Thursday, 31 December 2009

BITTERN tonight at WTR

One BITTERN flew in at 16:25 from right of hide at Weston Turville Reservoir

Also 4 Water Rails, 2 Common Kingfishers, a Little Egret, 4 Shoveler, 3 Gadwall and a Little Grebe (Graham Smith)

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Birding over the festive period

Yesterday went to Wendover Woods in the morning. Only birds of note were 2 COMMON CROSSBILLS heard flying over.

With Warren and Dave yesterday the Marsworth BITTERN showed quite well opposite the hide.

The gull roost is still quite low in numbers, although there have been 2 Herring Gulls in the last 2 days and 32 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Sunday evening. This morning only birds of note around Tring Reservoirs was a male PINTAIL and the COMMON REDSHANK at Wilstone, and the female Red-crested Pochard at Startops (Steve Rodwell)

Ruddy Shelduck again

28 December: A female Ruddy Shelduck of unknown origin was at Wilstone early this morning.
4 Goldeneyes were also present (3 males and a female) (Dave Bilcock)

Weston Turville BITTERNS - 27 December

Excellent and prolonged views of two BITTERNS this afternoon at WTR. At one stage both birds were seen together. One bird walked into the main channel at about 16.15 and the second bird flew over its head into the reeds between the channel and the reservoir. The first bird stood in the channel skywatching for about 2 minutes before flying off into another channel out of sight. The second bird then appeared in the channel and spent about 4 minutes, also skywatching, before flying into the reeds. At about 4.50 something spooked a Grey Heron and a BITTERN out of the main reedbed and they flew off to the reeds on the opposite side of the reservoir from the (new) hide. The Bittern returned about two minutes later and flew into the reeds just to the left of the channel at the (new) hde end. Also several Water Rails - three were seen in 30 seconds at one point. A Brown Hare walked out into the cut area presumably to feed (Dave Parmenter)


27 December: The BITTERN put in a late performance this evening at 16:20. Initially it was sat low in the reeds along the south bank, opposite the hide, before flying into the reeds nearer the SW corner (Dave Bilcock).

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Two BITTERNS now at Weston Turville

Christmas Day: First BITTERN flew in low from far right of hide at 16:15 to roost in deep reeds to front left of hide. While watching excellent views of feeding and bathing Water Rail in unfrozen stream flowing through cut out in front of hide, a second BITTERN rose from the far edge of the reeds to the right of hide at 16:25 and flew to roost close to 1st bird. An added benefit of walking off the Christmas dinner...Pete & Ginny Weisner

Friday, 25 December 2009

Happy Xmas to all of my browsers

Chris Williams did very well in fading light to get these two record shots of the GREAT WHITE EGRET present briefly on 20 December.
Meanwhile on Christmas Day, both wintering EURASIAN BITTERNS are still present - at Marsworth Reservoir and Weston Turville Reservoir

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Complete whiteout - and a male HEN HARRIER

An adult male HEN HARRIER lingered about the east bank of Wilstone Reservoir this afternoon, scattering Meadow Pipits, Redwings and Common Blackbirds. It was last seen at about 1545 hours, when it was thought to have roosted in the reedbed.

Another BITTERN - at Weston Turville

EURASIAN BITTERN showing in cut in front of hide at Weston Turville Reservoir 14.20 today (Peter Garner)

BITTERN still on Marsworth

22 December: It was good to see the Bittern this afternoon still hanging in at Marsworth. I had intended to go to the gull roost after last nights effort in the snow failed to produce anything of note (although there were 92 Common Gulls present) but after skidding down the canal bridge near the mill even Wilstone Reservoir seemed like a long way to go. Most of the reed at Marsworth is flattened by the snow (hopefully it will recover when the snow melts). It is quite a sight and certainly seemed to confuse many of the Corn Buntings that couldn't make up their mind where to roost. Any bird roosting in the reeds would be very exposed. The Bittern showed up at 4.22pm on the edge of the reeds in the S.E. Corner. It then proceeded to do a lap of the reservoir before landing in the sallows out from the overflow (Steve Rodwell)

The first BRAMBLING returns to a Tring garden

18 December: Unsurprisingly with the snow the number of birds feeding in the garden has increased.Today there were 80+ Chaffinches in the garden and, at long last, a female BRAMBLING - my first in the garden this winter. The 10+ Blackbirds were also voraciously attacking any berries they could find or Sunflower hearts as an alternative (Roy Hargreaves)


