Thursday, 29 April 2010


Got woken up this morning (6.00am) by a cracking little male Lesser Whitethroat singing in my garden at the top of the silver birch, just off Icknield Way, Tring. Had a real problem dragging myself off to work! Have had the occasional one passing through in other years.

Sally Douglas

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Hills this morning

Steps Hill produced 4-5 singing Garden Warblers, very vocal at dawn, and good numbers of other warblers. On the slope down towards the S bend I flushed a male Greenland Wheatear.

On Ivinghoe Beacon the Grasshopper Warbler remains in the same area, singing lots at dawn, but much less by 7.30-7.45. Also there 7 Wheatears, 6 working their way towards the sheep pens and 1 on the ridge East of the Trig, several of these were definite Greenlanders. 1 Yellow Wagtail over (Mike Wallen)

Another MARSH HARRIER at Wilstone

A sub-adult female MARSH HARRIER (probably third year bird) arrived at Wilstone reedbed yesterday afternoon and remained until dusk (Mike Hirst, Ian Williams, LGRE, et al), occasionally flying and hunting along the reedbed at the southern edge and clearly visible from the hide. It roosted overnight and was still present this morning, when also 2 SANDWICH TERNS flew through very early (DB, RH).

Yesterday evening, 82 Common Terns were still present and 15 COMMON SWIFTS drifted in late on (Lee Evans)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

WOOD WARBLER at Frithsden Beeches, Ashridge

A male WOOD WARBLER was singing this morning from the trees about 2 - 300 yards down the wide bridleway (5m +) that goes SE from Brick kiln cottage. grid ref SP996104. After calling Joan Thompson, I stayed on it until about 9.20, when I lost it briefly in the birch tops. I saw something head from the trees over the bridleway towards the cottage - not sure if it was the wood warbler, but didn't hear it again after that. I searched nearby until Joan and Mick arrived then we widened the search area, but by 11.00 odd we gave up. If it wasn't just passing through then it may be worth another look later this afternoon, in case it does start singing again. I only managed one record shot, and had to manually focus due to twigs in the way, so not brilliant.

I spent the morning checking the area between the Berko golf club memorial carpark and the cottage, looking for Tree pipits, but no joy. Heard Tawny owl, and all the usual woodland birds in the copse - nuthatch, coal tit, jay etc. Plenty of Blackcap, Willow warblers, Chiffchaffs, one Yellowhammer, and a Garden Warbler (right by the car park!) - Martin Parr


The Steps WOOD WARBLER - photographs - IAN WILLIAMS


Also this morning another WHIMBREL flew over the marsh at College Lake 7am heading towards Tring (DB).

This evening there were 26 ARCTIC TERNS at Wilstone and at least 157 Common Terns. The 2 BLACK TERNS were also still present and had been joined by 2 LITTLE GULLS (DB, LGRE).

At dusk, two LITTLE GULLS - an adult and a first-summer - were on Startop's End Reservoir (LGRE), whilst earlier, 150 COMMON SWIFTS were on Wilstone.


The first two BLACK TERNS of the year in the county and the 4 WHIMBREL that were grounded by the damp conditions overnight and early Sunday morning (Dave Bilcock images)

Sunday Morning - WHIMBRELS, WOOD WARBLER and more

Just managed to beat David Bilcock to the Wilstone car park this morning at about 6am. We both got to the top of the bank and David exclaimed that there were two WHIMBREL on a barley bale. I looked up, not knowing which barley bale, and scanned to see four WHIMBREL – two adjacent bales had two on each! I found this quite amusing as it was slightly over a week ago when David said it would be nice to see a Whimbrel perched rather than just flying over. So far David and I have seen six perched Whimbrel – on the bank, the bales and the rocks along Drayton Bank.

Shortly after this David spotted two adult LITTLE GULLS flying among the Common Terns – these are different birds from the ones I saw yesterday in the late morning/early afternoon visit.

A few calls and texts were sent and Steve joined us and spotted two BLACK TERNS that had just arrived. Another person I spoke to later mentioned that he had seen two at Marsworth and since David couldn’t find those later it is likely that the same bird were involved.

Anyway the LITTLE GULLS gained altitude and departed to the east and at 6:40 the four WHIMBREL circled to gain height, calling as they did, and also departed but in a north-easterly direction (Roy Hargreaves).

Later during the morning, Stuart Wilson located a singing male WOOD WARBLER in his Drayton Beauchamp garden and this bird then moved to the paddocks behind the village and later the 'Private Garden'. It ceased singing about an hour after it was discovered and remained silent until late evening, when it took advantage of the warm evening sunshine and sang several times.

ARCTIC TERNS present in the evening as Common Terns arrive en masse

This evening there were 77 Common Terns present at Wilstone and a single ARCTIC TERN remaining amongst them but no sign of any Little gulls.

Earlier, 16:30, 3 ARCTIC TERNS were present, 2 of which were sat on the barley bales (see above picture). Only one of these birds had particularly long tail streamers (Dave Bilcock).

Saturday morning SANDWICH TERN

Just after having discussed with David Bilcock that all seemed quiet. he had then headed for Startops and then on to the hills. Almost immediately I then heard a SANDWICH TERN among the Common Terns. Looking up it was high up and circling over Wilstone as it called. I immediately called David who headed back up the bank and managed to locate it in his scope and heard it call on one occasion. It never came close to the water’s surface and after a few minutes David watched it head high east towards Marsworth Reservoir.

Carrying on round the reservoir I decided to see if mimicry might induce a silent Cuckoo to sing – assuming there was one there. Sure enough after a few of my attempts the real thing started singing round by Rushy Meadow and flew across to the trees in the south corner – pr esumably in an attempt to find the interloper.

Little else to report but a pre-lunch visits yielded 2 more 2nd summer LITTLE GULLS and at least one Arctic Tern with the 60+ Common Terns. To think that I dashed down to see the first Little Gulls – I needn’t have worried. I just hope that Black Terns are as obliging this spring if and when they put in an appearance. This was after a brief foray to see the obliging and smart looking WOOD WARBLER up at Steps Hill - it was well worth the trip (Roy Hargreaves)

Saturday 24 April - singing WOOD WARBLER at Ivinghoe

Dave Bilcock discovered a singing WOOD WARBLER early morning in the small wood just above Inkombe Hole. It showed well for several hours (allowing Ben Miller to finally get his Bucks first) but ceased trilling just after 1130 hours. It was seen again on several occasions up until early afternoon (1315) but then disappeared and was not seen or heard again. An excellent record.

There was also a major arrival of GARDEN WARBLERS in Top Scrub and the reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLER was still present in scrub just SW of the Beacon.

The dawn patrol at Wilstone saw a SANDWICH TERN fly straight through, whilst a flock of 4 WHIMBREL (with another fly through) roosted on the algae bunds until 0620 hours before flying off east (DB et al).

Friday, 23 April 2010

The MARSH HARRIER flew briefly just above the tops of the reeds at 7:40. At about 7:45 it reappeared and flew around over the reeds and water closest to the hide for a few minutes giving really good views, before dropping back into the reeds close to the hide.

This morning 12+ Common Swift flew in, a Yellow Wagtail flew over this morning and one landed on the NE bank in front of David and myself this evening. The pair of Mandarin Duckwere also about as were the Common Teal. This afternoon I went looking for the Wheatear that Ian Williams had told me about and spotted a male COMMON STONECHAT with the Wheatear on the fence that runs parallel to the track from the Cemetery to the res. Also a good number of Common Tern (Roy Hargreaves)


A first-summer female MARSH HARRIER arrived at Wilstone at around 1720 hours yesterday afternoon (Jon Nasir et al), roosted overnight and remained until at least early afternoon today.

There were also 6 COMMON SANDPIPERS, 46 Common Terns, 6 COMMON SWIFTS, Common Cuckoo and an increase in commoner warblers, particularly Sedge and Common Whitethroat.

