble up on to her back. Each time the male caught a small silver fish (which was frequently) he wailed loudly and the juveniles noisily raced towards him)

LITTLE GREBES (pair feeding three young and like the GCG's, major discrepancies in development of individual babies; two further independent first-winters and two adults)

Continental Cormorant (sub-adult fishing)
Mute Swans (adult pair with four cygnets)
GADWALL (single female)
Coot (54)
Black-headed Gull (30 birds attracted to tractor ploughing adjacent field - 3 juveniles amongst them)

Red Kites (several attracted in to plough)
Stock Dove (4)
Grey Wagtail (1)
Blue Tit (family party including 7 juveniles)
Coal Tit (2)
Greenfinch (2)
Goldfinch (3)
Common Chiffchaff (1)


Intrigued by Don Stone's 63 British Herring Gulls of yesterday, I decided to explore the area and see what I could find. Unfortunately the RAF were on exercises and there was much disturbance. A total 114 Black-headed Gulls was recorded but no large white-headed gulls.


In the short spell of warm sunshine experienced today, I tried my luck with both PURPLE and WHITE-LETTER HAIRSTREAKS, both seen recently by Mick Jones. Searching suitable trees in Bittam's Wood, I drew a complete blank after 90 minutes of searching.

A total of 7 SILVER-WASHED FRITILLARIES was noted (in the open clearing favoured by Dukes in May), along with Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, BROWN ARGUS (5), Common Blue, PAINTED LADY (16), Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral (3), Peacock, COMMA (22), Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Small Heath, Meadow Brown and Ringlet - 18 species in total.

(1700 hours) (wind freshening from SW; overcast skies)

Great Crested Grebe (22 including 2 first-winters)
LITTLE EGRET (1 by hide)
Mute Swans (26)
Common Teal (just 1 still)
EURASIAN WIGEON (eclipse drake still)
Gadwall (3)
Shoveler (just 1)
Pochard (7)
Lapwings (numbers on bund have now increased to an impressive 555 birds)
Common Terns (33 remaining)

SAND MARTINS (another wave of returning migrants with at least 236 birds low over the water)
House Martins (35 including several juveniles)


Great Crested Grebe (1 adult)
Mute Swans (30 still present)
Greylag Geese (5 on the edge of the reservoir with 22 more feeding in the horse paddock to the north - including 5 fledged juveniles)
Tufted Duck (female with 5 small young, with another with 4 larger young)
Coots (47)
Black-headed Gulls (51)
Common Kestrel (1 male)

BARN SWALLOWS (7) (first migrants for a while)
LINNET (1 flew over calling - a scarce visitor)


LITTLE GREBES (20 present - a very high count)
Mute Swan still present
COMMON SHELDUCK (juvenile still present)
MANDARIN DUCKS (family party of 5 birds still present)
Pochard (male and female)
Tufted Duck (16)
Coot (32)
Black-headed Gulls (66)


Both juvenile COMMON SHELDUCKS were still present swimming together on the main lake
Very quiet otherwise, with just 4 adult Mute Swans and 68 Lapwing of note


The Wendover Arm is a living history rewarding the travellers of today with glimpses of the past. Its trading days now over, the canal winds its quiet way between open fields and shady woods, past abandoned wharfs and railway crossings, a Rothschild mansion and a redundant quarry. Equally of interest is the abundant wildlife which now takes refuge on, in and around this waterway, amongst its reedbeds and along its hedgerows. With this in mind, I decided to do a full and comprehensive bird survey of the section between Wallonhead Bridge (Bridge 7) at the Stonebridge Road car park, Aston Clinton (SP 888 115), Bridge 9 (the cast iron bridge built in 1880 by the Rothschilds) (SP 873 102) and Wendover town centre (SP 870 078)

A total of 21 species recorded including an impressive 22 Little Grebes, 3 Mandarin Ducks, Common Kingfisher, 2 Stock Doves and a pair of Bullfinch)

