Monday, 31 August 2009

Bank Holiday Monday at the reservoirs

A second juvenile BLACK TERN joined the relocating Startop's bird on Wilstone this evening (RDA, SR). Meanwhile not much change, the Ferruginous Duck x Northern Pochard hybrid was again present, along with 5 Little Egrets, 3 Greenshank, 3 Common Sandpipers, 3 Ringed Plovers and 2 Hobbys. Five Yellow Wagtails flew over and 1 Common Gull. Good numbers of Sand Martins, probably several hundred. The Chinese Water Deer continue to show well, 3 this evening (Steve Rodwell)

Sunday Summary - Steve Rodwell

Good numbers of duck at Pitstone Quarry this evening: 104 Mallard, 20 Tufteds, 3 Shovelers, 2 Teal, 2 Mandarins and the male R.C. Pochard, plus 18 Little Grebes.

Wilstone: 3 Ringed Plover, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Greenshank, 3 Common Sandpipers, 5 Little Egrets and 1 Common Swift, plus a lot of Canada Geese - 147. Also the hybrid Ferruginous x Pochard, 1 juvenile Water Rail and 2 Hobbys.

Startops: Heard at least one Dunlin about 8.30am (may have been the same 2 birds that Ian had seen earlier at Wilstone) and 1 Yellow Wagtail.

Ivinghoe Beacon: 3 Wheatears and 1 Whinchat. (Steve Rodwell)

Sunday, 30 August 2009

OSPREY perched at Tringford - a rare sight at Tring Reservoirs

A superb juvenile OSPREY landed on the dead trees 100 yards out from the hide at Tringford Reservoir at about 1030 hours and remained in position until 1215, when it finally took flight, did a circuit of the reservoir and flew off low to the south. Dave Bilcock managed these two tremendous images above and in the two hours it was perched, 15 or so observers connected including DB, SR, Ben Miller, Mike Wallen and Martin Parr.
The juvenile BLACK TERN remained on Startop's End Reservoir, along with 8 YELLOW WAGTAILS and 30 alba Wagtails in the horse paddocks to the north, whilst Wilstone today yielded 2 DUNLIN (Ian Williams) and 3 RINGED PLOVERS, along with 4 COMMON GREENSHANKS, the 2 adult WHOOPER SWANS, 1-2 HOBBIES and 2 WATER RAILS.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Drake Red-crested Pochard again

At midday the eclipse male RED-CRESTED POCHARD was in the middle of Startops res' feeding with coot. I don't know where it hides, as I didn't see it this morning when I visited.

The juvenile BLACK TERN was still there but not flying around much (as it had been early morning ), it is easily catching small fish when it does hunt.
Also 1 Common Sandpiper (Mike Wallen).

Early Morning

The juvenile BLACK TERN was still on Startops, as well as the pair of Whooper Swans and 9 YELLOW WAGTAILS.

On the Beacon there were 4 NORTHERN WHEATEAR, as well as a flyover TREE PIPIT and a YELLOW WAGTAIL (Mike Wallen)

GODWITS new in - Friday afternoon

2 moulting adult BLACK-TAILED GODWITS at Startop's End Reservoir late afternoon, where they were disturbed by a dog walker, and they then relocated to Wilstone. Also juvenile BLACK TERN, juvenile Common Gull (was present at Wilstone yesterday) and the 2 WHOOPER SWANS.

Wilstone was very quiet. Couple of late Common Swifts and a Herring Gull the only thing different. 2 Hobbies still present (Steve Rodwell)

Ivinghoe chats still on site

All 5 WHINCHATS were still present on the fenceline at Ivinghoe Beacon Sheep Fields on 28-29 August (see top image). Nice to see them all perched together. Also at least 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS (see lower images).
Also 6 Greenshank, 2 Common Sandpipers and 4 plus Spotted Flycatchers at Wilstone and a BLACK TERN at Startops from Friday evening (Charlie Jackson)

PEREGRINE performance

Startop's End Reservoir early Friday morning (28 August) produced no waders, but 250 Sand Martin which were attacked by a juvenile HOBBY. A total of 6 YELLOW WAGTAILS on the South bank was the highlight here.

Ivinghoe Beacon produced the goods though, another birder had seen a COMMON REDSTART on the path between the car park and the S bend. On the Southern slope of the Beacon ( not at the sheep pens ) were 4 Northern Wheatears and 3 WHINCHATS. These were completely eclipsed when at about 8.30am I heard a COMMON RAVEN which was being attacked by a young PEREGRINE. The falcon dived at the Raven several times before they both went North around the Trig Point (Mike Wallen)


Ivinghoe Beacon: 3 WHINCHATS east of the sheep pens sharing the fence line with 6 NORTHERN WHEATEARS (picture of one of these above).

Wilstone Reservoir: Juvenile BLACK TERN, 6 Greenshanks, 7 Common Sandpipers.
Dave Bilcock

Wednesday, 26 August 2009



Remnants of a Tropical Storm brought strong WSW winds and a very moist airflow to our area today and although two adult Sabine's Gulls were deposited in Worcestershire, no such rarities found their way to this part of the Chilterns. In fact, not one new wader arrived and the only point of real interest was the huge build-up of SAND MARTINS throughout the day.

