Monday, 31 May 2010

The RED-FOOT still present, and a roding WOODCOCK

The first-summer RED-FOOTED FALCON is still present on Wilstone Reservoir, commuting between the Cemetery Corner hawthorns and the Drayton Bank trees (per Ben Miller), whilst up in Ashridge Forest, Don Otter has been seeing a single roding WOODCOCK in the Ringshall Coppice area on recent evenings.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

COMMON CROSSBILLS dispersing after breeding

Mid morning Sunday - had a juvenile COMMON CROSSBILL perched in a Hawthorn and calling at Steps Hill (in the scrub near the grassy car park) (per Don & Sandra Otter)

,,,,,,,,And still present this evening

This evening, as usual, the number of hobbies had increased and by 9pm there were at least 10 hawking over the reservoir together with the RED-FOOTED FALCON. Picture of it from this morning published above (David Bilcock).

First-summer male RED-FOOT still present

The first-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON is still present at Wilstone Reservoir this morning until at least 0845. Other than one very brief sortie to the reservoir ( presumably checking if breakfast is flying ), it has spent the whole morning in the hawthorn tree, in the goose field at cemetry corner.

Still plenty of Common Swifts and an Oysterctacher flew over, looked to be heading for College Lake (per Mike Wallen).

Saturday, 29 May 2010


I am very pleased to report that our resident pair of OYSTERCATCHERS at College Lake successfully fledged three youngsters this year and have been feeding them on the main marsh since. Dave Bilcock captured the occurrence on film.

RED-FOOT in the rain and showing very well

The first-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON in Cemetery Corner (Dave Bilcock, top two, and Ben Miller, bottom)


It has been raining all morning but despite that, the first-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON has been showing exceptionally well roosting and sheltering in the smaller of the two isolated Hawthorns in the field to the SE of Wilstone Reservoir just 50 yards from the Cemetery. It was still there at 1300 hours when I last visited. Dave Bilcock and Ben Miller obtained some excellent images (see above).

Otherwise, Wilstone was just covered in hundreds of Common Swifts.

At Marsworth Reservoir, the sole surviving RED-CRESTED POCHARD chick was feeding well in reeds by the overflow, the COMMON CUCKOO was calling from trees behind the sewage works, a male Common Chiffchaff was singing from the wood and both WESTERN REED WARBLER (6+) and Reed Bunting (singing male) were in the reedbed. Overflying and hawking over the reservoir were 18 House Martins and 25 European Barn Swallows. One pair of Coot were attending 5 newly fledged chicks.

13 Mute Swans were present on Startop's End (Lee G R Evans)

Friday, 28 May 2010

Younger RED-FOOT still present

The first-summer male RED-FOOTED FALCON (pictured at top of page by Simon West) was still present today, along with the adult summer schinzii DUNLIN, but there was no sign of the adult male RED-FOOTED FALCON pictured above in flight by Andrew Moon

The nasal-banded NORTHERN POCHARD - ringing history

Nasal-banded Pochard at Wilstone -
This female NORTHERN POCHARD with a band attached to its upper mandible was seen at Wilstone on 12 May. This type of banding uses a small soft-plastic band, which is attached to the upper mandible, and is known as a nasal saddle. This one was pale blue, marked "=P".
David Bilcock received the following information that the bird was originally ringed at Mezangers in Northwest France back in 2007 and since then, she has been reported on seven previous occasions, before arriving in Tring:

31/05/2007 Mezangers, France
17/06/2007 Mezangers, France
24/06/2007 Mezangers, France
03/08/2008 Seaton-Burn, Tyne-and-Wear UK
08/08/2008 Seaton-Burn, Tyne-and-Wear UK
16/02/2009 Mezangers, France
22/03/2009 Mezangers, France
12/05/2010 Tring, Hertfordshire UK

More RED-FOOT images

Ian Williams obtained these images of the adult male RED-FOOTED FALCON as it sat in the tall tree bordering the meadow behind the Drayton Bank Hide.

Incredulously, a second RED-FOOT !


It rained overnight and was still damp and dreary this morning. Wind remained in the NNW, with temperatures much cooler than of late, but as the day progressed, conditions became brighter and the sun came out and much of the cloud was blown away.

Incredulously, visiting Wiltshire birder Nigel Pleass located a SECOND Red-footed Falcon at Wilstone Reservoir this afternoon, the two birds performing well right up until dusk.......


Being away from the area all day, I returned to the reservoirs this evening (from 1900-2100 hours), where I joined Warren Claydon, Graham Smith, Mike & Rose Collard, JT, Brendan Glynne, Peter MacDonald, Steve & Vicky and others on the jetty. Both male RED-FOOTED FALCONS were present and showing reasonably well, flying back and forth over the reedbed as far west as the Drayton Bank, associating with 8 HOBBIES, one of which was a worn first-summer - a rarity in itself.