18 December: The BITTERN went to roost this afternoon at 4.12pm. I didn't see exactly where it flew up from but it went to roost in the same area as usual. Earlier I drew a blank in the gull roost at Wilstone. In my garden at Lakeside, Tring there has been a female BLACKCAP since last Saturday (Steve Rodwell)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sunday birding - 20 December - GREAT WHITE EGRET

Late morning I gave Warren Claydon a hand with the Webs count. There were no surprises and in fact the duck numbers were quite low. Only 3 Common Goldeneye at Wilstone and the female Red-crested Pochard was at Startop's End. The most interesting sighting was 6 Lesser Redpolls briefly by the carpark at Wilstone. I was determined to find a Med Gull at the gull roost this afternoon, but again Black-headed Gull numbers were relatively low compared to a week ago.

Fortunately I was saved from another blank by Dave Bilcock's call about the GREAT WHITE EGRET (flew across Marsworth Reservoir and landed very briefly in tree at Tringford before disappearing north). The bird never quite made it to Wilstone Reservoir, and I saw it briefly from the car quite high up doubling back to Marsworth along the stretch of road going to Wilstone cemetry. Remarkably the EURASIAN BITTERN put in a very late appearance for a number of observers, going to roost in reeds on the south bank of Marsworth Reservoir about 4.30pm (Steve Rodwell)

Monday, 14 December 2009

BITTERN again tonight - worrying low number of roosting CORN BUNTINGS



Dave Bilcock, Roy Hargreaves and Mike Campbell all witnessed a flock of 6 adult WHOOPER SWANS on Wilstone early on Saturday morning. They flew in at 0830 hours and landed in front of the reedbed at the Cemetery Corner end, where they were photographed (DB) and settled for at least 15 minutes. I left home shortly after Dave texted me, but got caught up in a diversionary route, as the westbound A41 was closed.

By 0910 hours (when I arrived), the herd were nowhere to be found and had departed

Compensation came in the form of a pair of NORTHERN PINTAIL (roosting with 51 Shoveler on the Drayton Bank), 2 drake COMMON GOLDENEYE, the continuing BLACK-TAILED GODWIT and two COMMON REDSHANK and a juvenile Herring Gull.

There were just 5 Mute Swans present on Wilstone, along with 16 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Dabchicks.

(with Dave Bilcock)

9 Mute Swans (including a first-winter), 3 Great Crested Grebes, the female Red-crested Pochard from College Lake, 47 Shoveler (disturbed off Marsworth), 1 Wigeon, 11 Common Teal and 1 drake Pochard. A flock of 38 REDWING flew east.


19 Mute Swans (with 2 first-winters), 24 Gadwall, 42 Wigeon, 8 Shoveler and 15 Pochard.

Walked from Wellonhead Bridge to The Wides

A single WATER RAIL is wintering. No sign of the Mandarin Ducks however.

Little Grebe (1)
Mallard (17)
Moorhen (25 including 6 first-winters)
Coot (14)

Also noted were both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Song Thrushes, 4 Mistle Thrushes, Fieldfare, 40 Redwing, 4 Great Tits and 5 Wrens.

(complete winter bird survey)

Unusually, a good crop of wildfowl present, including 1 first-winter Mute Swan, pair of Gadwall, 15 Mallard, 25 Shoveler (17 drakes and 8 females - good count for the site) and 2 Tufted Ducks, as well as 8 Great Crested Grebes (high count), 15 Coot, 11 Moorhens, 37 Black-headed Gulls and 4 Common Gulls (including a first-winter).

Passerines included 1 Song Thrush, 14 Common Blackbird, Grey Wagtail, 10 Wren, 8 European Robins, 8 Long-tailed Tits and Great Spotted Woodpecker.


Continuing cold (5 degrees C) but rather damp with light rain predominating during the afternoon.


At last - finally connected with the RUFFS !

The water level has risen even further, and has consequently become much more attractive to birds, with the entire site heaving with wildfowl and waders.

Great Crested Grebe (12)
Little Grebe (3)
Mute Swan (5)
Gadwall (22)
Common Teal (331)
Eurasian Wigeon (413)
Shoveler (71)
Tufted Duck (109)
Pochard (27)

Lapwing (450+)
RUFF (2 commuting between the south and north end)
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (still present)
Common Snipe (9)

Black-headed Gulls (1,100+)
MEDITERRANEAN GULLS (both regular adult and 2nd-winter in roost both preening on muddy islands)

(with Dave Bilcock; 1520-1615 hours)

The EURASIAN BITTERN flew from the SW corner at 1602 hours and went low below the line of the reeds before eventually landing high in the reedbed at the east end, close to the Grand Union Canal locks in Bucks. It then slowly made its way down in the reeds to sleep.

