Tuesday, 29 September 2009

COMMON GREENSHANK new in this evening


After a frantic week of national twitching, from Orkney to Cornwall, it was gratifying to get back to some down-to-earth local birding. Having missed the Leach's Petrel and there being no sign of it at dawn, I took advantage of the light NW wind and surprisingly warm temperatures to census the bird populations on all four reservoirs. There was very little new activity although surprise bird was a Common Greenshank that flew in from the east early evening. Mute Swans remain concerningly low; anyone know if they have relocated elsewhere?

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1700-1800 hours; with Roy Hargreaves)

Great Crested Grebe (21)
Little Grebe (all 5 birds still surviving in Boathouse Corner)
Continental Cormorant (30)
Grey Heron (5)
Mute Swan (just 15 birds remaining)
Mallard (122)
Gadwall (18)
Eurasian Wigeon (57)
Common Teal (236+)
Shoveler (69)
Tufted Duck (32)
Pochard (just 14)
Coot (302)
Lapwing (106)
*COMMON GREENSHANK (flew in from the east early evening and landed on the Drayton Bank end of the spit)
Black-headed Gulls (303+)
Lesser Black-backed Gulls (high count of 23 washing and bathing on the mud with noticeable movement of birds flighting NE to roost on Grovebury Pit)
HERRING GULL (an adult Argentatus washing with the LBBG's with an adult Argenteus over NW)

LITTLE OWL (1 sat on the fence behind the car park)
Pied Wagtails (27)
Grey Wagtail (2)


Very quiet, with 2 Mute Swans, 72 Coot and 28 Shovelers present


A further 7 Mute Swans, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 24 Pochard, 37 Tufted Ducks and 163 Coots


A single Mute Swan (making just 25 in total), 2 Great Crested Grebes and 3 Coot. A juvenile Common Buzzard flew over going to roost.

LEACH'S PETREL - getting a hard time from inquisitive Coots!

Leach's Petrel with inquisitive Coot, Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, 28 September 2009 (Ben Miller)


Ian's son Chris took this picture last night.

Sadly no sign today - but a selection of images taken yesterday from the Jetty

The fourth LEACH'S PETREL to be found and identified on Tring Reservoirs. Ian Williams obtained these excellent images

Monday, 28 September 2009

LEACH'S PETREL....yes LEACH'S PETREL all afternoon and evening on Wilstone

A LEACH'S PETREL flew in to Wilstone Reservoir just after 1435 hours this afternoon, where it was visible from the Drayton Bank Hide, flying over the northern section of the reservoir between the car park steps and the central bank. Unfortunately I was returning from Cornwall at the time (on the M5) and was on route for a special rendezvous in South Warwickshire, where an Aquatic Warbler was on the menu.

I immediately texted DB, SR and MW, phoned BAM to talk to him direct and of course spoke to Joan. JT had very kindly informed RBA so information had quickly gone ''national''.

The bird, most likely that seen and photographed at Stewartby Lake (Bedfordshire) on Saturday 26 (Peter Smith et al, 12th county record) just 15 miles away as the petrel flies, after being jostled by Black-headed Gulls, quickly relocated to the deeper water at the eastern end of Wilstone, where it was best viewed from the jetty on the east bank. A procession of local birding visitors were rewarded with excellent views throughout the afternoon and evening, Ben Miller obtaining the excellent photograph reproduced above. In the main, it just sat quietly on the water, avoiding attracting unwanted attentions, but occasionally took to the air and was immediately mobbed by all and sundry. It remained present right into darkness, and was still present as all light faded into gloom at 1945 (SR, DB).

Leach's Petrels inland in Britain are incredibly rarely ever seen at the same site on a second day so chances of it being present tomorrow morning (sadly, the first opportunity I will get to search for it) are very remote indeed.

Previous Leach's Petrels in Hertfordshire

Leach's Petrel is a rare vagrant to Hertfordshire with today's bird representing only the 20th occurrence. It is only the fifth record for Tring Reservoirs.

The very first county record was in December 1823 when one was 'obtained' (per Yarrell 1825) followed by a second shot dead in a field at Croxley Green on 26 September 1896 (published in Trans Herts Natural History Society XIV: 78). Another was then found dead in the county at Cassiobury Park, Watford, in late November 1905 following a severe winter storm and another arrived in similar circumstances at Poynders End, Hitchin, on 12 November 1931 (British Birds XXV: 229).

In more modern times, there was a large 'wreck' of Leach's Petrels in Britain in autumn 1952 (Boyd 1954 in Ibis XLVII: 137-63) and no fewer than three individuals were found in Hertfordshire: picked up by a cat in Hemel Hempstead on 30 October; found alive at Royston on 31 October and found dead in Bishop's Stortford on 1 November. It was then a further eleven years before another was found - flying low north over the lagoons at Rye Meads at 1515 hours on 21 September 1963.

The following year, Tring Reservoirs recorded its first sighting with a bird on Wilstone on 22 November 1964, whilst the tenth record involved a bird found dead in Stevenage on 19 October 1969.