*LITTLE GREBES (an impressive total of 22 birds: juvenile just east of Bridge 8A, with an adult and two chicks 100 yards further on and two further adults further along; 1 juvenile 100 yards west of Bridge 7; further west, a pair with two juveniles just west of Bridge 9, another pair with two chicks 50 yards on, a single first-winter and a pair with two chicks just west of Bridge 10; another adult with a single chick at 'The Wides')

Mute Swan (family group involving both adults and 6 well grown cygnets east of Bridge 8)
MANDARIN DUCK (a female accompanying a single chick resembling Mallard by Bridge 8 and an adult female with a well grown juvenile at 'The Wides')
Mallard (35 between Bridges 7 and 9, with a further 25 between Bridge 9 and 'The Wides')
TUFTED DUCK (female with 8 well-grown young)

Moorhen (three nests still in use by families; pair with three chicks by Bridge 8A, with another two adults, a pair with two chicks, a pair with three chicks and a pair with two chicks between there and Bridge 7; 11 more west of Bridge 9)
Common Coot (a total of 6 between Bridges 7 and 9 including two juveniles, with a further 17 west of Bridge 9)

COMMON KINGFISHER (1 by canal 200 yards east of Bridge 8)
Woodpigeon (32)
STOCK DOVES (2 calling males in trees adjacent to the canal 100 yards apart west of Bridge 9)
Green Woodpecker (2 in Halton)
House Martin (8 birds over Green Park and another feeding party of 35 birds over Halton village)
Common Blackbird (just 4 noted)
Song Thrush (1 200 yards west of Bridge 9)
Robin (three family groups)
Blackcap (1)
Common Chiffchaff (1)
Great Tit (family group)
Blue Tit (family group)
Goldfinch (pair with two young in gardens near Bridge 9 - in Halton - with another family of 5 nearby)
BULLFINCH (pair by Green Park)


A huge gathering of 435 Rooks and 202 Jackdaws on the airfield.

Monday, 27 July 2009

COMMON SCOTER in the dark and here's proof

Certainly a first - Dave Bilcock's shot of tonight's COMMON SCOTER taken in the dark !!

COMMON SCOTER in the dark !!

Steve Rodwell has just found (at 2115 hours) a female-type COMMON SCOTER on Wilstone Reservoir, swimming about 120 yards offshore of the bank and car park. It is still 'showing' at 2115, with Dave Bilcock attempting to get some record shots ! An astounding record and a relatively unusual July occurrence locally

All three COMMON SHELDUCKS still present

Pitstone Quarry - 1 juvenile COMMON SHELDUCK still, 20 Dabchicks (14 adults, 6 juvs)

College Lake - 2 Juenile COMMON SHELDUCKS still

Pitstone Hill - 1 Corn Bunting.

Ben Miller

Sunday, 26 July 2009


Ian Williams had a flock of 19 COMMON CROSSBILLS fly over Pitstone Quarry at 0630 hours this morning

Weekend Summary - Steve Rodwell

COMMON SHELDUCKS - a total of 3 juveniles were present on Saturday, 2 at College Lake and 1 at Pitstone Quarry (the latter moved to Startop's Sunday morning, but returned to PQ later).

MARSH TITS at both Baldwins Wood and Steps Hill.

WENDOVER ARM CANAL: MANDARIN DUCK - 1 female with 1 chick, plus 2 other individuals (4 pairs bred in total, I can't remember the exact size of the broods but it was something like 7, 4, 3 and 1, therefore most of these birds seem to have dispersed elsewhere).

Little Grebe 7 pairs, total of 13 young.
Tufted Duck (one female with 8 young)
1 pair of Mute Swans with 7 young.

1 Silver washed Fritillary in Wendover.

BUCKLAND WOOD POND: 1 Little Grebe (haven't confirmed breeding but at least 1 present all summer). No Tufted Ducks were present but at least 6-8 have summered on this pond.