An adult COMMON GULL roosted on three consecutive evenings.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

And yet another LITTLE GULL

Only arrived just before it was dark. There was a second-summer LITTLE GULL present, different to the adult-type present earlier in the day. Interestingly an adult Common Gull has roosted the last 2 evenings (Steve Rodwell)


There were 3 NORTHERN WHEATEARS (two males of which photographed above) feeding on lots of fat, greyish caterpillars in the rough grass between the main Icknield Way footpath and the footpath running along the top of Incombe Hole this evening. They had to give them a good bashing before swallowing them! (Sally Douglas)

GROPPERS, more LITTLE GULLS and a MARSH HARRIER that lingered for more than an hour

Reeling Grasshopper Warbler (Steve Arlow)


Another light frost overnight and another day of cool NW winds, although these slackened off to almost nothing by dusk. Clear and blue throughout, with bright sunshine, temperatures climbing to 13 degrees C.

It was another bumper day locally, particularly for scarce waders, with the larger species battling their way into the wind. On the downside, I dipped another Marsh Harrier, but on the positive, bagged a nice PIED AVOCET......

(0700-0800 hours)

Failed to meet the dawn commitments with Roy and Dave B so hence missed the Whimbrel that roosted overnight on Wilstone and flew off strongly east at 0618 hours (and most likely relocated further NE in Bedfordshire).

However, just as I drove over the canal bridge from Tring, Ben Miller texted to say that he had just found another LITTLE GULL, this time on Marsworth. Within minutes I was watching it and yet again, another individual in a very confusing state of plumage. It had a patchy black head and all dark bill, pale grey underwings with some dark mottling on the underwing coverts and all white upperwings, so presumably an adult in transitional plumage or a near adult. It also had the salmon-pink flush to the underparts and as it showed well, it flew between both the Bucks and Herts sections of the reservoir.

Acting on news provided by Warren Claydon and Steve Rodwell, I was extremely pleased to finally connect with a reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLER - my first of the year. The bird was showing extremely well perched high on top of grasses in the rough field adjoining the sewage works and sang from 0720 until at least 0755 hours.

The number of SEDGE WARBLERS in the Marsworth Reedbeds had also greatly increased with a minimum of 11 singing males, whilst CETTI'S WARBLERS numbered 3, a 'new' singing male WILLOW WARBLER was located (by the sewage works) and two singing male COMMON WHITETHROATS had arrived, again both in the vicinity of the works.

The only other birds of note were a pair of Shoveler on the Sewage Farm lagoon and a Common Redshank that flew over west calling (whilst Ben saw the first-year Little Ringed Plover that had earlier been roosting on Wilstone jetty)..


As Ben had checked College Lake, I gave it a miss and headed straight for the Chiltern escarpment. It was freezing up there and although the sun was shining, the fresh NW wind kept activity by migrants to a minimum. Just 1 female NORTHERN WHEATEAR remained present on the SE Beacon Hill slope and a single LESSER REDPOLL flew east. Five male COMMON WHITETHROATS were still between the S bend and the penultimate Beacon peak but best of all was a crippling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER reeling from a small bush left (west) of the main track up to the trig point, on the upper reaches of the SW slope. The bird was singing right out in the open with its throat and head reverberating with the strange action of its reeling and its beak wide open. It was still singing at 0820 hours.


A party of 4 House Sparrows was in the hedgerow opposite the farm shop. I was joined by Jim Middleton at the top of the steps (he had been on site early enough to witness the Whimbrel) and over the next half hour recorded 1 LITTLE GULL (the relocating bird from Marsworth), an impressive 6 COMMON SANDPIPERS on the algae bunds, 15 Common Terns and the Common Redshank I had seen earlier now roosting on the East reservoir bank.

Other migrants included 1 COMMON SWIFT, 242+ SAND MARTINS, 22 HOUSE MARTINS, 58 Swallows and a singing male Blackcap in trees opposite the car park.

More familiar species noted included -:

Great Crested Grebes (12)
Grey Heron (25 active nests on the Drayton Bank)
Continental Cormorant (9 active nests in the two main trees on the Drayton Bank)
Mute Swan (just 2 present, both apparent cobs)
Gadwall (19)
Shoveler (5)
Tufted Duck (127)
Northern Pochard (3 drakes)
Coot (64 counted, with several pairs actively nest-building)

Mistle Thrush (pair gathering food on the bank by the car park)

A41 (BUCKS) - Sadly, yet another dead Badger, this one lying on the southbound carriageway near Tinker's Lodge at SP 956 095

........Just as I was skirting Stewartby, Steve Rodwell 'phoned to say that a female MARSH HARRIER was lingering at Wilstone. Frustratingly, I was stuck in the traffic of the A 421 roadworks, but after taking the back route through Lidlington, Flitwick and Toddington, made good headway. Dave Bilcock phoned to say that the bird was showing again at 1840 hours, quartering the reedbed, and I had high hopes. However, just as I entered Wilstone village, the harrier chose that minute to continue its migration, and charged off high to the north. I had missed it by literally minutes.........

Then, just as I was about to drive into the Wilstone car park, Simon Nichols texted to say that Kevin Duncan had just found a PIED AVOCET at Dorney and I was on the move again.....

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Today's DUNLIN

This morning's 3 DUNLIN at College Lake and a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR at Ivinghoe Hills (Dave Bilcock)


Chanced upon a couple of good birds this afternoon on the 'Hargreaves' Walk. Firstly, upon scanning posts and fencelines, I found a male COMMON REDSTART at Miswell Farm in the field that contains the caravans, just beyond the metal gate. The bird was very flighty and swiftly moved left into the trees at which point it was lost from view. I failed to relocate it thereafter.

As I then made my way along the dry canal, I noticed a couple of large raptors, one of which was an OSPREY being harried by a Common Buzzard. The bird flew west, presumably skirting the north side of Wilstone and out of view behind the trees. I did hope that anybody standing on the bank would have seen it (Jon Nasir).

Another great passage day


There was a light frost overnight as the wind switched to the Northwest and freshened during the morning. It remained clear and bright but felt particularly cold in the wind.

It was another good day in terms of migration with more fresh arrivals. I managed two year-ticks - HOBBY and COMMON SWIFT but still failed to find either Grasshopper Warbler or Common Cuckoo. In stark contrast to yesterday, most of the Ring Ouzels had moved on overnight......


Following an early morning call from Dave Bilcock, I was able to connect with the 3 DUNLIN at 0900 hours. They were still feeding on the island on the main lake and involved one adult in transitional plumage and two still largely in winter plumage.

There was also a smart adult male WHITE WAGTAIL in the NE corner of the marsh but otherwise, it was the breeding waders which were significant.

In addition to the two lingering COMMON SNIPE, it was great to finally see that the OYSTERCATCHERS have finally settled down to breed with one bird sat on a nest on the larger of the two Eastern islands. At least 7 pairs of Lapwing were nesting, with one pair with fledged young, with 4-6 Common Redshanks also present.

Wildfowl included the two adult Mute Swans, 3 Greylag Geese and single pairs of both Common Teal and Northern Shoveler.

I failed to hear or see the Common Cuckoo, my best being a singing male WILLOW WARBLER.


Two different male LESSER WHITETHROATS were 'rattling' away, with one in the hedgerow 250 yards south of Northfield Grange at SP 947 133 and another SW of Northfield Road at SP 949 128.

The woodland on the Aldbury Nowers escarpment held 2 singing male Blackcaps and a single Common Chiffchaff, whilst 2 Stock Dove, Nuthatch, Robin and Common Blackbird were also recorded. There was one European Barn Swallow quartering the fields and at least one pair of Eurasian Skylarks in the paddock fields.