The 'new' Red-foot was a first-summer male and much harder to differentiate from the Hobbies than the adult male. In fact, it was very impressive of Nigel (a Scilly regular and a very good friend of mine) to have picked it out. Although all of the structural features of the adult were also apparent with this bird (less pointed wings, longer tail, etc), significantly it lacked the silvery-grey primaries of the adult. The grey upperparts were very much suffused with browner feathers, making it rather dingy and Hobby-like, whilst the underwings were strongly barred, as were the undertail feathers and outer uppertail feathers. Once again, the rufous thighs and undertail coverts were obvious, and much of the body feathering had advanced to bluish-grey. The bare part coloration was also very similar to that of the adult.

It is remarkable how long these Red-foots are spending feeding, as the majority of UK vagrants generally sit around for most of the day. Not once did either male rest this evening, constantly feeding on insects on the wing, frequently transferring captured items from the feet to the bill in active flight.

Also this evening, an adult summer schinzii DUNLIN flew around several times trying to land (presumably Dave and Roy's bird from this morning), whilst COMMON SWIFT numbers were estimated at an amazing 2,200 individuals.

The pair of Shoveler were still present, a pair of Great Crested Grebes with 3-4 small young, 13 Mute Swans, 2 first-summer Black-headed Gulls, the calling COMMON CUCKOO again, Green Woodpecker and 15 House Martins.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Today's RED-FOOT

These are the images Alan Stewart obtained when we had the adult male RED-FOOTED FALCON feeding just 20 yards above our heads in the Ash tree on a Field Vole for 20 minutes

MEGA - Adult male RED-FOOTED FALCON on Wilstone


Well, one major change in weather. After basking in temperatures of 84 degrees fahrenheit at the weekend, today was often like winter again. Temperatures had tumbled and the wind had veered from light easterly to fresh northerly.

Overnight I had decided to travel to Suffolk to see Golden Orioles at Lakenheath RSPB and so departed Little Chalfont very early to be in position shortly after dawn. Although I enjoyed crippling views of a male in Trial Wood not long after 0700 hours, whilst waiting for it to reappear, I heard the astounding news that Roy Hargreaves had glimpsed a male Red-footed Falcon by Rushy Meadow at the back of Tring Reservoirs around 0725 hours. I was well and truly gripped off and although I had managed to see the 70 Acres female Red-footed Falcon of 2008 just inside Hertfordshire, being so close to home was mighty annoying...................

(1015-2100 hours)

As soon as Dave Bilcock phoned to say that he had seen the RED-FOOTED FALCON again at 0815 hours, Alan Stewart and I made the decision to head straight back to Hertfordshire. At the same time, I made sure I contacted the keenest of the Tring birding circuit (Steve Rodwell and others), as well as RBA and other birders elsewhere in Hertfordshire (JT, Frossy, Alan Reynolds, et al). DB had seen the bird briefly over the trees and reedbed in the far SW corner and as more and more people joined in the search, Steve Rodwell eventually relocated it flying towards the Dry Canal and Miswell Lane at 0940. In fact, it had flown and settled on a fencepost just 50 yards east of the canal bridge in Drayton Beauchamp village (in Buckinghamshire) and as DB, Ben Miller, Mick Frosdick, JT and RH arrived at the scene, it remained for about five minutes before taking flight once more. DB typically obtained shots of the bird as it sat there, utilising his mobile phone (see images above).

The bird then flew down towards Wilstone Reservoir where it was quickly picked up flying over the Drayton Bank and as the weather greatly improved, it started feeding over the reservoir flying back and forth. Many more birders then connected and with a return drive time of just over 80 minutes, Alan and I arrived in the car park at 1015.

We were very lucky indeed, as with clearing skies and warm sunshine, the bird was still present and hawking back and forth over the Drayton Bank. It was often flying very high and was associating with up to 6 Hobbies and followed a well rehearsed circuit. It was presumably feeding on flies and perhaps the odd Dragonfly and could easily be viewed from the bank at the top of the steps up from the car park. Being mad keen to add it to my Buckinghamshire List, I kept a constant vigil on its whereabouts, before eventually dropping off to sleep (after three hours of waiting). During this time, some 45 birders arrived and succeeded, including Brendan Glynne, Bob Chalkley, Lol Carman, Cliff Tack, Johnne Taylor, Warren Claydon, Mike & Rose Collard, Chaz Jackson, Martin Parr, Steve Blake, Mike Ilett, and many of the regulars.

At 1410 hours, Adam Bassett and others caught sight of it robbing a male Common Kestrel of its prey - a Field Vole - and after successfully snatching it, flew with it in its talons to one of the Ash trees just 50 yards west of the main car park. Seeing Adam beckoning, Alan and I and those others present hastily made our way over to him and the sight that beheld was hardly believable. The Red-footed Falcon was sat just 20 yards above on a branch and devouring its meal - absolutely awesome. It completely filled my entire 'scope view. I could see each and every fine detail of plumage, including that of the wings and tail, and could see its pale claws and dark brown iris. It was breathtaking.

Alan raced off to get his camera whilst AB, JT, Alan Reynolds, Mike Hirst, Geoff Young, Andy Grimsey, Peter Leigh and I obtained some exceptional views at remarkably close range. It took 20 minutes for the entire Field Vole to be eaten, and that included the tail and the feet - the period also allowing Alan to rattle off over 40 images.