WENDOVER WOODS: 10 COMMON CROSSBILLS over the Hale End, Sunday early afternoon (Steve Rodwell)

CETTI'S WARBLERS in Marsworth scrub

Two CETTI'S WARBLERS seen today in trees by the outflow next to the reedbed on Marsworth (approached from the road end). Looked like an adult and a juvenile. Saw the adult in the same place last week so good chance it may hang around. They both showed well only a few metres away. No sign of any spot flys here or at Wilstone (Dave Hutchinson)

Afternoon Birding at Inkombe Hole

Late afternoon one juvenile male COMMON REDSTART showed again eventually at the Hole end of the small valley. Other birds in the scrub included a Garden Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat and a mixed flock of c.6 Chiffchaffs & Willow Warblers, including bright juvs of both.

What was presumably a family flock of 4 COMMON RAVENS showed really well, over the small wood south of Steps Hill initially, then eventually over Incombe Hole itself as they flew off towards the S-bends.

The strong winds and cloud were keeping butterfly activity to a minimum, with just the one Marbled White on the wing. 4+ Painted Ladies battling the conditions again hinted at what might be to come...

Ben Miller

COMMON REDSTARTS remain in Inkombe Hole

There were 3 COMMON REDSTARTS present this morning, all juveniles, favouring the small valley on the right-hand side of Incombe Hole. If you walk along the footpath towards Pitstone Hill and sit looking down the valley, they were all feeding together at one stage, along the edge of the trees out of the wind. See the above images (Dave Bilcock)

Dancersend Butterflies

Purple Hairstreak and White-letter Hairstreak can both be seen at the moment (if the sun comes out again) at Dancersend. Follow the circular ride through Bittams Wood and scan the two large Oaks alongside the ride for the former, and the group of Wych Elms on the eastern edge for the latter species.

Yesterday I also saw one White Admiral and a total of 7 Silver-washed Fritillaries. Also seen were Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Small Copper (11), Brown Argus, Common Blue, Painted Lady (lots), Small Tortoiseshell (2), Red Admiral (1), Peacock, Comma, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Marbled White, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. A total of 23 species making one of my best butterfly days ever at the reserve (Mick Jones)

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Wendover Woods

Spent a good part of the day walking around Wendover Woods, though didn't come across any Crossbills. Also, no amount of staring at the top of Oak trees could reproduce Lee's Purple Emperor sightings, other than a fleeting possible...

However, as Lee has written before, the butterflies in Wendover are simply fantastic at the moment. At one point there must have been 70 butterflies of no less than 14 species around the Buddleia - 10+ Silver-washed Frits (with 5+ elsewhere) were the stars, with exceptional numbers of Large Whites (which are just everywhere at the moment), Peacocks, plus Large Skipper, Small Coppers etc etc. A few photos attached.

The other star was an adult SLOW WORM which gave some great views near the far end of the "Fitness trail".

Not too much to add from earlier sightings from around the Tring area late afternoon, other than an adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL west over Ivinghoe Beacon, and excellent views of a Corn Bunting singing literally above my head opposite the driveway into Downs Farm.

Cheers & Good Birding,



After Steve and Dave found and photographed this juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL in Pitstone Quarry on Wednesday 22 July, I discocered an a moulting summer adult there the next day. There was a widespread inland influx of the species at around the same time, involving three juvenile at Staines Reservoirs, Middlesex, on 21 July.

EURASIAN CURLEW successfully breed and overnight migrants include two juvenile COMMON SHELDUCKS and an adult DUNLIN


A far better day weather-wise than of late with no rain, light winds and warm temperatures. Highlights today included confirmed breeding of EURASIAN CURLEW, two migrant juvenile COMMON SHELDUCKS and a migrant DUNLIN.


Although there was no sign of Mike Wallen's adult DUNLIN from earlier, I was delighted to find a 'new' first-winter Great Crested Grebe - only the second youngster of the year at the reservoirs. The single adult was also still there, as was the female Tufted Ducks with three large young and four tiny young.