A third OYSTERCATCHER was present in the quarry, additional to the nesting pair at College.


Despite the sunshine, it must be still too early for Grizzled and Dingy Skipper, with only Peacocks seen and a single Speckled Wood in the coppice.

I was pleased to see the resident population of HOUSE SPARROWS holding up - with 6 pairs in total, with the nucleus around Grace Cottage - as well as one pair of Eurasian Collared Dove, 3 pair of Chaffinch and 3 pairs of nesting Common Blackbird.

The coppice area held a male BULLFINCH, single singing male WILLOW WARBLER, Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap and Great Tit, whilst the main common held at least one singing male Eurasian Skylark.


At the bottom of Inkombe Hole slope, Dave Bilcock and I recorded 33 PASQUE FLOWER spikes (including 16 in full flower) but little in the way of migrants. A male Sparrowhawk drifted over and 3 Sand Martins flew north.

Elsewhere along the escarpment, there was a fall of COMMON WHITETHROATS, with 5 singing males between the S-bend and the Beacon, a LESSER WHITETHROAT showing well on the Steps Hill slope and at least 6 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS (between Top Scrub and the S-bend). The 5 NORTHERN WHEATEARS remained in situ, favouring the SE slope below the Beacon and including two very bright individuals, most likely Greenland-types.

A very bright pipit that appeared to have a long hind-claw and was skulking about in the grass eventually turned out to be a Meadow Pipit.


At the north end, in the Harding's Rookery area, Coal Tit, singing Common Treecreeper and Nuthatch were noted, whilst further south, a circuituous walk between the War Memorial, up the west side of the golf course and out west to farmland NW of Well Farm failed to yield any Cuckoo, Tree Pipit or Garden Warbler.

The highlight was 6 different singing male WILLOW WARBLERS, along with 4 male Blackcaps, 2 male Common Chiffchaffs, a pair of Jays, 2 Green Woodpeckers, 2 Song Thrush, a pair of Yellowhammer and an Orange Tip butterfly. Two Stock Doves were feeding in the chicken pen by Well Farm

Nearby, in trees north and west of the castle remains, the Rookery held 23 active nests.


An early afternoon visit with DB yielded our first HOBBY of the year - a bird giving a fine show flying back and forth over the reedbed and moving as far west as the hide. Mike Campbell and Peter Leigh had first discovered it at 1300 hours.

Common Tern numbers had increased to 18 birds.


There was no sign of yesterday's European Golden Plover flock but a single Lapwing was in one of the meadows immediately beyond the A41 bridge. This area also yielded a singing male COMMON WHITETHROAT and 4 Linnets whilst the village itself held a population of some 35 HOUSE SPARROWS.


I spent a long period from early afternoon surveying the extensive conifer woodlands for crests. At the Hale end, a total of 5 singing male FIRECRESTS was located and 8 GOLDCRESTS, with a hooting TAWNY OWL, 3 singing male Coal Tits, 1 WILLOW WARBLER, the 3 male Common Chiffchaffs, Song Thrush and pair of Long-tailed Tits also recorded. A Comma butterfly was seen, along with 3 Peacocks.

In the small triangular coppice west of the A413 just south of the Wendover Bypass, the Rookery at SP 873 064 held 31 active nests.


I then surveyed the southern escarpment of forest along the Ridgeway, from Boswell's Farm (SP 880 065) through Barn Wood to the north end of Hale Wood (SP 894 072) - a 2.5 mile section of forest. This yielded a further 4 singing male FIRECRESTS and 3 GOLDCRESTS, along with Common Treecreeper, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Song Thrush, Robin and male Blackcap. Most unexpected was another HOBBY - a bird flying high over the ridge above Barn Wood at 1620 hours - one of my earliest ever in Bucks.

Whilst walking back, DB texted to inform me that Jonathon Nasir had just located a male Common Redstart at Miswell Farm......

(evening visit from 1700) (with JN, DB, MCa, and later SR and Warren Claydon)

Mike Campbell and Dave were already on site when I arrived at Miswell Farm shortly after 1700 hours but after scouring the hedgerows and fenceposts north of the 'caravan field', there was no further sign of the adult male Common Redstart.

Not only that, Jon's purple patch continued, as an Osprey being trailed by a Red Kite and Common Buzzard flew over him shortly later, and quickly drifted off NNE as it skirted the reservoir.

I drove around to the main car park and was surprised to see the number of 'new' birds that had arrived during the afternoon, including a summer-plumaged pink-breasted 2nd-summer LITTLE GULL, a minimum of 28 COMMON TERNS (Charlie Jackson counted 33 later) and a huge arrival of hirundines including no less than 320 SAND MARTINS, a massive 43 HOUSE MARTINS and 70 EUROPEAN BARN SWALLOWS, and with them 3 COMMON SWIFTS - my first of the year.

There were also 2 COMMON SANDPIPERS present, 2 LAPWING flew west, a female Mallard was accompanying three ducklings and several Red Kites were overhead, whilst a YELLOW WAGTAIL flew east, as well as 7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Later towards dusk, CJ enjoyed excellent views of a WHIMBREL which settled briefly on the East Bank before being flushed by a dogwalker.

News from the early shift

There are 3 adult DUNLIN on the main marsh at College Lake (DB), whilst a reeling male GRASSHOPPER WARBLER sang from fields behind the farm shop at Wilstone until 0620 hours (DB/RH)

A further GRASSHOPPER WARBLER was seen at Ivinghoe (MW), where at least 2 RING OUZELS remain, and a new BLACK REDSTART is in the paddocks at Blows Downs (plus at least 3 RING OUZELS) (LC)

An unusual record is of a female RING OUZEL in Langley Park, Iver (RBA)

Just off..........


......And a further flurry of LITTLE GULLS today


The fine weather continued, although several degrees down on yesterday's high point of 19 degrees C. Winds remained light but frequently touched SE and as cloud increased during the day, the first rain for some time fell in the Chilterns just prior to dark.

Today was exceptional for RING OUZELS with many seen, along with more BLACK REDSTARTS and late on - a performing HOOPOE..........


Diverting away from Wilstone, realising that the Whimbrel had flown off east, my first port of call was the Ivinghoe escarpment, where some 3 RING OUZELS remained present (2 males just east of the fenceline just SE of the Beacon and a female on the southern slope of Inkombe Hole) and 5 NORTHERN WHEATEARS remained from last week. There was nothing new to be seen so I moved east....


It soon became apparent that RING OUZELS were to be the order of the day, with a single male feeding with the Red-necked Wallabies and small Patagonian Deer just south of the White Lion ('scoped from the B 4506 Dunstable Road at SP 995 169), three more (male and two females) in the gully just above the Stone Curlew field just south of the European Bison pen (at SP 998 183) and a further 3 (two males and a female) on Bison Hill, SSE of Icknield Farm - the latter all visible from the B 4506 Dagnall Road.


No sign of any Dingy or Grizzled Skippers on the chalk face but a female RING OUZEL 'chakking' from scrub by the steps from the car park.


At least 16 pairs of HOUSE SPARROWS were located in the village, as well as 8 nesting pairs of Common Blackbird. Nearby, the nesting pair of PEREGRINES were utilising their usual crevice.

(1530-1610 hours)

A party of 3 adult-type LITTLE GULLS, two with full black hoods, was showing well commuting between the green algae bunds directly out from the car park and the surface area out from the jetty. There had been 6 birds present earlier in the afternoon. Interestingly, one of the birds had black peppering in the primary feathers suggesting immaturity, but had a full black hood and typically dark underwing. Two birds also had a beautiful pink wash to the underparts. Dave Bilcock obtained the excellent images above. They were loosely associating with 8 Black-headed Gulls.

The 16 COMMON TERNS from yesterday evening remained, whilst new for me was the COMMON SANDPIPER feeding out on the bunds.