11-12) Two birds were recorded in 1977 with an extremely unusual sighting at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 8 May 1977 (Barry Goater) and a more typical occurrence at Startop's End Reservoir on 15 November (BTO);

13) One was found alive at St Michaels School, Stevenage, at 0700 hours on 14 December 1978 (R.A.Smith) but subsequently died and is now mounted in Stevenage Museum;

14) The first twitchable individual in the county was that at Stanstead Abbots Gravel Pits on 3 October 1982 (D.Carr, Alan Harris, John Redwood, et al);

15) One was at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 3 September 1983 (Colin Bushell);

16) One was at Cheshunt GP on 25 November 1984 (the late Rupert Hastings, S.Middleton, T.Robson);

17) A corpse was found in a copse near Puckeridge on 9 September 1986 and is now in the collection of Letchworth Museum (per Pete Walton);

18) One was at Wilstone Reservoir on 7 September 1990 from 1700 hours until dusk (Andrew Moon);

19) A bird over the lake at Hertingfordbury end of Panshanger Park on 17 September 2005 (Scott Poynter);

20) A rare opportunity to connect with this ultra-rare seabird came on 6 December 2006 when Mike Campbell discovered an individual on Startop's End Reservoir. It remained all day and was eventually enjoyed by over 45 observers).

Early morning check

First thing there was no sign of the Leach's Petrel!!

An immature COMMON SHELDUCK flew in and there were two RINGED PLOVERS on the spit in front of the jetty. Also 5 Pintail and a few Little Egrets were about.

A Chinese Water Deer was also on the mud in front of the reedbed (Roy Hargreaves)

Saturday, 26 September 2009

First RING OUZEL of the autumn

Ivinghoe Beacon: A RING OUZEL calling briefly from the bushes along the footpath from the Dunstable road, west of the beacon. Also present were 2 Common Stonechats, Wheatear, a flock 30+ CORN BUNTINGS and good numbers of Mipits.

Wilstone: The GARGANEY seen earlier by Roy and Ian roosting on the mud between the old overflow and the hide, had moved on to the water close to the Drayton bank (Dave Bilcock)


The two juvenile SPOTTED REDSHANK were still present on the mud by Cemetery Corner, Little Egrets have decreased to just three or four and two Yellow Wagtails flew off from the overflow field.

Also two Chinese Water Deer on the mud (Roy Hargreaves)


A party of 3 EGYPTIAN GEESE flew west over Startop's End Reservoir before being relocated later on Weston Turville Reservoir (Henry Mayer-Gross)

First REDWING of the 'fall' - 21/9

21/09 10:00 : 5 Redwing : Aston Clinton. Hedgerow in Stablebridge Road. (Graham Jones)


Adult Yellow-legged Gull at Pitstone Quarry this afternoon with 15 LBB Gulls and about 120 Black-headed.

The 2 juvenile SPOTTED REDSHANKS were at Wilstone also.

Don Otter

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Twitching away for a Kent 'Bootless Eagle'

On his early morning walkround, Roy Hargreaves saw the two juvenile SPOTTED REDSHANKS and 10 LITTLE EGRETS. I spent the day searching for a Booted Eagle in East Kent but did see yet more GLOSSY IBISES !!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Search goes cold for Tyttenhanger GLOSSY IBIS


Well it was a very excited Steve Blake on the phone mid morning after he had just witnessed the first-ever GLOSSY IBIS to be recorded in the county since 1887 ! The bird had flown several circuits of Tyttenhanger GP Main Pit in an attempt to land on the spit but its efforts were scuppered as its archaic profile frightened the roosting gull flock and it was consequently chased away to the NW by two persistent individuals. It never did land and local patchworker Steve was in the unenviable position of being the only observer to witness this colossal event. One could argue that with over 37 juvenile Glossy Ibises touring Britain at the moment, it was perhaps inevitable that one would finally overflow Hertfordshire airspace.

Anyhow, along with Steve, I spent the next several hours trying to intercept it and perhaps second-guess where it may have landed. Sadly, both of us failed in our quests. Steve took the option of continuing to scour the Tyttenhanger complex and neighbouring gravel pits, ditches and fields whilst I drove out to Tring Reservoirs and environs, where conditions offer the best feeding prospects for a tired and hungry vagrant ibis.

Weather today saw a change in wind direction - from northeasterly to westerly - but temperatures remained high and skies were predominantly clear.


My first stop was Pitstone Quarry but with a new building being put up on the south bank of the workings, disturbance had guaranteed complete departure of avian life bar 14 Little Grebes and 18 Tufted Duck.

(1200-1300 hours)

Once up the steps, I immediately tracked down all LITTLE EGRETS - just in case our rare visitor had been attracted in by them. All 11 was still present but 9 were roosting and just 2 were feeding. Nothing was with them. The water level was so low that the bar between the Jetty and Drayton Bank was now exposed - so much so that some enterprising angler just had to walk across it and in turn flush everything in sight - just as three balloons had ruined my visit the previous evening. I notified the bailiff John and he very kindly agreed to sort out some more signs. We also further discussed the very distressing behaviour of certain East Europeans as regards to our ever-declining Mute Swan stocks too - I counted just 28 birds today.

Anyway with no Plegadis to view, I decided to undertake a full inventory of birds present once they had all settled back down. A total of 1,524 birds was seen - of 29 species.

