Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Winter returns with a vengeance with a major fall of hirundines; EGYPTIAN GOOSE remains for a second day


Heavy snow and blizzards caused chaos in Scotland, NW England and in North Wales and heralded British Summertime ! We did not get snow in the south but we did get some hefty sleet showers. The temperature hovered between 3 and 5 degrees C all day, with the wind gusting up to gale force and from a Northwesterly direction. In such conditions, my hopes were high for a Kittiwake or Sandwich Tern, but in the end it was mainly hirundines which caused most excitement, with large numbers being grounded by the rain and cloud. Wagtails too seemed to be affected. I managed two more additions to my 2010 Hertfordshire List - BLACKCAP and HOUSE MARTIN.

(1230-1300 hours and again towards dusk)

Although I failed to locate the single EGYPTIAN GOOSE at lunchtime, it was showing well this evening in the grass field immediately east of the reservoir at dusk - my first for the site this year. It was roosting amongst the 48 Greylag Geese in the field.

Other wildfowl included 1 adult Mute Swan, 3 remaining Eurasian Wigeon, 14 Gadwall, 28 Shoveler, 157 Tufted Duck, 15 Northern Pochard and the immature male COMMON GOLDENEYE, whilst 8 Great Crested Grebes, 15+ Grey Herons and a single first-summer Black-headed Gull were also present.

Despite the bitter NW wind, diurnal migrants had arrived on the East Bank, with a fine near-adult male YELLOW WAGTAIL (Steve Rodwell and Chaz Jackson had two later), 4 Pied Wagtails (SR and CJ had two male WHITE WAGTAILS later) and a male Reed Bunting, whilst hirundine passage included a bumper arrival of 68 EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS, 127 SAND MARTINS and my first Tring and Herts HOUSE MARTIN of the year.


Great Crested Grebe (8 on Marsworth, with 3 on Startop's End and 1 on Tringford)
Mute Swan (2 adults on Tringford)
Tufted Duck (8 on Tringford)
Northern Pochard (5 on Tringford)
Red-crested Pochard (drake still on Startop's End)
Green Woodpecker (yaffling bird in Marsworth Reedbed Wood)
SAND MARTINS (28 on Tringford, with 4 on Marsworth)
EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOW (19 on Tringford, with 15 on Marsworth)
Pied Wagtail (8 feeding along the main causeway)
Mistle Thrush (1 in flight appeared to be carrying food)
CETTI'S WARBLER (a ringed individual showing well in scrub near the overflow)
*BLACKCAP (my first Herts bird of the year despite a record number of wintering individuals, this male singing and showing well in low scrub in Marsworth Reedbed Wood)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (a singing male by the road near the road junction by the wood carvery shop and at least two others in the Poplars of Marsworth Reedbed Wood)

(1349 hours)

Fairly quiet apart from a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER on the east island in the marsh and 2 Barn Swallows.

On the East Island, 5 Lapwings were sat on nests, with another on the smaller island, with 2 Common Snipes on there, the two OYSTERCATCHERS on the island on the main lake, a single Black-headed Gull and 8 migrant Pied Wagtails.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Belated reports of both OSPREY and EGYPTIAN GOOSE today

An OSPREY was reported flying north over Cheddington at 1220 hours today (Mike Campbell), whilst an EGYPTIAN GOOSE was present on Wilstone mid afternoon (Steve Rodwell). An OYSTERCATCHER was roosting on algae bunds at Wilstone (Dave Bilcock)

Monday, 29 March 2010

OSPREY over Steps

OSPREY near Steps Hill at about 9.15am; was flying from east to west (Don Otter)

First YELLOW WAGTAIL of year

Flock of approximately 40 Pied Wagtails in horse paddocks contained an early YELLOW WAGTAIL whilst the COMMON TERN was still roosting on one of the bales on Marsworth. Female GOOSANDER on Startops. Lynne & Colin Lambert

And a longer, prolonged watch over the smaller reservoirs Saturday - Ben Miller

I spent the morning around Startops & Marsworth hoping something might drop in or over. I got the following...