Some 8 Shoveler remain, a male YELLOW WAGTAIL flew through and hirundines included 42 Sand Martins and 5 European Barn Swallows.

At STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR, the 4 Great Crested Grebes, 11 Mute Swan and 27 Tufted Ducks were present, with 5 Barn Swallows patrolling the north bank, whilst MARSWORTH RESERVOIR held 11 Great crested Grebes, 5 Shovelers, a drake Northern Pochard and 2 more Mute Swans. A further 9 Mute Swans was on the adjacent Grand Union Canal.

The horse paddocks held 1 male YELLOW WAGTAIL, 1 adult male WHITE WAGTAIL and 5 Pied Wagtails, with a GREY WAGTAIL by the canal locks and the Marsworth Canal Reedbed holding a singing male SEDGE WARBLER. A further SEDGE WARBLER was in the reedbed wood, where also the first singing male WESTERN REED WARBLER of the year was present (easily audible from the footpath close to the overflow). The male Blackcap and male Common Chiffchaff of the past week or so were both still present and a very noisy CETTI'S WARBLER was by the Sewage Farm.

Overhead of Marsworth were 6 Common Terns, 25 Sand Martin and 7 Barn Swallows.

Yesterday's LITTLE GULL - Simon West

Monday, 19 April 2010


Two COMMON SWIFTS over Western Road, Tring this evening; also at College Lake the first Lapwing chicks are off with 4 on the NE island (per Paul Reed)

Early morning WHIMBREL

This morning I headed straight for Cemetery Corner rather than the hide. At the gap in the trees where the grain used to be placed I looked through and there was a Numenius stood on the jetty. A quick examination confirmed that it was WHIMBREL. Knowing that David was on the way I rang him to see how long he would be and alert him to its presence. Fortunately it stayed long enough for David to see it. It then flew down into the goose field – calling as it did. I thought at that point that it might stay, but a few moments later it took off a and flew off to the east at about 6:15.

Otherwise there was at least one Common Sandpiper about, but little else out of the ordinary. However, there did seem to be quite a few Willow Warblers and Blackcaps about (Roy Hargreaves).

COMMON SANDPIPERS at Weston Turville

WEBS count Sunday at 8 am yielded little of interest in the way of waterbirds other than five Great crested Grebes and a Little Grebe but two COMMON SANDPIPERS were on the dinghy club jetty and flew off high to the north (Richard Birch)

Sunday Highlights - 18 April

Sunday morning a Green Sandpiper was by the jetty and a Common Sandpiper by the new overflow – both birds inevitably were disturbed as I walked along the bank. The Common Sandpiper flew to the rock in the middle and the Green Sandpiper circled about low, but I don’t know where it ended up; Also heard a distant Common Cuckoo (Roy Hargreaves)

A LITTLE GULL was present during the afternoon (Steve Rodwell) and 3 RING OUZELS and 5 NORTHERN WHEATEARS remained on Ivinghoe Beacon (many observers)

Saturday, 17 April 2010

......And the Hills

Somebody kindly put me on to a very tame male RING OUZEL, which I had just managed to walk past without noticing. It was in the scrub close to the fence line with the sheepfield. It was again feeding on ivy berries and also came out on to the main path. A COMMON CUCKOO flew past and there were also 2 Common Whitethroats on the Beacon (Steve Rodwell)

College Lake today

Arriving at College Lake late morning, I met first Nancy and then Roy in the car park. We headed down to the fantastic new hide to enjoy great views of a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER just outside the hide, and then a GREEN SANDPIPER flew in calling. The were 3 Oystercatchers on the reserve today and a Willow Warbler was heard singing.

Quite a few butterflies starting to emerge - Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock all seen.

Glorious day to be out & about,

Ben Miller

Friday, 16 April 2010


ARCTIC TERNS photographed this afternoon at Wilstone (Dave Bilcock)


With the wind still blowing from the Northeast, most of the day was fairly cool. From about midday onwards, the pressure started to build and the cloud cover dissipated, leaving clear blue skies and long spells of sunshine. Towards evening, the wind slackened right off, making it very pleasant.

I spent the day mopping up a few local year-ticks, the highlight being my first LESSER WHITETHROAT of the year, some nice adult LITTLE GULLS and more ARCTIC TERNS.........


With the weather clearing up and the cold NE wind starting to abate, I walked the entire escarpment from Aldbury Nowers, across Pitstone Hill, past Steps Hill and across the Beacon Hill slopes to Gallows Hill. It was virtually birdless and my only highlight was the 3 male NORTHERN WHEATEARS on Beacon Hill, just south of the trig point.

There was no sign of the two male Ring Ouzels present early morning, nor of the male that had been showing well in Inkombe Hole much earlier (per Dave Bilcock).


At 1800 hours, I stopped off at Wilstone, where Jeff Bailey and Steve Rodwell were chatting, and Ben Miller was just leaving. The main point of interest were yet another group of 4 ARCTIC TERNS - commuting between the algae bunds and the jetty - and consorting with 3 Common Terns. Interestingly, at least two of the Arctic Terns had a blackish tip to the bill, but overall the bills were slimmer, shorter and deeper red and when perched, the much shorter legs were apparent. The underparts of all four birds were also much greyer than on the accompanying Common Terns and in flight, the wings were much more rakish and particularly contrasting on the underwing. The tail streamers were only fully developed on one individual and in general, there were no discernible differences in this feature with the 3 Common Terns.

Duck included 18 Gadwall, 8 Shoveler and 11 Northern Pochard, whilst 35 Sand Martin were overhead.

A walk along the Dry Canal produced a flyover GREEN SANDPIPER and a single Yellowhammer but there was no sign of the Lesser Whitethroat that Roy Hargreaves had seen and heard earlier in the day

WHIMBREL at College Lake BBOWT - Thursday 15 April

Mike Campbell found this confiding WHIMBREL mid afternoon, as it chased after insects along the main bund at College Lake BBOWT marsh. The bird was still present in the evening when Dave Bilcock and LGRE visited (DB photographing it) but flew off calling NNE at 1900 hours. It attempted to drop down on the muddy 'puddle' at the north end of the muddy field adjacent to the Pitstone Industrial Estate road but thought better of it and continued north towards Grovebury.

Thursday Evening

Last night, there was no sign of the reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLER of earlier in the day......

Wilstone Reservoir held 4 ARCTIC TERNS (found by SR earlier), 5 COMMON TERNS, 3 LITTLE EGRETS (roosting by shooting butt on the Drayton Bank at dusk) and a drake MANDARIN DUCK (my first at the reservoirs this year), along with 42 Sand Martins, 1-2 singing CETTI'S WARBLERS and singing male WILLOW WARBLER and GOLDCREST (LGRE)

Thursday morning

This morning was productive. A Barn Owl was patrolling the meadow on the corner to the south of Rushy and a Little Owl was in its normal spot in the pollarded female Black Poplar. A Yellow Wagtail flew over the field on bordering the west corner of the res. The Barn Owl flew off fairly high to the south suggesting that this is not the bird that appears by the car park as that bird normally heads back to the north.

The GRASSHOPPER WARBLER induced the usual bout of uncertainty when heard briefly and distantly, but then was clearly heard in the bushes along the path that leads up to the Dry Canal from by the Waddesdon Estate gate. I called David and the bird promptly shut up. While waiting for David I saw a bird move along the ground between bushes and so wasn’t entirely surprised when, after David had joined me, the bird commenced singing on the reservoir side of the track in the small clearing. We also saw it briefly but well on the ground and watched it flit about before it commenced singing from a hidden perch (Roy Hargreaves)

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Hills remain the same whilst ARCTIC TERN passes quickly through Wilstone

Dave Bilcock recorded an ARCTIC TERN early morning through Wilstone, whilst 3 male RING OUZELS, the immature male BLACK REDSTART and 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS remained on Ivinghoe Beacon (Steve Rodwell, Mick Frosdick, et al)

Meanwhile, LGRE recorded the following -:


That cold Northeasterly wind keeps blowing, keeping migration to a minimum and preventing many small birds from singing. It remained dry but was grey and overcast up until early afternoon. For me, it was another day birding locally......