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (2 first-winters, awkwardly getting out of the water and 'running' across the bar)
Continental Cormorant (17)
Grey Heron (4)
LITTLE EGRET (all 11 present, all unringed. Interestingly, one juvenile was very dark flecked about the upper mantle whilst another bird actually 'sat' on the mud)
Mute Swan (just 20 present)
Atlantic Canada Goose (26)
Mallard (126)
Gadwall (18)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (just 1 present; 8 had been seen yesterday - SR)
Shoveler (118; several drakes now in good plumage)
Eurasian Wigeon (83)
Common Teal (massive increase with at least 413 counted)
GARGANEY (single with Teal feeding to north of hide)
Pochard (11)
Tufted Duck (34)
Red Kite (3 in area)
Moorhen (82)
Coot (473)
Lapwing (just 14 birds - massive departure)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 near hide)
**SPOTTED REDSHANK (the two juveniles were still present, presumably both from the same nest and favouring the muddy edge between Cemetery Corner and the former boathouse site)
Black-headed Gull (33)
HERRING GULL (juvenile showing well by hide)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Meadow Pipit (4 overhead)
YELLOW WAGTAIL (4 still present in the ploughed field NW of the new overflow)
Linnets (2)


Great Crested Grebes (7 birds still present including this year's three late-brooded juveniles, one of which was still begging of its parents)
HOBBY (an adult showing well, hawking back and forth over the reedbed; in view from at least 1305-1325)


Great Crested Grebe (2)
Mute Swans (just 8)
Greylag Geese (12)
Tufted Duck (32)
Coot (126)


Jay (1 flew over)


Pitstone Quarry: The GARGANEY was again present in the Herts section

Wilstone: The 2 juvenile SPOTTED REDSHANKS were still present, along the far shore from Cemetery Corner. At one stage feeding close to the bank giving superb views (see the superb photographs above - Dave Bilcock).
The 11 LITTLE EGRETS were also still present whilst the two juvenile RINGED PLOVERS flew off high NW at 1815 hours

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Hirundines still piling through

A look up Pitstone Hill before work this morning was interesting, with a good movement of hirundines passing over south and also smaller numbers of Meadow Pipits flying through quite high. At one point a Hobby appeared and started chasing a group of hirundines but gave up fairly quickly. It then shot off at high speed towards the fields west of the Beacon, putting up a flock of Meadow Pipits before disappearing behind a ridge. House Martins were also passing through College Lake before this.

The 2 SPOTTED REDSHANKS were still present just before dusk this evening at Wilstone (Rob Andrews)

Today's SPOTTED REDSHANKS at Wilstone

Dave Bilcock obtained these images of today's two SPOTTED REDSHANKS in the evening gloom

Old 'Rodders strikes again - he finds two SPOTTED REDSHANKS - the first of 2009

A GARGANEY was present about midday (I guess this is the same bird that was earlier seen at the quarry). The number of YELLOW WAGTAILS in the field beyond the overflow built up to 24. Just after 6.00pm Charlie and I saw 2 SPOTTED REDSHANKS arrive. Also 1 Green Sandpiper, 4 Snipe, 2 Ringed Plovers and 3 Pintail (Steve Rodwell)

First ROCK PIPIT of the autumn

This morning a good showing of Little Egrets, the male COMMON STONECHAT was still on the hedgerows near Rushy Meadow and a calling SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT flew over about 20 metres above the ground accompanied by a Meadow Pipit (Roy Hargreaves)

GARGANEY still present

The GARGANEY was present at Pitstone Quarry early this morning, on the rapidly drying out pools in the Herts section (Dave Bilcock)

Friday, 18 September 2009

Reservoirs surprisingly quiet

Little Owl on fence in field at back of car park this afternoon. Also of note - 3 Common Snipe to right of hide, and at least 7 Little Egrets counted (Geoff Young)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Pitstone Quarry

At Pitstone Quarry this evening the GARGANEY and 2 PINTAIL (1 eclipse drake and female) were in the Herts section. Also on the pit were 12 Shoveler and 9 Little Grebes. I was about to leave when Mike texted to say the Wilstone Mediterranean Gulls were heading my way, so I waited around in the hope they would drop in. They didn't, but 200+ Canada and 60+ Greylag Geese arrived, along with 100+Mallards. I dashed over to College lake where another 100+ Canadas were just leaving but no gulls had dropped in here either. Startops and Pitstone Hill were devoid of birds before work this morning (Rob Andrews)


An eventful hour. The GREY PLOVER remained about 300 metres right of the hide, as well as 1 RUFF, 2 Snipe and tons of duck particularly Teal. I then picked up a 1st Winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL and almost instantaneously Steve Rodwell picked up a 2nd Winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL. Unfortunately both were short stayers and flew off to the North. There was also a Black-headed Gull with a Red ring with white lettering on its right leg, but too far off to read (Mike Wallen)

Roy Hargreaves returns from his summer sojourn

Having returned from Sabah (Borneo) and Peninsular Malaysia this morning (landed at 5:30am), I 'celebrated' by walking the dog round Wilstone mid morning.

Eleven Little Egrets, one RUFF, one GREY PLOVER and a single Ringed Plover were all visible and additionally there was also a male COMMON STONECHAT on the hedge that runs perpendicularly to the field immediately north of Rushy Meadow (Roy Hargreaves)

GREY PLOVER still present

The GREY PLOVER and the single remaining RUFF were both still present at Wilstone early this morning, in the same area as yesterday (Dave Bilcock)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

GARGANEY still present in Pitstone Quarry

Just got to the quarry before dark. GARGANEY still present, plus 1 eclipse PINTAIL, the hybrid R.C. Pochard x Mallard from Marsworth, 7 Shoveler, 3 Teal, 2 drake Mandarins, 11 Tufted Duck, 1 Pochard and 223 Mallard.