With such crippling views being afforded, I was finally able to be confident about ageing the bird, with the lack of any barring on the underwing and the complete dark tail confirming an adult male.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION: A small falcon, very similar in size to the accompanying Hobbies but more rounded at the primary tips and broader based in the wing, and slightly longer in the tail. In active flight, the Red-foot flew on faster wing-beats, with more pronounced upstrokes and deeper downstrokes than the tighter, more powerful and stiffer action of the Hobby flight actions. The bird was very uniform grey above, with a noticeably dark underwing, a paler grey body and a very contrasting black upper tail. It had striking pale silvery-grey outer primaries and deep rufous ventral region. When perched, it was very long-winged, and at such close range, I noticed that the iris was dark brown, the claws were very pale and the cere, orbital skin and feet were reddish-orange. Not only was the cere this colour but also the base of the bill.

In flight, the innermost primary of the right wing was either broken or missing but otherwise the bird was in immaculate condition, with just some abrasion on the tail and some light wear on the outer primaries. There was no evidence from what I could see of any retained barred juvenile remiges and the tail at close quarters appeared all-black. With such obvious silvery primaries, first-summer could quite easily be ruled out and with no obvious barring anywhere, the likelihood of an advanced 2nd-summer was also discounted. The vent, thighs and undertail-coverts were contrastingly rufous-red in colour, with the rest of the underparts, uniform dark bluish-grey. The upperparts were also bluish-grey, apart from the uppertail coverts and tail which were black. Whilst perched, I could see that the primaries were wearing somewhat browner towards the outers but in general were uniform dark grey, whilst in flight, these flight feathers and outer secondaries were silvery grey.

Comparing with Dick Forsman's collection of images depicted in the 1999 edition of his Raptor Field Identification Handbook, the bird was virtually identical to those depicted as adult males in Plates 585 and 586 - pages 467-468.

The bird sat in the Ash tree by the car park for 20 minutes before flying back out towards the Drayton Bank, where it instantly resumed flycatching, despite having an obvious full crop. It then continued this pattern of behaviour for the next four hours before finally flying off high to the west mid-evening. At this time, it again flew towards the bridge in Drayton Beauchamp but doubled back and eventually perched in a tall tree in the meadow at the back of the hide. On a number of occasions, the bird entered Buckinghamshire airspace but refused to settle there and never perched. This proved frustrating.

Alan and I continued watching the bird well into the evening when the weather changed for the worse, bringing heavy cloud, some light rain and much cooler conditions. It continued to feed over the Drayton Bank until at least 2100 hours when we left, and over the 11 hours of observation, it only rested on four occasions, quite exceptional for this species.

During the course of the afternoon and evening, a further 55 observers visited, including Graham Smith, Darrel Bryant, Neil Bostock, Neil Fletcher, Andrew Moon, Nic Hallam, Paul Hackett, Jenny Wallington, Rob Andrews and Darin Stanley.

Other Species Noted Today

Great Crested Grebe (12 - SR had seen families of four and one young respectively)
Continental Cormorant (at least 11 active nests, all with young, some with 3 youngsters)
LITTLE EGRET (1 roosted on the Drayton Bank)
Grey Heron (some fledged young and many more being fed in the Drayton Bank nests)
Mute Swan (pair with 3 surviving cygnets - originally 5 strong)
Greylag & Atlantic Canada Geese
*COMMON SHELDUCK (pair present in evening which later flew off west into Bucks)
Gadwall (8)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (3 drakes still present and at least one female)
NORTHERN POCHARD (at least 10 still present)
Tufted Duck (33)
Red Kites (10+, including a party of 5)
Common Buzzard (6+)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (pair feeding young near hide)
Common Kestrel (male)
HOBBY (maximum of 6 feeding at any one given time but birds on view all day)
Red-legged Partridge (2 pairs in fields by the Dry Canal)
Coot (1 pair with 6 small young)
Black-headed Gull (1 first-summer)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (25 in evening, all flying NE towards Grovebury)
Common Tern (38 pairs breeding and 84 birds present in evening)
Stock Dove (4)
COMMON CUCKOO (one male seen well in meadow behind hide and calling on and off all day)
COMMON SWIFT (a gathering of at least 820 birds, keeping high over the west side of the reservoir)
COMMON KINGFISHER (for the first time in many months, 3 birds present - a pair feeding a single young)
Eurasian Skylark (pairs nesting; 5 individuals seen in fields near Dry Canal)
European Barn Swallow (25)
House Martin (4)
Pied Wagtail (2)
COMMON WHITETHROAT (3 singing males in Dry Canal area)
CETTI'S WARBLER (1 in song)
Great Tit (pair nesting by Dry Canal)
Jay (3-4 in gardens behind meadow)
Linnet (4 in fields near Rushy Meadow)
Yellowhammer (2 pairs in fields near Rushy Meadow)

Monday, 24 May 2010

Sunday morning - College GREENSHANKS

College: 3 GREENSHANKS circled the marsh low calling at 8:45 before heading off east and 1 Common Sandpiper present. Unsurprisingly no sign of yesterdays Black Terns (Dave Bilcock).