Dave Bilcock had seen a single Arctic Tern early morning but there was no sign of it several hours later when I visited - just 5 Common Terns still.

In fact, Wilstone was very quiet, with 8 Great Crested Grebes, 25 active Grey Heron nests, 3 Common Teal still, 18 Shoveler, 8 immature Black-headed Gulls, 15 European Barn Swallows and a migrant male YELLOW WAGTAIL.


A pair of Great Crested Grebes was building a nest on one of the green algae bunds, with 6 Mute Swans, 35 Tufted Ducks and 17 Coot counted. There was a total of 164 hirundines grounded by the grey conditions, including 151 SAND MARTINS and 13 Barn Swallows.

In windy conditions, I still failed to find any Sedge Warblers in the Marsworth reedbeds, even though at least one male is present.


In an attempt to nail Grey Partridge for my Bucks Year List, I spent some considerable time searching the farmland to the east of Wingrave, either side of the Leighton Road and east as far as the Mentmore Cross Roads (SP 890 205).

In the sheep fields to the west of Upper Wingbury Farm (SP 875 198), I located two COMMON RAVENS, both birds in wing moult, with one quite heavy. They were feeding in the fields and later flew off east calling loudly, in the direction of Mentmore Park.

There were two Common Buzzards in this area, as well as 1 RED KITE, whilst Common Kestrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 14 Common Starlings were also noted.

Very pleasing was the locating of four nesting pairs of LAPWING in the fields, although disconcerting was an obvious Carrion Crow nest at the top of an isolated tree (most likely designed to fledge at the same time as the baby Lapwings).

Chaffinches were quite numerous, whilst a pair of Long-tailed Tits were nesting in the roadside hedgerow just NE of Wingrave.

Alas, no Grey Partridge were located.....


I took advantage of my visit to fully survey the breeding birds of Wingrave village, with the following results -:

Moorhen (pair on the tiny village pond)
Eurasian Collared Dove (8+ birds noted)
Dunnock (1 singing male)
European Robin (a bare minimum of 7 breeding pairs)
Common Blackbird (7 nesting pairs)
Common Starling (3+ pairs, with a singing male at 119 Winslow Road)
COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (a singing male in Willows in Lower End at the south end of the village)
*HOUSE SPARROWS (the real success story, with 5 pairs at the north end and a further 3 at the south end and two more in the ivy on the Rose & Crown public house)
Greenfinch (2 displaying males)
Jackdaw (3 pairs nesting on chimneys, with 2 on Winslow Road and another on Nup End Lane)


Next off, I surveyed the ROOKERIES between Wingrave and Long Marston, with 10 active nests opposite Boarscroft (at SP 882 175) and 68 active nests in the Common Alder trees opposite Betlow Farm entrance at SP 885 165.

A dead Badger was just south of Whitwell Farm (SP 881 170) at SP 883 168, whilst the farmhouse itself held 2 further pairs of breeding HOUSE SPARROWS and 2 Red-legged Partridges and a male Pied Wagtail on the plough opposite.

Just south of Beeching House, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush and Great Tit were all recorded.

In Long Marston village, another 8 pairs of HOUSE SPARROW was located, including pairs by the Primary School and several on houses 9-15, and 5 pairs of Eurasian Collared Doves.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010



The biting NE wind continues, pegging temperatures right back and making birding extremely unpleasant at times. Great once in the shelter but freshening towards evening and bringing increased cloud cover.

Once again, more birds were deposited on the highest hills by the conditions, particularly RING OUZELS, but 2 BLACK REDSTARTS made for a change and a (BLACK-LEGGED) KITTIWAKE was the main prize..........

(0900-1230 hours)

More RING OUZELS arrived overnight so my first port of call was once again the Ivinghoe complex. Viewing from the shelter of the scrub just east of the S-bend and close to the kissing gate, I soon located 5 different male RING OUZELS which were flying out from a dense area of scrub to feed out in the open literally yards out from the wire fence and just 150 yards south of the trig point at Ivinghoe Beacon. One male in particular was very confiding and repeatedly came out whilst the others were more elusive and skulking and eventually flew up further to feed on the grass much closer to the trig point.

After a while I was joined by Eaton Bray birder Richard Woodhead, and after he had enjoyed good views of the single male through my 'scope, we decided to explore further. As we searched either side of the ridge, I watched all of the ouzels fly east, 'chakking' loudly as they went, and appearing to alight on the main slope SE of the peak and above the sheep pens and fields.

A male COMMON WHITETHROAT was singing from scrub just 100 yards east of the peak and after enjoying a good view of that and of more migrant WILLOW WARBLERS (there had been a major fall of this species today involving at least 17 individuals), I suddenly came upon another small passerine hopping on and off the wire fence as the track heads east towards Gallows Hill. I quickly intercepted it in the 'scope and was delighted to find that it was a female BLACK REDSTART - my first in the county this year. It was showing very well, just flitting to and fro from the fenceline on to the main track. I quickly contacted RBA and Dave Bilcock, and finally raised Steve Rodwell.

Beacon Hill was then found to be housing two different BLACK REDSTARTS, as shortly later Richard and I located a second bird - this time a first-summer male - just 80 yards further east along the footpath. The five male RING OUZELS had also chosen to relocate to the south-facing slope above the sheep pens but due to the constant pressure of walkers, eventually flew further east and disappeared, leaving just one bird in the area of the 'Mushroom Hawthorn'. Both BLACK REDSTARTS were very similar in appearance, although the young male had much more warmth (brown) in the upperwings and was deeper grey on the upperparts. Neither bird had any white panel in the wing. Dave Bilcock obtained an excellent selection of images of the female (see above).

With news on the pager, birders took no delay in arriving, and after Mike Campbell and Steve Rodwell pitched up, quite a crowd gathered - and within 20 minutes, twice as many than had turned up for last week's Dartford Warbler ! Ring Ouzels really do have that special attraction.

We were all treated to an excellent display by both species and a further search of the area yielded nothing more than a flyover LESSER REDPOLL - it was time for me to retreat and after a follow-up call from Mark Thomas, it was Peacocks Lake at Broom that was to be my next destination......

RING OUZELS a-plenty

At least 4 male RING OUZELS are showing very well this morning at Ivinghoe Hills, feeding in the sheep field out in the open, on the SE grassy slope of the beacon. To avoid disturbance, these birds can be easily 'scoped from the start of the footpath just parallel with the S-bend (per Francis Buckle/Steve Rodwell)

Monday, 12 April 2010

Easterlies finally produce the hoped-for LITTLE GULLS, whilst RING OUZELS perform well on the Hills


Well, spring 2010 was certainly short-lived, with cold winds blasting in from the Northeast making it feel freezing. It remained dry though, and fairly bright. Temperatures reached a high of just 11 degrees C, in stark contrast to Scotland, where Aviemore continues to bask in up to 20 degrees C, and even Wick reached 17 degrees. As expected, the biting winds misplaced LITTLE GULLS and RING OUZELS..........