Good numbers of Black-headed Gulls arrived at Wilstone this evening, nothing of note although 5 Common Gulls and 40 Lesser Black Backed Gulls seen with Ian and Dave (Steve Rodwell)

A Red Letter Day - GREY PLOVER, more wildfowl and record count of LITTLE EGRETS


After failing badly in Suffolk first thing, with near gale force northerlies and driving rain, I made my way back to Hertfordshire and after a brief fattening up of my latest gathering of Edible Dormice, rushed out to Tring at pager reports of a Grey Plover at Wilstone. I was delighted to find it still present early afternoon, along with an ever-increasing throng of wildfowl and a record gathering of Little Egret.

Even at Wilstone, the wind was strong NNE, with heavy cloud and occasional showers.

(with Dave Cleal)

Great Crested Grebes (19)
*LITTLE EGRET (a new record count of 11 birds)(see Dave Bilcock's photograph above)
Mute Swan (32)
Gadwall (32)
*NORTHERN PINTAILS (four present, including one with Wigeon by the jetty on the east side and three together south of the hide)
Shoveler (marked increase; 87 birds)
EURASIAN WIGEON (major overnight increase with at least 62 birds present)
Common Teal (numbers keep going up and up with at least 203 counted)
Northern Pochard (106)

RINGED PLOVERS (all 3 juveniles still present; in NW corner)
**GREY PLOVER (the first of the year, a superb juvenile, showing to the right of the hide. Lanky bird, with long greyish legs, and a distinct grey wash of streaks across the mid-breast. Much whiter on the vent and undertail coverts with a white area at the forecrown, darker grey ear-coverts and fresh and neatly patterned dark-centred coverts on the upperwings, scapulars and mantle feathers. Characteristic black axillaries (armpits) when stretching and preening, with a white rump contrasting with a darker grey and barred upper tail and a striking white outer wing-bar on a dark outer hand. Photographed by DB later in the afternoon - see above - and still present at dusk. Superb record - TAW, LGRE, DC, Jason Chapman, et al)
Lapwing (major decrease - just 152)
RUFF (1 juvenile still present)
COMMON SNIPE (4 on the mud)


Monday, 14 September 2009



The wind switched back from due Northerly to Northeasterly during the morning and remained largely cloudy. As a result, a few migrants trickled in, including a 'new' Dunlin and a nice wagtail flock


The pair of RUDDY SHELDUCK was present on the north side of the main lake but otherwise few birds of note apart from 6 Gadwalls.


The GARGANEY was still present with 2 Shoveler and 7 Common Teal in the scattered shallow pools in the SW (Herts) corner of the pit.

(1400-1500 hours; water level ridiculously low with the central bar from the spit now almost completely bare)

Great Crested Grebes (14)
Little Grebe (3+)
Continental Cormorant (32)
LITTLE EGRET (the peak of 9 birds first witnessed yesterday afternoon were all still present)
Mute Swan (32)
Gadwall (18)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (1 roosting on the central spit)
Shoveler (35)
EURASIAN WIGEON (major increase; now 20 birds present)
Common Teal (continuing increase; 171 birds now in situ)
Pochard (111)
Tufted Duck (106)
Red Kite (1-2)
Moorhen (82)
Coot (496)
RINGED PLOVER (all 3 juveniles still present on the mud in the NW corner)
Lapwing (382)
DUNLIN (1 freshly arrived 'grey' juvenile feeding with the Ringed Plover trio)
COMMON GREENSHANK (1 juvenile still present)
RUFF (the two juvenile males still present)
Black-headed Gull (202)

WHITE WAGTAIL (3 birds present in the large ploughed field NW of the reservoir viewable from near the new overflow)
YELLOW WAGTAILS (migrant flock of 15 birds, including 5 nice adults, commuting between the bank by the overflow and the ploughed field NW of the reservoir)
Common Chiffchaff (male singing from hedgerow by new overflow)

Saturday evening update

The GARGANEY was briefly seen late morning. At one point there were 9 Little Egrets. Still 2 Ruff, 4 Ringed Plover and 1 Greenshank, plus 4 Snipe this evening (Steve Rodwell)

Bumper flock of CORN BUNTINGS

Not many migrants about again this morning (Saturday 13 September) but wintering flocks are building up. Most surprising was a flock of 36 CORN BUNTINGS that I flushed from the shallow scrubby ditch that runs along the west edge of the first slope at Pitstone Hill. There were also 18 Yellowhammers and 42 Linnets in this area. Most of these flew to the field south of the main hill but a few stuck to the edge of the first field. The 2 COMMON RAVENS flew along the ridge and off towards Steps and Ivinghoe Hills.

At College Lake the only new arrival was a Snipe on the marsh (Rob Andrews).