Most disconcerting was the fact that just 40 CORN BUNTINGS came in to roost. There were also 6 REED BUNTINGS.

The 14 Great Crested Grebes were still present - and 98 Shoveler feeding

Lee Evans

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Today's summary - Steve Rodwell

A very enjoyable afternoon with Don and Sandra Otter, Mike and Rose Collard and Mike Campbell, amongst others. The 2nd winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present in the Wilstone Gull roost as was the 'White' Back-headed Gull. There were also 2 RUFF (different than those photographed recently) and the BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still present. The EURASIAN BITTERN was at Marsworth again, showing well on some flattened reed on the far bank about 4.10pm. Again it flew to roost in the Bucks sector. Sandra also saw some movement in the reeds not far from where the Bittern was roosting, and there may well be a second bird present. As we left 2 COMMON REDSHANKS called from Startops and earlier there was a female PINTAIL on this reservoir. Yesterday there were at least 2 Cetti's Warbler singing at Marsworth and one this evening.

BITTERN showing well

The EURASIAN BITTERN appeared at 1610 hours this evening and showed well (per Steve Rodwell)

MEDITTERANEAN GULL makes rare daytime visit to Marsworth Reservoir

This morning Steve Todwell found the second-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL at Marsworth, which made a change from struggling to find it in the roost most evenings. Also enabled me to get a much better picture than the usual blurry roost shot (Dave Bilcock).

BITTERN is back

SATURDAY 12 DECEMBER: This evening the gull roost at Wilstone was quite disturbed from nearby shooting. One second winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosted that was seen by a number of observers. Together with Mike Campbell and Joan at Marsworth we tried for the EURASIAN BITTERN. About 10 minutes before it was dark, Mike picked it out on the opposite bank, standing at the front of the reedbed in full view. Just before dusk the Bittern flew and roosted in the Bucks section. At least 2 Cetti's Warblers singing and several Water Rails (per Steve Rodwell)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

LITTLE EGRETS rise in number

Joan Thompson counted a record 26 LITTLE EGRETS flighting out from the 'new' Stocker's Lake roost early this morning. There were also 4 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS present.

Another Saturday morning - and another brief-staying rarity (or rarities in this case, with a flock of WHOOPERS)

A herd of 6 adult WHOOPER SWANS flew in to Wilstone Reservoir at 0830 hours this morning and remained for less than 20 minutes before flying off (Dave Bilcock, Roy Hargreaves and Mike Campbell only).
The BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still present (photographed above - DB), along with the two adult COMMON REDSHANKS, 200+ European Golden Plovers and a fresh pair of NORTHERN PINTAILS roosting on the Drayton Bank.
The female Red-crested Pochard was on Startop's End Reservoir (DB, LGRE)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Med in roost

The adult winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosted on Wilstone this evening (Steve Rodwell)

Two RUFF early on but not later


A much colder day, with temperatures struggling to reach 7 degrees C. A beautiful day though, with clear blue skies, all day sunshine and a cold NE breeze. Once again, I found myself back at Wilstone, where Roy had discovered two RUFF early on, roosting on the remaining section of spit visible from the jetty. They were not be found however.

(Joan Thompson and Mike Campbell also checking)

Checked all of the available mud on Wilstone. The BLACK-TAILED GODWIT was still present close to the Drayton Bank Hide, there were two COMMON REDSHANKS in the same area, a total of 14 COMMON SNIPE, 225 Lapwing and 473+ EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS.

A female COMMON GOLDENEYE was in 'Boathouse Corner', the juvenile GREATER SCAUP was in the SW quadrant, with Great Crested Grebes still numbering 12. Otherwise, very much the same as yesterday.


Great Crested Grebes (2), Mute Swan (6 adults), Common Teal (1 drake), Shoveler (4), Tufted Duck (31), Pochard (1 drake), Moorhen (12) and Redwing (8 in Hawthorns by sharp bend).


Reed-cutting for the Bitterns in progress and new rides being created. Little of note other than 14 Great Crested Grebes and an adult Mute Swan still. No Shoveler !

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

No sign of yesterday's Ruff but a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT in replacement


A much milder day than of late, with temperatures reaching 9 degrees C. It was very misty and drizzly early on but this gave way to clearer conditions, with a slight SW breeze. It remained dry until darkness fell.