(1730-1840 hours)

LITTLE EGRET (only 3 on view this evening)
Wigeon (single drake still)
Northern Pochard (marked increase with 16 present)
Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid (drake close to hide - photographed by DB today)
COMMON SANDPIPER (2 on south side feeding together on muddy edge)
COMMON GREENSHANK (all 6 juveniles still present)
Common Snipe (single still present)

COMMON SWIFT (2 seen - SR)
Barn Swallows (22)
House Martins (55+)
Pied Wagtail (20 in roost)
WILLOW WARBLER (juvenile in hedgerow in NW corner)


An eclipse drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD was present earlier in the day (MW, SR)

WHOOPER SWANS (pair present)
Barn Swallows (25+)
*SAND MARTINS (at least 670 click-counted this evening, drifting around all three reservoirs)
The Sand Martin image above was obtained by Graham Catley

Plagued by Aythya hybrids

An extended session watching from the hide this morning, as it was too wet to venture up the hills. There was an increase in the numbers of Tufties and Pochards present. Amongst these was the 'ferruginous' type hybrid which Roy saw last week and presumably that seen by Lee and Steve at Marsworth the following day. Also present was a 'lesser scaup' type, just off the reed bed to the left of the hide (pictures of both above)(Dave Bilcock)

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


What appears to be two family groups of SPOTTED FLYCATCHER is present in the large field immediately west of Wilstone Reservoir totalling at least eight birds including several juveniles.
There have also been 5 CHINESE WATER DEER present on recent evenings, including two adults and three three young.


Whinchat (Mike Wallen)

(increasing SW winds through the day with temperatures still high; a few thunder claps but little rain but heavy cloud predominating)

(1030-1318 hours)

Hearing of Mike Wallen's Rowsham flyover Tree Pipit flock (3 birds), I returned to the hills in the hope of connecting with one. One had flown over as close as Totternhoe Knolls (Bedfordshire), with an almost daily flurry of occurrences from Pegsdon Hills. I ended up spending just under three hours 'viz-migging' and yes, you guessed it, no Tree Pipits came my way. In fact, migration was next to non-existent, with just a few hirundines passing south.

The undoubted highlight was the 'chat flock' with 4 WHINCHATS showing well, lined up alongside each other on the fenceline either side of the sheep pens, along with 2 juvenile NORTHERN WHEATEARS.

I did the entire walk from Gallows Hill through to Aldbury Knolls with scant rewards.

A charm of 8 Goldfinches had gathered, with 14 Meadow Pipits on the North Slope and 2 Common Chiffchaffs in Top Scrub.

Southbound movement involved 7 Barn Swallows and a single SAND MARTIN.

Butterflies were still in good numbers with 25+ PAINTED LADIES, 18 Speckled Wood, 2 RED ADMIRAL and at least 150+ Small Heath

(1330-1510 hours)

Very little new activity - the highlight being the SPOTTED FLYCATCHER flock to the west of the reservoir

Great Crested Grebe (20)
LITTLE EGRETS (all 7 birds again present)
Mute Swans (44)
Gadwall (9)
Common Teal (38)
Shoveler (56+)
Coot (539)

HOBBY (adult carrying prey over fields behind the hide)

Lapwing (416)
COMMON GREENSHANK (6 birds present, all apparent juveniles and highly mobile and vocal)
Common Snipe (single still present)

COMMON KINGFISHER (excellent views of a dark billed male perched)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Western Reed Warbler (2)
WILLOW WARBLER (2 juveniles)
SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS (a mobile flock of at least 8 birds present for at least their third day in the hedgerows and gardens - especially that of the thatched cottage - to the west of the reservoir accessed from the track across the field from where the hide access trail begins)

Monday, 24 August 2009

Yet another MARSH HARRIER and MEDITERRANEAN GULL and an excellent BLACK TERN passage

(incorporating some Sunday sightings too)

SSE winds continued overnight but as the day progressed they veered more westerly so that by evening quite a fresh SW was blowing. Temperatures again held up high at around 22 degrees C with dark clouds occasionally sparking off the odd light shower.

(1300-1415 hours; 1830-2000 hours)
(water level very low providing superb muddy foreshores around entire perimeter)

Great Crested Grebes (20)
Little Grebes (3 present)
Continental Cormorant (25 roosting)
Grey Heron (8)
LITTLE EGRETS (at least 5 still present)
Mute Swan (44 present this evening)
WHOOPER SWANS (adult pair moving over much of Wilstone and very vocal at times; flew off east this evening)
Greylag Geese (16)
Canada Geese (55 flew in this evening)
RUDDY SHELDUCK (the highly mobile pair were seen briefly on 22 August - DB)
Mallard (171)
Gadwall (9)
Shoveler (large increase - 58+ now on site)
Eurasian Wigeon (single drake)
Common Teal (45)
Pochard (7)
Tufted Duck (large increase - now 45)
*MARSH HARRIER (a juvenile lingered over the reedbed in the SE corner from 1605-1618 hours before drifting off east - Steve Rodwell)
HOBBY (juvenile hunting over reedbed)
WATER RAIL (an adult feeding on open mud to right of the Drayton Bank Hide - SR)
Moorhen (77 along margins)
Coot (362 in 3 main dredging concentrations)
Lapwing (416+)
COMMON GREENSHANK (5 juveniles still present - highly mobile)
COMMON SNIPE (1 feeding to right of hide on 23 August)
Black-headed Gulls (68 on 23 August; at least 104 today)
COMMON GULL (1 adult over this evening - DB)
**MEDITERRANEAN GULL (Steve Rodwell discovered this 'new' juvenile on Startop's End Reservoir this morning, DB photographing it shortly later - see images above. SR then relocated it on Wilstone, where all three of us obtained excellent views of it as it commuted between the bay to the right of the hide and the bund to roost until at least early afternoon. It was still predominantly in juvenile plumage with a strong chocolate-brown tail-band but was quite grey in the mantle)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (10 flew NE this evening)
Common Terns (11)
**BLACK TERNS (strong passage with 27 present all day on 23 August - including four juveniles. Just one adult remained at dawn, increasing to 8 by mid-morning and then increasing to 18 this evening - again including at least 4 juveniles - 45 in total) (see Dave Bilcock's excellent images above)

House Martins (25 moved through this evening)
Pied Wagtails (13 at roost)
Grey Wagtail (1)
Western Reed Warbler (1)
Jay (3 by hide)


Very quiet, the highlight being the two adult COMMON RAVENS in fields opposite Town Farm.


