Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Med no show


Another very cold day with a band of prolonged snow falling, accumulating in a few inches on the Chiltern Hills (eg, Ivinghoe Beacon). The temperature failed to rise above 2 degrees C and the NE wind was quite severe and biting.

(1630-1800 hours)

Once again, in constant sleet/snow ands a bitter wind, concentrated on the gull roost. Despite click-counting 2,480 Black-headed Gulls and 93 Common Gulls, there was no sign of either of the two recent adult Mediterranean Gulls (the adult summer still present last night). Four adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls were all that represented the large gulls.

Four COMMON GOLDENETE (2 drakes) were together

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A 'new' MED GULL

This near summer-plumaged adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL which I found on Wilstone last night and came in again tonight (see Dave Bilcock's image above) is a 'new' individual and the third adult at the site this year. Dave's bird of last week was a different adult to this, being much more winter-like in head plumage.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

WHITE-FRONT trio relocated at Broughton Trout Pools


No change in the general weather, with continuing cold temperatures (4.5 degrees C). It was a clear bright day, with long periods of uninterrupted blue sky, but as darkness loomed, heavy snow started to affect the Chilterns, and by the time I got home in Little Chalfont, had settled considerably.

Although the day was spent relatively local, some main target species were once again missed, in particular the three long-staying Twites in Cambs, and Lesser Redpoll.

Sadly, in Buckinghamshire, single dead BADGERS were noted at Great Missenden (on the A 413 again, westbound, at SP 892 020) and another just NE of 'A World of Old' on the A418 just SW of Wing at SP 877 218.


Thanks to Dave Bilcock, I was made alert this morning of 3 'White-fronted Geese' at Broughton, just east of Aylesbury. It transpired that they had been found yesterday by a local birder, but when talking to local walkers, it seems they have been present since Valentine's Day.

Anyway, acting immediately upon David's news, I drove straight over, and found all three birds (the two adult and single first-winter EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE that I had seen at Wilstone Reservoir on 12 February) showing very well in the grassy meadow being grazed by horses north of the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal 75 yards east of canal Bridge 13 at SU 854 143. They were consorting with 30 Atlantic Canada Geese and were affording views down to 55 yards - both Dave Bilcock and Ben Miller obtaining some excellent photographic results (see images above - Ben, top, DB, three images below). Park by the main bridge and walk just 330 yards east to view.

A first-winter Mute Swan was begging for food by the main bridge after parts of the canal had frozen over, whilst just two COMMON SNIPE were located in the frozen rushes area. A RED KITE was circling overhead.


Following up a report of 3 large owls on farmland to the north of Hulcott, I surprised and flushed a drake Common Teal from the Thistle Brook. Due to deep water, I could not reach the thicket where the owls were roosting and failed to locate them (I shall return when the water has receded).


Two RED KITES were sat on a perch overlooking the three European Bisons and their shelter at Bison Hill - presumably hoping to share some food (quite what I really don't know).

Nearby at Dagnall, the resident pair of COMMON RAVENS were well underway with domestics. As I arrived, both birds were walking about on the ground gathering beakfuls of clumps of grass. I followed them as they flew and they landed in one of the pines. In the 'scope, I enjoyed great views as, first the male dropped his grass on top of the pile of sticks and then the female. The male then flew off, cronking once quite quietly. The female then sat and shuffled around on the nest for some minutes, gradually moulding the nest into a cup shape. I felt quite embarrassed watching this intimate behaviour from afar but it was quite enlightening being allowed to share the social delights of Raven nesting behaviour.


Arrived rather late and only really concentrated on the gull roost.

I was surprised to find 3 Grey Herons already nest-occupying on the central Drayton Bank, a single LITTLE EGRET was roosting there, and 2 adult Mute Swans had returned.

Wildfowl included 575 Eurasian Wigeon, a pair of Gadwall, 18 Shoveler, 27 Northern Pochard and a whopping 228 Tufted Ducks, along with 4 COMMON GOLDENEYES (including 2 adult drakes) and 18 Great Crested Grebes.

The regular adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was part of the well-strung out roost tonight, with 2,646 Black-headed Gulls roosting by 1710, along with 82 Common Gulls. A juvenile British Herring Gull also put in an appearance.


Delightfully, 83 CORN BUNTINGS flighted in to roost not far out from the causeway at Marsworth Reedbed at 1715 hours - my largest count at the site this winter.

A single CETTI'S WARBLER was singing, as well as a solitary male Song Thrush, with 8 Shoveler, 7 Common Teal and 6 Gadwall on the Sewage Farm.

Thanks to Steve Rodwell, I was finally able to add a new species to my Hertfordshire Year List today - a gorgeous BARN OWL performing eloquently at the back of the sewage farm from 1720 hours onwards. Steve had seen the bird last night and just as he had predicted, it appeared 20 minutes before it got pitch black and too dark to see. After it appeared from its roost-site, it hunted over the rough field for a short time before alighting on the sewage farm perimeter fence, where I was able to enjoy some outstanding views of this most charming of British birds. What a delight (Lee Evans)

Friday, 19 February 2010

....And again

The adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was again present in the roost this evening, there when I arrived at 4pm (Dave Bilcock).