Great Crested Grebes (remarkably, another 'new' first-winter on site and most likely from elsewhere; the usual juvenile still and 21 adults)
LITTLE EGRETS (2 juveniles still)
EURASIAN WIGEON (the eclipse drake was roosting in front of the hide)
Shoveler (1)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (presumably one of yesterday's birds was roosting on the central rocks straight out from the main car park)
Pochard (8+)

Lapwings (463 roosting on the bund)
COMMON SANDPIPERS (2 on the algae bunds)
Common Terns (just 42 remaining)


COMMON SHELDUCK (a juvenile preening on the mud, the first I have ever seen at this site. The only Common Shelducks that have bred locally were at Grovebury Sand Pit in Bedfordshire where only one out of nine youngsters survived. Initially found by SR, it was still present at 0945 when I returned).

MANDARIN DUCK (family group of 5 birds)

Little Grebes (17)
Mute Swan (still)
Canada Geese (21)

Lapwings (8)
Black-headed Gull (73)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (2 adults)
Stock Dove
Linnets (6)
BULLFINCH (two juveniles)


Little Grebe (1 adult)
Mute Swans (4 adults)
*COMMON SHELDUCK (a second juvenile different from the Quarry individual on the main lake)
Moorhen (8 juveniles)
*DUNLIN (an adult in breeding plumage feeding on the narrow muddy margin at the NE corner of the main marsh - presumably the same bird as that seen briefly at Startop's End)
Common Tern (15)
Western Reed Warbler (1)

Interestingly, 4 juvenile Common Terns ringed at both College and Wilstone have been present at Dunstable Sewage Farm (Beds) during the past 10 days.


A pair of EURASIAN CURLEW has successfully bred in the county, fledging one youngster. I was also pleased to confirm a Barn Swallow nest from where 5 youngsters have fledged at SP 929 200 as well as two broods of SEDGE WARBLER (on the east bank of the canal at SP 926 203). A male SEDGE WARBLER was in full song.


A flock of 22 post-breeding Lapwings were on the plough opposite the farm and west of the B488, with both singing male Yellowhammer and Common Whitethroat in the hedgerow.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Post-breeding RED-CRESTED POCHARDS appear on cue


A nice morning but then thick cloud, thunder and heavy rain moved in from the west bringing localised flooding for a couple of hours. Front moved quickly east leaving a bright evening but fresh SW winds

Today, I spent a lot of time trying to find Common Crossbill flocks, but failed again. The highlight was a party of 3 Red-crested Pochards at Tring.


Sadly, a freshly killed Badger on the northbound A413 at SP 899 009


On the broad expanse of mud at 1700 hours were 3 roosting eclipse-plumaged RED-CRESTED POCHARDS, post-breeding birds perhaps from the Colne Valley.

There were also 30 Mute Swans, 72 Mallard, a female Tufted Duck with four small young, 1 Great Crested Grebe and 10 Moorhens (mostly juveniles)


A female Tufted Duck with a fresh brood of 9 ducklings.


The presumed escape female Red-crested Pochard was still present. In the reedbed, a female REED BUNTING was feeding young.

PITSTONE QUARRY (1800 hours)

The gull roost held 119 Black-headed Gulls (with just 4 juveniles), with the family party of 4 OYSTERCATCHERS also visiting briefly. Interestingly, the juvenile Oystercatchers are now very similar to the adults, although the white collar is quite prominent and the bill is slightly duller in colour and more pointed. The iris is still brownish-red and the eye-ring very dull.

