Sunday, 31 January 2010

Saturday sightings

Marsworth Reservoir: Second winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL present at midday. Just before dusk Roy Hargreaves located a BARN OWL in the field behind the reservoir.

Wilstone Reservoir: 2 Little Egrets. At the gull roost we failed to locate any Med Gulls, although Roy did lock on to a PEREGRINE that flew on into Bucks.

Tringford Reservoir: 2 Siskins (Steve Rodwell).

Friday, 29 January 2010

2nd-winter MED again

Wilstone roost this evening: c4400 Black-headed Gulls, 129 Common Gulls, 1 second-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL (Steve Rodwell)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

An excellent gull roost


With a raw easterly wind blowing, temperatures dropped considerably this afternoon, and by dusk had decreased from 5 degrees to just 1.5 degrees C. Blue skies predominated, along with prolonged winter sunshine.

Did my late January counts of the Chess Valley and Tring Reservoirs, with the Wilstone gull roost highlighting..........


There was no sign of yesterday's drake Goosander on Tringford nor could I locate the three Pintail on Wilstone. In fact, duck numbers were well down in general, especially Shoveler.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR: of note were 1 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Mute Swans (including 1 first-winter), 24 Teal, 4 Shoveler, 43 Pochards and 76 Coot.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR: a further 2 adult Mute Swans and another Great Crested Grebe.

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR: a post-roost gathering of 54 CORN BUNTINGS in the tall tree on the south side. Two Great Crested Grebes back now that the ice has melted but no Shoveler.


Wildfowl numbers were well down on recent visits with just 257 Eurasian Wigeon, 184 Common Teal and 8 Shoveler, whilst Great Crested Grebes had declined to just 8. The two Little Grebes were still present, whilst roosting Cormorants numbered a high 63 and 5 COMMON GOLDENEYES included 5 adult drakes.

It was the gull roost that took my main attention and carefully 'scoping them one-by-one and click-counting between 1630 and 1700 hours revealed the presence of an outstanding 4,398 birds.

Black-headed Gulls totalled 4,222, including several already moulted into breeding plumage, along with 173 COMMON GULLS (51 immatures) and 3 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS (including an adult with some black coming through on the forehead and two second-winters). The latter constituted my first of the year.

Monday, 25 January 2010


Wilstone Reservoir held 3 PINTAILS (2 drakes) on Sunday, whilst the drake GOOSANDER was on Tringford Reservoir. The 60 or so SISKINS were still in the wood at the back of Tringford (Dave Hutchinson)


Lynne Lambert heard a CETTI'S WARBLER singing from the Wilstone reedbed at dusk on Sunday

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Drake GOOSANDER pops in

A drake GOOSANDER early morning, which Ian Williams watched fly off towards Aylesbury at 8am.

This evening the adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was present in the roost (Dave Bilcock).

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Refurbished hide overlooking Startop's

FoTR are pleased to report that the accessible hide overlooking Startopsend Reservoir has been completely refurbished and is once again back to its original condition, or even better. The hide, situated on the causeway between Startopsend and Marsworth reservoirs, had been extensively damaged through vandalism, and let us hope the refurbished hide remains in good condition for many years. The work has been funded by the Friends of Tring Reservoirs with grants from The Chiltern Conservation Board and the Rothschild Foundation with help too from The Tring Anglers and British Waterways. We would like to thank all those involved for their generous support. The work was carried out by Jon Graves Fencing.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Early RUFF and Redshank move off; a summary of today's events encroaching slightly out of area


Temperatures took a slide again and dropped by a couple of degrees (to 7 degrees C). It was also very misty again, although a cold and freshening SE wind started to set in. It remained dry. Once again, I spent my day birding locally, with just a few highlights, primarily three JACK SNIPE and a very showy 'urban' PEREGRINE.


Rooks have returned in reasonable numbers, with 42 probing the soft grassy field to the north of the rookery this morning, with 110 Black-headed Gulls loafing nearby.


