Saturday, 31 October 2009

This superb adult male BLACK REDSTART (photographed by both Dave Bilcock and Chaz Jackson above) was discovered in Long Marston village by Johne Taylor this morning and remained near the church in the vicinity of 17, The Bromley, throughout the rest of the day.

Early morning in the rain

Wilstone: Very wet but GREATER SCAUP was still present and a single DUNLIN amongst the large flock of Lapwings from the hide.

Startop's End: 2 COMMON GOLDENEYES and a leuistic BHG on the mud with the other gulls (snowy white, with milky tea coloured primaries) (Dave Bilcock).


Both the Forvie colour-ringed ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANTS have now returned for another winter at Tring. This morning CUA was roosting in front of the hide at Tringford (see picture above). This is the FIFTH winter it has returned, first appearing as a juvenile in December 2005 and every winter subsequently.

Also DXA was still at Wilstone this morning roosting on the exposed bar opposite the jetty. This bird first appeared at Ting in November 2007.

Both these birds return back to Forvie each summer, and have been recorded at the Ythan Estuary.

If you see these birds locally, or better a different bird with a white darvic on its left leg with black 3 letter code, could you pass on the details to Raymond Duncan who coordinates the ringing project (Dave Bilcock)

Friday, 30 October 2009

SCAUP images

Local birder Martin Parr obtained these excellent images of the Wilstone GREATER SCAUP this afternoon - note how the grey fearhers are now coming through on the mantle and sides

Two Med Gulls in roost

Two MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were in the Wilstone roost tonight, an adult with a noticeably greyish head (still moulting into winter plumage) and a first-winter bird. Probably over 700 Black-headed Gulls at 4.45pm. The adult then flew off with several hundred gulls, before returning just before 5.00pm and the first-winter came in about 4.50-4.55pm. The Black-heads were very unsettled and almost all of the birds headed off just before it was too dark to see (Steve Rodwell)

GREATER SCAUP still present


Wind in the Southwest, still very mild, dry but mainly overcast. After seeing a fair bit of Woodpigeon passage today, checked out the Hills but it was a waste of time - virtually nothing to be found and almost birdless. Just the odd Chaffinch moving.


Checked out the resident HOUSE SPARROW population and was pleased to find 15 roosting in the large conifer on the corner of Watery Lane, attracted in to the cage harbouring the Queleas and Cockatiels at the back of the Angler's Retreat garden.


Nothing new. The juvenile/first-winter GREATER SCAUP was still showing very well, feeding just north of the jetty and in amongst the feeding Canada Geese. As Jason commented, moulting in quite a few new grey feathers now.

Wildfowl also included 43 Gadwall, 3 NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 adult drakes), 159 Shoveler and 28 Mute Swans (7 first-winters) as well as just 4 COMMON SNIPE, 119 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER and 2 adult COMMON GULLS

Lee Evans

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Big rise in COMMON SNIPE numbers

This morning a CETTI'S WARBLER was singing in the cressbed bushes. A Green Sandpiper in the bay by the hide, 14 Common Snipe around, 40 Meadow Pipits on the mud banks by the hide and the juvenile GREATER SCAUP close to the jetty - it really does come in close to the bank at times.

I also had a group of Bullfinch fly over, but I was under trees and couldn't see them (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Major thrust in CHAFFINCH passage


Another day with little wind at first but increasing southerly and SSW later, with intermittent drizzle and continuing warm temperatures (18 degrees C). I spent much of the morning on the hills but was disappointed with general passage, the main thrust of birds moving well to the east of the Ivinghoe complex. There were good numbers of thrushes - but not the numbers I expected - but exceptional numbers of Chaffinch. Some kind soul had strategically placed some apples in the 'Ring Ouzel clump'.

(0800-1100 hours)

STOCK DOVES (2 local birds followed by a migrating flock of 10 in from the NE at 1019 hours)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Eurasian Skylark (68 over)
REDWING (just 156 over)
FIELDFARE (135 in total, passing in flocks well to the east)
Song Thrush (just 1 in Top Scrub)
Coal Tit (2 by car park)
MARSH TIT (a vocal individual carrying a thistle head in the car park)
CHAFFINCH (the big story with birds passing over continuously totalling 974 by the time I left)
Linnet (26)
BULLFINCH (marked arrival with at least 9 noted, including 3 female/immatures in Top Scrub and two more in scrub below the car park)
CORN BUNTING (5 over - single and party of 4)
Yellowhammer (1)