Butterfly Bonanza - Chaz Jackson kindly provides a gallery of this summer's bumper influx

A selection of butterfly images obtained locally this summer by Charlie Jackson
From top to bottom: PURPLE EMPERORS (3 images); Small Heath; Large White; Small Heath; Ringlet (2 images); Small Tortoiseshell (2 images); Large White; Comma (3 images) and Small Heath

Very quiet all round this morning

Steve Rodwell, still on holiday, has done the rounds again this morning and apart from the continuing drake EURASIAN WIGEON on Wilstone and one of the juvenile COMMON REDSTARTS in Inkombe Hole, has drawn a complete blank.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

One QUAIL still calling

I have just had a stroll out on to my brother's Spring Barley field (he calls it 'Prairie Field') at Down Farm, Aldbury, and heard COMMON QUAIL in the same spot that three were present a month ago - 130m NW of the farmyard at about SP 959 148 (Sue Rowe)

Steve Rodwell had also heard this same bird earlier in the day.

What A Good Year For The.......Butterflies

Although Elvis Costello sang about the Roses in October 1981, this year he could have re-released it about the butterflies. It has been a phenomenal year and today was no exception. Large Whites are absolutely everywhere and records of other species are going through the roof. The reason for this excess is the tremendously high temperatures experienced in the last week of June (temperatures in the 90's) which seems to have done wonders for the population. The fabulous selection of butterfly pictures above - including the Wendover Silver-washed Fritillaries - were obtained by Charlie Jackson.


Juvenile COMMON CUCKOOS are a rare sight nowadays, certainly in my Recording Area, so when Andy Radford found one this morning being fed by a Dunnock, I made every effort to get out and see it.

Sadly, even though I was only perhaps an hour behind Andy, I could not locate it anywhere.

What I did find though was an interesting farm reservoir hosting a single Moorhen.

Farmland species recorded included 2 Stock Doves, a Linnet, and confirmed breeding of Barn Swallow, Common Blackbird, Chaffinch and Blue Tit.

What was amazing was the incredible number of butterflies in the rough field behind (north of) the farm, including 400+ Large Whites, 15 Commas, 35 Peacocks, 40 Small Tortoiseshells, plenty of Small Heaths and many hundreds of Meadow Brown and Ringlets.


Following a call from Steve Rodwell, I followed Mike Campbell into Inkombe. Sitting patiently in the grass just to the left of the 'orange-rolling' slope and footpath (at SP 958 155), I enjoyed excellent views of the two juvenile COMMON REDSTARTS which were repeatedly visiting the three isolated hawthorn bushes to the left of the track through the centre of the Hole. Both birds were incredibly spotted on the underparts (very juvenile Robin-like) and were very young and certainly implying that they had fledged very locally. Certainly the early date suggests that and once again suggest that we have a very tiny breeding population still hanging on in the once breeding stronghold of Ashridge Forest. Even though both Steve and I have made a concerted effort to survey much of the forest this summer, once again we failed to locate a) either singing male Common Redstarts and b) any nesting birds. Just like Spotted Flycatchers, juvenile Common Redstarts quickly move away from the immediate nesting area and eek out suitable feeding localities, although this is often only a mile or two from the actual nest-site.

I also recorded my first Tring Area juvenile Yellowhammer of the year (just 1), whilst Meadow Pipits were actively song-flighting again. Large Whites, Meadow Browns and Ringlets were again in incredible high numbers.

(1130-1222 hours)

At 1130 hours, I overlooked the Quarry mud and in doing so immediately located a loafing adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL in with the 55 Black-headed Gulls present. I was delighted with my find as it represented my first in Buckinghamshire this year (I had missed Adam Bassett's by a whisker and dipped on all of Warren and Tim's birds at Calvert). It was an adult still in 'good nick' with much of its summer attire (black hood) still largely intact as well as its pure white 'eyelids' and its stunning red bill. Obviously the hood and face did have some white patching, but overall this was a highly distinct bird, with an excellent set of gleaming white primary feathers and tail feathers. It was having a good old preen and repeatedly bathing in the shallow water. I 'phoned Steve and after 25 minutes he eventually arrived. The bird was still present when we both departed at 1222.

Another highlight was the sight of a female and four well grown juvenile MANDARIN DUCKS - the second successive year that the species has bred successfully in the quarry.

Also, 20 LITTLE GREBES was a remarkable sight, with 7 fledged juveniles still doing well.