Four adult Mute Swans now present on the main lake, along with 11 Embden Geese, 3 Muscovy Ducks, 22 Atlantic Canada Geese and 68 Mallards.


The North Chesham flock of Jackdaws numbered 36 today.


There was no sign of the Ruff and two Common Redshanks that Roy Hargreaves had seen standing on the ice from the Drayton Bank Hide about an hour earlier - the only waders on view being 45 Lapwing.

There was a major increase in waterfowl on the reservoir since my last visit, with much of the ice now restricted to the west shoreline in the NW corner. Counts included 13 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Little Grebe, an increase to 9 Mute Swans (including 2 first-winters which flew north and an adult and first-winter which flew in), 40 Greylag Geese, 615 Eurasian Wigeon (my highest count of the winter), 10 Gadwall, just 9 Shoveler, 302 Common Teal, 67 Tufted Ducks, 18 Northern Pochard and 5 COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 adult drakes and three females).

A single juvenile Argenteus HERRING GULL and adult Lesser Black-backed Gull were among 211 Black-headed Gulls roosting on the ice.

Nearby, 382 Woodpigeons was in the crop field opposite the Cemetery.


Shooting was in progress scattering the 70 Atlantic Canada Geese and 48 Mallard present on the lakes and the 4 Common Teal on one of the field pools. A single COMMON SNIPE and 3 JACK SNIPE provided excellent views as they flew up, whilst passerines were represented by Green Woodpecker, 5 Fieldfares and a pair of Bullfinch. A superb male Eurasian Sparrowhawk was sat nearby in a tree.

On the A41 floodmeadows just as you leave the Aston Clinton roundabout held a pair of Mute Swans.


Very quiet with 5 Grey Heron, 2 adult Mute Swans, 8 Common Teal, 2 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler and 15 Tufted Duck counted, and 17 Greylag Geese feeding in the field opposite the sewage farm.


Just 3 Mute Swans, 6 Common Teal, 6 Gadwall and 26 Pochard of interest


The main marsh was still largely frozen and fairly birdless, whilst the lake held 1 Little Grebe, the 3 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Common Teal, 38 Gadwall, the female Red-crested Pochard of suspect origin and 166 Coot (sharp decrease in numbers). A party of 28 Lapwings was present on the island.


Still largely iced over with 4 Common Teal feeding and a flock of ice-roosting gulls consisting of 194 Black-headed, 8 Common and a single adult Lesser Black-backed.


Despite a lengthy vigil, the resident pair of Common Raven failed to put in an appearance, and all that was noted was a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Bullfinch.


Another fruitless search. A male Common Stonechat - the only individual currently surviving in the area - has been present since just before Christmas but I could not find it today.


Following a call from local birder Dan Forder, I drove down to Hemel town centre, where he had discovered an adult PEREGRINE roosting on a building. I got there at about 1530 hours and the bird was still there and showing very well, roosting on the lower roof of the building to the SE of the town centre roundabout at TQ 055 063. It was clear from the visible droppings that this was a regular roost site for this beautiful bird and yet another example of the urban preferences this species has now acquired. The bird was very easy to see with the naked eye and many shoppers took an interest as I looked up at it. Dan was able to obtain an excellent selection of images, which I have reproduced above.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Additional snippets from the weekend

1 Little Egret Saturday. Up to 4 Common Goldeneye at Wilstone (3 males and 1 female) today. A Common Redshank has been present at Wilstone both days. Also at Wilstone up to 587 Wigeon (2 at Startops), 18 Gadwall at Wilstone (5 at Startops), 2 Little Grebes and 8 Great-crested Grebes. Very few Shoveler, only 7 at Tringford on Saturday. The female Red-crested Pochard was back at Startop's today as was the female Pintail (Steve Rodwell)

CETTI'S WARBLERS perhaps hit hard by ice

Small flock of Reed Buntings roosting in the reedbed this morning but Alpha male Cetti's Warbler (ring number v656616) not calling or singing and feared dead; however a brief snatch of Cettis ticking heard suggesting a survivor. Meanwhile a CETTI'S was singing at Marsworth this morning (Johne Taylor)

Adult MED GULL in roost

Two visits to Wilstone were fairly rewarding today.