There are two fields which are harbouring large numbers of wintering farmland birds at the moment - the large ploughed field immediately south of the Ridgeway at SP 955 145 and the stubble field to the west at SP 953 145. I keep plodding away at them in the hope of locating a Twite, Richard's Pipit or Lapland Bunting but alas, again today, no sign of any of these vagrants. Good numbers of common birds though -:

Woodpigeon (322 - all local birds)
Stock Dove (19 in with the Woodpigeons)
Eurasian Skylarks (42)
Meadow Pipits (28)
COMMON STONECHAT (a male frequenting the fenceline at the north end, by Grim's Ditch footpath, by SP 952 145 - present for at least a week)
LINNETS (163 - carefully grilled, particularly when I gently eased them all on to the fenceline - no Twite with them)
CORN BUNTINGS (22 in the plough)
YELLOWHAMMERS (28 in the plough, mostly at the north end)


The south side is now completely dry

Little Grebe (13)
Moorhen (4)
Common Gulls (5 adults)
Lesser Black-backed Gulls (111)


Apart from a few Pochard and the gulls, all of the birds were on the main marsh.

Mute Swan (45 present including 2 first-winters)
MANDARIN DUCK (pair at west end)
Eurasian Wigeon (125)
Gadwall (33)
Shoveler (3 including an adult drake)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (adult female)
Northern Pochard (3 with an additional 5 on the main lake)
Tufted Duck (49)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (45 on the islands)
REDWING (13 flew SW)
CHAFFINCH (23 over, mainly singletons)

(1230-1300 hours)

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swans (25 including 7 first-winters)
Atlantic Canada Geese (32)
Cormorants (27 including 3 ringed individuals, one of which was the returning Forvie adult)
Gadwall (large increase - 45 present)
Common Teal (216)
Shoveler (high count of 194)
Pochard (96)
*GREATER SCAUP (the juvenile was still showing well on the east side, hugging the bank)
Lapwing (166)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (297 roosting on the bund)
Black-headed Gulls (298)
COMMON GULLS (3 adults)

Monday, 26 October 2009

CROSSBILLS still in the forest

My best views for a long time of COMMON CROSSBILLS this morning,19 of them sitting in a bare Field Maple at Chivery Hall Farm, Bucks.They flew off back towards Wendover Woods (per John)



Whenever the clocks go back, I always sense a feeling of sadness and cannot help feeling that the autumn migration is nearly over. I harp back to the sounds and sights of late summer and think back to my last Common Swifts in my village at the end of August - another year is once again coming towards a close.

Today, it really did still feel like summer. It was surprisingly warm (with temperatures reaching 16 degrees C by midday) with clear, calm and sunny conditions and a fresh southerly wind.

There was no sign of the Osprey in the Chess Valley this morning so I moved south to explore a 'new' site for me - 'Hogback Wood' between Forty Green and Beaconsfield.

A41 Trunk Road

A dead POLECAT-type on the westbound A41 near Buckler's Lane at TL 053 036

(1600 hours until dark; with BBC correspondent filming forthcoming documentary)

Little change in water level. The gulls failed to roost but did gather prior to flying off NE towards Leighton Buzzard.

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebes (8 now present - the original 5 and an additional flock of 3)
ATLANTIC GREAT CORMORANT (a ringed adult from Aberdeenshire roosting on the central bund)
Cormorants (43 roosting at dusk)
LITTLE EGRET (1 present in Cemetery Corner which flew off strongly NW to roost at 1657 hours)
Mute Swans (25 including 7 first-winters)
Gadwall (13)
Eurasian Wigeon (258)
Common Teal (127)
Shoveler (109)
Tufted Duck (83)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (a fine adult drake now moulted fully out of eclipse)
Northern Pochard (80+)
*GREATER SCAUP (juvenile still showing well, diving for food close to the eastern bank)
Coot (338)
Lapwing (298)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (147 roosting on the central bund)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 in the SW quadrant)
DUNLIN (one mingling with the Golden Plovers on the bund)
Black-headed Gull (731 pre-roost)
COMMON GULL (2 adults)
Argenteus HERRING GULL (1 adult)
Lesser Black-backed Gulls (7)
Grey Wagtail (2)
Common Starling (7)

Quiet start to new week following the clock change

Monday morning - very quiet for passage on the Ivinghoe hills this morning, hardly surprising given the wind direction and strength yesterday. Four CORN BUNTING went over before dawn and there was a BRAMBLING in with Chaffinches in the Beech trees between the main car park and the 'S' bend.