The oversummering single Mute Swan was still present, along with 22 Tufted Ducks, whilst a migrant LESSER WHITETHROAT was in the scrub.


Visiting the famous Buddleia bush prior to the rain gave me a further opportunity to survey the butterfly population in the forest. An absolute bare minimum of 22 SILVER-WASHED FRITILLARIES was on the wing, along with several PURPLE EMPERORS (feeding high in the Oaks on the west side), 35+ COMMAS, many MARBLED WHITES and an absolute abundance of LARGE WHITES.

I failed to find any Common Crossbills at Pendley Manor nor in the Aston Hill area but then the heaven's opened and I returned home

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


Earlier on today at 2.15pm I had 8 COMMON CROSSBILLS flying over calling at Pendley Court Theatre in Tring. They were heading south-west (Rob Andrews).

Juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL fits in neatly with local passage

Jack O'Neill, David Bilcock and Steve Rodwell all watched a juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL in Pitstone Quarry this afternoon, fitting in neatly with the arrival of three juvenile Meds at Staines Reservoirs last night.

What was presumably the same bird dropped into Wilstone Reservoir for ten minutes at 7.15pm this evening and showed well from the hide. The juvenile LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, Common Sandpiper and Little Egret were all present, as well as drake Eurasian Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal, Common Kingfisher and 100+ Sand Martins (Jonathan Nasir)

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

SAND MARTINS in abundance


Torrential rain fell for much of the morning and with seabirds and waders dropping in across the Midlands, I had high hopes for some good birding today. The wind was strong Southwesterly. The rain moved NE by early afternoon leaving overcast skies and temperatures of 16 degrees C.

(1715-1745 hours)

With a scattering of waders grounded by the weather, I fully expected some new arrivals at Tring. I was to be disappointed however, with 2 DUNLIN dropping in after I had left. In fact it was very quiet,

DUNLIN (2 summer-plumaged adults on the spit this evening, viewable from the hide - Dave Bilcock)

Mute Swans (22)
Common Teal (1 still)
EURASIAN WIGEON (eclipse drake still)
Lapwing (248)
COMMON SANDPIPER (3 on the bunds)
Common Terns (78)
HOBBY (1 adult - DB)


Mute Swans (32)


**LITTLE GREBES (excellent breeding success, with three pairs accompanying young - single pairs with two chicks apiece, and another pair with a single chick. Additional four adults.
Mute Swan (1)
COMMON REDSHANK (1 juvenile)
Black-headed Gulls (68 roosting including 4 juveniles)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (3 adults)
Common Swift (25)
Song Thrush (2 singing males)
Blackcaps (4)

Dave's two DUNLIN this evening

These two summer-plumaged DUNLIN arrived late this evening on the Wilstone bund (Dave Bilcock)

Evening BARN OWL.....and BADGER

At about 8 last night along with Rob Clarke I watched a BARN OWL hunting in the 'cattle' field at Wilstone (next to the car park) and neighbouring fields. Stunning views, especially as we were watching it from above. Rob had also seen 2 Oystercatchers fly over about an hour before. Also saw two Red Foxes - one intent on hunting in the long grass of the field next to Rushy Meadow. Heard Tawny Owl from behind the reedbed and Little Owl 'whicking' in the Black Poplar tree towards the dry canal. Walking along the canal I surprised a BADGER who was just about to cross the muddy bottom when he saw me and promptly turned around (Sue Rowe)

Monday, 20 July 2009

CHALKHILL BLUE BUTTERFLIES out in force, with bumper numbers of Large Whites

Chalkhill Blue Butterflies and Brown Argus - superb images taken by Stuart Read

A much better day following the weekend heavy rain showers. It stayed dry all day and brightened up with warm sunshine late afternoon. Another day checking breeding successes as well as doing a few butterfly transects. There was no sight nor sound of any of the Spotted Flycatcher families seen yesterday.