This morning there were two adult Great Black-backed Gull on the ice with two adult Herring Gulls. There were also small groups of Skylarks flying about – no doubt re-orientating after the snow.

This afternoon's gull roost also proved reasonably productive with an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL swimming round in the newly exposed water. Also an adult Herring Gull – probably an argentatus = was present and two WOODCOCK flew over the car park while Steve Rodwell and I were in conversation (Roy Hargreaves)

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Thaw slowly taking place but nothing displaced


A band of heavy rain, associated with a cold front moving up on strong southerly winds, moved across the region overnight clearing the majority of the snow that had been lying since early January. The rain continued all morning before clearing away to the north and east. This gave way to rather misty conditions, with the temperature stabilising at 7 degrees C. An early indication of bird movement came in the form of 2 Common Shelduck at Tyttenhanger. As soon as the rain ceased, I made my way into the field, and birded until dusk.


A female Roe Deer had attempted to jump the fence along the access track to Down Farm and had got caught - and had broken the lower part of its front leg on the wire and was hanging by its leg wound upside down over the fence. It had clearly been there some time (perhaps overnight) and was crying out in pain. I un-snagged it from the fence and eventually managed to get it on to its feet but it was either too traumatised to walk or was so badly injured that it could not walk. It eventually sat down next to the fence, where I left two concerned walkers with it, who were going to wait for an animal veterinary surgeon to arrive.

Despite the thaw, the farmland around Down Farm, where before Christmas had held good numbers of birds, was virtually devoid of all life forms - the only species being sighted being 1 Linnet and 1 male Common Blackbird.


The main marsh was still mostly completely frozen, with just 62 Mallard in the NE corner. The main lake was completely ice-free though and held a reasonable number of birds, including an impressive number of Coots - 1 Little Grebe, 3 Great Crested Grebes (most for some period of time), just 4 adult Mute Swans, a further 38 Mallard, 10 Eurasian Wigeon, 12 Gadwall, 12 Tufted Duck, 15 Northern Pochard and the escaped female Red-crested Pochard. Coots numbered a very impressive 239.

(1300-1437 hours)

My first real opportunity to survey the birds of the reservoirs since the heavy snow fell some 10 days or so ago and disappointingly few surprises or real evidence of hard weather movement. Ian Williams had heard a COMMON REDSHANK fly over but other than that, the most interesting birds were NORTHERN PINTAIL and COMMON GOLDENEYE.

TRINGFORD RESERVOIR: totally unfrozen, wildfowl present including 2 Mute Swans, 14 Mallard, 2 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 38 Tufted Duck, 39 Northern Pochard and just 26 Coots.

STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR: still much ice covering a great proportion of this shallower basin but many more wildfowl present including 1 Grey Heron, 9 Mute Swans, 94 Mallard, 3 Eurasian Wigeon, 55 Common Teal, 37 Tufted Duck, 25 Northern Pochard, 48 Coot and 7 Moorhens.

MARSWORTH RESERVOIR: completely frozen still and totally bird-less.

WILSTONE RESERVOIR (much ice covering still, with the SW quadrant completely clear and an area surrounding the central Drayton Bank)

Great Crested Grebe (just 5 present)
Little Grebe (1 survivor)
Mute Swan (just 1 adult)
Mallard (68, but no Gadwall or Shoveler)
Eurasian Wigeon (461)
Common Teal (324)
Tufted Duck (60)
Northern Pochard (18)
Coot (489)
Common Gull (19 on ice)
Black-headed Gull (115 on ice)
Pied Wagtail (1 male)

FIELDFARE (20 in field NW of B 489, 350 yards NW of the reservoir)
REDWING (10 with the above)
Common Starling (3 with the above)

(1500-1700 hours)

Still largely frozen with little open water, although 3 Mute Swans (pair and first-winter) and 4 Mallard were by the dam. A two-hour vigil, part in accompaniment of Ian Williams, for the two wintering Bitterns proved fruitless, although at least 4 LITTLE EGRETS roosted (3 arrived at 1614 and another at 1630) and just 4 REED BUNTINGS.