(0830-1100 hours; with Steve Rodwell, Peter Leigh & Chris, and later with Francis Buckle & Dave Cleal)

The two male RING OUZELS first found yesterday morning (Mike Wallen et al) were showing very well this morning and keeping very faithful to one particular area, just SW of the Ivinghoe Beacon trig point. They were actually feeding just east of the Beacon Road at SP 957 167 but were best observed from the penultimate peak just north, and sitting in the lee of the SW slope, it was actually quite pleasant and settled. The two birds were showing very well at sporadic intervals, appearing from the scrub to perch in the open on the leafless trees and the Hawthorn, as well as feeding on the sward of grassy slope (in fact, the 'Duke of Burgundy Cutting' in reality. One was a fabulous adult male, with gleaming white half moon, black upperparts and bright yellow bill, whilst the other was a much drabber and noisier first-summer male - Dave Bilcock obtaining at least one good image of the former - see above). Although they were disturbed fairly frequently by cyclists and walkers alike, the two birds did remain faithful to this one area, but the presence of a nesting pair of Common Blackbirds eventually took its toll. When I returned later in the afternoon to show Francis, just one male was seen in flight and they were no longer visiting the grass to feed. There has been a minimum of 7 Ring Ouzels at the site in the past week but these have been the most reliable and easiest to see by far.

The walk up to the Beacon also produced 2 singing male WILLOW WARBLERS and a singing male Common Chiffchaff, whilst there was also a singing male COMMON WHITETHROAT (Dave Cleal) and two male NORTHERN WHEATEARS (Steve Rodwell). Meadow Pipits were fairly numerous, along with Linnets, and a male Bullfinch was in bushes by the main car park.


The resident pair of COMMON RAVENS were showing very well, the male calling loudly from an exposed branch in the vicinity of the nest and the female (now fairly heavily worn) visiting nearby fields and returning with large crops of food for the growing four youngsters.

A Peacock butterfly was also seen but the pair of resident Little Owls were sheltering out of view from the cold wind.


Both pairs of RINGED and LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS were present, both now nesting.


There were no small plovers, Common Sandpiper or Dunlin present but waders were represented by up to 8 Common Redshank and 9 nesting pairs of Lapwing (1 on the west island, 5 on the east, 1 on the NE and two to the north of the main lake.

One Little Grebe was present, a pair of Shoveler, 18 Tufted Duck and at least 8 Atlantic Canada Geese, whilst migrants included a singing male WILLOW WARBLER and my first COMMON WHITETHROAT of the year - a singing male to the north of the main lake.


There was a fall of BLACKCAPS in the NW corner, involving up to 6 individuals - mostly singing males, with a singing male Common Chiffchaff nearby.

The quarry lake was fairly quiet, with 6 Little Grebes present, pair of Tufted Duck, 4 Coots, the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS (still not nesting) and two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls.


With a fierce and freezing NE wind, birdlife was scant and poorly represented, with 3 Shoveler on Marsworth and 8 European Barn Swallows on Startop's End being the highlights (the weekend had seen the first calling male Common Cuckoo - per Lynne Lambert).


(midday-1230 hours) With Steve Rodwell, Mike Campbell, Peter Leigh, Chris and Francis Buckle, recorded my first (and that of the reservoirs') LITTLE GULLS of the year - a winter-plumaged adult, a transitional adult and a well-marked second-summer - all drifting around between the jetty and the Drayton Bank with 9 Black-headed Gulls and 4 Common Terns.

Wildfowl included 3 Common Teal (including 1 drake), 19 Gadwall, 18 Shoveler, a drake Pochard and 172 Tufted Ducks, whilst 10 Great Crested Grebes were noted (some pairs in active dancing display). A Coot killed by fishing line at least four days ago lie just off of the car park steps.

Aerial migrants were few and far between, with just a handful of Sand Martins and 3 European Barn Swallows.


Surveying both Roundhill Wood and The Flats (SP 94 08), an area of extensive firwoods, new plantations and scrub, the following species were encountered -:

Although no Woodlarks were found (a pair bred successfully here in 2006), the area produced Moorhen (on the pond at SP 939 085), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush (singing male), Song Thrush (singing male), Wren (3 singing males), European Robin (nesting pair), BLACKCAP (2 singing males), COMMON CHIFFCHAFF (4 singing males, plus a female), GOLDCREST (2+ pairs), Blue Tit and COAL TIT (5 singing males).


More survey work but with little to be found in this extensive coniferous wood and area of barren farmland - 1 singing Eurasian Skylark, singing Song Thrush and male Blackcap and a pair of Chaffinch.

Belated Ouzel news

Sally Douglas and others saw and photographed this first-summer male RING OUZEL at the far end of Inkombe Hole on Saturday afternoon

College Lake has a good morning - Sunday 11 April

A normal College Lake day where i found 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 L R Plover,1 Ringed Plover, 1 DUNLIN and 1 COMMON SANDPIPER, so i sent Dave Bilcock a text message and everything unduly disappeared!

Still 2 Oystercatchers, 4 Redshank and 1 or 2 Snipe. Strangely there was a male and female Common Goldeneye on the marsh which were obviously a pair (Paul)

Sunday on the Hills

3 RING OUZELS this morning, all appeared to be males. 2 birds were on the west slope between the beacon and the s-bend and another at the far end of Incombe Hole, Ian Williams had seen this bird earlier in the hedge that runs towards Pitstone Hill. Picture of one of the males below the beacon above (Dave Bilcock).

Saturday, 10 April 2010


At Ivinghoe Hills today, up to 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS were present (Chaz Jackson/Don Otter), with a TREE PIPIT north early morning (Mike Wallen). No Ring Ouzels were left over from the influx in the week, nor were any Common Redstarts found (Blows Downs has had one male of the latter so far)

At Wendover Woods, 4 COMMON CROSSBILLS were noted around the car park (per Bucks Bird Club Field Meeting) and the woodland escarpment held at least 7 singing male FIRECRESTS.

The first male COMMON REDSTART of the year showed well for about half an hour at Lodge Hill, in scrub by the junction (Warren Claydon), this site also yielding a male RING OUZEL two weeks ago, the first to be recorded there.

Friday, 9 April 2010

CURLEWS remain in valley

A quick stop around the area near Slapton this evening produced a calling EURASIAN CURLEW, displaying Meadow Pipit and an Egret sp which flew over Ivinghoe Aston heading towards Ivinghoe. Most likely a Little but it looked verycompact and broad winged, almost Barn Owl like. It disappeared behind trees in the distance before I had a chance to get the scope on it, so hopefully it was a Little heading back to Wilstone to roost.

Up Pitstone Hill in the half hour before dark, a Corn Bunting was singingalong with 3 Meadow Pipits. A raptor sitting in the middle of the stubblefield next to Down farm looked good for a Merlin through bins but the scoperevealed a male Sparrowhawk unfortunately! Rob Andrews


This morning mammals were more obvious than birds – two Chinese Water Deer and two Muntjac in Rushy Meadow and one CWD in the field bordering the west corner.

Again there was a Willow Warbler singing from a different location this morning and a Common Whitethroat was singing by the Dry Canal (Roy Hargreaves)

On the Ivinghoe Hills, a male RING OUZEL and Common Whitethroat were seen

Singing COMMON CHIFFCHAFF with some Spanish notes in its dialect


Another beautiful, warm spring day, continuing the theme of yesterday. Little in the way of visible passage but more and more summer visitors arriving, particularly warblers. Temperatures again reached 59 degrees F, with long spells of sunshine and clear blue skies.

(1500-1700 hours)

In remarkably warm conditions, Steve Rodwell and I spent a long period studying and listening to a singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF in Willows and shrubs close to the Buddleia clearing. This was no ordinary chiffchaff however in terms of vocalisation as it repeatedly threw into its repertoire, one note which I only associate with Iberian Chiffchaff (brehmii/ibericus). In fact, when Steve and Vicky first found it, it gave all four loud notes that ibericus frequently finishes its song off with. Later, it reverted to more typical collybita conversation, and showed field characteristics akin to that species.

The woodland yielded three further singing male Common Chiffchaffs, 1-2 male WILLOW WARBLERS, 2 male Blackcaps, 5+ Goldcrests, a LESSER REDPOLL and several Coal Tits, as well as several Peacock butterflies (Steve had also seen a TREE PIPIT briefly, two pairs of MARSH TITS and two singing FIRECRESTS).

