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)

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