There was an impressive Woodpigeon roost of at least 247 birds, with 3 adult Grey Herons on the ice (each very territorial of their own feeding areas), both Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, 1 Wren and Jay noted.

Highlight was the presence of at least 5 WATER RAILS, 3 of which were running about and feeding on the ice in front of the Susan Cowdy Hide. They became ever more active as dusk approached.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Another snowy visit to College Lake this afternoon produced a COMMON REDSHANK feeding on the main tern island on the lake, no doubt frozen out of Wilstone and the first in Buckinghamshire this year.

The feral female Red-crested Pochard is still on the completely ice-free main lake as well as a female Common Goldeneye (Rob Andrews).

Monday, 11 January 2010

Birdwatching in the snow and ice at Tring

Warren Claydon discovered a second-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL at Wilstone in the roost this evening, as well as a single Great Black-backed Gull.

Over the weekend I walked around all the reservoirs both days, and saw nothing of note. The female Pintail at Startops is extremely tame and I suspect is of captive origin. On Saturday there were 22 Mute Swans in the minute area of open water and 9 on Tringford. I was able to watch a Kingfisher only 3 metres away by lock 41, which had some ice free water (it was good to see that it did at least catch a fish). Surprisingly few birds in the garden although the female Blackcap is still about (Steve Rodwell).


Weston Turville Reservoir: Had my best ever BITTERN watching session this afternoon - two bitterns giving a total of six good viewings flying, walking, fishing in front of the hide in one hour from 14.50. Hurry while stocks last! (Richard Billyard)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

College Lake today

The female escaped Red-crested Pochard, 1 Woodcock, 1 Buzzard, 1 Red Kite, reasonable numbers of wildfowl on the lake and probably 200 Wigeon feeding in the horse paddocks between College and Marsworth (per warden)

Saturday, 9 January 2010


A herd of 7 BEWICK'S SWANS circled Wilstone Reservoir late morning after earlier flying north over Watford. They later dropped down on Grovebury Quarry (in Bedfordshire)

.....and the second Turville BITTERN

Having also seen the 1545 sighting on the far side of the reservoir, a second BITTERN showed well in the channel directly in front of the hide from 16:13 to 16:22. It also then flew to the reeds on the far side.My son James (12) captured some images, one of which is reproduced above (Mike Saunders)

BITTERN still surviving at WTR

I paid a visit to the hide at Weston Turville Reservoir for an hour from 1130-1230. Before even getting to the hide a WOODCOCK flew down the path and off into the woodland.

A BITTERN flew in near to the hide and showed well for about a minute before disappearing into the reeds. 5 Common Snipe were in the 'pool', Water Rail was heard and Common Teal flew in and out. Nice to see a flock of 10-15 Long-tailed Tit surviving the cold weather (Mike Wallen)

Sunday, 3 January 2010

......but WTR BITTERN performs briefly

Had a nice walk around WTR ( Weston Turville Reservoir) late morning, met a nice family in the hide and fortuitously the BITTERN walked across ( very briefly ) at around midday ( 30-40 metres from hide ). A Common Snipe was just left of hide and Water Rails calling but not seen in half hour in hide. Reservoir completely frozen now except for the odd tiny free bit of water by reeds in a few places (Mike Wallen).

Bittern - no show tonight

At Marsworth this evening there was no sign of the Bittern. Compensation, however, came in the form of a good count of 60-70 CORN BUNTINGS, which lingered in one of the large trees behind the reedbed opposite where one stands. One CETTI'S WARBLER called from the scrub behind the reedbed at the road end, and 3-4 WATER RAILS also called. As I left a Tawny Owl was calling from the same area the Cetti's was earlier.