I then moved onto Wilstone Res where the juvenile GREATER SCAUP and partial albino Coot were still present near to the jetty but on the side towards the car park (Mike Wallen)

College Lake 25/10

Wildfowl numbers are finally starting to build up with around 150 Wigeon, 80 Pochard, 60 Tufted Duck, 13 Mandarin and single figures of Shoveler,and Gadwall. The female Red-crested Pochard was still present and still good numbers (for here) of Mute Swans at 48 including 3 juveniles. Four Common Snipe is the best I have managed so far this Autumn.

Juvenile Peregrine, Buzzard and 3 Red Kites flew over during the day (Paul)

Gull Roost 25/10

This evening was the first the gulls remained to roost at Wilstone. Approximately 600 Black-headeds were present and in addition to the above first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL Steve Rodwell found, 2 Common gulls and one Lesser Black-backed Gull were also present (Dave Bilcock)

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Another great morning, not for quantity but for quality, enjoyed with David Bilcock.

Highlight was only my third ever record there of COMMON CROSSBILL when a flock of 14-18 flew over us , 5 minutes before sunrise.

A first winter RING OUZEL flew across in front of us and up onto Ivinghoe Beacon where it landed in a clump of bushes at the East end but was not seen again.

Otherwise pretty typical late October fare with a few Thrushes and Finches over, and a COMMON STONECHAT near the 'S' bend (Mike Wallen)


There is a first-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the Wilstone Reservoir roost this evening (found by Steve Rodwell), whilst the juvenile GREATER SCAUP is still present (new images above taken by Chaz Jackson).

Charlie also photographed the piebald Coot

Saturday, 24 October 2009


The juvenile GREATER SCAUP was still present at Wilstone this morning (new image attained above) as well as the Aytha hybrid (see two images). Also amongst the roosting cormorants was one of the returning colour-ringed ATLANTIC (carbo) birds from the Sands of Forvie in Aberdeenshire, coded DXA. I think this is its 3rd year it has wintered around Tring (David Bilcock).

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


I finally had a day off today so although not on the hills for dawn, I covered them more extensively than of late. It was pretty much typical Autumn fayre but with a noteable number of Song Thrush on the hills.Whilst walking up the beacon I accidently flushed a RING OUZEL which must have been perched up in one of the small bushes on the South-eastern slope, it flew away from me and up and over to the North side of the beacon. It was clearly different to the stunning male in the area on Monday. It flushed from about 150 metres, and I suspect it newly arrived last night. It appeared to drop into the bushes just down from the kissing gate which is 300 metres East of the trig point; this is an area that has regularly held them in previous Autumns.

Highlight however was my second obvious continental Song Thrush in three days. This bird was in the top scrub over the road from the car park, it was one of a pair, the other looker paler and slightly greyer than 'ours' but the obvious continental was superb. It was really grey and white, just like the bird of a couple of days ago and whilst it could be argued that many of ( if not all ) the migrants on/ over Steps in Autumn are from the continent there is no doubt in my mind with these grey birds. I have only seen three birds like this in Bucks, one at the rear of my garden a few years back and these two in the last few days. This 'cline' in Song Thrush reminds me a bit of chiffchaff with grey ones further East.

A quick look at Startops produced nothing of note. At Wilstone the highlight was the juvenile GREATER SCAUP still present near the jetty and the North shore. No Rock Pipits but up to 20 Mipits were commuting between the Northern bank/ jetty area and the field behind. Other birds of note were 2 Pintail and c120 Golden Plover (Mike Wallen)


The juvenile GREATER SCAUP is still present on Wilstone Reservoir

Monday, 19 October 2009

Aythya Hybrid on Wilstone

This drake Northern Pochard hybrid was also present on Wilstone today roosting with Pochard on the central spit. In recent days it has been at Calvert BBOWT (Bucks) where Tim Watts obtained these excellent images (Lee Evans)

SCAUP surprise


The wind veered SE this morning, the first time in a long while, with the raw and freshening breeze continuing throughout the day. It brought in low cloud and intermittent drizzle and saw a light fall on the hills.

(1200-1400 hours)

Pride of place went to a stunning male RING OUZEL and unlike all of the previous individuals at Ivinghoe this autumn, was actually 'settled' and 'twitchable'. Mike Wallen had discovered it first thing and had very kindly placed details on the local email group; Mike Campbell had searched but failed to find it. I arrived at midday and relocated it after about fifteen minutes but it had moved. It was showing extremely well, feasting on Hawthorn berries, in the cluster of bushes and scrub just 100 yards NE of the S-Bend at SP 961 164 and could be easily 'scoped from the main footpath leading up to the Beacon looking over to the right (east). It was very vocal, 'chacking' frequently, particularly when in flight, and was a well-marked individual albeit quite scaly. It had a well-defined white breast-band.