After it transpired that an adult RUFF had been present on Wilstone yesterday afternoon (photographed from the hide), I endeavoured to try and relocate it, and visited early afternoon.........

(1230-1350 hours)

The water level on Wilstone had increased dramatically, totally submerging much of the mud and vegetation exposed since July. This had attracted large numbers of dabbling duck back again, especially Teal and Mallard, as well as large numbers of Lapwing.

There was no sign of yesterday's Ruff but I did find a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. The full list below....

Great Crested Grebe (12)
Little Grebe (4)
Continental Cormorant (15)
Mute Swan (just 6 adults remaining)
Greylag Geese (62)
Mallard (56)
Gadwall (18)
Shoveler (94)
Eurasian Wigeon (411)
Common Teal (368+)
Pochard (22)
GREATER SCAUP (juvenile still present)
Tufted Duck (77)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (adult drake feeding off the spit)
Common Pheasants (2 males and a female feeding out in the open)
Lapwing (374+)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (638 click-counted)
*BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (one showing well and feeding on 'new' pool to left of hide)
Common Snipe (6)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 still present in the 'cut-off pool' in the NW corner

Meadow Pipits (8 on mud)
Redwing (18)
Fieldfare (1)

Adult RUFF at Wilstone

The RUFF in the centre of these three images was photographed at Wilstone Reservoir yesterday afternoon but I could not locate it today (LGRE). The photos were taken by Lucy Flowers.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Three MEDITERRANEAN GULLS this evening

This evening with Dave, Charlie, Ian, Mike and Rose Collard, there were 3 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS in the roost, plus the 'white' B.h.Gull. The med gulls included 2 second winters and an adult. Unfortunately the first winter was playing hard to get and has failed to materialise the last 2 evenings (I have never seen the 3 different age groups together). The second winter that Dave saw just before it was dark is a very interesting bird. It was seen several weeks before and is quite difficult to pick out, as the primaries have an unusual amount of black on them. There was also one second-winter Herring Gull (Steve Rodwell)

Friday, 4 December 2009

Another good Black-headed Gull roost

Both SMEW were still present late this afternoon, the male a real challenge to find as it was diving in amongst the roosting BHGs. The roost contained 2 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS (a new adult and the regular 1W) as well as the albinistic Black-headed Gull (pictured above) (Dave Bilcock).

SMEW bonus of colder weather

Redhead and drake SMEWS (Martin Parr)

Another overnight frost and a clear, bright, sunshine-filled day, with temperatures reaching a high of 6 degrees C. The raw westerly wind had dropped and had been replaced by a light SW, making it much more pleasant to bird than yesterday. Highlight of the day was the two SMEW that Roy Hargreaves found on his early morning walk round.

(1130-1430 hours; with Ian Williams, Mike Campbell, John Gearing, Geoff Young and others)

**SMEWS (the first of the year and first record since a redhead on Wilstone on 16 December 2008. Like that bird, this pair were found by Roy, seen later by MC and still present when I arrived - the drake spending a fair bit of time preening as well as diving and the adult female keeping largely close to the Drayton Bank and both easily visible from the bank by the car park steps)

Great Crested Grebes (12)
Little Grebe (2)
Continental Cormorant (23 roosting)
Grey Heron (3)
Mute Swan (10, including 1 first-winter)
Greylag Geese (62)
Gadwall (9)
Shoveler (27)
Eurasian Wigeon (317)
Common Teal (96)
Northern Pochard (28)
GREATER SCAUP (still present with Tufted Ducks in SW quadrant, viewable only from hide)
Tufted Duck (101)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (pair in 'Boathouse Corner' and an adult drake in the 'cut-off' pool in NW corner)
GOOSANDER (redhead present just briefly mid morning - Mike Campbell)
Red Kite (1 perched in tree and later hunting over fields near car park)
Moorhen (66)
Coot (412)
Lapwing (416)
GREEN SANDPIPER (1 in the 'cut-off' pool)
COMMON REDSHANK (mobile bird still around, moving between NW corner and mud in Cemetery Corner)
Common Snipe (2+)
Black-headed Gull (53)
Common Gull (8)

Woodpigeon (57 just east of reservoir in fields and a further 109 in the crop field opposite the Cemetery)
LITTLE OWL (sat on its usual fence)
Meadow Pipits (20 in grassy field east of reservoir)
Grey Wagtail (1)
Wren (1 on bank and another in Poplar Wood on east bank)
SONG THRUSH (5 in the East Bank Hedgerow)
Mistle Thrush (1 in full song)
Common Blackbird (marked increase, with 17 in the East Bank Hedgerow)
FIELDFARE (4 in trees along the East Bank)


Great Crested Grebes (3), Mute Swan (11 including 2 first-winters), Common Teal (4), Shoveler (1 drake), Tufted Duck (24), Pochard (3 drakes), Moorhen (12) and Coot (119).