Earlier this afternoon, I could find just one COMMON SNIPE at College Lake on the frozen marsh (Ben Miller).

Saturday, 2 January 2010

BITTERN shows again tonight


Another very hard frost, leaving atrocious conditions on the side and back roads and very slow to clear. Another clear, sunny day, but temperatures struggled to get above freezing all day.

I spent another day local, targeting a few species but with mixed results. After starting the day on 56 species, I ended on 84.


Late afternoon at Wilstone was disappointingly quiet - there was no sign of the 3 Little Egrets present earlier. The bird of the day there was an adult drake PINTAIL

Counts at Wilstone included 18 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, 22 'Cormorant', Grey Heron, just 6 Mute Swan, Mallard, 15 Gadwall, 430 Eurasian Wigeon, 320 Common Teal, 55 Shoveler, 93 Tufted Duck and 27 Northern Pochard, as well as 2 adult drake COMMON GOLDENEYES.

The gull roost was poor but did include 500 Black-headed, 83 Common, a juvenile British Herring and two adult Lesser Black-backed, whilst waders were represented by 43 Lapwing and the continuing COMMON REDSHANK.


No sign of the presumed escape female Red-crested Pochard but 5 Great Crested Grebes, 6 adult Mute Swans, 109 Mallard, 2 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler, 73 Tufted Duck and 12 Pochard.


The 45 minutes or so of daylight was spent over-viewing the reedbed at Marsworth. The reservoir itself held just 2 Great Crested Grebe and 29 Shoveler, whilst the resident CETTI'S WARBLER burst into song at 1538 and Wren, Reed Bunting (just 2) and WATER RAIL (2 squealing) were added.

Most depressing was the dramatic decline in wintering numbers of the highly endangered CORN BUNTING - with just 47 flighting in between 1530 and 1620 to roost - a pathetic number and incredibly worryingly down on last winter's peak of 164 on 14 December (LGRE, see page 127 of 'The Birds of Tring Reservoirs and Environs 2008').

After three flocks of EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER flew north at 1610 presumably to roost (105 birds in total), the undoubted highlight was when Roy Hargreaves located the wintering EURASIAN BITTERN high in the reeds on the far side of the reservoir in line with the heavily ivy-clad tree at 1615. The bird showed reasonably well for a period, clambering awkwardly about the reed stems, but eventually got bored and flew off to roost in its usual area in the smaller reedbed at the east (Bucks) end at 1627 hours. It was enjoyed by a hefty gathering of some 20 hardly souls, including Dave Bilcock, Steve Rodwell, Martin Platt and others.


I was watching from the dam end at Weston Turville this evening and failed to see the Bittern in the fading light. Two Little Egrets flew in to roost, followed by a third about 20 minutes later. A couple of Kingfishers were very active along the dam edge, a Grey Wagtail flew over and a Sparrowhawk darted after some of the Reed Buntings that were coming in to roost. A Common Buzzard flew over at dusk (Rob Andrews).

Friday, 1 January 2010

Local Snippets

December 31st: Wendover arm - Grand Union Canal, Aston Clinton (Green Park) to Wendover: 116 Mallard, 45 Moorhens, 17 Coot, 9 Mute Swans (this is the family party that bred at Halton and are still together) and 5 Little Grebes.

Wilstone Gull roost 124 Common Gulls.

January 1st: Buckland Wood - 1 Marsh Tit singing. Drayton Wood - 2 Lesser Redpolls. Wigginton Bottom - 1 Roe Deer (Steve Rodwell)

GOOSANDER drops in briefly

The highlight of a cold but sunny New Years walk around the reservoirs was a drake GOOSANDER that circled Wilstone a few times but decided not to land and seemed to head off in the direction of Wilstone Village. A single COMMON REDSHANK was also still there. Also a male Goldeneye at Startop's and a female Sparrowhawk at Tringford (Chaz Jackson)