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Temperatures hit 82 degrees fahrenheit

Butterflies were again the order of the day with more and more emerging as temperatures reach near record levels for the time of the year. On the bird front, it was mainly quiet, but an OSPREY brightened the day up flying over Wilstone Reservoir at 1649 hours, before veering east and then north over Marsworth village. The juvenile COMMON SHELDUCK remained.

On the Hills, the first COMMON QUAIL of the summer was calling continuously this evening from Down Farm

Today's DUNLIN at College - Dave Bilcock

BLACK TERNS arrive on light easterlies


A gorgeous day, from dawn until dusk and by far, the hottest day of the year (77 degrees fahrenheit at 1500 hours). A light easterly wind was blowing, typically displacing BLACK TERNS inland, as well as SANDERLINGS.....

(1330 hours)

In the heat of the early afternoon, two full breeding-plumaged BLACK TERNS were hawking back and forth over the main marsh with 7 Common Terns - my first of the year in Bucks. The reserve also yielded two migrant waders - a COMMON GREENSHANK and a breeding-plumaged DUNLIN.

Most exciting however was the news that the pair of OYSTERCATCHERS have successfully fledged three small young, the family all together on the South East Island. The male was frequently flying in with food. Also encouraging were the other wader successes - at least 13 active Lapwing nests, most with fledged young, 3 LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS (with a pair still sitting) and Common Redshanks with young.

The islands on the main lake and rafts also harboured at least 28 pairs of Common Tern, with the single pair of Black-headed Gulls still present, and a pair of Coot feeding a single youngster.

The calling male COMMON CUCKOO was still present, as well as at least 4 singing WESTERN REED WARBLERS.


The juvenile COMMON SHELDUCK was still present at 1400 hours, roosting on the rocks in the Drayton Bank, with 3 drake SHOVELERS still lingering, a pair of Northern Pochard and 12 Gadwall. There were also 10 Great Crested Grebes and 4 Greylag Geese, and a singing male COMMON WHITETHROAT was in hedgerows by Cemetery Corner.


I joined Francis Buckle on site and together we enjoyed a wealth of butterfly life in the scorching heat of the afternoon. At least 5 freshly emerged BROWN ARGUS were on site, along with 6 DUKE OF BURGUNDY FRITILLARY, an excellent number of GRIZZLED SKIPPERS, 8 Small Heath, 6 Common Blues, several Peacock and Brimstone and 4 GREEN HAIRSTREAKS.

Three male GARDEN WARBLERS were vying for territories on the slope.


Had a concerted effort trying to find Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Redpoll, Wood Warbler, Common Redstart, Hawfinch, Pied Flycatcher and Tree Pipit in former traditional haunts but failed badly. Highlights were good numbers of GARDEN WARBLER and a total of 6 singing male FIRECRESTS (Dave Bilcock had an additional four singing in The Hale woods at Wendover).

I also discovered three Eurasian Sparrowhawk nests, two Common Buzzard nests, a RED KITE nest on a real flimsy overhanging branch, 17 pairs of Coal Tit and 11 singing male Common Chiffchaffs. Five Great Spotted Woodpecker nests were found, 7 pairs of Common Treecreeper feeding young and 2 pairs of Nuthatch feeding young.

Elsewhere in the area, the sole breeding pair of PEREGRINES continue to feed their three growing white fluffy chicks at the eyrie.

Friday, 21 May 2010

MARSH HARRIER still present

A first-summer female MARSH HARRIER has been present hunting over the reed bed at Wilstone from Wednesday to Friday this week and was present this evening until 8pm, when it drifted off low over the fields towards Marsworth.

Also a 2nd Common Shelduck had also joined the bird that has been present the last few days (per David Bilcock and others).

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

RED-CRESTED POCHARD young drop from 9 to just one

When Vicky first located this female RED-CRESTED POCHARD on Marsworth Reservoir, she had 9 ducklings in tow. Nearly two weeks later and that number has reduced to just one. Chaz Jackson recorded the moment for posterity - the occurrence representing the first pure breeding of the species at the reservoirs (last year, she paired with or was raped by a drake Mallard)

With hot weather encroaching, butterflies take pole position

Green Hairstreaks, Duke of Burgundy Fritillary and Dingy Skipper butterflies (Chaz Jackson)

After driving over 800 miles from Grantown-on-Spey to home, via the Ythan Estuary and Musselburgh, I snatched three hours sleep and hit the road again. It had been a clear night, with temperatures dropping to 3.5 degrees C, and by dawn, mist patches were forming. It was later to get quite warm (16 degrees C) and remained fine and dry throughout.

With the day warming up considerably, I then turned my attentions to butterflies, with large numbers seen..........


25+ DUKE OF BURGUNDY FRITILLARIES, 3 SMALL BLUE and 16 GRIZZLED SKIPPER were on the wing whilst 1-2 male EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE were purring.