Great Crested Grebes (4), Little Grebe (2), Grey Heron (8), Mute Swan (2 adults), Common Teal (8),Tufted Duck (31) and Coot (48)


Great Crested Grebe (16) and Shoveler (109)


Little Grebe (1)
Mute Swan (36 including 1 first-winter)
Common Teal (11)
Eurasian Wigeon (44)
Gadwall (36)
RED-CRESTED POCHARD (female on Main Lake)
Shoveler (6)
Northern Pochard (36)
Tufted Duck (30)
Coot (44)
Redwing (16)


Little Grebe (6), Tufted Duck (27), Moorhen (6), Lesser Black-backed Gull (6 adults), Common Gull (8) and Redwing (1)

The total number of COOTS in the area = 623 birds

A drop in temperatures bring first SMEW of year

This morning the juvenile GREATER SCAUP was still on the lagoon to the right of the hide and a vociferous CETTI'S WARBLER was in the reed bed.

The undoubted highlight however was the pair of SMEW that I found. Initially I saw the redhead (presumed female), and phoned David Bilcock to alert him and ask him to put word out - it was quite cold this morning so I figured texting would take me even longer than normal with gloves on. After alerting David I then carried on checking the duck, and trying to relocate the Smew and when I refound it there was a drake with it. When I called David again he was a little concerned until I reassured him that it was only to let him know that there was also a second bird.

There was also a Green Sandpiper on the inlet to the left of the hide and a drake Common Goldeneye about. The water level also appears to be rising fairly quickly at the moment, but fortuntaely these Smew will not be able to swim into the bushes like the last one I found did.

Mike Campbell also texted me about a redhead GOOSANDER at 8:50, but I would think that this bird flew in after I had moved on from the jetty as I would be surprised if I had missed that (Roy Hargreaves)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

December Counting

CORN BUNTINGS are back roosting for the winter in Marsworth Reedbed and Northern Shovelers galore are feeding there (pictures by kind courtesy of Mike Lawrence, one of the UK's foremost bird photographers)


A 12mph Westerly wind carried very cold conditions to our area today with temperatures struggling to just 5 degrees C. It remained dry but was extremely sodden underfoot, with heavy cloud cover.

I carried out my first December counts at the reservoirs - most pleasing was the return of roosting CORN BUNTINGS on Marsworth........


Great Crested Grebe (now 18 present, an exceptional gathering on this reservoir in winter)
Northern Shoveler (133 busy 'shovelling' close to the reedbed and affording fantastic views)
*CORN BUNTINGS (46 came in to roost in the reedbed)


Great Crested Grebe (2)
Mute Swan (8)
Gadwall (1 drake)
Common Teal (28)
Shoveler (8)
Tufted Duck (36)
Pochard (11)
Coot (increase to 173)

(1545-1615 hours)

Great Crested Grebe (11)
Mute Swan (12)
Greylag Geese (57)
Atlantic Canada Geese (48)
Common Teal (211)
Gadwall (22)
Eurasian Wigeon (313)
Shoveler (15)
Tufted Duck (73)
Pochard (27)
GREATER SCAUP (juvenile still present in SW quadrant)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (adult pair together, my belated first of the 'winter' at the site)
Lapwing (200+)
EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (242 roosting on central spit)

The Gull Roost

Very impressive this evening with no less than 3,289 birds in by dark, including the two regular MEDITERRANEAN GULLS (first and second-winter), the albinistic Black-headed Gull, 3,244 Black-headed Gulls in total, 37 COMMON GULLS (mostly adults) and 6 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls pre-roost.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

REDSHANK flock drop in

At Wilstone this morning, the GREATER SCAUP was still on the lagoon to the right of the hide as was a male Common Goldeneye. I also saw four Lesser Redpoll, by the cress beds, that might be the same four I saw last week by Rushy Meadow. I also saw five Common Redshank land on the lagoon by the hide - although I was by the jetty at the time (Roy Hargreaves).