(Afternoon visit; with Stuart Wilson)

Great Crested Grebe (22 present still including the juvenile)
Continental Cormorant (sinensis) (15 on bank)
*LITTLE EGRET (both juveniles roosting in Willows north of the Drayton Hide)
EURASIAN WIGEON (eclipse drake still)
Common Teal (1)
Tufted Duck (6 well grown fledged young)
Coot (3 separate feeding rafts, swirling in circles and diving to retrieve weed; 115 + 103 + 96 = 314)
Lapwing (243 roosting on bund)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (juvenile still present in front of hide)
COMMON SANDPIPER (3 on algae bunds)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (2 adults dropped in for a bathe late afternoon)
SAND MARTIN (just 8 noted in good westher conditions)
House Martin (12+)
Wren (family group in hedgerow by new overflow)


Great Crested Grebe (2)
Mute Swan (3 adults)
Coot (43 adults, 17 fledged young)
Greenfinch (pair)


Mute Swan (30)
Mallard (female with 6 very small ducklings plus further females with 3, 5 and 8 well grown youngsters)
Tufted Duck (female with 4 small young)
Coot (43) (418 Coots counted in total)
COMMON SANDPIPER (adult feeding on the extensive mud)


Great Crested Grebe (3)
Red-crested Pochard (female of presumably captive origin)
Coot (just 1 adult)
Western Reed Warbler (1)


At Gallows Hill (SP 967171) late afternoon and in warm sunshine, large numbers of butterflies were on the wing, including 55+ CHALKHILL BLUES, 31 MARBLED WHITES, good numbers of both ESSEX and SMALL SKIPPERS and large numbers of Large White, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. The best area was that 220 yards along the lower footpath from the car park (besides the B489) in the clearing to the right of the track.

Nearby, DARK GREEN FRITILLARIES (mostly faded) were showing well in the cutting north of the S Bend at SP 959 164, with a few MARBLED WHITES and a BROWN ARGUS.

Whilst on the subject of butterflies, PURPLE EMPERORS have had their best ever season at Finemere Wood (SP 720 216) with up to 6 showing daily since 2 July.

I was disgusted to see over 60 worn tyres dumped in the parking area at Ivinghoe Beacon (at SP 964 172), whilst some poor innocent soul that had an accident at the junction and left his car there (a 1998 Mazda 626) will return to find that it has been broken into - the rear quarter window had been smashed and the boot rifled and ransacked.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Wilstone Overflow SPOTTED FLYS

I ended up watching the SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS from the bottom of the steps by the new overflow - they were feeding on the field side of the hedge, taking advantage of the flies from the cattle. They ranged up and down the hedgerow up towards the car park and down as far as the Ash trees just to the right of the overflow. There was a brief visit from a YELLOW WAGTAIL flying right down in the middle of the cattle. I saw 2 or maybe 3 youngsters being fed by the adults - it was all very confusing when I got there because they were all muddled up in the Ash tree with the baby Goldfinches making a right racket. Then the finches (4) flew off to the other side of the field and it was a bit easier to sort them out (Sue Rowe)

Latest Wader Images - Ian Williams

This juvenile LITTLE RINGED PLOVER has been present for four days on Wilstone spit; GREEN SANDPIPER on the Sewage Farm Lagoon (Ian Williams)




Great Crested Grebes (22 including the juvenile)
Sinensis Cormorants (14 on bank)
Mute Swans (increase to 42 birds)
Greylag Geese (78)
Gadwall (7)
EURASIAN WIGEON (eclipse drake still present)
Pochard (12)
Coot (217+)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (juvenile still present on spit)
Common Terns (68+ including 33 juveniles)

Common Swifts (48)
SAND MARTINS (massive influx in rain involving at least 238 birds)
House Martins (similar influx as above with 135+ over reservoir in rain)
*SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (family party of 4-5 birds in trees by new overflow)
Goldfinch (pair feeding 3 young in hedgerow near car park)


LITTLE EGRETS (the two juveniles roosting in bushes near hide)
Coot (huge increase involving 113 birds - presumably from Wilstone)

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Massive WHIMBREL flock

This evening myself and Jonathan Masir were sat in the hide at Wilstone when a flock of 21 WHIMBRELS flew over heading west at 19:50, the largest flock I have ever seen locally.