Another GARGANEY arrives

Sunday 13 September

A GARGANEY was present at Wilstone Reservoir late this afternoon, roosting on the bank beneath the cormorant trees when viewed from the hide. A very similar plumaged bird to that in the quarry. The GARGANEY was also still present in Pitstone quarry at 9am this morning but I didn't check this afternoon, so it may have moved. Also at Wilstone 9 Wigeon, 2 RUFF, a Greenshank and 6 Little Egrets (Dave Bilcock)

Resident NORTHERN GOSHAWK puts in rare appearance

Whilst walking the dog this morning between Ringshall and the Coombe, had a bit of a raptorfest.

Minimum of 15 Common Buzzards (almost certainly more)
1 Red Kite
1 Sparrow Hawk
Most birds soaring up to cloud base and moving off quite quickly.

Incidentaly, on Monday, went to Crafton near Mentmore where on and over large stubble fields were up to 12 Red Kites and similar number of Common Buzzards, flying around low and landing on stubble. Quite like the Sandon area but without the Harriers (Don Otter).


Fairly quiet around the Beacon this morning (12 September) with not much moving. With Ian Williams we had 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS along the fenceline and in the field to the east of the sheep pens. A pair of COMMON RAVENS flew around the Beacon a couple of times (Rob Andrews)

Friday, 11 September 2009

GARGANEY still present

The GARGANEY remains in Pitstone Quarry today, still consorting with 15 Common Teal (Dave Bilcock)

LITTLE GREBES relocate but apart from that - little change


A moderate NE wind continuing with a fair bit of cloud cover and intermittent bright, sunny periods. Still fairly warm. Considering the excellent conditions, migrants continue to be thin on the ground and wader passage virtually nil. Buzzard passage has also surprisingly ceased.


Very quiet - no sign of any black-capped tits - but interestingly a 'black' or melanistic Grey Squirrel.


An adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL was roosting amongst 115 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in ploughed fields south of the B489.


Very quiet, with the two adult WHOOPER SWANS, 5 Mute Swans, 18 Greylag Geese and 8 Northern Pochards noted. No sign of the earlier Pintail nor of any Yellow Wagtails.


(1600-1700 hours; with Ian Williams)

Surprisingly quiet, with virtually no new arrivals

Little Grebes (increase to 5 birds, with an additional 7 on Tringford and 2 on Startop's End - all immigrants from neighbouring Pitstone Quarry where the water level has dropped dramatically)
LITTLE EGRETS (all 6 birds still, all fishing in the shallows in front of the Drayton Hide)
Mute Swans (36)
Common Teal (131)
Shoveler (47)
Wigeon (5+)
Pochard (108)
Gadwall (13)

HOBBY (single adult)
Red Kite (2 over)

RINGED PLOVERS (2 juveniles remaining on mud in NW corner)
COMMON GREENSHANK (2 juveniles still)
RUFF (just 2 juvenile males present this afternoon)

Barn Swallow (45)

Duck numbers continue to increase

Great morning to be out, when the low cloud lifted and patches of fog broke. Like yesterday I found no new waders, but duck numbers continue to build.

At Pitstone Quarry, which really does look promising this autumn, the presumed juvenile GARGANEY continues for its third day, in the Herts section this morning. The 15 Teal and 5 Shoveler also still present, 2 Wigeon in the Bucks section were new in.

Nothing of note at College Lake, but Startops/Marsworth were more productive. On the mud at Startops a female PINTAIL was new, as was a single Teal. 1+ Yellow Wagtail was flying round calling at Startops, and a Cetti's Warbler was calling from the reeds at Marsworth.

Ben Miller

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Major influx of WIGEON and TEAL but hills fail to yield results


A fresh NE wind blowing, bringing temperatures down a tad to 17.5 degrees C. Some cloud cover but generally bright and clear.

Sadly, my day started off on a sour note with two overnight Badger casualties - one of my local resident adults on the Latimer Road at SU 993 987 and another on Northfield Road near Bulbourne, by Park Hall Farm at SP 946 134.(records for Mic Wells)


The quarry was in the lowest condition I have ever seen it, with the southern half saturated in small shallow pools - fabulous for passing waders or wildfowl.

Steve Rodwell's GARGANEY was still present, initially favouring the far east corner (and therefore in Bucks) but then later showing much better in the SW corner when I returned at 1420. It was consorting with 15 Common Teal and on plumage characteristics was almost certainly a juvenile. The pit also held 5 Northern Shoveler.

A pair of scolding MARSH TITS was a very welcome sight, whilst other species noted included BULLFINCH and 2 Common Chiffchaffs.

PITSTONE HILL (0910-0935 hours)

Very quiet with virtually no passage encountered; 40 Meadow Pipits perhaps of note

IVINGHOE HILLS NR (0945-1225 hours)

Once again, migration (vizmig) was at a trickle, with just a constant movement of Barn Swallows at the first knoll, totalling 74 in number. The highlight was a single SPOTTED FLYCATCHER that moved quickly through. There was no visible raptor passage.

Top Scrub yielded better results with 3 juvenile BULLFINCHES feeding on berry bushes in the main car park, 2 Yellowhammer, 2 Jays, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, at least 7 Blackcaps, 25 Goldfinches and a FIELD VOLE.

Disconcertingly, there was a work party clearing scrub from the S-bend slope, taking away ALL of the scrub where this year a pair of Grasshopper Warblers bred and an area which has yielded good numbers of feeding butterflies. Just what is a the management plan in this area?


The adult pair of WHOOPER SWANS were still present on the spit

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1240-1345 hours)

A major arrival of duck overnight, particularly of Common Teal, but little else.

