SATURDAY 2 JANUARY
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.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
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.
STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR
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.