This same clump of bushes had also seen landfall of a good number of 'migrant thrushes' with 10 or more CONTINENTAL SONG THRUSHES and 7 dark-billed CONTINENTAL BLACKBIRDS. I was surprised though at the lack of REDWINGS - just one flock of 68 birds passing over high to the south over Coombe Wood.

There was little sign of much other migration apart from the constant diurnal passage of low-flying, mostly singleton Chaffinch - a total of 27 passing to the west in the two hours I was present.

A MARSH TIT was unusual in scrub below the main car park, whilst Jays were again much in evidence (12+ flying to and fro gathering acorns) and 4 COAL TITS were together in the main wood above Incombe Valley.

A single Yellowhammer passed over, 14 Meadow Pipits and two local Great Tits. Top Scrub was particularly uninspiring with yet again not a single warbler in sight - and no thrushes either.

(1415-1600 hours)

Wilstone Reservoir is now at the lowest I have ever seen it with the mud in the SW quadrant the most expansive on record and the water in that sector in great danger of drying up completely. There was little evidence of any new arrivals and in fact, the large European Golden Plover flock of recent weeks had disappeared. I undertook a complete inventory of the site and in doing so located a juvenile GREATER SCAUP. However, I couldn't believe myself on this one, firstly because I had previously written it off and secondly because of all of the current controversy surrounding the Marlow flock (see images of putative Greater and Lesser Scaups on Uploaded Images Files on Bucks Bird Club Website). I did not dare put it out, following my comments reference the Marlow birds, and summonsed a second opinion from Mike Campbell and Joan Thompson (both observers I knew would be close at hand and without commitment). Mike of course came armed with his video camera and took a lengthy piece of film (watch his highlighted edits at and I also contacted David Bilcock who I can always rely on to get something of a good record shot at least (see his images above as well as two stills from Mike's video sequence). I was totally convinced that the bird was a juvenile Greater Scaup but found the circumstances barely conceivable after events of the previous 24 hours.

Anyway, here's the documentation:

GREATER SCAUP (juvenile)
I discovered a juvenile whilst click-counting the Coot flock just after 1420 hours. It was showing extremely well in the extreme NE end of the reservoir and was feeding alone but in close accompaniment of the Coot. It was occasionally joined by the odd drake Tufted Duck and male and female Northern Pochard and was slightly larger than Tufted Duck but with a noticeably wider and more spatulate-shaped bill, dark grey in colour with the dark nail restricted to the tip. The head was large and rounded and the neck long with no hint whatsoever of any tuft at the rear of the crown, with a clearly evident pale crescentic area of pale feathers around the ear-covert area (extending down to the lower part of the face) and buffish-white extensive patches at either side of the base of the bill (but significantly not forming a thick blaze over the top of the bill on the forehead). It was also much warmer (paler brown) in body colouration (than female Tufted Duck), with warm brown sides but a dark brown head and neck. When roll-preening, its belly and under-carriage was seen to be gleaming white. It had a very dull brownish-yellow eye, typical of juvenile Aythyas, and obvious grey legs when preening. The mantle was very dark brown but interspersed with a few new grey vermiculated feathers, several of these also bearing through on the fore-flanks as well as on the scapulars. In flight, the wing was seen to be broader than Tufted Duck but very similar in pattern, with a striking white bar across the secondaries and primaries petering out to grey in the outermost two primaries. It had a very unique diving ritual too - leaping right out of the water when diving - quite unlike that of the technique preferred by Tufted Ducks

And now for the other birds encountered -:

(43 species)

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (3)
Continental Cormorant (21)
Grey Heron (6)
Mute Swan (18 adults)
Atlantic Canada Goose (30)
Mallard (76)
Gadwall (18 including 12 drakes)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (3 present including an adult drake now maturing out of eclipse)
Northern Shoveler (156)
Eurasian Wigeon (215)
Common Teal (338)
Pochard (121)
Tufted Duck (72)

Red Kite (2)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (female flew south over)
Common Kestrel (male)

Common Pheasant (male, with 9 more feeding in a field south of Tringford)
Moorhen (63 including 25 together near the hide)
Coot (382)
Lapwing (65)
DUNLIN (1 juvenile still)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 feeding on the south shore)
COMMON SNIPE (increase to 9 birds)

Black-headed Gull (102)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (7 including a juvenile)

Woodpigeon (37)
*SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT (the two birds still present between the Jetty and Cemetery Corner)
Pied Wagtails (37 feeding in the large field immediately north of the new overflow)
Wren (3)
Dunnock (2)
European Robin (4 in the Drayton Wood)
Mistle Thrush (2)
Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits
Magpie (1)
Jackdaw (18 by Wilstone Great farm; 36 in field by Cemetery Corner and 102 near Little Tring)
Rook (15 by Little Tring)
Carrion Crow (6)
Common Starling (7 in trees behind car park)
Chaffinch (1 over)

Sunday, 18 October 2009


This morning the juv Dunlin and a Ringed Plover were on the mud to the right of the hide. I also had three Bramblings fly over the meadow behind the hide. Two SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPITS were between the North Corner and the jetty and when I got to the jetty Ian Williams and Mike Campbell were there and told me about a third Rock Pipit and a possible group of five that had flown over. There was also a pair of Pintail by the spit (Roy Hargreaves).



