Thursday, 6 August 2009

Juvenile WOOD SANDPIPER drops in after heavy rain clears


A belt of heavy rain moved across the area overnight eventually fizzling out early morning. The skies then cleared, giving way to hot sunshine and light SE winds. It soon became very oppressive, with temperatures climbing to 26 degrees C. Cloud started to gather again later in the afternoon and at 1700 hours, a further belt of heavy rain arrived from the south and continued well into the evening.

The rain resulted in our second WOOD SANDPIPER of the year in the Tring Recording Area and in the afternoon a single BLACK TERN associated with a widespread inland influx. I also spent part of the day enjoying the incredible raptor fest in the east of the county as well as noting further pairs of breeding Black-necked Grebes.

(0849-1000 hours; with SR, Mike Campbell, SW, Joan T, Johnne Taylor, Mike Collard)

Steve Rodwell followed up visits by the dawn patrol and after the rain had stopped discovered a WOOD SANDPIPER feeding with two GREEN SANDPIPERS to the right of the Drayton Bank Hide. He quickly put the news out and after 17 minutes, I peered my head over the bank from the car park. I set my 'scope up and quickly located the bird, still feeding to the right of the hide. Satisfied that I had actually seen it, I then made my way round to the hide where I joined SR, MC and JTa). The WOOD SANDPIPER was feeding 55 yards to the right of the hide on the increasing muddy margin and with its very fresh attire, bold upperwing spotting, diffuse breast patterning and bold white supercilium, could be clearly aged as a juvenile. It was busy probing the soft mud with its medium-length bill and was obviously longer-legged (and paler-legged) than the two Green Sandpipers it was accompanying (it also differed in its breast pattern, head pattern and plumage shading) and when disturbed on one occasion, flew with its legs trailing beyond the tail. It shared an extensive white rump with the two Greens but was more finely barred on the upper tail and had a rather pale underwing rather than the almost black underwing of Green. It also uttered a distinctive high-pitched alarm call when flushed, very different to the typical call of the Green Sandpipers.

The bird remained for the rest of the day eventually being enjoyed by over 30 observers, including JT, Mike Collard, Geoff Young, Jeff Bailey, Ian Williams, Roy Hargreaves and Dave Bilcock. Dave of course got some reasonable images of the bird, two of which are reproduced above.

This is our second Wood Sandpiper of the year following an adult at College Lake BBOWT on 11 June and follows the six birds we had at Wilstone last autumn, detailed in full on page 77 of the 2008 Tring Reservoirs and environs report.

Otherwise, Wilstone Reservoir yielded the following species -:

Great Crested Grebes (15+)
LITTLE EGRET (feeding in the muddy bay in the SE corner)
Mute Swans (39)
Common Teal (6)
Shoveler (large overnight increase with 15 birds now present)
Lapwing (398)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (two different nests located, the usual one in Poplars by the Drayton Hide and another in the small coppice near the church in Drayton Beauchamp - both contained at least two whining juveniles)
Stock Doves (2 birds feeding on the mud)
Sand Martins (8 but remarkably no other hirundines - major clearout)

PAINTED LADY (1 flew along the bank)


Following Sue Rowe's note, I was delighted to see the 3-day old GREAT CRESTED GREBE chick - still riding on mum's back for protection. This is only the second juvenile fledged at the reservoirs this year - that particular bird still doing well on Wilstone. Both parents were in attendance.

The presumed escape adult female Red-crested Pochard was still showing to three feet distance with Mallards whilst WESTERN REED WARBLER numbers were at least 20, including many juveniles.

Two CETTI'S WARBLERS were also seen in the reedbed, the local pair fledging 7 juveniles this year.


Still acres of mud but few takers - 2 Great Crested Grebes, 28 Mute Swans, 64 Greylag Geese, 1 Gadwall and the female Tufted Duck with her four growing chicks.


Great Crested Grebe (4)
Mute Swan (8)
Tufted Ducks (33 plus adult females with three ducklings and five respectively)


There was no sign of the juvenile Mediterranean Gull that Steve Rodwell had seen earlier on Wilstone and yesterday roosting with 350 Black-headed Gulls here. In fact, the Black-headed Gull flock numbered just 116, with an additional 4 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls (SR later had 9)

Two Stock Doves were drinking and 17 Little Grebes present.

(SR had also seen 9 Mandarin Ducks by the island - and a peak of 12 there yesterday)

RECORD FOR MIC WELLS: Sadly, yet another freshly dead BADGER, in immaculate condition, on the verge of the eastbound slip-road of the A41 adjacent to Ashlyn's School, Berkhamsted, at SP 988 067.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1740-1800 hours)

A last look at Wilstone just before the heavens opened revealed the presence of a moulting adult BLACK TERN in the SW quarter (and intermittently roosting on the bank in front of the hide) - one of a widespread overland passage this afternoon including 24 on Staines Reservoirs, 54 on Queen Mother Reservoir and 29 at Grafham Water.

Two COMMON SANDPIPERS were active on the algae bunds, with a juvenile Grey Wagtail on the bank below the car park

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