8 DUKE OF BURGUNDY FRITILLARIES and 5 GREEN HAIRSTREAK butterflies recorded, plus 4 singing male Common Whitethroats.


A further 8 mainly fresh DUKE OF BURGUNDY FRITILLARIES, a SMALL HEATH, 1-2 Orange Tips and 15 DINGY SKIPPERS in the carefully managed cutting, with 2 Red Kites overhead, several singing male Common Whitethroats and a singing male GARDEN WARBLER.


My first COMMON BLUE of the year - a freshly emerged male - along with 3 SMALL BLUE, 15+ DINGY SKIPPERS, 2 Brimstone, several Green-veined White and 5 very showy GREEN HAIRSTREAKS. A male COMMON CUCKOO was calling frequently.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Saturday 15 May - TURTLE DOVE still on Steps

EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE purring and displaying at Steps Hill this morning. Usual warblers inc Lesser Whitethroat; Corn Bunting singing in hedge near entrance to Down Farm (Don Otter)

SATURDAY 15 MAY - Dave Bilcock roundup

Wilstone: 3 GREENSHANKS circled the reservoir looking for somewhere to land before giving up and heading off East 06:15

College: 1 Common Sandpiper by main lake, as well as the usual waders

Quarry: 2 LRPs and a pair Mandarin with 7 ducklings

Steps; 2 Wheatears remain above the sheep pens.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

HOBBIES increase to 17

Warren Claydon and I counted 17 HOBBIES just before it was dark. There were c.100 Common Terns, this seems to be the norm in the last week at dusk. 1 First summer Common Gull. On Tuesday there was 1 Common Sandpiper, on Monday Rob and I saw 1 Common Shelduck arrive late evening, and on Sunday a Common Cuckoo briefly called and there were 2 ARCTIC TERNS. At Marsworth on Sunday the GRASSHOPPER WARBLER was still reeling and there was also a Garden Warbler singing close to the canal near the sewage works. Elsewhere on Sunday there were 2 male Mandarin Ducks at Pitstone Quarry and opposite the Hale End at Wendover there were 315 Stock Doves. Monday evening at the Beacon there were still 5 Wheatears (Steve Rodwell guided tours)

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

More MARSH HARRIERS and a nasal-banded NORTHERN POCHARD from France

David Bilcock found and phone-scoped this nasal-banded female Northern Pochard this morning, and this first-summer female MARSH HARRIER this evening


In any normal year, the 12th May would be traditionally 'Dotterel Day' but with cold northerly winds now almost in their third consecutive week, migrants of this ilk are still being held up much farther south in Europe. In fact, many areas had experienced a frost overnight, particularly in Scotland and Northern England, but even in this area, temperatures once again struggled to 12 degrees C, well below average. It did remain dry though and the combination of wind and sun ensured that the ground was crusted hard in many areas.

After a very successful day in Bedfordshire on Tuesday, yielding three new 2010 birds including SANDERLING and COMMON QUAIL (the latter, one of my earliest ever in Britain), I returned again today, after Jim Gurney found two Turnstones........It was also another good day at Wilstone, with two more Marsh Harriers - the best year on record.

HORTON (BUCKS) (SP 925 194)

Within a mile section of the B 488 just north of Horton village, I located two Common Kestrel pairs, including a pair breeding in a dead Elm.

(joined by Mike Hirst and later by Dave Bilcock, Steve Rodwell and Chaz Jackson)

After hearing that Mike Hirst had discovered yet another MARSH HARRIER at Wilstone - his third this spring - I stopped off there on my route south. Mike's bird - a first-summer male - was showing well over the reedbed, between the hide and the Drayton Bank 'Boatshed Corner', occasionally being attacked by corvids. Whilst watching it through the 'scope, a second MARSH HARRIER flew in to view - a dark first-summer female - and for a while the two birds flew around hunting and scattering wildfowl and Coot. I lost track of the male at around 1610 hours but the female reappeared from the reeds on at least five more occasions and flew around and hunted.. At one stage, she was physically attacked by one of the nesting Grey Herons and had to take evasive action, plunging into the reeds to escape. She kept on showing until 1715 before dropping out of view in the reeds, presumably to roost, and did not reappear. MH joined me later and I was able to show him this additional bird, Wilstone having its best ever spring for this ever-increasing and very successful raptor.

HOBBIES were the other big story with at least 13 flighting back and forwards over the reedbeds and Drayton Bank. They afforded magnificent views from the hide and when not feeding took advantage of the many posts to rest. The majority of birds were adults but there were the odd first-summer with them.

Other raptors included Red Kite and Common Buzzard.