In what has been an exceptional autumn for this species at the reservoirs, with at least six individuals involved, THREE were recorded yesterday afternoon.

Roy Hargreaves alerted us all to the presence of two birds early in the afternoon, after he watched both birds feeding close to the Jetty on the east side of the reservoir. Dave Bilcock was quick on the scene and located the third bird in exactly the same area. Fifteen minutes later and Mike Campbell and I joined DB, the two birds being quickly located halfway along the East Bank. They were typically mobile being regularly shifted from pillar to post by an array of fishermen, dog walkers, general public on the mud and joggers. Fortunately, in a moment of quietness, the three of us enjoyed excellent views for five minutes as the two fed in the NE corner, eeking out Craneflies and other grubs from the scant vegetation growing out of the concrete bank.

The third bird had been flushed and had flown out on to the central muddy ridge out from the spit but after the two birds keeping close together had been additionally flushed again and had flown off east towards the fields, I relocated the singleton showing fantastically at just 25 yards range in the bay just south of the jetty.

The amount of variation in this autumn's Rock Pipits at Wilstone has been remarkable, with the initial long-staying bird of a few weeks back having just a pale eye-ring. Yesterday's three individuals all had an invariable amount of white on the lores and above the eye. One was particularly well-marked with quite an obvious whitish supercilium, whilst the other two had just like a short arc of white behind the eye and a diffuse line to the bill. The amount of dark 'washing' on the underparts is very variable between individuals too, but generally brownish in colour (beneath the noticeable streaking, particularly down towards the flanks). All three birds were very white on the lower vent and undertail-coverts.

The bill colour of all three birds was near-identical, being predominantly dark but with some warmth to the lower mandible. They also shared the dark brown leg colour.

It was virtually impossible to see the critical outer tail feather pattern (enabling unequivocal separation of autumn littoralis from petrosus) and the intrinsic variation that exists between both adults and first-winters of all of the pipit species further complicates the matter of racial identification. However, of all inland birds trapped or seen tail-stretching, all have been undoubted littoralis and I remain of the opinion that it is only Scandinavian birds that are undertaking this annual overland migration to wintering grounds in NW France and in the SW of Britain.

Wilstone Reservoir last night also yielded a juvenile DUNLIN and 2 RINGED PLOVERS as well as my first winter thrushes - 30 REDWING, 3 Song Thrush and 7 Continental Common Blackbirds being present in the small Poplar wood on the east bank towards dusk

Another good vizmig morning on the Ivinghoe Hills

Another good mornings passage, haven't added up the numbers yet as carried out a co-ordinated count in 15 minute blocks. With much assistance, and pleasant company of David Bilcock and Rob Hill. Chaffinch's were invading, particularly early on with over 150 in first 15 minutes before sunrise. Hundreds of Redwing over but not massive flocks and not the thousands of late.

A single RING OUZEL 'chacked' briefly from the top scrub but not seen.

A BARN OWL near Long Marston on the way to the hills this morning (Mike Wallen).

Friday, 16 October 2009

Yet another ROCK PIPIT and a very late HOBBY

There was a SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT by the jetty this morning which flew off just after 8am over the poplars in Cemetery Corner. Otherwise one/two GREEN SANDPIPERS and a Chinese Water Deer.

Also had a juvenile HOBBY circling over the house in Tring this morning - checking back through recent HBC reports this date is actually not the latest for the area. However, I did check very carefully to make sure it wasn't something else! (Roy Hargreaves)

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Nothing as spectacular as 15 Common Scoter at Wilstone this morning. One male and two female COMMON GOLDENEYES were newly arrived. Otherwise a Lesser Redpoll, two Green Sandpipers, about 70 Golden Plover and c300 Redwings were the highlights (Roy Hargreaves)

Amazing sight at Ivinghoe

During a vigmigging episode this morning, along with large numbers of REDWINGS (3,000+), Mike Wallen watched a flock of at least 15 COMMON SCOTERS fly SW over the escarpment - a most incredible sight and record. They were almost certainly the 19 COMMON SCOTERS that later dropped into Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Another excellent day on the Hills - high REDWING passage