Otherwise the Green Sandpiper and juvenile LRP from yesterday remained.

However, the most unexpected record was an adult Common Gull that, like the Whimbrels, also flew straight through. I can't remember ever seeing a Common Gull in July before, usually Mediterranean Gulls are commoner this time of year!

David Bilcock

LITTLE EGRETS on Startop's this evening

A quick look at College Lake produced a single COMMON SANDPIPER on the marsh and the two remaining juvenile OYSTERCATCHERS.

An even quicker look at Startops Res this evening revealed the presence of the two juvenile LITTLE EGRETS on the mud.

Earlier at work I had a HOBBY over the Pendley Court Theatre on Station Road, Tring (Rob Andrews).

Exceptional numbers of SAND MARTINS for mid July

Juvenile Sand Martin (Sue Gantlett/
I counted 104 Sand Martins hunting low over Wilstone Reservoir in the wet conditions on Friday, an unusually high number so early in the autumn.


This morning's north-westerly's did nothing to inspire confidence but at 0722 I heard a WHIMBREL call and when Sue, Ian Williams and I looked up there were two flying over together, with Sue seeing a third bird close to the two when she went out the back of the hide.

Supporting cast was one Common Sandpiper, one Green Sandpiper, the juv Little Ringed Plover from yesterday and also a juvenile Little Egret, which flew in high from elsewhere and dropped out of sight (Roy Hargreaves)

Ian Williams also had a single WHIMBREL fly over Wilstone last night

Friday, 17 July 2009


Todays Images from David Bilcock
One of 23 COMMON CROSSBILLS in pines by Wendover Woods main car park this morning, with the GREEN SANDPIPER and juvenile LITTLE RINGED PLOVER in front of the hide at Wilstone Reservoir

Following a night of heavy downpours, the day continued in the same vein, with some torrential rain giving rise to localised flooding. With south/SE winds, temperatures held up well at around 19 degrees C.

WENDOVER FOREST (1030-1140 hours)

Following a call from David Bilcock, I made my way straight over to the main car park at Wendover Woods (at SP 886 100) where, during a break in the wet weather, I eventually located the COMMON CROSSBILL flock. They initially appeared from the west, flew along the valley 'jipping' loudly and landed in tall coniferous trees SE of the tea rooms and 100 yards east of the 'Go Ape' activity complex. The flock comprised of a total of 23 birds, including 9 red males (DB managed a shot of one male, see above). The flock fed for a very short time but then flew off towards Aston Hill (and are very likely the same flock that RDA recorded a few days ago).

The car park area also held 15 COAL TITS (including numerous youngsters) and 4 COMMON TREECREEPERS

NOTE: parking costs £5 per day, £3 half day or £1 per hour


The heavy downpours have resulted in a major increase in the water level, with the central ridge almost submerged again. The best mud is to the right of the Drayton Bank Hide. Disappointingly, the only new wader to arrive was a juvenile Little Ringed Plover, although Dave and Roy had seen three Black-tailed Godwits fly east.

Great Crested Grebes (18 present including the juvenile again)
[LITTLE EGRET - 2 juveniles together by the hide briefly late morning - DB]
Gadwall (7)
Lapwing (82)
*LITTLE RINGED PLOVER ('new' juvenile on ridge in front of hide)
COMMON SANDPIPER (1 remaining on bunds)
[GREEN SANDPIPER - 1 by hide - DB]
[ICELANDIC BLACK-TAILED GODWITS - 3 adults flew east at 0650 hours - DB]
Black-headed Gull (42)
Common Tern (51 including 23 juveniles, mostly now fending for themselves)
SAND MARTINS (major increase in the rain with 104 feeding low over the reservoir)