Otherwise, the following were noted:

Great Crested Grebes (8)
Continental Cormorant (9 active nests)
LITTLE EGRET (two birds flew in to roost at 1905 hours)
Mute Swan (the 16 regular birds present joined later by 5 new arrivals)
Greylag Geese (two pairs with goslings, both broods numbering 5)
Gadwall (12)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (pair still present)
Tufted Duck (83)
NORTHERN POCHARD (10 present, including 6 adult drakes and a nasal-banded female from France - pale blue band marked =P - see Dave's image above)
Black-headed Gull (adult winter still loafing just off the bank - presumably suffering botulism - but present for its 13th day; interestingly, a pair nearby constitute the first breeding attempt for the area)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (2 immatures)
Common Tern (52)
Common Swift (constant passage overhead, numbering at least 330 birds)
European Barn Swallow (64)
House Martin (14)
SAND MARTIN (late passage - at least 53 counted)
YELLOW WAGTAIL (a male flew east at 1905)
Blackcap (male singing by new overflow)

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


This evening a WHINCHAT was at the north end of College lake, hunting from the fence posts.
Also present were 2 Common Sandpipers on the marsh.

This morning 6 Common Shelducks were at Wilstone by the jetty before flying off east at 6:30am.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Another OSPREY moves through

An OSPREY flew towards College Lake from Marsworth, following the course of the Grand Union Canal, at 0834 hours this morning (Rob Andrews)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

And yet more WHIMBRELS grounded - Sunday morning

Another good morning at the lake today with the highlight being a flock of 8 WHIMBREL that flew in at 7.45, tried to land on the area north of the lakebut after being harrassed by a Crow flew off to the east.

The only other passage wader was a Common Sandpiper on the marsh but it was also nice to see a Common Snipe lingering. Thought I heard it drumming at one point and it was certainly in the air when I heard the sound so seems probable.

Pitsone Hill was very cold and quiet with just a single Corn Bunting singing, 2 Common Whitethroats and a Red Kite. Good numbers of hirundines at Startops but nothing else of note (Rob Andrews).

......And a few snippets from Steve Rodwell

Saturday Wilstone Reservoir: There was another single WHIMBREL and then a group of 6. It was great to hear that the 3 TURNSTONES that circled around Wilstone several times ended up at College Lake. Up to 4 ARCTIC TERNS, 2 still present in the evening (all above seen with Dan Forder).

There was some fantastic views of HOBBIES hunting. Up to 3 Hobbies chasing hirundines or Swifts. One Hobby overshoot when dive-bombing a swallow yesterday and hit the water, but managed to fly off. Today 2 Hobbies grappled with one another, both plunging down to the surface of the reservoir, and this time one bird was almost totally submerged and just about struggled out from the water.

On Wednesday there were 15 Hobbies just before dusk and 11 on Thursday.

On Tuesday Dave, Stuart and I saw 4 Common Shelducks briefly in the evening. Wednesday - 2 Arctic Terns. Friday - 3 Dunlins. Ivinghoe Beacon - Wednesday evening: Only 1 gropper was singing. There was no sign of the one on Steps Hill.

Dave Bilcock's Picture Gallery of today's Wader-fest

The jetty WHIMBREL and College Lake TURNSTONE and breeding-plumaged GREY PLOVER

Saturday, 8 May 2010

.......and more WHIMBRELS

By early afternoon, at least 23 WHIMBREL had flown east over Wilstone Reservoir, including a single flock of 18 birds photographed by Dan Forder. A further 4 were seen today at Tyttenhanger GP and a whopping 73 flew east over Staines Reservoirs

Cracking GREY PLOVER heralds a fantastic wader passage day

10 Species of wader this morning!

3 GREENSHANK on the bank close to the jetty at 6am for 10 mins before they flew off towards College
1 WHIMBREL settled on jetty briefly 8:45
2 Common Sandpipers

College Lake
In addition to the usual Redshanks, Lapwings, Oycs and LRP
1 GREY PLOVER, a fantastic full breeding plumaged individual on the marsh in front of the new hide 6:40 - 7:10 (picture above)
5 GREENSHANK, on tern island these birds flew off 8:05
1 WHIMBREL over 10am
3 TURNSTONES, on the tern island 10:10 (initially at Wilstone by Steve)
1 Common Sand on the marsh
1 Ringed Plover

Pitstone Industrial Estate
1 Ringed Plover

Pitstone Quarry
2 LRPs

Dave Bilcock

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

What a good year for the....Whitethroats

Nothing particularly of interest but just an update.

Tues Evening 4th May Steps Hill/Incombe Hole 1700-1900 Surprisingly, when I arrived the cold NE wind had subsided and Steps/Incombe was calm with bursts of warm setting sun. Making my way through the scrub the bushes were full of singing whitethroats, blackcaps, song thrush, willow warblers and chiffchaff. Disappointed there was no sign of the singing lesser whitethroat which had been holding territory there on Fri 30th April. Eventually heard and saw a pair of garden warblers.

Through the gate on the right a nice posing Common Whitethroat which allowed me to take some snaps (see above). Moving left a pair of blackcap were scolding an innocent willow warbler which had strayed too near their nesting site. Incombe Hole was fairly quiet with just the usual chaffinch, robin, blackbird, blackcap, magpie, kestrel, yellowhammer and another whitethroat with the best bird of the evening being a lingering female wheatear feeding half way down the slop.