Another prime day for diurnal bird migration. A very light NE wind continued with high cloud bearing a few 'blue' breaks and temperatures of 13 degrees C. I spent the morning up Ivinghoe Hills viz-migging and was highly rewarded - an excellent passage. I then walked acres of farmland in search of Lapland Bunting, Richard's Pipit, Twite and Greater Short-toed Lark


Viewed mainly from the first hump towards the Beacon and the extreme northern edge of Steps Hill, with migration ongoing throughout

Thrushes were the main proponent of passage, moving both northwest and southwest, the largest single flock being of 145 birds. REDWINGS were once again the dominant species with a total of 1,286 noted. Many flocks made landfall in 'Top Scrub' with birds 'seeping' all around in the Hawthorns, including one with a white tail. CONTINENTAL SONG THRUSHES were also in abundance with at least 22 encountered, along with 12 Common Blackbirds, just 3 FIELDFARES and 3 MISTLE THRUSHES. Two RING OUZELS were also involved with the movement, both birds landing briefly in the scrub just west of the tall Beech trees. Both birds were males.

A liquid collection of notes announced the arrival of 5 WOODLARKS from the southwest, the five short-tailed birds flying in a loose flock very low over the contour of the hills and heading east towards the transmitter, whilst Eurasian Skylarks numbered 12 (a single and parties of 4 and 7). Meadow Pipits numbered just 34.

A relatively constant passage of finches went overhead with 24 Chaffinches, 2 BRAMBLINGS, 17 Greenfinch and 1 Linnet, whilst 16 Goldfinches were in Top Scrub as well as 4 Bullfinches.

There was not a warbler to be found but 12 Jays, a COAL TIT, 9 Long-tailed Tits, a migrant GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, 3 Green Woodpeckers and a pair of COMMON STONECHATS were to be seen between the S-Bend and Incombe Hole.

A total of 353 Woodpigeons was in trees at Coombe Wood, whilst raptors overhead included two Eurasian Sparrowhawks and 5 different RED KITES (including two juveniles).


I did an extensive search of the fields west of the road where very large numbers of birds are feeding. The stubble field at the far west (at SP 955 144) is in superb condition and full of food, whilst many Skylarks were also favouring the ploughed field adjacent. Species noted were as follows -:

Woodpigeon (190)
Meadow Pipits (85)
Eurasian Skylark (133+)
LINNET (157)

(1330-1500 hours)

Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (6)
Mute Swan (14)
Gadwall (17)
Wigeon (117)
Common Teal (336)
Shoveler (153)
Pochard (32)
PINTAIL (just 1 located)
Greater Scaup x Tufted Duck hybrid (female-type)
Tufted Duck (144)
Coots (403 including at least one piebald bird)

Lapwing (311)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (147 roosting on mud)
RINGED PLOVER (2 in NW corner)
GREEN SANDPIPER (2 near hide)

LITTLE OWLS (2 on fence)


Whilst working in Ashridge Forest (Herts) yesterday at 14.55 I noted 4 COMMON CROSSBILLS heading S low over the canopy just N of the turning for Monument Drive, calling as they went. I also heard a MARSH TIT there. There were many REDWINGS in the treetops particularly around Ashridge College late morning, here there were also very high numbers of GOLDCRESTS and GREAT TITS, the Great Tits seeming extremely inquisitive with up to 5 birds at a time coming to within 3 feet of me when I made a 'pishing' sound. I could hear BUZZARDS 'mewing' here & also saw 2 beautiful SMALL COPPERS on the golf course, a larger duller individual chasing a smaller, more brightly coloured but damaged one. The smaller one 'quivered' its wings whenever it landed whilst the larger one crawled up behind it each time. Also lots of splendid FALLOW DEER stags where strutting their stuff, particularly on the field surrounded by forest S from the college, it appeared this area is one of the main 'rutting' areas (Dan Forder).

REDWINGS galore - 13 October

It was one of those awesome days on the hill this morning, when, once things got moving, it was an incredible experience.

Looking at the weather yesterday, the overnight forecast and the forecast for early morning I suspected that passage might be quite good, and indeed that's how things turned out.

The sun rose, beautifully at just before 7.30, I noted the first REDWING flock about 10 minutes later, there were none pre-sunrise that I could see/ hear. All flocks passed well to the South of the Beacon, passing over Steps Hill and slightly further to the South.

The flocks gradually became larger in size and the quantity intensified with a huge movement between about 8.15 and 9.00. By 9.00 c6000 had passed over. From 9.00 things slowed dramatically and by about 9.15, it was if someone had turned the tap off again.