One COMMON TERN, seen with David Bilcock and later LGRE. Dave had seen it at Wilstone earlier & we re-located it sat on the bales on Startops. It was then present throughout the morning, commuting between both ressies and into both counties. The first for the Tring area, and Bucks, this year.

Several flocks of hirundines went through following rain bands - probably c.50 Sand Martins and c.20 Barn Swallows during the morning, but not the hoped for House Martin, let alone Alpine Swift!

2 different CETTI'S WARBLERS were singing, and 5 Chiffchaffs singing around the two ressies - no Willow Warblers, though. The drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD was on Startops all morning.

12+ Common Buzzards, 5 Red Kites, 4 Sparrowhawks and 3 Kestrels were seen, though nothing more exciting such as an Osprey or Marsh Harrier. The only waders seen were c.40 Golden Plovers distantly over the Vale of Aylesbury, and a single Lapwing over.

Other birds seen included 1 Kingfisher, 2+ Grey Wagtail, 15+ Pied Wagtails (no Whites again!) and 4+ Reed Buntings.

Early COMMON TERN arrives - Saturday

Also this morning Mike Campbell found a COMMON TERN at Wilstone, which had relocated to Startops by the time I arrived back at the reservoirs (picture above). When I left it was flying up and down Marsworth, occasionally venturing into Bucks air space.
The bird was still present later in the morning (LGRE, Ben Miller) as well as up to 30 Sand Martin and 10 European Barn Swallows

Saturday morning on the hills

A relatively quick bash around the hills with David Bilcock produced 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS ( 1 male), on the south slope of Ivinghoe Beacon. 1 Barn Swallow through there and 30 Redwing were obvious migrants in the top scrub on Steps. About 8 singing Chiffchaff on Steps Hill (Mike Wallen).

The Wheatears are the same birds that have been present all week (LGRE)

Friday, 26 March 2010

A washout


During the morning, the wind was mainly SW with temperatures reaching 11 degrees C, but as the day progressed, it swung round to the NW pegging temperatures back down to 8 degrees. It also brought with it some hefty rain showers.

Today was my first real opportunity to catch up with some local birding and with this in mind I targeted the many migrants now flooding in to the country and immediate Three Counties area. Most peculiar was the complete lack of hirundines today. The highlight was a superb adult male RING OUZEL and a very dapper WATER PIPIT.


Surprisingly devoid of any hirundines or migrants. Most impressive were the TUFTED DUCK numbers - 257 in all - the highest number this year. There were also 9 remaining Eurasian Wigeon, 18 Gadwall, 8 Common Teal, 16 Northern Shoveler and 29 Northern Pochard. Just 6 Great Crested Grebes were apparent, whilst 61 Greylag Geese were on the field east of the reservoir.

In the far distance over Northfield Road and Bulbourne were a flock of 107 EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVERS.


The adult drake RED-CRESTED POCHARD was busily dredging up weed from the bottom of the reservoir whilst other wildfowl present included a pair of Mute Swans (with 3 more on the adjacent canal), 2 Great Crested Grebes, 20 Tufted Duck and a drake Pochard.

No migrants were present but 2 Grey Wagtails and 43 Pied Wagtails roosted on the rafts.


Very deep with no muddy islands - 1 Great Crested Grebe, 6 Little Grebes and 5 Tufted Ducks present. Nothing nearby on the Pitstone Industrial Estate pools.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

COMMON SHELDUCK at Broughton Trout Pools briefly

Not long after I arrived a male COMMON SHELDUCK came in, circled the trout pools and flooded meadow twice before heading off East, towards Tring Reservoirs. There were also 3 Sand Martin low over the pools that were very quickly joined by a migrant flock of about 20, these all soon left to the North. The single Wigeon remains on the back pool. A few other duck about, and still 3 GCGrebe.