Amazingly, for this time of the day, I was the only person here - not a dog, jogger, cyclist or walker in sight, sheer bliss! (Sally Douglas)

Monday, 3 May 2010

Purring EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE this evening


Well, it certainly does not feel like the first week in May. I had to resort again to winter gloves today and throughout, the fresh Northeasterly wind was biting. Temperatures struggled to make double figures but at least it remained largely dry, with just the odd light shower.

With so many rares being 1 or 2 dayers of late, I decided to spend the day locally, catching up on vital survey work. It was a very rewarding day, climaxed with a new colony of FIRECRESTS and at the end by a purring EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE - a very rare sight indeed locally these days........

Whilst I was failing to find Turtle Dove, Steve Rodwell was watching one..........

(evening visit)

Joining Steve and Vicky and David Bilcock, all four of us listened intently to the sweet soft purring of a EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE from dense Hawthorn scrub in the Top Scrub at Ivinghoe, 200 yards from the main car park. In the fierce NE wind and above the constant whine of aircraft after aircraft taxi-ing into Luton Airport, it was difficult to hear this distinctive sound of summer and after much searching, we all eventually obtained flight views of the bird.

Top Scrub also held 6 singing male GARDEN WARBLERS and 3 COMMON SWIFTS flew east (Lee Evans).

MARSH HARRIER now departed

The female MARSH HARRIER departed Wilstone to the NE at around 1300 hours (Steve Rodwell) and otherwise it is very quiet today within the recording area.

Roy's early morning round-up

Obviously this morning was never going to be as good as yesterday, and indeed it wasn’t. However it wasn’t bad.

There was an Oystercatcher flying round calling soon after I arrived and the female Marsh Harrier was up over the reedbed by the boathouse at 5:50. I also had a Dunlin on the edge between the Jetty and North Corner. A Little Egret was roosting in the bushes in the centre and nine Arctic Terns dropped in, with five leaving after a short time. Hirundine numbers were also well down on yesterday’s figures (Roy Hargreaves)

First TURTLE DOVE of year

Mick Frosdick discovered a EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE in the paddocks east of Marsworth Reservoir yesterday afternoon, which later relocated in the field adjacent to the lane just beyond College Farm in Marsworth and showed well for ten minutes or more feeding on the ground.

There was also a single ARCTIC TERN on Marsworth Reservoir in the afternoon

MARSH HARRIER still present

Grim weather for a walk around the hills. Steps Hill still produced plenty of singing warblers. Ivinghoe Beacon still holds the Grasshopper Warbler and there were 7 Wheatear in the usual field South-East of the Trig. I decided best to vacate the hills at this point !!

Wilstone Reservoir produced tons of hirundine and Swift, and the female MARSH HARRIER showed well above the reedbed until at least 9 am (Mike Wallen)

Much earlier, a single DUNLIN flew through and 9 ARCTIC TERNS (Dave Bilcock)

Sunday, 2 May 2010

It was one of those days.....

Phew - what an amazing day at the reservoirs.

David Bilcock deservedly discovered a RED-RUMPED SWALLOW on his second early morning walk round of Wilstone, the bird showing well amongst the hordes of newly-arrived House Martins and European Barn Swallows just off the jetty and along the hedgerow of the East Bank. It afforded good views for about a 20 minute period but was generally very difficult to pick out in the large flock of hirundines flighting low over the water in the heavy rain and freezing NE winds. About 25 birders connected during the initial showings and then a further 15 during the next 45 minutes, just before it flew off strongly east at 0932 hours. It was not seen again. It represents only the second Red-rumped Swallow ever recorded at the reservoirs following one on Wilstone on 17 May 1981 and only the NINTH in Hertfordshire (following singles at Aldbury on 11 June 1949, at Hilfield Park Reservoir on 1 October 1966, at Hilfield again on 18 May 1982, at Amwell GP on 5 April 1987, at Hilfield again on 28-29 May 2000, at Hollingson Meads, north of Harlow, on 28-29 May 2002 and at Stocker's Farm on 11 April 2007.

Next off came an OSPREY, initially picked up distantly from Wilstone (Ian Williams et al) at 1557 hours, this bird circled over Tringford Reservoir for some time at low level before drifting off east at 1612 hours - and then flew east over College Lake BBOWT at 1616 - and then yet another MARSH HARRIER - a near adult female - which was either in or above Wilstone reedbed for nearly two hours late afternoon.

And then we had the terns - 116+ Common Terns still in residence, with two passage ARCTICS (present from at least 1000-1900 hours), two BLACK (flew along the line of the Grand Union Canal before flying east) and two LITTLE TERNS (present at around 1600 hours only) - and passage waders (a total of 11 DUNLIN through, including two which lingered during the heaviest spell of rain; a WHIMBREL through, a SANDERLING through and a Ringed Plover - with 2 COMMON SANDPIPERS all day).

Other migrants included two female GREENLAND WHEATEARS and 3 YELLOW WAGTAILS on the East Bank at Wilstone mid-afternoon, with up to 9 HOBBIES still present over the reedbed.


I arrived at Wilstone at about 6:30 as the rain had slackened off and was surprised that I was the only person there. A quick scan revealed little other than a good number of Swifts and Hirundines so I walked round to the Jetty to see if any waders had been downed. Between the North Corner and the Jetty I flushed a flock of five waders and was surprised to see that they were summer-plumaged DUNLINS which circled round and were obviously reluctant to leave.

Just after I arrived at the Jetty I saw David Bilcock appear on the bank so I called him to let him know about the Dunlin flock. He walked round and duly saw them and then joined me at the Jetty. I said I would walk to the Cemetery Corner to see if other waders were sheltering on the rocks. David said he would stop there and look for Red-rumped Swallow as there had been one in Cambridgeshire yesterday. To which I replied it was probably still in Cambridgeshire as well.

I walked far enough along to be convinced there were no waders and heard a vague noise and as I was returning to the Jetty David calmly said "RED-RUMPED SWALLOW". I think he was so calm because he didn't quite believe it - I did! A few tense moments later I saw it and then I told David that I would ring a few people while he kept track of the bird. We didn't want it getting lost as people would soon be arriving. Having made a few calls I took over tracking it while David texted a larger number of people. That done he then took over again while I took a break. It was quite difficult to keep track of it at distance in poor light with so many Swallows and House Martins about and when it flew up against trees it was even worse. Anyway, just as Mike Campbell arrived, David lost it against the trees. Since at that point it was close to the car park we decided to walk to the bench by the path down to Meads and look from there. We met up with Mike and Ian and Steve arrived and after failing to relocate it there I said I would go back to the Jetty and look there.

I again flushed the Dunlin flock as I made my way there. After a couple of minutes I relocated it and gestured the others over. Needless to say there was some haste from the newly-arrived to join me. Soon after they did they were on the bird. As they arrived nine Dunlin were mentioned and we heard them and looked up and saw the nine Dunlin and I spotted a SANDERLING and someone else shouted Ringed Plover. These birds flew around and left shortly afterwards. When David joined us he had already seen the Sanderling and shouted to us but we hadn't heard him. More people joined us and at one stage the bird came very close to the Jetty and allowed us very good views. Eventually Ian and I left the group and we decided to check the bank by the overflows. The only wader there was a Common Sandpiper, but today nothing could be taken for granted.

Mike Campbell pointed out that the only previous record of Red-rumped Swallow for the reservoirs was at Wilstone on 17th May 1981 seen by G Brandejs (Roy Hargreaves).

College Lake BBOWT - official opening of new centre

The visitor centre opened today (Saturday 1 May) - and what a great day it was! Highlight of the day was 4 HOBBIES hawking insects over the marsh. Right in front of the new hide a pair of LITTLE RINGED PLOVER was setting up a nest site. Nancy found a sitting Redshank on the east island. There are at least 10 lapwing young, which we were able to show to lots of visitors. Cuckoo was vocal and was flying around towards the end of the day. Whitethroat, lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Blackcap were all heard and seen.

One NORTHERN WHEATEAR at the north of the reserve and good numbers of common terns. Five buzzards and two red kites were also were seen. GOOD DAY!! (Paul Reed)

College Lake BBOWT - Saturday morning

Unfortunately Mike Wallen's Grey Plovers didn't touch down at College this morning but there were a few migrants around. Dave Bilcock had both Common Sandpiper and Dunlin earlier.

Three Wheatears were on the chalk bench north of the main lake and a Yellow Wagtail flew over east. The Cuckoo was very vocal this morning and flew straight over at one point. Counted 52 Common Terns, at least 5 fledgling Lapwings and 6 adult Common Redshanks. Still 2 male and a female Shoveler hanging on.

Best was saved for last when I met Rosie Hamilton in the new visitor centreand we had 2 Hobbies hunting over the marsh (Rob Andrews)

More detail on the GREY PLOVERS - and birding the Hills early Saturday morning

SATURDAY 1 MAY: Another great morning on the hills. Ivinghoe Beacon held the singing GRASSHOPPER WARBLER, still in the same area and singing more strongly now. I could actually hear it whilst stood near the Sheep Pens. Another decent number of Wheatear with 11 in the field/ slope South East of the Beacon. The vast majority of these ( if not all ) were probably Greenlanders, but at least half were for sure. There were 2 particularly bright males which had been Tango'd, and one of these was simply breathtaking. Yellow Wagtail over and a small flock of Corn Bunting as well as the singing males.

Back up on to Steps Hill where at the top of the slope I looked up to see 2 unfamiliar ( on jizz ) birds passing over. These turned out to be 2 GREY PLOVERS; I didn't see the front of them as they went over and away from me, but looked to be in S/P with black bellies and armpits. Their very obvious white rumps were still visible as they disappeared into the murk. They were on a direct course for Wilstone as I lost sight of them.

Near to Incombe hole there was a second reeling GRASSHOPPER WARBLER and at least 4 singing Garden Warblers remain in top scrub (Mike Wallen)

May starts with a bang - GREY PLOVERS

SATURDAY 1 MAY: Two summer-plumaged adult GREY PLOVERS flew west over Steps Hill mid morning (Mike Wallen) and were intercepted as they flew NW to the east of the reservoirs (Roy Hargreaves/Ian Williams)