Many of the flocks were passing over several hundred metres over the top of the hill, and I suspect they may have been invisible at lower levels ? After 9.00 some flocks were landing on the hill, a behaviour not really noted early on, and were clearly looking for somewhere to roost and feed, a pattern observed previously.

A total of 6,550 by the time I really had to go at 9.30.

This movement has been evident across many parts of the Country, I understand (Mike Wallen)

Saturday, 10 October 2009

More ROCK PIPITS at Wilstone

A good morning's birding, but somewhat hampered on the hills by the cloud that rolled in and out. I spent over two hours on Steps Hill and the Beacon, much in the company of David Bilcock. Here we witnessed the first real arrival of REDWING ( c90 ), and amongst other typical Autumn fayre, highlights were a Common Snipe very low over and our first FIELDFARE.

A brief call at Startop's End Reservoir produced a couple of Grey Wagtails. I then moved on to Wilstone Reservoir where in the jetty area where I discovered two SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPITS feeding together. They were very mobile and skittish, and after only a short time they were both flushed by a jogger. One bird took off and flew right over the cemetery and was heading for Startop's whilst the other fortunately landed by the jetty and allowed a few other observers (including Steve Rodwell and Charlie Jackson ) to get on to it. This was then flushed and took off high into the sky, proceeded right across the reservoir, cleared the Poplars and flew off strongly SW into Bucks. Both birds were clearly different to last week's bird, one of these being really quite bright (Mike Wallen).

Also of note at Wilstone Reservoir today, 5 PINTAIL, the RINGED PLOVER, a long-billed 'alpina' DUNLIN, 7 COMMON SNIPE, 168 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER, a juvenile HERRING GULL, the 2 LITTLE OWLS and two Grey Wagtails (Lee Evans & Steve Rodwell)

First real push of REDWING

The DUNLIN seems to have moved from the spit in front of the jetty to the lagoon to the right of the hide. Green Sandpiper still about, circa 50 Golden Plover on the jetty spit. No sign of any Little Egrets for the first time in quite a while.

There was also a flock of about 40 REDWINGS on the Dry Canal hedge (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

We Are Golden - We Are Golden - more and more GOLDEN PLOVERS arrive........and RUDDY SHELDUCKS return too


Well we needed rain and we certainly got plenty of it today - all afternoon and evening in fact. The wind veered more west too, keeping temperatures down. Fortunately, I had completed a full inventory of the reservoirs before it got too bad to look. Once again, wildfowl were the order of the day, a rise in Dabchicks and a large arrival of European Golden Plovers.

TRING RESERVOIRS (1200-1400 hours)


Great Crested Grebe (17)
Little Grebe (6 now together by Drayton Bank)
Continental Cormorant (27)
Grey Heron (3)
Mute Swans (13)
**RUDDY SHELDUCK (the adult pair present on Wilstone in August and which had spent several weeks on Dunstable Sewage Farm returned today and were showing well in the SW sector early afternoon and were present until early evening when flushed by dogs)

Gadwall (19)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (5 still, all roosting on the bund between the Jetty and Drayton Bank)
Northern Shoveler (116)
Eurasian Wigeon (85)
Common Teal (311)
Pochard (44)
Tufted Duck (73)
Coot (319)

RINGED PLOVER (2 still present on bund)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER (massive increase with 176 now present)
Lapwing (411)
DUNLIN (1 first-winter still present on bund)

SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT (still present on bank near Jetty)


Great Crested Grebe (3 including a first-winter)
Little Grebe (massive increase - 12+ present including an adult still feeding young - presumably relocating birds from the quarry)
Continental Cormorant (15)
Grey Heron (8)
LITTLE EGRET (1 fishing along shoreline in SE corner)
Mute Swan (1)
*MANDARIN DUCKS (5 present - 3 drakes and 2 females - favouring the overhanging vegetation on the south shore)
Mallard (17)
Common Teal (24)
Shoveler (4)
Tufted Duck (24)
RUDDY DUCK (1 immature drake)
Coot (76)
Moorhen (22)

Common Kingfisher (1)
Goldcrest (singing male)


Great Crested Grebe (3)
Mute Swan (10)
Canada Geese (4)
Common Teal (3)
Northern Pochard (51)
Tufted Duck (43)
Coot (145)


Almost birdless apart from 4 Great Crested Grebes, a Mute Swan and 2 Tufted Ducks


Mute Swans (48 adults - JT later had 50)
Eurasian Wigeon (8)
Tufted Duck (5)
Pochard (4)
Coot (5)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (25)


Virtually birdless apart from 7 Little Grebes, 25 Tufted Ducks and 2 Northern Pochard.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Winter's Coming - EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS arrive


A very wet day. In fact, the first real rain in many weeks and most welcome. Very warm also, especially for early October, with temperatures reaching 20 degrees C. A few dry interludes, particularly late in the day.