Another adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL was in the freshly harrowed field opposite the cemetery at Wilstone Reservoir, with 47 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Dave Bilcock)

Weekend Highlights

A summary of Recent Sightings - 21-23 August

At - College Lake BBOWT

OSPREY: one drifted slowly south at 1400 hours (Jeff Bailey) on 23rd

At - Ivinghoe Hills NR

YELLOW-LEGGED GULL: an adult was photographed (see above) in fields below Steps Hill on 23rd (Dave Bilcock)
*EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE: one perched in scrub on north side of the Beacon on 23rd (Rob Hill)
NORTHERN WHEATEAR: 6 still present on 21st (Mike Campbell; Mike Wallen) with 5 to 23rd (Dave Bilcock)
WHINCHAT: the juvenile still present on 21st (Mike Campbell; Mike Wallen), 22nd and 23rd (Dave Bilcock)
COMMON REDSTART: first-winter male still present by gate below car park on 21st (Mike Campbell; Mike Wallen)
TREE PIPIT - a single flew over on 21st (Mike Wallen)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Story So Far

Well as we are about to embark on another (hopefully) busy autumn period, I thought I would just put together a detailed list of what has been seen thus far in the first eight months of the year. A total of 150 species has been recorded in the immediate Recording Area of Tring Reservoirs

1) Little Grebe (successfully bred - 3+ juveniles fledged)
2) Great Crested Grebe (successfully bred - 5 juveniles fledged)
3) Atlantic Great Cormorant (successfully bred - most records involving Continental Sinensis)
4) EUROPEAN SHAG (1 record of 3 birds on one date in August)
5) EURASIAN BITTERN (up to 3 birds last winter)
6) LITTLE EGRET (peak of 7 this August)
7) Grey Heron (successfully bred; 33 pairs)
8) Mute Swan (probably bred)
9) Whooper Swan (regular pair visiting from Bedfordshire; non-naturalised)
10) Greylag Goose (successfully bred)
11) Atlantic Canada Goose (successfully bred)
12) BARNACLE GOOSE (1 record - flock of 5 in mid-summer; post-breeding dispersal of non-naturalised population)
13) DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE (1 record - flock of 22 in winter)
14) COMMON SHELDUCK (about 5 records)
15) RUDDY SHELDUCK (1 record - pair in early August)
16) Mandarin Duck (bred nearby; occasional visitor to Tringford)
17) Mallard (successfully bred)
18) Gadwall (present all year but with no breeding records)
19) NORTHERN PINTAIL (7 birds recorded)
20) Northern Shoveler (present all year; 2 pairs summered but failed to breed)
21) Eurasian Wigeon (present all year; 2 drakes summered)
22) Common Teal (present virtually all year)
23) GARGANEY (two drakes recorded in spring)
24) Northern Pochard (1 pair bred - 2 young fledged)
25) Red-crested Pochard (female hybridised with Mallard producing single young; 5 additional records of considered wild birds)
26) Tufted Duck (successfully bred)
27) COMMON SCOTER (2 records)
28) Common Goldeneye (present from January to April)
29) SMEW (1 redhead in January)
30) GOOSANDER (3 in January)
31) RUDDY DUCK (up to 7 during first part of year)
32) OSPREY (5 in spring)
33) Red Kite (almost daily visitor)
34) MARSH HARRIER (7 records)
35) HEN HARRIER (male flew over in early spring)
36) Common Buzzard (2 pairs bred)
37) Eurasian Sparrowhawk (3 pairs bred)
38) Common Kestrel (2 pairs bred)
39) HOBBY (frequent visitor from April-August)
40) PEREGRINE (few winter records)
41) Red-legged Partridge (1 pair)
42) GREY PARTRIDGE (covey of 5 birds seen in winter)
43) Common Pheasant (successfully bred)
44) Water Rail (present all year; almost certainly bred)
45) Moorhen (successfully bred)
46) Coot (successfully bred)
47) Eurasian Oystercatcher (bred closeby rearing two young; frequent visitor)
48) Little Ringed Plover (pair successfully bred nearby; frequently recorded)
49) Ringed Plover (pair summered nearby; regularly recorded)
50) European Golden Plover (few records)
51) Lapwing (several pairs bred; common otherwise)
52) TURNSTONE (2 records, both in July)
53) Dunlin (15+ records)
54) WOOD SANDPIPER (juvenile recorded in August)
55) Green Sandpiper (20+)
56) Common Sandpiper (40+ recorded)
57) Common Redshank (bred nearby; few records)
58) Common Greenshank (July-August influx)
59) BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (30+ recorded)
60) BAR-TAILED GODWIT (1 spring record)
61) EURASIAN CURLEW (12 records)
62) WHIMBREL (15+ recorded)
63) WOODCOCK (winter visitor in very small numbers)
64) Common Snipe (20+)
65) Black-headed Gull (frequent visitor)
66) Common Gull (frequent visitor)
67) MEDITERRANEAN GULL (4 recorded)
68) Herring Gull (scarce visitor)
69) Lesser Black-backed Gull (frequent visitor)
70) Great Black-backed Gull (scarce visitor)
71) LITTLE GULL (20+ in spring)
72) KITTIWAKE (1 spring record)
73) LITTLE TERN (4 in spring)
74) SANDWICH TERN (6 in spring)
75) Common Tern (successfully bred - 23+ pairs)
76) ARCTIC TERN (spring passage)
77) BLACK TERN (30+)

