Wednesday, 12 August 2009

LITTLE EGRET numbers increase; migrant WHINCHAT on the hills


Despite the cloud cover and regular drizzle and rain showers, temperatures remained high, with a freshening at times WNW wind. Highlights were an increase in LITTLE EGRETS, a dapper male WHINCHAT, a flyover MARSH HARRIER and our continuing mobile pair of continental RUDDY SHELDUCKS.

(0900-1030 hours; partly with Steve Rodwell)

Great Crested Grebes (23+)
Little Grebes (2 juveniles)
Continental Cormorants (16 present, 6 of which were sub-adult)
Grey Heron (5 roosting in fallen Willow)
*LITTLE EGRET (dramatic increase again with 6 birds present today - two adults and four juveniles. The four juveniles sat together in the fallen Willow for some time whilst generally all of the birds were typically mobile, moving between the muddy creek behind the Drayton Bank Hide to the rocks in the middle and the muddy bay in the SE corner)

Mute Swans (26)
Gadwall (7)
Wigeon (long-staying drake still present)
Common Teal (further increase to 19 birds)
Shoveler (35)
Tufted Duck (just 12)
Pochard (9)

RED KITE (a juvenile flew east across the reservoir at 1430)

Coot (411)
Moorhens (57 around muddy perimeter, including 31 juveniles)
Lapwing (206)
LITTLE RINGED PLOVER (1 near hide briefly - SR)
RINGED PLOVER (1 briefly - SR)
Common Sandpiper (3 on bunds)
Green Sandpiper (2 on mud to the right of the hide)
COMMON GREENSHANKS (5 present still but highly mobile)

**MEDITERRANEAN GULL (a colour-ringed juvenile present early morning which flew off north - red 'HY94', had been ringed at the nest at Bugyi, Kavics Union, Pest, in HUNGARY on 20 June and had travelled 1,519 km in 53 days. It is the second Hungarian ringed Med to reach the reservoirs and is the same bird photographed by Johnny Lynch at Grovebury Sand Pit, Bedfordshire, a few days ago) (Dave Bilcock, Roy Hargreaves only)

Common Tern (25 remaining)

COMMON SWIFT (1 flew south)
Pied Wagtails (large increase with 15 counted - mainly juveniles)
Western Reed Warblers (much activity in reedbed, involving at least 25 birds)

CHINESE WATER DEER (single stag feeding close to reed edge)

(1145-1215, with John Temple) (Don Green had very kindly arranged access to the site for non-permit holders and was leaving for lunch as I arrived)

The highly mobile pair of RUDDY SHELDUCKS (present earlier at Wilstone Reservoir until 0700 hours) were commuting between Tanks 1 and 4 at the works and keeping largely to the west side. They were particularly nervous and were best observed from the fully sheltered observation screen situated parallel to the first lagoon nearest the building inside the small plantation. Both birds were still present when I departed at 1215.

WHOOPER SWANS (pair present)
Common Teal (14)
Gadwall (22)
Jay (1 by car park)

(1335-1426 hours)

Although the wind was freshening from the WNW, the hills below and south of the beacon were sheltered, and perched on the fenceline the car park side of the sheep pens was a migrant male WHINCHAT - my first in the county this year. It barely moved in the 15 minutes or so I watched it and dropped just briefly from the fence to some weeds adjacent.

Otherwise, the hills were very spartan, with hardly anything of note. Inkombe Hole failed to yield any Common Redstarts and Top Scrub only offered up two juvenile Common Chiffchaffs.


Checked all the perimeter fences and chalk mounds for chats or migrants but drew a blank.

A flock of 18 Little Grebes was roosting together, the 2 Mute Swans were still present, just 22 Black-headed Gulls were roosting and a new brood of 3 baby Moorhens were with their parents. Most unusually, 6 FALLOW DEER were feeding on the grass at the east end of the pit.


Yippee, we have a second stripy grebe chick on Marsworth - only our third baby to fledge successfully this year. There are two pairs of Great Crested Grebe on the reservoir, both now brooding one chick, one of which (the first) has developed quite well in just over a week of birth.

The escaped female Red-crested Pochard was still present and interestingly being noisily mobbed by a pair of adult Common Terns. Looking closely I realised that the RCP was struggling to pick up a small silver fish from the water's surface and then all of a sudden one of the terns plummeted from the air, whisked the fish from beneath the pochard's bill and flew off with it, with the second tern in chase.

Mallards numbered 63 including the single hybrid RCP offspring.


Mute Swans (28)
Greylag Geese (92)
Mallards (166, including an adult female with 6 chicks)
Shoveler (2)
Common Tern (6)
Pied Wagtails (13)
House Martins (17)

Nearby, 4 adult RED KITES had gathered over Startop's End village where a farmer was ploughing a field.


Great Crested Grebe (2)
Grey Heron (9 roosting in trees)
Mute Swan (3)
Tufted Duck (34)
Coots (38 including a family of piebald birds)


Surprisingly quiet; I did the entire circuit and recorded few species

Mute Swans (breeding pair with two cygnets - a third cygnet died)
Tufted Duck (2 females)
Coot (11 including 3 juveniles)
Western Reed Warbler (just 8 noted in the reedbed, mainly juveniles)
Common Chiffchaff (11 mainly juveniles)
REED BUNTING (successful breeding; two juveniles by boardwalk)

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