(1530 hours)

Great Crested Grebes (17)
Little Grebes (5)
Mute Swan (just 12)
Gadwall (19)
Common Teal (253)
Shoveler (96)
Pochard (82)
DUNLIN (1 still present)
RINGED PLOVER (2 on bund)
Lapwings (382)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (fresh arrivals with 47 roosting on the mud)



Visited Startops yesterday at 1600 hrs and was surprised by the sudden appearance at 1615 of a flock of approx 50 BARN SWALLOWS. They spent some time flying low over the water apearing to be drinking then drifted off to Marsworth (Roger Merrison)

The 'Piebald' Coot

With very few gulls present at Wilstone Reservoir this evening (Sunday 4 October) I resorted to looking at the Coots. Amongst the large number present off the car park steps was the piebald individual, previously present on Tringford. The above pictures don't really show how distinctive the white feathers are on the head and breast and make it look like a moulting juvenile. A 1W/female Red-crested Pochard was also present amongst the coots. (Dave Bilcock)



46 Mute Swans were on the marsh along with 9 Mandarins and small numbers of Wigeon. Two Red-crested Pochard were on the lake and small numbers of Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and a single Teal. 5 Common Buzzard and 1 Red Kite flew over; also 2 REDWINGS (Paul)

Sunday sightings

No noticeable passage over the hills (not anticipated due to the wind ! ) except for a few bits and bobs. On Ivinghoe Beacon there were 3 Wheatear on the South East slope, 2 of these at least were 'Greenlanders' with one being a stunning male. Also 2 Stonechat here, 2 Common Raven around and the usual Pipits and Buntings etc.

At Wilstone Reservoir the SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT was showing very well by the jetty until at least 10am (Mike Wallen)

Saturday, 3 October 2009

ROCK PIPIT still present


A very blustery day with strong westerly winds and overcast skies. No new arrivals.

As Mike Collard predicted, a wave of dead Badgers, with two in the Tring Reservoirs area, with one almost opposite the sewage farm and another in the middle of the sharp S-bend section just along from the car park at Wilstone.

(1000-1200 hours; with Mike & Rose Collard, Ed Griffiths, Steve Rodwell)

The SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT was showing very well in the extreme NE corner of the reservoir, favouring the weeds growing out of the upper part of the concrete bank. Despite the fierce wind, it was still feeding and I watched it eat a Crane Fly and several small grubs. Despite showing well once out in open view, it was very skulking once in amongst the weeds. It was a particularly olive-toned individual, with a striking white eye-ring, orange-toned lower mandible and brownish legs.

The single DUNLIN was still present on the spit between the Jetty and Drayton Bank, as were two RINGED PLOVERS, whilst COMMON SNIPE have now increased to six.

Mute Swans have decreased further to just 12 birds, PINTAIL remain at 4 and Lapwings have increased again to 289.

Both LITTLE OWLS were once again roosting on the fence visible from the bank looking towards Wilstone village

Friday, 2 October 2009


Late this afternoon a SCANDINAVIAN ROCK PIPIT was present near the jetty at Wilstone, either feeding along the shore or hiding amongst the vegetation high up the bank (phone'scoped picture above). Also present was a Dunlin, 2 Ringed plovers and a green sandpiper (Dave Bilcock).


First thing there was a juvenile DUNLIN on the spit in front of the jetty. There were also six Snipe at the base of the spit and a Green Sandpiper on the bay between the hide and the old overflow. Also there were seven Little Egrets, but three flew off before 7:15 (Roy Hargreaves)



I then joined Mike Collard on Ivinghoe Hills where on the slope to the SE of the Beacon we enjoyed excellent views of a migrant party of 5 COMMON STONECHATS (including two males) and 3 NORTHERN WHEATEARS. One of the latter was a brightly marked GREENLAND WHEATEAR. A RED KITE also passed overhead (Lee Evans)

Earlier, Mike Wallen had spent a very pleasant few hours on the hills this morning. During the first hour and a half on 'migration watch' which was really disappointing for numbers today, a few Siskin, a Redpoll and one Great Spotted Woodpecker arrived. Then two good flocks arrived simultaneously, first was 3 WHITE WAGTAILS which flew through the gap on Steps, affording good views ( from above ! ) and then 4 Mistle Thrush went over.