78) Stock Dove (successfully bred)
79) Woodpigeon (common resident breeder)
80) Eurasian Collared Dove (resident breeder)
81) COMMON CUCKOO (3-4 in spring)
82) Tawny Owl (resident breeder)
83) BARN OWL (frequent visitor; probably breeds)
84) Little Owl (resident breeder; 2 pairs)
85) Common Swift (summer visitor)
86) Common Kingfisher (1 pair bred)
87) Green Woodpecker (breeding resident)
88) Great Spotted Woodpecker (breeding resident)
89) Eurasian Skylark (1+ pairs bred)
90) WOODLARK (1 early spring record)
91) Sand Martin (summer visitor)
92) Barn Swallow (successfully bred)
93) House Martin (bred nearby; summer visitor)
94) SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT (1 spring record)
95) Meadow Pipit (winter visitor)
96) TREE PIPIT (1 record - 2 in August)
97) Pied Wagtail (successfully bred)
98) WHITE WAGTAIL (20 in spring; 1 in August)
99) YELLOW WAGTAIL (frequent summer visitor)
100) Grey Wagtail (successfully bred)
101) Wren (breeding resident)
102) Dunnock (breeding resident)
103) Robin (breeding resident)
104) COMMON REDSTART (1 record - male in April)
105) Northern Wheatear (10+ in spring)
106) WHINCHAT (1 record - August)
106) Common Stonechat (winter visitor)
107) Song Thrush (successfully bred)
108) Redwing (winter visitor)
109) Mistle Thrush (successfully bred)
110) Fieldfare (winter visitor)
111) Common Blackbird (resident breeder)
112) Garden Warbler (a few spring records)
113) Blackcap (summer breeder)
114) Lesser Whitethroat (summer visitor)
115) Common Whitethroat (summer breeder)
116) Sedge Warbler (successfully bred)
117) GRASSHOPPER WARBLER (3 reeling males in spring)
118) CETTI'S WARBLER (successfully bred)
119) Western Reed Warbler (successfully bred)
120) Willow Warbler (22 in spring)
121) Common Chiffchaff (successfully bred)
122) Goldcrest (successfully bred)
123) SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (2 pairs bred)
124) Great Tit (breeding resident)
125) Coal Tit (few records)
126) Blue Tit (breeding resident)
127) Long-tailed Tit (breeding resident)
128) Nuthatch (winter visitor)
129) Common Treecreeper (1-2 pairs bred)
130) Magpie (resident breeder)
131) Jay (occasional visitor)
132) Jackdaw (resident breeder)
133) Rook (resident breeder)
134) Carrion Crow (resident breeder)
135) Common Starling (resident breeder)
136) House Sparrow (resident breeder)
137) Chaffinch (resident breeder)
138) BRAMBLING (winter visitor)
139) Linnet (scarce breeder)
140) LESSER REDPOLL (1 flock wintered)
141) Goldfinch (resident breeder)
142) Greenfinch (resident breeder)
143) SISKIN (winter visitor)
144) Bullfinch (scarce resident)
145) COMMON CROSSBILL (23 in summer)
146) Reed Bunting (scarce breeder)
147) Yellowhammer (scarce breeder)
148) CORN BUNTING (winter visitor)

Major fall on hills as hot weather finally gives way to Atlantic Front

The juvenile Common Greenshanks feeding just to the right of the hide and two of our 7 Little Egrets feeding with adult Black-headed Gulls (Steve Carter Photography)


An Atlantic front hit the west coast of Britain today and in turn bought fresh WSW winds to our region, much cloudier skies and a few drops of rain. As a result, a number of drift migrants were grounded on Ivinghoe, including a COMMON NIGHTINGALE, at least two COMMON REDSTARTS, a WHINCHAT and numerous NORTHERN WHEATEARS.

(0900-1400 hours; in part with Steve Rodwell and Mike Collard)

Arriving in the car park just after 0900 hours, my first port of call was the row of 7 Hawthorns traversing the fenceline, just SSE of the gate at SP 962 163 (the area NW of the main car park, at the bottom of the valley). Herein was a first-winter female COMMON REDSTART, flitting back and forth between the bushes and calling quite frequently. Both SR and MCo were there, both having seen the bird well, but in general it was very elusive and only showing intermittently.

A SPOTTED FLYCATCHER landed in a Hawthorn nearby (found by MCo) and then moved a short way along the hedgerow, from where it stabilised in a dead tree by the main gate adjacent to the S-bend at SP 961 164 and began feeding for a while.

Steve had also found a large group of 'chats' which were initially close to the sheep pens but after being disturbed moved to the much more sheltered area of field just SE of the tumulus at SP 963 167. The flock included 8 NORTHERN WHEATEARS and a juvenile WHINCHAT. All 9 birds were still present at 1400 hours, often disappearing into the numerous rabbit burrows on the slope here.