LITTLE EGRETS (5 birds present)
Mute Swans (40)
Canada Geese (233)
EURASIAN WIGEON (4 birds present at 1240, increasing to 15 by this evening - per Steve Rodwell)
COMMON TEAL (massive increase, with 146+ birds resting on the central spit)
RUDDY DUCK (newly arrived female-type)
RINGED PLOVER (3 juveniles still present)
RUFF (the 4 juveniles still present, feeding together in the shallows in the NW sector)
BLACK TERN (the juvenile still present) (see Mark Harris's fantastic image above)
YELLOW WAGTAIL (one flew North at 1245)
Mistle Thrush (5 over)

At 1340 hours, I received a text from Ben Miller informing me of a juvenile MARSH HARRIER that he and Rob Hill had been watching for the best part of an hour from Pitstone Hill. I couldn't believe it - an hour in view and I had only just got the message (frustratingly I had missed Ben's earlier phone call). Marsh Harrier was a species I had managed to miss eight of in the local area in 2009 and today was no different. I set off in hot pursuit of Ben's bird but just as I reached Marsworth, he rang to say that it was now heading high SE towards Tring Station and the Wendover ridge and was clearly migrating. I got to the nearest high piece of ground and began scanning but no joy - it had gone.

Another migrant MARSH HARRIER

Working from home today created the opportunity to take my lunchtime walk at Pitstone Hill rather than the village where I work! I joined Rob Hill there in the hope of a migrant raptor, with recent Honey Buzzard claims and Lee's heads-up from of our minds.

Sure enough, at c.12:50, we picked up a raptor heading north from Aldbury direction (Herts) along the valley towards us; distant at first but eventually reaching the copse SW of the hill, above Pitstone Quarry. The long tail, elastic wings with raised 'arms' and more level 'hands' and dark impression raised hopes, and as it got nearer we could confirm it was a cracking juvenile MARSH HARRIER, cream limited to just crown and throat. After a lengthy fight with a Carrion Crow into Bucks airspace, it dropped behind the copse; we expected that to be that, so let just a couple of people know on the off-chance.

However, at 13:10, the bird then re-appeared above the same tree-line; clearly the strengthening wind and cloud cover had halted its migration. We made a concerted effort to contact more locals, though unfortunately no-one was able to arrive by the time it gained height and headed off SW deeper into Herts towards Tring Station and town at 13:45.

The GARGANEY is still in Pitstone Quarry today (in Bucks initially, now Herts) with 11 Teal and 5 Shoveler, plus Rob and I enjoyed a steady stream of Swallows is groups of up to 30 moving south (Ben Miller)

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

At last - a GARGANEY

Old Rodders strikes again ! This time a quick stop at Pitstone Quarry this evening revealed the presence of a GARGANEY with 20 Common Teal - the first one in our area this autumn. Dave Bilcock also managed to get down before dark and connect (see images taken with phone above)

On Raptor Watch


Well, yesterday's hot weather and strong SSW winds gave way to a new cyclonic Northeasterly today, the first time the wind has switched to this direction in over three months. It remained fairly warm and very cloudy to the south of the Chilterns but in the north it was cooler and completely clear. I decided to do a long raptor watch, particularly as Stuart Winter had seen two separate European Honey Buzzards in neighbouring Bedfordshire and at least two others were also reported.


Sadly, an adult Fallow Deer was ran over and killed on the B489 just north of the Beacon at SP 959 171 (record for Mic Wells)

Viewing from peak of Pitstone Hill - 1300-1710 hours

Very slow but with an ongoing passage of COMMON BUZZARDS - a total of 8 individuals seen, following the line of hills west from Whipsnade and veering SE along the ridge, roughly following the course of the Beacon Road. Most were this year's juveniles. Four of these birds arrived together at 1654 hours, followed shortly by two HOBBIES and two RED KITES (at 1701 hours, thermalling in the same kettle).

Virtually no visible migration, apart from 25 Barn Swallows and 3 Meadow Pipits.

(1730-1810 hours; with DB and SR)

Despite the excellent conditions and increasing mud, there were still no new arrivals.

Mute Swan (44)
Wigeon (drake still present)
Gadwall (13)
Common Teal (56)
Shoveler (47)
Tufted Duck (105)
Northern Pochard (continuing increase in numbers, with 121 counted, the majority drakes)

RINGED PLOVERS (just 3 juveniles remaining on mud in the NW corner; very vocal and restless)
COMMON GREENSHANK (2-3 juveniles still present)
RUFF (all four juveniles still present, probably all males)
BLACK TERN (juvenile still) (superbly photographed above by Simon West)

Barn Swallows (63)

And yet another TREE PIPIT

Tuesday 8 September

Made two enjoyable visits to Pitstone Hill today. This morning between 8.15-8.30 I counted at least 250 Barn Swallows heading through, all keeping very low to the ground to avoid the strong SW wind. They were all heading along the escarpment with most then going south towards Aldbury. A fantastic sight and just wish I could've stayed to carry on watching them but had to get to work. Also had a migrant TREE PIPIT flying over south calling.

