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......

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