Also indicative of a strong migration was the presence of 80 BARN SWALLOWS over the east end of Gallows Hill.

As I broadened my horizons and branched out to check new areas, I heard what I thought was another Redstart by the 5-bar metal gate at the start of the tree-line at SP 967 160. The bird was feeding on the ground and had a rufous tail and rump. It darted back in but reappeared slightly further along and again returned to the ground. Its underparts were white and it was lightly washed on the breast, with unmarked upperparts. It also had an obvious white eye-ring. It appeared to be a COMMON NIGHTINGALE.

I followed it along the tree-line, twice the bird repeating a sharp 'churrr', and sitting quietly on the ground managed several more views as it repeatedly returned to the ground. It was far too rich rufous in colour for Thrush Nightingale, both on the crown and ear-coverts and especially in the wing-coverts and rump and did not appear to have any dark spotting on the undertail-coverts. Of the brief views obtained of its underparts, the breast band was warm-coloured and certainly lacked the heavy mottling and greyness of luscinia. I could not get any detail on the wing formulae but the legs and feet were a distinct pink.

I walked back to where the Common Redstart was, so that my phone reception would work once more, and phoned Stuart Piner (RBA) and Steve and texted DB. Steve had departed the site sadly so I then decided to do Top Scrub as I had walked back up. Top Scrub was windblown and devoid of migrants so within a short time I returned to the 'East Slopes'.

'Scoping from near the gate at SP 964 157, I relocated the COMMON NIGHTINGALE in a Box hedgerow, 40 yards either side of an obvious dead tall Elm. It repeatedly came out to the edge of the hedgerow, often feeding on rabbit mounds and was still present at around midday when rain set in. However, like all small turdidae, it was generally elusive and difficult to keep track of.

What I thought was the same COMMON REDSTART was calling from bushes close to the car park but later returning to the main gate, at least two birds were present together, feeding on the brightly coloured berries of the Hawthorn. There were almost certainly three individuals present.

The only other migrants present were 8 Common Chiffchaffs. Two COAL TITS were also noted.


Despite the conditions, with fresh winds and cloudy skies, there were few new arrivals.

Great Crested Grebes (29 including the two first-winters)
Little Grebes (both first-winters present)
Continental Cormorant (26)
Grey Heron (9)
LITTLE EGRET (all 7 birds still present)
Mute Swan (34)
WHOOPER SWANS (the pair was present, favouring the NW corner and only just being tolerated by the highly territorial cob Mute; there was much loud bugling)
Mallard (47+)
Gadwall (8)
Shoveler (39)
Wigeon (drake still present)
Common Teal (continued increase with 38+ now present)
Pochard (4)
Tufted Duck (9)
Moorhen (73+ on margins)
Coot (393)

Lapwing (416)
GREEN SANDPIPER (2 juveniles, both new in and feeding on the mud to the north of the hide)
COMMON SANDPIPER (5 present and widely scattered)
COMMON GREENSHANK (all 3 juveniles still present)
Lesser Black-backed Gulls (3 - 2 adults and a juvenile)
Common Terns (14)

BARN SWALLOWS (25 over Wilstone village)
House Martins (72+)
Pied Wagtails (15)


The NORTHERN PINTAIL was still present (SR)

Great Crested Grebe (1), Mute Swan (25), Mallard (129) and BARN SWALLOW (40+)

In the paddocks to the north, a gregarious flock of at least 239 Common Starlings was present, comprising of many juveniles.

Another migrant COMMON REDSTART

A single COMMON REDSTART is present this morning in an isolated Hawthorn as you walk between the gate/stile and the Sheep Pens (per Steve Rodwell)

More CURLEW images

Three further images of yesterday's juvenile EURASIAN CURLEW as it sat in front of the hide (Ian Williams)

Third consecutive day for WHINCHAT

The juvenile WHINCHAT is still present on the fenceposts at the back of the first field NW of Miswell Farm - its third day (per Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009


Earlier on today I had a COMMON SWIFT over the field between Startops End Reservoir and the Cemetery as I drove past (Rob Andrews)

EURASIAN CURLEW still present this evening

Dave Bilcock took these fabulous 'trademark' images this evening as today's juvenile EURASIAN CURLEW continued to show well for allcomers, including some very low-listing county novices from Watford.
NORTHERN WHEATEAR numbers increased to four at Ivinghoe Hills today, all still feeding on the slope just above the sheep pens (Steve Rodwell)

Video still of today's CURLEW

Roosting on the bund (Mike Campbell) - bird still present at 1500 hours

Chasing a 'Whimbrel' bags me a EURASIAN CURLEW


A real scorcher of a day with early afternoon temperatures rising to a sweltering 30 degrees C (86 degrees fahrenheit). Clear blue skies all the way and a slight southerly breeze.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1100-1230 hours)

After hearing of Richard Bennett's Wilstone 'Whimbrel' at 0930, I hurriedly made my way over there. Just as I arrived in the car park, Dave B texted to say that Mike Campbell and others were watching it from the hide. Knowing how often waders fly off as you are walking round to them, I scanned from the top of the steps but to no avail. I phoned MC and he confirmed that the bird was still present but could ONLY be seen from the hide; it was feeding on the south side of the shingle causeway.

Ten minutes later I reached the hide and setting up my 'scope, I exclaimed to Mike ''It's a juvenile EURASIAN CURLEW''. It was showing extremely well and was resting at the edge of the water, occasionally drinking, and just after I spoke to Mike announced itself personally and uttered a typical Curlew wail.