Had a few Swallows going south at work in St Albans as well until midday when all sightings ceased. Red Kite also over there. Went back again to Pitstone Hill this evening and had a nice walk in gorgeous weather. A pair of Grey Partridge were in the field south of the hill and I flushed another TREE PIPIT from the ditch just past the first hillock at dusk. It flew up calling, briefly landed in one of the bushes by the field edge, then flew back to the ditch further along (Rob Andrews)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009



A remarkably warm day with temperatures reaching 21 degrees C. A strong SSW wind blowing, bringing cloudy overcast conditions.

Flushed with excitement after seeing my first Cambridgeshire PALLID HARRIER (and what a fabulous bird this near-adult male is), I came back to earth with a visit to Tring Reservoirs.

(1730-1900 hours; with Steve Rodwell)

Great Crested Grebe (just 16 noted)
Little Grebe (all 3 still surviving)
Continental Cormorant (23)
Grey Heron (4)
LITTLE EGRET (5 still present, 1 fishing in the shallows)
Mute Swan (44)
WHOOPER SWANS (both adults still on Startop's End)
Greylag Geese (5)
Atlantic Canada Geese (204)
Mallard (109)
Gadwall (18)
Shoveler (43)
Common Teal (54)
Pochard (further increase - now 111 birds present)
Tufted Duck (73)
Moorhen (83)
Coot (567)
RINGED PLOVER (all 5 birds still present on the mud - an adult and four juveniles - see Dave Bilcock's excellent images above)
Lapwing (massive increase - 758 birds counted, all well scattered)
DUNLIN (1 juvenile feeding to right of hide)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 in muddy corner by old boathouse site)
COMMON SANDPIPER (juvenile showing well in NW corner)
COMMON GREENSHANK (2 juveniles still present)
*RUFF (4 juveniles including three male Ruffs and perhaps one female Reeve - see DB's excellent images above)
Black-headed Gulls (106)
*BLACK TERN (juvenile - new arrival)

Barn Swallow (7)
House Martin (67+)
Grey Wagtail (1)
LESSER WHITETHROAT (1 in migrant hedgerow by new overflow - SR)

Chinese Water Deer (adult showing well on mud)

And a fourth RUFF and hunting PEREGRINE


Later on Sunday afternoon (6 September), a fourth juvenile RUFF arrived.

This morning (7 September), a juvenile PEREGRINE was the highlight and the first for me at the reservoirs and in the local area this year. Flew languidly around for about 5 minutes before heading off to Startops. Put everything up including the 4 Ruffs and the Dunlin. Still Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank (at least 2). The 5 Ringed Plover were at Startop's End Reservoir (Steve Rodwell)

Third RUFF arrives at Wilstone (6 September)

With Jonathan Nasir and several other birders this afternoon. There were 3 juvenile RUFFS present on the mud. Don't know when the third one arrived, I hadn't realised until Jonathan pointed it out.

Also 3 Greenshanks, 2 Ringed Plovers (3 at Startops), 1 Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and my first DUNLIN (a streaky juvenile) at the reses this year. Two Hobbys still and 2 Herring Guuls.

At Pitstone Quarry there were 5 Shoveler and 10 Teal (Steve Rodwell)

Saturday summary

Very little to show for a few hours out and about today.

College Lake continues to be pretty devoid of birdlife with just 4 Mute Swans and 5 Moorhens on the marsh, with the lake holding 414 Canada Geese, 6 Mute Swans, 46 Mallards, 15 LBB Gulls, 2 Buzzards and a Willow Warbler.

Pitstone Quarry - Green Sandpiper, 9 Little Grebes, 12 Tufteds and a few gulls.

Rob Andrews

Saturday afternoon (5 September) - Ben Miller update

This afternoon I took a stroll around Startops, Marsworth and Tringford, but turned up very little of note. The female Red-crested Pochard was with the Mallards tucked up under the Bucks bank at Marsworth, and the two feral Whooper Swans were again on the north bank at Startops. Away from dodgy wildfowl, what was presumably a family group of three COMMON KINGFISHERS were on Marsworth.

Saturday morning (5 September) - Dave Bilcock update

Wilstone: 2 juvenile RUFF still

Startops: The 4 Ringed Plovers were roosting between the fisherman along the north shore

Pitstone Quarry: 1 Green Sandpiper

Incombe Hole: A male COMMON REDSTART was in the large clump of bushes mid way along the south facing slope.

Friday evening (4 September)

Managed to get some evening birding with Rob Andrews and Stuart Wilson.

The 5 Ringed Plover had moved back to Wilstone. There were a large number of gulls at Wilstone, c.120 LBBGulls at about 7.00pm with 7 Herring Gulls. When I returned at about 8.00pm there were 150 LBBGulls and 600 Black-headed Gulls. 300 B-h Gulls remained until dark. The 2 REEVES were still present, as was the single EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER and the juvenile BLACK TERN. 4 Common Terns departed into Bucks (Steve Rodwell)

Monday, 7 September 2009

The first two RUFF this year

These two juvenile RUFF arrived on Friday 4 September (Dave Bilcock)

Bedfordshire stray finds first RUFF of the year

Visiting birdwatcher Jack O'Neill discovered two juvenile RUFF on the mud in the NW corner of Wilstone Reservoir early afternoon on Friday 4 September, as well as a juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULL in Pitstone Quarry.

