TUESDAY 20 APRIL
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......
COLLEGE LAKE BBOWT (BUCKS)
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.
ALDBURY NOWERS/NORTHFIELD ROAD PADDOCKS (HERTS)
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.
PITSTONE QUARRY (HERTS)
A third OYSTERCATCHER was present in the quarry, additional to the nesting pair at College.
CHURCH END VILLAGE (BUCKS) (SP 944 150)
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.
IVINGHOE HILLS NR (BUCKS)
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.
BERKHAMSTEAD COMMON (HERTS)
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.
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
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.
BUCKLAND VILLAGE AND MEADOWS NORTH TO MONKS COURT (BUCKS)
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.
WENDOVER FOREST (HALTON WOOD) (BUCKS)
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.
BARN AND HALE WOODS, THE RIDGEWAY WALK (BUCKS)
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......
WILSTONE RESERVOIR, TRING (HERTS)
(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.