Young Curlews such as this one are often an identification challenge because not only do they show a hint of a supercilium but they also have a relatively short bill. In reality, there is no supercilium and the eye is enclosed by an obvious whitish ring; furthermore there are no coronial crown stripes or median crown stripe. On close inspection, the bill was seen to have a broad pinkish base, the long legs a very blue cast and the breast sides and flanks very finely streaked (not spotted as in adults).

What I found most interesting (and it is a feature I have often noted with juveniles) was that the underwing and axillaries were very clean white and unmarked - a feature often associated with Eastern Curlew (orientalis) identification - and one constantly metered out by those backing the Northumberland Slender-billed Curlew ill-fated and misguided wagon.

Steve Rodwell is the Wilstone Curlew specialist (he generally has between 4 and 8 spring flyovers) and I was delighted to see this individual pitched down and readily twitchable. Steve Carter, Phil 'long-haired' Ball and several other interested parties also connected and the bird remained 'settled' on the bund until at least 1230 hours, basking in hot sunshine.

Runners Up

LITTLE EGRETS continue to increase, with all of yesterday's 7 showing - commuting between the fallen Willow, the creek behind the hide and the muddy creek in the SW corner.

An adult HOBBY was again present, whilst waders were represented by 398 Lapwing, the 3 juvenile COMMON GREENSHANKS and the COMMON SANDPIPER.

Wildfowl remain static at drake Eurasian Wigeon, 22 Common Teal and 35 Northern Shoveler.

19 Common Tern and single COMMON KINGFISHER

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The weekend's MED GULL

After it left Pitstone Quarry on Saturday morning, this Hungarian-ringed juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL joined a massive throng of gulls in fields below Ivinghoe Beacon before moving off for the afternoon to Grovebury Sand Workings, Leighton Buzzard (Bedfordshire) (photos kindly supplied by Johnny Lynch)

Egrets reach new high

LITTLE EGRETS increased to 7 on Wilstone Reservoir today (Jeff Bailey) whilst an adult HOBBY and 3 YELLOW WAGTAILS were noted (two on Startop's) (Mike Wallen)

Aythya Puzzle


Another warm day, with SSW winds and predominantly clear blue skies. Passerine passage picked up a little today but most intriguing was an Aythya hybrid.


Arriving at Marsworth mid-morning, the first bird I set eyes on was a reddish-brown diving duck with a striking pearly coloured eye. It was roosting with a small group of Aythyas, including 3 Pochards and 3 Tufted Ducks. There was little difference in size, and significantly it had the peaked rear crown, the almost black mantle and back and gleaming white undertail coverts. In many ways it resembled a drake Ferruginous Duck and on closer inspection, the black on the bill was restricted to the nail, which is rare in hybrids; they generally have black extending right back along the bill flange. It also had paler ferruginous brown on the flanks and sides and the whiter patch on the belly. It was a totally baffling bird but 1) the presence of some blackish feathering in the breast, 2) its apparent larger size comparable to Pochards and Tufted Ducks and 3) the lack of a contrastingly pure white upper wingbar, led me to consider that it was a hybrid rather than a drake Ferruginous Duck in full eclipse. Furthermore, there was some brown staining in the white undertail-coverts. I contacted DB, SR and MCo, the latter two observers arriving within ten minutes. Some record shots were obtained.

The bird continued to show very well, occasionally retreating to the reeds in typical Ferruginous Duck fashion before re-emerging and was still present when we all departed late morning.

It was another momentous day for the local grebe population - the two nesting pairs of Great Crested Grebe now harbouring two stripy young apiece - that makes FIVE young in total now.

There was also a single juvenile Little Grebe on Marsworth, a single adult Mute Swan, the escaped female Red-crested Pochard, 4 Gadwalls and a surprising sight of 3 Jays.


Mike Wallen had covered the early shift and made some good 'finds'. An eclipse-plumaged NORTHERN PINTAIL was the first of the autumn and was showing well feeding just off the mud bank in the shallows, whilst the two adult WHOOPER SWANS were present for their third day and washing and preening on the mud. These are the pair which bred unsuccessfully at Dunstable Sewage Farm for the second year running and are part of the non-naturalised population emanating from Wardown Park, Luton (in Bedfordshire).

A total of 26 Mute Swans was also counted, 2 Shoveler, the female Tufted Duck with her four young and 27 House Martins.

(midday; with Mike Collard)

Great Crested Grebes (23)
Little Grebe (the two juveniles still present)
LITTLE EGRETS (4 roosting together in the Willow)
Mute Swans (34)
Common Teal (22)
Northern Shoveler (32)
Lapwing (407)
COMMON GREENSHANKS (2 juveniles remaining)
Common Tern (17)
LITTLE OWL (2 in tree by car park)


No shortage of people, eating ice creams, walking dogs, flying kites, flying aeroplanes, sunbathing, making love, smacking crying children, but a distinct lack of migrants. In over an hour of searching, my only rewards were two juvenile NORTHERN WHEATEARS - both commuting between the slope SE of the Beacon and the fenceposts to the east of the sheep pens. Steve had seen an additional bird to these that Mike and I recorded.


I was delighted to find a large flock of post-breeding buntings feeding in the freshly cut stubble just left of the access road to Down Farm, consisting of 16 CORN BUNTINGS and 7 YELLOWHAMMERS. The birds were commuting between the field and the roadside hedgerow and included 7 juvenile Corn Buntings. There were also two migrant COMMON WHITETHROATS in the hedgerow.