The juvenile BLACK TERN was still present on Wilstone (Mike Wallen)

Thursday 3 September

Startops: 5 Ringed Plovers (4 juvs and 1 adult), 2 Yellow Wagtails. The female Red-crested Pochard was reunited with her hybrid offspring.

Wilstone: 9 Common Terns, 17 L.B.B.Gull, 2 Herring Gulls (adult + juv), 1 Water Rail.

Yesterday evening Warren saw a Green Sandpiper at the sewage works. The Mallard numbers were slightly lower at the quarry, only 180, but there were 2 Shoveler with them (Steve Rodwell)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Reservoirs today

TAW reported the following this afternoon, all from the Wilstone hide

The two juvenile BLACK TERNS, all 4 COMMON GREENSHANK, COMMON SANDPIPER and 4 Common Chiffchaffs by the hide

Mallard roost

Evening influx of Mallards in Pitstone Quarry - Total of 257 at 7.50pm. Both juvenile BLACK TERNS were roosting at Wilstone at dusk (Steve Rodwell)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Strong SW winds promised but failed to produce


With autumn now officially upon us, the first day of September dawned fairly calm and bright. Freshening winds soon moved in though, veering from SSW to due SW during the course of the morning and increasing throughout the afternoon. This change of weather was also accompanied by darkening cloud with a few short showers and occasional thunder. Temperatures remained quite high.

As it was my first chance at local birding since Wednesday, I decided to do a full sweep but despite being out from early morning until early evening, results were fairly spartan. With the new month upon us, I did a complete inventory of the reservoirs. With 5 Pied Flycatchers being located in the London Area and SE region, I fully expected one to be at Shardeloes, but despite painstakingly checking all of the Willows and the tall trees bordering the practise cricket green, I drew a blank. I could not find any Spotted Flycatchers either.

(intermittent visits between 1200 and 1830 hours, the latter period with SR, DB, MCo & CJ)
(water level has now dropped further with the central ridge between the Drayton Bank and the Jetty almost being uncovered)

Full Inventory

Great Crested Grebe (16)
Little Grebe (all 3 birds still present)
Continental Cormorant (15 roosting)
Grey Heron (6)
LITTLE EGRET (5 birds still present, all feeding together in the shallows in the NW corner early afternoon)
Mute Swan (42)
Canada Geese (147)
Greylag Geese (84)
Mallard (117)
Gadwall (notable increase: 23 present)
Common Teal (38)
Shoveler (44)
Tufted Duck (62)
Pochard (marked increase with at least 75 counted)
Ferruginous Duck x Northern Pochard hybrid (drake still with Pochard flock)
Red Kite (2)
Common Kestrel (2)
HOBBY (both adult and juvenile still present)
Coot (603)
Moorhen (78)
Lapwing (498)
RINGED PLOVERS (party of 4 birds - adult and 3 juveniles - on mud in NW corner - also seen on Startop's End)
COMMON GREENSHANK (4 still present)
Black-headed Gull (172)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (27 on 'new' ridge)
'BRITISH' HERRING GULL (Argenteus) (4 roosting with the LBBG's, including a third-year and three juveniles; there was also an additional bird present which showed some features of 'cachinnans', with pale grey upperparts, a long sloping forehead, longer primaries, small eye, long legs, black-tipped pale bill, dark brown wing-coverts with strong secondary bar but slight terminal tail-band; it was also the same size as adult LBBG despite the length of the tibia)
Common Terns (3 still present, including an adult and two juveniles)
BLACK TERN (the juvenile first seen last night was still present)

COMMON SWIFT (2 flew through south)
House Martin (78)


Great Crested Grebe (4 present including a pair with a well developed juvenile)
Mute Swan (just 11)
WHOOPER SWAN (2 adults)
Tufted Duck (15 including an adult drake)
Coot (75)
RINGED PLOVERS (the four birds from Wilstone were present in the Buckinghamshire section from at least 1315-1340 showing well in the bay at the NE corner by the main car park)

Pied Wagtail (18)
Barn Swallow (17, many sheltering from the strengthening wind by perching on the north bank)
SAND MARTIN (43, many roosting with the above)


Great Crested Grebes (two adults and three juveniles)
Gadwall (pair)
Tufted Duck (2 females)


Coot (46 present including the piebald juveniles)
Tufted Duck (8)


Very windy and as a result, I failed to locate Mike Wallen's Common Redstart, Northern Wheatear or any recent Whinchats. In fact it was dire - nothing noted.


Equally dire - just 13 Little Grebes of note.


After visiting Startop's End, I then bashed around the Ivinghoe Hills quickly, highlight being a new COMMON REDSTART (directions below) on Ivinghoe Beacon. Good numbers of passage warblers, the first few Finch flocks and Mipits building up, otherwise the only other bird of note was 1 Northern Wheatear between the sheep pens and the car park on the fence.

The Redstart is on the South - East slope of the Beacon, if you walk from the S bend in the road diagonally across the sheep field ( on the obvious vehicle track ). When you reach the base of the slope the Redstart is in the bushes to the right ( East ) of the vehicle track that goes up to the ridge. I left it feeding happily in the first obvious large bush which is sort of mushroom shaped. Best to view this bush from say 40 metres, the bird will pop out now and again. The bird was calling a lot, particularly early on, for those not familiar its a ' huueet' call, not dissimilar to Chiffchaff/ Willow Warbler (Mike Wallen)