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Early morning at Wilstone

The morning was bright and still and visibility was excellent - unfortunately little was about. An Oystercatcher, probably from College Lake, was stood on rocks on Drayton Bank also a Little Egret flew in when I was by the Dry Canal. A small invasion of Willow Warblers also came in overnight and were singing along the Dry Canal. Also a distant flock of Golden Plover provided brief excitement (Roy Hargreaves).

OUZELS on the hills - another wave perhaps


High pressure is now firmly in charge and with it came the warmest day of the year so far. Clear blue skies predominated, along with warm sunshine, with afternoon temperatures reaching just under 60 degrees fahrenheit. Winds were very light with a touch of southwesterly.

As is often the case with clear conditions, visible migration was stifled and in stark contrast to yesterday, few birds of note appeared. Bird of the day was undoubtedly the male BLACK-WINGED STILT which had relocated from the Isle of Wight to Essex.....

Sadly, a dead BARN OWL was lying on the central reservation of the westbound A41, just SW of Berkhamstead.


Marsworth Reedbed Wood held Great Spotted Woodpecker, a pair of Bullfinch, two singing male BLACKCAPS and an increase to at least 5 COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS. Both adult pair Mistle Thrushes were busy gathering food in the main field, and the male WILLOW WARBLER was still singing along the causeway. A single Song Thrush was also seen.

Up to 5 COMMON TERNS were on the reservoir, whilst the horse paddocks revealed the presence of no less than 8 YELLOW WAGTAILS (SR later had 9) and 2 adult male WHITE WAGTAILS.


Three RING OUZEL remained from much earlier in the day - two males and a female - moving between the southern flank of Inkombe Hole and the Steps Hill slope in line with the stile. Typically, they were very elusive, and repeatedly disturbed by dogwalkers, joggers and walkers.
Steve Rodwell had seen at least four early morning, including two which flew north over the Beacon trig point.

WILLOW WARBLERS had increased to 5 singing males in the area, with 2 Red Kites and 2 Song Thrushes also noted. A late REDWING arrived late evening.

As dusk approached, the fields around Down Farm attracted at least 107 FALLOW DEER out to feed, as well as several Red Foxes.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

DARTFORD WARBLER shows well for over an hour, first wave of RING OUZELS arrive, as well as two very early ARCTIC TERNS


Phew - what a day ! I struggled to keep up. It really was one of those exceptional days and migrating birds kept grounding all through the day. After the wind swung round from SE to northerly early morning, I just knew it was going to be good. Add to that the fact that it was murky, with poor visibility, and then later with intermittent rain, it was typical fall conditions. Whilst organising my gear, I heard both a singing male EURASIAN SKYLARK and GOLDCREST - both new for the garden this year.

Deciding to set out early, mainly with two target birds in mind - Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat - I had barely set foot on Croxley Common Moor than Steve Rodwell rang to say that he was watching a DARTFORD WARBLER on Steps Hill. I could barely believe it and having only ever seen one in the Tring Recording Area before (also at Ivinghoe) and not seeing one in the county since the small breeding population became extinct two years ago, I immediately ran back for the car. Steve not surprisingly was very excited and as I ran back, I asked him to stick with it until I arrived..............


It took me 27 minutes to get from Croxley to Steps and a further three minutes to find Steve. He was still gazing at the hedgerow that borders the main footpath at the top of Inkombe Hole and had literally only just heard the bird again, after losing it for over 15 minutes. I walked slowly towards him and as I did, the DARTFORD WARBLER made its diagnostic and scolding churr. It had moved to the end of the hedgerow and then flown out. I crossed the stile and then walked parallel with the hedgerow, lightly 'churring' back to the bird. It immediately responded and sat up in full view in some very low bramble 25 yards out from the hedge. I carried on lightly 'pishing' and this kept the bird preoccupied and it carried on showing at just a few feet range. It was a crippling bird and a beautiful adult male to boot. It was in fresh spring plumage and although the upperwings had a brownish hue to them, the underparts were very deeply marked vinous-red and this extended from the rear flanks to the chin and throat, the latter lightly specked with white. The orbital eye ring was bright red and not orange as in first-year males, whilst the forehead, crown, nape, mantle, rump and uppertail were uniform bluish-grey. The fine bill was distinctly pale on the lower mandible and the legs and feet orange-straw. Responding back to me, it intermittently burst into a quiet, scratchy, sub-song, and when out of view, would utter its harsh 'churr' enabling us to keep on it.

It then flew back into the hedgerow and after I had completed writing my field-notes, Stuart Wilson arrived on site. I lightly 'pished' again and the bird flew to the top of the hedge and just perched there for several minutes in full unobscured view. This was such a stunning bird.

It then got bored of me and sank deep down into the thick vegetation and started to skulk away. It flew to the far end of the hedge and then entered the top plantation at the top of Steps Hill. It quickly moved along the edge of this wood and then found the impenetrable patch of dense gorse, partly in flower. It was still calling occasionally and just prior to Mike Campbell racing up, the three of us enjoyed our last prolonged good view of the bird as it jerkily bobbed and cocked its long tail in the gorse and then fluttered away in weak flight.

It then disappeared into the thick gorse and made its way further down the slope. All in all I had enjoyed views over a period of just under an hour and as Mike was joined by Ian Williams, the two of them and Steve had a couple more glimpses before the bird flew much further down the side of Steps Hill slope and disappeared (to the north of Inkombe Hole).

This was a truly exceptional find and an outstanding one. The only previous record in the area was 12 years ago and Buckinghamshire's second - a first-winter which remained on Steps Hill from 25 November until 6 December 1998 and was seen again on 9 January 1999.

Whilst watching the Dartford, a noisy COMMON RAVEN flew low across Inkombe Hole, whilst Top Scrub held a pair of Bullfinch, 3 singing male BLACKCAPS, 3 singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS and a Song Thrush. Several Linnets also flew over, whilst a singing male WILLOW WARBLER was on the lower slope.

As I reached the car park, I heard the familiar 'jipping' sound of COMMON CROSSBILL - and three birds (two males and a female) flew over heading directly north.


At least 6 Yellowhammers were gathered in the field north of the farm, with 7 or more Eurasian Skylarks present in the cereal field on the opposite side of the road - 4 males in song display. A small group of 4 CORN BUNTINGS was in an adjoining stubble field, with both Meadow Pipit and Linnet also present, 3 Stock Doves and a Red Kite over Pitstone Hill.


A return visit at 1800 hours soon yielded the three male RING OUZELS discovered earlier by Don Otter. They were showing well on the grassy slope at the north end of Steps, close to the footpath leading down from the S-bend at cSP 958 162.


Mid-evening, Roy Hargreaves and I located the two adult ARCTIC TERNS that SR and others had seen earlier, feeding amongst 6 COMMON TERNS mainly in the area of water out from the jetty. They represented my first of the year and were earlier than average.

The gloomy conditions (overcast skies with intermittent rain and fresh northerly winds) also grounded large numbers of hirundines, including 186+ SAND MARTINS and 33 European Barn Swallows. There were also 12 Shoveler close to the Drayton Hide, whilst 5 late FIELDFARES were in the tall Poplars.


The paddock wagtail flock numbered 38, including 35 Pieds, a well-marked adult male WHITE and two gaudy male YELLOWS. A high count of 15 Great Crested Grebes was on Marsworth, with a pair of Carrion Crows nesting in the main car park.

All in all, a very enjoyable and highly productive day, but did I get Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat? - No! Tomorrow maybe.

Lean Pickings Today - 6 April


A bright and breezy day with some warm spells of sunshine pushing temperatures up to 57 degrees F. Although the wind was initially SW, it veered during the day to a cooler SE.

It was an excellent day for incoming migrants, with good numbers of Osprey, Tree Pipit, Common Redstart, Common Tern, Garganey and Yellow Wagtails arriving, along with the odd male Pied Flycatcher and Common Cuckoo, as well as some 'new' vagrants, most notably a Black-winged Stilt on the Isle of Wight. On a local basis, it was also a very productive day, a flock of WAXWINGS being the main highlight............

(1230-1310 hours)

The singing male COMMON CHIFFCHAFF was still in the tall Poplars of Reedbed Wood, with the two different CETTI'S WARBLERS in the reedbed, the male BLACKCAP still and the singing male WILLOW WARBLER first found by Chaz Jackson still in trees and ivy just at the start of the causeway. Two male REED BUNTINGS were singing and in parachute display in the reedbed.

Twelve Great Crested Grebes were on the reservoir, with just 4 Pied Wagtails in the horse paddocks and a male Grey Wagtail by the lock.

The neighbouring Grand Union Canal held 10 Mute Swans, including 3 first-summers, whilst Startop's End Reservoir held just 35 Tufted Ducks of note.

My proposed visit to Wilstone Reservoir was immediately interrupted by a very important call from Dave Cleal. He had just discovered 6 BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS.................

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Steve Rodwell's wanderings - COMMON TERN numbers increase

Very little of note over the last 2 days.

Monday: Dancers End 2 Marsh Tits, 1 Siskin.

Tuesday: College Lake 1 Snipe; Pitstone 1 LRP; Wilstone 3 Common Terns, 2 Yellow Wags.

Startops 1 Yellow Wag. I drew a complete blank at Steps Hill and the Beacon, although there were 3 Willow Warblers.

Today at College Lake a Blue Tit was taking nest material to the slot where the public make their donations (the visitor infomation booth near the car park). It could be in for a nasty shock if it does actually build a nest there (Steve Rodwell).

Wagtail bonanza early Monday evening

Early evening 2 Yellow Wagtails, 3 White Wagtails and at least 23 Pied Wagtails in Marsworth Reservoir horse paddocks (Bucks) (Dave Bilcock).

Later update - Monday afternoon

Mid afternoon - three Mandarin Ducks in Pitstone Quarry (2m 1f)

One Common Tern at Wilstone - presumably Charlie's Jackson's bird from Startop's (only second individual of the year).

A bit later - a PEREGRINE over the road between Long Marston and Wingrave.

Don & Sandra Otter

Easter Monday - Quiet (Dave Bilcock roundup)

Much of the same this morning, 2 Wheatears still above the sheep pens and a pair of Raven in the fields below Incombe Hole.

A LRP was in Pitstone Quarry with 2 Redshank.

At Wilstone an Oystercatcher was resting on the bales (Dave Bilcock).

Sunday Morning - OSPREY through Wilstone early morning

A bash around Steps Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon produced 4 NORTHERN WHEATEARS on the usual slope on the Beacon, and together with Iain Malin and Steve Rodwell a PEREGRINE over Steps Hill. Earlier a Redpoll flew over Steps, but little else of note.

No sign in a brief look of the Sandwich Tern at Marsworth/ Startops, although Ian Williams watched an OSPREY fly through Wilstone Res, early on. The drake Red-crested Pochard is still on Startop's End Reservoir (Mike Wallen)

SANDWICH TERN relocates and shows well until late evening

The adult SANDWICH TERN was still present over Marsworth this evening, giving great views, especially when close to the Bucks bank. At 19:30 it crossed over to Startops, where after a few circuits it settled down to roost on one of the anti-algae bales. It was still there when I left at 19:50. If you haven't seen this bird yet and you'd like to, I'd recommend infra-red goggles - it'll be gone before first light in the morning!

A BARN OWL was quartering the field behind the Marsworth reedbed this evening, and I had 26 CORN BUNTINGS come in to roost.

Cheers & Good Birding,

Ben Miller

Saturday, 3 April 2010


A SANDWICH TERN has just flown west through Wilstone Reservoir into Buckinghamshire (Steve Rodwell et al)

Friday, 2 April 2010



Continuing cold, with fresh westerly winds which veered slightly more SSW towards late afternoon. Some hefty showers throughout the morning and a belt of rain which was pushed quickly through and cleared by mid afternoon.

Another good day in terms of migration and although nothing new appeared in terms of variety, some good counts continued of those species arriving, particularly hirundines.

(morning visit; with Steve Rodwell)

The EGYPTIAN GOOSE was still present, initially on the main reservoir and then later back in the field with 38 Greylag Geese to the east of the reservoir. An adult Mute Swan also joined the flock briefly.

There were 9 Black-headed Gulls present and during the day, both Steve and Ben recorded some good Common Gull passage.

Hirundines were once again well represented, with 156 present up until midday, including 72 European Barn Swallows, 83 Sand Martins and 1 HOUSE MARTIN, whilst the east bank, in between walkers, attracted 4 Pied Wagtails, a first-summer male WHITE WAGTAIL and 3 passage Reed Buntings.

COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS were singing from just south of East Poplar Wood and from trees behind the reedbed near Cemetery Corner, whilst a singing male WILLOW WARBLER (my first in Herts this year) was present in the hedgerow in the SE corner of the reservoir.

A pair of Common Buzzards was displaying over the hide and a male LINNET flew west.


At midday, Startop's End held 4 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Mute Swans and the adult drake Red-crested Pochard, with migrants represented by 48 European Barn Swallows, 28 Sand Martins, 2 HOUSE MARTINS and a cracking male WHITE WAGTAIL on the algae bunds.

EGYPTIAN GOOSE still present

This evening a cracking male WHITE WAGTAIL was with the pre-roost Pied Wagtail flock on the Bucks bank at Startops, plus 1 Yellow Wagtail and a Meadow Pipit. 2 CORN BUNTINGS came into roost at Marsworth.

At Wilstone with Steve & Rob, a flock c.65 Common Gulls went through, and the EGYPTIAN GOOSE was still with the Greylags in the field east of the reservoir (Ben Miller).

The smaller reservoirs this morning

Did another long spell at Startops/Marsworth this morning - the strengthening westerly wind made it feel very cold indeed.

The highlight was a relatively pale & grey backed male YELLOW WAGTAIL commuting between the Bucks bank and the paddock behind, and occasionally sitting & singing in one of the tall trees by the canal.

Hirundines moved through during the morning, with 60+ Barn Swallows, 50+ Sand Martins and 4-5 HOUSE MARTINS.

1 Cetti's Warbler, 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcaps and 4+ Chiffchaffs were singing during the morning. Plenty of Kite, Buzzard and Sprawk action, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The drake Red-crested Pochard is still present on Startops (Ben Miller)

WHEATEAR numbers on the up

Pretty blustery up the hills this morning but (partly with Ian Williams) now 7 NORTHERN WHEATEARS were ranging between the sheep pens and halfway up the slope towards the beacon. Also a Redwing flew over west and a couple of Red Kites were giving a great display on the slope. In the top scrub a Willow Warbler, Blackcap and 2 Common Chiffchaffs were singing. Nothing in Incombe Hole.

Nearby heading towards Cheddington a flock of c20 Fieldfare flew up into a roadside tree (Rob Andrews).

Thursday, 1 April 2010

100 Up and counting

This morning, although it was sunny, it was definitely nippy – puddles were frozen as I walked round.

There were three Chinese Water Deer in Rushy Meadow to start the day. Avian highlights were the continuing EGYPTIAN GOOSE, which flew off toward Tringford, one Little Egret, good number of Sand Martins and Barn Swallows and a YELLOW WAGTAIL by the jetty – later joined by a WHITE WAGTAIL.

Yellow Wagtail was my 100th species at the reservoirs this year so hopefully about another 50+ to go (Roy Hargreaves)