I retraced the steps taken by Roy Hargreaves each and every morning of the year and boy, am I impressed with that guy's stamina and that of his ageing dog. I did it just once and after the 125 minutes it took, I was absolutely knackered. No wonder he visits just once a day !

Anyway, the real reason for this craziness was to twitch the reservoir's first WHINCHAT of the autumn (and year if my memory serves me right). Roy had found this bird early morning and as I scanned the fence posts immediately west of the farm at 1400 hours, I quickly relocated the bird. It was favouring four posts at SP 910 120, at the far side of the first field NW of the farm, opposite where the motor homes and caravans are parked, and was a fresh juvenile. It was fairly settled, and on meeting local birder Nick Goss on my return at 1530, I was able to quickly relocate it and show him it.

This same area provided firm evidence of Linnet breeding - a pair feeding a single youngster in the hedgerow, whilst 63 BARN SWALLOWS were in noisy flight above Miswell Farm.

Walking down towards the Wendover Arm, a COMMON WHITETHROAT was recorded, along with several Common Chiffchaffs, whilst the fields being harvested yielded 105+ Jackdaws and at least 43 Rooks.

A male YELLOWHAMMER was in stubble adjacent to Rushy Meadow, whilst the fields west of the reservoir held 2 Common Chiffchaffs, 2 Common Kestrels and a family group of BULLFINCHES. At least 1 SPOTTED FLYCATCHER was still present in the field behind the hide.


Had a CLOUDED YELLOW this afternoon at Incombe Wick (area to the south of Incombe Hole) on Ivinghoe Hills NR (Don Otter)

Wandering RAVENS

There were two beautiful female-type NORTHERN WHEATEARS on the Beacon slope towards the sheep pens this morning; from the colours and size at least one seemed to be a Greenland. They were watched at a distance by a young Common Kestrel.

I was then treated to an amazing flying display of COMMON RAVENS and young Kestrels; for about 15 minutes three Ravens flew around together, for much of the time skydiving and in a definite formation in the air; legs dangling and one was seen to fly lazily at a rabbit.

The Ravens were joined in the air by five young Kestrels; another smaller Raven joined them and the only sound I could hear was lots of cronking

Earlier a Kestrel had been mobbing a Raven in heavy moult; I did not see that bird later so there were probably five Ravens altogether.

But no camera or video!

Mike Collard

Early morning wanderings

Just before I undertake today's wanderings, here is a summary of what is already on offer -:

Mike Wallen has sighted the two adult WHOOPER SWANS from Dunstable Sewage Farm (now present for their third day) as well as the first NORTHERN PINTAIL of the autumn on Startop's End Reservoir

Meanwhile, Steve Rodwell has undertaken a tour of the Ivinghoe Hills and has located a single YELLOW-LEGGED GULL (in fields below the Beacon) and 3 NORTHERN WHEATEARS.

WHINCHAT by Miswell Farm - first of the year at the reservoirs

After failing to see a WHINCHAT at all last year it was a relief and pleasure to see one this morning on the hedges by Miswell Farm after my walk around Wilstone Res. Maybe I should go up the hills once in a while to improve my chances of seeing this species - they are never as numerous round the reservoirs as they are in the hills.

The reservoir itself had one juvenile LITTLE RINGED PLOVER in Cemetery Corner, 2+ Greenshank in various places, one Green Sandpiper, one Common Sandpiper and at least four Little Egrets (Roy Hargreaves)

Monday, 17 August 2009


Sunday 1800-1930 hours
Sally Douglas photographed these juvenile SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS as they were being fed by both adults in the hedgerow adjacent to the thatched cottage in the meadow behind the Drayton Bank Hide on Wilstone. They had first been seen on Thursday.


My first two NORTHERN WHEATEARS of this autumn were around the sheep pens at Ivinghoe Hills early this morning and a COMMON RAVEN flew over the beacon; also lots of young warblers and tits on Steps Hill (Mike Campbell)

First TREE PIPITS in Hertfordshire this year


Two TREE PIPITS flew over together calling early morning consituting the first record of this declining species this year in the county. Five+ Little Egrets, three Common Sandpipers, two Green Sandpipers and one or more Common Greenshank as well as a Lesser Whitethroat calling between the old and new overflow were this morning's highlights (Roy Hargreaves)

Saturday, 15 August 2009

SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS on Wilstone - belated news

Wilstone Reservoir this afternoon (Thursday 13 August) saw SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS feeding young in Rushy Meadow (Nick Goss)
6 Little Egrets, 4 Common Greenshank, 2 Green Sandpiper, 3 Common Sandpiper and 1 Ringed Plover proved there was little obvious evidence of movement today in the dank conditions.

Also saw two or three Migrant Hawkers by Miswell Farm - the first that I have seen this year - Autumn certainly feels like it is here now.

Roy Hargreaves


This Hungarian-ringed juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present in Pitstone Quarry again this morning (Dave Bilcock - see above) before being relocated in fields being ploughed opposite Town Farm east of the B489 at Ivinghoe (at SP 953 160) (Steve Rodwell, Rob Andrews).
These fields had seen a massive arrival of feeding gulls, including 1,031+ Black-headed Gulls and a staggering 262 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, including adults of both intermedius and graellsii stock (LGRE). There was also 5 HERRING GULLS including a heavily worn 4th summer and a freshly arrived argentatus (SR, RDA, LGRE, DB).