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

MED in roost

The regular adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL roosted on Wilstone Reservoir this evening (per Dave Bilcock)

Friday, 12 February 2010

WHITE-FRONTS still - and yet another drake SMEW

Two of the three EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE on Wilstone, photographed yesterday by Steve Blake


Another very cold day, with temperatures not rising to more than 5 degrees C. Some heavy sleet showers fell, especially during the morning.

The day was spent in Hertfordshire, attempting to mop up on a few species that I was still missing locally. Egyptian Goose was the only disappointment.......


A single RED KITE was sat in a tree close to the churchyard in the village.

(1000-1047 hours; with Peter Leigh)

My first opportunity this week to get to the reservoirs. Fortunately, the three EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE found by Roy Hargreaves yesterday morning were still present and showing very well with just 2 Canada Geese in the first field west of the main car park. It was an adult pair with a single youngster (in full first-winter plumage). As Mic and Jan Wells walked along the bank, the three birds spooked and flew on to the main reservoir, landing in front of the Drayton Bank Hide and still present when I left at 1247. They represented my 104th Hertfordshire species of the year.

Also still present and showing well was the adult drake SMEW found by Roy much earlier - feeding just to the right of the shooting butts on the central bank - the second drake I have seen on Wilstone in recent times.

This also gave me the opportunity to count the wildfowl, overall much depleted in number. The reservoir was still very high in terms of water level. Once again, I could not find the resident Little Owls.

Great Crested Grebe (high count of 22 birds)
Little Grebes (3 together)
Continental Cormorant (21)
Grey Heron (1 pair at the nest in the central bank)
Mute Swan (none)
Greylag Geese (67)
Eurasian Wigeon (556)
Common Teal (33; marked decrease)
Shoveler (28)
Tufted Duck (73)
Northern Pochard (56)
COMMON GOLDENEYE (2 adult drakes, 3 females)
Coot (537)
Lapwing (83 in flight)

A female Eurasian Sparrowhawk was plucking a dead Woodpigeon in the crop field opposite the Cemetery, with two Carrion Crows looking on.


Around the Angler's Retreat car park and Startop Farm, 22 HOUSE SPARROWS were present, along with 3 Chaffinches and a male Song Thrush in full song. A flock of 27 FIELDFARES flew east.

A Great Crested Grebe, 43 Tufted Duck, 64 Northern Pochard and 118 Coot were on the reservoir.


Very quiet, with just 2 Mute Swans (the only ones noted), 22 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochards and 8 Coot noted.


Great Crested Grebe (6), Shoveler (35) and Tufted Duck (5).


Very poor, with few wildfowl present - Little Grebe (1), Wigeon (4 - 2 pairs), Common Teal (19), Tufted Duck (8) and Pochard (1). 66 Coot.


A pair of Wigeon were the unusual sight here, with 17 Common Teal, 35 Tufted Duck and 8 Coot. Roosting gulls included 143 Black-headed and 8 Commons.


A covey of 8 Red-legged Partridges north of the A41.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

This morning the recent run of goose sightings continued with three EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE in with the Greylag flock by the new overflow. While I was there they flew into the field that borders the west corner of the reservoir and back to the water again. Otherwise little else – the seven/nine Common Goldeneye I saw yesterday had either dispersed or a few had left. I also saw at least four Red Kites around the reservoir and at Miswell Farm.

I also had a female Brambling in the garden with the Chaffinches – possibly the same bird as on Monday (Roy Hargreaves)

And yet another species of rare goose at Tring - EURASIAN WHITE-FRONT

Roy Hargreaves discovered three EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE on Wilstone Reservoir this morning, mingling with the resident Greylag Geese. They were present until mid-morning at least (per Brendan Glynne)

Sunday, 7 February 2010


Myself and Roy Hargreaves visited late this afternoon to watch the gulls and this DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE was just off the car park steps. In fact it must have been the first bird Roy saw as I was still setting up my 'scope when he picked it out. After a while it joined up with a small flock of Greylags and on several occasions took flight and did a few circuits of the reservoir. Including one when it ventured in to Bucks air space, just as Rob Andrews turned up. Couple of pictures above when it was reasonably close. Last seen sat in the middle of the reservoir off the jetty, as it got to dark to see (Dave Bilcock).


Saturday - early afternoon - 5 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER flew across the Tring-Dunstable road near Ivinghoe Beacon (Don Otter)

BRENT GOOSE in gull roost

This evening David Bilcock and I turned up at Wilstone to check the gulls and unexpectedly found a DARK-BELLIED BRENT GOOSE among the gulls. It flew around several times – including a very brief foray into Bucks before returning to settle on the water. It may have been there when we left, but we can’t be certain about that. No gulls of note were seen, but a single Little Egret was again roosting on Drayton Bank.

For the past two nights the gulls have been dispersed all over the water’s surface – going through them all methodically is difficult and time-consuming (Roy Hargreaves)

Friday, 5 February 2010

MED in roost - Thursday night

1 second-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL (the individual with much black on the primaries), 255 Common Gulls. Also 1 Little Egret. No sign of the Bittern at Marsworth (Steve Rodwell)

Thursday, 4 February 2010

First EGYPTIAN GEESE of the year

A party of 3 EGYPTIAN GEESE flew in to Wilstone Reservoir this morning (per Roy Hargreaves) - the first occurrence of this species this year (image by kind courtesy of Mike Lawrence)