Nothing of note at Weston Turville Res, late afternoon.

1 male Reed Bunting in garden (Mike Wallen)


This morning two drake Common Goldeneye and thirteen Eurasian Wigeon still about. Decent flock of Sand Martins and a few Barn Swallows. Otherwise I saw my first NORTHERN WHEATEAR this year, a female, on the fence that is parallel to the track from the road to the Cemetery Corner (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

More Migrants arrive

This morning there were more Sand Martins and one or two Swallows. One or two new chiffchaffs and a Blackcap was new in.

The only potential evidence of wader movement were two flocks of Golden Plover (7 & 33), and they couldn’t decide on a common direction to fly in.

Two Chinese Water Deer were in a field on the Bucks side of the border trying, but failing, to be invisible in the short crop (Roy Hargreaves)

First WHEATEAR arrives at Tring

A cracking male NORTHERN WHEATEAR was in the field next to Startop's horse paddocks at 11.05 hours (per Mike Campbell) - the first at the reservoirs this spring.


Further signs of Spring passage around the local area this morning.

At College Lake, the highlight was a cracking male WHITE WAGTAIL on the island on the main lake, plus one European Barn Swallow and two Sand Martins, and a singing Chiffchaff. Something unseen flushed the waders off the marsh providing a rare chance to do a proper count; it produced 2 Oystercatchers, 6 Common Redshanks and 17 Common Snipes. 5 Goldeneye were new on the main lake, and there was also a noticeable influx of Shoveler, presumably from Marsworth where numbers were well down this morning.

As I left, I let Mick A’Court, working on-site today, about the Wagtail. His trip down the far end of the reserve resulting in finding a singing WILLOW WARBLER, the first recorded in the county this year I think.

At Pitstone Industrial Estate was the first LITTLE RINGED PLOVER of the year for the Tring area, a vocal new arrival, plus the remaining pair of Common Ringed Plovers. A Chiffchaff was also singing here this morning.

Cheers & Good Birding,

Ben Miller

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


A quick bash around the hills this morning and part of the Tring res's saw a few more migrants.
Steps Hill held 5 singing COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS but little else.

Ivinghoe Beacon held 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS, 3 were stunning males. These were on the South slope of the beacon. Also here I was delighted when 3 COMMON CROSSBILLS, 1 a lovely red male flew past me, sort of chipping, and continued Eastwards. This is only about my third record for the hills, and one of those was last Autumn.

At Startops Res ( Herts ) there were 17 Sand Martins and 2 European Barn Swallows over the water and the drake Red-crested Pochard was present. The canal bank held 17 migrant Pied Wagtails, so surely only a matter of time before they pull in a White (Mike Wallen).

Monday, 22 March 2010

Major arrival of BARN SWALLOWS and hills get their first dusting of NORTHERN WHEATEARS

At least four NORTHERN WHEATEARS, including this bright male photographed above by Dave Bilcock, arrived at the Beacon yesterday morning

Migrants have come flooding in over the last few days as the wind continues to blow from the south, including some rarer birds in between, namely a Purple Heron and Pallid Swift in South Wales, several Hoopoes, a female Rustic Bunting in Hampshire, a male Little Bittern in Sussex and an influx of early Alpine Swifts.

Now back in the area, I spent the day scouring the local wetland sites in search of incoming migrants, whilst diverting for an Alpine Swift in London late morning........

The main bird of the day was EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOW, with a surprising number of birds so early in March......

Sadly, a BADGER I enjoyed seeing only just over a week ago was killed last night on the A404, just east of Stoney Lane in Little Chalfont at TQ 005 978. I also found another one dead on Northfield Road, NE of Tring Station, at SP 950 127.

A RED KITE was gliding across Northfield Road.


My first EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS of the year - four birds - were feeding over the main marsh with 8 SAND MARTINS at 1000 hours.

At least 8 COMMON REDSHANKS were present on the reserve, noisily displaying on the islands, with other waders represented by OYSTERCATCHER (the pair), 3 COMMON SNIPE and at least 12 Lapwings (three birds already sat on nests on the two marsh islands).

Two pairs of Mute Swan were present, along with 8 Common Teal and 10 Northern Shoveler.


A male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was singing from the remaining Poplars in the windswept plantation, my first at the reservoirs this spring. A ringed GOLDCREST was in the wood, with a pair of Long-tailed Tits nest-building and three pairs of Common Blackbird indulging in the same.

Although the reservoir was disturbed by two guys working in a boat, 8 Great Crested Grebes, 1 adult Mute Swan, 3 Shoveler and 5 Northern Pochards. The pair of RED-CRESTED POCHARDS was showing exceptionally well, 20 yards out from the bank, the drake in active bobbing display. A Coot was finishing off its nest at the edge of the reedbed.


A pair of adult Mute Swans, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 14 displaced Shovelers and 43 Tufted Ducks present (later Charlie Jackson had 6 BARN SWALLOWS there).


In strong SW winds at 1130 hours and at 12 degrees C, my first Herts EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOW of the year was recorded. At least 5 SAND MARTINS were being pushed around by the wind over the Drayton Bank.

Significantly, I could see none of the 25 Eurasian Wigeon present at the weekend. Other wildfowl remaining included 3 COMMON GOLDENEYES, an impressive 217 Tufted Ducks (spring influx), 15 Gadwall, 38 Shoveler, 22 Common Teal and 18 Northern Pochard. Some 56 Black-headed Gulls were resting on the reservoir.


The pair of RINGED PLOVERS were displaying over the pools (present since Saturday).


Jack O'Neill and I failed in our quest to locate any of the 4 Northern Wheatears that had been present the day before. They were not where I had seen them yesterday. Several Meadow Pipits were in full aerial display.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Ad MEDITERRANEAN GULL in the roost (there were still a few white feathers near the base of the bill). Last week there were up to 3300 B.h.gulls and 169 Common Gulls. This evening there were fewer gulls. On Sunday there were a pair of Red-crested Pochard on Startops (Steve Rodwell)

Monday, 15 March 2010

CROSSBILL and MANDARIN highlights but no Lesser Pecker


Another glorious morning with temperatures again quickly climbing to 13 degrees C in the bright sunshine. Cloud later moved in from the west but it still continued dry. The wind gradually freshened from the west.

Another day of 'peckering' and a quick dash to Tyttenhanger. My Hertfordshire Year List now stands on 115 species.

(0730-1000 hours)

There was no sign this morning of the male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker that Dave Bilcock saw very well from 0740-0750 hours yesterday morning.

I walked the entire Monument Drive and covered Sallow Copse and Ringshall Common north to the Beacon Road. Woodpeckers were very much in evidence with no less than 3 Green and 7 Great Spotted encountered (including a courting pair of the latter). The highlight was a pair of COMMON CROSSBILL and a single SISKIN.

The two ponds adjacent to the Bridgwater Monument held 5 Mallard and a pair of MANDARIN DUCK, whilst other species noted included Muntjac, 38+ Grey Squirrels, a male Eurasian Sparrowhawk, several Stock Doves, at least 9 Nuthatches, 4 singing male Common Treecreepers (and a courting pair), Jays, 2 singing male Song Thrushes, a singing male Mistle Thrush, a male Common Blackbird, a male Coal Tit and 25 Blue Tits, 18 Great Tits and 2 Long-tailed Tits.

Checked out the Northern Goshawk site of recent years but with increasing winds, none were displaying.

Saturday: very lean pickings - LGRE sightings


A beautiful day, with temperatures reaching 9.5 degrees C. Spent the entire day in Buckinghamshire, attempting to clean up on a few species I was still missing from the year, with a few brief forays in to Herts during the morning.


A RED KITE was loafing over the main slope.


A full inventory of the site yielded 3 Great Crested Grebes (including a displaying pair), 1 adult Mute Swan, 8 Atlantic Canada Geese, 10 Mallard, NO Gadwall, 1 drake Shoveler, 24 Eurasian Wigeon, 12 Common Teal, 43 Tufted Duck and 16 Northern Pochard. There were also 22 Coot counted.

Waders were represented by 9 Lapwing (including a pair on each island on the main marsh and 5 roosting on the bund), a single COMMON REDSHANK and a pair of OYSTERCATCHERS (feeding on the turf of the North Bank).

The only other species of note was a male Eurasian Sparrowhawk.


Water back to usual level with species noted including 1 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Little Grebe, 12 Coot, 12 Tufted Duck and 15 Lapwing. Roosting gulls included 189 Black-headed and 15 Common.


Up to 8 pairs of Eurasian Collared Dove in the village, and 11 Common Starlings.


Despite the weather, not a true migrant in sight. Wildfowl numbers were well down with just 8 Great Crested Grebe, 2 adult Mute Swans, 17 Gadwall, 8 Common Teal, 75 Eurasian Wigeon, 18 Shoveler, 118 Tufted Duck, 29 Northern Pochard and 195 Coot counted. A pair of COMMON GOLDENEYE remained off of the jetty, with a Red Kite drifting south.

Nesting was already underway by Grey Heron (6 active nests) and Continental Cormorant (5 active nests).


An impressive 124 Northern Shoveler feeding, with 6 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Mute Swan, 2 Greylag Geese, 16 Atlantic Canada Geese, 2 Coot, 5 Tufted Ducks and 6 Northern Pochard present. A male Common Blackbird was in full song.


Just south of the reservoir, a flock of 103 non-naturalised geese were grazing, including 54 Greylag and 49 Atlantic Canadas. The reservoir was very quiet with just 2 Mute Swans, 18 Tufted Duck, 3 Northern Pochard and 14 Coot present. The Rookery in the wood to the south held 15 active nests.


Wildfowl included 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Mute Swan, 19 Tufted Duck, 29 Northern Pochard and 71 Coot.


Checked out the local Rookeries with 27 active nests in the tall trees at New Mill (opposite Massey House at SP 926 124) and 8 in Pendley Manor Grounds.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

LESSER SPOT puts on a good show

Arriving at 6:30, before any dog walkers, lots of woodpecker activity and after walking through the woods for nearly an hour eventually managed to locate a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER near the pond. A cracking red-capped male which I was able to watch through my 'scope drumming on a dead branch for 5 mins. A pair of Mandarins were on the pond when I arrived and the usual Nuthatches, Coal tits etc in the woods (Dave Bilcock).

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Drake GOOSANDER drops in briefly

David Bilcock and I enjoyed a drake GOOSANDER that flew in from the east, circuited round Wilstone several times and then flew back out to the east. Otherwise there appeared to be four Little Egrets this morning (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

First DUNLIN of the year - briefly

This morning I unwittingly flushed a winter-plumaged DUNLIN from the rocks between the jetty and Cemetery Corner. It flew off calling and flew west over the Poplars into Bucks. Also three Little Egrets roosted this morning (Roy Hargreaves)

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Another MARSH TIT survives the winter

Had a great afternoon up at Ivinghoe Beacon/Incombe Hole on Saturday. Not much around but it was just exhilarating being back up there again - it has to be my favourite local birding spot. Thought I had better check the area in case one of the wheatear arrivals had worked its way up there. Only thing moving near the sheep pens was a hare.

Sat in the sun watching a MARSH TIT feeding and calling quite close in the bushes between the car park and Incombe Hole. It really is a smart little bird. Heard bullfinch. A pair of buzzards circled over Incombe Hole and I saw two kestrels, 2 red kites and a great spotted woodpecker. At the southern (far) end of Incombe Hole were a flock of approx 20 Fieldfares. Not sure what they are finding to eat but there is ivy on the bushes so could be ivy berries. The farmer working in the field adjacent to Pitstone Hill car park attracted a large flock of gulls.

Can't wait to hear my first Willow Warbler up there or Lesser Whitethroat which I am sure bred in the bushes near the road as it was always in the same spot whenever I visited.

I still have an open mind about the possibility of redstarts breeding in the part of Ashridge which borders that area. That party of mixed juveniles and adults which stayed around Incombe Hole for quite a while in August and the beginning of September seemed to hang around longer than if they had been in the middle of migration.

Sally Douglas

Monday, 8 March 2010


This morning there were two COMMON SHELDUCK in front of the hide, but they disappeared before 7am. Also two Little Egrets roosted (Roy Hargreaves)

Late Snippets from Steve Rodwell

On Friday an adult MEDITERRANEAN GULL was in the roost at Wilstone. A Barn Owl was quartering the field behind Marsworth Reservoir Sunday night. There was also a Barn Owl below Ivinghoe Beacon last Sunday at 10.20pm. Have been trying to do a bit at Ashridge in the vain hope of seeing a LSW. No luck so far. Very quiet up there, in fact the only birds of note have been a couple of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin (Steve Rodwell)

Saturday Highlights

The first RINGED PLOVER of the year that flew over Wilstone (Mike Campbell) briefly visited College Lake, landing on the Marsh for a few minutes before heading off East.

Saturday evening with Steve and Charlie the 2W MEDITERRANEAN GULL was in the Wilstone roost again (Dave Bilcock).

Thursday, 4 March 2010

MED tonight


Although temperatures in the south climbed to 7.5 degrees C, a cold easterly wind made it feel very bitter. It remained bright throughout, with long spells of sunshine and clear blue skies.

Recent days have heralded the arrival of spring with many waders returning to breeding localities, including Curlew, Common Redshank, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover, as well as some early returning migrants such as Little Ringed Plover, Northern Wheatear, Sand Martin and White Wagtail. There has been a wave of coastal GARGANEYS but it still came as a surprise when Alan Reynolds telephoned to say that Bill Last had discovered a pair at Amwell - a very early date. Frustratingly, I was in Dorset, and a mere 198 miles away........


The adult female PEREGRINE was roosting in its usual spot and showing very well (see Dan Forder's superb array of new images above).

A41 (HERTS) - dead Badger on westbound A41 near Dudswell.


No sign of the Red-crested Pochard pair but 11 Great Crested Grebes, 2 adult Mute Swans, 105 Shoveler, 3 Tufted Duck, 5 Northern Pochard and 3 Coot; some 62 CORN BUNTINGS roosted.


Four Great Crested Grebe, 76 Coot, 22 Tufted Duck and 30 Northern Pochard.

(1745-1825 hours; with Steve Rodwell)

The number of roosting gulls has decreased dramatically with just 1,200 Black-headed Gulls estimated this evening, along with 87 Common Gulls and 6 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls; Steve located the 2nd-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL, this bird being the same as that present on 27-28 February and photographed by David Bilcock above. It has some blackish feathering coming through on the head, with a blood-red bill and black band and black primary patterning.

Two LITTLE EGRETS flew in to roost on the Drayton Bank, whilst wildfowl included 8 COMMON GOLDENEYE (3 adult drakes), diminishing numbers of Eurasian Wigeon (just 214) and 18 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Gadwall, 26 Shoveler, 96 Tufted Duck and 38 Pochard.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

2nd-winter MED roosted again - 28 February

Saturday 28 February:
Startops: Pair of Red-crested pochards in the rain this morning (still present this afternoon - 2 March).

Pitstone Quarry: Single Common Redshank along west bank

Wilstone: 2W MEDITERRANEAN GULL in roost, no doubt the same bird Steve Rodwell saw Friday night (blurry picture above) (Dave Bilcock).
In addition, first OYSTERCATCHER back at College Lake (per Nancy Reed)