Friday, 14 August 2009

GREEN SANDPIPER still present

A single GREEN SANDPIPER was also still present today (picture: Terry Heeley)

All quiet on the....Tring front

Apart from the continuing presence of the Pitstone Quarry juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER, the area has been starved today from any other new arrivals other than our first autumn COMMON SNIPE on Wilstone.

Further notepad fillers on Wilstone include 4 LITTLE EGRETS still, the 3 COMMON GREENSHANK, 2 COMMON SANDPIPERS and the drake Wigeon. The last COMMON SWIFTS (7 birds) were noted yesterday.

WOOD SANDPIPER still present today

Pitstone Quarry still harboured the juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER this morning (Rob Andrews)

Thursday, 13 August 2009

WOOD SANDPIPER still present this evening

The juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER is still present (at 1730 hours) in Pitstone Quarry. It has now been joined by a summer plumaged schinzii DUNLIN, whilst the Ringed Plover seems to have departed (Dave Bilcock) See both birds depicted above - DB

With hot weather, it is of no surprise to find that several youngsters are again utilising the lake for their enjoyment, sunbathing and swimming from the island at the east end

Looking for Beatrice: WOOD SANDPIPER bonus


Another hot day with temperatures quickly climbing to 22 degrees centigrade. Some cloud cover but generally bright and blue with a light to moderate WNW wind.

With the female Osprey 'Beatrice' now in close proximity and airspace, I decided to put in time searching for her today but typically with scant chance of connecting. Last year, she flew south over Bison Hill and Dagnall and then went south over the Chess River Valley and my house before continuing on to Sussex.

(1015-1109 hours; with Mike Campbell)

Ben Miller discovered a WOOD SANDPIPER early morning and it was still present when. firstly SR visited at 0900 hours, and then when Mike and I arrived (and departed) during 1015-1109. It was feeding at the very western tip of the long sand bar that has now emerged and was showing very well wading in shallow water. It was a typically fresh juvenile and represents our third individual in the Tring Recording Area this year.

A single RINGED PLOVER was also present alongside the Wood Sandpiper but sat down on the chalk to have a well earned rest after its overnight migration. Three COMMON SANDPIPERS completed the wader list.

Light WNW winds are excellent for a light passage of southbound waders migrating back down from Northern Europe, Greenland and the Arctic.

A total of 21 Little Grebes was on show (14 adults and 7 juveniles) whilst all 9 MANDARIN DUCKS (two broods) were sunbathing together on the spit.

Most interestingly, I pointed out to Mike a juvenile Carrion Crow that showed the pale mantle and hindneck and underparts of a Hooded Crow - a real quirk of nature.

Mute Swans (both birds still present, one of which was pushed out of College Lake by the four resident adults)
Common Buzzards (2 recently fledged juveniles begging for food from the fenceline)
Bullfinch (adult male)
Coal Tit (1 juvenile - fairly scarce in this area)

(1100-1300 hours)

Looking for Beatrice, I sat myself down on the second 'knoll' giving me full access to over 20 miles of sky and the complete line of the Chiltern Hills. The lunchtime period has always seen peak activity in terms of migrating raptors but today there was absolutely zilcho - not even a Red Kite on the move. The best I could offer was a party of 36 HOUSE MARTINS that flew SW and a single YELLOW WAGTAIL (Ben and Steve had seen an additional bird over PQ earlier)

Elsewhere, two male GREY PARTRIDGES were calling back and forth to each other in the uncut Barley field immediately below the car park. Neither Whinchat nor Ian's Common Redstart were on the fenceline but Top Scrub held 1 Song Thrush, 9 Blackcaps, 5 Common Chiffchaffs and 1 juvenile WILLOW WARBLER and good numbers of Common Blue, BROWN ARGUS and PAINTED LADY butterflies. A surprising number of SEVEN-SPOT LADYBIRDS were also encountered, signifying that a percentage have now penetrated inland from the Norfolk coast.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1330-1520 hours)

Very little new action except for the addition of a Ringed Plover and the first migrant White Wagtail of the autumn. The farmer was ploughing the field north of Miswell Farm but did not attract a Yellow-legged Gull in the time I was checking.

Great Crested Grebes (22)
LITTLE EGRETS (3 on view, all fishing)
Mute Swans (29)
Common Teal (23)
Shoveler (29+)

RINGED PLOVER (an adult feeding on the mud visible from the new overflow - most probably tundrae)
COMMON SANDPIPER (juvenile on the algae bunds)
COMMON GREENSHANK (3 birds on the Drayton Bank favouring the East Shore beneath the Cormorant roosting trees)

Common Gull (1 adult in the ploughed field)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (8 in the ploughed field including 3 juveniles)
Common Terns (27)

House Martin (just 1 today)

*WHITE WAGTAIL (following yesterday's surge in alba wagtails, I was very pleased to locate an adult White still in excellent condition on the spit in the middle of the reservoir - the first returning bird of the autumn)


The WOOD SANDPIPER, single Ringed Plover and 3 Common Sandpipers all still present in Pitstone Quarry at 0900 hours (per Ben Miller - the finder - with Steve Rodwell)

Pitstone Quarry is private with no access. It can be viewed from a small gap in the hedge accessed from the layby in Northfield Road just south of Folly Farm and the roundabout. Follow the footpath into the wood and view after 35 yards.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Gallery of Recent Birds - Ian Williams

The male COMMON REDSTART at Steps Hill (top) followed by two shots of a COMMON GREENSHANK, two images of a GREAT CRESTED GREBE struggling with a fish almost the same size, two adult RINGED PLOVERS that touched down all-too briefly and three images of our star juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER